Lvenger's Thoughts on The New Female Thor Announcement

The New Replacement God of Thunder.

As most of you reading this blog know, the news broke that Thor was being replaced by a female character having no longer been found worthy of wielding Mjolnir. Instead, a female character will take over from Thor and, for some reason, actually be called Thor instead of Thor (even though Thor is Thor’s name rather than an identity) Confused much? That’s what Marvel’s latest PR stunt seems to be causing, mass confusion. So I’ll just share some of my thoughts and opinions on this change via several areas of consideration.

1. Why the gender change?

I fail to see why Marvel are making this change in the first place. It’s just change for the sake of change and that is never a good way of introducing something new. To keep things in perspective, Aaron’s other changes in the Thor run have WORKED. Introducing the Past, Present and Future Thor has worked wonders in making for a compelling character overlook at who Thor is and where he’s going. Gorr and The Necro Sword have been awesome additions to Thor’s rogues gallery as has Dario Agger. These are creative changes which have actually fit into Thor’s universe. The decision to make Thor a woman has come straight out of nowhere and seems to fly flat in the face of Aaron’s plans such as introducing new love interest Roz Solomon, making Thor’s world more cosmic and teasing a 9 Realms war. What place does a female Thor have other than Marvel’s attempts to pander to the rising female demographic in the comic book audience?

I'm really gonna miss Aaron writing stories about actual versions of Thor you know...

2. Why make the New Thor a Woman?

When you look at this move critically, exchanging Thor's gender really doesn't make sense. In mythology and in the comics, Thor is iconically recognised as a long blonde haired guy with a hammer in the comics and movies. Not only that, Thor is his literal name. You can’t just pick up the hammer and be Thor. You only have his power, not his name. It isn’t an identity or a mantle like Captain America or Iron Man that can be passed along. Thor is the intrinsic identity of the God of Thunder and this replacement is just as obviously out of place as Eric Masterson was as Thor’s replacement. Not only do Marvel make the mistake to remove Steve Rogers from the position of Captain America just to put a temporary Falcon in place for a token's character sake, they now have the misguided notion to promote the female sex by replacing Thor's brilliantly written series by Jason Aaron with a female lead. So I guess Tony's brother Arno is going to be the new Iron Man because Marvel's reasons are sooo enlightened on these matters. And there’s one ultimate nail in the coffin for Marvel's misguided attempts at promoting gender diversity; that the new female Thor will still be defined by being a female version of Thor. Call me old fashioned if you will but I like Captain America as Steve Rogers, Tony Stark as Iron Man and Thor Odinson as Thor. These shoehorned replacements can never match the appeal or history that the originals have. You can't beat the originals as they say.

The real Marvel 'Trinity' so to speak. No exceptions or replacements can beat The original Source Material.

3. Why pull this PR stunt and try to appeal to gender diversity?

As I mentioned in my first paragraph, this is a blatant PR stunt on Marvel’s part designed to pander to feminist calls for women to have greater roles in comics. The only problem here is that most fans don't want different Thor's or Captain America's, we just want good stories with the same old heroes. Change things up a little, introduce some interesting plot points, bring in some solid characterisation and entertaining action, add in some extra elements and you have the recipe for the right kind of comic. That’s what Aaron was doing before and that’s what has made Thor: God of Thunder one of the best comics Marvel are currently putting out. But editorial interference seems to think that it’s a good idea to promote 'gender equality.' If I was directly addressing the Thor creative team and editors who seem to want gender equality in the Thor line, this is what I'd say. Make a damn effort to promote Thor's female support cast; Jane Foster, Roz Solomon, Lady Sif, Valkyrie, hell even Angela since you're bringing her in (and I have the feeling Angela is going to be the new Thor now.) Believe me when I say female characters need more promotion and treatment in comics but make them new characters or flesh out the old ones you have. Don't shoe horn a female character into a male hero's position as, at the end of the day, she's still defined by the male character, not her own legacy. I know Marvel are going for the “anyone can wield the power of Thor, even women” approach but this is ultimately detrimental to the female hero. Why? Because making a female version of a male hero demeans the male hero and leaves the superheroine being solely defined as a female replacement of the male hero.

At the end of the day, this new Thor will probably end up being defined by her contrast in sex to the male Thor. Not as her own original character separate from Thor.

4. Why make it a new or existing female character?

From the sounds of the press release, Marvel seem to be hinting that this is a Pre existing character, not a new one. And my best bets on who the new female Thor will be stick mainly at either Angela or Thor Girl. Angela is the angel from the Spawn comics created by Neil Gaiman who sold the rights to Marvel. She’s been introduced into the Marvel Universe in Age of Ultron, has interacted with The Guardians of The Galaxy and is now officially Thor’s retconned sister thanks to Original Sin. Although her hair is ginger, it’s entirely possible she could be dying her hair to look more like Thor. And she has the power and potential worthiness criteria to wield the hammer but I have my doubts as to whether it’s Angela. But it could be Thor Girl based on a teaser that this new character “was saved by Thor and made herself look like him.” Both points fit the description of Thor Girl, an alien called Tarene who was once associated with Thor back in the 90s. From what I’ve heard, she’s ascended to a higher plane of existence so her coming back just to be the new Thor seems highly unlikely. That leaves the problem that, if this is a new character, what’s the point of their existence?

Will Angela be the new Thor?

Will Thor Girl make a return to the Marvel Universe and take over from The Odinson?

Or will it be an entirely new character?

Which brings me to:

5. What’s the point of temporary change?

Unlike some people who are literally taking Marvel and Aaron’s statement that this is the new Thor period, I have my doubts that this will last longer than a year. It’s stereotypical, derivative, unoriginal and screams of a PR stunt to try and win over the female demographic of comic readers. But whilst this is temporary change easily reverted, that doesn’t make it any less of a bad idea. Not only is Thor at one of his most popular times with two solid movies (in terms of box office revenue and critical acclaim) he also has a critically praised comic series adored by the fans. Which makes it all the more confusing as to why Marvel are changing Thor for a new female character. The simple answer is shock value and generating a stir for the sake of it all over comic book fandom. That is not good enough for justifying a change in the first place. Change for the sake of change is not the right reason for doing it. This idea isn’t going to be fondly remembered among Jason Aaron’s excellent Thor series prior to this unfortunate announcement.

Does anyone know how long Eric Masterson was Thor? Because I'm pretty sure he wasn't a popular or well loved addition to the footnotes of Thor's comic book history.

Bottom Line

Can we jump to conclusions about the quality of this series? No, a Twitter conversion with Mat Elfring showed that much for certain. The perspective about the quality of this series is, for now, up in the air. Can we justifiably go ape **** about it? Only to an extent. Reasonable criticism and utter disbelief at Marvel’s inane decision making and slapped on PR is at least warranted. Losing one’s mind over this is not permissible however. But for me, it is the straw that broke the camel’s back. So, after Thor: GOT 25, I’m dropping that series and ending any Marvel related purchases on my pull list. Call that extreme if you want but Thor was the only series at Marvel I was willing to buy consistently without delay. Not to mention the only series I was truly interested in. I’ve been perfectly civil in my reasoning and given logical critiques of why I don’t like where this series is going. And that’s what’s needed, not irrational fanboyism. There are fortunately many reasons why this is clearly a bad move from day one of press release and if expressed in the right way, you can demonstrate why this series is a bad idea.

Finally, I hope the feminists and pushers for women to have greater roles in comics don't jump down my throat by proclaiming this a hate speech. It's an impassioned plea to Marvel pointing out the errors of their ways and, whilst it is just one opinion, is probably going to be shared by loads of die hard Thor fans too. If people like this then...good for you I guess, it's your call. But I most certainly do not. And I support a greater diversity in female leads such as Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel, Wonder Woman etc in comics. I just don't see the plausibility or sensibility in this foolish temporary change for the sake of change that is being proclaimed here. Cast this as an angry rant if you must but at least it'll be a rant where I've made some critical and fair points of this ostentatious change. That will be reverted in a year as all other Marvel changes are. And it will be a pointless, empty change all the same.

But this is just my one single opinion. Do you think Marvel have flown the coop making the new Thor a woman? Or is this a much needed change that will freshen Marvel's line and promote women's role in comics? Feel free to discuss, agree, disagree and contrast below in the comments.

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Lvenger's List of Debates

Stolen shamelessly from TheTrueBarryAllen's list of debates blog, I figured I would do the same thing for my debates and future ones I have. I'll update this blog with different sections and new additions to my CAVs and tourney debates. This is meant to show the calibre of debaters I've had the privilege to debate against as well as show my different styles of debating and how I've conducted my argument in each debate.

Currently Ongoing: 2

Victories: 7

Losses: 4

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Lvenger's 5 Most Anticipated Comics in the Future

I have some time to spare for a change so I decided to write another blog whilst I still can. Again, I do have ideas in mind for blog topics in the summer. Like Did The Cold War Influence the Comic Book Genre? or A Comparison between Atticus Finch (from To Kill A Mockingbird) and Superman so I'll work on those after my first year of university has finished. For now, I'll just write about some comics I'm looking forward to picking up in the future. My university constraints led me to restrict my pull list down to 4 comics (Superman Unchained, Thor: God of Thunder, Wonder Woman and Indestructible Hulk) but I already have in mind which comics I want to pick up in the future. So here's my rundown of 5 of my most anticipated choices in no particular order.

Fantastic Four by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk

It probably isn't common knowledge that I actually have a soft spot for Marvel's First Family. All of the Fantastic Four are in my top 20 favourite superheroes list and I watched a couple of their cartoons when I was younger. Both the 1990s one and the mid 2000s cartoon as well (the latter was overall better IMO.) Anyway I adored their family bond through both good and bad times in their history, the zany sci fi adventures the team went on and the uniqueness of each member of the team too. From Reed's brilliant but detached personality to Sue's maternal and protective instincts to Johnny's hilarious banter and relaxed attitude, my favourite was Ben Grimm's rock hard personality concealing a heart of gold. Although the FF have had some great runs in recent years, Matt Fraction's latest tenure on the FF has been utterly terrible for me. Retconning Ben into causing Doom's accident, taking them to the near breaking point unnecessarily all the while writing the team severely out of character with a convoluted plot to boot. When I heard Robinson's first arc was "The Fall of The Fantastic Four" I was initially put out by what seemed to be another repeat of history. But after listening to James on the podcast a few weeks ago, my tune changed for once. Robinson seemed genuinely enthusiastic and understanding of the FF's rich history and he promised to bring a positive and upbeat tone to the series. And that's what the FF is all about. It's not grim or gritty, the Fantastic Four are all about a family at the end of the day and they're a much more light hearted title. Like Superman or Spider-Man. And Robinson's promise of that has me truly appreciative of what Robinson is doing. Although this series has started, I'll be picking it up at issue 4 in May.

Justice League United by Jeff Lemire and Mark McKone

Although the New 52 has given us some absolutely duff and terrible creative teams, there have been diamonds in the rough. One of the most praised 'diamonds' DC currently have would be Jeff Lemire. Originally a writer for Vertigo, Lemire's mainstream work has earned great critical praise from DC fans. Animal Man has been widely applauded for its supernatural tone and exploration of family whilst his Green Arrow work has literally cleaned a turd into a shining bastion of comic book storytelling, resulting in its roaring critical success. Whilst it's too early to tell for certain how well this series will do, I have a very good gut feeling about Justice League United. Lemire is truly a quality writer and he plans to take a diverse roster of B lister characters including 3 of my favourites (Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow and Supergirl), set the team in the unique location of Canada allowing stories to be told away from the rest of the DCU and then give it a fast paced cosmic feel to the series. All these qualities are superb constituents for what should make a great series. If Lemire delivers strong characterisation, well oiled team mechanics, suitable sci fi plots and correct pacing then this could be the fresh new series the New 52 has been needing. For too long, fans have complained about the New 52 being recycled stories focusing mainly on Batman, Superman or Justice League titles without diversity or organic variation. And so if enough people get behind this unique title, this could be the gateway to opening up the New 52 DCU into something bigger and better. If not, it still looks like a quality title nonetheless.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz

"But Lvenger, aren't you already reading this fantastic, consistently well written and original series from IDW?" Well dear reader, I unfortunately made an error in judgement when I chose which comics to keep buying for uni. Indestructible Hulk has been a major disappointment and I'm only reading it till the series' end. I now see I should have stuck with what is easily one of my favourite comics currently out in the industry today. The recent Northampton arc was an emotionally charged cooldown to the epic City Fall saga and truly focused on the ramifications the last arc had on the characters. This is exactly what I want to see in my event stories; real consequences on the cast I care about. And Waltz' script is handled expertly with Eastman's gritty tone and lore to the TMNT franchise. This series delivers some of the best writing in comics today. Whether it's hilarious one liners, dark twists, in character dialogue or fast and frenetic action, TMNT can do almost no wrong on anything it tackles. I'll be jumping back on for issue 33 for the next arc and will most likely keep this comic on my pull list for next year. Unless another title steals the spotlight, TMNT is too good to go without again.

Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Another non DC or Marvel comic? Surprised aren't you? Well out of all the titles Image are putting out, only 3 have really captured my interest enough to consider buying. And this is one of them. The immensely popular Saga. A blend of sci-fi and fantasy on the Romeo and Juliet catapulted beyond any reader's wildest imaginations. I admit, even though I'm unfamiliar with Saga lore, this might serve as a footnote of what Saga is about. I have bought Saga Volume One in my London Comic Con trip last Sunday (shameless plug of my blog) but I'm reading Wonder Woman Volume 2: Guts and Kraven's Last Hunt first. Nonetheless, I imagine people will advise me to read more of Saga and maybe I will if I have time to spare. Admittedly, I do want to see what the fuss is all about for this title. Saga has blown away many people on here with its tight focus storytelling, uninhibited maturity on levels that would make Fredric Wertham incessantly enraged if he were still alive today and utterly unique characters like this Lying Cat I keep hearing so much about. This is as strange and yet enthralling as comics are supposed to get and the solicits, images and discussion about Saga have made me decide to pick up this series from issue 19 onwards.

C.O.W.L. by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis

Yes another Image title on my pull list. Whatever is the world coming to? When I heard Image's January announcements, this was the title I was most interested in. Higgins delivered an intriguing premise based in 1960s Chicago where the focus of the story is on a superhero union which struck a contract to work for the city in exchange for payment for their services. I was fascinated by Higgins' pitch of a combination of the history of the rise of the union movements in the 60s, a noir flavoured story with crime fiction and the superhero genres thrown in as well. These influences pulled me into the appeal of Higgins' university project on which the series is based on. Plus it's a fresh new series with little lore behind it making it easier to dive right into this intriguing title. With its roots in America unionised history and a crime noir story with superheroes in it to boot, I'm really excited for what C.O.W.L. promises to bring to the table. Since Higgins has done an excellent job on a brilliant Nightwing series, I figure he's a writer who can definitely be trusted on an independent project where he can tell the stories he wants to tell.

So that makes for my most anticipated comics in the months to come. Hope you liked it. What are your comics you're looking forward to reading in the future? Feel free to comment below.

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My Time at London Super Comic Con 2014

As you might have noticed, I wasn’t online on Sunday since I was at London Super Comic Con 2014. I haven’t had the time to write a proper blog for a while now. I do actually have ideas in mind for blog topics though. Like Did The Cold War Influence Comic Books? or A Comparison between Atticus Finch (from To Kill A Mockingbird), Stalin and Superman. Such topics may have to be saved for the summer holidays but on this, I can at least spend some time writing down what happened at my third outing at this particular comic convention.

On this occasion, my dad and I travelled into London by both car and the tube. Last time, we’d been hit with the full force of the London Expo traffic delaying my arrival to Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man panel (which in hindsight wasn’t such a bad thing really) so we decided to come in via the tube to cut time down. Thus, I arrived at the London Expo centre just before 1pm to the London Comic Con. And I was immediately greeted with the sight of Doctor Octopus casually chatting to Rogue and Rorschach. An obvious sign of where you are could not be made clearer. Man oh man were there loads of people there this time. Saturday had Jonathan Ross giving a panel so who knows how busy it was then?!

Anyway upon arriving I ventured off into the wilderness of the convention room to scout out some comic books. I came in with…in between £50-60 or over $100 in American currency and left with…significantly less than that. Seriously, I spent money on comics faster than Stan lost his money in this infamous South Park bank scene.

So you can tell I spent a lot of money on comics and graphic novels. And here’s the full list in case anyone is wondering what I bought

Graphic Novels:

  • · New 52 Wonder Woman Volume 2: Guts
  • · The Amazing Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt
  • · Saga Volume 1
  • · Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret History of The Foot Clan
  • · The Mighty Thor: The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill

Comics

  • · Silver Surfer #2 and #4 (from Pak’s run
  • · Avengers #16 (volume 2)
  • · Avengers Classics #6
  • · JLA #47-48
  • · Gotham Central #13, 15
  • · Star Wars Legacy #10
  • · Fantastic Four #494-495
  • · Detective Comics #747, 753
  • · Action Comics #788-789
  • · Nightwing #30
  • · Green Lantern #50-52, #55-56 (first appearance of Kyle Rayner
  • · Ion: Guardian of the Universe #1, #2, #8

As you’ve probably guessed, carrying all these comics around was quite a heavy burden. So I decided to rest in a seated area and the closest seating to me was an open panel hosted by Avatar Press. Many of you guys on here might know of this company but basically they’re another indie comic book company based in America and founded by William Christensen, described by fellow writers at the panel as “the last shoe maker amongst a mass of shoe factories.” An apt analogy to say the least. And although Avatar Press is a company few have heard of, they had their top notch writers at the panel. There was Kieron Gilleon, better known for his Marvel work on Thor and Journey into Mystery discussing his latest work called Uber as well as other sci fi titles he was working on. There was Simon Spurrier, writer of Saren/Citizen Bane’s favourite Marvel title X-Men Legacy (this one’s for you :P) who discussed his latest web series called Disenchanted. And the well known (I think?) Max Brooks, whose father I probably don’t need to tell you about based on his last name, spilled the beans on his new comic series Extinction Parade which is basically Vampires vs Zombies. But it also breaks down the vampire genre and shows how the reasons why people admire vampires are actually weaknesses of the vampires. All framed against a zombie invasion the vampires initially approve of but then realise the horror of the situation. All of these projects sound genuinely interesting and intriguing and this is from a company that isn’t even on the map in the way other indie companies like Image or Dark Horse are. And to think I only went in there to read my comic stash I’d bought at the panel.

On an extra side note, amongst the myriad of creators present at LSCC, guess who else was there? That’s right, the notoriously ‘controversial’ Marvel writer to say the least, Dan Slott. Suffice to say, I restrained myself mentally from walking over to Mr Superior and giving him a piece of my mind on SpOck. That wasn’t why I’d come to Comic Con and I didn’t want to ruin my day nor his nor the people who wanted to speak to him. Come to think of it, I actually saw another notable for the wrong reasons comic face there. Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool fame. I didn’t recognise him at the time but photos posted on the site showed me that the guy who was with Dan Slott for most of the time I was there was actually Johnston himself.

Two greater stirrers and twisted faces are hard to find in the comic book industry.

All in all, I had a nice time at the Con on Sunday. Not quite as memorable as the last 2 times but still plenty of fun. I’ll round off with some of the photos (mine were of exceptionally poor quality) taken at the con of cosplayers and costume wearers alike. Hope you liked reading this blog and what you see afterwards of the cosplayers! :)

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Lvenger's Top 5 Comics of 2013

For my last blog of 2013, I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon of writing about what my 5 favourite series of 2013 have been. I’ve been much more experimental with indie and alternative comics but the Big Two still dominate my list for the most part. I’ve also stolen Deranged_Midget’s format so in exchange, I heavily recommend you check out his excellently written and engaging blog on his 5 favourite series of 2013. Now there will be SPOILERS for the series I’ve chosen so you’ve been warned here and now.

5. Indestructible Hulk

Despite a recent nosedive in quality in the disappointing conclusion to the Agent of TIME arc and lacklustre start to its new storyline, Mark Waid’s Indestructible Hulk series started off the year as one of the freshest, engaging and fun series of 2013 with only 3 issues underway. After Jason Aaron’s disgraceful run on the Green Giant, Waid took a new approach with the Hulk which was just what Doctor Banner ordered. Waid made Banner into an Agent of SHIELD in exchange for laboratory funding so that Banner can restore his scientific reputation and better the world with his own scientific invention. There’s also an intriguing ongoing mystery as to how Banner has blackmailed SHIELD into letting him work for them. Under Waid’s pen, Banner has become a brilliantly fleshed out character once more. He’s confident, outgoing, pragmatic and willing to take a direct approach in applying his intellect and using the Hulk to solve problems both scientifically and in the world threatening way. So far, Waid’s taken Hulk to the undersea city of Lemuria, to Jotunheim of the past and across the bounds of time and space itself ranging from the Wild West to ye olden Camelot. The wackiness of the stories embraces the old Silver Age fun that writers put into their comics and Waid captures that with modern sensibilities.

Although the artistic teams have been inconsistent (and not mostly liked by me) on this series, Lenil Yu started off as a damn near perfect fit as a Hulk artist. His kinetic style worked wonderfully for the action sequences of the series and the detail Yu puts into his facial expressions encapsulates a certain uniqueness with each person he draws. Hopefully Clay Mann’s gorgeous art will make for a suitable replacement in the next arc on this series

Favourite Issue: Indestructible Hulk #7

I was tempted to choose something from the Agent of TIME arc but its disappointing conclusion put me off that. Thus, this leaves the second part of Gods and Monsters as my favourite issue from Indestructible Hulk to date. Waid knocks his quality story telling out of the park with hilarious interactions between a Thor of the past and Hulk, particularly with Hulk seemingly controlling Mjolnir only for it to be revealed that Mjolnir was just dragging him along. This is complemented by a great fight between Thor and Hulk versus a band of Frost Giants, solid characterisations of all of Banner’s lab assistants and an emotionally charged cliffhanger when it is revealed that Patricia Wolman is suffering from Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, a form of brain cancer. And the best thing is that Waid treats this serious illness as realistically as possible. In a world where gods and aliens battle on a daily basis, cancer is not undermined at the expense of this mythological world and Waid shines on making this point apparent. I’m not a huge fan of Simonson’s current work but it was nostalgic seeing him draw Thor and Jotunheim again and it was OK to look at. Above all, Indestructible Hulk is a fun series to read and Waid makes it so in this issue.

4. Superman Unchained

Yeah, yeah, a Superman series has made it into my top 5 comics of 2013. Feel free to roll your eyes and groan etc, etc. Morrison’s concluding issues on Action Comics were good but his better writing came in 2012 IMO. Between Diggle’s departure leaving Daniels to hash out a contrived and mediocre story coupled with Lobdell writing two Superman titles until recently, being a Superman fan seemed to be a disappointing affair. Add in my despair with how I felt about Man of Steel and that made me feel even worse. Then along came Scott Snyder and Jim Lee with their new Superman Unchained series to rectify my doubts and remind me of why I am a Superman fan with an intriguing, classical feeling Superman story. Despite his lacklustre Batman writing, Snyder has crafted a tale that involves a Superman we’re more familiar with and love rather than the brash and angsty Superman that has come across in the New 52 so far. Once again, Superman is kind, compassionate and friendly yet also tough and authoritative and I love seeing these mixed characteristics in him again. Another great thing about this story is that Snyder looks set to take many aspects of Superman that make him an enduring character and turn them upside down to challenge Superman’s place in the world via General Lane’s secret military organisation, a new alien called Wraith with similar powers to Superman only on a greater scale with more experience along with a cyber-terrorist group known as Ascension causing world-wide problems. To its credit, this series has given Superman creative and unique challenges to test his powers and brains in how to prevent tragedy from occurring. Whether stopping a falling space station or the tallest building in the world from collapsing, Snyder and Lee have made tense disasters for Superman to overcome.

Whilst his delays have kept the book from being released, Jim Lee brings his incredibly detailed and unique art to another Superman story and the epic scale and feel of this series has only been helped by the expansive set pieces and iconic character models that Lee brings to the table. Hopefully, his art will keep getting better and better as he challenges himself even more on this series.

Favourite Issue: Superman Unchained #4

Although I have high hopes for Superman Unchained #5 coming out next week, so far it’s been issue 4 which has impressed me the most. I loved how Snyder provided vital roles and introspections of Superman’s supporting cast. Lex is given a mysterious and malevolent insight thanks to an amazingly well written paper folding dialogue, Lois winds up with the key to solving the story’s mystery and shedding light on the truth hidden from sight and Jimmy is made into the harbringer of Superman’s doom. Plus Lee’s sublime art illustrates an extremely dynamic fight of Superman and Wraith taking on some Russian drones designed to kill Superman should he ever turn rogue. Overall, these pieces of the puzzle made for a highly satisfying issue demonstrating how Superman stories should be written.

3. Thor: God of Thunder

Remember how I said Jason Aaron’s Hulk run was disgraceful? Yeah somehow he turned it all around for his Thor: God of Thunder series and has given fans one of the best Thor runs to date as well as my favourite Marvel NOW! series. Aaron utilises a distinct story telling mechanism involving 3 Thors telling Aaron’s story from different periods in Thor’s history. Not only does it allow the reader to see Thor’s character development over time, Aaron has been able to juggle multiple plot threads from different periods and weave them into one glorious Godbomb arc. The addition of the murderous Gorr into into Thor’s cosmic and mythological expansive place in the Marvel Universe has provided Thor with a serious challenge that places all the gods of the universe in peril.

The spectacular action is all made possible thanks to Esad Ribic’s sprawling art. His action sequences jump off the page with his amazing layouts and broad pencils and whenever he draws a splash page, one cannot help but be awed by the splendour Ribic can produce. Although his faces can be ridiculous and his hair can be more stuck in place than a rock, these are minor when compared to the grandour of Ribic’s art on the series.

Favourite Issue: Thor: God of Thunder #9

A well written story, important character development and essential plot expositions are what make the best stories. But when an issue has all that and a jaw dropping fight sequence between 3 Thors and Gorr, what’s not to like? All the tension and conflict that has been built up by Aaron explodes in this dynamic fight for the fate of all the gods in creation. Planets are cracked by the mere blows thrown, Gorr is blasted light years away and an entire sun is turned black. Such a fight worthy of the power at these 3 Thors’ command makes the inner child within us all squeal in delight at such a battle. Aaron crafts a blockbuster action sequence and Ribic makes it as dynamic as possible thanks to his amazing art style. With introspection into Gorr and the scales set for what’s at stake, this made for a truly epic issue and a series everyone could do themselves a favour by checking out.

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

If any series is underrated and underappreciated on my list, it is definitely this one. IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series is unquestionably one of the most vibrant and entertaining comics out today. The story is amazingly well written with characters feeling as life like and engrossing as possible, the plot threads have been expertly balanced and lore from all corners of the TMNT universe has been brought together by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz, blended together in a gritty environment and enriched by fresh new characters such as Alopex and stunningly refreshing stories like City Fall. This comic can juggle peaceful character exploration and humorous interactions with bombastic action and dark moments on a whim. I’ve been constantly engaged with what this new take on the TMNT universe will do next and what’s even more amazing is that it manages to appeal to older fans with its mature storytelling including many things from different cartoons and TMNT series whilst crafting them seamlessly in a manner where new readers can instantly jump on board and get a grip of what’s going on

The series has also benefitted from some talented artists but chief among them has been Mateus Santoloucho. His subtle distinctions between each Turtle even without their masks shows how unique his art style is. And more evidence for his distinctive style can be found in his glorious action sequences that flow seamlessly with every punch, kick and shot fired thanks to his exquisite positioning of each action sequence.

Favourite Issues: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #27-28

Yeah, yeah I’m cheating here but really these two issues have been some of the best TMNT and overall stories I’ve read all year. City Fall has been an incredibly ambitious gambit from the creative team and it’s paid off in a wonderful fashion. This is a storyline that I have truly cared about, from whether Leonardo will break the shackles of Kitsune’s mind control to the morally ambiguous actions Splinter has performed showing how his fatherly instincts have made him willing to do anything to save his son. In these final two acts, everything comes to a head as the Shredder makes his play for power in the New York underworld, the Turtles and their allies instigate a head on clash with the Foot and fan favourite mutants Bebop and Rocksteady make a triumphant and brutal return to TMNT comics. Shredder is made into the menacing and sadistic antagonist that even with some minor defeats is still able to gain considerable ground in his new empire and that’s what made City Fall so awesome. If ever there was a series more in need of support and praise, it has to be this series.

1. Wonder Woman

For some of you, this may be a strange choice for my number 1 comic of 2013. But for me, it’s been a naturally easy choice. Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman has been consistently amazing month after month after month. And I mean that seriously. I can hardly think of any minor problems with the series let alone major drawbacks. Every issue leaves me surprised, extremely satisfied and hungering for the next part of the story. From my perspective on the series, Azzarello’s amazing storytelling hinges on numerous aspects. He has incorporated the dark and twisted nature of the original Greek mythology, mixed it in with almost a Vertigo esque horror tone to the story and presented sweeping plot points played out by wonderfully rich characters with crafty ambitions and motivations of their own. The Greek Gods are given a crucial role within the story and hinging Wonder Woman’s mythology to that of the Greek Gods has given readers shocking twists such as making Wonder Woman a demi god and daughter of Zeus and overarching themes such as family within this brilliantly written tale. Including the expansion of Wonder Woman’s universe with new demigods and even tying in New God Orion into the story has made Wonder Woman into the most unique and refreshing comic on the shelves. Chiang’s art is exceptionally smooth and captures the bloodiness of the action within the series as well as very realistic facial expressions and contrasting backgrounds smoothly rendered.

Favourite Issue: Wonder Woman #23

This series and this issue may have its naysayers but for me, this was not only my favourite Wonder Woman comic of the series but the best comic of the year. Azzarello brings together the tense conflict between the First Born and Wonder Woman’s family, ramps up the threat the First Born poses to the entire world and produces wonderful character moments such as Ares bringing an army of his own to the battle and Zola and Hera’s changed attitudes towards each other. The issue progressed with a worrying despair as the First Born shrugged off all attempts to stop him only for the unexpected and surprising moment when Wonder Woman kills Ares to stop the First Born from taking his power as God of War, thus becoming the God of War herself. It’s an alarming and daring change in Wonder Woman’s status quo which sets the scene for some truly amazing stories to come. But for now, this issue remains the best issue out of the best series in DC’s New 52 to date thanks to Azzarello’s masterful and engaging writing.

Well those make up my list for my 5 favourite series of 2013. Hope you enjoyed reading it and my reasoning for each choice and feel free to include your thoughts and top series below! Have a Happy New Year to you all!

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A Personal Family Rant

You’ll have to forgive my particularly foul mood this morning in venting on this blog given that I’ve just had a run in with my family over the classic age old problem for us comic book fans in storing one’s comics. The problem started moments after I woke up this morning as I awoke to my parents arguing over something. Upon venturing downstairs, I heard my mother complaining about a lack of space to store her files in a wooden cabinet where I keep my current pull list. You see, two of the files on the wooden cabinet originally kept 6 series from my pull list and my mother wanted me to stack more of my comics on top of each other to make space for her admin or some other folders. I assume plenty of you Viners know that stacking comics on top of each other bends them out of shape and piling two series or more on top of each other accelerates this. Besides, I do have a habit of keeping each series in its own pile, OCD as that is. Whilst I refused to pile multiple comics on top of each other, I did agree to give up one row of my comics since it is my parents’ house and their word is final etc. Then my brother, who was in the room at the time asked why I didn’t just stack them on top of each other and then seemingly reached into the cabinet to do such a thing. I overreacted not wanting my possessions moved by someone else who had no right to do so and grabbed his hand. That regrettably escalated things as he and I squared off over his apparent actions which brought my parents into it as well.

I then angrily moved 3 of my series upstairs to my room aggressively claiming that my mother now had much more space available and that this problem could have been solved without the arguments or confrontations. But then comes the worst part for me anyway. She then ranted about how not only I couldn’t keep buying 6 or 8 comics per month and keep them stored in the house but that such activities were sad, obsessive and indications of hoarding. And the worse one of all, that my desire to keep a storage of comic books would inevitably keep back my chances of having a relationship. Whilst I know people on the Vine who easily differ from the generalisation that comic nerds don’t get girlfriends, I can’t deny that my acne and other difficulties shall I say fit this stereotype regrettably well. And it’s incredibly painful and upsetting to hear someone who said that I needed more ‘Big Bang theory friends’ (that’s what she calls them after the Big Bang Theory) and even appreciates Superman on a certain level say such spiteful and mean spirited things. Maybe we all woke up on the wrong side of bed but I now see a prime example as to why I keep my comic book hobby a secret. Because of deprecating comments like that. I just never thought they’d come from my own mother though. Oh and bitterly for me, it was her birthday yesterday which I tried to make as nice and as relaxing a day as possible by keeping my older brother calm when he had problems cleaning his shirt, helping to make my own spaghetti bolognaise since I have multiple food allergies and just generally being as nice to my mother as possible out of everything she’s done for me in the past. I have to admit that this morning’s events rub salt on the ever stinging wound.

To switch this personal rant onto something more topical on these forums, this shows the real merits of switching to digital comics for the first time in my life. Which is ironic because I don’t really like reading my comics digitally. When reading my scans posted online, I don’t get the same clarity and visual distinction as I do reading a paper copy where my eyes can more easily adjust to the pictures and the words on the page. Reading books on a kindle or words on screen jars my eyes and doesn’t provide the smoothness of reading a paper comic or a hardback trade. But of course, digitally reading my comics would have avoided the main reason behind this morning’s argument, that is where I store my comics. You digital readers don’t have to worry about storage since it’s all on your tablet, IPhone, IPad, Kindle or PC which, whilst it’ll run out of storage space eventually, can store a helluva lot more digital comics than a house can store physical ones.

I guess this thread is a combination of the storage threads that crop up on here and the “What do other people think of you reading comics?” Since comics are what seems to be a lifelong passion for me, I’m not giving them up any time soon. I’ve already dropped a lot of my reading list to focus on university but I’ll be damned if I give them up completely. Nonetheless, this run in with my own mother over the nasty side of what the general population think of comic book readers has been a particularly disheartening event at that. It’s something that I’m still upset about and will probably have to seriously think about in years to come. Feel free to share thoughts about any problems you’ve had in this area or just complain as to why I’m ranting about personal issues on here. I’ll try and keep a cooler head than I have this morning.

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Lvenger's Review of Thor: The Dark World (SPOILERS)

I finally got the time to watch Thor: The Dark World yesterday and have decided to spend part of my evening writing this little old review on it since I haven’t blogged on a topic in a good long time. The first Thor film was fun but could have used some tweaking on certain aspects of it to make the film a more well rounded experience. And before watching the film, the trailers made the sequel seem like just the ticket. Now I will be discussing SPOILERS to varying degrees in this review so if you haven’t had the chance to watch Thor: The Dark World and don’t want to be spoiled, I would recommend scrolling no further.

Of course, if you don’t give a toss about spoilers, I’ll begin my review. The movie starts in exactly the same way the first Thor film did ie a Antony Hopkins narrated introduction of who Malekith, the villain of the piece is, what his plan was and how Asgard, led by Bor came into conflict with the Dark Elves over their plans for darkness and power via the Aether, an unlimited source of destructive energy. This does set the tone of the film up well and it does make the conflict that’s about to come seem epic but it is a repetitive derivative of the first film’s intro and brings up a problem about Malekith which I will expand upon later.

As for the film’s plot, it isn’t anything special but it’s easy to follow and is paced well throughout the film. The discord in the Nine Realms is a good way of highlighting the impact the first Thor movie has had on them all without Asgard to supervise them all and it’s a good place to tie up loose ends from the first Thor film. For what it’s worth also, Jane, Darcy and the intern’s intern (can’t remember his name) were tied into the story quite well as they went looking for Thor based on anomalous readings resulting in Jane being possessed by the Aether. I found it to be a relevant way of working Jane and the supporting Midgardians into the overall story. From there, we get Jane being taken to Asgard, the return of the Dark Elves and Thor being forced to team up with his treacherous half brother to seek out Svartelfheim and destroy the Aether. It’s not a bad plot at all in my mind but of course, it isn’t going to win the best awards for screen writing. There are suitably placed points for character development, action sequences, humourous gags, plot developments and shocking twists I never saw coming. So in terms of pacing, it’s much more well rounded than the first film was at crafting an overall cohesive plot.

Another short note on Thor’s plot/themes is its greater use of a ‘grounded’ so to speak perspective of the mythology of the Nine Realms. I think this is why Taylor was brought in as in his Game of Thrones directing, we saw a deft balance between the splendorous high courts of King’s Landing to the downtrodden everyday activities in Winterfell. A similar approach is attempted in Thor: The Dark World as Taylor gives us a more grounded view of Asgard. There are more scenes set in ordinary barracks, ‘halls of merriment’ as I shall call them and everyday streets of Asgard. Not to mention that Vanaheim and Svartelfheim are given their appearances in the course of the film. It’s a strange balance between a broader and yet also a more localised view of the Nine Realms. As for the sci fi/fantasy mix, it seems like a strange combination yet, given that Asgard is seen as possessing more advanced technology than magic, it is visually impressive to see pimped out Viking boats fly around and cannons firing. Plus the dark technology of the Dark Elves works well in contrasting them from the Asgardians in technology and thematically fitting with the film. Another great way the mix works is in the funeral scene of a certain group of fallen Asgardians, including Frigga who’d been killed by Kurse. In that scene, the Asgardians are given a traditional Viking funeral of burning ships that is quite touching to see yet once they move out into the sea of stars, their bodies evaporate and become part of the universe. Aesthetically, it’s beautifully moving. Of course, there is the problem of Asgardians bringing swords and shields to a gun fight during the Dark Elf attack which doesn’t go too well for them honestly.

Now onto acting. Again I have similar things to say about it really as I have been throughout this review. Hemsworth plays a much more mature Thor who’s more responsible and noble with a hint of bravado and charm from the first film making a pleasant mix in characterisation very reminiscent of Aaron’s portrayal of present day Thor. Portman does an able job as the female lead of the film though she could have used more confidence in her delivery at times. Kat Dennings and Chris Dowd from American and UK sitcoms respectively bring some excellent light hearted moments in this film in which there are plenty and their presence is much appreciated by me in the laughing department. Hopkins brings his brand of kingly authority to Odin once again blended with some excellent grieving and despairing emotions over his wife’s death and losing sight of what the Dark Elves are capable of. He manages both quiet and conflicting scenes very well. But the star of the show once again is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Hiddleston exudes sinister malevolence in his portrayal of Loki that moves forward from how he acted in The Avengers and produces a maniacal and unpredictable performance that is both funny and disturbing at the same time. Yet he also brings a great deal of complexity to the role evident in his reaction to Frigga’s death spiralling him other the edge and masking his true feelings on the matter. Not to mention that a certain betrayal and um, parting words scene brought a great dichotomy to what Loki truly feels about the situation in the movie.

Clearly, superhero films make action sequences a big part of their focus and this film is no exception. We get plenty of fight scenes from the LOTR inspired Asgardian clash against the Dark Elves in the introduction to Heimdall being a badass in bringing down a Dark Elf ship on his own. But I’m going to focus on two specific spoilery ones. The first is the best of the fight sequences from the film IMO, meaning the Thor and Loki vs Kurse fight. Kurse’s purpose in this film is basically the attack dog, not gonna lie but in that action sequence, I was absolutely 100% fine with that. The Kurse fight was brutal, tense and packed with epic clashes between Thor, Mjolnir and Kurse. Thor’s raging attacks lashing out against Kurse’s brutality made Kurse seem like an absolute beast. When he knocked Thor away like a fly, lifting a massive boulder like it was a book or when he started beating the snot out of Thor gives you the propensity (to quote a friend) to think “oh ****” because it looks like Thor might not win. Kurse is just that brutal and that dominating in the fight. Oh and visually it’s so awesome to see two powerhouses go at each other only for the villain to be double teamed and blinded into losing the fight in a neat way. Secondly, there’s the climatic Thor vs Malekith fight. Admittedly it doesn’t end as awesomely as the Kurse one does, it’s a bit anti climatic actually. But what it lacks in finality it makes up for in inventiveness and ingenuity. The portals to the Nine Realms are now closer than ever and Thor and Malekith bounce between the realms in a creative and actually rather funny way. This gag is also played out well in the attacks of the Dark Elves on Jane, Selvig and Darcy rather humorously. Additionally, Mjolnir gets separated from Thor and is involved as part of the gags in the final fight too as it keeps zipping around to home in on its wielder. It’s surprising to see such a high stakes battle contain a good amount of levity in it. One can say it detracts from the seriousness but there’s nothing wrong with this in my eyes.

Speaking of humour, this is actually one of the funniest Marvel and comic book films to date IMO. The humour is not sacrificed for the serious plot and antagonism posed in this film. The humour works for a number of reasons from performances given by Chris Dowd and Kat Dennings to the context of the humorous scene such as a hilarious cameo from a certain Avenger and Thor hanging up Mjolnir on the coat rack when he enters the apartment. Arguably, it may be overused but there were regular chuckles and laughing in the theatre over the gags in the film so if you’re entertained, I don’t see the problem in the use of humour.

Of course, I’ve been mostly positive about this film but there are several major weaknesses in it. First and foremost is the antagonist of the piece, Malekith the Accursed. Honestly, we never see much depth to Malekith at all. The intro establishes him as wanting to cover the universe in darkness and gain ultimate power. And that’s it, nothing changes in the film. Malekith is only made a threat in the film through his actions in the plot and his attack dog Kurse whose basic role is just that, Malekith’s brutal enforcer. We don’t see any reasons or motivations for what Malekith does, he does it just because he wants to with no ultimate goal or foresight at all. It is a weak portrayal of a formidable Thor villain which is really a shame because he’s portrayed by Christopher Eccleston, a very capable actor. It would seem the prosthetics of Malekith he has to wear coupled with speaking in Dark Elvish for most of his appearances limited Eccleston’s ability to give Malekith any distinctive characteristics or reasons why he’s truly evil.

The second criticism I shall make is the remnants of an abandoned love triangle dumped in the film in favour of streamlining the Thor/Jane romance. There are remnants of a possible love triangle between Thor, Sif and Jane and it was hinted that there would be such a triangle in the film in multiple interviews. Yet all we get is cryptic references and certain scenes which don’t lead anywhere and have had to be kept in for time that would have been used at providing a love triangle in the film. Abandoning this development has removed a potential area for interesting tensions between these 3 characters which would have balanced out well if executed correctly. Yet all that is for nought in favour of keeping the Thor/Jane romance. Whilst that is attempted to be fleshed out more, there’s still no real reason for the flame between Thor and Jane and the relationship between these two character doesn’t really go anywhere, similar to the first film’s romance not building up to anything particularly meaningful.

Thirdly, Thor’s Asgardian supporting cast is delegated to minor roles in this film and that really is a shame. Sif and the Warriors 3 presence in the first Thor film gave personality to the realm of Asgard via their interactions together. But here, the Warriors 3 and Sif are demoted to being mere decoys for Thor, Jane and Loki’s escape from Asgard. That’s it. No grand purpose, no real development, nothing significant like that. Rather, all they’re used for is a lackluster distraction and we don’t even get to see Sif fight off Asgardian soldiers unlike Volstagg and Fandral. Still, at least that’s better than Hogun being dumped in Vanaheim in the first 20 minutes (Does Hogun even originate from Vanaheim? He’s an Asgardian right?) Obviously, this lack of balancing between the roles the Asgardian cast plays in the film hampers one's enjoyment of it greatly since their appearances are essentially nothing more than glorified cameos.

I could nitpick even more but I’ll draw it to a close here. So my final view is that I enjoyed it for what this sequel was worth. Was it anywhere near perfect? No, absolutely not. Was it a really fun, well rounded film that improved on most of the errors of the last one and actually respected the source material? Yeah it was. There are stale areas such as the romance, the villain’s motivations and the lack of fully providing important roles for every member of the cast, especially the Asgardian ensemble. But I enjoyed myself watching Thor: The Dark World. It’s a worthy and enjoyable sequel to the original that makes improvements on what came before. And sometimes, that’s all one can ask for in a film.

Final Score: 8/10 (just)

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Lvenger's Review of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods

Having made several blogs and threads about news regarding this film, I figured I should write a review of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods. This is probably the last blog I’ll write for a while so I figured should do another review of a movie and I chose this one. Mainly because I finally found a good quality decently subbed video of the film in question which I’ve linked in the first sentence for those of you who may be interested or want to watch a well subbed copy of Battle of Gods even if like myself, you’d already read the synopsis and know what’s going to happen. As such, this review will cover SPOILERS in relation to major plot points about Battle of the Gods so I figure I should get that out the way to divert anyone who doesn’t want to be spoiled. For those still here, I shall begin.

Firstly, let me begin by talking about the story which should be the main meat and substance of a film. To summarise in short, Bills, the film’s antagonist and the God of Destruction in the DBZ universe has awoken after a 39 year ‘nap’ to find a foe that is supposedly a threat to him and his godly power. Its name is the Super Saiyan God. He sets off to find Goku, who is on King Kai’s planet training, after his aide, Whis, informed him that Frieza had been killed by this Saiyan. Meanwhile, the rest of the DBZ cast are celebrating Bulma’s 38th birthday at a party thrown by her. This neat overview paints a rosier picture than the reality of what is actually the case. The film’s story is a big let down in this department because Toriyama essentially writes an overly long filler for the first third of the film at least. Not much happens in terms of progression of the overall plot in the first half hour to 40 minutes of the film. And this is because Toriyama hinges a great deal of the early stages of the story on Bulma’s birthday party. The pacing is incredibly terrible as one can clearly see from watching the film due to Toriyama wasting precious minutes of the film on bland scenes such as the Pilaf Gang showing up after being turned young by a wish from the Dragon Balls along with Bills and Whis discovering the culinary diversity of food on Earth and a Bingo tournament. This is what we get after Toriyama takes years off the original series whilst assisting with DBZ Kai? Kai was approved by Toriyama because it was what he wanted the original anime show to be. Kai was punchier, better paced, progressed through the story at a nice rate and didn’t waste time on much filler or overdoing it on the action. I honestly don’t get the hostility fans of the original anime have to Kai because it refines and improves on so many problems with the original show. But before I lose track, this is where BOG falls down. It wastes too much time on pointless, bland filler centring on Bulma’s party for practically the first half of the film and dumps the massive exposition and epic action in the second half. This is similar to a problem I had with Man of Steel although at least that film didn’t dump plot and action all at once unlike this film. We don’t get clarification on the Super Saiyan God until over halfway into the film where Goku summons Shenron with the Dragon Balls to tell him about it. We don’t get to see how it can be summoned until there’s some more time wasting to build up tension about a twist in the story. Toriyama’s story just screams of filling up and dragging out the film unnecessarily rather than organically introducing plot elements over time balanced with some convenient action pieces.

So I’ve established my thoughts that the story’s very overrated but what about the characterisation? Well for the most part, I do think the portrayal of the characters was decent. Though Toriyama doesn’t do much to change the main characters, I guess he doesn’t need to given how iconic they are. Goku is cheery, well natured and kind yet foolish, rash and obsessive over facing such a strong opponent as Bills. Yes, there are moments when Toriyama forces him into the limelight but that’s a tradition of DBZ I’m afraid. It’s not the most organic story telling but it does have an iconicity to it. And I do think Vegeta gets treated well here. Normally, his pride and arrogance gets in the way of him progressing as a character but I did like how Toriyama placed him in a situation that required him to put aside his pride and basically babysit Bills from destroying the planet. Though the scene where Vegeta sings is the most cringe worthy, creepy and downright disturbing scene in Dragon Ball history and that’s saying something. And Vegeta gets to show that he has a heart as well when fighting Bills after he slaps Bulma and supposedly surpassing Goku. Mini rant here, I liked it but it makes NO sense for a Super Saiyan or a Super Saiyan 2 to surpass a Super Saiyan 3. This context does not help the plausibility of Vegeta surpassing Goku. I’d much rather Vegeta had turned into a Super Saiyan 3 and given Bills some trouble because that way, it would be plausible for Vegeta to have surpassed Goku. But the most interesting characterisation comes from the new antagonist Bills and his aide Whis. Yes Bills was going to destroy the planet but there was a purpose behind it which was sorely lacking in the Buu Saga and arguably the Android Saga as well. Bills is the God of Destruction so it’s his job to destroy planets to maintain order in the universe. What’s more, I liked Bills’ personality. He’s definitely one of the more interesting villains in DBZ. We get to see layers to his character for once. He’s capricious, irritable, has a legitimately plausible bad temper and is menacing enough to make the Kais quiver in fear whenever he awakes. But he’s also playful, snarky, well mannered, quite calm, inquisitive and in the end, actually humble to an extent. Such a dichotomy in DBZ villains is rare and even though this is far from a good film, Bills is one of the most interesting villains to come out of DBZ. Whis is alright I guess, a bit too much of an obsession on food for him but he balances an absent minded charm with a clarity for what Bills wants and the story at hand.

As a side note, the rest of the DBZ cast could have done with more characterisation if Toriyama had balanced the plot more effectively. But now I’ll spend a short paragraph looking at the humour in this film. Aside from epic action, DBZ is known for its light hearted levity at times. Sadly, that isn’t present in a good way in this film. There are a few somewhat funny scenes like a drunken Gohan getting shot at and Whis and Bills’ reaction to Earth cuisine but they don’t outweigh the terribly bad puns. From childish jokes about the Pilaf Gang’s age to Trunks having a girlfriend (who is a younger version of a member of the Pilaf Gang) and that awfully cringeworthy scene of Vegeta singing and dancing, the attempts at humour in this film do not come close to salvaging it in the slightest. And there’s a ridiculous scene involving Bills and wasabi. The jokes are as lazily written as the plot which really hampers the enjoyment you can get from this film.

Fortunately, there is one sure fire area Dragon Ball Z never fails to impress in. Incredible action and epic fight scenes in DBZ come together like peas in a pod. Though we have to wait til the last half hour for the climatic fight scene, there are appetisers along the way. From Bills humiliating Super Saiyan 3 Goku in 2 hits to owning most of the Dragon Ball Z cast including powerful members like Majiin Buu (who managed to hold off Kid Buu for a while) and Ultimate Gohan who was a boss after his Mystic power up though it’s uncertain whether that power wore off over time, we do get sprinklings of action throughout the film that whet the DBZ fan’s appetite. These show off how obscenely powerful Bills is and how clearly he’s above the DBZ characters at this point in the story. Plus they add to the imposing gravitas Bills has. And then we come to the piece de resistance, Super Saiyan God Goku vs Bills. Now this fight captures the scope that DBZ fights are known for and deftly balances the seismic battle ranging from mountain wastelands to the centre of the Earth and even deep space. All the while balancing the close up shots of seeing punches, kicks and energy blasts fly from the personal perspectives of Goku and Bills. The balance between the huge scale of the fight along with closing in on the blows thrown itself made for an entertaining battle. This was well handled for once in BOG and it’s nice to know DBZ hasn’t forgotten everything that made it great.

Now for some notes on the animation and soundtrack. The animation was quite smooth and has come on a long way from the original show’s look and feel whilst maintaining a similarity in texture and appearance that demonstrated that this form of animation is here to stay for a while yet. And the soundtrack is better for a DBZ movie. There’s a particular point where Goku is fighting Bills when Flow’s track Hero is excellently implemented into the fight and it times perfectly with what’s going on in the fight without detracting from it. In essence, it heightens the stakes of the fight whilst not ruining the fight itself with unnecessary metal or rock. But don’t expect me to comment on the Japanese voice acting. The link I’ve provided is well subbed, one of the best subs I’ve seen for a DBZ film. You really get a sense of what’s going on which was nice. Though that was independent of the film itself and will not be counted in my final rating.

Before I finish, I’d like to make some quick thoughts on the big twists and reveals in the film. Number one, the Super Saiyan God form. I was really disappointed by this. I found it to be lazy, simplistic Kaioken redrawing with a bit of a leaner Goku and red hair. Barely any major difference in transformation which undermined the supposed draw dropping reveal of it. The Super Saiyan transformations have always been accompanied by radical designs behind them. The original Super Saiyan transformation was certainly the most revolutionary of the time giving the Saiyan golden spiky hair and a kickass yellow aura. The enhanced Super Saiyan forms bulked on the muscle which was an interesting design. Super Saiyan 2 had some neat subtle additions via the even spikier hair, a line of hair sticking downwards on the face and an electric aura. And despite what people say, I like the design for Super Saiyan 3. The increasingly longer hair to mirror the increase in power was a great balance. But unlike Super Saiyan 4, which changes too much of the Super Saiyan form, Super Saiyan God looks lazy and unoriginal. I would have liked it if the aura would have been blue instead and there was a dramatic change in appearance for Goky. Secondly, whilst the extra multiverse and gods plot point is interesting, it was tacked onto the end of the film in a rush for Toriyama to do something with later on. That’s not how you drop major plot points to be carried on in a 200 episode DBZ series Akira! And finally, Whis being stronger than Bills just undermined the menace Bills posed in the film

To conclude, despite the explosive action and decent characterisation, the story of Battle of Gods is bland and poorly mistimed throughout the film. The uneven distribution of plot, story and characters is not appreciated by me in the slightest along with the terrible humour. The fact is, this is the first major DBZ project Toriyama is on for years and he along with others I assume blow it on this film. It can sell it wants but that’s no indication of its quality. Which leaves much to be desired in that department trust me on that. There may be a spark that can be nurtured in the future but for now, this is an average film that is evidence of the flogging of a dead horse.

My Verdict: Kaioken x6 out of 10

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A new start at university for me

This blog is a bit more of a personal piece since some changes are happening in my life and I feel like informing y’all about them. So, as you can tell from the title, I’m starting university soon and am going to be studying a BA Honours History Degree. This Saturday is Fresher’s Week or the week of university where people who hardly know each other go out to various events set up by the university and get wasted. For a while, I bought into this illusionary picture of university but some stern and frank talks from my family changed my mind a great deal. When I first thought about writing this blog, I thought I’d be more enthusiastic about going to university for the unique social opportunities it provides one with along with the academic development one undergoes there. But, as I’ve realised in these past weeks, I’m actually more worried about socialising with people I don’t know than I am about the educational step up I’ll have to undergo. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no genius prodigy or anything like that but I did end up with straight As, one of them being an A* which in Britain is like an A+ I guess and a B for my final year of education. The university I’m going to is called Oxford Brookes and whilst it is an Oxford based university, it isn’t on the level of its more famous university in terms of rankings and all that. It’s a very good university and is a very good place for studying history for any student but the entry requirements are lower than more prestigious universities. You only need 3 Bs to get into the course and before I started my repeat year at a sixth form college, I had an A in history and a B in psychology with a strong chance of getting an A in religious studies. So I was pretty much guaranteed a place there given my grades. With the results I do have, I admittedly could have gotten into better universities for history such as the Russell Group Royal Holloway or even Warwick if they hadn’t rejected me because I wasn’t predicted an A in philosophy (which I did manage to get)

So why am I going to a university that I could easily get to rather than a better one? Numerous reasons for this really. First of all, I have quite a few food allergies. I’m allergic to gluten, wheat, dairy and most of all nuts. The first 3 might just make me ill but the last one will send me into anaphylactic shock where my throat closes up, my face goes red and puffy and potentially I could die if I don’t inject myself with an adrenaline pen. So you can imagine the difficulties I have with my diet. But I have an absolutely wonderful mother who’s fallen on her sword more times than I can remember and has made me an incredibly healthy but also varied and tasty diet. She’s a very good cook who’s made sure that I eat almost as variedly as ordinary people. I’ve had pizza, cheesecake and more things you wouldn’t think I could have thanks to my mother. I’m probably not appreciative enough of what she does to me even though I offer to help in any way I can with jobs around the house and teaching me to cook and all that. Anyway, the problem is that living away from home would be incredibly difficult for me. I wouldn’t be able to have canteen food or your average takeaway so I’d always have to make my own meals. But I’d have to be in self catered accommodation to do that and this would mean I would have to make my meals before other people did and this would mean I couldn’t socialise with them at meal times which would be really annoying to not be able to sit and eat meals with my roommates. Hence, Brookes is the closest university to home that is good for history and means I don’t have to worry about cooking for myself. People can judge me all you want for relying on my parents when university is supposed to be about independence and living away from parents but I’m in a different situation to them.

Second of all, there might be difficulties I have with socialising with new people. It’s a common misconceived stereotype that those who like fictional media like comics, video games and cartoons etc aren’t that good at socialising. Unfortunately, I fit that stereotype sort of well. I did build a group of friends who I thought I was quite close after spending a lot of time with in and out of school at my long term secondary (high) school but once they all left for university, I lost touch with all but two of them. And the last year I’ve spent at college hasn’t exactly been the best socialising I’ve done either. Nothing bad happened but I just didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone since most came from other parts of the country or the world so either studied in the library or went back to their host families after lessons. So yeah that was an...interesting year. But I did manage to channel more focus into my academic studies and get good grades in Religious Studies and Philosophy which was worthwhile. I didn’t need to study hard to get into Brookes but I wanted to do the best I could to challenge myself academically this past year. Being lazy in my studies isn’t something I wanted to do at any point in my life hopefully.

And third of all, a quick note on university costs. International Viners may not have heard the news that tuition fees for universities in Britain have skyrocketed to £9000 a year for most British universities making my time at university even more expensive. Staying at home cuts down on living costs and reduces the amount I and my parents have to pay back to the university. Though I might meet some people I want to share a house with in my second year as is the common tradition. Time will tell.

As for my time on Comicvine, I’ll still be on here though somewhat more infrequently than I have been in the past 3 months. Academic studies taking top priority and hopeful socialising will reduce the time I usually spend on here though I’ll try and keep up to date with the latest comic news and threads. I probably won’t be doing any more CAVs for a while which is a shame given how fun they’ve been and I’ll be blogging much less. I’ll try and write a review once a month though since I’m on a good trend with Superman Unchained so far. Speaking of my comic pull list, that’s being halved from the already meagre 8 titles a month into a pitiful 4 comics a month. I won’t have the time to read the number of comics I do anymore and though digital might be more practical, I don’t like reading comics off a screen. I much prefer a print copy in my hands and I’m more than willing to cut down on the number of comics I read along with having my subscription come a month later to do that. Though I’ve always been a month behind anyway. The series I’m keeping are Superman Unchained (good luck trying to get me to drop this one), Thor: God of Thunder, Wonder Woman and Indestructible Hulk. Yes I know they’re all titles from the Big Two, TMNT just missed the list but with Villain’s Month in September, I’m keeping the series for one more issue given that I’m only reading one Villain’s Month title. And I’m missing out on loads of Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Valiant and more titles and I was just expanding my reading horizons this summer. But the thing is these are some of the better comics of the Big Two and they’re doing awesome things that I just wouldn’t want to miss out on. Especially Wonder Woman, the last issue was absolutely brilliant, my favourite issue of the series yet. I look forward to Unchained more but Wonder Woman is the better title for me.

So I know it sounds like I’ve vented a lot and am moaning on this blog but truth be told, these are only minor issues and hesitations I have about the new start I’m making in life. I’m lucky to have the family I do that has been supporting me all the time. And I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to go to university and start to make something of myself by learning new things and gaining new knowledge. And, though this may be cheesy, I’m glad I found this place. I’ve known some awesome people on here who I like and respect a great deal. And I’ve had great talks about the medium we all share a passion for. Plus I’ve learnt new things about the medium I never knew before. And for the community I have on here, I’m very grateful for. I’ll still be here for a few more years in the very least if not longer.

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Why an LOTR comic book series would be a good idea

That's Lord of The Rings by the way in case there's an unlikely user who doesn't know what I'm on about. I doubt I’m the first to ask this question or make a blog on it but there’s a gap on here as far as I can see so I’m gonna write this blog about it. I’m sure most of you will have seen the Lord of the Rings films or read the books and enjoyed them as much as I have. But recently, I was thinking about why a Lord of the Rings comic book series would be a brilliant idea to continue the mythology and history of the franchise by expanding upon the rich history Tolkien created in his book along with unanswered questions about some of the main characters and the lore that can be mined from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. The sad thing is that it doesn’t seem likely that such a tantalising idea would be coming into fruition any time soon. But all the same, this is a comic book site and speculation over everything whether it’s happening or not is the name of the game after all.

A goldmine of LOTR stories ripe for comic book story telling

When one considers the range of stories that can be told in a comic book extension of the Lord of the Rings, it is amazing at the depth and range of stories that can be told. Allow me to start with the most obvious way to tell a LOTR comic book story. Whilst new material might be harder to deal with at first, a good place to start would be expanding upon Tolkien’s original material. Let me provide you with an example. In The Return of the King, there is an appendix that deals with Aragorn and Arwen’s relationship, both in how they met under the White Birches of the House of Elrond to Aragorn’s last days in Minas Tirith. This appendix gives an enticing tease of Aragorn’s earlier life from living in the House of Elrond under the name Estel (which is Elvish for Hope), his relationship with Elrond and Arwen, his childhood and teenage years. In particular, the most interesting and comic book story worthy part in the Appendix is what Aragorn gets up to for 30 years after leaving the House of Elrond aged 19. To summarise, he fights against the forces of Sauron, meets Gandalf and travels with him, rode in the Rohirrim and fought for the Lord of Gondor on sea and land before disappearing into the south and then coming to Lothlorien. Tolkien describes him as “the most hardy of living men, skilled in their crafts and lore, and was yet more than they” due to his time spent amongst Elves in the House of Lords. Also, he becomes “somewhat grim to look upon, unless he chanced to smile.” Now tell me if this isn’t the makings for a good comic book series under a good writer who understands the lore and is capable of crafting a compelling story with an epic plot and interesting characters that Aragorn comes across in his travels. Evidently, I’ve focused on Aragorn as a main character as he’s my favourite LOTR character and there’s a blueprint for his stories in The Return of The King’s appendix. But how cool would it be to see some of Legolas’ adventures in the forests of Mirkwood with his Elven kin pulling off badass archery feats? Or Gimli’s time in the mines with Gloin, one of the original 12 Dwarves that travelled with Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit? Or Boromir’s tenure as a Captain of Gondor defending Osgoliath from the hordes of Mordor on a daily basis? Such prospects would be worthy of publish under the right creative team and direction. Even if the blueprints are not contained within the original source material, it must be worth expanding on things such as what Gandalf got up to in his early days on Middle Earth.

Surely a comic book about any of these characters would be an interesting creative opportunity and draw in LOTR fans and sales?)

The first paragraph has been about the main characters of The Lord of The Rings but there are supporting characters whose past and adventures could be equally explored as well. For example, the characters from Rohan played a big role in The Two Towers and The Return of The King so it would be interesting for a comic book series to explore a more earlier time in Rohan’s history. With an eclectic cast of characters such as Theoden, Eowyn and Eomer along with supporting characters such as Theodred and eventually Grima Wormtongue that could appear later on to tie in with Saruman’s possession of Theoden, this could be a interesting avenue to explore for die hard LOTR fans. There’s a lot of backstory to Eomer and Eowyn as they come from another family and were taken in by Theoden after their parents’ death. For Eomer, a good writer can explore his time in the Rohirrim and his adventures defending Rohan from stray orcs and servants of Sauron. Eowyn’s desire to prove herself as worthy a warrior as any man yet denied the chance to test her combat skills would make for some great angst in a story. And Theoden could be portrayed as a wearying king slowly being taken over under the thrall of Saruman and Grima. There, several interesting plot points that could be explored in a comic book about the well known characters in Rohan along with fleshed out sub plots. Or what about a series about LOTR fan favourite character Gollum? Gollum’s dual personalities along with his sad obsession with the One Ring have created some sympathy for the character. And there could be plenty of uses of his signature lines such as “My Precious.” His origin is pretty clear but there’s an unexplored gap in LOTR history between The Hobbit and his appearance in the Fellowship of The Ring. It’s mentioned that he ventured out of the Misty Mountains to search for the ring but when he lost the trail, ventured into Mordor to look for it. The books make mention of both Aragorn and Legolas coming across Gollum and it would be interesting to see why there’s an animosity between Gollum and the Elves along with him interacting with the rest of the LOTR universe and delving deeper into his character. Furthermore, seeing more details on how Gollum was tortured along with him apparently seeing Sauron and forming an alliance with Shelob would make for some very interesting stories

Yesss, we wantsss a comic book of our own My Precioussss! Gollum, Gollum!

Of course, creating new material for the LOTR universe might initially be tricky. Fortunately, there is a goldmine of stories ripe for being told in comic book format in the form of The Silmarillion. As I mentioned before, this is Tolkien’s other LOTR novel published 4 years after his death that covers the length and bredth of the history of the Lord of The Rings universe. From Illuvatar creating the world from a Great Music to the defeat of Sauron, this novel includes many stories set in the past of Middle Earth and contain a deep history of Middle Earth. I’ll only pick a few examples to focus on though and this first one is an unconvential one that would be hard pressed to be published even if there ever was an LOTR comic book series. The earlier days of Middle Earth tell of mighty encounters between the spirits/gods of Middle Earth, The Valar which are the higher order of gods second only to Illuvatar and the Maiar, of the same order as The Valar but slightly lower down in the pecking order. In any case, the early days of Middle Earth weren’t the most pleasant as Melkor, formerly of the Valar and the original villain of Middle Earth was often stirring the pot and trying to take Middle Earth for himself. He had a stock of servants under him. From perverted Elves made into Orcs to corrupting Maiar into Balrogs, creating dragons and having the LOTR bad guy Sauron serve under him, Melkor’s been the bigger threat to Middle Earth for centuries, if not ages. Now, where I’m going with this train of thought is this: What about a series exploring the Valar, The Maiar, the early days of Middle Earth and the conflicts instigated by Melkor against Middle Earth? Yeah it’s incredibly unlikely given the flowery language in The Silmarillion but would a Sandman style book by an author like Neil Gaiman work well here? Gaiman uses abstracts such as Death and Dream as characters in his Sandman title and a writer who can make characters out of Valar like Manwe or Melkor could have the makings of an unusually interesting book. But I’ve picked this because it’s highly unlikely to be adapted into a comic book story even if there ever was an LOTR comic book series

Would a Sandman style approach work for the Valar and gods of Middle Earth?

Finally, another story from The Silmarillion which would actually work quite well in a comic book is the chapter “Of Beren and Luthien.” It spans pages 162-188 and would fit a lot of criteria for a unique comic book. The main two characters are Beren, a shape shifting human who can turn himself into animals and Luthien, a beautiful Elvish maiden who risked everything for the love of Beren. So what we have here is the classic starcrossed lovers story a la Lord of The Rings style. Beren gets set the task of bringing the Elvish King, the father of Luthien, one of the Silmarials, a crystal from Melkor/Morgoth’s crown. Beren and Luthien are aided by an Elf called Finrod who is repaying a debt as one of Beren’s forefathers saved his life and a badass Wolfhound called Huan. Now those of you who are into Game of Thrones probably love the loyal and protective Direwolves that the children of Lord Stark own. Well, those wolves have nothing on the awesome Wolfhound Huan. He’s as big as a horse, is blessed with special powers by the Valar, takes a great fondness to Beren and Luthien and can speak three times. He even manages to beat Sauron when Sauron fights him as a great werewolf. Anything that can take Sauron down a peg definitely deserves respect. It takes a werewolf called Carcharoth reared by Morgoth himself to kill him in the end. So, in my opinion, this story from The Silmarillion has almost everything. Romance, adventure, great stakes, perilous times, evil foes, tragedy, death and a happy ending as the lovers get to be together in the end. It’s tales like these that mean it could be played out very well indeed in the comic book format.

When the Direwolves from Game of Thrones subdue Dark Lords like Huan does to Sauron, let me know.

At the end of the day, these wild ideas of mine won’t come to fruition. Probably due to the Tolkiens’ ownership over the rights to The Lord of The Rings universe and perhaps because no one sees the merit in a comic book LOTR series or wishes to go there. But look at the Expanded Star Wars universe for a candidate of how comic books are capable of enriching the lore and stories of another fictional property. Star Wars fans appreciate the EU for everything it’s expanded to the universe they love dearly and a LOTR EU comic book universe could have just the same effect. I’d buy the hell out of an Aragorn comic to be certain! So if you’ve read this far, thanks for enduring my humble rant on an LOTR comic book series. Feel free to share your thoughts on my blog and on an LOTR series yourselves!

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