Man of Steel Review: SPOILERS

 

Warning: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MANY SPOILERS OF THE MOVIE MAN OF STEEL. IF YOU AIN’T ABOUT SPOILERS, COME BACK LATER.

 Don’t agree with this review? Check out Nick’s review of Man of Steel in Four Color Fiend!

Unknown-1I’ve been a Superman fan all my life. In fact, in my particular brand of comic book nerdom its probably one of my most defining characteristics. I was raised and reared on a healthy diet of Superman movies, cartoons, comics, and toys. I can recite the words to Superman: The Movie the way people can sing their favorite songs. So suffice it to say that I was pretty disappointed following Superman Returns when the move was unimaginatively bound to the previous interpretation of the mythos without adding anything terribly worthwhile. Superman Returns was like the High School play version of Superman: The Movie and when I left that film, I was saddened to think that it was the Superman movie of my lifetime. A few years passed and on the heels of enormous success on the part of Marvel’s cinematic movieverse and the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, Warner Brothers and DC decided to once again try to make us believe that a man can fly. Enter this weekend’s Man of Steel.

Many people have had negative, or at least mixed, things to say about Man of Steel and I will tell you that I think they are wrong. As not only a life long comics fan, but also a fan specifically of the Superman franchise I can tell you that this movie delivered to me what was a renewed faith in the ability of the film medium to make a modern take on the Superman mythos. The emphasis that I must lay here is the modern take on Superman. Currently DC is engaged in a company wide reboot (the New 52) that is seeing its characters take on a grittier, edgier, and more timely vein than they have in almost the totality of their existence, and in that respect Superman is no different. The company has taken a particular point to spin the focus of Kal-El’s personality that I grew up with (that Superman is the act and Clark Kent is the whole person) to a position that bends that prism more towards a subdued or filtered man in both aspects—and the true man only shining through in the most comfortable of situations. This New 52 Superman does in fact feel alien, alone, different, and still tied to Earth and the human race in a way that firmly lays his allegiance there. This Superman is also markedly younger and greener than previous in-continuity portrayals have been, It is this take on the character that director Zach Snyder and screen writers David Goyer and Christopher Nolan approached the character with.

In that respect, Man of Steel does a wonderful job of showing us a Superman that feels suspended between worlds—and not truly a part of either—for most of his life. Without knowing his actual roots, Clark wanders the world under a series of nom de voyages and earning his way as a drifter by working odd jobs in bars and on boats—occasionally saving men on burning oil rigs and presumably cats from hurricane stricken suburbs building something of an urban legend around his acts of angel-like guardianship of complete strangers. Clark is waiting for the day that he can reveal himself against a threat so great that he will deliver mankind from perilous doom…but in the meanwhile he scours the planet looking for some clue as to his point of origin. Eventually he finds it. And we go through the undisclosed motions of Clark deciding to be Superman—even if without a name—after he has a heart to heart with a hologram of Jor-El, his birth father. And while this may seem beat-to-beat with Superman: The Movie it isn’t.

To begin with, the movie employs an entirely different visual language than previous incarnations. The beginning of the movie is set on the Planet of Krypton which is, rather than an icy crystalline world, a hot, craggy, mountainous place with reptilian winged steeds, exotic armors and jewelry, and a fancifully militaristic looking science fiction world. While their technology is more than a little phallic the designs and depictions of familiar characters, events, and places are entirely fresh and different. Shaky camera shots attempt to give the world authenticity and give the viewer a sense of being a fly on the wall as they witness the last days of Krypton and the political strife they endure even in the planet’s violent death throes. From there on out we are treated to a partially non-linear story that disperses Superman’s origin re-telling with the “in time” action and story in a move that successfully manages to only tell relevant information about Superman’s childhood which builds into his isolation, alienation, and reluctance to enter the public eye.

These origin sequences really hit a high point in a scene which depicts young Clark first having to learn to cope with his extraordinary senses. As a special education teacher with years of experience working with students with hyper-sensory issues it was refreshing to see a young Kal-El have difficulty in focusing X-Ray vision and becoming overwhelmed by talking and sounds well beyond the ear shot of others. The flood of sensory overload and his understandable attempts to retreat show the ways in which heightened senses could be a maddening burden if not properly trained.

This is not the only instance in the movie where yellow sun radiation powered super abilities are shown to have some limitations or even drawbacks. In the previously mentioned oil rig scene, I was very impressed to see that even though Superman was able to catch a falling tower and hold it, physics still had some sway, as the platform could not handle the pressure of that weight distributed to a single point under his feet. More reasonable limitations were put in place as Kryptonian flight was revealed to be a kind of controlled jumping which required energy output and focus to maintain (originally Superman couldn’t fly, he could only jump 1/8th of a mile at a time). Additionally, Kryptonians were not seen as being indestructible gods. Missiles, bullets, and shells all take their toll in one way or another, and as such Kryptonian battle armor (as depicted in the New 52 continuity) serves a purpose of protection as well as looking like Underwear and old school dive suits from a steampunk future.

The movie was fast paced and action packed taking moments here and there to dip into some expository information that was either relevant to the next step or had required some context by delving into the past. The super battle sequences were bar none the best usage of Kryptonian super powers I’ve even seen and in many ways rival those as portrayed in last year’s Avengers movie. The special effects were phenomenal and the 3D was very well executed. The colors however, were muted and dull and did add a general malaise to the tone of the movie.

In so far as character development is concerned, the character that received the best treatment in the whole flick is really General Zod who has made the transition from being a cartoonishly villainous bad guy to being an anti-hero with a reasonable motivation to want to murder every living thing on Earth. There are times when Zod’s complexity has you wondering if he is, in fact, right in opposing humans’ right to exist over that of his own people. Superman and Lois’ relationship isn’t given too much service in its development, though the fact that Lois figures out who Superman is, before he is Superman immediately alleviates the silliness of her knowing Superman and Clark so well that her investigative skills are defeated by a pair of horn rimmed glasses. The fact that she is in on the secret and keeps it a secret out of respect and honor at least makes the Clark Kent, reporter guise (to be developed in the next movie hopefully) that much more possible. Other than that the character development is somewhat lacking in this movie. There are some touching scenes of parenthood on the parts of the Kents and the Els respectively, but it is probably fair to assert that if you somehow knew absolutely nothing about any single piece of the Superman mythos going into the movie, then you may not know why the hell certain characters were acting as they did. Luckily, there is probably not a single human American who can make that claim. With a 75 year history, commemorated this month with the release of this very movie, it is safe to say that anyone in America could probably identify Superman and some aspects of the staple stories and tropes of Superman stories.

While I did in fact say that I could not have made a better movie for Superman than this one when I left the theaters, that doesn’t mean this movie isn’t without its faults. Superman does very little to save innocent bystanders, and due to that millions of people probably die throughout the movie. I chalk this up to two key factors: this Superman is totally green with his powers, and is probably not aware of the full extent to which he can be helping those around him. (or he is limited as illustrated in other places in the movie), and also that there needs to be a sense of consequence for modern audiences to feel the danger of a situation. The Battle of Metropolis scene is intentionally and overtly evocative of 9/11 imagery with collapsing buildings, rushing crowds, and avalanches of debris and dust—and while the appropriateness of such is debatable, these images are images of disaster and consequence that are tattooed into our collective minds of what a city under siege looks like. To somehow make a greenhorn Superman able to save every life in the city…or even a majority of them…if too much to ask in an interpretation that, if anything, has attempted to put these fantastical elements of science fiction into a reasonably real world context. However, the small amount of times Superman does manage to save the day is too low, and he is not nearly outraged enough at the level of destruction he is participating in.

The movie also heavy handedly paints Superman as a messianic figure in more ways than one. From shots of Superman talking to a priest with a stained glass image of Jesus behind him, to evoking the post of the cross, to his blood being the salvation of his people its all a little much. That isn’t to say that Supes hasn’t always been a messianic figure but rather that the treatment here is hammered hard and Superman doesn’t really deliver all that much except on panty soaking good looks and abs that made my eyes cross with envy. There’s no moment of him giving people hope, and no moment of childlike wonder at the all-good man here to save us all from ourselves at his expense…just many moments of him drawing lines in the sand and proving to people that he is standing for Earth.

1770130-zod1One of the big bones that I know people are picking with the movie is that Superman kills General Zod. I knew that he would kill Zod from the start…as soon as Zod killed Jor-El. This doesn’t bother me. For one, I feel like there is a time to kill your enemy whether your Superman, Batman, or Ant Man. Sometimes villains gotta die—not in cold blood murder, but in the moment and without alternative. Sometimes it is the most moral thing to do. Another reason why this doesn’t both me is because in the continuity of Superman that I grew up with in the 90s, Superman did kill General Zod. Yes. Superman killed General Zod in the comics. Even though it was a General Zod in an alternate reality and he did it using that reality’s Kryptonite (which did not effect him), Superman did kill Zod and his two henchmen, in continuity that one time. So, not only is there a precedent for Superman killing a villain, but there’s precedent for him killing specifically General Zod. To be fair though, it wasn’t by the quick snapping of a neck, it was by painfully slow radiation poisoning.

All in, I think this movie was a success, and was totally engrossing and engaging to boot. It had some points that clearly could have used more work, I think you could say that about most movies. For those who say the movie was lacking wit and humor I have to say that this seems to be what audiences want in order for Superman to be credible. Superman III and IV received a lot of criticism for being preachy and campy, wehre as Nolan’s Batman Trilogy was praised for a realistic and gritty world. While some argue that they don’t want anything to do with a Superman that is angsty, angry, and troubled, others seem to gravitate towards it because they are themselves those things. Superman has always been nothing if not a reflection of the heart of America at the time. If America believes it still has a strong sense of right and wrong, but is lost, angry, and troubled then Superman reflects that. I know there are many days that I feel just that way. Additionally the movie is fairly consistent with the current Superman comics product being put out there—it is consistent with the current take of the character, company wide in comics. Many people hate the New 52 take on characters, so they hate the take in this movie. Some are on the fence so their feelings are mixed. I’m willing to try new things and see if the heart of the character can stay the same, as the trappings are made more accessible and relevant to the masses. I think they can. I think they got it right, for this time and place, and the audiences that are paying to see movies. For longtime fans there are easter eggs and name drops throughout the whole thing (watch out for LexCorp!). In closing I’d like to restate that I wouldn’t have been able to make a better Superman movie…without having seen this one first.

 Don’t agree with this review? Check out Nick’s review of Man of Steel in Four Color Fiend!

 

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Written by Brandon Melendez

Comic Book Properties That Should Be Cartoons

 

There’s no doubt that in the past decade-plus movies based on science fiction, fantasy, and comic book properties have become the heart of the blockbuster movie season because the scope of their possibilities came within reach of special effects technology. This has lead to a certain respect given, not only to the material in movies, but also in the merchandising—and by extension the approach to related properties. What has resulted from this is a slew of cartoon series that have been absolutely phenomenal—though many are unfortunately short lived.

Shows like Young Justice, Teen Titans, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Spectacular Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, Batman The Brave and The Bold, and the rebooted Thundercats have seen life spans that really never allowed these shows to meet their maximum potential but nonetheless hit the nail right on the head in breathing new life in animation that are absolutely amazing. Likewise the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon on Nickleodeon and Cartoon Network’s only recently cancelled Star Wars Clone Wars have managed to build entirely new stories that are fun, enjoyable, and kid friendly adventures that have proven successful in selling kid and mark merchandise. What follows is a list—excluding the properties above that definitely should have extended and prolonged life—of properties that could really use the animation treatment, and could prove fun for fans and children of all ages.

 

Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth

Kamandi is set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future where genetically altered beast men rule the Earth, and the last human boy Kamandi fights for his life with a band of jungle chimera under the backdrop of a half-sunken Statue of Liberty and an overgrown jungle Manhattan. Can you imagine the line of toys? I can, and I want to buy them for my kids. Roll out!

 

Dial H For Hero

To be fair, this concept kind of has been a successful franchise for many years now. The Ben 10 series all tap into this concept of the one guy who can assume multiple powers, personas, or forms in order to become the best hero for the moment using a magical belt buckle known as the “H Dial”, which looks like a rotary telephone dial. In Ben 10 the same concept is applied to an alien wrist watch and the titular Ben Tennison can assume the form of any 10 alien species (likewise his archenemy Evan 11). Since the concept is proven successful (for many years now), there is no reason not to use it to revive this series in an animated format.

 

Heroes for Hire

The idea of Luke Cage, Power Man and Iron Fist making themselves a for-hire supero squad is something that is very private detective gone spandex. For years, this duo was a rough and tumble comedy pairing for Marvel that became very endearing and has allowed Luke Cage and Iron Fist both to make serious headway into A-list of the Mightiest Heroes on Earth (A for…Avengers..you know what I’m saying??). Creating a cast of characters that could include Misty Knight along with frequent cameos from characters like Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and Moon Knight (among others) this cartoon could act as a touchstone for the Marvel Universe at large—more so than an Avengers cartoon in a lot of ways. Between the action and comedy, I foresee kids wearing wide open colors are shouting “Sweet Christmas!” if this property was ever translated into cartoon form.

Metal Men

Robots made of various metals with souls (or responsometers) and whacky personalities. Developed by Dr. Will Magnus they could often face a variety of threats set forward by staple villain Dr. T.O. Morrow. The merchandising could allow for a Transformers/Power Rangers type of building up into their combined form of Alloy when you have the figures of Tin, Lead, Mercury, Gold, Platinum, Iron, and Copper respectively. I’m tellin’ you. It’ll be a good one.

 

The Defenders

Sure, you could call the Avengers…or you could call the Defenders. The cool thing about the concept of the Defenders is that you could really pull from the entirety of the Marvel Universe per story, much the way DC’s Justice League Unlimited did. The Defenders are a team of Marvel Super Heroes (usually containing Dr. Strange) to face mystical and cosmic scaled threats. We could get a glimpse at the power of the Silver Surfer, The Incredible Hulk, Hercules, anybody really. Get it going.

Agents of Atlas

The cool thing about the Agents of Atlas is that nobody really knows who they are. They are clandestine in the way that the X-Men were supposed to be in the 80s after Inferno when everyone thought they were dead. They operate behind the scenes and fight against ancient systemic evils and have a team that includes a living robot, an Atlantean bombshell, an immortal seeming Asian FBI agent, and there are dragons. DRAGONS. Also, there’s a Chinese villain who’s name is Master Plan. He’s the Master named Plan. COME ON. This is screaming to be a cartoon show. Make it happen.

 

The Green Lantern Corps

I know they just cancelled a Green Lantern cartoon series but this one I envision is more about the different Green Lanterns across the sectors throughout the galaxy. Drawing from different characters across the Corps history and the galaxy. Of course, this would work best as part of a larger “DC Universe” show like a showcase of different characters and teams…

Showcase

Many characters like the Flash and the Metal Men could be utilized in a show like this. Many of DC’s Modern lynchpins like the Flash and Green Lantern had their start in the variety title Showcase in the 50s. The cartoon series could be just that, every week or two we’d get a new character in a short arc. Perhaps a series of 2-parters where the audience gets familiar with a character would be a way to go. More popular characters could be spun off into their own series. This one might do well aimed at a prime time slot like Justice League was…but hey. People love expanded universes, right?

 

There are many under utilized properties in the Big Two of comics and beyond. This is just a short list of shows I’d like to see. What shows from any company (or even beyond comics) would you like to see made (and made well)?

 

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Written by: Brandon Melendez

AOL Shuts Down Comics Alliance

Now, I’m not one to promote anybody who even resembles the competition, but since the phenomenal site, Comics Alliance was recently shut down by AOL I have to take a moment to pause because I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me. As a comics fan, I felt a real connection to the blog site started by Laura Hudson. The writers were absolutely talented and my ilk of nerds. Comics alliance was always on the bleeding edge of comic’s news and often shared art, retrospectives, and and crossover commentary. I’m not going to lie, I’m really going to miss Chris Sims reviews of…well…everything ever, but especially his reviews of comic book movies.

When a favorite internet haunts goes down, its hard to fill the void. There are other sites I might frequent more often now, looking for that fix of news…especially if some of the writers from Comics Alliance find themselves there (hey guys, we’ll have you at Eat Your Serial, but we probably can’t afford your AOL lifestyle…yet) so instead I’m probably just going to try to fill it reverently, and by…*ahem* co-opting anything awesome that wasn’t nailed down by law. I’ll have to make sure that the content I want to read and see is covered by us here at Eat Your Serial. Don’t take me wrong, I’m not dancing on CA’s grave here, I’m genuinely hurting in my nerd heart. The site literally proved its worth on a daily basis. Not a single post was wasted, and not a day went by with out highly informative, intelligent, sharp, and awesome posts. POSTS. SSSSSSSSS. Numerous.

On that note, keep reading, we’ve got content coming. Hopefully we can live up to the standard of quality that a great source of serial coverage like Comic’s Alliance bore. we shall strive. If I find out where any of those writers went to, I’ll be sure to follow there with my reading time…and if you know, let me know.

 

Excelsior.

 

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Written by: Brandon Melendez

Iron Man 3 Review

In last year’s epic superhero blockbuster The Avengers, one of the more memorable dialogue exchanges was when Captain America asked of Tony Stark, Iron Man, “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that away — what are you?” In response, Iron Man retorted “Uh, genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Well, if the question is “Who is Iron Man outside of the armor?” the answer comes loud and clear in Iron Man 3.

Throughout the movie, we are treated to an unfiltered Tony Stark, full of confidence, arrogance, and self-congratulatory genius, as he is disarmed for most of the movie. The movie is, though lacking in an even spread of armored adventures is not lacking in Iron Man suits.  It’s a fun and actually action packed romp through the Marvel Movieverse, though we get to see Tony Stark have to improvise throughout the film, using his mind and inventiveness to save himself on a MacGuyver level as well as on an impossibly science fiction way.

Honestly, I don’t know what is left to develop for the character in films, and I wouldn’t be disappointed if they never made an “Iron Man 4,” not because I haven’t enjoyed the movies, but because I wouldn’t want it to be a forced affair. I feel like all the major points and tricks have been pulled, aside from making a movie version of “Demon in the Bottle,” the landmark story which establishes and copes with Tony Stark’s alcohol abuse issues, I feel like there isn’t anywhere else for them to go. Certainly, I will enjoy seeing the character in the next Avengers movies, and in cameo roles building up to it (them), but I hardly think stepping beyond the trilogy will be necessary.

That said, Iron Man 3 does everything a summer blockbuster is supposed to do, and for a third movie it does a great job of distinguishing itself from the other films. This movie is considerably darker in the way it deals with non-powered, highly powerful superheroes such as Iron Man and Iron Patriot (formerly “War Machine”) in the sense that not only do they kill their enemies, but on more than one occasion in the movie the heroes outright tell their adversaries that they are going to kill them. The death of the villain is something of a staple in the superhero movie genre, but with few exceptions the words “I’m going to kill you” aren’t uttered by the hero, and usually the villain dies quite by accident…and by their own hand.

Additionally, in all three of these movies, Iron Man is closely tied to the United States government and by extension, fighting terrorism. Movieverse Iron Man was created via terrorist kidnapping and since was fighting terrorists in all venues and to some extent in all movies. In Iron Man 3, we are presented with a charismatic terrorist leader in the Mandarin. I know that some have had issue with the way the terrorism is handled in the movie…but honestly these are people who are complaining about how a movie with a man in a flying suit or armor deals with terrorist threats involving people who shoot lava from their fingers. It’s hardly an issue. What is of more concern is the way that the Manadrin is handled in the movie. I won’t spoil it, as I think I’ve laid many a clue in this review already, but if they were going to make a character as fearsome as the Manadarin (with magical rings and near omnipotence) into a movie set in the tone of the Iron Man franchise, I suppose the handling was just about perfect. It was surprising, and certainly was not something I’d have ever thought of, but it was clever, well done, and I must say an appropriate use of Ben Kingsley. Additionally, I think Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) was also well handled. Overall, the villainy was well done.

As a comic book fan, I long advocated for the execution of a movie universe that threaded multiple movies together into an overall consistent super-franchise and Marvel continues to pull this off, incredibly well. The movie does bring to the forefront, however, the eventual downfall of such a franchise—especially such a successful one—the actors are going to age. In comics, the characters don’t age…at least not at rate that can’t be controlled or undone. Marvel needs to eventually play an end game or shift the focus of their movieverse to other characters. In that sense, Iron Man has come to a nice place in character development where, barring the necessity for Iron Man cameos, he doesn’t need to be in any more movies. And not in a bad way.

The movie brings to close a lot of loose ends, and leave almost none with the exception of the Avengers franchise itself to deal with.  While there are some things I definitely wouldn’t have done in this movie…anxiety attacks for example was a totally useless plot device as another way to reference the alien attack of New York could have easily been devised, it was still very good and highly enjoyable. Furthermore, (SPOILER ALERT) seeing over thirty Iron Man suits flying around by remote control is Tony Stark’s best trick (always has been, always will be), and it was nice to see it on film and done so well.

Good story, great job by Robert Downey Jr., great action, and overall a good time. If you like comics, if you like popcorn action movies, and if you like fun you’ll like Iron Man 3. (P.S. the straight up 1970s credit sequence at the end is pretty bad ass, and the end credits scene is cute, but not epic).

 

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Written by: Brandon Melendez

Five Supermen from 75 Years of Superman

Well, it’s the 75th Anniversary of Action Comics number one, volume one which invariably means that Superman has reached his 75th birthday. It can be said without a doubt that Superman is the greatest, the most iconic, the Socratic form of the idea, ideal, and idol that the superhero represents. Personally, I’ve always played favorites and Big Blue is my favorite (despite historical mismanagement in my lifetime) and to commemorate the event I’d like to share some thoughts on a few of the men who have filled in corporeally for Superman in television and film.

 

Christopher Reeve

 

I will always hold a soft spot in my heart for the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Sure, you can complain about…well…a lot of stuff in them but all in these movies had a wonderful spirit and, the first one especially, really captured the heart of the character. Whether it was the phenomenal first movie, the Frankensteined second one…or those others you have to admit, Reeve not only filled the boots, but he simultaneously defined and filled the boots perfectly. Particularly fun to watch in the movies is the way the Christopher Reeve played both Clark Kent and Superman—but not at the same time. In those movies the characters were separate, or even more meta (DC pun there ubernerds) He was playing Superman, playing Clark Kent. To be fair, I’ve always preerred the interpretation that Superman is the assumed identity, while Clark Kent is the real man, but in any event Reeves played it perfectly from different tones in voice, to different mannerisms, to speaking softer and higher as Kent and more surely and deeper as Superman. No matter what, all other portrays of Superman—comics included—are merely chasing Reeve portrayal of the Last Son of Krypton.

 

Dean Cain

Dean Cain always struck me as being entirely too short to play Superman. That said, Cain was charming and endearing in the role of Clark Kent, and the Superman scenes were always shot in a way that didn’t let you think too long about how he was too short to be the iconic Man of Steel. The interesting thing about Cain’s portrayal of the character was that it was right in step with the contemporary take on Superman that Kent was the real person and not the disguise. In a show called Lois and Clark that was an essential understanding required for the idea to work. Cain’s super-hip (see what I did there?) 90s Clark Kent deftly eschewed the bumbling klutz Clark Kent persona for the truly likeable quarterback version of the character. While his Superman wasn’t terribly inspiring, it was Cain’s work in defining a more realistically human, and relatable Clark Kent that really makes watching Lois and Clark a worthwhile affair (from a character development perspective that is!).

 

Tom Welling

I’m gonna be honest here, I’m not a big fan of Smallville. I was really excited when the show came on because I thought it was going to be a much better version of the Superboy Saturday morning television show of my little childhood. It…well…it was and it wasn’t. I didn’t care for the show in its first few seasons because it seemed to me that every time I watched the show some other poor teenager had been turned into Atomic Skull by Kryptonite exposure. Welling, for his part looked like a young Superman (until his stubble overtook his face in a very Dawsonesq way). The problem for me was that Clark was not so well rounded in worldly way, and his drive to do good was invariably overcome by his super-emo (yup I did it again) feelings for Lana. I tried to watch the show in later seasons as it seemed more and more likely that Clark would become Superman but I got tired in seasons 7 and 8 and clocked out again. All in, they should have done better by such good physical casting with better plotting, planning, and writing.

 

Brandon Routh

 

Brandon Routh, despite having an awesome first name, was not the best Superman he could be either. This however, was not entirely his fault. In Bryan Singer’s quest to recreate the classic Superman series he never seemed to let Routh be anything other than a guy who looked like Superman’s son try and fill another man’s boots, and while Kevin Spacey seemed to have great fun channeling a totally unhinged Gene Hackman Luthor Routh could not capture the intrinsic Superman-ness of Reeves and wasn’t able to explore in finding his own. This of course, was the general problem with Superman Returns: it was trying to be something old rather than something new. In that, there isn’t really much to say about it, besides…did that kid kill a dude?

 

So those are the Supermen I can really speak to, I didn’t want to get into George Reeve as I really haven’t watched the 50s Superman show in a way I could speak to, and I’ll leave Superman animated portrayals for another day—and comics for several months at another time. The only thing I can add to this is that the forthcoming Man of Steel movie looks genuinely good for a variety of reasons…not the least of which is that its not trying to be something else, someone else’s vision, or a Superman for another time. Hopefully, it’ll live up to that, and rest assured you’ll be reading a review here from me in no time!

Up up and away!

 

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Written by: Brandon Melendez

The Toast | All-New X-Men

In the fallout the epic Avengers Vs. X-Men storyline of last summer, Marvel’s most prolific and influential writer of modern times–Brian Michael Bendis–did a switcharoo from Avengers to X-Men, ending a seven year franchise invigorating run. Now, for fansof the Mighty Marvel brand there are two schools of thoughts on the work and style of BMB–he’s the best shit ever or he’s the worst shit ever. I am more leaning towards the former if for nothing else than his ability to literally write about 700 titles simultaneously at a remarkably high level of quality and internal/external story consistency.

Bendis set up his run on X-Men quit nicely by putting the fearless leader of the X-Men in a spot that he had been teetering on for many years–public enemy number 1. In recent years, Scott Summers has become increasingly compromised philosophically as he become the de facto face of the mutant race. He’s been sleeping with reformed villain Emma Frost, taking council from reformed villain Magneto, and consorting with rogue king and first-mutant Namor, the Sub-Mariner as his inner circle of original X-Men began fleeing from him in the social equivalent of Hawking Radiation. Coming to a climax as a Phoenix Force possessed Cyclops killed Charles Xavier, the world has come to see Cyclops as that most interesting kind of villain–the kind that sees himself as the hero.

Enter Bendis’ All-New X-Men, a title in which the Beast–at the end of his rope–decides to travel back in time and pluck the five original X-Men from their ideological teenage years to try and shock some sense into the elder Summers. The bi-monthly title gives way to some interesting character interactions as the younger incarnations have to come to terms with the mighty changes that have occurred to them over the past 40 years of comics compressed-time story telling–particularly Jean Grey who is shocked to find out that the Xavier School is now the Jean Grey School, and that she is dead.

Most of all, even beyond Beat having to working scientifically with Beast, this book is about young Cyclops coming to terms with older Cyclops and the reactions people are having to him–both fearful and respectful–for things his hasn’t done yet. The idea behind the book is really resonant for readers like me who often wonder what their teenage self would say to their adult selves. Its hard to imagine–would they consider you a success or a sell out? Are you the man or have you become The Man? All the while we see that modern Cyclops is having problems of his own, and is all too aware of the compromises he’s made.

The comic book has some really worthwhile scenes, and that embedded humor that Bendis is known for. Honestly, its a really interesting direction to take, though it does bring up a load of questions about what happens when the originals go back in time–does the past and still alive Xavier mindwipe them? Does the present change? Does their return herald an alternate and divergent timeline? Bendis has managed to really kindle some intriguing questions and even managed to rekindle some interest in the Cyclops/Jean Grey romance, as she wants nothing to do with him due to their tragic future.

Any Bendis fan or X-Men fan should take a look at this book; running bi-monthly, it manages to move along quickly in general and within the borders of a single issue. It’s fresh and new, while revering current developments and over-all continuity, it also manages to be fresh and well…All-New. It makes me wonder what Bendis’ Guardians of the Galaxy is going to look like, honestly, because now that he is out of the Avengers context it seems like BMB has got a whole new team book rhythm going on–while of course keeping the style that people either love or hate about him intact.

The Toast | Superior Spider-Man

(SPOILER ALERT: If you have not been reading Amazing Spider-Man or the following series Superior Spider-Man and plan on it, read no further)

 

Well, don’t we all tend to jump to conclusions a little quickly around these parts? Fanboys are a terrible lot to try and please…while we claim that we want new and different stories, when a writer like Dan Slott comes along and tries to deliver by seriously shaking up the status quo we get our panties all ruffled and bunched and start snarking away like a bunch of little snots. Obviously, I am talking about the writer’s run on Amazing Spider-Man of recent. To begin with he made Peter Parker’s life a little more structured by giving him a great job at Horizon Labs as a come-and-go-as-you-please R & D scientist with the convenient cover of being “the guy who invents Spider-Man’s tech”. The “Big Time” storyline actually saw Mr. Parker’s life lookin’ good for a while…which any long-time fan knows is a true problem for terrible times to come.

And come they did. Through some machinations and a tens of issues spanning plot point our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man’s most villainous..erhm…villain foe, Doctor Octopus managed to take over Peter Parker’s body and escape his own cancer-crippled form leaving the hero in the rapidly decaying soon-to-be corpse.

The whole story came to some startling conclusions as the rather complicated details started becoming apparent in the issues leading to the series ending Amazing Spider-Man #700. Firstly, this swap was managed with technology Parker stole from Octopus and developed at Horizon Labs “for Spider-Man”. Second, the swap was enacted over time, and slowly so that its effects would have some permanence. Third (and this is a big one) both men had full access to the other’s memories, emotions, and experiences. This last is of the most important, really.

As issue #700 plays out Spider-Ock arranges himself rather nicely in Parker’s life: rekindling his romance with estranged Mary Jane, making nice with New York City Mayor, J. Jonah Jameson (you’ve been away a long time, haven’t you casual reader?), and generally making himself look the hero. All the while Peter-topus has been reviving the Sinister Six and using villains as heroes to regain his body in a twistedly fun game of cat and mouse. The whole affair came to a head in an abandoned Avengers Tower as the mind switched men fell to the ground level as Doc Ock’s true body died. And die it did–with Peter Parker’s consciousness in it. Through some machination however, Otto experiences the events–with the full emotional charge laying within. So with a seemingly dead Peter Parker’s soul and a living Peter Parker’s body, Doc Ock–now understanding the mission and weight of Spider-Man’s creed “With great power must also come great responsibility”–vows not only to carry on for Peter and Spider-Man but to be more than amazing…to be…ahem..Superior.

Insert fanboy clamor and people swearing to never pick up another issue of Spider-Man until things have been righted. These sorts of developments don’t really bother me none…my comic book career began with the Death of Superman and as we all know Superman stayed dead forever and was never heard from again…oh wait, there were four of him and then he returned from the dead as the true original and had a mullet for three years after that. The point is, the status quo gets shook up but rarely does it stay so, and even rarer for flagship characters with forthcoming blockbuster movies. The real question is–can Spider-Ock’s Superior Spider-Man deliver the same quality book that Slott and Marvel had been delivering in ASM?

Well the answer is resounding “yes”. In fact I waited until 3 issues of the title had been released before publicly airing my thoughts on the matter. The book is quite good for a number of reasons and they shall come in bullet form following the colon:

  • Shaking up the status quo is good–when a character like Spider-Man who recently had a 50th anniversary wants to stay fresh it can be important to change some of the ways the expectation of a quality story story is delivered.
  • Otto Octavius still has to masquerade as Peter Parker and Spider-Man–nobody knows about this switch–with the exception of one character who suspects something is amiss. This means the Otto is constantly having to cover his tracks, be careful about how he acts while attempting to be “Superior”…
  • That act isn’t easy. Being a reformed man doesn’t come easily to the former Doctor Octopus. Many things about his personality smack of super-villainy and mad scientist-osity. There are many comical moment written in where we see a high buttoned and lab coated Parker calling underlings “buffoon” or constantly talking about “his plans”. There is one particular moment–though not terribly villainous–where Spider-Ock orders a robot butler to bring him “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot” which is a total Star Trek: The Next Generation reference–hilarious and awesome, but not a Peter Parker thing for sure.
  • Force Ghost Peter Parker–yup Peter Parker is still “alive” in one way or another, though only the reader knows it. As Otto is galavanting around in Peter’s body being a creep good ol’ Spidey is yelling in a blue hue on panel at him, and making the comments that most of the readers are thinking like “How come nobody notices he is saying Super-Villain things!!”. This is just a sign for those highly volatile fanboys to see that this shake-up may be long-term, but not permanent.
  • Otto and Peter are constantly impressed with the other–since ghost Spider-Man and Spider-Ock have access to each other’s memories they are learning a great deal about each other. Ghost-Spidey is impressed with the inventive way Otto is using his powers and approaching some of the life-balancing problems Spidey has had, while Otto is constantly impressed by the amount of BS Parker had to overcome and the restraint he displayed regularly in battling his foes. This is a great tool for character development and opens the door for Peter to actually be superior when he does finally resume the mantle of the arachnid.

In all its a highly enjoyable romp…and in other Spider-Man titles and titles where the character appears, expect to find this Spider-Man and these character development to be in full effect. The change isn’t permanent and in the meanwhile its fun, interesting, and definitely different. As for being “superior”, well, I can’t entirely attest to that but it is more than worth your buck and your time.