Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gods And Monsters: Superman

Gods And Monsters: Superman
Written by J.M. DeMatteis and Bruce Timm
Artwork by Moritat

I never been a fan of Superman. I enjoyed the latest reboot of the Man of Steel but overall, I think his character is shallow and boring. I think John Byrne's retcon of him in the late eighties was awesome but it's because it was Byrne. So picking up this version of Superman was a huge risk for me. Let me say that I enjoyed it thoroughly.

This time, the man of steel is Hernan Guerra. He was raised by Mexican migrant workers. He learns about economic exploitation and racism very early. His worldview is much different than Clark Kent's. I have always felt that even though Kent was raised by farmers, there was too much privilege in his character. Guerra enjoys none of that. At the same time, the Guerra family did not allow Hernan to display his powers but he did anyway. This is much more realistic to me then the Kents. Children are children and they are going to test the waters as much as they can. Hernan does so as much as possible especially when it meant helping his community.

The story is told through the eyes of his big sister, Valentina. They are very close and their bond is evident. An accident that causes Valentina to be confined to a wheelchair has a tremendous impact on young Hernan since he feels he is the cause of it. From that point on, Hernan is troubled. After being harassed by a white mob, Hernan takes matters into his own hands. This was the point of no return. Hernan leaves his family and travels the world helping people as he sees fit.

This reimagining of Superman is a move violent one. I would not say “darker,” because despite how he becomes, it's clear that he loved his family who took great care of him. His mother was a faithful and optimistic woman as is his sister. Hernan just didn't see eye to eye with them. He sees injustice and feels that it should be dealt with swiftly and harshly. There are moments where we see Superman being hugged by children and consistently seeing his sister in the victims he saves.

The artwork by Moritat is dope. I am unfamiliar with Moritat and hope to see more of him in the future. I enjoy the emotion the artwork captures: the angry flashes, the loving eyes, etc. I think the best detail is when we see Superman use his heat vision. It is so precise and clean. Overall, the story is fresh and interesting. I do plan on reading this and the other Gods and Monsters story. I want to see how this Superman interacts with other super beings.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Infinity Gauntlet (Secret Wars) Issues 1 to 3

The Infinity Gauntlet (Secret Wars) Issues 1 to 3
Written by Gerry Duggan and Dustin Weaver
Art by Dustin Weaver

Like many of the Battleworld stories being published, the titles are very misleading. While Marvel was never clear about what they would be putting out, they did promote each storyline with the lettering from those great crossovers. There are some great storylines in the Battleworld universe, but many readers have come away dissappointed. Many of these readers, myself included, expected stories from those crossovers. While many of them have nothing to do with those crossovers, there are a few that stand out. Infinity Gauntlet is one of those.

The story centers around a family, the Bakians, that consist of a dad, two daughters, granddad, and even a dog. In this part of Battleworld, giant bugs have invaded Earth and killed most of the population. The mother of the Bakian clan, Eve, is off fighting the bugs with an atrophied Nova Corps. This provides tension within the family. While Anwen, the eldest child, is resentful that her mother went off to fight, while the youngest, Fayne believes that her mother is right around the corner. Menzin Bakian, the father is ambivalent about her return. Some moments he is hopeful and in others, he becomes fatalistic. Issue one does a great job of introducing the entire clan.

Issue number two comes right into the action as the Eve Bakian returns to save her family and bring them into the Nova Corps. This is my favorite part of the series so far. The Bakian battles hordes upon hordes of bugs. At one point, Eve uses the Infinity gems she possesses to defeat their opponents. This issue also introduces Gamora and Peter Quill (Star Lord) who are also in search of the Infinity gems. Finally, the reader is introduced to Thanos and his scheme to acquire the Gauntlet.

The third issue dials back the action a bit. Thanos is continuously defeated when trying to acquire the Infinity Gauntlet from a yet unnamed Nova. He jumps back in time to try again. This time, he decides to take a more diplomatic approach by befriending the Bakian clan before they reunite with Eve Bakian. Thanos gains their trust and watches as they find more gems and meet up with Gamora and Peter Quill.

Readers might wonder why members of the Guardians of the Galaxy are teaming up with Thanos. It seems that in this Battleworld reality, no one knows about this version of Thanos. It also seems that in this region of Battleworld, the humans are used to interacting with beings from other planets.

Again, I must point out that this Infinity Gauntlet storyline is completely different from its predecessor. So if you are looking to see your favorite heroes and villains battling for control of the Gauntlet, it's not going to happen. Instead we are introduced to a new family, particularly one of color. Dustin Weaver's artwork does a beautiful job of fleshing out the Bakian clan.

I think any parent can relate to this story. The stakes are high. Eve Bakian is not just fighting off an international menace or two, she is fighting to keep her family together. While the foreshadowing isn't clear, it looks like Thanos will be facing off Anwen. Black girls are magic.

I haven't seen anything that states that any of the Bakian clan will be returning with their own series or part of a superhero group. This is dissappointing. This story, like many other Battleworld stories, is compelling and one can't helped but be attached to the characters. Hopefully, they will pop up in future stories as guests.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fantastic Four

I went to watch this movie despite the torrent of horrible reviews given by almost everyone. I only know one person out of thousands who stated it was okay. I understood that much of the source material was going to come from the Ultimate Fantastic Four series, and being a fan of the Ultimate universe, I wanted to give it a shot.

One thing I enjoyed about the Ultimate Fantastic Four is that it made the entire team relevant. In Earth 616 Fantastic Four, Reed Richards is the brain and Ben Grimm is comic relief. In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Richards, Susan and Johnny Storm are all geniuses. All of them are significant when it comes to putting things together. I felt that Earth 616 Fantastic Four, at that time, was stale so the Ultimate story line did it for me (Jonathan Hickman's run was probably the best Fantastic Four written since John Byrne's 80's run).

This reboot of the Fantastic Four did the same thing. Susan Storm wasn't the damsel in distress who had no clue about what Richards talked about. In this version, Susan Storm and Richards have much in common. To be honest, the best part about this movie is the dialogue. I think that part of the problem is that people expected a huge battle just like in the Avengers. While this movie wasn't great and you could wait for it to show up on DVD, it didn't entirely suck.

First, we have to admit that Avengers is a game changing movie. It set a huge standard for super hero movies. If its not an epic battle, audiences will fall asleep. We also have to remember that Avengers had a nice build up with the movies of the individual members of the team. So dialogue didn't have to drive the movie. Second, this is the Fantastic Four. They are considered the first super hero family (after Captain Marvel and his Marvel crew). So what made the comic book so good for so long is that dynamic. This is something difficult to convey in a superhero movie.

I still think the dialogue between the members was well written. We got to learn about everyone and why they were scientists. Ben Grimm could have used more writing but I see how they wanted to treat him like the outcast of the group. This was a RetCon move by John Byrne in the late eighties where the other three members saw Grimm as something no one wanted around. We also see the guilt Richards has for getting him into the mess that created The Thing.

I did enjoy the fact that they moved the story a year later and allowed everyone to learn how to use their powers. I know these is a minute detail but it's crucial. They should not be able to fully utilize their powers as soon as they woke up. I think the way they got their powers also made sense. I especially loved how they developed Susan Storm's powers.

Franklin Storm was another thing I enjoyed. Here is a person who sees that children are key to our future. He created a crew of young people who would make scientific breakthroughs that would change the world. He saw them as children that he had to take care of and he adopted a few of them. He even called Richards and Doom “sons.” Reg Cathey did a good job as Papa Storm.

My biggest gripe was how they created Dr. Doom. I enjoyed the tension between him and Richards but his motivation to become evil was lackluster. It didn't sell me. Dr. Doom is my favorite villain because of his arrogance and this guy was far from it. I mean Dr. Doom throwing up a middle finger? Who wrote this? He was pretty much the Beyonder with his power set.

Overall, the movie felt like a rough draft. After the battle with Dr. Doom, I thought there were more scenes but it seemed to be over very fast. There was one huge plot hole that really frustrated me. Parts of the movie worked and parts of it didn't seem right. Again the movie wasn't great but not something you have to watch. 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Secret Wars 2015: The view so far 
(all images from Marvel.Com)

Omi's Note: Usually I don't post spoiler alerts. If you read about comic books on line, there are spoilers galore. Quite honesty, I come to expect spoilers. However, I do feel that in this case I should warn the reader. I will give many spoilers but if you haven't be reading Marvel Comics in say, the last 30 years, you won't get half this stuff anyway.

I would be the first to admit that with the Incursion Events in Marvel under Jonathan Hickman, I was hoping that the heroes of Earth 616, in particular the Illuminati, would figure it out and save the universe. I really did. Even when every Avenger title demonstrated that nothing they could do or anyone in another reality could fix it. Most of the solutions were temporary and involved destroying an entire universe. So not only were those solutions difficult, they were ethically immoral. When the rumor mill began to spin the story of the destruction of the Marvel multiverses, I was really mad about this. I could understand if Marvel got rid of a few of these multiverses. Sometimes, writing stories that include characters from these alternate universes can be confusing.

I believed that this new Secret Wars storyline would be the dumbest thing ever. I have never been wrong (and I have been eating crow with every release of the series). I just put down issue # 4 as of July 30th. I have to mention that the stories based on this new Secret Wars “crossover” are very good. I mean some are awesome. Half way in, I will say Marvel has hit it out the park.


I enjoy the fact that the Marvel editorial team picked up on Dr. Doom's long term goals from the original Secret Wars. If you recall, at that point Dr. Doom was able to steal away the Beyonder's power. Since that time, Doom continued to believe that only he could retain that much power and rule the universe. While he continued to be a nuisance to the Marvel universe, all of his schemes were not the endgame. We finally see Dr. Doom see an opportunity to find that endgame and sit himself on the throne of the known universe.

Despite it's complexity, Battleworld is amazing. Again, the Marvel creative team took it's cues from the original story line where the Beyonder took pieces of different universes and put them all on one planet. It's understandable why Dr. Doom did it this way. Every piece of Battleworld with the exception of a handful, are ruled by Barons put in place by Dr. Doom. It seems like Dr. Doom thought this was a good idea to create Battleworld in this order to keep the population in check. All of the barons seem to have rebellions in all of their fiefdoms and are too busy fighting them off to unite against Dr. Doom. Some of the Barons include Apocalypse, Maestro, Mr. Sinister, and Hyperion to name a few. These barons are powerful enough in their own right but together could probably stand a chance to defeat Doom if they united but they remain too busy dealing with their own squabbles. Hickman has even figured out how to put in the Marvel Zombies universe into the story without it being corny. It's a place where Doom banishes all of the rebels throughout Battleworld.

The Thor Corps is really what keeps me ready to read each chapter. Here we have a corps of police enforcers who unquestionably follow Doom and wield hammers that are similar to that of the original Thor from Earth 616. All of the Thors come from different parts of Battleworld. Doom did this so that he didn't have to do any of the work himself. He can just send a squad of Thors to do it for him.

I never been a huge fan of Dr. Strange. All that magic stuff doesn't do it for me. However in this instance, Hickman writes him well. Dr. Strange is the only other person besides Doom who remembers how the universe was before the Incursions. Everyone else believes that Battleworld is something that has always existed. We learn in issue 3 that Dr. Strange had the opportunity to received the power of the Beyonders but refused and accepted the idea that Doom could wield that power better than he could. This part of the story is very, very interesting.

Esad Ribic's breakdowns have always been fascinating. I think this story really allows him to push the boundaries of his creativity. Even if the writing was boring, I would still collect the issues because of his pencils.

The Bad

While Battleworld is like a buffet, there is just too much stuff out there. While some of the heroes we know and love from the Marvel multiverse are rehashed and remixed in clever ways and there is something for everybody, it is just too much to digest. Pretty much in a span of a few weeks, Marvel has launched several new titles. With some good there is bound to be some bad. Planet Hulk is not actually Planet Hulk. Star Lord and Kitty Pride is over the top. Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies is lackluster. I can go on and on.

Many of the stories are great, but we know in the end, Marvel is not going to continue them. There is a Thors title with the Thor Corps. We all know that's not going to last. Civil War and Old Man Logan? Outta here. So why tease us like this, Marvel? I mean we know why, but we want to hear you guys and gals say it.

Most, if not all, of the crossover titles have no bearing on the actual storyline. Sure The Thors series gives the reader insight on how the Thor Corps functions and demonstrates how the idea that the Battleworld has always been there, none of what the characters a reader might end up enjoying will affect the overall series. This has been a problem with previous crossovers. In a way, if you want to save money this works but if the reader becomes invested in characters that will be discarded anyway, what is the use?

Some of the stories are rehashed but are not like their namesakes. The best example is Planet Hulk. Another on is the Infinity Gauntlet. While I enjoy the story of the Infinity Gauntlet, I did expect a series that dealt with several heroes and villains like the original story. This might be difficult to do, but if Thanos is central to the Secret Wars storyline, things might get a bit confusing.

Overall, I think the series is worth it. Purchasing the crossover titles is not necessary. I am sure that most of the stories will be memorable and will allow other artists and writers to get a little shine. I do look forward to the conclusion of the story since Hickman continues to ask more questions as it progresses.