Comics Review – Thanksgiving ’15

Its been awhile since i’ve reviewed a comic, but it’s also been awhile since i purchased a comic and it did something more than sit in my bookbag until it transitioned to sitting near my toilet on my “Books to read if my cellphone ever dies” stack. The comics i’ve mostly been reading have been what i buy at Koch Comics down in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Come with me sometime, buy a whole lot of dope old shit, and leave satisfied. Unlike some of the comics i read today.

I will be reviewing Iron Man #1 relaunch (???), Secret Wars – Planet Hulk #5, Secret Wars #6 and Kaijumax. Of these three comics, only one of them actually served more turkey than stuffing.

Iron Man #1 – Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez


Honestly purchased this comic cause it comes with a removable cover that is a cool print. I am not so much a fan of Iron Man as i am a fan of Iron Man Costumes. Anytime they release a new series, i buy the new issue to check out the new design. So mad props because i dig the new streamlined costume which is a big departure from previous designs. It is smooth, but with sharp angles. Compare to the Bleeding Edge Iron Man, which was just like poured baby oil on Tony Stark’s smooth balls. Not a fan.

I’ve also never been a fan of Bendis’ writing. Not on anything, but he’s hard to avoid in the Marvel Universe, even though his writing style is really only suited to stories taking place in a very limited quasi-whedon-esque section of Queens, somehow he ends up on across the Marvel Universe, resulting in a universe that sounds like a small section of Queens. When it comes to dialogue, its something that he can handle with ease, but if you want anything, like say a character who’s primary appeal his cutting edge science fiction and big robot action, you will have to be satisfied with about three pages of that. For a relaunch, its a failure. There’s maybe one line about this new armor and why it (and this series) is different than any previous take. It somehow (remains unexplained) able to replicate the capabilities of any other previous iron man armor ever made. How this machine is now any different than magic actually serves to weaken the introduction of the new armor, as science fiction works best with how a writer introduces rules to his world and then works within them to provide unexpected stories.

There’s something happening with Madame Masque, and you can’t bring yourself to care about it, because Bendis treats a relaunch like an extended teaser trailer. There would be more character development if it had some Nolan BRRAAAAAHM noises over a feverish montage.

The bulk of the issue takes place on a date where a woman calls Tony Stark a ‘horn dog’, and he acts surprised. The sheer lack of self awareness that Tony Stark would have to have to be surprised at this, reminded me that Bendis is best when writing teenagers, not grown ass men who live in an age of social media and celebrity gossip. Overall, the writing fell flat, although the art was clean and served to tell the story well – there wasn’t much in this relaunch, and I have no confidence that Bendis could bring any new or interesting ideas about robotics or cybernetics into this series.

Secret Wars #6  & Secret Wars – Planet Hulk #5, – Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic, Sam Humphries & Marc Laming


Secret Wars should be right up my alley. As a kid, i read more “What If?” comics than the actual canon. I love seeing new takes on familiar characters, and for the most part, it is fun to see the different varieties and costumes of a character side by side. Nostalgia is effective, and this parallel universes allows one to indulge in nostalgia while also satisfying that fan-fiction impulse to remix.

But its hard to derive anything more than that from these series, as besides an almost impenetrable plot, none of these characters seem to matter at all. They are the literal left overs of destroyed universes, and you can’t make a meal out of scraps. Like, i guess you could, but Marvel is building their house of ideas into an actual house (BattleWorld is where all these characters from all of the marvel multiverse are …battling live), but you need more than just “Look at this Evil Hulk, its actually Evil Steve Rogers, WHOA!” as the emotional climax of your issue. In Secret Wars #6, most of the drama is derived from the fact that Evil Dr. Doom is leader of the Fantastic Four, and Good Guy Reed Richards seems to have an evil-lish Reed Richards partner. I shouldn’t have to read that trope three times in two issues.

I’d say Planet Hulk’s was a brisker read, but compared to its name-sake, The Original Planet Hulk was much more compelling and engaging, with actual Hulk still feeling hulkish in a world where he can be hurt. In this world, Steve Rogers can easily kill a Hulk in one axe swipe. Secret Wars #6 is such a drag. That shit feels like you woke up in the middle of a lecture and your professor is just staring at you mad offended that you don’t get what their talking about. I’m sorry, all three of these Marvel comics are obstensibly action/adventure stories, but there is way too little of any action, and these writers are not bringing any kind of real ideas to justify having these great artist draw a lot of biceps not lifting shit. Imagine if that next Ip Man movie with Mike Tyson has them just having a nice conversation, how disappointing would that be. These comics are trading on the excitement of a PLANET of HULKS, a WAR that is SECRET, and a MAN of IRON. We get a convo with Hulks, a convo that is secret, a convo about making iron man suits. Stop talking, start showing. None of these I would say are poorly written, but it often feels like they forget what they are writing.

These were three issues, one at the beginning of a new story, one in the middle, and one the final issue – none of them felt like anything more than just a few ideas tied together that amounted to “So, this happened.”

Esad Ribic paints some beautiful scenes, and his landscapes and otherwordly locations make me wish the script could keep up. There are some interesting ideas, like a school of leviathans in a massive ocean, or a lonely island fortress housing a holographic head of Dr.Strange, and the art makes it worthwhile to visit them. But that’s all you do, I wish the story did more than jump from cool little idea to another. I can’t say much about Planet Hulk’s artist, because on page one there’s a glaring anatomy error where the left arm of Bucky has a hand that is facing the wrong way. Worse – Captain America is holding hands with this hand. The rest of the art was fine, but i couldn’t see how that got past an editor.

Kaijumax by Zander Cannon


Some people told me about this comic, and for awhile, I avoided it. I draw a comic called GAMMA, and its a parody of many elements from the tokusatsu genre, so I try to keep away from things I feel like could influence what I wanna make. I gotta go back and get the earlier issues. I had no idea this was such a funny book. Great idea of putting giant monsters on a giant island prison, and playing it like an actual prison drama. Its pretty twisted and silly and all the parts work together. The art is loose and very cartoony, and it rings really true for a fan of Kaiju monster movies. This was my favorite read of the comics I recently purchased, and I can’t wait to read more. Also, I wish i had this idea, which is the biggest compliment you can give someone.

Now i’ll just steal this idea, even bigger compliment right?

That’s my review for Thanksgiving. Hope you liked it.


Star Wars, Science Fiction and Racist Escapism

This is going to be a quick and dirty post. At least, quicker and dirtier than my usual posts.

With the release of the Star Wars VII trailer, there was a hashtag campaign to boycott the film, based on the fact that it has a few more people of color as featured characters. Many fans of the franchise immediately expressed disgust, shock and anger that so-called fans would react so reprehensibly to a franchise which is presumably for everyone.

One thing that people countered with was that Star Wars was ALWAYS diverse, even going as far to show James Earl Jones’ face on an image macro.

Oh how we strive to relieve ourselves of white guilt. The most iconic character in Star Wars…is a white man. Darth Vader is a white man. Anakin Skywalker, a beautiful blonde boy. Luke Skywalker, a beautiful blonde boy. His sister, white. Han Solo, white. There are no black characters of any significance in the original series except for Lando Calrissian.

And the prequel? We get Mace Windu and Jango Fett. In all of Star Wars, there are no major characters of color that drive the plot in any significant way. It is a fictional world where whiteness is not only the default, it’d be hard to imagine how exactly people of color exist in that universe, without them being considered an extreme rarity.

But lets not pick on Star Wars alone. For almost all popular science fiction and fantasy films follow this exact same model. Some, even reversing race trends and becoming more segregated, such as the modern reboot of Star Trek, which managed to all but erase all minority characters, leaving Uhura to play a damsel in distress. Avengers, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, X-men, etc etc.

The reaction of racists to declare that the new Star Wars film is encouraging ‘white genocide’ isn’t created in a vacuum, its created by the very pop culture they feel they are losing. This pop culture, that since its full-cultural saturation has allowed white audiences to escape into a world where not only do races not exist, but the racist structures that give rise to concepts like white privilege and white guilt, do not have to encroach on their ‘safe’ space. In these worlds, they don’t have to think about being threatened, they don’t have to consider that Star Wars has:

1. Taken the horrors of imperialism and colonialism and removed the true victims of these narratives in the real world.

2. British characters and Nazi-esque uniforms only read as ‘evil’ because of their histories with genocide and murdering people of color.

3. Slavery is something that white people did to people of color.

Furthermore, looking at Harry Potter or X-Men:

4. There are no Mugbloods or Mutants in the real world, instead being born to a different race means your very life will be threatened and you have no innate powers to defend yourself.

Or modern Star Trek:

5. A utopian future is a future where difficult race relations are solved by eliminating all other races.

So don’t get upset with racists wanting to boycott your fan-favorite franchises, and don’t react by pretending that your beloved media has been this nice, everyone’s invited inclusive environment. Nerd culture is racist culture, because racism is Western Culture. Nerd Culture, has long since shed its under-dog status, but even as underdogs, did not shy away from punching down and keeping those out it considered even lower than them.

Only recently, have media companies began to make an effort to pretend that they want black nerds, brown nerds, LGBT nerds. It is sad to say, but those efforts are often transparently disingenious cash-grabs. If they really cared about creating a new culture where everyone was truly fair and welcomed in, these same companies would make more of an effort to hire new people, and not just make fictional simulacra of real people’s lived experiences.

Don’t act surprised, your constant support of these properties is what made them cultural monoliths to begin with, a culture that says to many people “We don’t see you in the vision of the future.”

We’ve been okay with that for too long. Darth Vader is white. That distinctive voice? In the reality of the film, its the result of being burned alive and speaking through a respirator – not because its a black man with a beautiful voice and presence.

Born on the Fourth of July

I love the Fourth of July. Not ironically, not in some post modern way, not making a joke. I love it exactly for what it is. The other day i was discussing plans for the Fourth of July with a non-American. They asked if Americans really celebrate July 4th. I believe there are four distinct July 4th groups.

  1. Those who don’t care and don’t celebrate
  2. Those who think the United States sucks (for different reasons) and don’t celebrate it
  3. Those who love July 4th (me)
  4. Those who love July 4th but can’t reconcile their feelings for their country without feeling like they are complicit in its atrocities/tragedies so they celebrate it ironically (the worst kind)

The first two don’t bother me much, although the second has some things in common with the fourth, which is why i decided to write this.

I’m not against criticizing the very obvious abuses that this country has committed. In fact, i criticize it every single day of the year. But i also seek to criticize how we are critical of the United States, and how it unfortunately supports the very same abuses you are speaking against. When your narrative of the United States can only be seen as a critique of White Power, and you choose to not celebrate the Fourth of July because you are protesting the history of terror that has come from white power, you are simply saying that our (all US citizens) Independence Day is only a day that should matter in the context of white people. And dats racist.

I’m a son of immigrant parents, and i am an American. I am a Cuban-American. I am a Cuban/Afrocuban-American. I am white, black, hispanic. When my parents became citizens, all that is me, and all that is them, became part of the American culture. We have a history of racism in the United States: One Drop Rules, Pencil Tests, 3/5th compromise. I see these tragedies, and i see that as a reason to celebrate. Independence Day celebrates revolution, and revolution against overwhelming odds and unstoppable forces. The United Stated didn’t stop fighting the moment some dudes signed the Declaration of Independence, the United States is defined by fighting. Every struggle, every small victory, every small step is the unflinching unrelenting force of the true spirit of all of the people in the United States.

Independence from Tyranny is even more important to recognize today as an ongoing process, and not some event that occurred hundreds of years ago. We are still fighting remnants of the civil war, we are still fighting against the KKK, we are still fighting against corrupt land-owners and the abuses of undocumented workers. I refuse to believe that the Fourth of July belongs more to the KKK, the GOP, the NRA, the party of the old, the party of false traditional values, than to black, brown, asian, hispanic, native peoples who are still fighting for their independence.

When Bree Newsome pulled down the confederate flag, that was the spirit of 1776. When gay marriage passed this past week, that was the spirit of 1776. When our President, a black man, who everyone hailed as the usher of post-racial America sings Amazing Grace at the funeral of another victim of racial hatred, that was the spirit of 1776. We fight, we die, we keep fighting, things get slightly better, repeat. History is written by the victors, so why do liberal progressive voices decide to let our independence day be written by the losers of history.

This land was made for you and me. This land was made by you and me. African slaves created the foundation of our economy. Chinese laborers built our railroads that connected the coasts. Undocumented Mexican and Central Americans work our farms. Men and Women. There is not one moment in American History where there wasn’t a brown person being stepped on, and despite all of this, it’s white america that believes its ‘losing its America,”

They are right. They are losing the war. They are supposed to. We are supposed to fight against police brutality, against a prison culture, against rape culture. We are supposed to throw rocks, throw words, make music, speak out, never be silenced. My parents came to this country, where everything was taken away from them in their home country. Their jobs, their freedoms, and now i live a fairly middle class life in New York City. It’s not perfect, there’s still so much further to go. But i am American, and all these struggles define me, define us, and we own it. We own every victory.

If you don’t want to celebrate today, if you’d prefer to keep fighting. More power to you. But if you can only celebrate today inauthentically, then you’re disparaging the very people you say you support. People fought for your rights, were arrested for your rights, died for your rights. Not just old dead white dudes with powdered wigs, not just the Tea Party. Stonewall Riots, Baltimore Riots, Charleston Massacre, Kent State Massacre. This day doesn’t belong to those who wrap themselves in the stars and stripes, it belongs to the people who would burn it to get something better. This day doesn’t belong to symbols, it belongs to those who sacrificed. Their life, liberty, and happiness.

I spend 364 days of the year trying to do my part in the good fight against racism, sexism, all the -isms. That on this day of the year, i like to remember, be grateful, and most of all – respect, all the soldiers that have died in the struggle for this American Dream. I don’t mean soldiers in state-sanctioned war. I mean the soldiers who are fighting right now, with only words if that is all they have, for a more perfect union.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world.

San Andreas / Ex Machina Review

Expectations ruin everything. I remember when the first Avengers came out, people were talking about that movie for months after its release. It’s not a perfect or a great film, but it was fresh. There was no superhero team up film that had existed at that level before, and its novelty made up for a lot of its flaws. But at the same time, it followed a very generic action-movie structure that was hard to fuck up. Bad guy wants to take over the world, good guys won’t let him. It worked, still works, and that is where action movies thrive. Grafting a story on to explosions often ends up in a mess, and its often the most simple plots that leave the most lasting impressions on an audience. Sometimes being fresh is just keeping it simple.

Shark is terrorizing town. Must stop Shark – Jaws

Aliens are terrorizing town. Must stop Aliens – Aliens

Furiosa wants to get to the Green Place. Must survive bad guys keeping her from green place – Mad Max : Fury Road

Action films that try to pile on the political allegories and oh-so-serious moral dilemmas find it very difficult to not get bogged down under the self-important weight of all that bullshit. Audiences are neither dumb nor intelligent, they want to be entertained and different people are entertained by different things. Action films select for an audience that prioritizes visceral experience over intellectual stimulation. This isn’t a judgement of either, and that doesn’t mean that a smart film can’t be an action film, or an action film can’t be a smart film. Today i will review two films, San Andreas and Ex Machina: The action film and the smart film, and how at points either of those types of film can both fail and succeed according to their own merits.

SAN ANDREAS, or how I didn’t know i wanted a Sim Copter live action film.


Sometimes you just need a disaster movie. Disaster films used to be a thing, but not so much anymore. The 70’s did it for awhile, then the 90’s tried to bring it back, and the formula is always the same. Hero dude – usually a fireman or rescue type dude who saves the day, Scientist Dude or Dudette (but usually a dude) who predicts the disaster, and sometimes an obstructionist bureaucrat that causes more lives to be lost. The hero dude and scientist dude can sometimes be combined into one character, and the hero dude sometimes is just a regular guy thrusted into being the hero.

Part of the reason I believe the disaster film has lost its attraction is a side effect of easy special fx, leading to ‘EPIC’ set pieces in EVERY action movie. It’s kind of like asking why dinosaurs got so big, the answer being because other dinosaurs got bigger. When every action movie nowadays has to have WORLD-THREATENING bad guys as the default, wiping a city off the map is no big deal. The Disaster Film has been folded into other popular subgenres of the action film.

Just look at these scenes from G.I.Joe – Retaliation, Transformers – Age of Extinction, Man of Steel, and Avengers – Age of Ultron

That last one? That was San Andreas. There is nothing in San Andreas you haven’t seen before, except that there is nothing in San Andreas but these scenes. Its an interesting juxtaposition to see a movie remove almost all of the genre trappings that dominate the current trend of action movies and leave just the explosions and big noise. Its doubly interesting to see an actor like Dwayne Johnson, use his physical presence convince you that he’s just as superhuman with or without an origin story. There’s no funny skin-tight suits, just a dirty tightly fitting tshirt. There’s no flying around in an red armored suit, there’s just a bright red helicopter. All these movies we think are these new stories, are just set decoration. Its the same old shit. San Andreas is fresh just because there’s no costumed dudes trying to pretend that there more than that.

I enjoyed San Andreas just cause it was that old shit, no frills attached. Whereas Age of Ultron creates a villain in two seconds, and then tries to convince you that he’s a real deal villain with #deep motivations, San Andreas is just like “Hey guys, there’s gonna be some earthquakes. Good thing we have the Rock.” There are no long slow motion montages of characters having major ego-shaking crises. A terrible script isn’t a better script cause it tries and fails to tell a morality tale of how we approach war. There are laughable lines in San Andreas, but it adds to the charm, where you know the movie is just doing the requisite character arcs. Rock is a divorced dad, Rock wants to get together with family, lots of rocks are falling apart, but Rock’s family is gonna come together. Its no one’s fault but San Andreas’ fault. Paul Giamatti does his best sad-yet-resigned acting.

San Andreas succeeds at setting the bar low and putting the Rock on it. I have to give it props for reversing the usual Damsel-in-distress role and making the daughter the capable one, saving two British boys. Unfortunately, gotta take props away by still not passing the Bechdel test, when it could’ve been just as easy to have the british boys be british girls and the movie wouldn’t be changed at all.

Those boys could’ve easily been replaced by two small dogs and it’d make no difference. I call it the Clifford Test, can a man be replaced with a dog and the plot would remain the same?

Everything else is gravy. Won’t be rewatchable on a small screen, but neither will Avengers 2, so if you don’t feel like watching Pitch Perfect 2, already saw Fury Road, then watch this. Avengers 2 failed at believing it was better than just a dressed up San Andreas, and thats the tightrope that every action movie tries to walk. Be smart or be big, try to be both and it easily falls apart under its own weight. I didn’t walk out of San Andreas feeling like i was ripped off.

It was 2 stars out of five, but its interesting how two stars for some movie can feel like a complete failure, and two stars for a terrible movie can feel like a real success. The difference is i can watch Paul Giamatti do pathetic in almost every movie and love it, but a superhero movie is pathetic cause it wants you to believe that it’s anything but pathetic.

EX MACHINA, all the questions Age of Ultron tried to ask but didn’t know it was a 4 year old farting on a plate of spaghetti.

What is Artificial Intelligence? How do we know if a computer intelligence is actually intelligent? How do we know if WE are intelligent? If we encounter a true intelligence but it is fundamentally alien to us, could we recognize it as intelligent?

Those are the questions Ex Machina wants to ask. But it also inadvertently (or not so inadvertently) asks:

Is sexual objectification okay if its an actual object? If you design an object to be sexually attractive and endow it with an intelligence so that it knows you think of it as an object, is it wrong if it simply treats you as a means to an end in turn? How do systems of power just create a pattern of force to be recreated forever?

There’s two concurrent themes throughout Ex Machina. One is the obvious, about the Turing test and approaching intelligence. But the other is an emergent property from the film based on our own social-political realities. There are only 3 main characters in the film, 2 men and a woman robot. These two men are in charge of determining if this woman robot is actually intelligent i.e deserving of rights, equality, etc. or an object i.e deserving of nothing but exploitation. There is the ‘nice guy’ who is chosen to evaluate her, and he only can evaluate her as valuable as she becomes more attracted to him. As he himself is validated as a person, so she is considered validated herself. Her designer, the Frankenstein in this film, proves they are human not by validating himself, but by seeing how far his robots can be pushed before they can’t take anymore and either attempt to kill him or kill themselves. I don’t believe it’s deliberate, but the film ends up recreating the conversations white people, often straight men, have with minorities and women and other disenfranchised groups. They either are trying to be your friend, but you must educate them, or they only pay attention to your problems when you become violently frustrated. Spoiler alert: both dudes are killed. The ‘nice guy’ dies a slow death, and you’re left wondering if he really deserved it. Perhaps he didn’t, perhaps he’s just a victim of the same power dynamics that kept the robot in a cage. Frankenstein dude says early on in the film that he’s replaced God, and you know he’s gonna get killed. He is stabbed, in the front and the back. He sees it coming, and he doesn’t. The robot he considers safe, stabs him in the back. The robot he considers dangerous, stabs him in the front. But he designed a test that also ensures that he would be killed if a robot passed it, in the same way that there is often no way out but violent action for subjugated peoples.

This is how a smart film can be successful. It doesnt simply present a question with a simple answer, but a question that leads to larger questions. Science fiction is rarely about science. Although that is the framing device used to examine these larger issues, it is a naive approach to science fiction to only focus on the science. Even worse, if you then take a simplistic approach to the science that is the framing device, the larger questions you are trying to ask end up muddled and distorted. Its like trying to paint a Rembrandt with crayola markers. You aint gonna get the full depth of shadows and light with some washed out highlighters. Ex Machina is effective because the framing device is tightly crafted, and the story remains simple and trimmed of all fat. It would reward multiple views.

The questions that percolate under the surface are not a flaw, but a lens to approach how even scientific endeavors which are believed to be neutral are also completely affected by gender and racial realties. In a way, all the ways race, class, sex, gender, etc intersect have created their own frankenstein monster, often tearing at their oppressor at the same time tearing at itself.

There are many moments where the skin of the robots is literally torn off, revealing the working parts below. On the inside, we don’t know how we work, what makes us human and what makes us different. What makes us one ethnicity and what makes us male or female or something in between. Ultimately, the robot escapes into a world where she can blend in, no one asking her to justify her own existence. That’s what anyone wants who’s felt different in their own skin. No one can see below her skin to tell her she’s something she’s not.

The Fast and The Fury Road – Why great movies should flop, why cult classics are needed.

At least once a summer, a movie comes out that should’ve been the movie of the summer. It’s got action, A-List talent, compelling dialogue and an even better plot, it’s everything we want blockbuster films to be, and no one gives a fuck. Remember Dredd? It had a “Make a sequel” campaign that lasted for about a year and a half, that was until the studio said it would definitely never happen. Last year’s was “Edge of Tomorrow”, the Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise time travel vs. aliens film that was the first time Tom Cruise has been a joy to watch in a long time, and Emily Blunt should have her own movie kicking ass. It was marketed so poorly and landed with a thud in the box office. (Related: Tom Cruise makes a lot of these type of movies now) Every time this happens, we gnash our teeth like something is being taking away from us, being taken away from culture. But i’d argue that this is precisely how good movies become considered great. Mad Max – Fury Road is a sequel that comes a full thirty years after its most recent sequel, and it’s better for it.

You are probably unfamiliar with Mad Max as a character and series, but the entire post-apocalyptic film genre owes a debt to it, specifically the first sequel, Mad Max – The Road Warrior. It is as game changing for future visions of our world as Blade Runner, but whereas Blade Runner has mainstream acceptance, the Road Warrior despite critical acclaim upon its release, is a cult classic. This might be a good time to define a cult classic, and its importance to story telling. Cult Classics are films, books, etc, that have found a small but extremely dedicated fan following. These fans will always sing the praises of a movie, try to get as many people to watch it, and not understand when others ‘don’t get it’. These films are important, because the same type of person that becomes super passionate about loving some strange obscure work, are often the exact same type of person who is inspired to make their own work. Almost all creators will have some strange obsession with a piece of art that might be just a cult classic just to them. A fanbase of one. What this means is that the cult classics of yesterday, end up defining the mainstream of tomorrow.

Star Wars is probably the largest blockbuster franchise in history. It won’t ever be toppled. It can probably be argued that it created the blockbuster. But without George Lucas’ obsession with dime-novels and pulp fiction, combined with japanese samurai films and war movies, it wouldn’t exist. Separately, these were all niche interests, but combined they became game-changing. George Lucas was the ultimate nerd and made a movie that he wanted to see, and single handedly changed the landscape of pop-culture. That is the power of fandom, of creating cult classics. But Star Wars also illustrates their life cycle perfectly. Eventually the elements of cult classics become so dispersed throughout culture that their impact can no longer be felt. Star Wars chugs along on one of the largest nostalgia machines, still able to sweep up new fans with its momentum, but there hasn’t been any truly compelling Star Wars media since the third sequel was released in the eighties. Given enough time, the popularity of any cult classic kills it. It just becomes like any other movie. It becomes another franchise. It becomes forgettable.

That is why Mad Max – Fury Road must not get another sequel, it is why its a good thing if Mad Max – Fury Road does poorly at the box office. Its competition at the box office in the action genre are Avengers 2 – Age of Ultron and Furious 7 – both are mega franchises that have passed over a billion dollars each. Fury Road most likely won’t pass one billion dollars, but if it does, prepare for future nerd disappointment. Furious 7 is a successful franchise that reinvented itself to grow and continue, but now is at the end of its road. Its very likely Fast & Furious 8 will be the film that i will absolutely pan. The formula can only so far, but because of film economics, any successful franchise must be continued until it bombs. Consider the Marvel franchise, where its latest installment could finally clearly show that we aren’t watching movies anymore, we are supporting a kickstarter-type economic system to make more superhero movies. You aren’t paying to see Age of Ultron, you are paying to see Infinity Wars in 2019. It is a unique approach for the blockbuster in the 21st century, based on creating a cult like following in mainstream culture. Every blockbuster is now being modeled after the Marvel formula, and it is making us gluttons of empty calories. The artistry is gone, the actors going through the motions, swallowing up the time and energies of everyone involved. The machine is being reengineered to only make these kind of movies, those smaller films or bigger films that flop but deserved better are the sacrifices at the altar of FRANCHISE FILM.

If Fury Road passed a billion dollars, a sequel would be fast tracked and then a 2 part epic would be announced. Possibly an Imperator Furiosa sidequel. Then ten years after that, a tv series. A reboot somewhere in there if the sequel flops. Every thing you hate about Hollywood, everything you complain about, that is the price of success. We often say that box-office doesn’t matter, that the value of a film is determined on its own merits. But nerd-culture, which is now mainstream culture, can not abide by a low box-office. We demand MORE, always MORE! Then we hate the drug dealer for selling it to us. There is no reason why the Hobbit was 4 movies, except the consumer consumed them. There is no reason why Age of Ultron should exist, when its so clearly a filler episode of a very slowly produced television show, it is more appropiately titled “Avengers – Weekend with Ultrons”. I do not want another Fast & Furious sequel, i want the franchise to be over, especially after the death of Paul Walker. We live in a world where Simpsons is still on television, but no one knows anyone who’s watching. We are some kafka-esque fans. We want experiences to never end but we wish they only existed in memory.

Let Fury Road go, it is a beautiful film, it’ll get even better with time on its own. Probably impressive alone in how a plot is crafted around an almost non-stop car chase. The fim is virtuosic, every element is in perfect balance. The FX are in-camera, and not a cartoon of green screen garbage filling up every inch of visual real estate. Of the three action movies out this summer so far: Fury Road, Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, its the film where characters are punching at robots that aren’t there that fell the most flat. Movie-goers are getting bored by the over-reliance on computer generated effects. Real stunts, real machines and real explosions still get the biggest pop with the crowds. This is a film that proves that dramatic acting is not the only ‘good’ acting. These actors use their presence to tell the story, as there’s probably less than 20 minutes of on-screen dialogue. Charlize Theron plays the true hero of the film, Tom Hardy playing more of a supporting character as the title character, but it doesn’t even matter. Its what the movie needed to do, so it did it. Screw your expectations. Any expectations you had won’t even measure up. This movie could only exist on its own.

As a sequel, it delivers. But it’s not so much a sequel as just FURY ROAD. You need no knowledge of where it came from, you don’t need to know that all those desert-punk Burning Man cosplayers have been ripping off the genre these movies started in 1981. Whereas Furious 8 takes beautiful cars and watches them dance, Fury Road takes those cars, makes them fuck, irradiates them, smashes them into fire-breathing, spiked monsters and makes them fight. But there’s its distance from its ancestry, its isolation within the current action movie genre is why it stands out even more. This movie will inspire some kid to make movies, this movie will give someone ideas. Franchises make us turn our brains off, and open our wallets. Movies like Dredd, Edge of Tomorrow, Fury Road exist not to make copies of themselves, but to make better movies eventually. They leave behind a better legacy.

Think about how you felt when you watched Jurassic Park as a kid, now realize that no one anywhere will be inspired by Jurassic World, is that what you want from Fury Road?

Avengers 2 : Age of Boredom

Neither are two scenes from the trailer

This scene not included in actual film. Don’t get hyped

Everyone knows that Marvel has become good at churning out superhero films. Its almost mechanical at this point, like they are coming off an assembly line. When you sit through this latest variation of the same shit you’ve already seen, you’ll notice how similar it is to the main villain of this installment. Although Ultron goes on and on about ‘evolution’, he simply makes bigger and dumber versions of himself to be torn apart and somehow thinks its an improvement. The sad part about this film is although they had the opportunity to really make something memorable and change, they are now becoming weighed down with the dozens of poor decisions that have come before. Avengers 2 is another drone, thinking it has created an unstoppable force but really has just spread itself thin with weak copies.

Everything that is good in this film, you’ve seen before. Cool circle pans that show the whole team engaging an army of identical mooks? Check. Hulk doing hulk shit? Check. Black Widow being angsty about her past but never showing what bad stuff she’s actually done? Check. People taking issue with Tony Stark’s selfishness? Check. A Villain who wants to take over the world for spurious reasons? Check. There is one scene to watch this movie for, its the HulkBuster vs. Hulk fight. Everything else you’ve seen before, just a little slightly less polished. So what happened to this movie? It’s what happened in all the previous movies, or rather what hasn’t happened.

The Marvel Universe has amazing superheroes, who constantly talk so seriously about big threats, that never come to pass. There is not one amazing villain in the entire Marvel Universe. Instead, it is padded with these jobbers who you know won’t make any significant impact. For all the melodrama, the invasion of the first movie was a small local skirmish of a few hundred soldiers, all of which were as easy to defeat as just throw a bomb at them. Seriously, all you had to do was go up into the wormhole and throw a bomb at them. When you think back at the solution to this movie, it’s really fucking dumb. It’s made all the worse, because the threat is Loki’s making, but not really, cause we have to keep hinting at a larger universe, so despite Loki being the best chance at being a major threat, he is neutered. Loki wants earth just cause. The entire genesis of this plot is based on Tony Stark being supposedly scared enough of that invasion to create Ultron, despite the fact that it was very clearly handled by five dudes and a girl, one of which uses a bow & arrow. Tony Stark says at one point “I want to put a suit of armor around the world,” when so far, a kid with a sling shot would probably make a good part of the team.

We keep being lead to believe there is this looming threat of Thanos. Its been like a half decade of hearing about Thanos, and once again, they have never shown him do anything directly villainous. Sure, he’s making some back room deals, but that’s not why we hate Hitler. This is a character who should be in love with death, and we should’ve seen the genocides left in his wake. No, we see him in a chair. Dude has been chillin’ in his space lazy boy with its cute little hoverpod arm rests. Once again, we get a teaser of Thanos saying something menacing. Once again we end up with the actual villain doing fuckshit. At this point, i do not care about Thanos, and i dont believe that these heroes or the world they are protecting is at any risk. They’ve cut out any feeling of dread in these films because they can’t commit to telling a story in one film.

You end up with Ultron, who is created in a corny montage of science dudes doing science stuff. You see a lot of clear computer monitors with cool numbers, like 98% synchronized, then the word FAILURE. You see coffee cups and scattered papers. Then they walk away and Ultron makes himself. In no part in this science fiction film, do they even try to give you any science. Forget that, you don’t even actually see what the scientists did. In two major scenes in the movie, the Scientists walk away before they are done, and the EUREKA! moment happens on its own. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner keep talking about inventing solutions to save the world, but they do not invent one single thing. They basically mixed all the ingredients to make cookies in a bowl, left them in an oven, and when they came back into the kitchen, they had magic cookies. Ultron wants to “save” the world, in robot-speak that means “destroy the world”. Why? Who cares, he drops any pretense of wanting to save the world after like 30 minutes anyway and just skips to destroy the world. They do the usual scene of showing some bad times in global history and BAM! BETTER GET TO GENOCIDING! I JUST WOKE UP AND I HAVE ALL THE WORLDS INFORMATION IN MY HEAD, AND EXIST IN ALL THE WORLDS INFORMATION, BETTER JUST BLOW THIS PLACE UP! Jarvis asks why. Ultron says “SHUTUP BRO! I’M GENOCIDING!” Probably the absolute dumbest shittiest origin of a super villain. They try to do a lot of “Tony Stark would destroy the world to save it,” dialoguing, but its such bullshit since dude has never done one morally dubious decision in any of his movies. He’s never killed the village to save the village, so you can’t be throwing some Mai Lai Massacre shit on this dude’s character and expect it to stick.

Ultron is a failure of a character, who fails because no villain is allowed to be truly villainous, even Thanos cant be truly villainous, but to justify the WORLD’S MIGHTIEST HEROES tag line, you gotta front like they are world threats. But among the Super heroes, you have Avengers that barely can justify their existence, or you wonder why some don’t exist at all. Despite the fact that Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackey have way more chemistry than Jeremy Renner on his best day, they are sidelined for inexplicable reasons. Sike. These reasons are very explicable: Racism. Despite the fact that War Machine and Falcon are both much more useful in a fight against flying drones with energy cannon arms, they got a dude with a bow & arrow hanging around. Despite all of this, the worst most obviously poorly developed character in the whole franchise is tried to be put over by Marvel Studios.

Hawkeye is a terrible character. Whether that is poor writing or wooden acting is up for debate. I haven’t seen Renner in enough films to say he’s unwatchable, but i know he’s had a few leading man vehicles that most people decided to un-watch. So guess what, you’re gonna hang out with Hawkeye on his farm for a half hour, and have his lovely wife tell the audience how he’s the center of the team. Thank you Marvel Studios, for creating an embodiment of why we should care about this character. He now has a wife and kids. Oh for fucks sake, i wish they killed those little brats and his pregnant wife, just so he’d have an origin story where he decides to kill the Avengers. That’d be a dope movie. But no, we just get this ham sandwich shoved down our throats. Black Widow, the more useful useless character, is now puppy-eyed in-love for Bruce Banner, and doesn’t share one line of dialogue with any other female. (Keep in mind, there’s been 6 Marvel films since she was introduced and Fast & Furious franchise has more dope women in it than THE ENTIRE STUDIO in just 3 movies) So although she justifies her existence more capably than Hawkeye, because she is the only female on the team, of course one of the dudes on the team she’s gotta fall in love with. Thats what cold heartless murdering assassins do. What a fucking mess. What a disappointment. So many plot holes. I can’t even stand it. Because i’m so frustrated, here is just a list of stupid shit i kept thinking after i left this movie.

  • Why does Ultron buy all this vibranium for his evil plan, makes at least four versions of himself in the movie, does not make a version of himself out of vibranium, even though he has enough to build a rocket ship out of a city?
  • Why does Ultron want to destroy the world? Is he just trolling? That’d’ve been a better explanation.
  • If Ultron wants to destroy the world, and has access to all the information in the world, why doesn’t he just make his drones into nuclear bombs that go off if injured?
  • Why does Ultron love meteors? Why doesn’t Ultron just build a large giant rod of vibranium and drop it onto a city from orbit. Cheaper, Easier, Harder to deflect, Can’t be destroyed by shooting at it with lasers.
  • Why is their so much time discussing how they can’t turn off the big bad guy device or it’ll blow up, and then they shoot it with lasers and blow it up anyway?
  • Why am I on Hawkeye’s farm?
  • Why doesn’t everyone have Falcon’s wingset? They weren’t implied to be experimental or hard to use.
  • The world’s about to end, but War Machine and Falcon are off doing other things. Thanks bros
  • Why am I on Hawkeye’s farm?
  • Why is Nick Fury in this movie? Where’d he get that helicarrier from?
  • Why is the dude who’s faster than a speeding bullet, get shot twice and surprised another time with a speeding bullet.
  • What are enhanced people? Why can you just get powers by gene-testing in the Marvel Universe now?
  • Why are all the infinity gems just “do whatever the fuck you want” gems? Stuff goes boom.
  • What the fuck is Thanos waiting for?
  • How is Ultron burned off the internet, but couldn’t think to send someone a flash-drive with his program on it?
  • Why didn’t Ultron create any kind of contingency plan in case of being deleted from the Internet. Is that even possible?
  • What the fuck is up with Vision’s cape? Shit is made out of yellow tin foil.
  • Why does an artificial intelligence that has reached the conclusion to destroy the world, grossly misinterpreting the meaning of “Peace”, have a strange sense of humor and humanity and jealousy? Where’d that personality come from? Whats the use of it?
  • Why does Ultron have lips?
  • Why does Ultron even care if humans are fuck ups. You can pull a Dr. Manhattan bro.


Just go watch Fast & Furious. Its about cars jumping through skyscrapers. It happens, movie ends. Avengers 2 is always about something happening in the next movie, but its just a carrot dangling in front of a donkey. Its tedious, and the nitpicks i could ignore in earlier installments have snowballed into long boring over-serious cutscenes you wish you could skip. Please don’t make me watch more Hawkeye Home Shopping Network.

Comics Review – April 2015

For a few months i’ve been seeing that Revenger comic poppin’ up in my newsfeed. I was unfamiliar with the artist, but it seems we are friends on facebook. Sometimes, its that sort of thing right there that makes you lose your objectivity. I really struggle to hold myself to what i feel is a classic approach to art. Whether you believe the critic is valuable or needed when it comes to art, it always has been valuable to me to know exactly why i like something, what i hate about something, and what something needs to become an important piece of art. So here it goes, losing friends time.

(Just kidding…hopefully)

Revenger #1 by Charles Forsman

I’ve been trying to figure out what this type of work is. In the last half-decade or so, there’s been a move from some indie artists to move towards what are considered less-intellectual genres. It’s easy to say they are exploitation comics, but that doesn’t really do it justice, because they are no more exploitative than your typical beat ’em up, like a Punisher Max comic. These are the B-movies of comics, where as the B-movies of a publisher like Marvel just has too much sheen and polish to be considered low-budget. Trying to figure out what it is about Charles Forsman that has an appeal, as well as Benjamin Marra, and in a similar-but-different way Michel Fiffe is hard to pin down. By chance, i went through my old comics, and found this:

image (13)There’s this sense in modern-day pulp comics that there is no room for growth. A writer like Mark Millar will write scripts ready to be sold, to be packaged into a potential movie franchise. All the parts are manufactured to exact standards, its not exactly high quality but its definitely the same quality throughout most of a publisher. This is the house style that unites all houses: Marvel, DC, Image, etc. So only an independent creator can go back and find awkward styles that have their own appeal. Check out this comparison:

image (11)

image (12)

Forsman is aping a decidely retro style, but he’s not making a mechanical copy. Instead, this faux-retro style is based on how we remember these comics being. Action-packed, to the extent that i accidentally skipped a page in this Havoc comic, and didn’t notice until right now when i flipped through it again. The story is an afterthought, and awkward anatomy is part of the appeal. Benjamin Marra draws heads that are always too large, but they somehow work to show Chuck Norris-ian style expressions. It’s hard to say that I don’t like this comic, even though my first instinct is to call out its first five pages of empty backgrounds as just laziness, and not a conscious decision. However, as the comic moves along on its one-track mind to kicking ass, the spare lines coupled with a impressive color palette can’t be said to have been anything but deliberate.

In these indie-exploitation comics, its interesting to see an approach to story telling that is normally used for memoir or auto-bio, used for hyper-violent stories more suited to the VHS bargain bin. The terms B-Movie, cult classics and exploitation are increasingly losing meaning, as creators find new value in these forgotten art forms and find new audiences that appreciate them.

Although i was a skeptic when i began reading the comic, by the final page, i was sold. The story moves along briskly, and what would’ve been 80 minutes of boring tedium that anyone is familiar with who watches a lot of bad movies, filled with padding and long shots focusing on nothing, is condensed through the miracle of comic book story telling into a fresh 15 minute read. All the action, none of what makes these stories only bearable with a lot of whiskey and friends to laugh at the film with.

Creepy character actors, Grace Jones as protagonist, a low-budget comic. The story is simple thrills and kills, drawn with a nervous linework that suits a story like this better than trying to see some wimpy English-lit major do their best hard-boiled Michael Mann impression on whatever shitty Punisher comic is currently on the rack.

Marvel Comic’s Presents: The Xmen’s Havok, Black Panther, Triton, and Coldblood by various artist and writers.

Most of this comic, that i mentioned above to compare to Revenger was garbage! Nostalgia is great at leaving out all the bad stuff we’ve consumed over a life time. The Black Panther comic (written by Don McGregor, pencils by Gene Colan) was pretty dope though, cause it’s talking honestly about the strategy of white imperialists pitting tribes against one another just to reap the benefits. Some little boy gets burned, Black Panther races to save him, only to have a white hospital try to be like “nah, we don’t do that” Black Panther isn’t about that shit, so he kicks ass til they help. Being a comic book, he is actually listened to and not shot on the spot. This comic came out in 1989, and i struggle to find any comic with black protagonists actually talking about the struggle. The struggle is real, check out this sequence. Feel that pain.

image (14)

“And he cannot stop crying, as if every promise ever given has been irredeemably lost.” That line sums up every year, every day a new tragedy happens with black and brown people, every time you think the future will be brighter, every conversation where someone suggests not talking about racism, because then it’ll go away. But all you see are children who never had a chance to talk about racism, but are still killed. We make a promise to children that they’ll get a better world, then we break that promise when we kill them.

Thor written by Jason Aaron, art by Russell Dauterman, colors by Matthew Wilson

Who is Thor? Who gives a fuck. This comic, although well rendered, goes through a lot of loops and a lot of Thor Odinson making “Who farted?” angsty-expressions just to go nowhere. You can literally squeeze this issue’s entire premise into the before-credits sequence of any movie. Do I really need to see Thor go chill with his gf in a hospital bed, talking to her about why she won’t use super-science magitek to cure her cancer, and then crossing her name off a little list? photo (3)

Just the idea that Thor is carrying around a cute list of girl’s names is way too adorable. I wish this was him trying to find out if New Thor Woman will go out with him to prom, but he doesn’t even know her name!! It’d be like the movie “She’s All That” but with Asgardians. Anyway, besides some nice art, easily skippable.

Autumnlands – Tooth & Claw 5 written by Kurt Busiek, art by Benjamin Dewey, colors by Jordie Bellaire

Did you read that title? Autumn. Lands. Tooth. And. Claw. Five. If you think that is too many words, that really is trying to cram as much atmosphere into every syllable, then topped off with two different fonts for just the logo alone, that gives you an idea about what reading this comic is like. God damn, its a beautiful book. I have a soft spot for talking animals wearing human clothes in a fantasy setting. These animals are drawn with such personality while not becoming ‘cartoony’ and the story still makes you feel like you’re reading a conversation between a rabbit and a cow. No, i don’t mean anthopomorphised rabbits and cows, i mean actual animals. You will have no fucking clue what this book is about.

There’s politics, allegiances, double dealing, magic that might just be science, and it made no sense. So often, comic writers have the horrible habit of overwriting, as if complexity equals quality. I remember having the same problem with Brubaker’s Winter Soldier comic, half formed ideas are treated like mysteries to be solved but you know it’ll probably all be solved with someone getting a cosmic cube dropped on their head. I am too used to this style of writing, that builds and builds but then the writer doesn’t have the skills to pay off. I’m just trying to satisfy my talking animals fetish, why you gotta write each character like you KNOW they got a british accent? Overwritten, well drawn. Ignore almost 90% of captions and word balloons, will make the same amount of sense, probably more sense.

DAYGLOAYHOLE by Ben Passmore

No one ever knows what “hipster” means. Go to MOCCAfest this weekend, and you’ll see so many hipsters that your dick will smell like kimchi and beer by the time you bounce. But if you asked any of the attendees or creators, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who admits they are a hipster. Even though self-publishing indie comics are one of the most hipster affectations there is, that is probably also it’s most defining characteristic: the inability to own their passions, to own their limitations. Individuality means never having to say you’re anything.

While reading Dayglo Ayhole, I couldn’t help but feel like every page, every joke had to have the same disaffection. On the store page, it is described as such:

“Half naked and cranky, a man stews in the heat and fumes of the apocalypse, but more than that he’s stewing with his failures pre-apocalypse. Sounds lame right? Don’t worry there’s weird monsters, an damaging oogle and his rubber dog, polar bears, and some sort of ham-fisted social commentary that would be preachy if its conclusions weren’t so schizophrenic.”

Its a comic that attempts to be meta but then backs off, is unsure if it wants to poke fun at genre tropes. It is pages of a character wandering a wasteland, saying they are bored, overanalyzing their own narration, trying to poke fun at feminism and capitalism, but then even backing away from that. It’s like the guy who’s drunk at a party, trying desperately to prove he’s a white cisgender ally, but still wants to be edgy enough that he can maybe convince you to give him a handjob. “Just a rub and tug, no biggie. Hahahaha, no no no, i was just poking fun at everyone else trying to get laid. Lol, but people ARE uptight about sex in America right? Where are you from, you look exotic.”

I’m from New Jersey.

Anyway, the comic has boss art, and in a few years, the dude might be funny, but these jokes need work and commitment. Everyone complains about ‘outrage culture’ now, even Patton Oswalt. Motherfuckers are just boring, and if you’re a comedian who’s upset that they can’t use a fat joke, then you need to work on your set. Comedy needs to be fresh, and i really wanted Dayglo Ayhole to crack me up, but i didn’t even smile once. The art pushed harderthan any of the jokes, where there’s more humor in the art-style alone. One sequence i thought WAS successful, was the street preacher with the bag over his head. “SINCE ALL THAT’S LEFT IS SELF PRESERVATION, SUICIDE IS THA ONLY REBELLION!” He kills himself, but then his body begins to transform.

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Ha. That was a good one. I was happy to be introduced to this artist, despite wanting more. The expectation to be impressed is ever-present, and it makes reading anything a struggle. When you read something that is impressive, in a way its effortless. You turn every page, devour the art, and when you’re done you feel transformed yourself. Then you want to read it again, or find more work by the artist. Ben Passmore is a talented cartoonist, but the comic would be better if it didn’t seem to stop and wink at you every minute, “That was funny right? But not really funny, i’m not trying to be funny..Thats the joke!”

Oh, go fuck yourself*, tell the fucking joke.

*The general You, not you Ben Passmore, I don’t know you, but i’m bored of losing friends i haven’t met yet.

End of Review.