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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Holiday Update

Just in case I get a backlog of notifications and delay in answering them, it's because I'll be on holiday tomorrow and either will be on infrequently or not much at all if there's no Internet connection.

Oh and if anyone's interested, I got my results and a place in university today. Reasons to be cheerful eh? :P

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My Top 5 New 52 Superman Stories

The New 52 has been getting its fair share of justified criticism for the way it handles the reintroduction of characters into the New 52 universe, overmanaging editorials dictating rather than assisting creators with stories and an ignorance of the rich history DC have created since COIE. Among those criticised, Superman was seen as not getting the treatment he deserved, mostly due to the disappointing Superman series. Even now with Lobdell on board, it hasn’t gotten too much back on track IMO. But this blog isn’t about Lobdell’s Superman run. It’s about what my 5 favourite New 52 Superman stories are. Thanks to a select few writers, Superman has been written well with slight tweaks to his mythology that work well within the New 52 universe. Although Morrison’s Men of Steel arc brought back the Golden Age social crusader and hero of the people into Superman’s origin again, none of the earlier issues of Action Comics make it into my top 5 New 52 Superman stories. Anyway, let me begin. I’ll limit spoilers for those who may not have read the issues

5) Action Comics #19

I juggled this and Superman Unchained #2 for this position but despite me giving them the same story score, Unchained has a few more flaws. Although if I were to choose which one I’d read for entertaining, Unchained would take the cake. But this issue has the better story. Diggle kicks off his shortest run on a series ever with a spectacular grasp over Superman and his supporting cast. His Lois is full of determination and gutsy enough to free political prisoners whilst getting the story out to the propaganda censored Quarac. And their interactions are exactly spot on. There’s even a build up of romantic tension before Clark finds out about a problem he needs to deal with. Diggle’s Superman contains many of the Pre Flashpoint characteristics that have been sorely missed from the New 52. Clark tries to negotiate and find a peaceful route to dealing with some robots controlled by human pilots. Not only does Diggle deliver on the action, he writes an engaging plot which is executed very well. And for those who prefer Diggle for his darker writing, he injects his dark writing into Lex Luthor. His Lex is sinister and has a menacing, compassionless presence on panel. Not to mention that Diggle uses Lex for a fresh, interesting plot to pose a threat to Superman. It’s a massive shame that Daniel takes over the writing for the next issue because the quality of the story drops like a stone down a well. Daniel is a brilliant artist but a rubbish writer.

4) Action Comics #18

Morrison is a writer whose work is best viewed with the big picture in hand. His run on Action Comics has its fair share of critics as it’s not the match made in heaven All Star Superman was. Nonetheless, I enjoyed Morrison’s run. It has its flaws, moreso than usual for Morrison but he injected some golden age and sci fi elements into the series and employed some wacky Silver Age concepts that made for an engaging story. Which, as per usual, is typical Morrison style. By the time this issue came around, a lot of people wanted the story to end. And I’ll admit, Action Comics #17 was a terrible set up to this issue. But here, Morrison redeems himself and brings the symbolic message of his arc full circle. The main villain of the piece, Vyndktvx is quite underrated in his role as the villain of Morrison’s arc as he’s responsible for affecting Superman’s life in a grand way. In this issue, Vyndktvx strikes at Superman’s core ideals and here Morrison brings the battle of good ideas and bad ideas onto the comic book pages. There’s some very smart hints as to Superman’s nature being a cash cow for the comic book industry and the defiant response Superman makes to Vyndktvx encapsulates why he’s so much more than that. The sci fi wackiness comes from Captain Comet and the Cometeers who play an excellent role in helping Superman and bringing the characters Morrison has been working on full circle. The seeded ideas Morrison had placed in his run (the way in which Vyndktvx is beaten was mentioned in Action Comics #11) along with the overall message Morrison was giving for this series comes to the forefront. That message, for me was that Superman is capable of triumphing against any odds, no matter how impossible they may seem because he is the ultimate idea for the ideals of humanity. A man who never gives up and never stops fighting for what’s right.

3) Superman Unchained #1

Now, someone (cough FadetoBlackBolt cough :P) on here who may or may not read this blog might be irked I give this issue a higher place than something of Morrison’s run. To him I say firstly, my two favourite New 52 Superman stories are Morrison ones and secondly, that this first issue felt like the kind of Superman story I’d been waiting to read. Morrison had done something ambitious, innovative and symbolic but Snyder wrote a fresh, compelling Superman story that felt like a real, more traditional with a twist Superman story. Snyder has been criticised for not understanding Batman and whilst I disagree with some assertions, I can see that easily. But this first issue of Unchained showed a deep understanding of what makes Superman tick. Snyder writes a Superman who feels more like Superman than Johns or Lobdell have made him feel like. He’s calm, compassionate and charming and feels more like the Superman I know and love should act. And the threat Superman faces of a falling space station with a nuclear core whilst saving two astronauts is extremely well executed. Here, Superman is given multiple challenges that require innovative and precise applications of his powers. The true test of a writer of Superman is not to nerf him but give him threats that requite quick thinking and accurate uses of his vast powers. That is how you write entertaining Superman stories. Along with excellent characterisation and a good plot of course. Snyder’s use of Superman’s supporting cast is wonderful. Lois, Jimmy and Perry get some awesome moments in this issue, Perry in the back up. But it’s Lois who is the most striking as she challenges and guides Clark in the story. And the plot is well written too with an engaging narrative and compelling mystery.

2) Action Comics #13

Now we come to my second favourite Superman story of the New 52. This issue of Action Comics does contain poor artwork but fortunately, I prioritise story way above artwork. In this issue, Morrison brings back the Phantom Zone and a long forgotten inmate in spectacular fashion as a palpable threat for Superman in a really entertaining story. Morrison explores the Phantom Zone in a splendid fashion and the art style does compliment the ghostly phantoms Morrison depicts the inmates in throughout the issue. There’s nifty sci fi technobabble such as ecto technology and googles that allow the Zoners to see inside the Zone. But it’s not just these flairs of Morrison’s writing that make this issue so good. The first thing that makes it good is the inclusion of the Phantom Stranger. It was not only a good way to promote his up coming series but also allowed him to play a meaningful role in this issue. Stranger’s presence in the story is easily justified by Morrison and he’s written in a much better fashion than most of his tenure in the New 52. But the star of the show is Krypto. Morrison redesigns him into a more wolfhound like dog and makes him look badass whilst keeping the loyal, faithful hound aspect of Krypto. Their reunion is touching and when they’re separated, it tugs on the heartstrings to think that Krypto might not see his boy again. The main villain, Xa-Du is a good character. Morrison gives him some interesting villainous tendencies and even if his plans are a tad generic, they have a distinctive flair to them. But the best thing about this issue is how Superman wrests control of Xa-Du’s suit to come back into the world of the living. Here Morrison displays his characteristic understanding of the metaphysical meaning of Superman that his will for doing good and the right thing is indomitable. That was a real highlight for me.

1) Action Comics #12

At last, my favourite Superman story of the New 52. An odd choice for some I assume. But let me justify it. Action Comics #10-12 or “Bulletproof” as the trade version calls it is my favourite Superman arc from the New 52 so far (though Unchained may well surpass it) And issue 12 rounds off the storyline wonderfully. For those who don’t know the story, I’ll summarise. Clark Kent gets caught in an explosion which was meant to throw Zimrod the Hunter off Clark’s trail. In the meantime, Clark gets a new secret identity but calls in Batman to check Clark’s background to see if he can be brought back. Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger called Adam comes to Earth to find a Neo-Sapien, a human born further up along the evolutionary tree. Superman then gets in a fight with Adam who promptly uses his mental abilities to subdue Superman. So this is easily my favourite issue of Morrison’s run as he deftly balances the strong plot of Adam coming to rescue a girl from interested parties along with coming into conflict with Superman. The opening of the issue is an interesting throwback to Pre Flashpoint times mixed in with New 52 continuity. Superman’s fight with Adam is expertly played out with Adam seeming like a real threat to Superman due to his advanced mental abilities. What’s more, Adam’s backstory is freshly integrated into the New 52 by Morrison and I really want to see more of Adam Blake in the New 52 as a result. The sci fi aspect of the character is played up excellently thanks to Morrison’s script. Susie is fleshed out into a great character from her Golden Age counterpart. Again, this is typical Morrison to read the classic stories and write them in a modernising, relatable way. And of course, Lois’s life is hanging by a thread thanks to an incident in the previous issue. The way Superman saves her is pure genius and is testament to Morrison’s impressive understanding and execution of Superman’s powers in his stories. And we get to see plenty of threads come together in Morrison’s overall arc from Zimrod to “the Little Man.” Overall, I enjoyed reading this issue very much and for now, it’s my favourite Superman story of the New 52 and one of the best stories from the New 52 IMO.

Sorry that this is quite a long blog. I guess I had more to write on these issues than I expected. In any case, whilst the New 52 is far from perfect as one can imagine, there are silver linings and gems hidden away. And Superman has had a pretty good ride all things considered. Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading this long winded essay of a blog and feel free to comment below :)

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I forgot it was my 3rd Vinerversary!

Since I've been so busy as of late, I'd forgotten to make a blog about it being 3 years since I joined Comicvine on July 30th 2010. I've been on and off here due to exams and commitments but it's been another fun year spending time on here and sharing my interest and passion for this underrated form of literature that is the comic book industry. I've met and talked to plenty of interesting, pleasant people on here (and some 'odd' ones :P) but that certainly hasn't dampened my affection for this place. As I've said before, what drew me to Comicvine was the great community on here which is something very few other sites have in all honesty. The friendliness and openness on here is a welcoming sight. So even though things may change in the future, I'm still more than up for remaining a member of Comicvine and being a part of the awesome community!

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Some of my musings on mainstream and indie comics

Having just read Peter Panzerfaust #11 and being pleasantly surprised with the quality of this title, I thought I’d write this blog on some of my musings on mainstream and Indie comics. I suppose I should start by defining mainstream as the Big Two comic companies, DC and Marvel and Indie comics as all other comic book companies such as Image, IDW, Dark Horse etc. Although I’m writing about indie comics, I’m definitely not an expert on them, that’s for certain. My expertise, and preference is, for now, with the Big Two due to their iconic characters and familiar creative teams. Thus, my desire to step outside into the realm of indie comics brings with it an unfamiliarity to it and for me, that’s a big appeal in my taking an interest in indie comics.

I was first exposed to the wider world of comic books upon joining this site although I had read a Dark Horse Star Wars graphic novel in the past. I can only remember a Qui Gonn Jinn/Obi Wan Kenobi story from that graphic novel but thinking of it reminds me of the biggest strength of the expanded universe. Much like the Big Two, the original films conformed to certain standards in telling their story. The original trilogy was fine with this and remains my second favourite film franchise of all time after Lord of the Rings (I wonder if there are any Lord of the Rings comic books) But the prequels, not so much. Fortunately, the best thing about the prequels was that they spawned many other stories from writers and artists who wanted to add their own nugget of history to the fictional world they adored as much as the fans. Hence, Star Wars fans received many more stories that fleshed out the prequel characters and gave them far more depth than George Lucas could even dream to accomplish. Indeed, many Expanded Universe stories have been suggested and offered up as candidates for what Disney should base their next Star Wars films on. Whether they’ll do that is debatable. But in any case, the rich history of the EU has increased the appeal of the Star Wars universe by either using familiar characters in different settings or crafting new characters from different points in the chronology of Star Wars using elements familiar to the franchise. Dark Horse has done an exceptional job delivering quality Star Wars stories and it’s a shame they’ll lose the rights to Marvel eventually.

Of course, I’ve gone off topic from the comic that spawned this blog. Peter Panzerfaust #11 was an impulse buy after Green Lantern #21 and Batman #21 disappointed me greatly. I figured I should dip my toes in the other comic book pool and browsed for any titles that interested me. June’s issue of Peter Panzerfaust solicited it as a jump on point and after a bit of research, I decided to pick it up. It offered a novel take on JM Barrie’s classic fairy tale as placing Peter Pan and his supporting cast into a World War II setting seems a bit of an odd idea. Yet I hear the series retains the classic boys adventure theme of the original tale whilst mixing it with wartime and modern sensibilities. I have to admit that reading this issue, I felt a totally different story being told than what I’m used to with the Big Two. June’s pull list for me so far has included Superman rescuing a falling space station, 3 different versions of Thor battling the God Butcher and Hulk attempting to stop a supervillain weapons arms exchange. Yet this issue of Peter Panzerfaust started with a 6 page speechless scenario of Felix, a character rescued by Peter and the ‘Lost Boys’, hunting a deer and killing a wolf. The sequence was excellently rendered and structured by Kurtis J Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins that it does not need the expositional thought boxes or bubbles that the Big Two love to use. Rather, they opt for a simple playing out of events that depicts the grim, brutal battle for survival and when paired with a scene with Felix later on, speaks a great deal about the character. There’s much more I could express about what was so good about this issue but that would take too long. Suffice to say, it was a good introduction to my first Image comic and I’m buying next month’s issue. The one after that, there’ll be problems.

But Peter Panzerfaust is not the first indie title I’ve been reading. Thanks to the venerable suggestion of Gregg Katzman, since August 2012, I’ve been reading IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. After Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, the TMNT are my favourite non DC or Marvel fictional franchise. My favourite interpretation of the Turtles is the 2003 series. It was my first introduction to the TMNT and for me, defined the Turtles and their supporting cast. With the exception of Splinter, I hear the voices of the 2003 cast when I read that series. And it was because I watched the 2003 series that I decided to pick this title up. And boy am I glad I did. Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz deliver a fresh story each issue that introduces some new element and blends it seamlessly with the rich lore of the TMNT. The characters feel the same yet have same different tweak to them that adds to the uniqueness of the series. And the situations and challenges they go up against in these stories are a real testament to the creativity of the team involved on this project. It’s been a real treat following this series and City Fall is shaping up to be one helluva story using threads and plot points from many different TMNT stories so far. It’s the personal touches only allowed on a creator owned project close to the author’s heart where you get quality comics like this in the Indie realm.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the comic book world outside the Big Two after all. There are many more companies besides the bigger ones (10 Internet points to anyone who’s heard of the company called Markosia) and many more undiscovered creators and stories. It’s a shame that due to university, I have to cut my already meagre pull list down from 8 titles to 4 must read DC and Marvel titles. It does mean TMNT will bite the dust though I’ll ask for the last two parts of City Fall for Christmas and keep up to date with the IDW Turtles until the summer when I’ll pick it up again. Ultimately, this is the best thing about an indie comic, when it grabs your attention and interest in much the same way a comic from the Big Two does. I doubt I've really revolutionised the way we look at indie and mainstream comics but I hoped you liked reading my blog on my thoughts on the two divergences in comics. Feel free to comment below on what you thought and what your interest in mainstream and indie comics is :)

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A Super Disappointment? - My Man of Steel Review (Spoilers)

Since Man of Steel has been released for a while I figure I can discuss spoilers in this review on a comic book site where most people will probably have seen the movie before me. However, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, then don’t go further than this paragraph to avoid spoilers. Anyway, I finally got around to seeing Man of Steel yesterday as a post exam treat. And what did this Superman fan think of it? The title indicates it but I’ll let my review speak for myself.

Firstly, I suppose I should go over what I did like about this film. Overall, Man of Steel possesses a very strong cast who deliver spectacularly on their roles. Russell Crowe turned his role of Jor-El from a glorified cameo that Marlon Brando made it in the first Superman films into an awesome badass father for Superman. Given his past roles in action films, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Crowe’s Jor-El is a bit more active. Yet Crowe imbues Jor-El with a natural authority that particularly comes across in the early scenes of the film when talking to the Council and confronting Zod. He also serves as a strong guiding force for Superman when they finally meet and you can see the impact Jor-El will have on Clark becoming Superman being as strong an influence as Jonathan Kent. Speaking of Jonathan Kent, the other Robin Hood of a Dad for Superman, Kevin Costner, is an excellent source of moral wisdom for Clark in the flashback sequences. He displays Jonathan Kent’s moral intuition on solving moral problems very well which shows how his influence on Clark guided him into becoming the man he was capable of being. And I thought that how he died was quite a poignant event in Clark’s life. Diane Lane also plays a fantastic Martha Kent, filled with the love and care of any great mother whilst also making it clear that it was not just Jonathan Kent who played a prominent role in shaping Clark Kent.

Furthermore, the main villains of this piece are very much the sinister pair. Michael Shannon makes a brilliant megalomaniac out of Zod whose intentions are understandable. He was born to protect the people of Krypton and even throughout all his violent, despicable crimes committed in the film, he is trying to ensure his people’s survival the whole time. And when that’s taken away from him, Shannon plays up Zod’s loss in spectacular fashion in that last fight. But the real surprise star is Antje Traue’s Faora. It’s not a long performance by any means but Faora gets an awesome mean streak along with some ominous lines delivered excellently by Traue. Plus Fishbourne plays the no nonsense yet also has a heart Perry White well enough.

You’ll notice I haven’t talked about Henry Cavill as Superman yet. Well, to his credit, he is much better suited to the role of Superman than Christian Bale ever was to the role of Batman. Cavill does the best he can out of a limited script. For instance, When he talks to the authorities, or anyone for that matter, it has the perfect blend of respect, directness and control. That’s a good product of the modern version of Superman. Still, Cavill's Supes is a lonelier, darker character than previous installments, but that is a product of the script, not the actor. I will discuss that more later.

Next, I’ll move onto the story itself. Was it good? Well it was decent enough to follow. It played out in much the same way a Superman origin story would be played out but there were some interesting additions. I liked the inclusion of the Bryne/Post Crisis notion of a Krypton that had expanded into the universe before becoming xenophobic and committing to birth control. Kal-El’s birth was what broke the mould and made him unique in being able to forge his own destiny. That was played up well in the film via Crowe’s quote “What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society intended?” Also the flashbacks were the highlight of the film for me as they really looked at what Clark had to go through when he was younger and the differences he possessed were a real fear to young Clark. Credit has to go to the young actor who played him for pulling that off very well. And I enjoyed the Birthright influence of Clark travelling the world as a mysterious figure taking remote jobs and saving lives without many knowing who he really was. Meeting Jor-El was pretty well handled as well. The first two thirds or so of the film do progress well in terms of story flow. It’s the final third where things get difficult.

As Snyder is directing the film, I had no doubt there would be over the top epic visual effects and I was not disappointed. Snyder really upped the game in what we can do visually in a film. Krypton was filled with gorgeous wildlife, epic aerial battles and a harrowingly looking planetary explosion. Superman’s first flight was a real treat and I liked how Snyder made him practice first before giving us the epic scene of Superman properly lifting off that had me grinning the entire time. Superman’s flight has never looked so good. And what an action packed feast it was! From Jor-El and Zod’s confrontation on Krypton to Superman’s fight with Faora and Non to Superman vs Zod, Snyder pulled off the look and feel of these fights very well. The punches looked authentic and it was practically how I imagined a bunch of godlike aliens would fight. Tearing up streets, buildings and anything in their way made for spectacular visual effects. Although they bring their own problems to the table, Nolan and Goyer do act as good steadying influence on Snyder so he doesn’t make his past mistakes.

However, as you may have noticed by the title, these positives are going to be weighed down by some crippling flaws. Let me begin with the least of these. There are 3 actresses whose roles I didn’t like. Aylet Zurer played a forgettable Lara in all honesty. Her role was inconsequential and not done well. Also Jenny Olsen was literally the most pointless character I have ever seen in a film. Nothing new was brought to the table with a female actress replacing the male Jimmy Olsen. A male actor could have played the same role and could have done just as good a job as the female actress. Finally, although I love Amy Adams in The Fighter, she played a Lois that was wet behind the ears. She seemed quite moralistic which played into the film’s theme of how Superman is shaped by those around him. But she didn’t have the spunk or defining edge that other actresses such as Margot Kidder or Teri Hatcher brought to the role in the past.

Secondly, I really don’t like the tone of Nolan’s films. Especially not what he does with my two favourite comic book characters. His way of filmmaking is highly overrated if you ask me. By trying to make Superman into a truly believable character that could exist in our world, he mutes the actual believable nature of Superman. That is, Nolan’s tone clashes with the very notion of Superman as a bright ideal of the best humanity can possibly be. Nolan tries to bring this about in the film but it is executed in a way that makes the film cold and hollow. This coldness also comes from the added sci fi tone of the film injected into it. It severely lacks the heart and substance of what makes Superman the character he is. There isn’t any lightness or friendliness to this Superman. Nor is there a gentility or friendliness to the character that the first two Superman films captured in an abundance. Nolan seems to ignore the sincerity of the values that Superman stands for. Instead, he opts for a bleak, morally ambiguous introspective look at Superman. And Superman is not about moral ambiguity but moral certainty. He has been raised by the Kents who instilled within him one of the strongest ethical compasses seen in a fictional character. He does not worry what the right thing to do is because he unquestionably knows how to act on it. He can face opposition and doubts, that’s not what I’m objecting to. What I am objecting to is that Superman can’t seem to grasp what the right thing to do is when the essence of his character is about doing the right thing.

Furthermore, the story doesn’t lend itself to the film. Despite the first two thirds being the better part, it still jumps around from flashback to present back to a flashaback etc. It really bemused me that Goyer was unable to keep a steady flow or focus on the story, instead opting for a confusing jump around. I would have liked to seen a more concise structure to the story that kept the viewers engaged and focused on events rather than moving backwards and forwards to different parts of the story. What’s more, the story’s structure is very poorly paced. We have exposition, origin and character introductions in the first part of the film. Then, in the last part, we have the action packed invasion of the Phantom Zone escapees. It’s poorly paced and doesn’t move as succinctly as it should do. I would have preferred it if the action sequences weren’t left until the last minute so that the last part of the film didn’t feel as shallow as it did. And the themes were not subtly placed at all. Take the ridiculous religious imagery for example. Clark goes to see a reverend (who according to the Easter Egg details on a website was Father Leone from For Tomorrow. Nice.) and is positioned right behind a stained window of Jesus. It just seems detrimental to Superman to even think of linking him to any religious doctrine. Yes I know Superman was created by two Jewish teenagers and that the parallels between the biblical story of Moses is evident but Superman has outgrown that now. He represents the best of humanity, the ideal human nature that we should all strive towards. He should not be bogged down in stupid Jesus comparisons. And I am really not a fan of how seemingly everyone knows who Superman is. Lois, Father Leone, hell he even says he’s from Kansas to General Swanwick! Talk about giving away personal information. He may as well discard the Clark Kent disguise since everyone knows who he is. As Lois now knows who Clark is, it removes the relationship present in the earlier comics that made the pairing of Lois and Clark so charming in their trying to one up each other along with the suspicion surrounding Clark. Now that can’t come into play which is a real shame.

Finally, this film’s greatest sin is not understanding the core of Superman’s character. As I said earlier, Nolan’s tone along with the sci fi feel of the film makes Superman’s character cold, hollow and kind of hopeless. To use the words of my mother after seeing the film, Superman comes across as nothing more than a glorified super soldier. There is no sense of him being the protector of humanity when his battles with the Kryptonians destroy more buildings and probably (if we’re being realistic as Nolan likes to be) killed far more people than he saved. Seriously, Metropolis is a blooming wreck after Superman and Zod fought in it. What exactly is Superman the protector of now, a construction site? Also I didn’t get the sincerity of Superman’s values in this film nor a friendliness or being able to approach this character. I wanted to be inspired, I wanted to root for my all time favourite superhero on this big screen appearance of his. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. There was hardly anything of my all time favourite fictional character on there. Especially not after THAT SCENE. Let me tell you what I was thinking beforehand. As Superman had Zod in a choke hold and Zod’s heat vision was edging ever closer towards the family, I was thinking “This’ll be where he shows us that there’s always another way to solve our problems, a better way that we can aspire to. He wouldn’t break...” And then I heard Zod’s neck snap. I almost shouted “No!” in the theatre and a few of the people sitting next to me gave me funny looks which prompted in a short snap from my mother not to be so dramatic. But that was when my heart broke. This is going to cause some major disagreement when you read this but Superman does not kill. Not even as a last resort. I’m sorry but that is not the character is at all about. At the core of his character, Superman’s greatest strength and most appealing characteristic is his ethical compass. It is one built on his upbringing by the Kents as salt of the earth people who raised their child to be as special and as principled as they could. This was so when he grew up, he could shoulder the weight of the world on his shoulders. That ethical compass never came across in Man of Steel and if you don’t get Superman’s ethical compass right, you don’t get the right Superman film. At all. And for those who say that was the only way he could stop Zod, what about throwing him away, punching him, kicking him, flying high up into the sky? Those are 3 things off the top of my head and I’m hardly a good writer. Goyer had a duty to write Superman better than this and if it wasn’t him who ordered Superman’s killing of Zod, then whoever did has earned my ire at destroying the essence of what makes Superman who he is. And for those of you who cite the times Superman has killed in the comics, I’ll debunk those in the comments.

Overall, I was tempted to give this a a lower score and do away with the DC Cinematic Universe. When I came out of the cinema, I was disappointed, despondent and incredibly frustrated. Tell me something, is that how you’re supposed to feel coming out of a Superman film? Frankly, I’d be surprised if the answer was yes. But that be fair to the strengths of the film. It’s just that I came in with high expectations. The trailers lulled me into thinking this would be an epic film. And I was sorely let down as a Superman fan. This character means the world to me and I don’t entirely like this interpretation of him. It’s a decent film though but it’s far from a good film, let alone a great or phenomenal film. Whilst there is potential for improvement, the flaws in this film are crippling and it would be a tough job to fix them so that I would be more pleased with the sequel.

Final Score: 4/10 (Yes I know that's a low score but I was tempted to go lower you know.)

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Well I'm Back...

After over a month of tedious revision and gruelling exams, I am finally free of that torment (for a while at least) as of today. I took a break from Comicvine so as not to be distracted but now I'm done with my exams, I can come on here with a clear conscience. Just sifting my way through the 57 messages left in my inbox. Thanks to the nice ones left to those of you who wrote them! I look forward to rejoining the community and catching up with what I've missed.

And no I haven't seen Man of Steel yet. A crime for a big Superman fan like myself. But I will have watched it by Sunday and will write a late review on Monday. It's good to be back I have to say! :)

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