Tag Archives: Marvel comics

January Bonus Review: Maximum Carnage

Maximum Carnage was a fourteen issue Spider-man event from ’93. It was written by Tom Defalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanagh & David Michelinie. It’s a rather divisive event with some calling it one of the last good comic events and others calling it the start of the era of trash events. So, I’ll give my thoughts on it as part of hero month.

Maximum Carnage.jpg

Story:

We open with Cletus Kasady being taken for therapy at Ravencroft Asylum. Everyone assumes he’s powerless since the Carnage symbiote was destroyed. What they don’t know is that the symbiote mutated his very blood, allowing him to summon a copy. Which he does, breaking loose and massacring the staff. He runs into another inmate named Shriek, who he breaks out. The pair recruit some other villains and their little “family” goes around New York, while Spidey and several other heroes try to put an end to their killing spree.

My biggest issue with the event is that there are a lot of scenes that seem kind of repetitive. Yeah, I get what they’re going for. They’re trying to show how all of this is wearing at the heroes and how much difficulty they’re having. It just doesn’t have the best execution. The civilian casualties are also kind of weakly handled. Carnage and his group are basically killing a bunch of nameless fodder we have no reason to care about. On one hand, it is better than having them kill off characters we know and love, which is what would happen in a modern event like this. On the other hand, I’d like to see some mourners to give it some more impact and add some humanity to the victims.

There are definitely things I appreciate about the narrative too. I like that we don’t lose any of our heroes for a cheap, shock moment. I also like the general theme of holding onto hope when times are dark and finding the strength to overcome. Particularly when various heroes step forward to bring out the best in humanity when facing a group of violent rioters. That is a powerful scene. The back and forth with Spidey and his wife while they argue because she doesn’t want him to risk himself but he knows he can make a difference is really good. The way they foreshadow major events is solid.

Then there’s the whole element the story is about. Namely: should heroes stoop down to the level of villains in extreme circumstances? It’s important to remember that this was made in the early 90s when the trend of more “extreme” and dark heroes had already started. And this is a story that plays with that trend but also, ultimately, rejects the whole idea of it. Spidey questions the idea of just how far he and his comrades should go throughout the event and consistently argues against taking lethal action. Then he reaches his lowest point and he almost asks his amazing friend, Firestar, to take Carnage’s life. But he pulls back and realises that it’s the wrong approach. As heroes, they have to stand for something greater. Even when facing a mass murdering psychotic like Carnage. And that’s an uplifting epiphany. I like the way the topic gets explored a lot.

Characters:

I’ve already mentioned how well Spidey & MJ’s marital discussions work. Although I haven’t said fuck modern Marvel for retconning that out of existence yet. There are other characters to discuss though. There’s an effort to humanise our villains, in spite of all the murder and mayhem they’re responsible for. Which is a nice touch but it’s one of those cases where the execution is the lazy “they had rotten childhoods” types for both Carnage & Shriek. Doppelganger, Demogoblin and Carrion have the same basic motives they do in the regular comics. One is overly simple-minded, one has a misguided view of being on a holy crusade and the other is the victim of a virus. Which is something.

Our major heroes are Spidey, Venom, The Black Cat, Cloak & Dagger. We also get appearances from Firestar, Deathlok (nice to see Deathlok being used), Morbius, Iron Fist, Nightwatch and Captain America before modern Marvel made him a Nazi. Fuck modern Marvel for that too. The heroes are handled pretty well. The point where Cap makes his appearance is kind of brilliant since he’s kind of used as a beacon of hope and heroism when things are looking bleak but it’s not heavy-handed and he doesn’t just fix everything. I will say, Nightwatch is kind of pointless in this. His entire reason for being around seems to be to participate in two fight sequences and rescue Morbius before escaping. Although it’s still far better than what he was subjected to when modern Marvel decided he needed to be resurrected and turned evil. Fuck modern Marvel.

Art: 

One issue I have with the artwork is that it’s not consistent and some of the artists who worked on it are clearly better than others. Mark Bagley’s work is good. Tom Lyle’s work is good. Sal Buscema’s work is more than a little awkward looking. This guy might get the facial expression right once in every three panels where you can see a face. And that’s generous. It also does have some of the bad 90s art tropes starting to emerge at various points, like everyone being on their toes so the artists don’t have to draw feet properly or scenes being covered with shadows to an absurd degree but there aren’t that many moments like that all things considered.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Some work to humanise the victims. Like I said, I’d show some scenes with mourners. Maybe have that instead of some of the more repetitive scenes.
  2. Cut out Nightwatch and Morbius. Honestly, these two don’t do much in the event and it’s a bit annoying to have scenes where Morbius has to abandon a rescue mission or fuck off for multiple issues because it’s day time.
  3. Develop the humanity of the villains a bit more. I like the idea they were going with, but the execution was mediocre and you know these writers could have done better because they did with so many other elements.

Final Thoughts:

I will say, without any question, I agree more with the people who absolutely love this event than I do with the ones who hate it. It takes emerging trends and it tackles them in a way that’s subversive and clever. Its themes are, largely, well handled. There’s a lot about it that’s just good. It does, however, have its definite flaws. Its moments of lazy writing, 90s art and good ideas they don’t bother developing. So, I wouldn’t put it nearly on par with something like The Secret Wars but I would go so far as to call it good. I’ll give it a 7/10.

Advertisements

Iron Man: Madhouse Hates Tony Stark

I’ve talked about Madhouse’s Marvel anime a couple times before. There was Blade, which was decent, and X-men, which was a complete and utter pile of shit. Since we’re focusing on hero anime this month, it seems like an ideal time to delve further into Madhouse’s takes on super heroes. This time we’ll look at the first Marvel anime, Iron Man.

Iron Man1.png

Story:

Our narrative opens with industrialist Tony Stark heading to Japan. His plan is to retire as Iron Man and get a reactor up and running that will provide free, clean energy to everyone in the nation. He needs plutonium to get it going, but it’s totally clean. Don’t question it. Things take a turn when Cobra… I mean Zodiac, a ruthless terrorist organisation bent on world domination arrives on the scene and begins making life difficult for Tony. We know all about them because they were in that Avengers cartoon I reviewed.

Let’s begin with what’s wrong with the series, and there’s a significant amount. The first noticeable issue with the narrative is that it’s very clumsy and inconsistent. To use an example, Stark seems confused in the first two episodes when the name Zodiac comes up but in the third he’s able to explain exactly what their organisation is like an expert with no explanation for how he learned all about it. Incidentally, the early villains introduce themselves as Zodiac but the others just show up and don’t say shit. Like Zodiac just decided “he gets it, no need to do that any more.” There’s also an episode where Tony takes great pains to get into space including attaching boosters to his armour and hitching a ride in a jet but very shortly after that his armour goes out of control and he just goes into space without any difficulties. I guess that’s all he needed, a lack of proper control. That makes things easier. Then we have the mastermind behind Zodiac. He takes great pains to try to deceive others and cover up his involvement but then he just says “fuck it” and makes a huge villain speech in front of everyone and we aren’t talking about the situation changes and then he does it. The situation is the same when he’s trying to frame Tony versus when he says “nope, I was evil the whole time.”

There are also a lot of issues that come up from Tony behaving in a way that makes no sense, but I’ll go into that in painstaking detail when I talk about how bad the characterisation is. I will say that another issue lies in how obvious the whole plot line is. You can easily predict every twist the story takes based on cursory experience with more action-oriented fiction. And it seems to be a deliberate decision because a lot of their reveals are just weak and lazily written as though the writers expect everyone in the audience to see it coming and are just rushing through it. It’s like they didn’t care.

Characters:

I’ll start with the lesser character issues before moving on to the big one, which is our hero himself. First off, the antagonists are dreadful. Madhouse tries to go with the “well-intentioned extremist” route we see used in strong portrayals of characters like Magneto, or Poison Ivy. The trouble is, they’re really bad at it and we end up with villains who come across as bitter assholes who want other people to suffer because they have.

We also get the world’s worst reporter as a major supporting character. Seriously, this useless dumbass has no journalistic instincts. She gets an interview with Tony and can’t think of even the most obvious questions to ask him. Okay, he’s announced he’s retiring and that he wants to provide this free energy. You could ask “are you going to be subsidised for this energy and if so, how much will it cost the taxpayers?” “If the energy isn’t going to cause any pollutants, why are you using plutonium?” “If we aren’t going to be paying for this energy, how much is it going to be costing you and will it be sustainable?” You could also go with retirement based questions. “Who will be taking your place with the Avengers?” “Are you worried that your old enemies will decide to take revenge against you?” The point is, there are a lot of really obvious questions, Nanami.

Now, let’s move on to Tony. The big issue with him is that he comes across as completely insufferable and obnoxious. It’s like whoever Madhouse got to write this hates Iron Man and decided to portray him as an arrogant, lecherous, entitled moron. And this is supposed to be our hero. The one we look up to and care about.

Now, I did promise to go into details about the actions he takes that make no sense and they do tie into just how much of an idiot he comes across as here. There are a lot of examples and I want to talk about every single major one.

First off, he decides that he’ll retire. Now, in the comics when he did that he gave he Iron Man suit to someone he knew, trusted and who had acted as Iron Man to help him keep his identity secret. Which made sense and gave us James Rhodes, a fantastic character, to carry on the legacy. In this, he has three different dudes and they all have to share one suit. Why not have suits for everybody? To make things worse, Tony meets them for the first time during the series. So, how did he decide on them? Did he just tell his intern, Karen, to give the job to the three strapping lads who would look best in the armour? We’re expected to believe he cares so little for his legacy that he couldn’t be bothered to meet his replacements until after they’d been decided.

He also has his specialised new Iron Man Dio suit for these three guys to share, but he has no way to track it or shut it down if it goes missing or gets stolen. Which happens in the very first episode. He must have really trusted those three guys he never met before.

Tony just has trash security in this in general. His computers get hacked multiple times. His shipment of radioactive material gets targeted multiple times. His station is targeted by hostile forces multiple times and in every single instance his adversaries seem to have no real difficulty and yet we never see him do a bloody thing about it.

The second big one comes when he decides he’ll look into the loss of his plutonium shipment himself, in spite of the Japanese government telling him to stay out of it. Not only that, but he doesn’t use his high tech helmet to record everything he sees in order to give him some evidence of what happened if things go wrong. Things get even worse when he starts pursuing the culprits in his car. Not in the powerful armour that can fly and easily catch a speeding vehicle, in his car. Now, you might be thinking “maybe he was just being discreet” but that argument doesn’t work because he shoots missiles from his car at theirs. And he has to change out of his suit to get in his car and chase after them and then change back into it later which just makes it take longer for no good reason.

Art:

This is one aspect where I can mostly give the series credit. The Zodiac robots have interesting designs, the characters look good, except for Wolverine who has the same trash design he had in Blade. The action sequences aren’t great. They tend to be pretty one-sided, usually with Tony taking a beating before something happens that causes him to rebound and easily dispatch his foe. They aren’t bad though.

Iron Man.png

Sound:

The acting isn’t bad. They got some strong actors, Itou Sizuka especially. Unfortunately, the writing doesn’t allow for strong performances and we end up with good actors doing passably. The music is kind of dull. Which has been a general thing with Takahashi Tetsuya’s soundtracks for all these Marvel anime.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any. Tony is only lecherous towards women, including the ones who work for him because he is a major creep in this.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Lose the whole retirement angle. This leads to a lot of dumb moments and it gets immediately forgotten about after the first episode. Just have the first big antagonist use his former experience with Stark to build his own Iron Man suit.
  2. Stark shouldn’t creep on his employees. Sure, have him be a bit flirtatious but let the man be a professional towards the women working for him. He’ll come across as a lot less horrible that way.
  3. Keep things consistent. If you want to explain to us who Zodiac is after Tony’s been confused about it, have it explained to him by someone who he asked to look into it. If you want to show him make it into space with difficulty, don’t make it easy later. If the major antagonist is going to use subterfuge, even when he’s in an advantageous situation, have him keep using it. It makes no sense to switch just because “well, the audience knows who he is now.” This is basic.

I know there are a lot more problems, but I think fixing those three would help immensely.

Final Thoughts:

One thing I will say, this isn’t as bad as X-men was. It’s still pretty bad. It’s full of holes, Tony Stark is a complete wanker in it and it’s just not entertaining to watch. Ultimately, I give it a 3/10. If you want to see an animated Iron Man, I’d pick the old cartoon from the mid-90s over this.

December Bonus Review #5: Silver Surfer

We’ve discussed Marvel cartoons of the late 90s, early 00s twice before with looks at Spider-man Unlimited & Avengers: United They Stand. There are two other cartoons I want to discuss of that era. So, this week, we’ll be looking at the best cartoon of the lot. Not that that’s much of an accomplishment.

Silver Surfer.png

Story:

For those of you unfamiliar with the character, The Surfer, also known as Norrin Radd, has simple beginnings. He lives on an alien world dedicated to peace and philosophy called Zenn-la. In spite of that, he’s always wanted to explore other worlds. One day, his relatively idyllic life is interrupted by the greatest menace to worlds with intelligent life, proselytizers. Actually, it’s Galactus. A being who feeds off of planets. Norrin uses an old ship to meet up with Galactus. He offers the devourer a deal, he’ll find planets for Galactus if Galactus spares his home. Galactus takes the offer, transforming Radd into the Silver Surfer.

There are some pretty significant issues with this cartoon. The first is that, like the other two we’ve discussed, it ends its only series on a cliffhanger. The second is the execution. The Surfer is a character who’s worked best in comics that can largely stand alone so that he can have his science fiction themed adventures, give us some excitement and proceed to the next thing. The cartoon, in contrast, tries to do more the X-men thing and have a bunch of inter-connected stories where the promise of a pay off is always lingering until that amazing moment where all the build up comes to fruition. The consequence of trying to do too much of that when you have all of thirteen episodes is that everything jumbles together in a bit of a mess. It doesn’t help that most of the episodes aren’t all that interesting.

I will give the cartoon some credit. The writers may not be the best, but they do demonstrate some understanding of the character. They try to copy his reflective, inner monologue and they do give him some decent scenarios. The episode with the royal skrull egg is definitely the best in the show. I also appreciate that they do actually address the Surfer’s wicked deeds that he performed as a herald of Galactus.

Characters:

The Surfer himself is a well done character. Thanos is pretty true to his comic roots, although he’s obsessed with Lady Chaos instead of Death since standards and practices of the time didn’t allow the word “death” in a children’s cartoon. Galactus is pretty accurate as well. Nova is drastically different, mainly because they want to make her sympathetic and her murderous tendencies in the comic aren’t good for that.

One issue I do have is with all the one-shot guest characters and the way they give the Surfer a temporary sidekick with the troll Pip. Pip is really pointless. I also don’t like the way they waste Nebula & Mentor as characters. It’s also worth noting they make Mentor Thanos’ brother instead of his father. Probably because Thanos’ actual brother has exceedingly rapey powers and was deemed inappropriate for a kid’s cartoon. They kind of waste Adam Warlock, Drax, Gamora and Beta Ray Bill too. Just because they don’t do anything interesting with them.

Art:

Here’s one area I’ll give the cartoon a lot of credit. It looks really good. The CG doesn’t always blend well, especially with Galactus, but the alien environments, space phenomena and action sequences all look great.

Sound:

As a whole, the acting is really good. And I’m not just saying that because a bunch of actors from X-men make appearances as minor characters. Although that is true, we hear Cyclops, Xavier, Forge, Mystique, Storm, Magneto & Jubilee and those are just the ones I noticed. But I digress. Paul Essiembre, Tara Rosling, & Gary Krawford are all really good. The musical score is quite well done as well.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Instead of trying to connect most things, let the episodes stand alone. Like I said, these are the types of stories that the Surfer works best in.
  2. The Surfer does not need a useless travelling companion. Pip is just a waste. If you really want the Surfer to be journeying with someone, use a character like Quasar, Captain Marvel, or a well written Beta Ray Bill. In other words, a capable companion who can fight alongside him.
  3. Don’t end on a cliffhanger. I get that they thought they’d get a second series, but it’s just poor form to end a series like that when you don’t have another series definitively lined up. Because this could happen and the audience you did manage to grab will be stuck without closure.

Final Thoughts: 

The Silver Surfer, is not a bad cartoon. I don’t have nearly the same issues with it that I did with either of the others we’ve covered and there are actually some things it does pretty well. But, ultimately, the clumsy execution and the mistakes it does make leads to a mediocre product. I’ll give it a 5/10. A happy new year to all of you. This Wednesday we’ll be getting into January and you all know what that means. I pick some random theme for the reviews. We’re going to be doing super heroes this year.

September Bonus Review: The Hulk

Hulk.png

Back in 2003, super hero films were still a new craze. During that time, director Ang Lee decided to take on the challenge of adapting Marvel’s favourite angry strongman, The Incredible Hulk. The film made money but its response from viewers and critics alike was heavily mixed. So, let’s take a look and see just which half of the viewers were right.

Story:

We open with Doctor David Banner performing experiments in an effort to grant humans regenerative abilities. Before you can wonder if you put on a Spider-man film and this is what they’ve done with Doctor Connors, he experiments on himself and the modifications get passed down to his son, Bruce. Years later, Bruce has been raised by an adoptive family with no memory of his early childhood. He’s working in a laboratory with Betty Ross and some dude no one cares about when there’s an accident with their gamma equipment.

Let’s ignore the obvious changes they made to Bruce’s origin story including the lack of long time supporting character Rick Jones. There are two big issues with the narrative. The first is the absurd amount of coincidence If you thought Steerforth showing up at random ten thousand times stretched believability, in this film we find out that Bruce and Betty grew up on the same base. Her father arrested his father. Their fathers were probably carrying on affairs with the same man, given how stupid this is getting. He went into the exact same field of science as his father in spite of not remembering him at all. And they’re both involved in similar research. Not only that but he ended up in the same laboratory, doing research with that same girl he was on a base with when they were very small children. Those are a lot of big contrivances in a rather short period of time and it gets really ridiculous.

There’s also a major problem with the climax of the story. It works by having the entire United States military carry the idiot ball. So, at this point they know that Bruce’s transformation is triggered by making him mad. So, they decide to allow his father to see him. His father then proceeds to make a really over the top villain speech while deliberately and very blatantly antagonising him. Now, you would think they’d send in guards to remove the crazy man trying to cause Bruce to transform into the Hulk. But that would make too much sense. They just watch it all unfold while looking at monitors and wondering whether or not they should do something. Useless bastards.

Characters:

There’s just not much to our heroes in this. You can tell they’re trying to flesh out Bruce’s back story and give him some tragedy while simultaneously building up his father as the main antagonist, but they just don’t do it well. If you thought Betty Ross was a boring character in the Silver Age, she’s easily as bad in this. They try to give her and her father some baggage to make them more interesting, but they fail to develop it in a remotely interesting way. The Hulk doesn’t have that many important characters that you’d need to get right and they leave one of them out. But even what they use is apparently too much.

Cinematography, Visuals & Effects:

The effects are pretty bad. Even for the early 2000s. It’s especially apparent during an action sequence where the Hulk fights a bunch of gamma hounds. Not only does the action look really stilted, but the hounds themselves look dumb as hell. There are points throughout the film where they try to use a more comic aesthetic by having panels on the screen but it only succeeds in making the scene cluttered.

Acting & Music: 

They did get some good actors for this. They got Jennifer Connelly. She was really good in Labyrinth. They also got Sam Elliott. They just aren’t particularly good in this. Eric Bana, who plays the titular Hulk, is fine when he’s not transforming. A bit boring, but passable. Those transformation scenes are seriously awful though. Josh Lucas & Nick Nolte are both over the top terrible in this. Which I’m almost certain is the direction since they’re both playing really badly written antagonistic characters. Danny Elfman’s music is, by far, the best part of the film. It’s not one of his better scores, but it’s solid.

Final Thoughts:

This film is pretty bad. There are points where you can tell they’re trying to do something that could be interesting but the execution is just consistently off. Factor in the over the top antagonists, terrible plot points, poor CG and it really doesn’t hold up. It may not be the worst super hero film out there, but it’s closer to the bottom than it is to the top. I give it a 3/10.

June Bonus review- Avengers: United They Stand

About a year ago, I did a bonus review over Spider-man: Unlimited. It was not the wall crawler’s best moment, but at least it wasn’t One More Day or that comic where he gave birth to himself or Civil War. Why do terrible writers like to muck about with Spidey? Why can’t they just stick to writing Squirrel Girl & Bendis’ Mary Sue? In any case, I made the point that the late 90s were a bad time for Marvel cartoons in general and this was one of the ones I brought up that flopped hard. So, where exactly did they go wrong with Earth’s mightiest heroes? Let’s take a look, True Believers.

The_Avengers-_United_They_Stand.jpg

Story: 

We open with the Avengers preparing to meet the President, who stands poised to recognise their great achievements, and probably take credit for them. Unfortunately for them, a  ne-er do well named Ultron is afoot and plotting the demises of both the President & Ant Man. In typical Marvel fashion, this results in a public outcry against the team with the President tweeting that “they’re possibly the biggest mess of a team. Gone downhill so much thanks to the last administration letting that immigrant mutant on the team. Sad.” Actually, it’s a totally different President and he blames Hawkeye because… Hawkeye had him duck and then shot arrows at the attacking robots and… he should have picked him up and run thereby leaving them both open to attack from behind? Seriously, you see none of the other Avengers around during this sequence. It’s not like they had Wonder Man paired with Hawkeye to draw the hostile fire or something. This is immediately stupid. And that’s our introduction to the team in action.

Moments of sheer stupidity like that aren’t even the biggest narrative problem in this series. They divide their main focus between Ultron & the Zodiac, thereby not giving them time to resolve anything with either big bad and ending on a cliff hanger because no one was watching this. They also love to introduce the idea of back story for them without actually showing anything substantial. Like Ultron being a creation of Pym’s who was destroyed, but they’ll never show what the deal with that is or the Zodiac having been foiled by the Avengers in scenes we’ll never see. And there’s a big focus on Wonder Man being kidnapped… after he’s been missing for, like, six episodes. Yeah, they pretty much bring it up in passing like it’s not that big of a deal and then they start acting like it’s the most important thing ever for no apparent reason. There’s also the bloody stupid love triangle. Frankly, all the romances in this are really bad. You just start out with characters in a relationship and they never give you any reason to care. Remember when the mid 90s X-men cartoon had Scott & Jean in a relationship at the start and then they had the Captive Hearts episode to give you, the viewer, cause to be invested in that? This one can’t be bothered. Let’s also bring up “holy fucking shit he’s a ‘perfect’ machine”  Ultron. We’re supposed to buy this dude as a credible threat for our team but he’s a freaking moron, even for a cartoon villain. Take one of his early plans. He sends his robots to draw out the Avengers, except Ant Man, so that he can mount a full assault against Pym because Ultron is actually very anti- domestic violence and he wants to see Pym stopped. But then the robots immediately shut down when the Avengers arrive instead of putting up any kind of fight that could  have, I don’t know, delayed them without rousing their suspicions. Why not just have them beat the bots aster than anticipated? You could still have them arrive in time and it would be a lot less stupid.

Characters:

This is a big issue with this cartoon. The cast they chose. Let’s pretend, just for a second, that Pym being a bride battering brute doesn’t matter because they don’t want any of the kids who watch this to ever read the comics. And I know that’s a stretch, but for the sake of argument, let’s pretend the comics don’t matter. He’s still a  terrible choice to lead the team. Why? Because there are a lot of options with better costumes, more interesting powers and who are just better liked. The show itself brings it up talking about Thor, Iron Man & Captain America but it argues that he helped found the Avengers and, therefore, he’s just as qualified. But this is a show for kids and you know kids are going to want to see the “cool” characters. No kid cares about freaking Ant Man. Wonder Man is a pretty bad choice too, since he’s basically just a Mary Sue in this. Hell, why not take out the Falcon too and bring in the Black Panther? Even before the films, the Panther was a better known character and his costume is definitely superior. And it doesn’t help that they do nothing with this cast to make them interesting. They’re just a bland group.

Art:

There are three big problems with the artwork. The first is the costumes. A lot of the films screw up the costumes by trying to tone them down and making them just boring. This series goes the opposite route & tries to make things more “extreme” by giving most of the Avengers special armour that they put on through transformation sequences and it just ends up looking terrible. Especially with Hawkeye, the Wasp & the Falcon who take the brunt of it. It’s just ostentatious is what it is. The second issue is the transformation sequences themselves. It feels like they’re trying to capture a sentai or magical girl vibe with them but without any finesse and with an end result that looks awful. The third is that the animation is frequently slow and choppy.

Sound: 

The acting isn’t the worst ever, but it’s pretty bad. You get some performances that are all right like Stavroula Logothetttis or Tony Daniels but the majority of them seem like the actors can’t be bothered to put in any effort. Not that I would either if I was handed this script. The theme tune is similar to the one from the COPS cartoon, in that it has a good beat but is weakened by the repetition of the title.

Final Thoughts:

There are, certainly, worse comic adaptations than this. There are also worse things that the Avengers have been in. This is still a bad cartoon. With a team that has some of the best characters in the Marvel universe as potential members, they chose their core cast poorly. Why would you ever have Hank Pym as the leader in a work for children? With the story, they couldn’t just focus on one villain arc and ended up making a right mess of things. They couldn’t even get a lot of the basics right. In the end, I have to give this the same score as Spider-man Unlimited. United They Stand earns a disappointing 3/10.

Oh, and let’s take a quick peek at our big hero we’re all supposed to love.

pym

March Bonus Review: Pryde of the X-men

The X-men are, without any doubt, one of my favourite super hero teams. At least, they were back when Chris Claremont was doing his nearly two decade long run on the team. When he was still a couple years away from the end of his run, there was an attempt at making a television series based on the mutant team. It was 1989 and Marvel wanted to follow in Hasbro’s footsteps of making successful cartoons based off of their licenses to sell toys. So, why did Pryde of the X-men ultimately fail, thereby forcing us to wait for three years before the team would actually get their cartoon? Let’s take a look.

Pryde of the X-men.png

Story:

We open with Magneto being transferred, presumably to some prison, by a military convoy. Fortunately for him, the White Queen comes to his rescue. Weren’t his ties to the Hellfire club something he had for pragmatic purposes while he was the headmaster over the New Mutants and a member of the X-men? I guess the cartoon universe is just different. Cut to young Kitty Pryde driving to the X-mansion clutching a letter. Turns out, Xavier found out about her powers and, instead of wasting his time visiting with her parents to get her enrolled in his school (like what he did in the comics) he just decided to send her an ominous letter about how he knows her secret. The X-men run off to answer an alarm while Magneto leads the Juggernaut, who doesn’t even like mutants save for Black Tom, on an attack to steal a Cerebro circuit while Xavier is home with just the young Kitty Pryde. Now, it’s up to the X-men to foil his machinations and save the world.

The first issue with this as a pilot is just that they introduce far too many characters at once. Not only do we have the X-men, with Xavier, Kitty, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Cyclops, Dazzler and Wolverine but we also have a huge number of villains with Magneto, the White Queen, Juggernaut, the Blob, Pyro, Toad and little Lockheed hanging around their base for some reason. The next issue is with the action. We don’t actually see our heroes fight as a team or accomplish that much. Rather, the villains come at them one at a time and the X-men have one member bugger off to face the villain who shows up one on one. Save Storm who gets left behind to mind the atmosphere. And that doesn’t make for particularly compelling action. Seriously, compare it to the two part Night of the Sentinels from the good cartoon where we see the X-men fight as a team. We see every member contribute and we see robots getting torn to pieces in the final action sequence, which is about the same length as the big action scene here. Trying to connect all your major villains also really doesn’t work when you’re using a team like the X-men.

About the only bit of praise I can give this one is that the very basic premise could have worked. Having a seasoned team with a young mutant being added in who has to prove herself and learn to cope with her own abilities could have been used in a much better cartoon. You know, like the early 90s one where a team of seasoned mutants is joined by you Jubilee who has to learn to cope with her own abilities and prove herself. In all fairness, though, it could have also worked with the X-men team they used in this.

Characters:

So, fifteen characters was clearly too ambitious for a pilot introducing the whole premise and the natural consequence is that the cast is really under-developed. There are some more specific issues, though. The first is that Colossus awkwardly refers to himself in the third person. Then there’s Nightcrawler. Poor Nightcrawler. Every time he appears in a cartoon they seem to really screw him up. Even the good cartoon. In this one, he comes across as kind of pervy and as someone you really don’t want near children. Remember when his appearance made Kitty uncomfortable in the comics so he was nice to her but generally kept a respectful distance until she was able to get comfortable with him? In this he gets kind of aggressive about forcing the issue and Neil Ross’s unintentionally creepy voice acting just makes it so much worse.

Speaking of characters who seem to be written perpetually badly in adaptations, let’s talk about Shadowcat. In the comics, she’s a young genius who comes across as a very bright youngster but is still believable as a youngster. This suffers the same problem as certain other adaptations where they decide to make her far less intelligent and more of a generic good girl. Magneto also suffers from losing his complexity and being made a more generic villain, like he was in the silver age. I guess Larry Parr just didn’t want complex Jewish characters. Or he just isn’t good with complexity period. That’s also a distinct possibility.

Art:

This is one area where I can, as a whole, give the cartoon credit. Toei did a lot of the animation work on this and it does look pretty good. I also do like the costumes it uses. Even if they did forget Magneto’s gloves and just left his hands bare and they made Wolverine too tall.

Sound:

Any good will I might have from that is quickly cancelled by the sound. The acting in this is horrendously bad. Patrick Pinney gives Wolverine an Australian accent which is just stupid. He’s Canadian. What’s next, an X-men adaptation that has him voiced by an Australian doing a really poor fake American accent? No, I’m sure no production studio could possibly be that idiotic. The accents in this are just awful in general. Neil Ross’s Deutsch accent is bad. Dan Gilvezan’s Russian accent is terrible. The voice acting just comes across as low effort, no skill and they did get some people who can voice act. They got Frank Welker, for instance. The music is okay. Not anything good but decent enough.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, it’s not surprising that Pryde of the X-men failed to transition into a full series. It’s not the worst X-men adaptation I’ve ever seen but it is pretty bad. The writing’s a mess, the characters are completely uninteresting and some of them are handled in off-putting ways, the acting is atrocious and it just fails to do the team any justice. Which is a pity because, like I said, this team composition could have worked if they’d put some effort in. My final rating is going to be a 3/10. Still better than what Madhouse did with the group. I guess Marvel tried too hard to copy Hasbro without understanding why they were a success. In fact, next month I’ll look at one of Hasbro’s toy-based cartoons and let’s see why it worked for them.

December Bonus Review #2: Civil War

 

Civil War.jpg

I’ve talked about two big comic events, not including Marvel vs DC. One was average, the other really damn good. Since I talked about DC for the more average event and Marvel for the really superb one, it seems only fair to talk about Marvel again for the event that’s actively shit. Wouldn’t want to be accused of favouring one company over the other. Back in mid ’06, Marvel started an event headed by writer Mark Millar. It went on for about half a year and it has a lot of severe problems. Some of which relate to continuity while others are just with the content of the story even when divorced from all those issues it has in the context of the greater Marvel universe. I’m talking, of course, about Civil War. Why is this event such hot garbage? Let’s take a look. Like with Blackest Night, I’m not going to cover all the tie-ins, just the main event itself. So, keep that in mind.

Story:

In the light of a tragedy the American government decides to curtail some freedoms and force people with super human abilities to register and work for the government in an official capacity. This results in heroes being split with those who believe in surrendering freedom going head to head with those who want to keep it. Stupid shite follows.

Let’s start with the very first narrative problem. The reasoning behind the registration act is nonsensical. So, we have an accident when the New Warriors are being completely out of character and they get into an altercation with Nitro, resulting in him going boom and killing a bunch of kids. And the American government decides that the best way to prevent accidents like this is through superhuman registration. First off, the New Warriors have identities and powers that are known. They’re on reality television. As does Nitro. He’s certainly been arrested enough. It’s almost like knowing the real names and powers of super humans does nothing. Secondly, there have been super human battles in the Marvel universe with a lot more civilian casualties. Remember Maximum Carnage? How about Inferno? It’s almost like this incident is turned into a massive deal for incredibly flimsy reasons to excuse a really stupid event. That’s exactly what’s happening.

Another issue is with the extreme over reactions on the part of the pro-registration side. First, we have the head of SHIELD decide to have Captain America arrested when he hasn’t done anything wrong. He seriously just says that he will not hunt down his friends who refuse to register. At that point he hasn’t even decided to fight against it himself. As strange as that is, given how much Cap loves freedom. The same thing happens with Spidey later on. He tells Tony off and says outright that he’ll still work with SHIELD, but that he won’t fight Cap’s team or be a part of the Avengers. So, they open fire on him and send super villains to beat the shit out of him. Even though he’s already registered and is in full compliance with the law.

Speaking of the registration law, let’s talk about that mess. This event tries to turn it into an actual debate by comparing registering super powers to getting a gun license. The problem is that it fails to work on multiple levels. First of all, someone chooses to buy a gun. Most heroes in the MU didn’t choose to get super powers.. Secondly, they don’t just want to register them, they also want to force them to work for the government. At that point it would be like getting licensed to carry a gun and then being forced to work for the military because you own a gun. And we see with those aforementioned examples of Cap & Spidey that the heroes actually have no choice in the matter of working for the government. Because if they fail to follow orders they’ll have agents ordered to arrest them and get shot at. I’m pretty sure there’s a term for being forced to do labour against your will and that term is slavery.

In other arenas where the pro-registration side is made up of rusty old cock rings, these guys come across as cartoonishly evil. They build a robotic clone of Thor, which murders Bill Foster in cold blood. They keep using the damn thing too. Yeah, use the unstable construct that just killed one of your friends. That’s a great idea. They construct a prison in the Negative Zone. For those of you not familiar with the Negative Zone, it’s a dimension in the Marvel Universe where exposure to it causes severe depression. Yeah, let’s give our friends and comrades severe depression with all the trauma that comes with. They also bring in a bunch of psychotic super villains to work with them and hunt down the resisting heroes.

You want something else extremely stupid? We’re told that ninety percent of the American people support this measure. There is nothing out there that ninety percent of people will support. You could have an initiative to give everybody some free chocolate and you’d get more dissenters than that. If the measure was just about registration, you might be able to manage a high number, but even then ninety percent would be absurd. Once you add the forced labour, there’s no fucking way. I have to give Americans credit enough to assume that ninety percent would not support slavery.

Let’s talk about Bill Foster’s death a bit more because this is absolutely atrocious. First off, he dies pointlessly for cheap shock value. Secondly, they wrap his body in chains. So, in an event about forcing super humans into slavery they kill off a black guy and then wrap him up in chains. Either this is a really unsubtle visual metaphor or the people behind this are really stupid and clueless. It’s probably both, given the general quality. In the event they try to excuse it because “they couldn’t get him shrunk back down to his normal size” but I call bollocks on that. They have Hank Pym on their side. A man who invented a particle that makes things and people shrink. Couldn’t get him back to normal size my well-toned bum.

The event also ends with a complete anti-climax. There’s weird semi-incestuous stuff with The Invisible Woman & Human Torch. Their new identities are a married couple and the way he carries her when they’re fleeing is super questionable. So, they couldn’t have gotten new identities that were just unrelated? I knew that Bendis had a weird ass incest fetish but I didn’t know there were more people at Marvel with one.

Let’s go on the subject of follow up stories for a moment. When I discussed Secret Wars I mentioned that a lot of good stories came from the event, including the classic symbiont story for Spidey. So, what did we get from this event? A bunch of other horribly written comics, including the notorious One More Day. Thanks, Civil War, for giving us one of the worst Spider-man stories ever written.

Characters:

If I cover how each and every character in this event is taken out of character, we’ll be here for ages. So, instead, I’ll focus on a few of the more egregious examples. Let’s start with Iron Man. A lot of the more evil moves on the part of the pro-registration side come, at least in part, from Tony. He’s involved with the robot Thor débâcle. The Negative Zone prison is partially his idea. The event just consistently portrays him as a fascist . Captain America doesn’t come across as much better. He’s not fighting the good fight for any ideals. He’s just angry because the idiot at the head of SHIELD tried to have him arrested for not enforcing the registration act for them. When Tony tries to talk through things with him, he refuses to listen and acts like an ass. He actively insults people because he doesn’t like their choices. This is Captain America, before Marvel decided he should be a Nazi because modern Marvel is the worst. He should be giving inspirational speeches that have his comrades’ loins swelling with idealism, not throwing a tantrum.

We also have Bishop. I know, Bishop is a weird character to bring up since he’s barely present in the event proper but, for as little as he appears, they manage to royally fuck him up. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bishop, he’s a time traveller who journeyed to our time from a dystopian future where Mutant registration passed and mutants, as well as other super humans, were rounded up and either killed or forced into camps by Sentinels. Then, with them out of the way, the Sentinels quickly dominated ordinary humans turning everything into a horrific mess. Bishop chose to come back to our time to try and prevent those atrocities from repeating. So, he must see the registration act as a terrifying precursor to this future, right? Maybe, but he decides to join the pro-registration side anyway. Even though it goes against everything he’s ever stood for and everything that’s ever motivated him. Did Mark Millar never read a single issue of the X-men? Or maybe he only read Grant Morrison’s run.

Art:

There are a lot of problems with Steve McNiven’s artwork. The faces look terrible at least half the time. The posing is uncomfortably awkward, including the Human Torch/ Invisible Woman incest flying formation and that panel where She Hulk’s ass talks to you. I don’t imagine that Mark Millar put that in his directions. “Show the siblings flying chest to chest while she makes an ‘o’ face. Make sure She Hulk’s bum is in the foreground talking to us.” The proportions are frequently borked. Morry Hollowell’s colouring has a lot of issues too. The colours of things shift from issue to issue with She Hulk looking olive green sometimes and her regular shade others.

Civil War2.jpg

Final Thoughts:

Civil War is an absolute, bloody mess. The writing has holes so massive that Unicron could easily slip through them. Not to mention a whole lot of things that are so massively stupid that you feel a bit dumber just from having read them. The characterisation is garbage. The art looks bad. There is nothing in any of these seven issues that’s remotely redeemable. My final rating is going to stand at a 1/10. This event can go fornicate itself with something long, thick, sandpaper textured and spiky.