May 31, 2017

A Definitive List of Groups of People for Whom Wonder Woman Should Be Great

In just over 24 hours, I will be watching Wonder Woman. It's one of the movies I've looked forward to the most, probably ever, and it looks like the movie's gonna be great. Now, this is going to be a movie that will be impossible to judge objectively — it's the first large female-led superhero movie, the first movie featuring this particular classic icon, and a very feminist movie in the age of Trump. It's going to be impossible for it to be judged devoid of cultural context, and that doesn't matter because that's exactly what makes the movie so important. So with that, I give you...

A Definitive List of Groups of People for Whom Wonder Woman Should Be Great
by Duy Tano

For Anyone Who Just Wants to See a Great Movie

No two bones about it. If you're going to the movies, you want to have a good time. So let's start off here: in a vacuum, this movie should be great. That's impossible to judge now, but context tends to get forgotten down the line except by people who were there (and sometimes even by the people who were there, which is how LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan is still a debate when anyone who's seen both players side by side would know it isn't a contest). So let's just hope the movie is good enough that when we're watching it in ten years when America has a female president that this whole political atmosphere feels like a distant dystopia, it's still enjoyable.

For Anyone Who Wants Better Movie Posters

Seriously, we all benefit from a better poster scene.

For Anyone Who Wants More Female-Led Superhero Movies

Thirteen years ago, Halle Berry starred in a very very bad Catwoman film, and when it flopped, studio executives blamed the fact that it was led by a woman whose last name wasn't Jolie. Now that's very stupid, but that's how it goes. The people at the top with the money don't have the time to watch every movie and judge for themselves, so they rely on quick analyses, and when a report says that this flopped movie's differentiating factor is that it stars a woman, it sticks in an exec's brain. 

Now, take a look at these people.

Those are the three greatest superhero actors of all time. I'm not saying they're the best in a vacuum, though they are all great — Chris Evans plays the earnest inspiring beacon of hope just as well as Christopher Reeve, Robert Downey Jr. is basically playing himself (not that that's a bad thing, considering Iron Man outside of RDJ is a really boring character), and Hugh Jackman is arguably not the best choice for Wolverine. So why are they the top 3? Because in one way or another, their performances have both stood the test of time and changed the game. Reeve kicked off the real modern era of superhero movies and is still seen by some as the gold standard. RDJ kicked off a cinematic universe and opened the door for a wider range of characters you can make a movie out of (does anyone remember 2007, when Iron Man was not a household name?), and Hugh Jackman just proved that you can hold this role for 17 years, turning in his best performance for last.

That's my Tier 1 of superhero actors. And if Gal Gadot makes it to Tier 1, it's going to be because she kicked the door down for female protagonists.

For Anyone Who Wants More Female-Led Comics

There's that bogus claim going around that diversity is killing Marvel Comics, which isn't true (their price point is what's doing it, and Marvel isn't the only brand floundering). So more demand for female-led protagonists will give you more female-led comics.

For Anyone Who Wants More Female-Led Anything

Take everything I just said, and then apply it to everything else.

For Fans of the Character

Because we would all benefit from more Wonder Woman.

For Potential Fans of the Character

There isn't a single character in comics that I've seen more potential fans of, meaning, they like the idea of Wonder Woman, but they haven't actually consumed anything Wonder Woman related. A lot of that is due to a dearth of truly great product out there regarding Diana — there's only a handful. But a great movie gives potential fans something to turn them into a fully fledged fan. 

Read more below

For Fans of DC

Because we deserve a good movie for once, damn it.

For Fans of Marvel

Because competition is great for everyone. Keep this in mind: DC has been trying to find a niche that Marvel doesn't fill, and they're going straight to grim and gritty with questionable results. You know where Marvel really has a need to be filled? Lack of female characters. Wonder Woman may break the doors open for female heroes — and that will include Marvel's. (Yes, I know Marvel already has Captain Marvel out next year, but that doesn't really change my point. And also, do you realize that if this is a hit, that means the DCEU's two most beloved characters so far are both women?)

For William Moulton Marston

The credited creator of Wonder Woman, who once wrote "Tolerant people are the happiest, so why not get rid of costly prejudices that hold you back?" and created a hero to stand for that.

For Olive Byrne and Elizabeth Marston

Marston's two wives in a polyamorous relationship who co-created Wonder Woman and got no credit for it simply because of the time they lived in. The world has come far, and this is going to exemplify that.

For Any Other Creators Who Made Their Mark on Wonder Woman

George Perez, Phil Jimenez, Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, Rich Buckler, Gene Colan, Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette, Len Wein, Jill Thompson, and everyone else I definitely missed — they deserve it.

For Anyone Who Wants to See this Scene Happen in the Movies

Because Batman sucks.

For Anyone Who Dreams of a Better World

Two of my favorite superheroes of all time are Superman and Captain America, who represent hope and the ability to inspire humankind to greatness. You know who else does that, and actually does that more? Wonder Woman. Superman inspires by being Superman. Captain America's first instinct is to defend, also inspiring by his actions. Wonder Woman is a proactive inspiration, and it's time the world saw her that way.

For the LGBTQ Community

Wonder Woman is bisexual, and really, always has been, even if they never mentioned it. But even before they came right out and said it, she's one of two characters whom I've always seen LGBTQ fans online relate to on an empathetic and deep level. Two of the most important creators of Wonder Woman in the past 20 years have been a gay man (Phil Jimenez) and a man who identifies as female (Greg Rucka). Even during a period of time when no LGBTQ topics were broached in the comics at all, people just knew, Wonder Woman was an LGBTQ advocate.

For Women Everywhere

I'm a dude. I will never understand what women go through. But I'm going to keep trying. This movie means something important and its success or failure will say something about the woman's place in society. (And yes, if they want to go to a female-only screening and celebrate such an event with other women, they can.)

For Anyone Who's Ever Been Ostracized for Being Different

For Every Single Child Who Identifies with This Picture, and Every Single Person Who Knows One

And on my long, uncategorized list, I think they're the most important.

Please be great, Wonder Woman.

May 9, 2017

Hidden Gems: Geoff Johns and Butch Guice's Olympus

Hidden Gems looks at some comics you may not have heard of. This time we'll look at a comic published by Humanoids/DC Comics in 2005, called...

Olympus, by Geoff Johns, Kris Grimminger, and Butch Guice

It's 2003 and Geoff Johns is still a year away from Green Lantern: Rebirth and claiming his undisputed place as DC's top writer. DC Comics at the time has a partnership with Paris-based comics publisher, Humanoids. Johns, working with Kris Grimminger, pitches a series featuring "every great monster from Greek mythology, from Medusa to the Stymphalian Birds." So they contact Butch Guice, who's fresh off of drawing Ruse (from the criminally short-lived company CrossGen) and colorist Dan Brown, and the result is a fun and aesthetically gorgeous, if narratively shallow, comic.

We start with a shot of one of our main characters, Brent, diving and exploring. And, man, look at that art. Look at those lush colors. They're gorgeous. Reading this comic was like if your eyes had taste buds and you fed them candy.

We learn that Brent is part of an archaeological group in Europe, and this is their vacation before heading back to America. We meet the studious Rebecca and lackadaisical Sarah, sisters who couldn't be more different.

And basically Sarah walks around in that for the entire comic,
because apparently Johns watched that GI Joe episode.
We're introduced also to their professor, Gail Walker, and together they find what looks to be a historical version of Pandora's Box, the jar that brings demons into the Earth. Their ship is then hijacked by a bunch of pirates, but a storm shipwrecks them on an island. And that island is beautiful.

Seriously, look at that. Look! 

Turns out it's Olympus, of Greek myth, and the jar really is Pandora's box. And damn, they need to get that thing to the top of the mountain where it belongs, or things like this come after them.

Okay, so there isn't much to the story other than a glorified mountain climbing experience. Johns does Johns and introduces some very basic plot elements to make us sympathize with the characters more. The Archaeology program is getting shut down. Brent's dad is in jail. Rebecca and Sarah are disappointed in each other. That's all the emotional depth to the story, but hey, that's not the point of it.

Really, it reads like a survival thriller movies where the goal is just to move from Point A to Point B (think of something like Gravity or The Shallows). But man. It sure is damn pretty.

May 8, 2017

The Crime Corner: An Introduction

Noir/Crime Comics: An Introduction
by Christopher Cornejo

So I was trying to think of a witty introduction to say on this piece. How I got a serious hankering for comic books and all its glorious (and crappy) splendor. How it gave me an escape from the monotony of life and how it allowed me to explore various worlds without leaving the comfort of my bed or couch.

True as it maybe that I’ve experienced those things in comic books, it wasn’t necessarily my first love and my first foray into escapism and worlds unimaginable. I got that high first on crime. Now I know what you’re thinking “Did this guy just confess how messed up he is?” (A topic that should not be questioned, for that is between me and my therapist) but fret not, for your fears are unfounded.

I LOVE CRIME. CRIME FICTION THAT IS (who knows how much explaining me and the editor would have to do if it was the act itself, not the medium I confessed to love).

One way or another I’ve always been a fan of (almost) everything that is crime and noir. There’s always something so elegantly stylish, captivating, and dare I say it, sensual about these kinds of works that I can’t help surrender to its appeal. This article could go on and on and on if I tried to enumerate all the great things crime (and noir for I feel they almost always go hand in hand) fiction has given me in all my years growing up but since this site is about comics, I will (try very hard to) limit myself with crime/noir comics.

As an introduction, I’ll be listing down the elements of crime as I understand and appreciate it. These are the elements that give crime comics its particular style, theme, and own identity. Consider this a primer of sorts. Now, these things need not be present at all times, but they’re kind of like a guidepost on what to expect from the plot and themes when you get to sit down and enjoy a crime comic and yes, yes, yes, this is not a definitive and objective list (because, let’s face it, facts are for wimps).

Think of these things as some bloodstained comfort blanket you wrap around yourself to feel safe and secure. And in the spirit of trying to be witty (and failing spectacularly to do so, I may add), I would like to call this as my own crime comic checklist (or notable noir niche, whichever fits your fancy).

The Seedy Underground (or the City behind the City)

“The streets were dark with something more than night.” – Raymond Chandler

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Most fiction deals with the location as something or someplace people thrive and live on. At times, it’s part of their identity (like East and West Baltimore of the groundbreaking HBO series, The Wire); other times it’s just any other nameless place that stuff happens in. All those things can also be applied to crime and noir comics but the city that people inhabit in the pages of the topic at hand (or the streets if you feel inclined to call it that) is much, much more.

The city is a character in and of itself and not just a plot device. It is a like a colorful (if you feel like red, black, and varying shades of grey colorful) tapestry that shows the world as we know it and flipped it upside down. A ragged canvas that is a wonderful breeding ground for all the things that is wrong in the world. The streets get to be where bad things never stop happening and that the misery and hurt of it all becomes routine.

This is the place where businessmen sharpen their crooked ways to ensure their legitimate dealings lead to a profit often at the expense of the people they deal with and crooks act all like serious businessmen to professionally setup a score that guarantees they get to live another day.

“But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.” – Raymond Chandler

Criminal: Coward by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
The urban jungle that I’ve come to know in crime comics as the city is the habitat of people where they give in to their most basic and animalistic urges such as living (and mostly dying) by the needle and need of a fix, along with the predatory folks who prey upon the people barely scraping by. The city ensures the nights are just a little bit longer and the promise of a new day is something that is never guaranteed for everyone.

This is the place where justice is a word that has all but lost its meaning; where the only path to salvation is also the sure path to one’s ruin. There’s no law save the laws of the streets and you can be damn sure that those rules are not enforced by the police but by the thugs, dealers, and soldiers who bleed for what they claimed was theirs.


“We’re designed to be hunters but we’re in a society of shopping.” – David Fincher

100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

Most stories often have their protagonists overcome great challenges that pretty much redeem them in the end. This is a trait also shared by noir and crime comics. The only difference is, more often than not, our leading man takes more of a beating rather than give it and doesn't really catch a break in between. Our guy is always the fool who is always way, way, waaaaaaaaaaaay in over his head and often has to deal with various situations that he hardly (if ever) gets to get out on top. Sure, the world is unfair, but noir and crime comic makes damn sure that our guy gets to feel most of the brunt of said unfairness.

“People are lucky and unlucky not according to what they get absolutely, but according to the ratio between what they get and what they have been led to expect.” – Samuel Butler

100 Bullets by Brian Azzarrello and Eduardo Risso
That’s right, our guy who once in his life believed he can be a two-time champ gets a serious slap of reality and rude awakening that all he can be is a two-time chump, punch drunk and half dead going in to the last round with no idea how he’s gonna (or will he ever be) get saved by the bell. And just to rub it in, no one can save him, in fact, since misery loves company; no one gets to be saved.

No one.

Yes, I know I should point out the obvious here. All our protagonists (if you could even call it that) happen to be from the male side of the kingdom. Make no mistake; this theme is deliberate. Maybe to all the more ensure that the point gets across, and the point we’re talking about here is that “it ain’t pretty and it never will be”. A man’s pride and ego is what makes him who he is and what better way to serve a lesson about things going as bad as they can get than robbing said man of his identity and what makes him, uh well, him?

To the fine, fine, fine ladies reading this, don’t worry because in the world of crime, you’ll have your own woes to deal with. Just keep reading on.

Femme Fatale

“I say all the things I swore I’d never say again. She owns me. Body and soul.” 
– Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

The Black Monday Murders by Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker

Imagine yourself, sitting at a bar. You’re there minding your own business, a drink in your hand and just killing time when lo and behold, this lady walks in straight out of your wildest dreams and fantasies. Everyone in the room feels it, the undeniable smoldering sensuality of her every step. You became aware of your own heartbeat because anytime now it will jump out of your throat. You feign detachment and cool disregard to the hell on high heels taking over the place, but you and I both know she knows better. She rewards you with a look that could have a corpse breathing hard. The promise of just the touch of her skin leaves you gasping for air, and why shouldn’t you be? You’re way out of your depth and breathing underwater while your mouth is filled with thoughts of her.

But like all good (and pretty) things in the wonderful world of crime, that beauty most likely is just skin deep. Underneath all the glamorous looks and amorous come-ons, hides a sly and conniving predator that ensures you take the bait before she leaves you lying on the floor, with no control of your senses and no possessions in your name, wondering what and how you get to reach the bottom this fast, wishing all that she’d given you was a dream come true but only turning out to be the endless waking nightmare that you’ve now come to know as your life.

“Yes I killed him. I killed him for money and for a woman. I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty isn’t it?” – Double Indemnity

Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

The femme fatale has become a landmark character in crime and noir. She’s the foil and oftentimes the cause of our protagonist’s troubles. At best, she gives our guy something to think and tide him over while he’s spending the foreseeable future in prison or a life that will be a continuous downward spiral. At worst, she’s the catalyst that causes our hero to gain redemption but that comes at the expense of his own soul.

The objectification and misogyny these women get, they turn it to weapon that gives them the capacity to go after and take whatever it is that suited their fancy because the only way to get even is to trample every men that stands in their way and use them as cannon fodder and a means to their own ends. Cruelty for the sake of personal gain is not something that is original only to femme fatales but nonetheless the effectivity of this theme is something that keeps readers coming back for more because like sick voyeurs in awe of the accident waiting to happen, we could not avert our eyes away from this road of damnation that leads to everybody’s ruin.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, right?

And speaking of ruin, on a final note. . .

Redemption (or the Road to Ruin)

“I have to believe there’s redemption in the darkest of circumstances; otherwise it’s too bleak for me” – Paddy Considine

The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

For all intents and purposes crime and noir is a story of inherent if not preordained tragedy. A modern tragedy set in the landscape of the urban jungle where the fatalistic nightmare of the lead characters comes into vivid reality. The insurmountable odds stacked against our protagonist are only rivaled by their perseverance to get away from the problems that haunt their everyday lives. Yes, everything is pre-ordained to be doomed, but this will never stop the people from seeking reprieve whatever form it may take shape.

The superficial goal of crime comics, at least from the lead character’s perspective is that they have to get what they want. That could be in the form of a successful score from a heist or finally getting their revenge by giving the well-deserved comeuppance to the source of their seemingly unending misery. But more than that, crime comics is a story about one’s redemption.

But since this is crime comics we’re talking about, said redemption comes at a considerable cost. We mostly meet our characters down in the dumps knee-deep in trouble and not a source of hope in sight. Everything is turning bad and it will just keep on getting worst. The only way to stop or even ebb this unending stream of problems, our character needs to devise a plan to get out from under. These thoughts turn into unsavory schemes that they must execute if they want to make it. They get tangled with bent people with personal desires and not above a double cross to get what they believe were theirs.

“I never wanted to kill, I am not naturally evil.  Such things I do, just to make myself attractive to you.
Have I failed?” - Morissey (The Last of the Famous International Playboys)

Gotham Central: Half a Life by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Yes it’s a difficult path that needs to be taken. Despite all these problems plaguing our protagonist, they can’t help themselves in trying to do the right thing (or at least the closest thing in doing right by the people they promise to save). Because what is a person (however crooked they might turn out to be) if not for the principles that defines them?

And that’s the problem. That principle that serves as their (possibly only) saving grace is a double edged sword that they have to fall on later. The best-laid plans of mice and men have never been more destroyed than by walking the road to redemption, which also happens to be one’s road to certain ruin. This theme never loses its charm in noir and crime, because when you get a good crime story, no matter how messed up and vile the protagonist happens to be, you can’t help but root for them as they go through the paces and follow the path to redemption, regardless of our knowing too well that not everything will end up smelling roses and a happy ending is the last thing these characters will ever get.

Because our knight does not have a shining armor, they’re vulnerable from pretty much everything and they are tainted by the nature they got acclimated to as well as the people they’ve surrounded themselves. Despite the questionable things they did, our lead character can’t help themselves but behave like honor and faith has anything to do with the life they’ve lead up until now.

Like any heroes, we want them to triumph and prevail unscathed and unharmed. But that kind of ending is reserved elsewhere. That kind of conclusion will never be found in the pages of crime and noir comics. That makes it all the more compelling, because regardless of how high they manage to get up we know they’re bound to fall. In the world of crime, everything and everyone is set to fail.

So there you have it, a primer of sorts about all things crime and noir in the wonderful world of comic books. I hope you got something out of it. As for me, I’ll try to follow this up with other crime/noir comic related stuff to post in this blog because it would be such a shame if you people do not get at least a chance to pick up any of the numerous comics out there for crime (I mean crime as a story not a propaganda promoting crime), I’ll be back with other stuff but until then, take a chance and pick one up for the team, yes?

May 7, 2017

Why Is Hydra Cap Such a Big Deal?

I've been reading comics for almost 30 years and have run this website for seven. One of the traps I want to avoid is complaining about something a modern comic does that I completely gave a pass to when I was younger. So I have to ask...

What's the Big Deal With Hydra Cap?
by Duy Tano

It's an honest question. As someone who has read superhero comics for as long as I can remember reading, I've come to know a few things that make the outrage for this make little sense to me. Namely:

We Only Really Appreciate Steve Rogers When He Isn't Captain America

Icons have repeated stories, cliches if you will. Peter Parker quits being Spider-Man. Superman loses his powers. Daredevil's life falls apart. In Steve Rogers' case, he gets replaced. This is a twist on that. It's still him, but his personality has been replaced. Did we want another replacement Cap to come along?

These Things Never Last

When I was nine years old, Superman died. Then they had these four guys replacing him.

Your options were that he was one of the four, or he was dead. I still remember when they brought him back as a fifth Superman, and some people actually believed they changed plans midflight, believing they had fully intended him for be to one of the four. (Incidentally, the one he was actually most like is Steel — and I'd bet anything he'd have gotten the most backlash if that was revealed to be the case.) I knew he wasn't dead. Just like a year later, I knew Batman's back wasn't going to stay broken. Just like I knew Ben Reilly wasn't going to be the real Spider-Man, and how I know Man-Thor is going to get Mjolnir back eventually and that Bucky wasn't going to stay as Captain America.

Steve Rogers isn't Hydra. He will overcome it by force of will, and if you've read superhero comics habitually for any significant length of time, you should know that.

Now I've heard the criticism that it's because no one wants Steve to be evil, but...

Superheroes Turn Evil All the Time

Look, here's Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, one of DC Comics' centerpieces of the last 10 years, back when he was evil.

Here's Superman, trying to take over the world.

Here's Spider-Man, working for Dr. Octopus in a classic Stan Lee/John Romita story.

Annnnnd here's Captain America, written by Stan Lee and drawn by his co-creator Jack Kirby, mind-controlled into being a Nazi. Let's not pretend to assume that we know for a fact Kirby would be offended by this when he literally drew this.

So, you may say, those are all short stories and they didn't last this long, which, okay, but...

Comics Are More Decompressed Now

In 1987, Kraven the Hunter took over as Spider-Man in the critically acclaimed "Kraven's Last Hunt." It lasted four issues.

Just a few years ago, Dr. Octopus took over as Spider-Man in the critically acclaimed and commercially loved Superior Spider-Man. It lasted over two years.

Comics are so much more decompressed now. A plot point that would have lasted an issue back in the day is explored in six. A four-issue storyarc then is whole reams of hardcovers now. That's the way of things now. And if that's your criticism, then that's not isolated to Captain America. That's the entire comics industry as a whole. And that's a whole separate discussion altogether. (Spoiler: decompression isn't inherently bad, and a lot of compressed comics from back in the day could have used more decompression.)

So in general, it's strange to me that we're criticizing a comic book for doing old plot points in a way that modern comics do things. And if you're complaining about the way modern comics do things, well, guess what? They're probably not written for you. They're probably written for the younger audience who will read these comics with the same wonder that you read your beloved comics when they were your age. When I see people praise Walt Simonson for creating Beta Ray Bill while disparaging Jane Foster as Thor because it's cheap storytelling, or when I see people complaining about Riri Williams while at the same time praising the time James Rhodes became Iron Man, it just boggles my mind, and the only reason I can really think of is the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia blinding us to what wasn't itself well-done in the past as well as how much of a pass we gave things before we realize how the mechanism worked.

I can only think of three reasons this has gotten the backlash it has, beyond "We praise things when we're younger that we don't when we're older." Let's go through them.

The Execution Sucks for the Expense

It's one thing to decompress—some of the most successful writers in history are decompressed. But it's been over a year, over 12 issues at $3.99 an issue (so you've spent over 50 bucks if you're following this), and until Secret Empire launched a couple weeks ago, it's basically been an extended prologue.

That is too much to ask in terms of expense. And while we can say that about any event that DC and Marvel have put out in the last couple of decades, it was always bound to reach a breaking point.

(Insert here whatever you think of Nick Spencer as a writer in a vacuum.)

We Actually Haven't Had Steve Rogers as Captain America for a While

The most acclaimed Captain America run in the 21st Century, Ed Brubaker's, had Steve Rogers as Captain America for 25 issues, then replaced by Bucky for longer than that. Then they brought Steve back as Cap for a few years and then aged him so he couldn't be Cap, and then Falcon became Cap. There are only two people Cap would ever ask to replace him, and that's those two. But now that Steve was Cap again, maybe we just needed some old fashion.

Breaking points, folks. Breaking points.

Now Was the Wrong Time to Do It

First, Captain America's more popular than he's been since 1941, and kids and adults alike look up to him. Chris Evans' franchise is the most well-crafted of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so Hydra Cap isn't exactly a good gateway for new fans.

More importantly, politically speaking, America and the world are in such turmoil, that hell yes, maybe we actually do need some old fashion. We need Captain America who isn't a Nazi, because America is better than that. Maybe this is the Captain America we need right now.

Roger Stern and Frank Miller, Marvel Fanfare #18, 1985

Which then begs the question, if we're all so insistent that Captain America isn't a Nazi, then why is Donald Trump president?

I have no answer for that. I have no real answer for this. Maybe the only real reason we're pissed off at what is a standard comic book trope is because it's happening to Captain America, and as a result it's striking too close to home.

For some awesome Captain America stories, here are some links:

May 3, 2017

Five Spoilery Points About Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

This is not a review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. A review would look at the movie in as objective a manner as possible. And I am not going to do that. Instead, I'm going to give you...

Five Things About Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Needless to say, SPOILERS FOLLOW.




5. God, no, not Adam Warlock!

This isn't a spoiler so much because it's been confirmed over the internet that Adam Warlock is going to be in the third movie. Readers of Marvel comics in the 70s and the 90s are well familiar with Adam Warlock, the artificially created perfect man with golden skin, who took center stage in many a comic book event. He is also, to yours truly, the single most hated character in all of superhero comics.

That's him in the middle, looking like a giant douchenozzle.

I hate Adam Warlock. And not "I love to hate him," like I love to hate Gladstone Gander or Cyclops. There is no character in the entirety of comics that can turn me off a series faster than Adam Warlock. None. No one comes close. Adam Warlock is the patron saint of introspective characters who exist ostensibly to "elevate" comics, but really just fall short because the execution of the introspection turns into navel-gazing.

I hate Adam Warlock. Reading him is like watching a Christopher Nolan movie forgoing entertainment for the chance to be deep and thought-provoking, and failing. Except in comics, there's no Heath Ledger to bail out a structurally messy movie, or no performances from all-time great actors like Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. This is like if Inception were played by terrible actors, but you still had to deal with people afterwards praising how deep it is. (Oh noez, let's figure out which parts are dreams and which parts are real! It's deep! Like a jigsaw puzzle!)

Adam Warlock has a tendency to be put at the forefront of things. I hate seeing him overshadow Captain America and Thor and Iron Man and all the better characters around him (which is every character) and I'm almost definitely going to hate seeing him overshadow Star-Lord and Gamora and Drax and Groot and Rocket if it happens. I guess it's a good thing that he's being introduced in what may be my favorite Marvel movie franchise (that's right. I went there.), and hey, maybe they'll cast someone awesome to make him bearable. But until I see it, my sentiment remains: God, no. Not Adam Warlock.

4. Watch it twice.

I've seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 twice and it does a couple of things that always hit my sweet spots as someone who consumes fiction. The first thing it does is have characters who are lying to themselves. Yes, Yondu calls out Rocket for hiding behind a tough facade and pretending he doesn't care about anything, but there's also Rocket not admitting he likes Peter Quill's music, when, on a second viewing, it's pretty damn obvious he does. It's never called out and neither my girlfriend nor I even noticed it the first time around, but it's there, under the surface.

I have no appropriate picture for this section, so please enjoy topless Chris Pratt.
I am shameless and hope a lot of people Googling "topless Chris Pratt" lands on my website.

The other reason for watching it twice is all the small foreshadowing bits they do in the beginning, usually played for laughs, which resonate differently when you know what's going to happen. When the Guardians land on Berhert, Kurt Russell Wyatt Earp Snake Plissken Ego finds them and tells Peter to come with him, since he's his dad. Within the next ten minutes, Gamora has casually said "If he turns out to be evil, we'll kill him," and Drax has said "I thought Yondu was your father." Both are played for laughs. The second time around, both of them take on a different meaning. The second one, in particular, is a punch in the gut.

Tangent 1: With both Kurt Russell and Michael Rooker in this movie, we have two guys from Tombstone in the Guardians franchise. Can we get Val Kilmer in the next one?

Tangent 2: What is Kurt Russell's best known role? My instinct is Snake Plissken, but that's because I see him a lot of the time in geek montages and collages. But who would it be otherwise?

3. Taserface!

The 90s may be the most panned decade in the history of superhero comics, but man, think about this. The next Avengers movie is based on a 90s event. The highest-grossing Spider-Man movie has his main villain of the 90s as the antagonist. And this one, of all things, has freaking Taserface.

He's different in this one, not Iron Man–equipped. But still, it's freaking Taserface. We live in a world where Taserface is in a movie. Literally anyone is fair game now.

There are cameos here by people named after the original Guardians of the Galaxy. Like with Yondu, they seem to be only connected very loosely visually. But they're there. And the only question now is, who's next?

2. The soundtrack is awesome.

Aww, look at Baby Groot. If you don't like Baby Groot, you have no soul.

When the soundtrack list was released, I knew three songs and I loved all of them. By the time the movie was released, I knew all the songs and loved pretty much all of them.

Tangent: here are the movies with the best soundtracks ever in no particular order:

  • The Crow
  • Guardians 1 
  • Guardians 2
  • Dazed and Confused
  • Empire Records
  • Rock of Ages
  • I Am Sam
Also, I may have made that list up off the top of my head.

The three songs I loved prior to the release of the soundtrack were Surrender by Cheap Trick, The Chain by Fleetwood Mac, and Father and Son by Cat Stevens. Before the movie, I tried figuring out what was going to happen and how the songs would fit in. Shit, I thought maybe Father and Son would play when Quill and Ego were playing catch, just for laughs.

1. Fine, I cried.

But no, the damn thing played at the end, after Yondu sacrifices himself for Peter and tells him he loves him. The funeral is a beautiful one, timed perfectly with Sylvester Stallone and the Ravagers/original Guardians ("My friends and I, we were a lot like you.") showing up after they said they wouldn't to pay tribute to their fallen friend. With Father and Son in the background playing, I had to hold back my tears the first time and did my absolute best the second time around, but it did not work. The room got misty and I felt a drop by the side of my eye. Yes, I cried, and I don't care what you think! (Sob.) A superhero movie had successfully made me cry, something that very few works of fiction at all have been able to accomplish.

Two months ago, I said Logan capitalized on the collective emotions of everyone who spent 17 years watching the X-franchise. Well, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 capitalized on the emotions of everyone who's ever failed to say goodbye to someone they love. It was beautiful. It was unexpected. And when I saw it the second time, when it was no longer unexpected, I couldn't keep my eyes dry. And you guys may notice, I don't talk about these movies much, at least not immediately after they're out. But I had to talk about this one. Thank you to James Gunn, Michael Rooker, Chris Pratt, and the rest of the crew of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 for making me feel things. It's a moviegoing experience I'm not going to forget.