Marvel Unlimited week of 9/21

Princess Leia #2

Leia and Evaan head to Naboo in their search for any surviving Alderaanians. I loved the flashbacks to Leia’s childhood, where she learns to be a strong and thoughtful leader. I’ve always wanted to see more from Bail Organa, and I felt like he was criminally underused in the prequel movies. The brief moment when Leia sees a picture of Queen Amidala was also a nice touch.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 2.47.00 PM

The rest of the plot is way too predictable for my tastes. It’s really obvious that Lord Junn is going to betray Leia to the Imperials, and I have no idea why she would trust him to give her a ship after he betrayed her. I guess Leia is great at fighting, but really bad at intrigue.

Wolverines #11

There are too many threads going on in Wolverines, but I’m intrigued enough to keep reading so far. The last two issues included ham-handed lessons for Daken (Wolverine’s son), and Sabretooth, but this time Fang just hangs out with X-23 (female clone of Wolverine) and tussles a little bit with her in a bar. I find X-23 to be really interesting, and she’s set to become more prominent in the All-New, All-Different Marvel coming out in a few months (plus 6 on MU), but this issue did not make good use of her at all.

Meanwhile, we do get some insight into what is going on with Lady Deathstrike and Shogun. Basically the spirit of Ogun, currently trapped in Shogun’s mind, is plotting with Lady Deathstrike to take over his body. Just explaining it destroyed my small bit of interest in this storyline. Shogun was a pretty interesting character in the Logan Legacy: The Weapon X Project, but now none of those characters are doing anything interesting.

Really the best part of the issue was when Fantomelle and Culpepper stole some guy’s dog tags. That reminded me that Wolverine’s brother Dog hasn’t appeared in this series, which is kind of a surprise.

Captain America & Mighty Avengers #6

I’m really just reading this series to keep up with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, and honestly it hasn’t been grabbing me too much otherwise. It’s a bit too dominated by crossover events, and remaining stories haven’t been all that exciting either. There are too many characters all having their own adventures, and too few character-building moments.

Despite all that, though, the evil German scientists in the beginning were hilarious. I can always appreciate a good Big Lebowski reference.

I definitely imagined this with the Plutonian voices from Aqua Teen Hunger Force

I definitely imagined this with the Plutonian voices from Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Then we learn that evil CEO Jason Quantrell is actually the head of Beyond Corp, a company I didn’t recognize until the end of the issue, when Monica Rambeau reminds us that Beyond Corp was the company behind Nextwave. Nextwave was a crazy mini-series written by superstar Warren Ellis that was almost immediately placed outside of continuity. It featured a bunch of minor characters teaming up to fight various threats while insulting each other. In between, just about the entire team is turned into purple monsters, but that’s way less interesting than the Nextwave stuff.

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention Spider-man’s little call-out to Secret Wars II when he wonders if Beyond Corp is related to the Beyonder. Secret Wars II was a terrible debacle and more of a metaphor for editors run amok. It actually included Spider-man teaching the Beyonder how to use a toilet. Bad times. An entire race of Beyonders are likely behind the Incursions going on in Avengers and New Avengers, but who knows if Mighty Avengers will tie into that.

With Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist all members of this team, and each of them getting a TV show on Netflix, I think there’s a good chance that he and his friends will get another comic after Secret Wars, and that it’ll be called The Defenders.

Squirrel Girl #3

Sometimes Ryan North delights me, as he did in Squirrel Girl #1 and his Choose Your Own Adventure version of Hamlet. Other times his writing style falls flat and just annoys me, like his last arc in Adventure Time, and in this issue of Squirrel Girl. Seriously, this was such a pointless issue. Squirrel Girl is supposed to go fight Galactus in a stolen Iron Man suit, but first she stops to fight Whiplash, and then delays again to foil a bank robbery. Finally she makes it to the moon to confront Galactus, and then the issue is over.

Squirrel Girl started off as part of the joke-team Great Lake Avengers, but quickly gained a fan following. She’s defeated several of the Marvel Universe’s strongest villains, including Thanos and Doctor Doom. She also did a stint as a babysitter for Danielle Cage, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ daughter, so there’s a vague possibility she could show up in the Netflix shows at some point.

Black Widow #16

It's all about Natasha's eyes in this series.

It’s all about Natasha’s eyes in this series.

Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s run on Black Widow has been stunning. I’ll confess I’d never heard of Black Widow before the Avengers movie, so this is my first serious encounter with Natasha. Scarlett Johansson is great, but much like Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye, Edmondson and Noto imbue Black Widow with a thoughtful, melancholy air that makes you really empathize with her. She’s still diving and shooting, but she also spends a lot of time coping with the consequences of her dark past. While I could never expect Jeremy Renner to do justice to Fraction’s version of Hawkeye, this book could easily serve as a template for a Black Widow solo film. We can only hope.

Most of this issue is spent on a flashback to Natasha as a girl, before she began her assassin training. She idolizes a ballerina, then attacks the ballerina’s abusive gangster boyfriend. One of the boyfriend’s thugs chases Natasha into an alley, where she shoots him with a gun left on the street.

In the present, Black widow has finally met the leader of Chaos, a shadowy organization that has been plaguing her this arc. The leader turns out to be a quiet man who talks about the future and wants to recruit Natasha to his cause. Will she accept? Tune in next time!

Silk #2

Silk is a new Spider-character, though she hasn’t had a chance to really shine until now. Cindy Moon was bitten by the same radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker, but due to those multiverse-hopping vampire antagonists from Spider-Verse, she was living in a bunker for the past 10 years. Now she’s out and trying to put her life back together, tracking down her missing family members, fighting crime, and working as an intern at a local tv station.

I’d forgotten how great Stacey Lee’s art is in Silk. It’s got a slightly cartoony vibe, which gives everything a softness and approachability that I don’t usually see in Marvel’s typical art. In terms of story, we get a heart-wrenching flashback to when Cindy broke up with her boyfriend just before going to live in that bunker, then we meet him and his new fiancee in the present. Much like Peter Parker, Cindy just can’t catch a break, but she doesn’t let that stop her from beating up rampaging robots.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #12

This issue is a bit of a clip show, with evil King Loki reminiscing about all the adventures that Loki has been on in the past few years. Despite all his efforts to change, present-day Loki just can’t shrug off being the God of Lies and becoming King Loki in the distant future. Evil future King Loki literally has present-day Loki bound and gagged in his apartment while he summarizes the last 8 years of comics, and then in the end, future Loki sets present Loki on fire.

I think this issue is pretty dependent on the last 8 years Thor and Loki continuity and all the twists and turns that Loki has been through, but I’ll give you a brief rundown. Loki died in the Siege event, and was reincarnated as a young boy, known as Kid Loki. That boy went on a bunch of adventures, primarily scheming behind the scenes to help Thor in his various epic battles. Along the way Kid Loki found an echo of his former self and was eventually manipulated into allowing his old self to take over his body. Instead of reverting to the original evil Loki, this new version still wanted to be a good guy, and would frequently be haunted by the spirit of Kid Loki. Later on, Jason Aaron took over writing for Thor and introduced King Thor and King Loki, versions of those characters from the end of time who occasionally interact with the present day via various time shenanigans. Kid Loki was able to use magic to age up to his twenties, and then took on odd jobs from the All-Mother in an attempt to atone for his past. Most recently, King Loki has revealed to everyone what happened to Kid Loki, and everyone has rejected present-day Loki.

Hopefully all that makes sense. Basically Loki wants to change his ways, but can’t. Future King Loki is a little bitter about it, but has embraced evil. Next issue is the stunning climax before we get a Secret Wars tie-in.

I’ve actually really enjoyed all the Loki stuff I’ve read. Some of Marvel’s best writers have contributed to the character. I’m hoping we get a satisfying conclusion to this arc, but I’m also hoping we can continue to see Loki and his companions after Secret Wars is over.

Moon Knight #13

Moon Knight is an odd, interesting character. Marc Spector died under the statue of an ancient Egyptian deity, and returned to life as a “protector of night travelers.” Also, he has multiple personalities. I actually think he’d be a great fit for the Netflix TV shows, even though I doubt he’ll appear any time soon. He’s got a cool all-white thing going on, a stark contrast to most shadowy night vigilantes.

Recently he’s had some interesting arcs written first by Warren Ellis, then by Brian Wood, and now Cullen Bunn takes the reins. Warren Ellis went into some psychedelic stuff and great panel usage, while Brian Wood tackled a story involving African warlords and vengeance. This story starts off with Moon Knight going after some unscrupulous ghost harvesters. Most of the issue is taken up by some great action sequences, then Moon Knight looks awkwardly at all the ghosts he just saved, and walks away. I’m looking forward to more in this new arc.

Spider-Man episode 1: Night of the Lizard

This is the first in my new series recapping the Spider-man animated series from 1994.  The primary question: is it as good as I remember it being when I was 9 to 12 years old? I’m largely inspired by Comics Alliance’s X-Men reviews, and Rachel Edidin’s recaps of X-Men: Evolution.

I’ve been into Spider-man since I was 4, jumping around and shouting “I’m Spider-man!” and listening to the Electric Company Spider-man skits on vinyl, but I didn’t come to know his story in-depth until I started watching this series. While the X-Men cartoon was a bit too scary when I was 8, Spider-man hit that sweet spot of action and excitement, without terrifying me with images of Mr. Sinister. The show defined my understanding of villains like Kingpin, Venom, and the Green Goblin, and was also my introduction to the larger Marvel Universe, including Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Blade the Vampire Hunter, and Daredevil.

But does it hold up? I’ve heard some fans suggest that the show hasn’t aged well, but that it left a lasting impression as one of the few animated serials at the time. I’m here to take a closer look for myself, starting with the first episode, Night of the Lizard.

This episode starts with a cold open as the Lizard attacks some sewer workers. We don’t actually see the Lizard yet, but one of the fleeing workers is haunted by the Lizard’s eyes as he drives frantically through the city. There’s a jarring switch between traditional animation and CG skyscrapers during this sequence, and I wonder if this looked cool back in the 90s. Anyways, Spidey tries to help stop the driver, but they go careening off a bridge!

Then we’ve got the opening theme, performed by Joe Perry of Aerosmith! It’s not quite as exciting as I remembered, and maybe not as memorable as the X-Men’s theme, but it’s still awesome. I like how it incorporates a bit of the 60’s cartoon theme.

Spidey saves the sewer worker, but is dismissive when he babbles on about a giant lizard. Peter arrives at the Daily Bugle’s offices, where Robby, his nice boss, assigns him to take pictures of this rumored Lizard creature. This is the first time we see Peter Parker’s outside his costume, and I have to say, I love this polo shirt. When I imagined what it would be like to be an adult, I pictured myself wearing this shirt (and also having his physique). We also meet J Jonah Jameson, voiced by Ed Asner, and Eddie Brock, who is already on his way to having a grudge against Peter and Spider-man.

When I grow up, I'll wear a green and blue striped polo shirt

How I imagined adulthood.

Then we head home to meet Aunt May, who’s got enough financial troubles to really inspire Peter to get those photos of the Lizard. Peter heads to the sewers, where he uses his handy belt-flashlight to find some Lizard footprints. We’ve also got a really terrible pun that I won’t repeat here – though I will say that Peter’s sense of humor is a critical part of his character.

Next we meet Debra Whitman, “the little sister [Peter] never had, or wanted,” which is a really weird thing to say.  She’s a pretty prominent recurring character in the cartoon, but it doesn’t sound like she did much in the original comics. I can appreciate that she’s a scientist now instead of a secretary. She’s also just as snarky as Peter. We also get the first appearance of spider-sense, which I think is a cool effect, and much better than the standard wiggly lines. Anyways, they almost catch the Lizard, but he gets away.

Debra Whitman. Not really a little sister at all.

We get a flashback to some work Doctor Conners did with Peter on regenerating limbs with reptile DNA. The “neogenic recombinator” will be the source of so many powers in the show. Then Spidey stops by the Connors family residence just in time to fight the Lizard. Now that I know more about standards and practices, it’s pretty obvious that no one is allowed to fight in a way that kids could ever replicate, so no punches are ever thrown. The Lizard gets the upper hand, but slinks away when his son, Billy, calls out to him. Eddie Brock, listening in, is about to head off to deliver the scoop that the Lizard is Curt Connors, but Spider-man stops him and webs him up. When Spidey gets back to the Connors house again, the Lizard has made off with Mrs. Connors.

Spidey heads down into the sewers to stop the Lizard, and we get some great monologuing. So much of this show is filled with Peter talking to himself, and I think the voice actor does a good job of conveying Peter’s inner voice without getting annoying. I also like the references to other Marvel characters: “Why can’t I be one of those galaxy-hopping superheroes? You don’t find the Fantastic Four in a sewer, or the Avengers.”

It turns out the Lizard is planning to turn his wife into a lizard person, and then everyone else in the city.  For some reason, when his wife mentions Billy, it gives him second thoughts. I’m not sure why it hadn’t occurred to him before that his son could also be turned into a lizard person, or why he’s fine with turning his wife into a lizard person but not his son.  

Spider-man and the Lizard fight, which mostly consists of the Lizard spinning to hit Spidey with his tail, and Spidey swinging on webs to kick the Lizard. Eventually Spidey shoots the Lizard with the neogenic recombinator set to reverse and saves the day. The next day he gets to see Eddie humiliated when he tries to expose Dr. Connors, while Aunt May worries about what could have happened if “that awful Spider-man” had caught him. 

Overall, this episode is pretty tightly paced, and is pretty fantastic by pilot episode standards.  The characterization is a little simplistic, but that doesn’t detract from the show too much.  I like how Eddie Brock is introduced early on – there’s a long build-up for Eddie’s hatred of Peter and Spider-man, which will pay off with Venom.

What’s really interesting is that we don’t see an origin story as the first episode, and instead just jump right in. I guess everyone knows enough about Spider-man at this point that we don’t need to rehash his origin. Also note that Peter is already in college, implying that he’s been superheroing for a few years at this point. I’m not sure exactly why they went with an older Peter, but I think it works well.

I have a theory that Spider-man’s most compelling villains are father figures who reveal an aspect of Peter’s personality and aspirations. Dr. Connors goes too far in his drive to pioneer human genetics, and his aggression as the Lizard gets the better of him. In the end, his love for his family redeems him. As a father figure to Peter, he delivers a warning of the perils of unchecked ambition, and a reminder that a hero’s human ties are what keep him sane. 

Join us next time for the introduction of Norman Osborne and the Spider Slayer!

Marvel Unlimited for 9/14/15

Spider-Gwen #2

Spider-Gwen was another huge break-out character this past year. Introduced as part of Spider-Verse, an event that involved Spider-heroes from every alternate universe ever, Spider-Gwen is from a world where Gwen Stacy was bitten by that radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker. Peter died tragically in an attempt to give himself powers, inspiring Gwen to fight crime and help others. She’s also in a punk band with Mary Jane, and in her debut issue, she reveals her identity to her father, police captain George Stacy. It’s also worth mentioning that the art is fantastic. Artist Robbi Rodriguez gave Gwen an amazing white costume with vibrant red webs, while his art inside the issues is kinetic and exciting.

Spider-Gwen #1 introduced us to alternate versions of Ben Grimm, currently a police officer and not The Thing, Frank Castle, not yet The Punisher, and Matt Murdock, apparently working as a lawyer for Kingpin instead of against him as Daredevil. I love seeing alternate takes on existing characters, especially picking out the more subtle hints, like the posters for rival rock band Felicia Hardy and the Black Cats. Gwen herself is dealing with the usual hatred from the public, especially from J Jonah Jameson, alongside guilt over the recent break-up of her punk band. Oh, and she tangles with the Vulture, who dropped her into the Hudson at the end of the issue.

This issue begins with Gwen waking up on a barge, hallucinating a conversation with Peter Porker, Spectacular Spider-Ham, the Spider-Man of a universe of funny talking animals (he’s actually a spider who was bitten by a radioactive pig). Spider-Ham’s running commentary added a great dimension of wry humor to the book, which could otherwise have veered too far into serious drama. Meanwhile Captain Stacy is attempting to prove the Kingpin’s involvement in the recent Vulture attack, with the dubious help of loose-cannon Frank Castle. It’s really interesting to have Gwen’s father already know her identity instead of the usual trope where the hero has to conceal herself from those closest to her. It’s also unsettling to see Matt Murdock use his powers as Kingpin’s enforcer – I can’t help but hope he’s working undercover. Finally, it’s nice that Gwen’s relationship drama is centered around the rock band with MJ instead of romantic troubles.

To be honest, Spider-Gwen #1 was pretty forgettable, but this issue has me excited to read more.

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #11

This is the penultimate issue of this series, with only one more issue before the Ultimate Universe comes to an end at the beginning of Secret Wars. It seems like forever ago that Miles revealed his secret identity to his girlfriend, Katie Bishop (who is the younger Hawkeye in the regular Marvel Universe). Unfortunately, Katie’s entire family are part of Hydra, and they’ve decided to kidnap Miles. Meanwhile, Ultimate Black Widow, aka Ultimate Jessica Drew, aka female clone of Peter Parker, tried to stop some thieves, and was also captured. Miles comes to in captivity, only to discover that his best friend Ganke, and his father are also being held hostage. He tries to put up a fight, but then Doctor Doom appears, which would’ve been a surprise if he hadn’t been on the cover.

For me, Jessica Drew’s fight with the mysterious thieves was the highlight of the issue, although seeing Miles’ situation become progressively more desperate was also pretty wrenching. It’s especially sad to see Kate attempt to spout pro-Hydra propaganda – she’s not much like her Earth-616 counterpart, but I had such high hopes.

I actually caved and bought the next issue on Comixology, but I suppose I shouldn’t “spoil” it here for anyone else who might be following along as the issues come out on Marvel Unlimited. Clearly Miles is going to fare well in the upcoming Secret Wars shakeup, considering he’s become such a big star, but I have to wonder who else among his compatriots will survive. I was also a little disappointed to see Doctor Doom suddenly return to villainy after working with the Future Foundation. It was much more fun to see him work for good while still being exceedingly arrogant.

Captain Marvel #13

This issue completes a relatively forgettable two-parter before Carol is embroiled in the Black Vortex crossover. Last issue Carol’s sidekick Tic and her cat Chewie were kidnapped by space pirates, and she started chasing them across a Space Envelope, a zone where regular physics don’t apply. Basically she pushes her ship to the limit while trading jabs with her snarky computer, reaches the space pirates, and saves the day. I suppose I could go back and read the first part of this story again, but I could also just move on. This story was somewhat fun, but really just felt like filler. The triumph didn’t feel earned, the jokes didn’t really make sense (was “Space Bear Juice” supposed to be a joke?), and I’m sad to see Tic shuttled off to captain her own ship, likely never heard from again (unless the next writer feels like it). It was nice to get that splash page filled with images from the past few adventures, and I do really like the art style.

Captain Marvel #13 splash page

I should note, I’ve been reading Black Vortex as it comes out on Marvel Unlimited, but so far it’s just been the usual crossover slog of constant fighting and limited characterization.

Fantastic Four #644

After suffering a lot of terrible ordeals, the Fantastic Four have gathered all their friends and are about to turn the tide against the Quiet Man and the enemies he’s unleashed. There’s quite a bit of nostalgia here, since some of the enemies are evil versions of the Avengers from the 90s Heroes Reborn reboot that was maybe all inside Franklin Richard’s head. This issue mostly consists of big fighty splash pages and people excitedly moving into place, which isn’t so bad, but isn’t really my cup of tea. Maybe I’m just sad because the Fantastic Four have really been getting short shrift from Marvel, and only because of that movie deal with Fox. It’s a sad state of affairs when the first comic of the Marvel Age, continuously published since the beginning, is halting publication due to squabbling executives.

New Avengers #31

It’s kind of hard to remember what we’ve learned about all these different terrible forces at work behind the Incursions, an interdimensional catastrophe that threatens to destroy the Marvel Multiverse. In this issue we’re reminded that Dr. Strange is leading the Black Priests, and has decided to invade a library that is guarded by the Black Swans, who serve a mysterious godlike entity known as Rabum Alal. If you’ve read any of the current series that are part of Secret Wars, you could probably guess who Rabum Alal is: Doctor Doom, who has basically become God in the current Secret Wars status quo.

The stakes have been so high during the entire Incursion arc that I’m starting to become inured to them. Everyone is just so conflicted and upset about having to destroy alternate Earths every few days, but I just want to get to the next part. I’m guessing that this whole storyline will be better enjoyed when read all at once instead of waiting for each chapter every few weeks. In any case, I did enjoy the tension during the silent confrontation between Dr. Strange and the Black Swans.

New Avengers #31: NO WORDS hereNew Avengers #31: uh oh

I’ve been tempted to buy the remaining issues in this series on Comixology, but I’ll probably just wait until there’s a collection for all of Secret Wars and/or Ultimate End, since that’s when everything will really be resolved. Until then, I don’t mind being patient if it saves me a not-insignificant amount of money.

Marvel Unlimited for 9/7/15

In an effort to write more about all the stuff I read, I’m going to review the most interesting comics I’ve read on Marvel Unlimited each week.

Princess Leia #1

This is the third series released as part of the new Marvel-Disney-Star Wars alliance, featuring top writers and new stories set immediately after A New Hope, which is a great place to insert these new stories, giving the main characters a lot of time to grow. Vader especially seems uncertain and inexperienced as he tries to figure out who exactly Obi-Wan’s new apprentice is.

But we’re here to talk about Princess Leia. While we get some good banter between Leia, Luke, and Han, the real conflict comes from the other pilots, especially the new character, Evaan. Evaan is a female pilot who is also from Alderaan, and she thinks that Leia hasn’t been grieving the destruction of Alderaan enough. I don’t think that Evaan is really fair to Leia; it’s the duty of royalty to remain calm in the face of tragedy, but I’m looking forward to Evaan and Leia becoming friends. (Marvel Unlimited is about six months behind the original publication date, so I might be wrong here.) After talking to Evaan, Leia decides to leave Yavin to find and gather the surviving Alderaanians, escaping with R2-D2 and Evaan.

The art is a little weird at first, but I think I could get used to it. I also have high expectations for Mark Waid, whose run on Fantastic Four really got at the emotional core of those characters.

Hawkeye #1

It’s a little weird that a new Hawkeye series started before the old one was finished, but either way, it looks to continue the high-quality bar that Matt Fraction and David Aja set. Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye run redefined the character, making Hawkeye much more than the arrogant hothead I’ve seen in most Avengers comics, so it’s a tall order to keep up with them. In this issue, we see Clint and his brother Barney as children, intercut with Clint and Kate on a mission in the present. The pages set in the present have the same Aja art style, while the flashbacks have a gorgeous painterly style to them. There’s one page at the end where the two styles overlap, which is the kind of experimental comic technique that made Aja’s work so exciting to read.

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #4
Angela, newly retconned to be the daughter of Odin, has kidnapped her newborn sister and been on the run for the last three issues. In this issue, we get some hangout time with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Angela’s first friends in the Marvel U. Then the Disir (basically evil Valkyries) show up to fight a little bit, and we get a nice flashback to Angela’s reunion with her angel friend and co-kidnapper, Sera. Finally, we learn why Angela kidnapped this baby back in Issue 1: Since the baby was conceived in the “space between spaces,” Surtur’s curse on Odin and Frigga made Surtur a co-parent, and now the baby is a fire-demon. Oops. Not sure why Angela didn’t explain that from the start.

Perhaps some background history is in order. Angela was originally created by Neil Gaiman when he was writing for Spawn, but a long legal battle between Gaiman and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane somehow resulted in Angela moving over into the Marvel Universe. She first appeared after some time-travel shenanigans ruptured space and time and hung out with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Her entire race of angels were soon retconned into Norse mythology. Turns out she was the daughter of Odin and Frigga, but was kidnapped during a great war between angels and Asgardians.

If you’re intrigued by the Disir or the Asgardian side of Marvel, I highly recommend Kieron Gillen’s work on Journey into Mystery. Actually, I’d recommend going back to J. Michael Straczynski’s soft revamp in 2007, and of course reading Walt Simonson’s legendary run in the early 80s. Anyways, the Disir were introduced by Kieron Gillen and are cursed Valkyries and will devour Asgardians who have died without making it to Hel or Valhalla. They’ll also appear and attack you if you say their name.

This current arc is most notable for introducing Sera, an angel who was assigned male at birth but identifies as female. Her character is a great example of how easy it is to add more gender diversity to superhero comics. On the other hand, it’s very easy for trans* characters to just “pass,” considering magic and super-science can easily reassign your sex to align with your gender identity, so it’ll be tricky to balance the representation of trans characters without constantly reminding readers of their history.

In a World

I went to see In a World a few weeks ago, because there really aren’t enough movies made from a woman’s perspective, and it looked funny.  Lake Bell wrote, directed, and starred in this movie about a woman struggling to make it doing voice work, a field not only dominated by men but particularly dominated by her egotistical father (played by Fred Melamed). 

I was not disappointed.  Not only did it speak with an underrepresented voice, but it broke away from a lot of tired romantic comedy tropes.  We really need more movies like this.

I think my partner Siena put it best:

There were just so many jokes that would only have been written by a woman, and that made it really enjoyable. There were so many nods to the female experience. Rob Corddry joking about putting in a diaphragm to be ready for date night.  Or when Lake Bell was wearing her party dress, she had on this big honking black bra underneath – it was just so realistic that she wouldn’t have the right bra for her fancy dress.  I wouldn’t expect a male director to think of that.

I suppose all romantic comedies need to adhere to parts of the formula and include some romantic fulfillment and emotional resolution at the end. Our heroine gets with the guy who is right for her (Demetri Martin) and makes peace with her father, but there were also nice deviations from the formula.  The film puts professional success before romantic fulfillment, with our protagonist couple delaying their make-outs until after they fully prepare her audition tape.  Similarly, it was nice to see the father’s otherwise ditzy girlfriend step up and call him out on his self-absorbed behavior.

The Last of Us

[Serious spoilers ahead.]

I just finished The Last of Us.  It was the first of this generation of cinematic PS3 games I’ve played.  Well, okay, I played some Uncharted 3, but wasn’t super impressed.  This game, though, had such breathtaking post-apocalyptic vistas and lifelike facial expressions.  And the little moments when Ellie tries to whistle, or does other goofy little things really served to characterize her in a way that only a video game can.

After all that build-up, wherein I’m happy to buy in and really care about Ellie and Joel, the ending is a huge surprise.  I don’t expect video games to be so morally ambiguous.  I expected maybe Joel to die to save Ellie.  I didn’t expect the scientists to need to kill Ellie to extract the cure, or for Joel to lie to Ellie after killing all those people to rescue her.  

 I really like that moment in the surgery room, where you have to hit the button to kill the surgeon.  It’s almost as if you have a choice, but really you don’t, because it wouldn’t make sense for Joel.  I suppose I could have decided to stop playing when Joel dies trying to save Ellie.  Maybe that should have been enough. 

Come on, though, it doesn’t make sense for them to kill the one person who is immune to infection.  There has to be some way they could conduct research from her cells without killing her.  It’s also fucked up that no one felt like telling Ellie.  Maybe she could have convinced Joel it was fine. 

Anyways, it feels strange being in control of a video game character who isn’t necessarily doing the right thing.  And since Joel so firmly believes he’s in the right, despite possibly dooming humanity, and because I’ve grown to love Ellie throughout the game, I can’t quite find it in myself to disagree with Joel.  Still, that quandary is so gut-wrenching.  

The epilogue just multiplies it, though.  Ellie suspects Joel lied when he told her there’s already a few dozen immune like her and the Fireflies didn’t need her, but with a straight face he swears it’s the truth.  She doesn’t know why she’s survived when so many others have died.  But she should at least know what happened.  

In the end, I’m glad the folks who developed this game were willing to make such bold storytelling decisions.  I’d much rather experience that than another story where the hero shoots everyone and blows up the bad guys and saves the world.  

Longer Text Posts

I’ve been planning to start a blog for a while now, primarily to write reviews of things I’ve read, watched, and played, but also thoughts on society.  I don’t expect anyone to read it or cherish it; it’s primarily a way for me to exercise my communication skills.