Thursday, July 28, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger Review


Finally, the perfect Captain America movie is here.

And I don't use the word perfect lightly. For this comic fan, there is literally no better character study on what makes Steve Rogers the symbol he is today than Captain America: The First Avenger.

Let's take a look at why.

It all starts with Chris Evans. The guy absolutely owns the role of Captain America, so much so it brings tears to my eyes. This is Evans we're talking about here, the guy who played loveable douche-bags in Scott Pilgrim and Fantastic 4, surprising his haters by bringing some unexpected gravitas to a role as big as Steve Rogers. It's mind-blowing. At one point, Steve tries to enlist again after being denied a whopping five times, and he tells his friend Bucky, "There are men laying down their lives. I got no right to do any less than them." It's a simple line, but its the way Evans said it with such sincerity and nobility that sent shivers down my spine. He turned it into a defining moment, one of many throughout this movie, that showed Evans gets this character and fits him to a T.

The cast was great. No real stinkers or duds like previous Marvel films. Stanley Tucci was heartwarming-ly brilliant as Dr. Abraham Erskine, the inventor of the Super Soldier Serum and a momentary father figure to Steve Rogers. Hugo Weaving rocks as the Red Skull. Tommy Lee Jones was both hilarious and kickass. Even the Howling Commandos (at least, we comic fans know it's them) were equal parts funny and badass. I'm such a guy, of course, to highlight  Hayley Atwell (bless her voluptuous heart) as special agent and Steve's love interest Peggy Carter. Her on-screen romance with Evans was one of the cutest I've seen in a Marvel film so far. I loved how old-school and natural it is. They don't make romance like they used to!

If anything takes away from the experience, it's how the entire movie rushes to the ending once Steve fully becomes Captain America, mighty shield and all. Most of Cap in action amounted to just cut scenes. And when the time came for the big showdown, the plot even goes as far as pointing out Red Skull's hideout out of the blue to get to the climax quicker. We don't really get to see Red Skull develop as a worthy nemesis for Captain America, save for a few parallels between them (both are products of the Super Soldier Serum), and the final showdown between Red Skull and Cap suffers because of it.

But then again, maybe that's not what the movie was going for. More than anything, Captain America: The First Avenger is an inspirational movie, filled with powerful moments that not only show Steve's rise to greatness as Captain America but also illustrates the attributes of what makes a good man.. If you don't openly weep during the final ten minutes of the movie, you are beyond saving.

A pitch perfect film no matter how you slice it. Captain America: The First Avenger is no less than the perfect superhero origin movie. You can quote me on that.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Week in Comics: July 22, 2011

Man, hiatuses are NOT fun. Good thing the comics keep coming so I have something to talk about here! So what did I get myself into this week in comics? Read on to find out!

The clock winds down for DC's Mistress of Magic. Come September, this little book goes the way of the dodo by way of the big DC reboot. Which is sad, since it looks like the Zatanna title is just biding its time, waiting for the ax to fall. That's not to say that Zatanna #15 is bad, though. It's a standard done in one by Derek Fridolfs filling in for Paul Dini (if ever Dini comes back at all) that sees Zatanna flexing not just her magical muscles, but her actual ones, as she's forced to fight for her life when evil-doers with machine guns come knocking her door!

It's a nice enough issue, showing us a Zatanna that's more than capable of handling her own even without her magic. She thinks on her feet, and isn't afraid to put a foot into someone's face if magic just doesn't cut it. It's an aspect of her I don't see very often, which makes this issue at least a little different. Jamal Igle is his usual best here, busting out a gorgeous Zatanna in the middle of great-looking and dynamic action scenes.

It's sad to think that there's no Zatanna ongoing in the grand scheme of the coming DCnU . It does raise questions as to why we keep buying DC's stuff when it will all be more or less history come September. Maybe I'm crazy like that. Regardless, without the shadow of DCnU hanging over it, Zatanna #15 is a good, action-packed done-in-one. This gets a 3.5 out of 5.

15 Love is a weird book. Not because of the content, but because its better suited as a manga than a 3-issue miniseries worth 250Php a pop. But I digress. Let's take a look at what it's about first.

15 Love #2 continues the drama from issue 1. Mill Collins is slowly shaping up to be a tennis prodigy, and it only took a slob of a coach to make it happen! But the climb to the top of the tennis world is paved with bitchy arch-enemies, handsome distractions and an unexpected gig as a model (Mill the Model...where have I heard of the before?) Will she be able to focus long enough to get out of last place?

I picked up 15 Love on a whim since it's so far out of Marvel's field, and I'm a sucker for manga. I enjoyed what I read, but I had this nagging feeling that I would have enjoyed it more if it was in manga form. 15 Love #2 gives me more of that feeling. Andi Watson tells the story at a fast clip, firing off development after development faster than you can read them. A LOT happens in this book because of it, which is okay since it really gives it that anime episode feel.

Speaking of which, Tommy Ohtsuka provides art in this series (complemented by Guru eFX on colors), and his style serves the story well. Ohtsuka does manga style good, and fans will find a lot to love with that look. It could have used a little polishing up in the storytelling department (a lot of weird composition choices), but that's moot since this series has been in the can for years now.

This is a teen drama book, no question about it. Not exactly something you wait a month to read what happens next for, which is probably what comic book readers thought too. That's sad, since there's a lot of potential in this book. With the last issue on the way, 15 Love will only have to worry about getting out there than getting bought. 15 Love #2 is a 3.5 out of 5.

And so we come to Daredevil #1, a new ongoing and a new beginning for Matt Murdock and his high-flying alter-ego. I have to warn you though: it's colorful, it's fun, and it's exciting. In other words, it's damn good.

After years of being life's punching bag, Daredevil sheds some of that heavy emotional baggage and returns to his swashbuckling roots courtesy of writer Mark Waid. I absolutely love the lighter and fun tone of this book. I never thought I'd live to see the day grim and gritty take a backseat to fun superheroics, but here it is!

Waid obvioiusly had fun writing this issue. It just oozes of Silver Age superhero fun, I had to double-check to see if I was still in 2011. In the first half of the book, DD stops The Spot from kidnapping a mob boss' daughter, and we're schooled on the basics of Daredevil's powers and abilities through an exciting and smartly played action sequence. That's what you call learning while having fun!

Of course, it's not all fun and games for Daredevil. He's been through a lot of hell lately, from running The Hand to having his secret identity leaked to the public, but Waid doesn't ignore what came before, nor does he let them define his story either. Waid weaves all that into his narrative and provides some interesting challenges not only for Daredevil but for his alter-ego Matt Murdock to overcome, like having to deal with Matt's newfound celebrity status as the man who might be Daredevil. Needless to say I'm now excited to see what happens next.

What puts this issue even more over the top is the art. Paolo Rivera and Joe Rivera takes the task of translating DD's unique powers to the printed page and gives us a visual feast that has to be seen to be believed. The depiction of DD's 'sonar sense' is awesome, and the art dances to the beat of the story in a way that makes it so easy and fun to read. Want to know how Daredevil 'sees' The Spot? Trust me, you'd want to pick up this book to find out.

I'm still pinching myself, because I can't believe a comic of this quality came from Marvel, let alone exists. Daredevil #1 is the best single issue that came out this year, full stop. This is a 6 out of 5. Pick this up on sight!

Marvel's got a hit in its hands with Daredevil. You can quote me on that. So what did YOU pick up this week? Is Daredevil made of win or fail to you? I really want to know! So leave me a comment and let's talk about it! Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 08, 2011

My Week in Comics: July 8, 2011

Another Friday rolls around, which means it's time for another My Week in Comics! What did I get myself into this week? Read on to find out!

Let's get this out of the way first: Fear Itself #4 is not very good.

I've been reading comics for a good part of my life, and I've come to accept that decompressed stories and mega crossover events are the bread and butter of comic books. It's ugly business, for sure...and Fear Itself #4 is just making it worse.

So the Serpent is using the Worthy to recharge himself through the fear they generate as they rampage across the globe. With the Serpent fully powered up, he will be ready to face Odin, and that fight will only mean bad news for the Marvel universe. So what do the heroes do? Why, bring back Thor, Iron Man and Steve Rogers together, of course!

And that's as far as you can go with this issue. Matt Fraction was too concerned with giving panel time to the dozens of Fear Itself tie-ins to bother with actual story progress. All this amounts to is a lot of fantastic imagery and posturing with neither emotional weight nor sense, not to mention the huge amount of disjointed scenes that rival those of Final Crisis! Panels upon panels of places and people I'm supposed to care about, wasted because I had no reason to.

Even as a straight-up superhero story, Fear Itself fails. They're the greatest heroes that Marvel has ever assembled, facing powerful and mystical fear avatars, and everyone's big plan is to keep punching? Where's the heroic edge? The common sense?

Am I being cynical about this? Am I just a crusty old fart that doesn't like what these newfangled comic books are doing these days? I don't know. But what I do know is that four issues in, and Fear Itself is STILL spinning its wheels in place. It's been made clear that this isn't an event book. It's a handed out brochure for all the Fear Itself tie-ins out there, and I sure as heck didn't sign up for that. This is a 2 out of 5 by virtue of Stuart Immonen's amazing yet tragically wasted art. Something big is brewing in the next issue, and Marvel's got one last chance to turn this around.

On the other side of the pond, Flashpoint #3 is starting to get interesting. Barry is burnt to a crisp, but he's not about to give up trying to regain his superspeed! Just in time too, as Barry, Cyborg and Flashpoint Batman are racing to stop global war by recruiting the greatest superhero that they know!

As much as I hated the first two issues of Flashpoint, I admit that Geoff Johns stepped up his game here. A lot of stuff happens, and they all clue you in on the world of Flashpoint and the inevitable climax its building up to. I didn't feel lost at all while reading this, and I'm actually interested in how these motley crew of heroes will pull this event off.

The cover alludes of course to a meeting with Flashpoint Superman, and what our heroes find is the ultimate twist in this book. Suffice to say it's an unexpected twist to the idea of Superman, and I'm excited to see where Johns goes with this. But it's not just Johns...Andy Kubert is taking Flashpoint to great heights with his art. He totally sells the scale of this issue (and of the entire event) well, and the detail is above and beyond what you'd expect from an event book.

Flashpoint #3 is a study on how you write and draw and event book. It advances the story, clues you in on the current state of the universe it happens in, and is drawn well. If not for some unfortunate typo errors (did editors fall asleep or what?) in the book, this would have been a stellar issue. As it is, it's a good 4 out of 5.

Can't get enough of The Geek's reviews? Head on over to The Outhousers, where I reviewed X-23 #12! Trust me, you'd want a manga by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda after this!

Comic book companies never tire of event books, do they? Let's hope they do this week one better. Comments? Suggestions? Violent reactions? Leave me a comment below and let's talk about it! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Finding The Greatest Superhero Ever

Greatest Superhero Ever

Who is the 'Greatest Superhero Ever'?

I know we all have our choices, our favorites. Some would say Green Lantern or Batman or Ms. Marvel or even Squirrel Girl. Nate Grey was freaking awesome for me once, and Nova still holds a dear, overpowered place in my heart. But it's interesting to see how the term itself could become the very idea of the superhero 'standard' in the world of comic books.

The idea is that the Greatest Superhero Ever (or GSE) sets the tone of the narrative universe they live in. He or she becomes the living personification of what all their world's heroes aspire to be. It's the one question any hero asks themselves: "What would the Greatest Superhero Ever do?" And when the situation is at its darkest and most dire, the triumphant orchestra piece you hear is the sound of the Greatest Superhero Ever coming to save the day.

Let's take a look what makes or breaks the Greatest Superhero Ever. (For this blog post, I'll be focusing on the Big Two, since they both have, more or less, a clearly defined Greatest Superhero. Feel free to suggest other comic book companies and who you feel their Greatest Superhero is in the comments.)

DC had Superman as its Greatest Superhero Ever, and for good reason. He was the first of them all (for a time), he was certainly the most powerful, and his unwavering stand for truth and justice held him to a standard every other hero aspired to. Superman's status as GSE was made manifest in Mark Waid's Kingdom Come, where heroes devolved into grim n' gritty anti-heroes without the Man of Steel's example. In Grant Morrison's Final Crisis, it was Superman who saved the Multiverse, literally wishing a happy ending for all of us.

On Marvel's side, the GSE who comes to mind is Captain America. He's punched Hitler in the face, and has even stared down the mad Titan Thanos during the Infinity Gauntlet storyline. The moment he comes into a room, or arrives at a battle scene, he commands respect and admiration from his peers. When Cap shouts "Avengers Assemble!", you can be sure that each and every single hero within earshot will do exactly as he says, and it usually involves some epic superheroism.

But sometimes its not all about paragons of justice or war heroes. Sometimes you get something completely different, and the flavor of their universe changes with them. Take Marvel's Dark Reign, for instance. There, Norman Osborn set himself up as the Greatest Superhero when he became the Iron Patriot, even though we (the readers) know he's really a murderous scumbag. Because of it, there was a tonal shift in the universe and the heroes that occupied it.

The idea of a Greatest Superhero Ever makes me take a good look at DC and its upcoming reboot. There's little I can add to the tons of opinion pieces out there about the DCnU that hasn't been already said. But I AM interested to see who emerges as DC's GSE in the coming months. Superman has fallen to the wayside, with the last heroic thing he's known for is walking across the US in search of himself. This is DC's chance to really define the superhero standard to which its heroism is measured. With a supposedly clean and trimmed slate, the one hero who rises above all others will set the tone for the rest of the 52 (!) books coming out, and I'm both scared and excited to see what happens next.

What other qualities do you think a Greatest Superhero Ever should have? Which other comic book universes you know that has one? Let's talk about it in the comments, okay? Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

Captain America Cubeecraft by Daouide (

Happy Independence Day to my readers up in the good ol' U.S. of A! And since we shared holidays before (back when the Philippines celebrated our Independence Day on the Fourth of July), I'd also like to wish everyone a happy Filipino-American Friendship Day! Brofist naman dyan!
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