Published: November 3rd, 2010 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Jim Cheung, Olivier Coipel, Michael Lark
Marvel Comics, 165 Pages
I didn’t specifically want to read this big event from circa 2010 but it did tie directly to the Thor run started by J. Michael Straczynski and continued on by Kieron Gillen. So I figured that I needed to know what happened here before I get into Gillen’s stretch of issues, as this takes place during that run.
The story deals with Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin, as the Iron Patriot and head of H.A.M.M.E.R., a new version of S.H.I.E.L.D., as he attempts to bring war to Asgard against the US president’s orders. Why Norman Osborn has any sort of power in the government has never made sense to me, no matter how hard they’ve tried to explain it and I’ve actively avoided most of that era of Marvel Comics because of that. Granted, I may read the Dark Avengers just to review it.
Anyway, Norman brings war to Asgard with his Avengers team that features villains in the roles of the famous masked heroes. Obviously, this doesn’t bode well for him and his only real trump card is The Sentry, a character I hated from the get go and was glad to see die in this.
The story is chaotic and I kind of hate that it has immense overlap with the Thor material that was so damn solid in this era.
In the end, this was a quick read and the art was at least stupendous.
Also known as: Steamboat (working title) Release Date: August 16th, 2021 (Hollywood premiere) Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton Written by: Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham Based on: Marvel Comics Music by: Joel P. West Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Ben Kingsley, Tony Leung, Tim Roth (voice, uncredited), Mark Ruffalo, Brie Larson
Fox Studios Australia, Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, 132 Minutes
“I was hired to play a terrorist. And then turns out they were actually terrorists, the producer got blown up by Iron Man, and I was arrested!” – Trevor Slattery
So this is now the third Marvel movie that I haven’t seen in the theater following Captain Marvel and Black Widow. And like with those other two, I’m glad I didn’t waste money on this because it’s a so far below where the MCU was at its peak that it’s almost sad to see where it’s all going now.
To start, I thought Simu Liu was fine as the title character and I like Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung and Ben Kingsley in pretty much everything but I’ve never seen someone suck the fucking air out of the room like awkward ass Awkwafina.
Christ, man… she’s the worst actress I’ve seen sine Rob Zombie’s wife. I also heard she’s a comedian but every joke this “Asian Jeff Gordon” threw at us, landed flatter than steamrolled pancake. She just wrecks nearly every scene she is in and she is in most of them. The fact that she sounds like an 82 year-old woman is also really distracting. But let me not just single her out because she’s not the only negative thing in this picture.
To start, I get that this story centers around China but the use of subtitles to open the film with all the fantastical backstory, wasn’t necessary. This is an American movie and Marvel shit is heavily geared towards kids. Five year-old Timmy ain’t reading that shit and no one in the theater wants to listen to his mom trying to audibly read it out loud to him and the dozen other kids. But Disney obviously did this to pander to China, who didn’t even want this movie because it was “offensive”, starred an “ugly” lead from their perspective, and was obvious pandering. It nearly wasn’t released but once it was, it didn’t do well there and Disney, as is becoming the norm lately, were left with egg on their face.
The film also suffers from trying way too hard to be cool. It starts with the shitty rap music used to introduce the main character, which just plays as a cheap attempt at old Disney execs trying to come off as hip. Then there is the friends hanging out in San Francisco sequence, which comes off as cringe CW teen drama bullshit. Then it just continues to try and double down on modern urban music over a traditional score… well, at least for the first half because the second half is almost a different movie altogether.
Getting back to pandering, the film tries to do it with the woke crowd but also fails in that regard. One thing that really sticks out is when Shang-Chi’s sister talks about how her dad wouldn’t let her train with the men, so she watched them and taught herself better. Then, in the next scene, she grabs her dad’s shoulder and gets taken down in one fucking move. It was embarrassing (see for yourself).
So then we meet Ben Kingsley, the fake Mandarin from Iron Man 3, and the second half of the movie starts, which goes from urban kung fu flick to fantastical, mythological kung fu flick. I like the second half better and thought that the film started to pull something worthwhile together before it decided to shit all over itself, again.
To get to fantasy China, though, they had to take an ancient passageway through a magical forest. However, they had to use a BMW, in what felt like a blatant advert, to move fast enough to “stay in the pocket” of trees opening a rapidly moving, little clearing. If they didn’t stay in the pocket, the trees would’ve apparently ate them. What’s really baffling about this and, as we’ve seen with The Rise of Skywalker, Disney doesn’t expect its audience to think about the details. But we’re not all as fucktarded as the “creatives” at Disney. If we were, we might not think that this is really stupid because BMWs didn’t exist in ancient China and horses wouldn’t have moved fast enough to “stay in the pocket”. But whatever, just watch the movie like a brainless consumer.
Once we get to fantasy China, we get lots of fancy CGI creatures that look cool but also make the film kind of overly fantastical and cartoony, after we just spent an hour watching a generic Iron Fist episode set in a realistic, urban atmosphere. It’s kind of jarring to the senses but it’s also where this story begins to find its own unique space within the larger MCU.
We meet Shang-Chi’s aunt, Awkwafina makes more bad jokes, Ben Kingsley is just there, and they all start training for the big showdown with Shang’s evil dad, who should’ve just been the real Mandarin operating in the shadows but he’s instead just a generic Asian crime lord with fancy bracelets called the “Ten Rings” but unlike the comic, aren’t actually rings, they’re bracelets.
Anyway, Shang-Chi’s official superhero costume looks like some club shirt he bought on Etsy for $65 that will fall apart after one rave. His sister’s outfit is about the same, and everything just sort of looks generic and like a Canadian television production.
The fight breaks out, it’s alright but eventually we get a big battle between two large ass dragons. So the movie has two dragons in it but neither of them are Fin Fang Foom?! Fuck you, Disney. Talk about a wasted opportunity.
So one dragon is basically Falcor from The NeverEnding Story with red streaks down its body and the other is just some generic, multi-armed abomination of a dragon that looks like it was designed by my nephew Max, who is repeating third grade this year.
The good guys win and Wong from Doctor Strange shows up to introduce them to Captain Marvel and Hulk, who is back to being Banner with no explanation, and they discover that the Ten Rings, now in Shang’s possession, are sending out some beacon. Whatever. I don’t care about the future of the MCU anymore.
All in all, I thought this was okay. It’s better than Black Widow and Captain Marvel but it’s definitely a bottom five MCU movie. It probably would’ve been better if Awkwafina was nowhere near this thing and if the writers actually read a comic book before “adapting” this character and this pocket of the Marvel universe.
Published: March 7th, 2018 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Alex Maleev
Marvel Comics, 264 Pages
After reading through the lengthy Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev run on Daredevil, I figured I’d give their run on Moon Knight a shot.
Reason being, I mostly liked Bendis’ Daredevil stuff other than how he didn’t know how to bring it to a close and his cringe romance shit. I also liked Maleev’s art, for the most part. Plus, I like the hell out of the Moon Knight character and wish I had read more of is stories over the years. I’m trying to rectify that now, as I’m older and have access to so much more.
This story is twelve issues long and it uses that space really well and wraps up much better than Bendis’ Daredevil run. I think that he went into this knowing where it needed to end and that since he had limited space to tell a story, he gave us something well structured that got to the point and gave us a satisfying conclusion.
In this story, we see Moon Knight dealing with his “hearing voices” problem in a fresh way. While he is recruited for a mission by Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man, he also starts seeing versions of them in his mind. Additionally, with such a close connection to them, he starts to use their gimmicks in his battles with L.A.’s criminal underworld.
That underworld is ruled by its own kingpin, similar to The Kingpin in New York City. However, this person’s identity is a mystery and Moon Knight is tasked with luring them out and discovering why exactly they wanted to buy a deactivated Ultron head.
Moon Knight also meets Echo, the two have a reluctant partnership but end up falling in love during their mission.
This becomes more and more high stakes as it rolls on. Out of the twelve issues, none of them are wasted on filler bullshit and the romance stuff is in there but it’s nowhere near as exhausting as what we got in Bendis’ Daredevil. It’s like Bendis improved in that regard and wrote something more natural and to the point. Nothing between Moon Knight and Echo seemed forced like it did between Daredevil and his wife Milla.
I also feel like Alex Maleev’s art was an improvement. It’s cleaner while also looking more detailed. It also fit the tone of the story pretty damn well.
I don’t want to say too much about the story, as there are some big reveals and twists but this is definitely worth reading if you want a superhero, neo-noir tale that isn’t Daredevil-centric.
Published: April 5th, 2017 Written by: John Byrne, J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Gruenwald Art by: Mike Zeck, various
Marvel Comics, 511 Pages
I wanted to read this beefy Epic Collection of Captain America stories, as it sets up the era where Steve Rogers quit being Cap and the role was then given to the man who would later become US Agent. With that, Rogers picks up the Nomad persona and travels the country, fighting villainy.
Those events don’t happen until the collection of issues after this one but this lays all the groundwork, introduces us to the future US Agent and gives us a solid Cap and original Nomad team-up. There are also stories featuring Scourge, Wolverine, Yellow Claw, Flag-Smasher and a great story where Cap is trapped in Red Skull’s “haunted house”. We also get the debut of D-Man and some cool Frog-Man stuff.
I loved a lot of these stories when I was a kid and it was cool reading them now, as it’s been so long since I’ve read Captain America from this era. While they’re not as great as my memory made them out to be, most of the stories here were enjoyable.
I actually forgot that Cap was already sort of a nomad before becoming Nomad. I also forgot that he had a side hustle as a comic book artist, which comes off as really odd, now that I’m reminded of that as an adult. But it does add some interesting complexity to the character and kind of shows you that there’s a certain sensitivity behind his top iconic layer.
This is really good and it’s prepped me for the US Agent stint as Cap, which I also wanted to reread, as the character is finally debuting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as a part of the Falcon and Winter Soldier television series.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other ’80s Captain America comics, especially those involving US Agent.
Published: April 17th, 2019 Written by: Donny Cates, Nick Spencer Art by: Niko Henrichon, Frazer Irving, Szymon Kudranski, Rod Reis, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Mike Del Mundo (cover)
Marvel Comics, 341 Pages
This collection of Donny Cates’ Doctor Strange run started off with a bang but then it did what most Donny Cates comics do, it went too big, too fast and became a bloated, over-the-top spectacle. But he’s even admitted that everything he writes needs to be big and epic. He’s also pointed out that he’s always trying to top the last thing he wrote.
The problem with that is that he can tell pretty good human stories with a lot of emotion that gets the reader invested. But then he Michael Bay the fucks out of everything and then has to wedge in a large amount of characters because if it’s a Cates’ story, he’s gotta blow up the universe.
Big, over-the-top spectacles aren’t necessarily a bad thing but when it’s done as much as Cates does it, he becomes a one trick pony that negatively impacts the better sides of his creative work. The spectacle ends up overshadowing the real story and you sort of get lost in it all. And after a while, it becomes ineffective, as you expect everything to reach ludicrous spreed.
When I first started reading Cates’ work, I enjoyed the grandiose-ness. However, it didn’t take long to realize that larger-than-life Armageddon scenarios were his modus operandi. And with that, he has to keep trying to top what he did before. Everything just gets bigger, faster, crazier and the next thing you know, you’re reading the Marvel Comics version of Fast & Furious 14 where it’s just stunts, speed, CGI, action, yelling and then the end credits after characters refer to each other as “family” 97 times between explosions.
I think that this formula has worked so well for Cates that he’s kind of stuck doing it now. While this Doctor Strange stuff came out before his more recent work, I might have had a very different take on it had I read it when it was current.
The problem though, is this kind of shows me where that formula started. Well, at least with his more prominent Marvel work.
As I stated in the beginning, this started out really strong and I was invested. But then everything went ape shit crazy and then it was over. It may have read better if Cates stuck around and actually wrote about the fallout from this story. But I guess he had to move on to the next thing and give us more mega-event level chaos.
This initially created a foundation for something truly great. After the first story arc, however, it immediately went to a Hell-on-Earth scenario with two dozen characters involved. Whatever emotional investment I had, disappeared, as I kept reading and it never quite circled back around to the great character work and found a way to use that within the chaotic spectacle that followed.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other Donny Cates comics by Marvel.
Published: February 1st, 2017 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Marquez, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)
Marvel Comics, 317 Pages
Man, this was bewilderingly bad.
Historically, I’ve been pretty 50/50 on Brian Michael Bendis’ writing but man, it’s like when he did this, he already knew he was leaving Marvel. It also reads like he was given orders to use certain characters and he was begrudgingly forced to work them in. Granted, he’s also created some of the terrible modern characters.
While I’ve been well aware of the criticism that the Captain Marvel character gets in modern times, I always liked her when she was Ms. Marvel. But this new, short-haired, suddenly pushed into a leadership role Carol Danvers is not even the same character, remotely.
Based off of how she’s written here, as a self-righteous, fascist, tyrant bitch, I totally see why fans can’t stand her. If this story is an accurate portrayal of how she is post-2015 or so, I have no interest in following her character unless she’s actually made into a permanent villain. But even then, there are so many better villains I’d rather read about.
And I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to interpret her character. Is she supposed to be psychotic, god-powered, tyrannical piece of shit? Or am I supposed to empathize with her point-of-view?
What made the first Civil War so great was that you could emphasize and relate to both points-of-view and it made for a compelling read. Civil War II just made me hate Carol and every character that so easily sided with her. These characters aren’t heroes, as their actions in this story crossed the line into villainy.
Whatever. Fuck this comic. Fuck Bendis. Fuck post-2015 Marvel. But at least the art was really good.
Rating: 4/10 Pairs well with: all the other Civil War II crossover tie-in trade paperbacks.
Published: March 3rd, 2010 Written by: Bob Layton, David Michelinie Art by: Carmine Infantino, Bob Layton, John Romita Jr.
Marvel Comics, 167 Pages
This collection of Demon In A Bottle was a pretty cool read. However, people have referenced the story for years and truthfully, it’s not a big arc like many insinuate or imagine. In fact, this covers multiple arcs but each has a common thread and that’s Tony Stark’s fall into alcoholism.
Ultimately, this ends with him overcoming his demons and trying to fix the damage he’s caused, rebuilding himself into who Iron Man needs to be.
It’s also important to mention that this debuted the long-time Iron Man villain, Justin Hammer. Hammer was created as a character similar to Tony Stark but one who stayed on a dark path. He was also deliberately made to look like Peter Cushing and in this story, John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton did a stellar job of conveying that.
The story also features the Avengers, Namor and a slew of C-list villains that Hammer employs in an effort to overwhelm Iron Man. Overall, this is just as action-packed and exciting as it is dramatic and full of real human trauma and emotion.
While it’s not my favorite classic Iron Man story (or stories), it is a very important piece of the character’s history and served to build up his character in a pretty dynamic way. It does what most modern mainstream comics don’t do and that’s showing weakness in a hero.
In fact, this is about a hero’s journey and personal evolution, which is something that was lost in the storytelling art of superhero comics. Hell, it’s been lost in most mainstream media, as we constantly get characters that are made to be perfect and “special” without faults or real struggle.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: other Iron Man stories of the ’80s, most notably the Armor Wars saga.
Published: 2008 Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Art by: Leinil Francis Yu, Gabriele Dell’Otto (cover)
Marvel Comics, 218 Pages
Secret Invasion came out after a series of good storylines from Marvel like Civil War, The Death of Captain America and the feud between the two Avengers teams that followed Civil War. I guess this was supposed to be a good payoff for sticking through that solid run of most of Marvel’s major titles. However, this was mostly a clusterfuck that created more problems than the Marvel continuity needed.
This was ambitious, damn ambitious.
Brian Michael Bendis’ ambition really overreached, though, and this mega event became a jumping off point for me back when it was coming out. After a few issues, I dropped it an never looked back.
Since years have passed and Marvel has gotten even worse, I thought that I might enjoy this a bit more and since I never actually finished it the first time, I wanted to give it another shot.
This is just one of those ideas that sounds good on paper but once you start really fleshing it out, you know it’s not going to work. Well, Bendis should have figured that out on his own, especially since the industry considers him a legend.
The biggest problem with this mega event is that it could have worked on a smaller scale. We could’ve seen that the Skrulls had infiltrated the superhero community, replacing some heroes with themselves in disguise. It didn’t need to be so damn grandiose where nearly half the heroes were just Skrulls in hiding. The conspiracy was too big and thus, came across as really fucking dumb.
In fact, this would’ve been much better had the Skrulls just replaced a few key people and there were still less than a handful in disguise. When you expect half the heroes to be impostors, the reveals of who is who loses its impact and you’re left with a half-assed handjob from a drunk instead of great sex from a pretty hot sexual partner.
In the end, when half the characters were impostors, it poses too many questions that just break continuity and it’s way too hard for editorial to keep track of, especially editorial from this era or any after.
Someone really should’ve grabbed Bendis by the shoulders and shouted, “Scale this the fuck down!”
Rating: 4.5/10 Pairs well with: other Marvel mega events.
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