Jul 1, 2015

The 10 Hottest Men and Women in Comic Book Movie History

The 10 Hottest Men and Women in Comic Book Movie History

I love making lists, and I love movies. Since I’ve already listed my favorite comic book movies, and my favorite comic book movie moments, the next available option was to, of course, rank the 10 hottest female actors to appear in a comic book movie. In an effort to keep it fair and balanced, I enlisted the help of Mrs. Back Issue Ben to provide a list of the hottest males to occupy a comic book movie screen. I was pretty much fine with her list, but she decided mine was all wrong, so she did a list of her own, and then I took the average of both lists to create the final list you’ll see below.

The rules were simple. Only movies based off of comic books, no television shows. The actor had to be attractive in the actual role itself, not just in real life (so no Heath Ledger as the Joker). Only significant characters were considered, so I’m sorry Nova Prime’s assistant from Guardians of the Galaxy, you weren’t eligible.

I realize some might not like the idea of a list arbitrarily ranking people based on attractiveness, but if you can’t objectify men and women based purely on physical appearance, then what is the internet even for? Feel free to skip this week if you’re offended by the concept, but please come back next week. Also, send money.

Honorable mentions:

  • Hugh Jackman didn’t make Kimberly’s list, but I’d imagine he’d make a lot of others.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer probably deserves some type of honorary spot for all the boys she thrust into puberty around 1992.
  • We both like Zoe Saldana, just not as Gamora.
  • I tried to find a spot for Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy, but she just couldn’t crack the list.
  • Amy Adams, she’s pretty.
  • Everyone before 1992 is too, look, just stop living in the past, man.

10. James Franco
Harry Osborn – Spider-Man

Back Issue Ben: As best as I can determine, men fit into three basic categories. Probably ugly, probably attractive, and definitely attractive. For example, I can see that Johnny Depp and (the late) Paul Walker are very attractive men. Beyond that, the rest of the male population either falls into ugly or not ugly as far as I can tell.
humankimberly: To be honest, after like number 7 I just picked three more names that I thought were attractive. I wouldn’t really call them "hot." But Harry Osborn still beat out Tony Stark who didn’t even make the top 10.

10. Jessica Biel
Abigail Whistler – Blade 3

humankimberly: Abigail didn’t make my top 10 list but she is a nice choice. She has a pure kind of beauty that isn’t masked by lots of makeup.
Back Issue Ben: I still think of Biel as the daughter of a preacher, like she was on that one TV show. (Was that her?) I never watched it, but she still represents an air of innocence (despite Timberlake soiling her). I feel like I’ve gotten too “US Weekly” just now. Sports, am I right?

9. Chris Evans
Captain America – The Avengers, Captain America: The First Avenger

humankimberly: Again, by now I just picked a good-looking superhero. Honestly Cap is too perfect for my taste. Plus too good. Dude seriously, park illegally or rip the tag off your mattress. I like my boys bad….
Back Issue Ben: They make Chris Evans look taller than he really is for these movies. I take offense to that.
Cranky Editor Man: Heehee. Ben is short.

9. Blake Lively
Carol Ferris – Green Lantern

humankimberly: Carol was my number 8. Again she has that natural kind of beauty.
Back Issue Ben: She wasn’t on my list, but that’s because I liked when she was a little dirtier in The Town. She's not really a good Carol Ferris, but she's hot, definitely hot.

8. Michael Fassbender
Magneto – X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past

Back Issue Ben: He’d probably higher on my list, if I had done one. That dude’s handsome.
humankimberly: This version of Magneto is pretty damn hot. Not hot enough for me to remember after I finish this article but hot enough to make the list.

8. Jaimie Alexander
Sif – Thor, Thor: The Dark World

Back Issue Ben: She didn’t make my list. She’s a little too tomboy for me, a little too tall. I saw her on a talk show once and she’s too hyper and aggressive. She’d beat me up for real, not just pretend.
Cranky Editor Man: See? Ben is short.
humankimberly: Sif is my number 4, and his list is crap and I demand a recount. Jaimie being number 8 is a travesty and my husband obviously has no taste. She’s glorious and should easily be top 5.

7. Aaron Eckhart
Harvey Dent – The Dark Knight

humankimberly: Harvey is super hot, but what makes him better is that he goes evil. Evil is always better than good.
Back Issue Ben: Very true.

7. Natalie Portman
Jane Foster – Thor, Thor: The Dark World
Evey Hammond – V for Vendetta

humankimberly: Jane is my number 6. I love Natalie. She’s pretty but I don’t think she’s gorgeous. However, her acting makes her more attractive and being hot is more than just physical appearance.
Back Issue Ben: Interesting that in the eternal debate of Sif vs Jane, we went with Natalie Portman. She makes a pretty bald woman too, in V.
humankimberly: What do you mean “we?” If I remember correctly, and I know I do, Sif was my number 4 and Jane was my number 6. No taste, and bad at basic math.

6. Taylor Kitsch
Gambit – X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Back Issue Ben: I will forever be on the Tim Riggins bandwagon. I’m willing to watch anything he does, even though he’ll never reach the heights of our delinquent with a heart of gold. Battleship, not that bad. Savages, okay then. Lone Survivor, now that was great. I’ve never voted for President, but if Taylor ran for President, I might consider it.
humankimberly: I think I like this version of Gambit best because of the poor attitude, and his confidence.

6. Emma Stone
Gwen Stacy – The Amazing Spider-Man

humankimberly: Gwen is my number 9. Again she’s pretty but not gorgeous in my opinion. Her personality makes her more attractive since she’s not always hanging on Spidey like a lovesick stalker.
Back Issue Ben: I had her at number 5, and I’m willing to concede that it might completely be because she was Gwen Stacy, my favorite Spider-Man girlfriend. Emma seems like the kind of girl it would be fun to hang out with though.

5. Chris Hemsworth
Thor – The Avengers, Thor, Thor: The Dark World

Back Issue Ben: I’m pretty sure I would have been insanely jealous of Thor in high school, or whatever Asgardians go to. Thor would have been on the Asgardian Lacrosse team.
humankimberly: Number 5? Really that’s it? Yes, and here’s why. He’s too perfect. I like my men with some flaws. Plus all that "thee" and "thou" would get really old really fast. Also, Thor would have been the entire Asgardian Lacrosse team.
Cranky Editor Man: Heehee. Ben has "flaws."

5. Morena Baccarin 
Vanessa Carlysle/Copycat - Deadpool

humankimberly: Copycat is my number 2. She’s beautiful and even though this movie isn’t out yet it would be really hard to make her unattractive. If I could look like any other woman in the world it would be her.
Back Issue Ben: If I could have my wife look like any other woman in … just kidding. She didn’t make my list, but only because the movie hasn’t come out yet. She’s a very elegant beauty. I think she’s one of the prettiest actresses there has ever been, and I like her career choices.

4. Stephen Amell
Casey Jones – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

humankimberly: This movie isn’t out yet be seriously have you seen Stephen Amell? He’s so hot he sizzles. I can’t imagine him not being the hottest Casey Jones ever.
Back Issue Ben: I agree.

4. Hayley Atwell
Agent Peggy Carter – Captain America: The First Avenger

humankimberly: Peggy was my number 7. She’s pretty and badass but not gorgeous. She has that nice 1940s kind of elegance with an “I will kick your ass attitude.”
Back Issue Ben: She was number 2 on my list, and it’s mostly because of Peggy Carter. I just love her as that character so much. She’s naturally pretty, kicks ass, and that accent. She’ll kill some Nazis on a secret spy mission, and then go out for beers after.

3. Brandon Lee
Eric Draven – The Crow

Back Issue Ben: If I had made a list, he probably would have been first. He’s got long hair and a tortured soul.
humankimberly: Black leather, long hair, and revenge is the perfect recipe for a hot guy.

2. Tom Hiddleston
Loki – The Avengers, Thor, Thor: The Dark World

humankimberly: Mmmm, he can rule me anytime. Attractiveness is more than huge muscles and perfect features. Loki is so angry I just want to give him a hug…..right before he backhands me into the next zip code. Confidence is so hot.
Back Issue Ben: I didn’t get all the Loki love until the first scene of The Avengers. Then it all made sense.

Scarlett Johansson
Black Widow – The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Jennifer Lawrence
Mystique – X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past

humankimberly: Widow was my number 5 and I really don’t know why. I just don’t see the appeal. She’s trying way too hard to be cool in Avengers, and she wears too much makeup. But the menfolk just seem to love her. The fact that I’m even arguing her as number 2 or 3 is annoying.
Back Issue Ben: Jennifer Lawrence is prettier in real life, but I’ve never cared for the Mystique design in the movies, oddly enough. Scarlett in that Black Widow catsuit is just sultry and sexy.
humankimberly: Mystique is number 2. End of debate.
Back Issue Ben: Fine!

3. Scarlett Johansson
2. Jennifer Lawrence

1. Ryan Reynolds
Deadpool - Deadpool
Hannibal King – Blade 3
Hal Jordan – Green Lantern

humankimberly: Ryan is my marriage exception guy. If I ever meet him, my marriage is on vacation. It doesn’t matter that Deadpool’s face is messed up under that mask; let’s just leave it on. The muscles and insanity are enough to rev my engine. I like the crazy ones. Plus the fact that I have 3 characters to choose from is even hotter. Women like options.
Back Issue Ben: I just want to be friends with him. Ryan was married to two of the women on this list, which means I should probably hate him, but no, I still want to hang out. Just not around my wife.

1. Karen Gillan
Nebula – Guardians of the Galaxy

Back Issue Ben: It takes a rare amount of hotness to make a bald, blue, cyborg into the number one hottest comic book movie female ever, but that’s what happened. She’d probably kill me and eat me, like a praying Mantis, but that’s okay. I’d give up one of my children for the opportunity, and my wife would understand.
humankimberly: No, no I would not understand. No trading my children. However, as the only female on this list that I would turn bisexual for, she’s my number 1. She’s hot, she can kick my ass, she’s evil, she’ll turn on you the first chance she gets, and she’s blue. What’s not to love?

Back Issue Ben: I think that’s a pretty solid list. If you disagree, then you’re just weird, like Duy. Also, make your own list then, complainer. Send us money too, while you’re at it.

Jun 22, 2015

The 11 (Other) Best Marvel Movie Moments

The 11 (Other) Best Marvel Movie Moments
Ben Smith

Recently, I compiled a list of what I considered to be the top fifty moments from Marvel comic book movies, but I limited it specifically to the movies produced by Marvel Studios. Otherwise known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, those movies include the Avengers-branded movies, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Before Marvel established their own movie studio, beginning with the release of Iron Man in 2008, they licensed the movie rights to their characters out to other studios, like Fox and Sony. It will be those films which I will comb through to find the best scenes to comprise the list I will provide for you today, because, as I’ve said numerous times before, I like lists. (And I'm not a very good writer.)

I find most of the Spider-Man and X-Men movies to be at best uneven, and at worst unwatchable. (Many of the early Marvel movies have diminished in quality in my eyes as time has passed, because Marvel Studios has so thoroughly upped the quality of comic book films in almost every conceivable aspect.) Many of the other Marvel movies, like Ghost Rider or Elektra, are complete dreck and will not be covered. This will also be an Affleck-Daredevil free zone, I can promise you that.

Behold, presented in no particular order, yet another list of questionable accuracy.

Blade – The Blood Shower

“What’s wrong baby?”

The opening scene of Blade was dynamic and energetic, as a clueless young tool of a man is led into a vampire rave by the ravishing Traci Lords. (Traci soaked in blood Carrie style aroused me in disturbing ways.) The energy in the scene is palpable, as the music thumps and blood begins raining down from the ceiling, drenching everyone in red, until the crowd parts, revealing Blade. It’s a fantastic opening scene. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie did not deliver the same thrill.

(Many might not remember or realize, but Blade was the first Marvel movie success. Based on a little known Tomb of Dracula character, it was the success of this movie that led to the X-Men and Spider-Man finally getting fast-tracked into production.)

X-Men – The Wolverine

“Whatever you do, don’t hit him in the balls.”

Moviegoers were first introduced to Hugh Jackman’s enigmatic Wolverine in a cage match against an unsuspecting opponent. It’s an amazing debut for the character, which has little to do with the rest of the movie, but is nevertheless captivating. It will only get diminished with time, but seeing a movie about the X-Men on the big screen was a watershed moment in the lives of many comic fans. For many of us that grew up reading comics, it was something we had waited our entire lives to see.

Spider-Man 2 – Stronger Than a Locomotive

“You have a train to catch.”

After fighting Doctor Octopus on top of a train full of innocent passengers, Spider-Man has to use every bit of his strength to save it from speeding off the track. The scene that follows this may be one of the most ridiculously ham-fisted scenes in comic book movie history, but the fight that precedes it was probably the greatest superhero fight scene ever filmed up to that point (the CGI hasn’t really aged well). It’s just a shame it took 3 hours of whiny Peter Parker to get there. (Much like X-Men, seeing Spider-Man finally star in his own motion picture was a life-changing experience for me. The first movie basically reignited my interest in comics after several years away.)

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – The Surfer Arrives

“Flame on!”
The mysterious Silver Surfer arrives from space, and is chased through the skies of New York City by the Human Torch. The original movie trailer for this film was easily one of the most exciting things I had ever seen. It’s a real shame that, once again, the full movie failed to deliver on the promise of that trailer and this scene.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

The Gambit Cometh

“Those are mighty nice tags you have on there sir,
the man who took me wore tags just like ‘em.”

The Merc With a Mouth

“Okay… people are dead.”

Wolverine fights a mysterious mutant named Gambit, who has important information he needs. Wade Wilson was a motormouth mercenary that worked with Wolverine in the past. Gambit and Deadpool are easily the most compelling characters in the movie (which is a bit of problem if the title of that movie is Wolverine). Unfortunately, both of them only get limited amounts of screen time, with Deadpool spending the entire end of the movie with his mouth inexplicably sewn shut. (I remain a devout member of the church of Taylor Kitsch. There is no Battleship that can sway my resolve.) Thankfully Ryan Reynolds will finally get the opportunity to reprise his role in a solo Deadpool movie in 2016, which will be the single greatest piece of entertainment ever created by man.

Spider-Man 3 – Don’t Use a Webline!

Spider-Man saves Gwen Stacy from falling to her death. Most people rightfully only remember how awful the story and acting in Spider-Man 3 was, but the individual action scenes were the best of the entire trilogy. I could have easily picked the opening fight against Harry Goblin, or any of the Sandman sequences, but I’ll go with this one, since Bryce Dallas Howard’s portrayal of Gwen Stacy is destined to forever be forgotten, sadly.

X-Men First Class – Magneto is Born

“If you’re in there, I’d like you to know that I agree with every word you said.
We are the future. But, unfortunately, you killed my mother.”
Alone in the ruins of a beached submarine, Erik comes face-to-face with his tormenter, and after stealing Sebastian Shaw’s telepathy-shielding helmet, Magneto is born. The agony of Xavier as he mentally experiences Magneto slowly push the metal coin through the head of the immobilized Shaw is powerful. There are many, many things about First Class that I found absolutely ridiculous, but this scene is one of the many excellent parts that makes the rest of the movie so frustrating. (Anything involving Xavier or Magneto is engaging and interesting. Everything else is pure crap.)

X2: X-Men United – Nightcrawler

“Excuse me sir, are you lost?”
Nightcrawler teleporting through the White House, violently dispatching everyone in his way, is one of the first truly great singular depictions of superhuman power on film. It’s rarely been matched in the many years since, except for …

X-Men Days of Future Past – Quicksilver

“If I could save time in a bottle…”

…the scene in which Quicksilver uses his super speed to help Magneto escape captivity. While this is arguably the best X-Men movie, it’s necessarily convoluted plot can make it a bit tough to rewatch, especially on the small screen. But this sequence is unquestionably a must-watch, no matter where you might be. (Both movies were directed by Bryan Singer, who apparently has an eye for a dynamic display of superpowers.)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Dammit, He Used His Webline!

Spider-Man tries to save the falling Gwen Stacy, but ends up killing her in the process. My feelings for this movie were extremely conflicted after seeing it in the theater, but I still believe that it’s the most accurate depiction of Spider-Man in a movie to date. The competence, the wisecracks, and the overwhelming sense of responsibility. However, I have yet to watch the movie since. I can’t decide if it’s because I’m disturbed by how Emma Stone’s pantheon portrayal of Gwen Stacy was killed, or if the deficits of the film outweigh the positives. Or maybe I don’t often carve out 2 hours of time to watch anything that I’ve already seen and didn’t love.

There you have it. I’m sure I probably missed something, because if I’m not going to watch Amazing Spider-Man 2 again, I’m definitely not going to watch Fantastic Four or Hulk. As always, a list is just a list, compiled using the opinions of one person. I am just a man. A remarkable man for sure, but one man. If you feel the need to tell me what I missed, you know what to do.

Jun 16, 2015

My Top 6 Favorite Characters from Usagi Yojimbo

My Top 6 Favorite Characters From Usagi Yojimbo
Ben Smith

As of this writing, I have only read through “Usagi Yojimbo Volume 22: Tomoe’s Story”

I’ve been struggling to think of something to write about Usagi Yojimbo. Longtime readers will know I recently decided to give the series a try, inspired by his affiliation with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I started with short recaps of the opening stories contained in the first volume, but recaps quickly suck all the joy out of reading, and I wanted to enjoy this series as much as possible without it turning into work. The Usagi Yojimbo comic exists in that space where it’s really hard to put into words just how consistently great it is. There isn’t really a high concept idea to hook new readers, it’s basically a masterless samurai (ronin) that wanders Japan on a warrior’s pilgrimage, with a wide cast of colorful characters he gets into adventures with, but with funny animals. There’s not much more to it than that, but that doesn’t accurately describe how awesome it is. It just is. But I felt like I had to write something, because this is fast becoming my single favorite comic book series of all time.

Much has been said about how great Stan Sakai is. He’s a master storyteller. The way he offsets some of the more violent imagery with funny word bubbles and sound effects strikes a perfect balance between serious and fun. The level of research he puts into the time period is all the more remarkable because of how seamlessly it weaves into the background of the stories. All of this is known, and has been written about many, many times. Instead, I’m going to focus on one of the main things I love about the series, and that is the multitude of fantastic characters that pop in and out of the series. It’s rare to find any series that has done a better job of consistently introducing new characters that are as interesting as the cast of Usagi Yojimbo. Nearly every single one is capable of headlining their own solo stories, and have from time to time.

So, strapped for ideas of what to write about, and with a focus on my favorite characters, there could have only been one option. You guessed it. It's list time.

Honorable mentions:

Jotaro is about as good an impetuous young child character can be, but he is still a child character. (That doesn’t mean I still didn’t get a little misty eyed at the end of “Fathers and Sons.”)

Katsuichi is Usagi’s sensei, and he carries the traditional role of mentor and overall badass master. However, Ben Kenobi, Yoda, and Splinter are the least played with toys in any kid’s toybox for a reason.

The woodcutters are fun little reoccurring background characters. (For Avatar: The Last Airbender fans, think of the cabbage merchant.)

Noriko is Tomoe’s sadistic cousin, and is on par with her as a warrior. She is appropriately known as the Blood Princess, and I absolutely love her. She’s a great villain. Unfortunately, she’s only appeared in one story so far (again, I’ve only read up through volume 22).

Nakamura Koji is a samurai on a training pilgrimage, and probably the first person I can remember that beat Usagi head-to-head in a swordfight. He’s about as honorable and interesting an antagonist as you’ll ever see. The kind that will assist you in adventures up until it’s time for him to fight you himself.

Lone Goat and Kid are fun, but a tad too in-jokey for me. Just slightly.

Inazuma was fast becoming one of my favorite characters, before tragedy befell her. A no-nonsense master with the sword that was arguably one of the deadliest killers in the series, with a tragic backstory to make her all the more interesting. Unfortunately, she met a fate worse than death.

Sanshobo is a former samurai turned priest, that hasn’t lost any of his fighting skill.

Now, my top 6 favorite characters. Every character on this list I am just as happy to read solo stories about as I am when they cross paths. (Whenever two or more of them come together, it’s always a great time. It’s one of the best parts about the series.)

6. Chizu

Chizu is the one-time head of the Neko Ninja clan in service to Lord Hikiji, and a longtime ally of Usagi. Despite their opposing sides, her and Usagi have helped each other the several times they’ve crossed paths.

It was established very early that she wasn’t fully committed to serving the dark side, and was eventually betrayed by the Neko Ninja clan because of her repeatedly doing the right thing. I’ve always been drawn to strong, capable characters, and as you’ll see from the rest of my list, Usagi Yojimbo sports some of the strongest female characters in comics. It’s also been implied that she has a bit of a crush on Usagi, something common among most of the female characters. (With me being overly interested in the love lives of my fictional characters, this adds an extra layer of intrigue to the question of who Usagi will settle down with, if anyone.) In my eyes, Chizu is the bad girl with a heart of gold, now on a path of redemption (possibly).

5. Inspector Ishida

An instant favorite of mine from his first appearance, when he and Usagi teamed up to solve some murders.

 His keen mind makes him the most effective detective we’ve seen in the series, and despite his appearance is a more than capable fighter. He maintains a steadfast commitment to justice, and yet was more than willing to look the other way when Usagi justifiably killed one of the local Lords.

Another strength of the series is that even when the mysteries are telegraphed, it doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of the story one bit.

4. Kitsune

Kitsune is an anthropomorphic fox, and is every bit as tricky as her namesake. She’s spent most of her life as a street performer and thief, with the requisite hard life as a backstory.

No matter how often she lies to, or steals from, Usagi and friends, she continues to be incredibly likable. (She almost always steals the purse of every character she crosses paths with for the first time. It’s almost become a rite of passage for the series.) The only thing more fun than her and Usagi together, is when Gen or Tomoe are along for the ride.

She’s also had a flirtatious relationship with Usagi, but unlike Chizu, it seems to be more about making Usagi uncomfortable or one of the other females jealous. This page of Kitsune purposefully making Tomoe jealous is one of my favorite single pages from the entire series so far.)

3. Murakami Gennosuke (Gen)

Gen is a perfect representation of the friend that loves to give his friends a hard time. (As Kelso said, “it’s fun when friends get hurt.”) His outward personality of a bounty hunter that cares only about money, is often betrayed by his selfless actions, revealing the good heart he has within.

Despite his proclamations, he always has Usagi’s back, even if he has to pretend to justify it by finding some financial gain to be made from the situation. His comedy and jovial nature is the perfect counterbalance to Usagi. He’s a loyal friend, and don’t let him try to convince you otherwise.

2. Tomoe Ame

Tomoe and Gen are two of the oldest reoccurring characters in the book, but up until about two days ago (when I read “Tomoe’s Story”) Gen would have easily taken the second spot.

Tomoe is the personal bodyguard and advisor of Lord Noriyuki of the Geishu Clan, who Usagi has helped save in several different situations. She is an extremely talented swordsperson, on par with Usagi as a warrior. (In the aforementioned “Tomoe’s Story,” her and Usagi tied in a sparring match with each other. One of the main questions I have as I move through the series, is which characters can match Usagi with the sword. So far Gen and Usagi have not gone head-to-head, that I can remember.)

For a long time Tomoe and Usagi appeared to merely be friends and peers with a strong respect for each other, but as the series continues it has been suggested that they have a stronger attraction for each other. (There’s an absolutely beautiful depiction of a tea ceremony between her and Usagi that is an almost completely silent story. It’s one of the strongest depictions of Sakai’s skill as a storyteller.) One that will most likely go unrequited. (I’m convinced that if Usagi were to settle down, then Tomoe is probably the right person for him. Well, I guess the right person is probably Mariko, but that’s a boring answer.) Tomoe has come under some scrutiny due to her being a female with a prominent position in the Geishu Clan, something that could be perceived as unseemly to other Clans. (She’s actually based on a real-life 12th century samurai named Tomoe Gozen. Tomoe Gozen sounds awesome, and you should read about her too.) I love Tomoe, and I am so very nervous that some of the bubbling plots happening behind her back will come to fruition.

1. Miyamoto Usagi

This really shouldn’t be a surprise. What makes Usagi so great is that he’s a multifaceted character. His contradictions make him seem more real to me than most fictional characters, which is no small feat considering he’s a bunny. Many of the iconic superheroes of Marvel and DC have developed a standard pattern of behavior, with them only moving outside of that established pattern to highlight a specific instance when they are behaving “out of character.” (As they should, since Marvel and DC should always strive to maintain a core depiction of their heroes for every new generation of readers to enjoy.) A book like Usagi can obviously go wherever the creator decides to take it, and that single voice will invariably almost always produce a more fully-formed person.

I can’t possibly describe everything that’s great about Miyamoto Usagi, so I’ll break it down into some of my favorite traits. (A list within a list, if you will.)
  • Despite being honorably almost to a fault, he’s not opposed to helping an innkeeper maintain the illusion that his inn is haunted, for example.
  • Even though he’s one of the most skilled swordsmen in the country, he will try to avoid an unnecessary fight as much as possible. Many times he’s walked away from some challenger despite being called coward or laughed at by the crowd. (Almost every time he’s been forced to later kill all those that mocked him anyway.)

  • He’s generally a good-natured and even-keeled type of person, which makes it all the more exciting the times he really gets pissed off.

  • His strong sense of honor and strict adherence to Bushido, never keeps him from being friends with people like Gen and Kitsune.
  • Again, he’s a master swordsman, and I’m always drawn to competent characters. The only times he gets beaten is when he’s overwhelmed by larger numbers, he’s the victim of something unforeseen (like a sandal breaking) or the rare times when he faces someone better.

  • He’s always willing to help out in a situation, and risk his own life for others, if it’s the right thing to do.

  • He’s a master trash-talker. Frequently he says something along the lines of “please don’t make me kill you,” to opponents. I guess it’s not really talking trash if it’s true.

Those are just a few of the things that make Usagi so fascinating to me. One of the more unfortunate things about Usagi is that many of the deeper relationships he could have, like with Jotaro or Tomoe, are sacrificed by circumstance, or because of his journey on the path of learning. They would rather not end his adventures with a burden of responsibility, because they believe he is happier with life as a wanderer. Similarly, he often suppresses his own feelings in service to what he believes is their happiness. It’s yet another thing that makes him the ultimate hero that he is.

I am primarily a superhero fan, and a Marvel fan at that. I do buy creator-owned books like Criminal, Satellite Sam, and Powers. Some of my favorite series of all time have been books like Y The Last Man, Bone, or Preacher. But the thing I’ve liked most about those is that they ended. For some reason, I can read about Spider-Man indefinitely (as long as it’s good) but I need most of my creator-owned books to eventually have an ending. I’ve read comics like The Walking Dead and Fables, and they’re good, but for some reason I lose interest when they just continue on and on. I’m just more invested in the world and history that Marvel has created on an ongoing basis.

Usagi Yojimbo is the type of series that, as soon as I get all the way caught up to the current issues, I’ll probably start all over again at the beginning. I read them so fast that I tend to forget a lot of it, and I want to remember it all. I need to. They’re that good. It’s probably one of the few remaining comics that still work as a monthly series. There are as many one-and-done stories as there are multi-part epics, and everything is presented in a way that you don’t have to have read the entire series to understand and enjoy what’s going on. If you do know the history of all the characters, it’s that much more rich a tapestry for you. One of the strengths of comics, and fiction in general, is when a history between characters is implied, without it ever having been something that was depicted in a previous book. Usagi Yojimbo is one of the best comics I’ve ever read at depicting character relationships where you never know if it’s one or the other. You could pick up the series at volume 13, and the characters and the world are so fully formed that they’re easy to grasp without any prior knowledge. Not to mention that no matter where you start, you’re always going to get an entertaining story created by a master of the craft. That is no easy feat.

I really don’t know what else to say beyond that. Get it. It’s great.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...