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Ant-Man’s Charisma Problem: Why Early Ant-Man Was Unpopular

Gather to me! Hear my words! I, Jason Cragg, speak truth! Truth! – The Voice

Journey Into Marvel – Part 85

Today's issue

Today’s issue

Extremites, Ant-Man stories are haphazard and make little sense.  Hank is unlikable. He’s reclusive. He’s quick to anger and downright abusive. Today’s story pits cold, uncouth Ant-Man against an antagonist who’s power is his radioactive charisma. It shows that Ant-Man is never going to be a darling of the public.  Read the rest of this entry

Fantastic Four #12: The Birth of Western Culture’s Greatest Creative Achievement

Journey Into Marvel – Part 75

The historic picture signalled a titanic event.

The historic picture signalled a titanic event.

Extremites, we take for granted, in this post Tolkien/Lewis world, the intricacy of a comprehensive fictional world.

You may have noticed that I keep using the term: “Earth – 616.” This is the name the fandom has given to the collective world that all Marvel characters exist in. As time has gone on, there are other continuities that have been created, but 616 is the main one, and the one that Journey Into Marvel concerns itself with. I believe that Earth- 616 is one of humanity’s greatest expressions of collective creativity, far more vast and comprehensive then Narnia, and with even more complexity than Middle-Earth.  It all began with today’s issue. Read the rest of this entry

The Fantastic Four Explain What Superheroes Do For Cash

Journey Into Marvel – Part 58

Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_9Extremites, if you’re like me, and I assume you are because you follow this blog — and if you don’t follow it you should — you have found yourself sitting reading a comic wondering two things: one, ‘where do these superheroes find all this spandex’ and two, ‘how do these folks afford all of this?’ It must be expensive to keep up a multitude of gadgets. Insurance payments on crazy building collapsing battles must be through the roof.

Some characters are billionaires. Batman has endless cash to fund the latest mobile or new grapple hooks. Tony Stark is the heir to a massive military supply shop.

What about the ‘average joes?’ Read the rest of this entry

For the record, don’t call me Speedy: Goon Reviews Arrow “Birds of Prey”

Snooty and Goon

Birds of Prey

I love Thea, she is just amazing.  Best character on the show.  Okay, just wanted to get that out of  the way, onto the review.

Okay, this episode gave me all sorts of chills.  If you could see me, where would be goosebumps on my arm, Helena being back, Laurel’s falling to darkness, Sara pulling herself out of it!  To much amazing for one hour.  Lets get into it.

On the island we see Sara and the others that escaped from the boat arriving at the plane, she then receives a call from Slade, telling her that he still has Oliver and offers her a trade, Oliver for the Henrdicks.  Slade needs Hendricks to repair the boat so that he can leave, and tortures Oliver until Sara agrees to turn him over.  Hendricks, of course, is not in favor of this plan but in the end ends up being part…

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The New Status Quo: Image’s Lazarus

Ben’s Grim Corner

debtconsolidation1It’s a powerful force, perhaps the powerful force … at least in the present moment. It’s brought us stealthily through the past fifty years right into now, and it appears to be towing us ever forward into the future, drawing us further into its jaws with every turn of its gears. It brings with it interminable, inescapable agony akin to a neverending sequence of paper cuts that inevitably leave us all hemorrhaging – and like those metaphorical tiny slices across our skin, it leaves many of us bloodless. It is the slow death we all fear, and yet can never seem to escape.

I’m talking, of course, about debt.

There’s no beating around the bush at this point, folks. It’s not just individuals who are feeling the sting now: the city of Detroit is officially a ghost town, squeezed dry of every indentured penny over the past decade of combined real estate debacles, oil price fluctuations, and business closures. Europe is a rapidly-spreading wildfire of austerity with no end in sight … at least, as long as things stay the way they seem to be going.

Even here in my own home, my mind is split, half of my thought devoted to writing this op-ed masquerading as a comic review while the other half spins in mathematical circles, adding and subtracting, prioritizing pleasures and necessities to ensure that all of the financial leg-breakers of the world keep their baleful gaze from my doorstep.

But then there’s the other side of the coin (there’s always another side of the coin, isn’t there?). Our eyes and ears are force-fed an unending stream of advertising, bright colours flashing across our vision as loud voices command us to buy this phone or sign for this plan, consolidate our loans with a bigger loan carrying a larger interest rate over a longer period of time. Most of us see it for what it is – trading a bowl of turds for a deeper dish of the same odorous confection – but somehow, those hooks dig their way in and we find ourselves staring incredulously at the bottom of the contract, wondering who signed our names there so nonchalantly.

“He/She was so friendly,” we tell ourselves. “They made it so easy.”

But the smiles and handshakes mask the desperation in their tone – because they’re in it just as deep as we are, and the only way out is on our backs.

The reality, folks, is that this isn’t a race. There isn’t even a finish line. It’s a treadmill, and we – and by we, I mean everybody – have been told that our choices are to run or starve.

And so we run … and starve nonetheless.

As always, however, I can’t help but look forward and consider what’s next. I’m forever stretching my neck to look over that seemingly insurmountable hill to check the next horizon. You see, in spite of the mathematical gymnastics I’m currently performing in my head, I still remember that this isn’t anything new. It’s not fair and it’s definitely not ethical, but looking back over history, this is the prettiest that indentured servitude‘s ever looked. Historically, the current debt crisis is no different for most of us than 19th Century slavery, or the serfdom imposed as a result of feudalism in the Middle Ages. The only real difference between then and now is that now we have a carrot in front of us to substitute the whip at our backs.

But it’s not the seemingly revolving door of servitude we keep reeling around that concerns me the most; what really worries me is that it’s not over yet – or worse, that this is better than what’s coming next.

And it appears I’m not alone. Mark Rucka has seen the dangers of an indebted future, and he’s created a visually-striking new world for us to experience it in.

You may have heard of Rucka. If you haven’t, I’m sure you’ve read some of his work: he’s written Batman (Detective Comics), Wonder Woman (2003-6), Wolverine (Vol. 3), and was a co-writer for DC’s pivotal 52 series. Now he’s contributing his considerable talent to Image’s inventory in the form of a new series called Lazarus.MTVG-Laz2

Before I get into the story, I have to give some textual high-fives to artist and letterer Michael Lark, whose list of comic involvement is longer than my introduction. Seriously, Google this guy and try to keep your jaw closed while you read his resume. His work on this series alone has me excited to see what’s next in his future (hopefully more Lazarus!). Santi Arcas’s colouring also adds such an essential element to this comic; like I mentioned in my article on East Of West, a good colourer can enhance the story as much as they add to the art, and Arcas does just that, allowing the blue ambience of underground lighting to permeate the interior and lengthen the shadows of this dark future dystopia, while the washed-out colours of the harvest fields add to the melancholy of the scene.

Alright, enough blabbing – on to the plot!

The world of Lazarus takes place at an undetermined point in the near future, where the world is now split along very different lines. Where once the planet was divided by political or cultural boundaries, it is now under the purview of a select group of families. Each Family owns territory and controls all of its resources – one of those resources, of course, being people.

The families are small but powerful, holding all of the technological advances, transportation services and financial clout of their particular section of the world within their grasp.

Obviously, these families don’t all get along. The interplay between rival Families is reminiscent of mafia-style gangs: there’s an appreciation for power or a mutual respect based on trade, but they’re not afraid to lay waste to each other at the slightest hint of weakness.

But what of the other people?

Well, they (or we, as the case may be) are split up into two groups; the smaller of the two works for their respective Family, born into indentured servitude for their entire life.

The rest? As Rucka puts it in his introduction, “All others are Waste.” The Waste have yet to be introduced to us at this point in the story, but the implication is that they live a life of pure subsistence, barely able to scrape by while under the purview of the comic’s corporate offspring.

Sounding familiar? It should be. The more I read the news, the more I get the feeling that we’re not as far off from this possible future as we may be led to believe.

What I find the most fascinating about this story is the perspective Rucka chooses from which to explore this eerily-realistic future.

The first issue introduces us to Forever, a member of the Carlyle family. Forever isn’t just any Carlyle, though – she is what’s known as a Lazarus (hence the … you get it, I’m sure); a cybernetically-enhanced enforcer whose sole purpose is to defend her Family from any encroachments on their territory. She possesses heightened strength and agility, as well as a ridiculous healing factor. In addition, every Lazarus is remotely monitored by both an engineer and a doctor at all times. She’s also the de facto commander of the Family’s security forces.

Lazarus-Review-Banner-770x418What I find so fascinating about Rucka’s chosen protagonist is that she appears, at least at first, to be one of the bad guys. It would be like telling the story of the 2008 real estate crash from the viewpoint of Goldman-Sachs‘ head of security: you feel for the guy, but you also kind of wonder how he sleeps at night.

As the story progresses, however (and it’s not that far along – going on six issues – so sink your teeth in now!), you begin to appreciate Forever’s difficult position all the more. She may be an enforcer, but she’s no less stuck in this mess than the rest of the herd. In fact, she seems to be as much a victim of the system as those who slave in the fields. She wears chains, just like the others – hers just shine a little brighter.

After all, what kind of freedom comes with a killswitch?

Beyond that, for me there is a pervading feeling throughout the story that he’s not telling you a tale from the other side of the fence. As I found myself coming around to respect Forever’s situation, I slowly came to understand the real reason why I related to her, even though we’re such profoundly different people in such different worlds.

You see, ladies and gents, we relate to Forever Carlyle not because she is a tragic hero, but because she is just like us.

She, like the workaday men and women of today, is simply a person trying to do the right thing in a deeply fucked-up situation. She’s desperate, fighting with her own indentured status while she keeps the rest of the slaves in line. She sees the tragedy of her own circumstances, but simply digs herself a deeper hole, blinds herself to the plight of her fellows because it’s “not her concern”. She has her own battles to wage, her own demons to fight. She, like us, is in it up to her eyeballs.

And the only way out is on our backs.

Until next week.

-Benjammin’

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Will Agent Coulson Return in ‘Avengers 2′?

This is now entirely a possibility as Agents of SHIELD has established Coulson as a major player in the goings on of the near mortals. Even much more so then his prior involvement in the films.

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iCosplay Blog

agent-coulson-SHIELD

It’s common knowledge that, one way or another, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) got better after apparently snuffing it in the first Avengers flick, and is now alive and well and starring in Marvel‘s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series….But where does Nerddom’s favorite soft-spoken spook stand regarding the upcoming sequel, Avengers: Age Of Ultron?

Well, let’s see what The Whedonizer said when WPRI asked if Coulson would return:

“He could. Right now it’s not something I’m pursuing because I have so much going on in Avengers 2. Finding out that Coulson is alive would be an entire B story. And I already have too much movie. That’s better than the other thing.”

According to the info revealed at SDCC, The Avengers don’t have the security clearance to know that Coulson is still among the living, so it would take a bit of doing to shoehorn…

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Return of S.H.I.E.L.D.: What the Marvel show needs to be a success

This is a very good article about what S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to do to beat out Arrow.

I agree.

Arrow is a far superior show at the moment. But this is because Oliver Queen‘s city is populated by human heroes. Vigilantes. There still has not yet come a character that has superpowers. Sure, there’s been hints at them, but no outright story about them.

AOS on the other hand has been attempting to tackle that to some degree and on a budget. They haven’t quite managed this yet, but they have created both Mike and the Supervillain, who if you are a comic book nerd, you know just by the name and the origin story, that was covered in this show.

I think there needs to be more references to both the films and the larger Marvel world. The writers seem to be relying on a very small world. Or at least that’s what the show has felt like thus far. Anyway, have a read.

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Box Office Buzz

646056 KS_New_shieldIt’s somewhat ironic: Marvel seems to have had more success, overall, bringing its superheroes to the big screen than rival DC Comics, but DC Comics is king of the small screen. Its latest TV show “Arrow,” about vigilante archer Oliver Queen, just keeps getting better and better, while Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has struggled a bit to find its voice.

“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” premiered last fall, an exciting experiment designed to bring the Marvel cinematic universe to the small screen. Rather than focusing on big-name superheroes like Iron Man or Captain America, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” promised to take viewers behind the scenes and show them what life is like for everyday agents without special powers. It was a great premise, and with Marvel’s golden touch, the show seemed to be an all-but-guaranteed success.

However, fan reactions to the first half of season 1 were decidedly mixed, and the show dropped…

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‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Clark Gregg talks Agent Coulson’s ‘soul-altering’ answers, the Clairvoyant, and more

Here’s a rundown on what to expect from the upcoming Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D episode. I would like to second the call for the return of Mike Peterson.

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Go Back To School With Image’s Morning Glories

Ben’s Grim Corner

morningloriesHere we are again, folks. Another year over, another year begun, happening in perfect sequence like the endless, continuous ticks of an old clock. As the holiday season winds to an end, the cycle begins anew: prices return to their regular over-pricedness (rather than the extreme over-pricedness of November and December); the politicians return to their respective trenches to continue the battle for governmental supremacy; mothers and fathers put away the decorations and get back to the daily grind; the smiles run from our faces, the scarves wrap tighter around our necks, the wind brings a greater chill. We fondly repeat the words “out with the old and in with the new”, but let’s face it – there’s not much difference between the two, is there?

And while we, the so-called adults of the world, shrug indifferently at the resumption of our daily routines, it’s our children that feel the sting.

That’s right – it’s time to go back to school.

I’ll pause for a moment to let the echoes of your screams fade.

All better? Wonderful.

I never personally understood the dread associated with scholarly pursuit, to be honest. For me, school wasn’t much different than home, partly because I spent my time there doing the same thing I did at home – namely, reading up a storm – and partly because a large piece of my home life resided at my school. You see, I faced a high school career that most teenagers only had nightmares about. While my peers would awake from theirs with a sigh of relief, I would return to mine five days a week, looking over my shoulder every moment, terrified of the possibility that, at any time, she would turn the corner and smile her knowing smile at me, pierce the facade of my pubescent bravado with her hawkish eyes and return me to the state of a drooling infant.

You see, my mother was a teacher … who taught at my school.

When people learn this about me, there are two possible reactions that occur with uncanny certainty, the most common being, “Holy shit, dude! How bad did that suck?”, and the second being hysterical laughter, usually paired with some pointing in my direction.

The reality, however, was not quite what would be expected. That’s not to say that it wasn’t stressful beyond belief – I was very fond of telling my more troublesome friends, when my involvement was suggested in some sort of foolish endeavour, that my mom would know I was in trouble before I did – and that was also, more often than not, exactly the case.

It also had some pretty sweet perks, though. For instance, I was the only kid who could ever successfully perform the role of class clown with minimal difficulty. While the other thirty or so kids in my class were a faceless herd that changed from year to year, I was “Mrs. Dobson’s Son”, a title I wore with budding pride as I sat in my backyard with my French and biology teachers, listening to them bitch about their respective department heads while they knocked back glasses of red wine. When “some kid” makes a crack about the French word for seal, it’s disruptive; but when Mrs. Dobson’s Son does it, it’s tolerated.

It also made me nearly impossible to bully, since everyone was keeping a close eye on me – and everyone also believed that fucking with me could give them an “F”. Obviously, that would never happen – my mom was a firm believer in her children cleaning up their own messes – but I certainly wasn’t about to break the illusion for them.

Perks aside, school was not something I truly enjoyed. It was too much like being at home (or in jail, depending on the class). It was also profoundly under-stimulating, especially to a kid with a brain like a sponge, the attention span of a toddler, and a pile of imaginary worlds stacked next to my bed. The structured, unblinking banality of the modern education system was a miserable place for someone who spent most of his time thinking about swinging swords and shooting lasers. In those days, I wished for something more from school, something challenging. I wanted a school where boundaries shifted and rules changed, where the lines between bully and bullied were undefined, where smarts got you more than just a good score on your test.

It turns out, more than a decade later, I’ve found just the school for me.

I’m talking about Morning Glory Academy, the setting of Nick Spencer (Ultimate X-Men, Iron Man 2.0) and Joe Eisma’s Morning Glories.

Morning Glory Academy is the best prep school in the world. It also houses an ancient monastery – complete with monks in full regalia – detention rooms that drown or burn students alive, a fully-armed security force … and the ability to travel through time?!

I told you it was my kind of school.

So, this is usually the part where I give you a quick synopsis of the story, but in this case, I’m leaving it aside. Why, you ask? Because now, thirty-five issues in, I’m no closer to knowing what’s really happening than I was in issue one.

Normally, this would frustrate me beyond belief – I’m rarely interested in a neverending mystery – but Spencer keeps doling out small bites of truth between huge meals of deception and secrecy. Honestly, the only storyline I can think of that has as many twists and surprises as this and still succeeds at holding my attention would be LOST, and that piece of serialized gold was written by an entire team of writers. The fact that Spencer can keep all the details of Morning Glories together on his own is a testament to his masterful skill as a storyteller.

Case in point: page one of the first issue makes absolutely no sense – to the point that it completely escapes your notice – until issue twenty-nine, where the full sequence of events is revealed. The full details of even that particular moment are still, as yet, undiscovered, but somehow Spencer’s trail of breadcrumbs are just frequent and tasty enough to keep you following him all the way to the end.

Another aspect of the writing that makes this comic work is the staggering amount and diversity of knowledge used in its execution: the plot moves forward at a stunning pace at all times, but scattered within it are small moments of philosophical and spiritual insight that, while inconsequential at the time, reveal themselves to be important pieces of the puzzle that is Morning Glory Academy. While you become emotionally bound to the students that find themselves at the centre of the school’s darkest mysteries, you will find yourself learning the same lessons, challenging your own firmly-held beliefs in the face of Spencer’s cleverly-delivered dialectics on free will, the afterlife, community, and the nature of time.

And just when you finish cursing at the inanimate object in your hands for ending so abruptly just before the climax, you discover the final section of the comic, a piece called Notes From Study Hall, a spot where comic aficionado Metthew Meylikhov gets a chance to freely speculate on what’s really going on in Spencer’s oversized brain. It’s clever, well-worded, and keeps the gears turning a long time after you’ve closed the book. I’m sure you’ll find yourself putting pieces together in your mind as you fold laundry or wait in traffic, flipping through Meylikhov’s theories as you try and find the answers to your own questions.

As I told y’all in Image’s Think Tank Makes You Smarter, I’m especially fond of comics that teach and entertain at the same time. The special thing about Morning Glories is that while you read, no matter what age you are or how certain your beliefs happen to be, you mentally return to the state of studenthood for the span of time between page one and the end. When I was in high school myself, I took a philosophy class that, while terribly taught and barely considered a class (a lot of my classmates spent their time rolling joints and playing PSP), exposed me to Socrates, a self-professed fool who attributed his success as a great thinker to simply believing that he had no idea what he was talking about. Socrates chose to maintain the student’s state of mind: open to new ideas, fluid in consideration, and free of preconceptions.

It’s a state I’ve tried to maintain for myself since the days I studied Socrates for the first time, and I believe it’s served me well. I feel that, by choosing the student as his primary character type, Spencer is able to deliver complex concepts and mind-altering plotlines without coming off as preachy. I’ve found myself shifting between wonder and frustration as I read this comic, but beneath it is a pervading feeling of nostalgia, for this combination of wonder and chagrin is the very state of mind I held within me in my adolescence – both while I made jokes at my teachers’ expense and while I shoveled dinner into my mouth, listening to the profound insights of those who had chosen to spend their lives imparting knowledge to the rest of us.

And that’s ultimately what this comic is about. On the surface, it appears to be teenagers struggling to make sense of the mysterious place they’ve been chosen to reside in, sifting through their teachers’ bullshit to find some semblance of understanding, some piece of truth to hang onto. But at its core, this is a story about knowledge: what it is, how it can be manipulated, and how profound the difference is between what is believed and what is real.

Welcome to Morning Glories, children.

Until next week,

-Benjammin’

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Your New Year’s Resolutions Should Include Reading Saga

To echo our very own Benjamin Cook, writer of Ben’s Grim Corner, here’s another approval of Image’s Saga. Read this publication!

Lady Geek Girl and Friends

Confession time: until just a few weeks ago, I still hadn’t read Saga. I actually bought the first trade paperback of Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s award-winning comic ages ago when I had some extra money, but for some reason I had never sat down and actually read it. Well, unemployment has its upsides, and one of those is significantly increased amounts of reading time, so let me tell you a thing:

You should be reading Saga.

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