Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What I Dislike About...

Missed opportunities.

There's a distinction that, to my way of thinking, I'd make between a missed opportunity and mere wasted potential (the latter having been discussed briefly in my Aquaman article). Although neglected thus far, the possibility still remains that Aquaman may someday be taken in those selfsame aforementioned directions. However, in the example that follows, perhaps the most difficult task - doing the actual work, and then setting everything into place - had already been accomplished. Regrettably, all of the preparation in this particular instance would never be used to any real advantage. Meanwhile, the subsequent actions of individuals not directly involved would only serve to further derail whatsoever benefit there might have been in actually doing so.

It was a little over a year ago when I first read Brian Reed and Lee Weeks' Captain Marvel: Secret Invasion - collecting as it did the Civil War: Rebirth one-shot, and also the subsequent Captain Marvel mini-series. I loved it. Here was a book that skipped right to the heart of that which should be monumentally important to every single one of us! Through its protagonist - Mar-Vell, hero of the Kree-Skrull War - we're taken along on a journey of mutual self-discovery. It allows us to question the very nature of identity: what it is that makes each of us, deep down, who we really are inside.

Are we the sum of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions... or of some combination thereof? And is our heredity - the sheer random chance of our genetic heritage - in any way connected to our unique state of being, our individual sense of self... or even, as some might suggest, our 'souls?' In this, Reed and Weeks achieved the seemingly impossible: They made Captain Marvel infinitely more fascinating than he'd ever been before. Naturally, I began extolling the praises of Captain Marvel: Secret Invasion to anyone who would listen - even going so far as to mention it in the same breath as Silver Surfer: Parable (which is very high praise indeed)!

But then I (recently) read the core title of the Secret Invasion company-wide cross-over event storyline - the mini-series of the same name by Brian Michael Bendis and Leinel Yu - and I made an unfortunate discovery: The intriguing thought-experiment begun in Captain Marvel: Secret Invasion also ended there. There would never be anymore follow-ups along those same lines - in fact, it was all jettisoned in favor of some Johnny-come-lately poseur character named Noh-Varr (just check out the guy's wiki - he's more of a wannabe Brood than he is a Kree)!

And, perhaps most disheartening of all: It turns out that, through it all, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been wanting to use the Captain Marvel character themselves! So basically this whole endeavor (or fiasco, as I prefer) was just a clever way for Marvel's veritable unofficial creative director to officially say 'no' to two of the best writers at the entire company. *sighs*

Monday, January 17, 2011

What I Like About...

Brightest Day Volume One.

The basic premise of Brightest Day couldn't be simpler: Twelve dead super-folks, consisting of a mix of both heroes and villains, are brought back from the great beyond by the Entity - avatar of the light of life itself, from which the White Lantern battery draws its power - to go on to serve some initially-unknown (presumably higher) purpose.

But why were these specific individuals chosen? Why were other, seemingly equally-deserving deceased superheroes not also returned to the land of the living - and why were there ever even any villains in the mix to begin with?

All of these issues and more are wrestled with by those who were resurrected to play some important role in the titular 'Brightest Day' that is still yet to come. And at the end of this first collection, these answers are indeed revealed... albeit in a typically-cryptic fashion.

Although the following example is also vague, I will not intentionally spoil which of the twelve characters received this particular revelation. Still...

[mild SPOILERS!]
(Paraphrased) "You have already done all that was required of you. Good job! Enjoy being alive again."
[/mild SPOILERS!]

Sure it's just a small thing... but man, is it ever cool!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dinky Reviews!

The Last Exorcism (2010).

What a profoundly stupid little movie.

I could've written a perfect ending for this film. And to make matters worse... they totally set it up for it! In fact, I'm almost completely certain that many others could, have and/or will reach the same conclusions that I have.

Therefore, I propose the following experiment: For those who haven't yet seen this movie, please go into it with the thought that there's going to be some huge twist ending... and then try to figure out what it's going to be beforehand.

Now, having done so: Do you see what I mean? I'm sure I'm not the only one who sees it... am I?

Addendum: Whenever this film debuts on the pay movie channels (i.e. I don't have to buy it specifically - I'll just run a tape instead), I'm going to try to make a point of actually sitting down and typing up what I myself believe - and those who agree with my personal assessment regarding the same will likely concur - would've been a much better (and, in a perfect world, a proper/the "real") ending!

And here I was, all ready to log on and declare this to be my favorite exorcism film of all time... *sighs for what might have been*

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dinky Reviews!

My sealed "brick" of DC 75th HeroClix.

In HeroClix, a "brick" is a sealed set of ten unopened booster packs - in other words, half a case's worth of figures. HeroClix itself is a game wherein players use pre-painted miniatures representing popular comic book heroes and villains to square off against one another. As its name implies, the DC 75th expansion is a celebration of DC's seventy-five years of continued publication - albeit with an additional focus on the Blackest Night company-wide cross-over storyline.

As a customer, the brick that one receives is random - however, there is now a fixed structure of figure selection and rarity distribution within each individual pack therein as well. This is a relatively new advent with HeroClix releases - and, in my opinion, it is also a good one. For me, my reasoning behind this is simple: With the last expansion that I bought a brick from, DC Crisis, the contents were truly random. This turned out to be a problem for me because with that set, I only received two Super-Rare figures instead of three (which was the stated average amount). Not that big of a deal... until you realize that whoever bought the other brick from the same case as me ended up receiving a whopping five or six Super-Rares at my expense!

With DC 75th, I not only received three different Super-Rares - but I also got my guaranteed one-per-brick chase figure as well! However, this newly-fixed distribution within the bricks themselves has had regrettably unfortunate consequences for some other individuals, in that they purchased multiple bricks - only to find out later that they'd unwittingly bought the same one twice... right down to character selection and figure placement within every pack! For those like myself with limited budgets - those who only intend to buy a single brick - it shouldn't be a problem; but for anyone intending to procure greater volumes of product for themselves, I recommend proceeding with all due caution. There have also been reports of quality control issues concerning merchandise arriving in damaged and/or incomplete condition. I myself have, thankfully, seemingly sidestepped this issue in this particular instance.

I'm pleased to report that, overall, I'm quite content with my brick of DC 75th HeroClix. Although I'm a confirmed fan of the cosmic titles produced by both DC and Marvel, I knew going in that - realistically speaking - I would not be getting every Green Lantern-related character in this set. Now that I know which ones I already have on-hand, I can simply pick up additional figures on the secondary market. As far as Super-Rares go, I got: the Golden Age Green Lantern, Allan Scott - insanely good, gameplay-wise; the Golden Age Wonder Woman, one of the best versions of said character in HeroClix; and the first non-lantern, non-Crisis on Infinite Earths, non- Starro-slave incarnation of Barry Allen as The Flash. And, speaking of The Flash: My chase figure, Barry Allen as a White Lantern, has been described by authoritative HeroClix website HCRealms dot com as the "Best. Flash. Ever."

Additional musings:

Received two of every generic - except for, unfortunately, the Zamorons.

Six non-generic duplicates: 4 commons (Donna Troy, Crimson Avenger, Bart Allen and Green Arrow) and 2 uncommons (Queen Aga'po and Detective Chimp). Fortunately, whenever I get duplicates of non-generics, it usually makes up for one of the two having a truly horrendous paint-job (and thankfully, I didn't get any triplicates this time around).

Two common Dominators - yet no uncommon Ruling-Class Dominator to lead them. Similarly, no Solovar to guide my Gorilla City Warriors into battle. This situation will have to be remedied.

One of my two Easy Company Soldiers was in the same pack as Sargent Rock. Groovy.

One of these days, I'm going to need to pick up the super-rare Wonder Twins duo figure from this set in order to round out the Super-Friends!

I'm still missing three of the variously-colored Lantern guardians from the set. This includes, obviously enough, the super-rare Sinestro - I haven't got either of the Yellow Lantern incarnations of this character, and so Sinestro Corps Mongul will just have to suffice. I am therefore going to end up breaking down and purchasing Indigo-1, Carol Ferris and - sadly enough - a character that I totally love, Saint Walker, from the secondary market.

The issue isn't that I ended up getting Black Lantern guardian Scar - it's that, because of the overwhelming scarcity of other members of the Black Lantern Corps (at a rate of one in every sixty packs - that's a single figure per three cases! - from a previous HeroClix expansion, The Brave and the Bold), I'll probably never be able to build an actual team with two or more Black Lanterns...

I already owned all the good versions of Kyle Rayner, save for the limited-edition figure of the same name from the Collateral Damage expansion set, prior to this - however, the benefits available to this new version (post- Sinestro Corps War uniform, free telekinesis) guarantee that the new one will see some play from me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I Dislike About...

Unresolved plot threads.

Although my long-standing disdain for this particular phenomenon extends to pretty much any blatant instance of such abject laziness in overall basic storytelling technique, it's only recently been brought back to the fore and generally exacerbated by my having read Marvel's cosmic titles - from Annihilation through War of Kings - in their near entirety.

In all fairness, it's not my intention to single-out comics as being somehow guiltier of this practice (or even necessarily doing so more often) than anything else presented via other types of media. To that end, I present the following example (one of several I can think of off the top of my head - and bearing in mind that I haven't watched this show for over a decade) from Babylon 5:

The through-line of the series (except for an unplanned-for fifth season - one wherein they received a new budget from TNT after the series finale had already aired, only for the now-renewed show to be constantly rescheduled and barely ever shown thereafter) is mostly a build-up to a war against an evil race of aliens known simply as "the Shadows" - with said war ultimately playing out during season four. Anyway, it's eventually discovered that the planet shown in the background of every medium shot of the titular space station is actually home to an ancient device of incredible destructive power.

It's just the kind of thing which might turn the tide of that aforementioned war! In fact, two entire episodes are devoted to securing the weapon, and restoring it to its former fully-operational glory. So it comes as somewhat of a shock when the war is finally over, and the realization sets in with the viewer... that this so-called "super-weapon" was somehow completely forgotten, and ultimately remained unused!

The mere mention of unresolved plot threads from Marvel's post-Annihilation cosmic titles probably brings one thing to mind most readily for readers: Wraith. Here was a character that was introduced during Annihilation's sequel storyline Conquest - one who even got his own self-titled mini-series - and he was intended to then function as part war veteran, part folk hero to his people (the Kree) immediately following the story's resolution.

Now imagine what it would have been like if Lando Calrissian hadn't shown up in Return of the Jedi... and he was never mentioned again. Yeah - dropping Wraith was kind of like that.

But lest you think that I'm unfairly beating up solely on the architects of Marvel's recent cosmic series - Giffen, Abnett, Lanning, et. al. - I actually wanted to instead focus now on something that's been bugging me ever since I read Secret Invasion: a company-wide cross-over event, albeit one with admittedly cosmic (re: alien) origins.

All the signs from an ancient Skrull prophecy - a legend which tells of the alien race successfully conquering Earth (and that, in and of itself, begs an additional question: Just how long have the Skrulls known about Earth, anyhow?) begin to come to fruition. And then, whenever something goes wrong throughout the course of the actual invasion that follows, the Skrull Empress almost immediately makes a comment along the lines of, "This too was foretold!"

Now, putting aside for a moment the many contingency plans that the Skrulls had in place long before this invasion had even begun (almost as though they were still unsure about the final outcome) - and somehow also ignoring the fact that, even armed with the requisite foreknowledge, the Skrulls dutifully went ahead and made the same mistakes that they surely must have already known they were going to make - and once you've slogged through this entire series, you're left with the following sad conclusion:

So the Skrulls' prophecy is seemingly one-hundred percent accurate - that is, up until the exact point where it turns out that [SPOILERS!]the Skrulls still lose.[/end SPOILERS!] And naturally, Brian Michael Bendis offers up no explanation as to why the prophecy upon which this invasion was so clearly predicated somehow manages to get the most important part wrong.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What I Like About...

War of Kings.

If the original trilogy was intended to be the story of Anakin Skywalker's redemption, then surely Marvel's War of Kings must represent the redemption of Crystal.

Granted, I've read the explanation given for Crystal's status as co-narrator in Spotlight: War of Kings - but still, I'd like to imagine that it actually went a little something like this:

"You know who sucks? Crystal."
"Yeah, really."
"So let's take Crystal... and make her frickin' AWESOME!"

Seriously, I went into this storyline all ready to hate Crystal. Now, as it is with anything in which Jack "King" Kirby had a hand in creating (whether that be in whole, or in part), the potential was certainly originally there... but it had since been completely squandered by massive mishandling on subsequent writers' parts.

This was Crystal prior to War of Kings, in a nutshell: 1. Married Quicksilver, Magneto's son and long-time member of the Avengers, and bore him a daughter; 2. Conducted numerous extramarital affairs, both before AND after the birth of said child; and 3. Divorced Quicksilver after the fact, using the flimsy excuse that because she's royalty and he's a lowly commoner, they never should have even been married in the first place!


But under the watchful guidance of War of Kings collaborators Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, something wonderful happened: We were given unprecedented insight into Crystal's innermost thoughts and feelings, as they were occurring! True, any potential attempt at excusing Crystal's previous behavior was predestined to fail... so these guys didn't even try. Instead, they took a sort of 'from here on out' approach to writing her - almost as if to say, "That mess was all some other people's fault!" So what did we, as an audience, learn from this?

As re-imagined by Abnett and Lanning, Crystal has grown so much as an individual that she now truly cares about those in need - regardless of who they are, or how society sees them - entirely without any thought of herself. Meanwhile, her budding romance with Ronan the Accuser is truly heartfelt and honest - a fact that's readily apparent to most any reader who's ever been in love... and not at all the sort of forced and ultimately false relationship which one unfortunately encounters far too often in popular fiction!

Plus, you've gotta admit: When Crystal took control of that enormous stone statue, and had it mimicking her every move? That (and therefore, by using it in such a fashion against her enemies, she) kicked ASS!