Monthly Archives: April 2014

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01 E20: Nothing Personal

Well, there’s another Agents of SHIELD episode. I enjoyed it as much as the other episodes of recent. There was a mention of Man-Thing. Sadly I still feel that the show is a glorified appendix of the MCU, and it is becoming more evident, even as the acting and writing gets better.

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Biff Bam Pop!

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Good guys, bad guys, S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s who, and it’s even harder to tell that when you’re talking about the deadly world of espionage and double agents. Everyone lies for a living, no one tells the whole truth, so who can you trust? On this series we have seen more than a few turncoats and double agents, and it’s not over. Meet me after the jump for my review of the aptly titled “Nothing Personal.”

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The Extremis Review Welcomes PoiSonPaiNter to Our Roster

The Extremis Review welcomes PoiSonPaiNter as a monthly contributor. Take a look at her interests and what she can bring to Extremis.

Jesterdeer_small__by_PoiSonPaiNterPoiSonPaiNter tries to work her creativity into written words through blogging about random stuff (including movie/book and concert/festival reviews) on her own Blog  or through writing stories like the book she’s co-writing (More information here).

Her early interest in Fairy Tales turned into a fascination for Myths and Legends of all kinds, but also a liking for everything Fantasy-related. A similar path was taken from (Disney) Cartoons and Anime to (Web) Comics and other nerdy things: X-Men, Spiderman, Buffy, and Doctor Who. You name it and Poison has either looked into it or has it already on her list. Oddly enough, while bats are amongst her favourite animals, she doesn’t like Batman; or DC characters. She is more of a Marvel-person.

Poison considers herself to be a Metalhead and therefore belongs to a different kind of Dark Side (without former knowledge of the involved cookies, but ever grateful when they are served), but regardless of all the above still certified to ask: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

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Star Wars Episode VII: Will the Prequels Curse Extend to the Sequels?

maxresdefaultGotta love Star Wars. Lightsabers. Heavy breathing. Jar Jar Binks.

No. Never say that. That’s the perfect way to get yourself kicked out of every nerd party in America. Why? Because nobody likes the prequels. Nobody, that is, except wannabes who start with the prequels to try and fit in, or artificially create some connection with their “secret” crush. And ever since Disney announced that they were making more Star Wars films, the question has remained: will these be three more films that we have to try and rip from our memory, leaving scars so epic in proportion that they make Edward Scizzorhands look like a supermodel?

With that in mind, I wrote this post. A look at what went wrong with the prequels, and what we know so far about Episode VII.

  • Prequel Problem #1:Jar Jar Binks and everything he represents.

While all of the prequels have problems, the biggest one is found in Episode I. George Lucas went from a pretty dark feel with the Vader-Luke battle to a type of horrid silliness only to be rivaled on The Wiggles and Barney. It was the deplorable result of trying too hard to cater to a younger generation of potential fans. Thus we have Jar Jar Binks, podracing, trade disputes, and, of course, cute little Anakin.

  • Prequel Problem #2: Space ninjas are actually diplomats

The original trilogy gave us a pretty cool hint at the Jedi Knights. They were good with a lightsaber, could lift objects with their minds, and even be these super cool blue ghosts after death. They were warriors. Except not. Surprise! They’re actually diplomats that solve trade disputes. Isn’t that cool? No? Well I guess that ruins my original idea of making the Ninja Turtles politicians . . .

  • Prequel Problem #3: A forced love story

I’m not going to spend a bunch of time talking about how Hayden Christensen was the wrong choice for the role of Anakin, but regardless of acting skill, Episode II was ridiculous. Instead of making the love story an intriguing side story like they did with Han and Leia in the original trilogy, they had to make the entire story about that, as well as completely ignoring the fact that Padme is, you know, like 10 years older than Anakin. Instead we have to pause all of the things and show all of the Jane Austen-esque courtship with all of its cringe-worthiness.

  • Prequel Problem #4: Bad villain decisions
Darth Maul. Hmm.

Darth Maul. Hmm.

Palpatine was incredible. In fact, he’s the reason why I still enjoy Episode III while still cringing through much of the first two prequels. But his choice of apprentice on the other hand was kind of ridiculous. Along with the problem of making space ninjas diplomats was the problem of making the Sith apprentice a politician as well, even if an evil one. I never could quite buy Count Dooku as a credible threat. On the other hand, Darth Maul is one of the very few things that Episode I got right. He was absolutely incredible, being scary, alien, and silent, the very qualities that made Darth Vader so intimidating (even though he was human, the suit gave him a very alien appearance). Imagine how much better Episode II’s face-off would have been with Maul fighting Yoda instead of Dooku fighting Yoda, as well as the interesting personal struggles that could be found with Obi-Wan losing to Maul after having lost his master to the fiend years earlier. It would have been so epic. Instead we have another politician/warrior that diluted the epicosity of the struggle.

So there you have it. Four huge problems that really screwed the prequel trilogy beyond repair. Now here’s some of what we know so far about Episode VII. This isn’t everything mind you, but these are the highlights.

JJ. Abrams. Fresh from Star Trek.

JJ. Abrams. Fresh from Star Trek.

J.J. Abrams is directing

Old news, I know, but very relevant. Old-school Trekkies have criticized Abrams for making the new Star Trek franchise an action-filled, soft sci-fi universe, more likened to Star Wars than Star Trek. I don’t think that’s necessarily fair, but it does show that Abrams’ style is very compatible with the Star Wars universe. As far as directing goes, it is in capable hands. Just get ready for the lens flares.

The writers are very capable

The writers of the screenplay include Abrams himself, Michael Arndt (Catching Fire, Oblivion, Toy Story 3) and most exciting of all, Lawrence Kasdan, who helped pen the screenplays for the original three Star Wars films, but not the prequels. This is a very capable writing team, and I’ve very hopeful for the story itself.
Lucas is a creative consultant on the new films.

That’s both bad and good. Obviously Lucas created this amazing world, but he also has a tendency to screw up the good that he’s previously done. We’ll have to see how that plays out.

The original cast is returning

Luke, Han, and Leia that is. This is most definitely good news. Despite all of the nursing home jokes, this should keep the films more to the spirit of the old ones, which is most definitely good news.

Adam Driver will play the villain, and Palpatine will return

Palpatine will presumably return as a force ghost of The Emperor. As for Adam Driver, I’m not familiar with his work, so I can’t speak to whether that will be good or bad, but the Star Wars filmmakers have generally done a good job with the casting (except for Hayden Christensen, of course), especially with their villains, so we can probably trust their call on this one.

  • Conclusion

A lot of things ruined the prequels. But the creative team this time around is much better equipped and will probably steer away from the silliness that made the last few so terrible. Especially when you see the dark nature of Khan’s character of Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness, it’s pretty easy to see how Abrams will take the saga away from that direction. That combined with the original cast returning as well as a screenwriter from the original trilogy makes for a hopeful set-up. If the new movies are bad, it won’t be due to the same problems that plagued the prequel trilogy, that much is for certain. ~ Logan Judy, Extremis Star Wars Contributor

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War For Its Own Sake: Image’s Zero

English: The portrait of G.W.F. Hegel (1770-18...

English: The portrait of G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831); Steel engraving by Lazarus Sichling after a lithograph by Julius L. Sebbers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ben’s Grim Corner

“No man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit.”

A famous philosopher said that; a man named Georg Hegel – who most of you have probably never heard of, but I swear he’s famous with us philosophy nerds. The above statement is taken from his Lectures on the Philosophy of History, an amazing book to read if you spend an inordinate amount of time pondering the ridiculous impossibility of our civilization surviving into the 21st Century. Conversely, if you don’t care at all about this crap and you really need to fall asleep, it’s also a wonderful sedative.

The reason I bring this old German blowhard up is because of a term you’ve probably heard ad nauseum in the past few years, a term that he inspired: zeitgeist. Literally, the word is German for “spirit of the time”, and it refers to the culture that a specific era of history adhered to, like the obsession with Christian symbolism that dominated Medieval Europe, or the masterful weaponry and military strategy that accompanied the rise of the samurai in feudal Japan, or the monoliths and mythology of ancient Greece and Egypt.

However, in the spirit of the current time, Hegel’s above statement no longer applies. The world of today is multicultural, spanning the length and breadth of our history with every politic, religion, language and ethnicity represented, if not equally, at least in a limited capacity.

We, the thirty-somethings and under of the plugged-in section of Earth, are the generation without identity: we define ourselves not just by our neighbourhood or family background, but by our taste in music, our favourite film and literature, and our favourite food. It’s not unheard-of to meet a white kid from the suburbs who loves blaxploitation films and can beatbox like a pro, nor is it rare to find kids of Asian descent shredding a metal solo or screaming punk lyrics while sporting the smoothest, tallest mohawk any scene kid’s ever grown.

For us, that stuff’s old hat, but go back thirty years and find an Asian kid at a Black Flag concert, or a white kid busting a beat for his freestyling friends – it happened, but it was usually accompanied by “where’d that Asian kid come from?” or “where’d that cracker learn how to beatbox?” Today, we just take it all in stride; our heritage helps to define us, but it’s no longer the definition.

The idealist will look at this new trend and smile. “See,” he/she will say. “Through technology, we’ve unified under the common banner of Humanity. In time, all of our prejudices will fade out of existence and we’ll spend our days singing kumbaya and writing poems about how enlightened we are.”

And they’ll say it just like that, complete with the sardonic sneer (which you can’t hear, but trust me – it’s there).

I, however, would beg to differ. I think that our technology has erased some battle lines and replaced them with others, on sections of the field that were previously out of sight; sections like freedom of expression, right to property, and social justice on a global scale. If this technologically has assisted us in increasing our awareness, it’s only making clear how much more fucked up it all is for everyone, not just certain strata of society.

In fact, I would say that war is not an event, but rather a state of being – our state of being, to be precise. Veritably, there is only one thing that we can safely say is the zeitgeist of our age, and it’s not high definition screens or sub-woofers. Today more than ever before, we have all become warriors on a global, digitized battleground.

Whether you fight for solar panels and cancer research; or you protest the invasion of small nations you can barely pronounce by radicalized extremist factions with equally unpronounceable names; or you simply choose to shop at local markets and boycott Walmart; you have become a social soldier. The war of the present is not just fought with bullets and bombs, even if it may feel that way from the view of the mainstream media. On the contrary, our war is fought on message boards, blogs and social media; our weapons are our voices, our signatures, and our money; our only armour is our anonymity, something that is being slowly chipped away week by week.

You may want to believe that you are a pacifist. That’s a really sweet sentiment, and one I admire greatly as I myself aspire to such heights, but make no mistake, friends; pacifism is an ideal, something to aim for. It is not a reality, no matter how we’d like it to be; rather, in a world of perpetual war, pacifism is merely another type of resistance, a form of civil disobedience that is the quintessential monkey wrench in the gears of the global war machine. However, by that resistance, the pacifist becomes a target of the violence around them, invariably directing that which they resist directly at their blissful face.

Peace sounds real nice on paper, but it doesn’t just appear out of thin air, and it can’t exist without someone fighting to keep it – unless, of course, everyone’s perfectly happy with the way things are, which has never, ever happened.

Ever.

This, however, brings me back to Hegel, whose philosophy on history fits our age better than any other. Hegel developed a historical trend that he called the Hegelian dialectic; simply put, in every pivotal period of history there are two competing ideas: the first is the zeitgeist of the previous era, known as the thesis; the second, a new, opposing idea introduced through technology, exploration, or social innovation, known as the antithesis. As these two modes of thought, the thesis and antithesis, combat each other, they eventually combine to form a new, third idea, known as synthesis; this idea carries within it aspects of both the thesis and antithesis, but allows neither to be supreme. Examples of this throughout history can be seen with the founding of the Holy Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the American nation, and the Soviet Union. As can also be seen through those examples, each synthesis becomes a new thesis to be challenged by its next antithesis, leading to another inevitable conflict that will synthesize again, on and on into infinity.

Looking at things today, with the Internet rife with both censorship and hacktivism, the stock market a place of mergers and corporate conflict, nation-states fragmenting and unifying almost in the same breath, and even the farmland of the planet in a struggle between the seeds of the past and the GMO crops of the future, Hegel’s theory is more prevalent today than it has ever been.

The world of today may look different, but the eternal conflict rages on – in lieu of swords and spears, we wield drones and missiles; instead of religions and heretics, we have corporations and terrorists; but no matter the weapons or the motivation, the conflict remains uninterrupted, and the enemy is as it has always been: our neighbours, our rivals, and ourselves.

For the human race, existence is a perpetual state of war.

Zero.

Zero.

This is the premise of Zero, a new series written by the burgeoning talent that is Ales Kot (Suicide Squad, Change).

You may have heard of Ales Kot. If you haven’t, you will. Only a year and half since the release of his runaway hit graphic novel Wild Children, this Czech wordsmith is about to take on two new Marvel projects: Secret Avengers and Iron Patriot, both of which look extremely promising in Kot’s capable – and innovative – hands.

But we’re not here to talk about the big M, so let’s move on, shall we?

Edward Zero is a soldier, born and raised. He’s been taught from childhood to repress emotion, strike with murderous intent, and never leave a job unfinished.

And he’s not alone, as his small cadre of colleagues – employed by the secretive agency known as … the Agency (things are more important when they’re capitalized) – can attest. Or rather, they won’t attest. Because they’re secret agents. Attesting is against protocol, since it would require an opinion, and an opinion would necessitate feelings, and feelings are just messy when your sole purpose for existence is … um, murder.

But as is commonly the case with enigmatic paramilitary organizations, the river of secrets runs deep, and with only seven issues given to us so far, it’s already clear we’ve barely dipped our toes in.

Murder, betrayal, hidden agendas – even a little warping of space and time – it’s all there; yet, Kot also delivers it in a unique way: from the perspective of our protagonist decades after the story begins. Here, in 2038 at the barrel-end of an anonymous kindred gun-toting spirit, Edward’s tale is a combination of story and old man’s confession. Told in this way it feels almost like a memoir, complete with the regrets and nostalgia that only those older and wiser carry with them.

There are times while scanning a page-full of intricate hand-to-hand combat, that one wonders how such a scene of seamless martial ballet could share the same space with the articulate prose that Kot delivers, but it’s assuredly only the beginning. It’s clear from the outset of Zero that he intends for the series to exist for a good long time.

And for Edward – for all of us – existence is a perpetual state of war.

Until next time,

-Benjammin’

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Is Jonah Hex Chivalrous?

Decoding DC – Part 12

Jonah_Hex_Shadows_West_2Extremites, what makes a hero?

Is it a character’s actions or morals that define heroism?

Is it a collection of both?

These questions underly both our Journey Into Marvel and Decoding DC series.

In the first issue of Shadows West, Jonah Hex guns down a horse to stop an outlaw that was trying to escape his onslaught. This act is not heroic. A heroic character would not have played dirty. Jonah Hex is far more concerned with survival than heroism.

Chivalry is a concept that has been wrapped up in heroes since medieval legend. Birthed out of a German code of military conduct, Chivalry was the prevailing etiquette of late Dark Age Europe. It, at first, dictated the way warriors should conduct themselves in the field, but later, became a model for conduct at court. Starting with Thomas Malory’s Mort D’Arthur and going through all the later romanticizations of the knights of King Arthur’s court, chivalry became synonymous with relationships with women.

I would never suggest that Jonah Hex is chivalrous.Sometimes Jonah Hex is downright unpleasant to women. Look to Joe R. Lansdale and Tim Truman’s Two Gun Mojo arc to see what I mean. After reading this issue of Shadows West I notice, in a twisted way, Jonah embodies a kind of Vertigo specific chivalry.

The Shadows West arc is about a squaw who has a half human/ half bear baby. When Jonah witnesses how this woman is forced into prostitution to care for the child, he breaks the two free, with the aid of his friend Spotted Balls. The plan is to reconnect the mother and son with the father.

The reaction Jonah has to forced prostitution is hypocritical. Jonah has no problem with prostitution if the woman is complicit in their subjugation as shown in the first issue. Upon seeing the squaw, he has an immediate aversion to her predicament and breaks her free.

Chivalry preached courteousness in male and female interaction. In depictions of the courting of Guinevere by Lancelot, a kind of flowery respect defines the relationship.

I have noticed this same relationship between men and women, when it comes to other publications in Vertigo. John Constantine of Hellblazer has always had a respect for besotted women and acts rash when a woman is forced to do something against her will. Swamp Thing — another Vertigo imprint, although not birthed there — often concerns itself with these same themes. Truman and Lansdale continue with this theme.

Beyond this novel addition to the definition of Jonah Hex this issue is unremarkable. Like all the issues of the Lansdale and Truman Jonah Hex period, the stories are always run of the mill. Take away the supernatural angle this issue just a chase story.
Sure, there’s some good banter, some neat penciling, the fall of the shot horse for example, but it all feels flat. I already feel like I know the ending of this arc.

So is Jonah Hex chivalrous?

I’d say he is.

I’ve said before, women in Jonah’s wild west are either whores or monsters. It makes sense that a homicidal deformed bounty hunter would be a knight in shining armour.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds

Story I Read: “Part Two: Gathering Shadows” (Jonah Hex: Shadow’s West #2 Mar. 1999)”

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5.

Pros: Great art, Jonah Hex is understated and compelling, the relationship between Jonah and Spotted Balls is well thought out.

Cons: There’s a simple plot but despite the simplicity of the plot the characters are left two-dimensional and archetypical. The squaw is quiet… this bothers me.

Upcoming Review:Part Three: Final Shadows” (Jonah Hex: Shadows West #3, Apr. 1999)

Previous Review:Part One: Long Tom” (Jonah Hex: Shadows West #1, Feb. 1999)

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Is Loki Marvel’s Joker?

Journey Into Marvel – Part 48

loki_joker_facebook_cover_tests_by_lucafon-d5oabrlExtremites, around the premiere of Thor: The Dark World, I read a Forbes article that declared Loki as the only interesting Marvel villain. This article claims because of Marvel’s campy comedic vibe they have yet to produce a villain who has the gravitas of the Joker.

Ignoring that this article disregards the none Disney Marvel adaptations like Fox’s X-Men, which features both Sir Ian McKellen’s inspired interpretation of Magneto and Fassbender’s younger version who is just as rich — and Sony’s plethora of well adapted Spider-Man villains: Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock or the malevolent and off the wall Green Goblin of Willem DaFoe— the article has a point.

I submit that of the villains so far presented in the Marvel Disney World, Loki is the only one adapted faithfully to the screen.

Obadiah Staine is a footnote in Iron Man.

Mickey Rourke’s Vanko is a mishmash of characters.

Shane West’s Mandarin is a spit in the eye.

Tim Roth’s Abomination was well cast in a terrible script.

Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull has too little screen time.

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is the first villain that poses a threat and that is because his is the only faithful adaptation.

The Joker, in Batman, is the perfect villain.

We often as literary critics get bogged down  looking for important motivations when we dissect villains, but really, as so well reduced in the recent HBO True Detective series, they are the opposite side to a coin. They are the dark in opposition to the light. Joker is the yang to Batman’s yin. He doesn’t hate the Batman, per se, or love him like the Riddler does, he needs the Batman to exist. This is because he is part of the same personality. Batman and Joker are both deficient in one side of their personality and the other character fills in that deficiency. Batman lacks any sort of humour, Joker has an excess of it. Joker lacks any sort of ethics, Batman has an excess of them. So it is with Loki and Thor.

I am not about to suggest that Thor and Batman are one and the same. I have already made the case that he is a parody of Superman. Loki is the same as Joker. Both characters have the same goal … to create chaos for the sake of chaos.

Sure, as time has gone on both the Joker and Loki have gained deeper pathos. In Loki’s case, he wishes to gain control of Asgard for some received slight in his adoption by Odin, but in his initial appearance this was not present.

Journey Into Mystery #85 is the third appearance of the Mighty Thor. He has now fought aliens, restored capitalism to a banana republic, and met his future love Jane Foster/Nelson. In this issue he meets his archnemesis.

Up in a very special place called Asgard, its first appearance, there grows a great oak tree. Within this tree is exists Loki trapped until someone cries a tear for the him and he can be released. Loki, being the most clever of the Asgardians, makes one of the leaves float into the eye of passing Heimdall and he is free.

After this initial plan Loki spends the story creating chaos in his search for Thor.

If it’s a statue, Loki has brought it to life, if it was somehow inanimate, it somehow becomes animate.

Why does he create all this chaos?

Loki never wants to defeat Thor. He just wants Thor to ‘pit wits.’ This is the relationship Batman has with Joker, although without the magic. It’s almost as if Loki wants to play with Thor. It is not a bloodthirsty relationship like Prince Namor or Doctor Doom’s with the Fantastic Four. It’s a battle of wits.

jim85-02

Loki’s first entrance! Ever!

In my mind, there are four types of antagonists: the Scorned, the Megalomaniac, the Ideologue, and the Shit Disturber. Examples of these in Batman would be: the Riddler, the Penguin, Ra’s Al Ghul, and the Joker. On Marvel’s side it goes like this: Prince Namor, Dr. Doom or Kingpin, Magneto and Loki.

Loki’s presence has always been expected when it comes to Thor. Many of Thor’s issues have Loki involved in someway.

And so it is with Batman.

This is evident from Loki’s debut.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.

Story I Read:Trapped By Loki, The God Of Mischief!” (Journey Into Mystery #85, Oct. 1962)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros: This is a really fun issue. More Asgardians. Bonkers Loki plots.

Cons: Character wise, this is a pretty empty episode, but Silver Age comics are often gimmicky and just entertaining.

Previous Review:It Came From The Skies” (Fantastic Four #7, Oct 1962)

Upcoming Review:The Challenge of Comrade X” (Tales to Astonish #36, Oct 1962)

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‘Agents of SHIELD’ react: A little night music

Another great episode. Last night a Nova villain showed up. Marcus Daniels otherwise known as Blackout made an appearance and this is surprising.  Yet again, another thorn in the side of the comic book Avengers is now on the scene. Who else is out there I wonder?

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Sidekicks: Bob, Agent of HYDRA

Ben’s Grim Corner 

Bob, Agent of Hydra

Bob, Agent of Hydra

Superheroes. Bah!

I am so sick of superheroes, always “saving the day” right before the real heroes get a chance to flatten one overpopulated rat’s nest or another, like Metropolis or Los Angeles or somewhere with a lame-ass name like “Star City”.

Seriously, can’t these high-and-mighty assholes just lay off and let some baddies do some slaying? Who asked them to save a group of cynical hipster jerks right before they made a snide comment about our so-called “villain’s” supersuit? I’d like to see one of them try to find a decent electricity-conducting outfit that hugs the hips that well and comes in purple.

I mean, if you think about it, sometimes those murderous psychopaths are doing the rest of us a favour – or at least they would, if it weren’t for Captain Courageous and Mistress Magnanimous busting in and screwing it all up. But I guess it’s fine; I’ll just tolerate another unavoidable streetcar polemic about the amazing musicianship of Animal Collective.

Thanks, superheroes.

But I think the worst part about these self-righteous blowhards is how they steal all the thunder. You’re gonna try and tell me that every hero defeats their villains single-handed? What about the innocent bystanders, whose screams are the only reason they get the chance to smite evil; or the police who fill out all the paperwork, handle the trial reports, take the statements and make sure the bad guy doesn’t just run off again at the first opportunity?

And what about the villains themselves? Let’s face it: if your idea of a fun Friday night is to dress up in spandex and a cape, give your hair a little gel treatment and head to the rooftops to search for a chance to “dish out justice”, that villain in your path is the only thing keeping you from trading your supersuit for a McDick’s uniform and giving up your slick one-liners for “would you like to supersize that?” and “sorry, but we’re currently out of Shamrock Shakes”.

If you ask me (which you’re not, but … well, tough), the real heroes are the ones who get the shortest end of the stick – usually the pointy end, too. They’re the ones who mend up the suit and hammer the dents out of their arrogant mentor’s armour in between skull-crackings; they keep the Whatever-Mobile clean, gassed up and full of washer fluid; they get kidnapped, beaten, used as bait and then sent back out the next day, only to be kidnapped, beaten and used as bait all over again. They’re the overworked, under-appreciated grunts who take all the shit and never get a gram of glory, like being the weekly contributor to an up-and-coming website on all things fandom –

I’ll stop there. I think Julian knows my address.

My point is, it’s not the heroes we should be rooting for; it’s the sidekicks. I think it’s about damn time that those staunch protectors of our … um, protectors … got a few words written in their honour. Lord knows there’s enough of them – sidekicks, that is – to go around.

And so, for this, my first foray into the realms of sidekickery, I’ll be delving into one of my favourite comics of all time – Deadpool.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the man known affectionately as “the merc with the mouth”, a sadistic headcase with an irreverent, sarcastic wit that only an irreverent, sarcastic son of a bitch such as myself can truly love. And I’ve gotta say, for a guy who prides himself on being a lone wolf, this guy’s got a pretty decent list of sidekicks.

I’ll start things off with a man who, to any true Deadpool fan, needs no introduction. Actually, an intro wouldn’t be very helpful anyway, since his name is Bob.

Yep. Just Bob.

Well, not just Bob. For us comic geeks, his full name is Bob, Agent Of HYDRA, but for my purposes, I’ll keep it simple.

Bob got into the terrorism business for the same reason most people do: his spouse. Tired of listening to constant bitching about how he could never keep a job, Bob decided to apply to the world’s fastest-growing industry – mostly because the pay was decent and there was talk of dental benefits. Of course, HYDRA didn’t offer full dental, but by the time Bob discovered that it was far too late, on account of the brainwashing and the complimentary uniforms.

Of course, it wasn’t until Deadpool coerced him into defecting through some extremely effective torture techniques that involved a security card (don’t ask…) that he joined the ranks of the … not quite evil, but … sort of good … when it suits their purposes.

Anyway, since then, the man with one name has had quite the illustrious career: member of Agency X; time-traveling teammate of Captain America and Bucky (a sidekick for another time); dimension-swapping savior of reality at the side of Doctor Strange; and Deadpool’s scurvy-inflicted parrot when the manic mercenary decides to try his hand at piracy.

Yeah, that was all Bob. And he still doesn’t have his own comic.

See what I mean about sidekicks? All guts, no glory. Hats off to Bob.

And hail HYDRA.

Keep kicking sides, Extremites.

-Benjammin’

 

Bob was first introduced in Cable &Deadpool #38. He can be found in Deadpool #6-15 and the World War Hulk series.

 

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The Brighter Side of Jonah Hex: Plunging into Shadows West 

Decoding DC – Part 11

????Extremites, Decoding DC is now in February 1999 with Shadows West: the final publication that combines Hex, Joe R. Lansdale and Tim Truman.

Shadows West spans 3 issues unlike the last two arcs.

Shadows hits the ground running.

Jonah Hex is defending himself in front of a court for shooting down some roustabouts who attacked him for soliciting a whore. After he is found innocent, Jonah is beset by the gun toting relatives of the whore. After a gunfight, he is saved by a diminutive fellow with a huge hat called Long Tom. Long Tom brings Jonah over to an Old West Show headed up by a Buffalo Bill knockoff called Buffalo Will. Jonah joins the show where he meets up with an old Cree friend called Spotted Balls. After some characteristic Hexian repartee, including an allusion to Two Gun Mojo, Jonah finds himself embroiled in another supernatural plot with a squaw who has a half bear/half human child.

This Jonah Hex feels different from the ones who have come before. In Two Gun Mojo, Tim Truman and Joe R. Lansdale’s take on the character was brooding and dark. In Riders of the Worm and Such Jonah became a wise cracking swashbuckler. He was without the burden of Civil War experience that coloured his world view in Two Gun Mojo.

In Shadows, Jonah’s personality has been pulled back and he is almost witty. For the first time Jonah Hex feels three dimensional.

Tim Truman is no longer concerned with the brooding world view that peppered Two Gun and Riders. The dark backgrounds are replaced by whitewashed frames. The character creation is different as well. The faces are rosy and pink. Turman even embraces facial aspects like freckles and dimples instead of scars and scowls

What has changed in Jonah Hex from 1995 to 1999? Why is Jonah’s world brighter?

The brighter Jonah Hex.

The brighter Jonah Hex.

The tail end of the 90s was a very tough time for comics. The rise of independent companies like Image and Darkhorse were cutting into the popularity of the mainstream lines. Even these startups posted losses when Shadows West premiered. As a result, the mainstream lines focused on simplicity and gimmickry to attract readers. Some critics in this period referred to this new direction as ‘Disneyfication.’ Tim and Joe must have decided to modify their perspective to better resemble the Disneyfication of comics. The brutality of the earlier Vertigo titles is still present but is clearer and crisper.

I have qualms with the new aesthetic. Jonah’s scar and mangled eye are as iconic as Batman’s mask or Superman’s cape. The way Truman has downplayed the scar in this issue just doesn’t seem right. On top of all this, Sam Parson’s colouring of the eye with a vibrant red makes it look bionic. In the night panels, Jonah looks more like a cowboy version of Marvel’s Deathlok than19th century grizzled bounty hunter. These are minor qualms and could be the result of new publishing demands.

Shadows West brings us a brighter, happier, clearer Jonah Hex. This could be the result of tighter publication limits or of a change in the direction for Vertigo. Later articles will investigate this closer.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.

Story I Read:Part One: Long Tom” (Jonah Hex: Shadows West #1 Feb. 1999)

Rating: 3 out of 5

Pros: Finally, a three dimensional Jonah Hex. Some great lines. Crisper story telling. Less meandering. The overall simplicity.

Cons: The art feels more a cartoonish and often I have to remind myself that this is not a DC mainstream comic.

Previous Review:Chapter Five: Cataclysm in Worm Town” (Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #5, Jul. 1995)

Upcoming Review:Part Two: Gathering Shadows” (Jonah Hex: Shadows West #2 Mar. 1999)

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‘Arrow’ recap: It’s not easy being green

English: Summer Glau at WOnderCon 2008

English: Summer Glau at WOnderCon 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night’s Arrow had some stunning stunts, great battle sequences, and Summer Glau. Summer Glau is always a plus. (Sorry to get all teenage boy you.) Anyway, this was a great episode but Laurel is the worst! She knows about Ollie and says nothing. Come on, Lance, I’ve had it with your pious waffling!

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