Tag Archives: Marvel comics

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.

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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

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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

 

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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.

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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.

December Bonus Review #1: Secret Wars

Back in October I talked about DC’s Blackest Night .  It was an event comic that suffered a lot of the pitfalls that modern event comics always seem to suffer from: cheap character deaths, tie-ins that are five times longer than the event itself, & characters who don’t serve much of a purpose to the event being a part of the whole thing just to make it seem bigger. So, what would an event look like if it had none of those problems? For the answer, let’s turn to a Marvel piece I’m very familiar with, The Secret Wars, and not the shit one from a couple years back. We’re going way back to the mid 80s for this one. 

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Story:

We open with a group of Marvel heroes finding themselves aboard a strange ship, floating through space. They introduce themselves and notice another ship nearby, this one full of villains. It turns out that both groups have been taken from Earth by the Beyonder, a cosmic entity who’ fascinated by Earth’s super beings. So, he’s chosen two teams to pit against each other. One team made up of those with selfless motivations. The other made up of those with selfish motivations. Can our heroes stop the villains who have been promised anything they desire, should they triumph? 

I actually only have one criticism of the narrative here. There’s a bit of a tryst betwixt the Wasp & Magneto. Which comes out of nowhere, doesn’t really do anything and ends pretty quickly. I think it’s just here to establish that Janet is a strong independent woman who doesn’t need her abusive ex-husband.

Aside from that, I like that the division for the characters is based on relative selflessness instead of something overly simplistic like “good vs. evil.” I also appreciate the way that the series gives all of the participating characters a chance to shine. The conflicts in this story are very interesting as well, particularly those that arise from philosophical differences within the ranks. Seeing James Rhodes tell off the Human Torch for being a racist fuck is pretty damn magnificent.

Looking back on it, this event also established a lot of elements that led to interesting stories later on. This was where Spidey got his black suit, events started that led to Colossus and Shadowcat having a falling out, The Thing got to have solo adventures in space, She Hulk joined the FF and there were other things too. And, thanks to the event being self-contained, the pacing is able to proceed at a good, steady pace without anything feeling left out or time skipping ahead awkwardly. We also don’t have any elements being mentioned but nothing really happening with them in the main event. It’s almost like writing a story that doesn’t include a bunch of supplementary materials leads to a stronger story. 

Characters:

Here’s another area where I have to give the Secret Wars complete credit. Jim Shooter doers a good job of naturally & concisely introducing our colourful cast. So that those readers who don’t pick up every title in the Marvel universe can keep up without any problems. He also does a fantastic job of showcasing those factors that make the characters who they are, in spite of having a pretty big cast and only twelve issues. He also does a good job of introducing us to some new characters, the second Spider Woman, Titania & Volcana. 

To use an example, let’s look at what is quite possibly the best explanation for Magneto’s character. Magneto is, naturally, put with the selfless group. This leads to him being confronted by Ben Grimm & Monica Rambeau (The Thing and Captain Marvel). After she calls him a murderer he becomes indignant and says this: “I am many things. A mutant, master of magnetism, an avowed enemy of humankind, but a murderer? A slayer of innocents? Never! I fight in defence of my race! My cause is just…” He goes on from there but that is actually a perfect explanation of Magneto’s character. I also like that, in the comic itself, there are a lot of pauses in that bit to illustrate how carefully he’s choosing his words. I also think it’s very telling that the pauses stop shortly before he declares that he has never been a slayer of innocents. 

The dialogue in this is very well crafted, is where I’m going with that. 

Art:

The pencilling for this series was mostly done by Michael Zeck with a couple issues being drawn by Bob Layton. There are times it can be a bit under-detailed, especially in large panels that have a lot going on. But, as a whole, it looks pretty damn good. The grand, alien imagery is really nice. The action flows well. The colours by Christie Scheele, except for that one issue in which they were done by Nelson Yomtov, are really nice. They’re vibrant and bright so they really pop.

Final Thoughts:

The Secret Wars was a superb event. It’s so good that it’s hard to believe it was crafted to try and sell super hero toys. It was dynamic, introduced the beginnings for a lot of stories and it didn’t need to cheaply kill off a bunch of good characters just to show that it was “for serious.” My final rating is going to be an enthusiastic 9/10. If you want to see a comic event done right, look no further. Now, I’ve talked about comic events done right and events done averagely. Next week’s bonus review will focus on how to fail at them really horribly. Because you guys deserve to see the whole gamut. 

In closing, I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Hearth’s Warming, Hogswatch, the Solstice, Yule, Christmas or any other holiday. Consider this month of bonus reviews a token of my esteem for all of you. 

July Bonus Review: Spider-man Unlimited

The late 90s were a bad time for Marvel cartoons. There were animated versions of the Avengers, Spider-man & Silver Surfer and none of them lasted for longer than a single series. So, where exactly did Marvel and Saban go wrong with these properties? I might look at the other two later and give a really detailed answer, but I’ll start with a look at Spider-man Unlimited and let’s see where it went wrong.

Spidey unlimited.png

Story:

We open with John Jameson preparing to launch to the newly discovered, mysterious, Counter-Earth. Peter Parker is taking pictures when he notices Venom and Carnage sneaking aboard the shuttle. He goes to stop them but fails. The shuttle launches with them aboard and crashes on Counter-Earth, seemingly killing John. Naturally, the public blames Spider-man because no one noticed the symbiotes going aboard or happened to take video of the historic launch. Because why would you? Eventually, a video comes from John Jameson explaining that he’s on Counter-Earth and warning of some kind of danger that could threaten Earth if it’s not stopped. Spidey responds by hijacking a shuttle and going to Counter-Earth. Not to deal with the situation he just wants to bring John back. Does he seem like the type of heroic person who would face that kind of threat? He finds out that this new Earth is a lot like ours, but it’s got beast people and normal people and the beast people are in charge under the High Evolutionary.

There are two massive issues with this cartoon and I’ll list them both before explaining how they come into play since they’re frequently connected. The first is that it never really commits to its Counter-Earth gimmick. The second is that the writers can’t be bothered to think anything through. Let’s look at Spidey’s journey to Counter-Earth. He announces to everyone that he’s going to rescue John and clear his name. Then, in the exact same voice, he tries to explain why he’s going as Peter Parker in a truly pitiful attempt to salvage his secret identity. To make this even more inexplicable, he tries to hide the fact that Peter Parker is there from John because if John knew he’d figure out the truth. Now, think about that for a moment. Literally everyone on regular Earth knows. If them knowing is a give away, your secret identity is over. Period. There’s no need to try and hide it any more. John’ll just find out when he returns and learns that Parker left with Spidey. But the writers want to keep the secret identity because it’s in the comics and everyone knows that element of Spider-man stories.

The symbiotes are another great example. In this cartoon, the symbiotes are part of a great hive mind called “the Synoptic” but they still talk to one another like two separate beings because they wanted them to retain something of their unique identities. They also display new powers, becoming liquefied or opening holes in their chests to let projectile weapons pass through them. However, in spite of that, we’re still expected to believe that they have human hosts. Because Cletus Kasadt really has no torso and Eddie Brock can become mush. It makes perfect sense until you spend a millisecond thinking about it.

Spidey’s motivations  are also impacted by this combination of not wanting to commit and generally not thinking. He keeps whining that it’s not his planet or his fight because the writers don’t want to have a story about Spidey as a resistance fighter. They want him to swing around New Yory city, yes Counter-Earth has its own, and fight bad guys, including Counter-Earth versions of Kraven & Electro, because it’s more similar to what he actually does. Seriously, if you just wanted to have Spidey swinging around and fighting crime you should’ve just skipped the whole Counter-Earth bollocks.

There are some smaller issues too. The final episode ends on a cliffhanger, because they wanted to punish the five invested viewers they had. Spidey’s signature wit is basically absent. I mean, they try, but they’re really bad at it. For example, when he meets the knights of Wundagor Lady Vermin says they shouldn’t fight because he looks fair to her eyes and he responds with “And you look most rat-like to my own.” Somehow, she considers this flattery even though it’s just a description. Does she also think it’s flattery when someone says that she’s pale? There’s a point where Venom says he’s history and his response, in Unlimited fashion, is to say that History was never his best subject. He prefers Phys Ed, before knocking some support pillars over. That’s the best he could come up with in that situation? What about “History’s written by the winners. You’ll never decide what goes in the books.” or maybe “I just hope they remember my ability to bring the house down.” Either of those would have been much better and fit the character better. And there are moments that don’t make sense, like the guy who can become moving bandages being unable to use his powers to escape a cage with openings that he should be able to fit through.

Characters:

Here’s another major failing of the cartoon. These characters are boring. There’s no reason to care about anyone in the resistance because they’re such non-characters. the High Evolutionary was more interesting in the one episode of the 90s X-men cartoon he appeared in than he manages to be in the entirety of this where he’s the big bad. Then again, that show had competent writing. This version of Spider-man comes across as whiny and completely lacking in endearing qualities.

Art:

I can give the artwork some praise. There are some nice visuals and the action sequences look fine. There are some issues. Spidey’s new costume is trying way too hard to be “extreme.” Most of the symbiotes look identical and leave identical growths on their hosts which is boring and causes you to question what makes the ones we’re familiar with different besides the writing being terrible. This series also has the most unimaginative tattoos. John has one that just looks like the pencil outline of a crescent moon. And there’s another dude in the Resistance who has one that’s just the word “Mum.”

Sound:

The acting is mostly passable enough. It’s not good, but it’s functional. Then there’s Rhys Huber. He is truly awful. Michael Donovan is a bit rubbish too, but nowhere near that bad. The music is, likewise, pretty passable but not good.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, I think this series failed because of unlimited poor decisions. It can’t decide whether it wants to do the same old types of stories or have its Counter-Earth gimmick and the result is a mess. There are constant dumb writing choices that are, frankly, insulting to the audience. Because kids aren’t stupid. They can tell that there’s something off when it’s that blatant about it. In general, it’s just bad. My final rating on this one is going to stand at a 3/10. If you guys are interested, maybe I’ll look at the other two at another time and explore why they failed to grab audiences.

What’s Really Costing Marvel Sales?

For those of you who aren’t aware, Marvel Comics recently came under fire when VP David Gabriel, made a statement about their sales slump being the result of having “too much diversity.” Because readers just don’t want to hear about women and people of colour. He has since retracted the statement due to the understandable backlash. 

So, what’s really to blame for the lack of sales? Well, as someone who used to buy Marvel comics , let me try and provide some insight into why they lost my money and, I’d wager, quite a few other people’s. 

1.) Consistent Editorially Mandated Events

Remember when company wide events were incredibly rare to the point where you might have one a decade? Remember when those events were basically relegated to their own mini-series and every comic wasn’t dedicated to tie in material? Well, I’m old so I do. I also miss those times. And that’s one of the big reasons I stopped buying Marvel comics. Writers are constantly having the story arcs they’re doing disrupted so that the comics they’re working on can tie into the latest House of M, World War Hulk, Civil War or whatever. You can’t just be a fan of the X-men and Spider-man or of the FF and Iron Man any more because you never know when those stories are going to be disrupted for actual months to tie into the latest event. Which probably makes it hard to find new readers too. How many people do you think want to read all the big books just to know what’s going on? But there’s something else that ties into this. 

2.) The Big Events Themselves

Honestly, I  was a fan of a lot of Marvel’s characters and titles. So, for me, the big events might not be a problem if they were well written. The problem is that, well, they aren’t. Most of them have heroes fighting one another instead of villains for stupid and contrived reasons. Most of them also feature a lot of wasteful character deaths, that may or may not last, for cheap shock value. It’s not even shocking at this point because they do it all the time. That’s not good writing and what it tells me, as a fan of a lot of these characters you’re killing, is that you don’t care about my ability to enjoy your comics. “You like Bill Foster? Well, too bad we’re going to kill him in an exceedingly disrespectful way.” Is it any surprise that I don’t want to give them my hard earned money to see that?

3.) Character Ruination Everywhere

Marvel doesn’t have to kill characters off to ruin the experience for readers. They can just make really stupid changes to them. Hello, Hydra Agent Steve Rogers. But it’s not just Cap losing all his nobility and dignity. It’s a pretty persistent issue. Jubilee was a cool character. Then she was a vampire and sucked, both literally and figuratively. Speedball was cool, then he went full emo- Penance mode and he’s been an awful character since. They tried to fix him, but the damage was done. Luke Cage was a cool character, but then they saddled him with Bendis’ Mary Sue and now he sucks. The Scarlet Witch was a cool character, but then they made her quasi-incestuous and mentally unstable. And those are just a few examples. There are many, many others who have been ruined by a combination of bad decisions and editorial interference. 

4.) The Handling of Legacy Heroes

In theory, legacy heroes are a great idea. Have the old hero step down, bring in a new, interesting one. The trouble is that Marvel’s been handling these heroes in a way that alienates the fan base for the previous hero. Gone are the days when Tony Stark stepped down to let James Rhodes take the Iron Man mantle due to some personal problems. These days, the old heroes die or turn evil, most of the time. Marvel, I know this is complicated but maybe the way to retain your fans is to treat your characters with respect? 

5.) There’s No  Reason to get Attached to the Heroes

This kind of connects a lot of the prior points. For me, as a comic fan, there’s no impetus to get attached to Marvel’s new characters. Because I know that there’s a good chance they’ll be killed off during a lousy event, get completely changed in a way that’s absolutely devastating to their character or turn evil for stupid reasons. If I get invested in that character, I’ll be setting myself up for disappointment later. And it’s, frankly, not worth my time. 

6.) The Writing Aesthetic

This is going to be the final point I bring up. Speaking personally, my favourite Super hero comics are from the Bronze Age. Back when they could incorporate serious themes, ongoing story lines and character development while also maintaining a lot of the fun, goofy elements. You got good stories that could balance serious themes with more light-hearted moments. A lot of modern Marvel comics, in contrast, are fixated on being dark and edgy. There’s a reason so many heroes die cheaply or turn evil. There’s a reason the good points of so many characters have been lost in a bid to make them darker. There may be an audience for that aesthetic, but I’m certainly not a part of it and it seems like I’m not the only one who feels that way.

So, those are the reasons that I turned away from Marvel. And they probably hold true for a lot of other people as well. So, David Gabriel, maybe instead of blaming the levels of diversity you should focus your efforts on helping the company “get good” as the Internet would say. 

February Bonus Review: DC vs Marvel Comics

Anyone who’s familiar with western comics knows Marvel and DC. They’re the big two. The ones with extended cinematic universes and adaptations of widely varying quality. Comic fans have long debated which characters should fight and who would win. In 1996 the companies themselves decided to come together for a crossover that would explore those very questions in a mini-series written by Ron Marz & Peter David that ran for four issues. So, is it everything that comic fans hoped for? The back of the trade promises the showdown of the century. So, let’s take a look. 

dc-vs-marvel.jpg

Story:

The walls that separate universes are coming undone. Several heroes and villains are finding themselves transported elsewhere. Spidey appears in Gotham. The Juggernaut finds himself in Metropolis. Tim Drake finds himself right in the X-mansion and those are just a few examples. Everyone wonders what’s happening. The answer comes fairly quickly, two brothers are responsible for creating the universes and, after losing their consciousness from a climactic battle that destroyed everything, they’ve remembered everything and become aware of one another. They decide that instead of fighting directly and letting everything end in the cross fire, they’ll select champions from their own universes. The universe that wins gets to live. And that’s how the battle between these two universes is joined. 

Let’s talk about the writing flaws. The first is that a lot of the battles seem more like popularity contests than an actual examination of who would win given the powers and skills of the combatants. To go into some examples, Wolverine beats Lobo in a straight out brawl. And, as much as I like Wolverine’s character when he’s written by Chris Claremont, Larry Hama and several others, including Peter David. Lobo’s whole shtick is that he’s over-powered and over the top. The bloke can go toe to toe with the Justice League in its entirety. Wolverine is not that strong by half. You get the same thing with Storm against Wonder Woman. You’ve got a woman who’s effectively a Goddess against a lady who can control the weather. And somehow Storm wins with a couple lightning bolts even though Wondey should be able to stand up to far worse without a problem. As much as I love Strom, that’s nonsense. We’ve also got Batman against Captain America. A fight between two experts at hand to hand combat. Two tactical geniuses. With one having a measurable advantage in terms of strength, stamina and speed. And yet the one with the disadvantage wins and in a very lazy way. Which is the general problem with these fights. They can’t even give a conceivable explanation for why the less powerful combatant wins. At least the Spidey and Robin fights show you some cleverness on their part that lets them win. The Aquaman vs. Namor fight is also very lazy. This is a fight that could have gone either way, given how evenly matched they are. But we get bullshit involving a whale jumping out of the water and belly flopping onto someone standing on land. That is really stupid. Is the whale supposed to have super powers? 

There’s also a lot of bluster about these heroes working together, learning from one another and we see very little of that. The series really could have benefited from some extra length to let us see these actual interactions in a more substantial way than a few panels. 

With that being said, I do like the idea of the characters being put against one another by cosmic forces outside of their control. It certainly beats having there be some misunderstanding to clear up or having them all get tricked by some villains so that they can halt their battle and come together later. I also do rather like the big climax. 

Characters:

I’ll give the mini-series some credit here. They use a lot of characters and they’re pretty good at giving them a sense of personality that meshes with their regular characterisation. They aren’t deeply complex and I suspect the aftermath of these events was never dealt with in the comics proper. I don’t remember hearing anything about it in them, any way. But the characters are in character and I think that’s the best you can really expect from an event like this. The worst thing I can say about it is that the “romantic tension” betwixt Tim and Jubilation is really forced. 

Art:

So, we get artwork by Dan Jurgens & Josef Rubinstein. Overall, it looks really nice. There are some good action sequences in the story. They could have certainly benefited from being longer since most of them are over in two or three pages, but what we do get is pretty nicely done, mostly. The character art is dynamic with some really good designs for the Amalgam portion and the colourists did a really good job. There are occasional moments of minor fail. There are a couple panels with Bane where it looks like he was drawn without a top and it was lazily added in by the colourist later. There’s an original character called Access who’s drawn a bit inconsistently. All in all, though, the art fails are relatively minor and rare. 

Final Thoughts:

So, that’s DC vs. Marvel. Is it “the showdown of the century?” Not really. The writing can be lazy. Particularly when it comes to explaining how certain characters manage to win their bouts. The concept is a good one, but it’s not explored all that thoroughly and, when it comes right down to it, the actual bouts are too short for that particular accolade. That being said, it is fairly entertaining and there are things to like about it. In the end, it’s a pretty average read. My final rating is a 5/10. Have any ideas for what March’s bonus review should be? Leave them in the comments. Until then, expect the Wednesday anime reviews to continue as scheduled.