Monday, February 23, 2015

Ms. Marvel Year One

A lot can happen in one year of a girl’s life. She might sneak out of the house for the first time and go to her first party, get enveloped by a mysterious mist and get superpowers (origin story, descended from alien/human hybrid species called Inhumans). She then might rescue someone for the first time (that popular girl who acts nice but really isn’t) and take her first steps as a superhero (epic fail, gets shot). Make another big superhero moment, this time with official costume (another fail, lots of tiny robots). Then get her first team-up with a legendary hero (Wolverine! ONLY #2 on her fantasy hero team-up bracket), get her first villain (hybrid clone of Thomas Edison and a cockatiel, but still counts), find out she is descended from aliens (she thought she might have been a mutant, so new info to her), get her first dog (that is huge and teleports, also an Inhuman), and even meet a queen (in this case an queen of the Inhumans, so technically her queen?). A lot can happen in one year of a girl’s life. (Realizing her best friend who happens to be a guy is in love with her not one of them) A lot can happen in one year of anyone’s life. But in this case, this is year one of Ms. Marvel.

This also happened. Meeting Agent Coulson in SHIELD #2

In my review of issue #1, I compared Kama Khan to Peter Parker. This comparison is still very much valid. Kamala lives in the real world. (The "real" comic book world where superheroes exist, but still) She has to sneak out to be heroic. She has to sneak back in to go to school in the morning and be completely unheroic. But before she was "special", Kamala wanted to be like the “normal” kids. Go to parties, with boys, eat the legendary infidel meat called bacon, etc. But being a racial and religious minority doesn’t help. More to the point, having conservative parents doesn't help. Being a fangirl nerd helps even less. But now Kamala has super powers. And even though she lacks Peter Parker’s science skills, she still has her good friend Bruno to fill in that gap in her superhero life. (If you haven't read the series, yes, Bruno is the friend secretly in love with her) However, there is still no super power that can defeat the teenage awkward phase. She is a real teenager.

The first ark in the series finds Ms. Marvel taking on the mystery of teens being kidnapped by The Inventor (the before mentioned bird/man). He has an army of small to super sized robots powered by the teenagers he seemingly kidnapped. (Think The Matrix. And "seemingly" because it's a tad more complicated than that) Along the way she is assisted by Bruno and her canine/Inhuman sidekick, Lockjaw. The tome is light and and entertaining. The writing and art is great. It's a solid series.

Creators G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona created a great series and character. And it is breakthrough in that Kamla Khan is the first Muslim character to headline a series. But the great thing about the series is that her religion is not a focus of the series. It's treated as just another detail that makes up the Kamala Khan character. She could have been a white, blond, christian girl and the story and humor would still work. With a few detail changes of course. But Ms. Marvel being a person of color and a non Christian is important. It is important to be able to see ourselves in the heroes we look up to. They don't necessarily have to look like us but it's nice when they all don't look the same. It helps us believe we can be like them.

I've also mentioned before that another great thing about the series is that it is a good entry point for fans. Ms. Marvel exists in the main Marvel Comics universe but you don’t need to catch up on decades of Marvel history to know what is going on. Yeah her powers came as a result of a big story in the Marvel Universe but the focus of her story is her local world of Jersey City. The bigger world will keep happening and Kamala Khan will occasionally experience some of the fallout.... kind of how she will face the end of the Marvel Universe in the upcoming Secret Wars event. Easrlier this month Marvel announced the Last Days story arc that Ms. Marvel (and other heroes/titles) will be experiencing. Although this isn't the end of the series or Kamala Khan. It's just a big end of the universe type thing Marvel is doing. Long story, these things happen in comics, but Kamala will be back. So... The goings on of the Marvel Universe will bleed over into the Ms. Marvel series. But I suspect it will be a while before Kamala Khan takes a major role in a major crossover event. The series is too much fun and too new to get into the complications of the bigger world. Hopefully Marvel will allow the character to grow and thrive before she gets called up to the big leagues. This has been a great first year for Ms. Marvel.  Now well see how her legend unfolds.

Friday, January 23, 2015

MCU Secret Wars

A while ago I posted my thoughts on how MARVEL, SONY, and FOX could theoretically cash in and form a single Marvel Cinematic Universe with all characters living in the same dimension at the same time. Fans have been craving this for years. You can read that article here: How Marvel Could Make Worlds Collide

I listed some ways the characters licensed to the three studios cold crossover into each others universe. But I neglected an idea that Marvel Comics is using to make a single comics universe. (Side note, Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios are separate entities living under one parent company) Marvel Comics will be relaunching Secret Wars. The original story was a limited crossover series which featured The Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the X-Men being kidnapped by a being called The Beyonder, and forced to fight a select group of their villains on a planet called Battleworld. The planet was comprised of chunks of different planets that the Beyonder stole.

In the new Secret Wars story, Battleworld will be made up of the various Marvel Comics universes. For the uninitiated, there is the main Marvel universe where all our heroes live. There is also the Ultimate Universe where many of the characters were restarted. This was a way to give new fans a way to get into Marvel without having to study up on all (and there is A LOT) of back stories and events that exist in the regular Marvel Comics Universe. There is also the Marvel Zombies Universe (zombie virus infects heroes and villains) and other alternate timelines that have come about. All these universes will combine for Secret Wars. Now comes the fan theory.

Marvel (and DC Comics) have thrown these big "everything changes" kinds of events over the years. But I find the timing a little interesting. Again, Marvel Comics has no control over what happens at Marvel Studios. So my fanboy thinking is this... Is the comics arm of Marvel dropping hints to Sony and Fox? Marvel Studios has been trying to strike a deal to combine universes. Most recently, they were trying to work a deal with Sony to co-produce a Fantastic Four film that would take place in the MCU. This of course would blend the FF with the Avengers onscreen at some point. It would also seamlessly incorporate Galactus and the Silver Surfer into the MCU as well. Marvel would take over the bulk of the production and Sony would enjoy the financial benefits. Sony unfortunately decided to make their own FF film. I have not read anything on the X-Men at Fox, but that is a whole ot of mutants and stories that would have to be incorporated into the MCU. It would be fantastic. It's just more complicated than bringing in the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man from Sony.

But back to my point/theory. Marvel Studios plans things WAY OUT in advance. It almost feels to me like Marvel Comics is kind of hinting to Sony and Fox a story that could unite all these characters if not onscreen, then at least into the same world. When all these franchises run their course, could a Secret Wars multifilm event (think trilogy) bring all three studios together? There is a lot (A LOT) of money to be made. And fans (including myself) would eat it up.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Captain Marvel Casting

We won’t see Captain Marvel until the Summer of 2018. That is three and a half years away. It gives MARVEL Studios plenty of time to make their casting decision for Carol Danvers. Unfortunately for us, that gives us way to much time to wonder who will be Captain Marvel. Some lists of potentials have already been published. And without going into too many details, most of what I have seen have been okay. Some names are pretty obvious, but others… All I can say is, “Really?”
So, how do I put together my list? Firstly, there is plenty of time for an unknown or little known actress to have a breakout moment, or get noticed by the right people and make my and every other list irrelevant. Marvel has done well with its casting so you know whoever is chosen will be the right choice.
Now back to the list. In the comics Carol is Caucasian and blonde. So… most likely the actress who gets picked will be white. But outside of the comic reading culture, she is not very well known. So there is always the outside chance a person of color could be chosen. Another Captain Marvel who was not Carol Danvers and had different powers was an African American woman. So again, not impossible.
I’m also considering the average age for an Air Force Captain being 27. (Internet research but it sounds about right) So let’s say, late 20s to mid 30s. But the point is, Carol does not have to be in her twenties. Also, Danvers is Captain Marvel for the same reason Captain America is a Captain. She is actually a Captain, a commissioned Air Force officer. Anyway, in my mind that kinda makes anyone who looks like they just got out of high school not look quite right.

So... on with my picks.

Here is the obvious choice that is on every list and honestly, my first pick as well. Being Kara Thrace, (aka Starbuck) on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series is more then enough to qualify Katee Sackhoff. She also expressed an ongoing interest in the role and has been backed up by lots of fans for a while now.

I would say that she is the next best option. Arguably, Charlize Theron could be the best actress for the role considering her career and skills as a performer. To say she an be dedicated to a role is an understatement. Let's also not forget how willing she is to transform herself for roles.

It's hard not to mention Emily Blunt in this discussion. She nails her role in the sci-fi genera with her performance in Edge Of Tomorrow. Yeah, the Tom Cruise film that not a lot of people gave a try at the box office. Sadly, I'm one of the ones who took a pass on it. It's actually really good. REALLY GOOD. You should give it a chance now that it is out on video. On a side note, Blunt was the first choice to play the Black Widow in Iron Man II but has scheduling conflicts. She was also the front runner to play Peggy Carter but turned the role down. Marvel likes her.

Of everyone on this list, she has the most nerd cred besides Katee Sackhoff. And like Sackhoff's Starbuck, you could mold Torres' Zoe Washburn (Firefly, Serenity) into Carol Danvers very easily. Plus she is a skilled and seasoned actress. Let's also not forget the Joss Whedon connection here.
If Aisha Tyler she were Carol Danvers, I could really imagine her saying that she likes punching things and Star Wars convincingly. Actually, I'd find that convincing if she said that as herself. A hard core gamer and friend of the nerd/geek world, you can be certain Aisha Tyler would do her best to do Captain Marvel justice.

She's already been in one comic franchise. And maybe it's time she headlined her own. Maggie Gyllenhall has taken on some seriously good roles. Like her brother, a lot of them have been in indie flicks. But she has the caliber to do justice to a major comic book movie.
The Hunger Games has done a lot to showcase strong female leads. Jena Malone has plenty of experience. She can bring the attitude and humor to the Carol Danvers role.
You might be more familiar with Natalie Dormer  from her role as Margaery Martel on Game Of Thrones and most recently as Cressida in Mockingjay Part 1. Shes also been the subject of fan theories that Marvel has already locked her down for the role. I have not seen her in that many things myself, but I can see why she is a fan favorite for the role.

She is not a stranger to Whedon projects. And she technically has already played a role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the mother of Sky in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But why not? Dollhouse proved she can handle various kinds of roles.

Have you seen Orphan Black? I think it is safe to say she could pull off almost any role. Tatiana might be a bit of a stretch being on the smaller side, size wise, compared to my other picks, but she has been really impressive in Orphan Black, playing multiple clones with different personalities.

There are no doubt other great choices out there. I just haven't seen everyone and everything so forgive me if I neglect anyone. If I were to bet any money, I'd say Sackhoff, Theron, and Blunt are the most likely. Of course MARVEL could always go will a lesser or unknown name. But we'll see.

Comments and suggestions are appreciated and encouraged. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Speed Racer

You could call this a guilty pleasure, but I don't think that would be a good term for it. I don't feel any guilt or shame for enjoying the 2008 film version of Speed Racer. Yes, it is cheesy. But would you really expect a serious film adaptation of the Speed Racer manga and cartoon? Maybe working against it are the names it's producers and directors, Lana and Andy Wachowski. The last two Matrix films didn't exactly do much for their names. And I'm still scratching my head over Cloud Atlas. But anyway...

Instead of trying to be experimental, with this film the Wachowskis kept things light and fun. The Racer family includes a chimpanzee after all. This is an origin story. We see where Speed makes his name and becomes a super star. I can't state enough the cheese factor in this movie, but for me it works. And it looks spectacular. I don't  know of any other movie that has colors this bright and vibrant outside of animation or dream sequences. And the details are amazing too. The cars are over the top and the tracks that they race on are even more so. Speaking of the cars,  the Mach 5 built for the movie is designed to be drivable. It was mainly used on green screen though.And all the cars, real and fake, look good. If you really want this film to jump out at you, see it in high definition.

There is the theme of corporate greed and corruption, but it's not heavy handed. The movie is meant for fun. There is also a stellar cast that seemed to enjoy not so serious roles. More known for his indie roles, Emile Hirsch is pretty comfortable playing Speed Racer. Trixie, Speeds helicopter pilot/highly skilled race car driver girlfriend, is played by Christina Ricca. Mom and Pops Racer are brought to screen by Susan Sarandon and John Goodman. The Mysterious Racer X is Matthew Fox. You might also notice a young preModern Family Ariel Winter as the young Trixie.

Not a lot of people seem to like this movie, but I think it is pretty well put together and a fun family film. It is not meant to be taken seriously. But I think it is a seriously good film that is way underrated.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Last Goodbye

Two years ago I begin this blog with a post about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I was speculating on how the trilogy would progress considering The Hobbit was one book and it became three long movies. We of course know that many details have been filled in by appendicitis and written by Tolkien on all the events surrounding Bilbo and the dwarfs. And with the final film The Battle of the Five Armies finally hitting theaters, the story has come to an end.

SPOILERS to come

Story wise, The Battle of the Five Armies was not the strongest. It needed more story, really. It begins with Smaug's defeat at the hands of Bard the Bowman. And then we see what we also expected, the gold sickness invading Throin's mind, like it did his grandfather. Thorin turns his back on the promise to compensate the people of Laketown for their aid, even after Smaug destroyed their home. Then there was the King of the Woodland Elves, Thranduil. Envying the wealth of Erobor, he led his army to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim "elven property" after Smaug's death. Even before men and elves came calling, Thorin was determined to keep all his peoples wealth. Now with two armies (one was really just refugees from Laketown) at his door, Thorin chose war and sent for the aid of his cousin, Dain Ironfoot, lord of the Iron Hills.

That only bring us to three armies. Azog was still hinting Thorin and proved to be a skilled commander. He Ambushed the dwarfs, men, and elves between Erobor and the ruins of Dale, keeping their forces occupied while a second force of orcs was on it's way to complete the massacre. It was only the intervention by the fifth army of eagles that defeated the orcs. This all happens in the book, animated film, and here in the feature film.What lengthens the film and fills out the story is Gandalf's rescue from Dol Guldur. Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman the White battled orcs, the Ring Wraiths, and a reforming Sauron while Radagast the Brown took Gandalf to safety. This begins the setup for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

At about two and a half hours, there was a lot in this film. But it did feel a little rushed at the end and I was wanting some more details. An odd thing to ask for when a single book has been stretched into three movies. But after the battle, we don't really see or hear what happens to the dwarfs afterward. Bilbo says his goodbye and returns top the shire. Fans of the books know who became the lord of Erobor and who was crowned as the new king of Dale. Although watching the film, you would know who the new King would be. But I was craving a little more. There was not even a scene memorializing Thorin. Just the surviving members of his company and Bilbo crying over his body. Although I can only imagine some of these things might appear in the eventual extended addition. The final image is Bilbo answering his door to find Gandalf, who is in the shire to celebrate the Hobbit's 111th birthday.

Over all, it was still a great film. I enjoyed it a lot and so did the others in the theater. The deaths of some of the main characters brought people to tears, but the most saddening part is the knowledge of this franchises end. Oh, I'm sure at some point there will be a reboot of The Lord of the Rigs and The Hobbit. There is too much money to be made fore a studio to not try. Of course someone cold also try and adapt stories from the Silmarillion. But for now, this is all we have. And this is the final farewell for the franchise and these characters on screen.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Without realizing it, I finished reading Dune by Frank Herbert at almost the same time as the 30th Anniversary of the film adaptation directed by David Lynch. It’s a funny coincidence. Dune is regarded as one of the great works of science fiction. After finally reading it, I can’t argue. Making it even more remarkable is that at the time of it’s writing, there was little other point of reference to build this world of religion, politics, and no intelligent machines. I’ll get back to that last part. Even thought authors like Herbert, Heinlin, Asimov, Tolkein, etc. had other works to read and embrace before them, they built upon our cultural memory and continue to influence others. Today we have authors like Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. And when I speak of point of reference, I mean how should I describe Dune to you? What can I compare it to? The story is like Game of Thrones. Great royal houses all ruled by an Emperor. There are wars, political intrigue, assassinations, and magic of sorts. Unlike Game of Thrones, there is no sex or incest. Well, obviously there is sex or else there would be no children, but you know what I mean.

Dune is the story of Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto Atreides and the Duke's concubine Jessica, a Bene Gesserit (basically a society of women who follow rigorous physical and mental training who also covertly control the bloodlines of humanities leadership).
Paul Atreides was not supposed to be born. His mother was ordered by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood to give Duke Leto a daughter. She would have been married to a Harkonen heir so that the fighting between the two houses would end and both bloodlines would be saved. Jessica instead chose to give Leto a son, who would become the Kwisatz Haderach, the fabled male Bene Gesserit. He who could look into the past of his female and male ancestors when female Bene Gesserits could only look down the lines of women. And what is the draw to Arrakis, a plant that is nothing but desert? It is the only place in the universe where the "spice" melange can be found. It's a substance that has allowed humanity to gain new mental powers and even bend space, allowing for faster interstellar travel. 

There is a lot on this story to describe. But the basic plot is that the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV conspired with the Atreides bitter rival, the House Harkonen, to set up Duke Leto and his house for destruction. The Atreides are to take control of Arrkis from House Harkonen on the orders of the Emperor. The Emperor then secretly aids the Harkonen in retaking the planet. The Duke is killed and it is assumed Paul and Jessica were killed as well. They find their way to the Fremen, the native people of Arrakis. Paul then becomes the Fremen's leader and leads an uprising. There is a lot of detail in teh book. Herbert did an excellent job in world building. He even sampled the Arabic and Persian languages for names and terms used by the characters. Some words are direct samples, others are just inspired.It makes the story feel even more exotic. Well, maybe more exotic sounding to western ears. I can say that having seen the film quite a few times, it gave me a better handle on the pronunciations.

For those who have not seen the film, it is most definitely a stripped down version of the story. As every adaptation is from one extent to another. But for all it's flaws, I think the film is pretty good.

I have also seen the documentary about Director Alejandro Jodorowsky's attempt to make a Dune film.

He had intended to give the audience a sense of having an acid trip without having to take any drugs. It would have been trippy and bizarre. But it could have been good. And I really recommend checking out that documentary. It's really insightful and explains how an unmade film influenced Alien, Blade Runner, etc. Lynch's film only came after the studio decided to go in a different direction. It's flawed but I still enjoy it.

But back to the book, I was not sure what to expect when I read it. I knew it would be good. And it was. Herbert did an amazing job creating the world and it's mythology. It's no surprise it is a solid foundation for the squeals that he wrote and for the books that his son Brian has written Kevin J. Anderson. But don't worry about having to read the other books too much. They broaden the story, but Dune by itself is a complete story that any fan of science fiction should enjoy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Lost Daughters of Gallifrey

Until the end of Series Eight, we had been under the impression of that The Doctor was the last of the Time Lords. Gallifrey had been lost in the final battle of the Time War and as far as he knew, every other Time Lord that had been alive was lost in that battle too. Of course what we didn’t know is that the planet was literally lost, hidden from the rest of existence by The Doctor. He didn’t know this until recently either. It's a long story if you have not seen the series. But even when we thought he was the last, there were still other Time Lords unaccounted for. Specifically The Doctor’s family. More specifically, his granddaughter and daughter.

In the very first episode of Doctor Who, over fifty years ago, we met a member of The Doctor’s family before we even met The Doctor himself. His granddaughter, Susan Foreman, was the first Time Lord on screen and his first companion. Like The Doctor, Susan is more than likely a name she chose to blend in. No Time Lord has ever used their given name. Anyway... She fell in love with a freedom fighter in the 22nd century but would not leave her grandfather. The 1st Doctor, believing that Susan deserved a different future, locked her out of the TARDIS and left her behind so she could have a better life. Besides appearances in books, radio dramas, and unpublished works, no reference to Susan having died has been made. She being a Time Lord would have 12 regenerations and therefore would go on living for centuries or longer. And I'm just assuming Susan was on her first life at the time. Theoretically she could have made it back to Gallifrey in a later regeneration if the timelines match up. That is, if she went back in time, right? Too much timey wimey stuff here. Either way, The Doctor has never referenced what happened to her after he left. That is if he knows at all. She could have been kicking around the various human civilizations over time for all we know. And then there is The Doctor's daughter/sort of clone, Jenny.

The 10th Doctor had a sample of his DNA forcibly removed by a "Progenation Machine" which remixed his DNA and out popped a fully grown Jenny, with added combat programming. The irony of course being that the Doctor isn't too fond of soldiers and he ends up with a soldier for a daughter. Initially not accepting his militaristic progeny, The Doctor came to accept Jenny after she demonstrated that she can move past her military programming. In the same episode, she was shot and failed to regenerate. The Doctor, believing she was dead left. She later came back to life, stole a ship, and shot off into space. Other then a brief appearance in a comic, nothing has been said of where she is or what she is doing. She is the only Time Lord not trapped on Gallifrey and no one knows she even exists. It's surprising no one has given her a spinoff series.

So.... there is also Missy.

Not a daughter of The Doctor, but definitely a daughter of Gallifrey. Missy (aka The Mistress) has known The Doctor longer then any of his enemies. They grew up together. As fans know, Missy is the latest regeneration of The Master. This is important because it's definite confirmation that gender is fluid for the Time Lord Species. This is The Master's first regeneration into a woman. That we know of anyway. She was "killed", but The Master/Mistress has been "killed" before. It appeared she was disintegrated, which is probably the only sure way to kill a Time Lord, but some have speculated it was most likely a teleport. Where The Master is concerned, nothing is certain unless there is a body. And even then I would never be too sure. But lets say she was just mortally wounded. Unless turning into Missy used up her 12th regeneration (Time Lords only get 12), The Master, or Mistress, or whichever gender he/she is at the moment, is still out there.

Which brings up a different point. If Susan and/or Jenny ever appear again, there is the possibility that they could be men. Wibbly wobbly applies to time as well as gender when it comes to Time Lords.

And of course with Gallifrey lost and not destroyed, there is also the outside chance we'll also meet other members of The Doctor's family. That is if the shows producers feel the need to use any of these characters in more then just a passing reference.

Feel free to message me/comment to correct any details. I'm a fan, by by no means an expert.