Mar 31, 2018

Review: Flying Witch

Simple Pleasures of Being a Witch

The Flying Witch Volume 1, by Chihiro Ishizuka, follows the daily life of Makoto Kowata as she trains to become a witch. Makoto comes across as an innocent, wide-eyed girl. After finding out this was going to be more a slice-of-life than a plot-driven story, I had some reservations about completing reading the story. Her daffiness was almost too much to bear. Also, the manga reminded me very much of Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service. Kiki is also a witch and has a black cat familiar.

My attitude towards Makoto began to change as a result of two chapters. In one, Makoto has befriended a classmate, Nano. She takes Nano out with her into the fields to go mandrake hunting. She warns Nano to cover her ears. The panels illustrate how loud the mandrake is and shows everybody covering their ears, and Makoto then offers it as a token of friendship. The look on Nano’s face is priceless as she does not know what to make of this gift. I have to say this scene plays out with more humor in the anime, with the mandrake constantly twitching throughout the exchange.

Another chapter I really enjoyed was when Makoto wanted to practice gardening. She finds a plot of land and before she can begin planting notices a pheasant. She begins to start chasing the pheasant all over yard. Her reason for chasing it: “It had a look that said catch me if you can!” The expression on her face was one of joy. It’s hard to dislike a character that comes across as sweet and genuine.

I would recommend The Flying Witch series for those that like slice-of-life mangas. It is also very accessible for middle school children. The panels do not contain much dialogue. It leaves the page easy to read, and the language is simple.

I can’t say I would recommend this for adults. It’s not plot-heavy, and the main character has a singular goal. I did not feel motivated to grab the next volume, which I think is essential for multivolume stories.

Mar 28, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Doctor Strange

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, the debut of Benedict Cumberbatch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange was released on November 4, 2016 and made $85 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $233 million in the United States and $678 million total worldwide.

DUY: Ultimately, I liked the film and thought it was good enough for its job... but it could have been better.

TRAVIS: I've seen it suggested the film was originally going to tell its story nonlinearly, with the various "deaths" of Dr. Strange as a throughline. That would have removed the most tedious aspect for me, which was the getting anywhere business, and it could have made the rest of the movie feel genuinely heady and exciting. And you might not have noticed how dumb the villain was, as quickly.

JD: There are character moments in this that should feel bigger. When Stephen makes his way back from Mount Everest, I think Cumberbatch should have gone farther and made it really emotional. That bugged me a lot the second time I watched it.

BEN: It's the only MCU movie I've watched once.

JEFF: I enjoyed the movie. Unfortunately it was too predictable and felt very much like a by-the-numbers origin movie. I liked Cumberbatch as Strange and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo and it has some good action sequences, but when I look at this in comparison to the rest of the MCU it feels like one of the weaker movies they've put out. I enjoyed Strange's small part in Thor: Ragnarok more than I enjoyed him in this movie, which fits with how I've enjoyed him in comics over the years. I like him as a guest star or on a team more than headlining his own book. That said, I still enjoyed it more then what DC has been doing.

JD: I think the acting was pretty stellar despite that by-the-numbers feel. That's probably the good casting coming through. I love Tilda Swinton in everything she's in and I thought it was a bold choice. She's done androgynous at least once before as an angel in Constantine.

I enjoyed the movie. Unfortunately it was too predictable and felt very much like a by-the-numbers origin movie. -Jeff

TRAVIS: There is, weirdly, precedent for the Ancient One appearing white for the sake of a white bigot (Anthony Ludgate, aka Anthony Druid/Druid). I still don't buy "But, China!" on the casting, as a) both theatets I saw it in blew up over any Asian appearing at any time, and b) China was at that time, deep in a government-sponsored celebration of Tibetan artists, actors, and creative talents.

DUY: It's also made clear that she's just the latest in a long line of Ancient Ones. And personally I'd rather have her kicking ass than an old man. It's an easy out, the same way Valkyrie in Ragnarok isn't Brunnhilde.

MATT: I'm rewatching it and, man, they make Stephen unbearable before going to Nepal. He's not much better when he's there. I didn't mind the Ancient One casting (nor Mordo, which I suspect was a bigger deal in the racist-er parts of the internet) since they were at least upfront that Tilda was a Celt. I feel like it's good, not particularly strong, so a bit of upper part of the bottom third of movies. I feel like the images they tried to go for were either stunning (the clearly Ditko parts) or repetitive (the space folding/floor moving). I particularly like that they saved Mordo's turn for a later installment.

SAMANTHA: I liked the movie overall; I’m also pretty proud of the fact that I actually found an Easter egg before looking them up. Turning down Rhodesy’s back surgery because it was too easy? Dick!

MATT: I had the same chuckle too! Watching these back to back does have its benefits

PETER: Wait, is it confirmed that they were referring to Rhodey regarding the back surgery? Wow! Someone was telling me that when we came out of the cinema and I just dismissed it. Damn casual fans now know more than I do!

SAMANTHA: It was so low I almost missed it! I was watching it on Netflix when I heard little snippets of what the guy on the phone was saying. I had to rewind it to confirm!

MATT: Yeah, 35-year-old (which Rhodey is definitely too old to really be based on how Don looks in HD), spinal cord, fell in a field. It clicks.

PETER: Perhaps I set my expectations too high for this. I really like the Dr. Strange character but it's probably because I have fond memories of reading the original Lee/Ditko series as a child. To be honest, I don't recall reading many other Dr. Strange comics after that. I only read the Aaron/Bachalo series a few months ago. I also quite like many of the actors in the movie. Cumberbatch, of course, and Swinton, Ejiofor, Mikelsen, Wong, etc. Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and I'd gladly rewatch it but for me it never hits the level of the top MCU movies like Winter Soldier and Avengers.

DUY: So I think we've all said that something is missing in this movie to prevent it from really breaking out. How would we fix this? What exactly, to each of us, is missing?

MATT: I think they leaned too hard into Strange being a total dick. It is basically the Iron Man formula, but amped up a bit and it just doesn't work. More Wong wouldn't hurt either.

DUY: It is pretty much the Iron Man model, beat for beat. I think one thing I think about is that if this movie came out in 2008, it probably would have been huge.

TRAVIS: More Wong and Christine. A better pacing and arc. Don't be afraid to go spooky woooOoooOoo! more often. Making this try to fit as action/adventure just makes it toothless.

MATT: Yeah, they could lean into the temptation of Dormammu and lose Kaecilius. The Ancient One can still die and Mordo turn, but it’s a tonally different movie.

TRAVIS: Mordo's turn came out of nowhere and only makes sense because he was only the flimsiest representation of a person, anyway. Like they needed him to be "good" in a sequel or to save face.

MATT: You get told a lot more than shown for motivation, with the exception of maybe Wong (though it’s his predecessor getting offed) and Strange (who is a dick).

It is basically the Iron Man formula, but amped up a bit and it just doesn't work. -Matt

DUY: Anyone else think the Time Stone being introduced in a movie with blatant watch product placement is a bit much?

TRAVIS: These are pretty much toy-selling movies.

DUY: A watch is not a toy, unless you're Peter Turingan, or if your watch turns into a robot.

PETER: Hey! They're tiny mechanical works of art that you can wear. I want to add that I wholeheartedly approve of the gratuitous watch shots in the movie. I'm a watch fan AND a fan of the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand in particular so I didn't mind the minor supporting role played by the gorgeous JLC Master Ultra Thin watch in the story. Not so subtle product placement there but, heh, I like the product!

TRAVIS: I've never wanted Deadpool to be digitally inserted into a movie as much as I do right now. And, some ultra cheese, "Know what time it is?" smartass.

DUY: He wears watches throughout the movie, at the end of the day he whips up a magic watch to trap Dormammu, it's brilliant.

He wears watches throughout the movie, at the end of the day he whips up a magic watch to trap Dormammu, it's brilliant. -Duy

TRAVIS: I'd forgot how dumb the magic was, too. All point and shoot. Sling rings are worse than gratuitous watch porn.

DUY: And where is the ILY hand gesture?

TRAVIS: There's the made-for-TV 70s movie, and the 80s movie that was already in production (with Jack Kirby designs) when they lost the name rights, and they're both still more fun, funny, and big-time than this mega-budget movie with its big name actors and its fancy watches.

DUY: The falling buildings thing would have been more impressive if I never saw Inception.

JD: If Dr. Strange did come out in '08, does Inception still do that?

DUY: That's a good question. Now I want to watch Inception again.

TRAVIS: It was just more visually boring than any acid trippy shamanic movie I can think of. Even the Blueberry movie is trippier, if you want to limit it to comics-based flicks. Oooh the buildings move hasn't been exciting since the Crocodile Dundee movie poster where they bend like grass.

DUY: This is a movie where the humor is misplaced. Could have stood to be more serious. Strange putting on the cloak with this dramatic music after the Ancient One bites it, and... then the cloak tries wiping off the blood. It's funny. But it undercuts everything.

MATT: I think the movie we made up where Kaecilius isn't the villain, but the temptation of Dormammu is would work better. The funny bits with Beyonce and the cape having a personality (cough Aladdin rip-off cough) could still work. As could the Ancient One's sacrifice. It's a more cerebral movie, which is a genre Marvel has not really attempted. There could still be fights and magic and world bending, it would just be different. I would also say the mid-credits scene with Thor is another in the trend of the Phase 3 movies using clips of future movies in them (Ant-Man having a scene from Civil War jumping out in my mind). It's more jarring because of the crazy Dr. Strange Gloves than anything.

DUY: How safe would you say the casting of Cumberbatch is? I feel that the most breakout castings we've had in the MCU have been guys we were skeptical of or guys we'd never even heard of.

JD: Weren't the early rumors suggesting Johnny Depp was in talks for the role?

DUY: Johnny Depp? I don't know if that's safer or riskier

DUY: Jeff, were you the one who said this movie takes place early on in the MCU? It's at least after the formation of the Avengers -- the tower is in the skyline

JEFF: I did say that in the Winter Soldier discussion. His name was an Easter egg in the targets.

DUY: I'm not sure how the timeline works here. This takes place after Avengers and presumably soon after Civil War (War Machine's injury is mentioned). But Panther takes place exactly a week after Civil War and over just a few days, and this one seems to take way longer.

JEFF: Time stone. Wibbely wobbely, timey whimey

DUY: Who wins the Val Kilmer Award for the movie?

TRAVIS: Benedict Wong killed the audience both times I saw this in the theater.

MATT: Wong is strong, the weird thing for me is how no one really stands out. They are too often kind of flat. Not Wong.

JD: The cape. The cape wins the Val Kilmer Award.

DUY: Comic recommendations for Dr. Strange?

TRAVIS: Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme (it's entire '88 to '96 run), and the mini Mark Waid and Emma Rios blessed us with.

DUY: Is it too much to ask that the director of the sequel reads Steve Ditko's run, watches Ragnarok, and says, what Ragnarok did to Kirby, he wants to do with Ditko. Is it?

Mar 21, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Captain America: Civil War/Ant-Man

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, we're doing a two-for-one, because Marvel moved up Infinity War by a week. (Hey, we're not complaining!)

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War was released on May 6, 2016 and made $179 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $408 million in the United States and $1.2 billion total worldwide.

But before we get to that, Ant-Man was released on July 17, 2015 and made $57 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $180 million in the United States and $519 million total worldwide.

DUY: I saw Ant-Man with Katherine and another high school friend in LA a couple of years ago. It was a fun time, and I remember cool visuals and Scott's friend the most. The purist in me is still annoyed they didn't go with Hank Pym though.

MATT: It's an Edgar Wright movie, just no Pegg and Frost. And you, know, him leaving during production. But first, let me digress...

ANTONIO: I really wanted to see the Edgar Wright version of this movie. What we got was cute and endearing, but I wanted to see Wright’s craziness at work.

DUY: I know Edgar Wright was taken off this movie, but a good portion of it still feels just like him. I just saw Baby Driver and there are a whole lot of stylistic similarities, not to mention that they're both heist movies.

JEFF: I was surprised how much I enjoyed this movie when I first saw it. The shrinking effects looked great, and Micheal Pena stole it as  Luis. Using Lang instead of Pym was an interesting choice. The more expected thing would have been to start with Hank and have a Scott Lang cameo, so it's nice to see them not go with the obvious direction and perhaps we'll see a Hank movie set in the Cold War eventually.

DUY: How is it that we've seen exactly just one period piece so far?

JEFF: They're focused on pushing the Infinity stones story and its harder to insert more past heroes that are never mentioned in any of the phase one movies, retcons are easier in comics. Captain Marvel at least is going to be set in the past so success there could prompt then to explore other stories like that.

I think my big complaint about the movie is just that it's generally by the numbers. There's nothing so wrong with that. They can't all be game-changers. -Duy

MATT: Ultimately, this one does suffer from the Phase 2 villain problem. Yellowjacket, meh. Playing with size was good, Scott's motivation was good, Rudd was clearly having fun, Evangeline Lilly is a much better Ant-Man than him, Michael Douglas was also having a blast. But, I need a five-person crew to really pull off this heist.

DUY: Playing with the size led to pretty good effects, though I admit it spoiled me for Dr. Strange. It's also just hard for me to see Paul Rudd as anyone other than Mike from Friends.

TRAVIS: Scott is the least interesting part of his own movie. Too much of the size difference material was too similar to every other size-change movie we've ever seen. And, it was best when it was purely silly, but it seemed to hold back on that so much in order to be a fairly by the numbers heist/sadsack-criminal-does-big-score flick.

MATT: I agree with Travis. It was best when goofy, which means more of Luis. I like that they focused on a new generation (minus Cap, he short circuited that step). Having another person discover another new thing is a bit derivative of Iron Man. Hank is set up as a guy who thumbs his nose at the Starks, so it's a good split there as well.

DUY: I think an argument could be made for Pym being a better inventor than Tony Stark, thus far, and Tony is simply more famous by virtue of him being Tony. A famous-for-being-famous person.

MATT: You can sort of see it in the Yellowjacket suit. It's more Iron Man like and Pym's isn't.

KATHERINE: There was also a contentious relationship between Hank and Tony’s father, so why would he trust Tony and his whole enterprise? (As Scott tells him in Civil War “As Hank Pym always said, you never can trust a Stark.”)

DUY: Also our first indication that the sentiment behind the Avengers is being split. "They're probably too busy dropping cities."

KATHERINE: It is funny that the argument can be made that they don’t call on the Avengers in most of the solo movies 'cause nobody trusts Tony.

DUY: This is the first movie with a blatant crossover cameo from someone who's not supposed to be there, really. So: The Falcon scene. Out of place or a nice nod to the shared universe?

KATHERINE: Love it. Love Peggy and Howard being in the beginning too, which is why it makes sense that Tony would have some of the tech in Avengers storage since they used to collaborate.

ANTONIO: A nice nod and it sets up his inclusion in Civil War.

KATHERINE: I’ve never had a problem with the cameos and connections to other movies, I think it’s super fun. And again this shared universe stuff has never been done before, so I understand the logistical limitations when there’s stuff they can’t do, but it’s super fun when they can do a little something. Plus, playing a little bit of the Avengers theme when they flew over the building gave me such a little thrill.

DUY: Who wins the Val Kilmer Award?

MATT: Pym, Van Dyne, or Luis?

KATHERINE: I vote Luis! I love Luis! He has so much unbridled positive energy, I can’t think of any other characters quite like him in the MCU (oh wait, other than Korg!!) so he was such a refreshing happy presence.

DUY: I think we can all agree that Hope had us wanting more.

JEFF: For recommendations I'd suggest Avengers: The Trial of Yellowjacket,  which has Ant Man and Hawkeye teaming up against the Taskmaster, and Under Siegewhere Ant Man and Wasp defend a comatose Hercules against Absorbing Man and Titania.

TRAVIS: Aguirre-Sacasa & Hans's Avengers Origins: Ant-Man and the Wasp. The Irredeemable Ant-Man.

DUY: So on a scale of 1 to 10, how much is everyone looking forward to Ant-Man and the Wasp?

TRAVIS: More than I thought I would. The trailer looks good and it got my brother's kids excited. It feels like they learned from the "mistakes" of Ant-Man. Or, they just cut the trailer to make it seem they have, but I'll still give it a chance.

JEFF: 7, I enjoyed the first one enough to look forward to this one. The thing I take most from this movie is that for me it solidified that Marvel could take just about any of their heroes and make it a hit.

DUY: I think my big complaint about the movie is just that it's generally by the numbers. There's nothing so wrong with that. They can't all be game-changers.

DUY: Ant-Man was on Captain America's side during Civil War. Whose side were you on?

PETER: As a government man myself, I'm on the government side. But Stark acted like a dick (of course, it's Cap's movie so he has to be portrayed more sympathetically, right) and Stark's team had the Vision (snore) but they also had Widow who I like the best, so...

TRAVIS: Tony was right. He's also a jerk and a dope, so his trajectory being right includes him doing everything wrong and hypocritically.

LAMAR: Cap's side. Making something a law doesn't make it right, or properly executed. Some stuff you have to just say "hell naw" to and let it be what it's going to be.

DUY: I guess the question is if Cap would have gone against the law if it were anyone other than Bucky, or even any circumstances other than Bucky being framed. Like if Bucky were just in trouble, maybe Cap would get Tony to help him out, but he couldn't do it if they were all chasing Bucky.

MATT: Tony is right in that they need oversight so no one becomes Vulture.

ANTONIO: Tony was right in the real world. Unfortunately, he also allied himself with General Ross, so you automatically lose all credibility once you’re taking orders from the same guy who has been trying to kill your Science Bro for the longest time.

KATHERINE: I thought this was so well done because it’s pretty rare to set up a conflict in a movie where they’re both kind of right and both kind of wrong. I totally empathized with both sides. But Cap’s my boy so of course I’ll ultimately side with him.

ANTONIO: Since the government in a Marvel movie is never, ever to be trusted, I’d say Cap was right.

Tony was right. He's also a jerk and a dope, so his trajectory being right includes him doing everything wrong and hypocritically. -Travis

KATHERINE: Similar to what Antonio said, I think in theory Tony is right, but in practice Cap is right. And it makes total sense with the overall trajectory of their characters through these movies. Tony was a cocky bad boy who had to be tamed and humbled and now suffers from PTSD and guilt so he doesn’t really want to be making the decisions anymore (also he was never really a leader to begin with). Cap was a humble guy with a heart of gold who put his life and trust in a government that went on to betray him, and he had to learn to fight for what’s right.

DUY: I think my biggest problem with the movie is its very premise, and I said the same thing with the original comic. I just can't believe these two would fight to that extent, and also, when Tony pulls the "So was I" line, my initial reaction is, "What, no you weren't!" They've spent the Avengers movies at each other's throats measuring their dicks. Of course Steve's not picking you over Bucky. That's where the premise falls apart for me; he's clearly not as close to Tony, so Tony pulling the friend card is just weird and desperate

JEFF: No, it's just Tony's ego thinking something that was never there. Like someone who thinks they're liked and respected but really everyone can't stand to be around the person

DUY: He's definitely the dude from work you have to get along with because he's high up, but no one likes him.

JEFF: Yeah so of course he thinks him and Steve are buds cause to him who wouldn't want to be friends with Tony.

KATHERINE: But I appreciated that they weren’t trying to kill each other for no reason like Batman v Superman (well, until the last fight at the very end, but that was a different thing). Team Iron Man was just trying to contain and arrest them to bring them back to Ross, and Team Cap was just trying to get to the planes. I felt like as much as it’s possible to show it in a big high-stakes action sequence where the danger should feel real, it still seemed like they weren’t really trying to hurt each other. The two sides had a philosophical disagreement, but the reason for the actual physical battle between the two teams was really more logistical and practical.

JD: Civil War walked a lot of thin lines. Everything is set in motion through deaths in many families, yet it's not a dark movie. Its all about the spectacle but it can still feel close and real. I was Team Cap but they made it very easy to empathize with each side.

JEFF: One of the things I love about this film is how Stark and Rogers are characterized as the perfect examples for their respective side of the conflict. In Steve you have the perfect moral compass. he may have the purest heart to know what's right and what's ultimately wrong, he never wavers throughout the film from his convictions and he's seen from SHIELD the danger when people with harmful intentions are in charge. With Tony we have a character who wants accountability and the government to keep powered individuals in check become that out of control weapon when he tries to kill Barnes out of vengeance.

TRAVIS: Steve is a pretty broken moral compass outside of an action movie where he's the hero. Of course, Tony is that times nine. Falcon might actually be a better "moral human being," than Cap, when you consider his day job, his ability to deal with women substantially better, and his willingness to trust the orders of others. Of course, the guy he trusts, in these, is Cap, so it comes back around.

KATHERINE: I think in the last two movies Cap’s gone from being a soldier to being a patriot in a different kind of way — by becoming an activist. We see that debate a lot, especially nowadays in our current political climate: what defines a patriot? Are the people working for the president patriotic because they’re upholding the office and trying to follow the rules, or are the ones resisting him patriots for upholding American ideals and trying to fight for justice?

DUY: That's in Black Panther too.

KATHERINE: It’s a pretty complicated question. But this quote from Thomas Jefferson seems to sum up what Cap is about here: "If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so."

LAMAR: I think having a reference for superpowered people is a good idea, in and of itself. But as a general rule I'm not for lining people up and telling them what they can and can't do. Nobody seems to want to do that with non-powered people with access to great power, like politicians for example. More than anything Cap's stance was that the people are the ones with the real power, not the other way around, and laws should be written with that in mind and the way a nation thinks should reflect this.

MATT: It's very oddly a middle movie. Setup for Infinity War, rather than a standalone Cap movie. Even though I think of it as the lesser of the Cap movies, it's still in my top half of Marvel movies. Evans does earnest real well and Cap does get character development through his movie appearances. But this is basically a mini-Avengers movie, with too much going on. It tries to make Tony the villain, when it should really be Zemo (they do keep Hydra in there though).

KATHERINE: I always thought they make it pretty clear that Zemo is manipulating everything (it's even more clear on subsequent viewings, but I really enjoyed the twists and turns on your expectations about what he's manipulating and to what end). Personally, I never thought of Tony as the villain nor did I think they were setting him up to be one. Antagonizing force, definitely, but not a villain. Did anyone else think that way? I felt like they were two beloved characters on opposite sides of an understandable ideological divide, and they want the audience to argue about who's right (like we're doing now!), but it's not supposed to be that clear cut.

I think in the last two movies Cap’s gone from being a soldier to being a patriot in a different kind of way — by becoming an activist. We see that debate a lot, especially nowadays in our current political climate: what defines a patriot? -Katherine

DUY: I'm firmly in the "Widow was right" camp. Sign the accords, get the public's trust back, but you have to be willing to go off the book when lives are at stake.

KATHERINE: Totally agree that Widow was right, but as a former spy, it was in character that she would be okay with switching sides. Cap can’t break a signed promise!!

ANTONIO: How much trust are ya really gonna win back if you sign the accords and a few missions later breaks the laws? That’s even if you make it more than one mission without doing so.

DUY: And that segues nicely into the scene where Widow turns and the most famous scene in the movie: the airport scene. How'd this fight shape up for you guys?

JEFF: The airport fight was a lot of awesomesauce but it also showed that Marvel has no idea what to do with Vision now cause, when you think of it, he should have easily taken out Cap's team with minimal effort given how powerful he is.

DUY: If you look at it, Vision spends a whole lot of time offscreen doing nothing. He really tips the scales too far.

MATT: The fight at the airport is well done, with a cameo by the Arrested Development stairs.

TRAVIS: It's fun, but it's slow for a superhero fight. My mom asked if it was that slow for little kids to follow easier. And... maybe.

KATHERINE: I love it. I never thought of it as being slow, I loved that they all had their moments to shine. But I wonder if some of the feeling you guys got might tie into them not trying to kill each other, as opposed to other superhero battles where they're destroying as many minions as quickly as they can. The only one on that battlefield that has any deadly intent is Black Panther going after Bucky. Everyone else is just trying to either distract, contain, or slow the other side down.

TRAVIS: There's a difference between trying not to kill someone and just dancing around, though. If Iron Man, at this point, has no non-lethal armaments his armor, that's a problem. Bring a net, some rope, not just mini-bombs, maybe. Still feels weird that Rhodey was the one to go down. I know it helps motivate characters and the plot, but he's encased in armor, highly trained, an experienced combat vet. Scott Lang, almost canonically in these movies, can't fight and is out of his element.

DUY: It had to be Rhodey, thematically. He's Tony's equivalent of Bucky, and the guy who evaded the attack is (arguably) as highly trained as he is. Probably even better trained in flight fighting.

TRAVIS: I don't like to call "bad writing," but that's just bad writing to me. If he wasn't the only one to get smashed up, even.

ANTONIO: No one woulda cared if It had been Lang.

DUY: It had to be someone from Tony's side because you needed someone who would say that even after they got hurt, they would have still signed the accords. So that rules out Spider-Man. Can't be Vision (his big destruction is being saved for Thanos), or Widow (she defected), or T'challa (obviously). So that really just left War Machine, the guy who was most adamant about signing them anyway. Should someone from Cap's side have gone down too? Maybe, but for what purpose, plotwise? They all get caught and imprisoned.

TRAVIS: I'm not saying he can't be the one to go down, but there has to be a better way to do it than what they ran with. It seemed lazy. Especially since it happens separate from the big fight, as almost an afterthought.

DUY: MCU Plothole? Spider-Man easily takes on Falcon in this one, but has a really really really hard time with the Vulture a few movies later

JEFF: Well they were in a building which could limit Falcons maneuvering and speed.

Since the government in a Marvel movie is never, ever to be trusted, I’d say Cap was right. -Antonio

DUY: Zemo's plan ran on so much "I hope this is what they do" moments though.

TRAVIS: I'm almost glad he's reinvented for their purposes. The two Zemos you really have to work with, one is a pure cartoon with a purple bag on his head, and the other has that weird "ethical Nazi" angle. "He believes in himself, that's a code of ethics!" Not, necessarily, by the writers, but his fans. That's easy to screw up bad in a movie.

DUY: There is the complaint that Zemo is so far removed from his comic book counterpart. But the fact that he doesn't die gives me hope that he'll be back in full-blown Baron Zemo gear. Which means he's in my Masters of Evil. They can keep movie Zemo's backstory. I just want to see that costume live.

TRAVIS: Zemo's adopted sons and daughters would be creepy as hell onscreen. Now, that I think about it.

KATHERINE: What I liked about Zemo's plan though was that it counted on them being the best versions of themselves and being heroes that could put their ideological differences aside to help each other in a pinch. That Tony would come around and still try to help them once he found out about Zemo’s plan. Whereas Lex’s plan in Batman v. Superman counted on them being the most selfish, dumbest versions of themselves.

DUY: It's not like BvS is a high bar, Kat!

JEFF: Zemo's plan is really convoluted to arrange for them to fight each other. It depends too much on things falling into place for him. What if Cap signed the accords and talked the authorities into letting him be the one to bring in Bucky?

DUY: I sound like I'm hating on Civil War, but it's a movie I really like. I just don't quite love it.

MATT: Yeah, that's where I'm at. I think the movie uses sound and imagery to portray Tony as a sympathetic antagonist. Making Tony look bad is not a hard sell to me — it fits with comics Tony — but I don't think they made the leap to following-authority Tony (especially after him hacking a hellicarrier in Avengers). 

KATHERINE: I actually don’t see it as a Tony that’s suddenly just following authority, I think it’s a Tony that’s feeling traumatized and guilty for the part he played in Sokovia and doesn’t want to be held responsible anymore. He’s driven by fear of his Age of Ultron vision coming true and yet he knows his decisions screwed up his life (he admits to signing partly to try to get Pepper back), so he wants structure to keep himself in check cuz he doesn’t trust himself when left to his own devices. I read an analysis that Civil War is basically Tony’s big cry for help (which has gone repeatedly unanswered), which I thought was fascinating. 

MATT: More a continuation of his Iron Man 3 PTSD?

DUY: Ultimately, what carries over in this movie for me is the emotion. RDJ cements his status as the best actor on this roster, but Evans really plays that "I have my convictions" guy really well. We can see neither of them really wants to fight.

MATT: Seriously, these movies are stacked with talent.  I do think the Cap movies are the best, most consistent three of the singles. It is well written (there are clunky bits, but nobody's perfect), pretty good action movie. It's not better than Winter Soldier, but I do appreciate that the aims of Zemo (who is a good villain and doesn't die) are not world domination. In many ways, it's a smaller movie in the sense that it's a personal movie and the fact that it's a mini-Avengers movie is incidental.

DUY: I agree with the Cap movies being the most consistent; I do think this is the weakest one.

MATT: Yes, but it’s maybe the fifth best of the Captain America/Iron Man/Thor movies. The top two being the other Cap movies. The thing that cracked me up the most was Vision wearing clothes and I'm not sure why. Sam and Bucky going back and forth is definitely a highlight too.

DUY: This movie made me want a Falcon/Bucky buddy movie, without Steve. Just the two of them looking for Steve and getting into trouble. We also see Steve and Sharon starting a romantic connection. Falcon and Bucky in the car nodding in approval. Personally, I found the connection with Sharon weird, which is doubly weird because I like Sharon in the comics.

JEFF: It is weird and forced in the movies. They didn't really set it up right given the kiss happened after "aunt" Peggy Carter died. Peggy was his number one girl. Not enough time to develop the Steve and Sharon romance in the two movies she was in, maybe she should have been his date in Age of Ultron.

DUY: And the "I used to date your aunt" thing might have been a trope in the 60s (maybe), but it's just kinda weird here.

MATT: Yes, that was not well sold. There are definitely some weak points here and I think it's largely Sharon and Tony tolerating Ross at all.

DUY: Sharon Carter does provides the "No, you move" speech, which they then really kinda just hammer home the entire movie.

MATT: I also liked that they sell Ross as an asshole (remind us really) quickly with his intro. It's efficient because he's like fifth stringing in this movie.

I sound like I'm hating on Civil War, but it's a movie I really like. I just don't quite love it. -Duy

JEFF: This movie is one of the Marvel films I won't get sick of seeing, mainly for the action and Evans and there's a lot more to enjoy in this movie, like T'Challa letting his own need for revenge go after realizing he was hunting an innocent man all along.

DUY: Panther talking to Zemo about how it's time to let hate go kind of foreshadows the fact that going after Klaue in his own movie for the sake of vengeance is a mistake. Speaking of, this movie introduced both Spider-Man and the Black Panther. Did their appearances hype you up for their movies?

TRAVIS: Panther proved they could do it, for me. Spidey just reminded me I don't *need* any more Spidey movies. His stuff here was enough.

DUY: I'm a Spider-Man guy, so a part of me is always happy when he shows up. But I'm also a specific kind of Spider-Man guy, and I knew instantly that this wasn't gonna be "my" Spider-Man.

LAMAR: I was already hyped for Black Panther, but curious with what they were going to do with Spider-Man now that they have him back. I still haven't finished Homecoming (saving the rewatch for the Roundtable).

JEFF: With regards to the sides they all took, Hawkeye's seems a bit out of place. Comics Hawkeye would be with Cap no question, 'cause it's Clint thumbing his nose to authority of course but here I can see him on side of the accords.

ANTONIO: They house-arrested Wanda. While he’s all about responsibility and stepping up in the movies, I don’t think he cares much for how this came about and all the blame being put unfairly on them.

JEFF: Hawkeye was a SHIELD guy though, family man, retired even. It just seems a bit forced that he was put on Cap's team without something planted in Age of Ultron that he would be fight against the law like this.

KATHERINE: My take on Hawkeye was that he owed it to Scarlet Witch. He seemed to have adopted her after her brother died saving his life (he even named his baby after him), so he’s not just on Cap’s side, he’s saving her. Clint point blank tells Cap “besides, I owe her a debt.” Wanda’s twin brother literally died jumping in front of a bullet for him, what better reason is there to come out of retirement when she’s in trouble?

MATT: I never found Clint or Nat’s sides convincing, which they kind of admit in the airport fight.

DUY: I think Nat was sincere when she said she just wanted one hand on the wheel.

KATHERINE: For the most part, it feels like Cap’s crew is more about personal relationships and proving that the ideals set forth in the Sokovia Accords should not be absolute and unwavering when dealing with these individual cases. So Cap is there for Bucky, and Sam is there because of Cap. Then Clint is there because of Wanda. So on that level it makes sense to me. Ant-man and Spider-Man are just the recruited team members without real personal connections.

JEFF: As much as I enjoyed the airport battle, it's the end fight that makes this movie one of Marvel's best. Steve looks like he's going to beat the shit out of Tony who counters by analyzing Cap's fighting style, which gives us a battered Steve standing up to say he can do this all day to punctuate for us that Tony is villain here and everything that led to this is moot. Bucky killed his mom and he wants revenge. Damn. I loved how it played out.

DUY: That end fight runs on pure emotion. And Tony's last line, "That shield doesn't belong to you!" We know it's setting it up for Cap to get it back, but... damn. They built so much stock into those two characters that you can't help but root for them to just make up. Which they kinda ended up doing at the end.

JEFF: And he just drops the shield, the thing that matters most to Steve isn't an object. It's his friend.

DUY: His best friend, who's basically his brother

JEFF: Brother in arms at that.

You marry Cap / Bucky. But for a good time, call Thor / Loki. -Katherine

DUY: Sound off, ladies! Who's the sexier pair, Thor/Loki or Steve/Bucky?

ANTONIO: Just the ladies? This is bullshit!

DUY: I know who you're picking.

SAMANTHA: Pssh, Steve/Bucky. But Thor/Loki give them a run for their money though, even more so when you add in their dynamic in Ragnarok (which I guess we’ll save for the later Roundtable)! That said, Bucky’s brooding is just restaurant-quality-unbeatable and, in my mind, Loki’s mischievous stare is no match for it. Extra points for when they mercilessly tag teamed Stark and passed the shield between them for the best bro-op ass whooping ever.

KATHERINE: Argh this is such an unfair question! On most days my list order is 1) Cap, 2) Loki, 3) Thor, 4) Bucky. So if you average their rankings, Cap/Bucky and Loki/Thor both come out to an even 2.5! That’s a tie!! But if I must answer the question... if this was reality I might have to give the edge to Cap/Bucky. Bucky’s got that wounded puppy dog but also bad boy Jordan Catalano/Tim Riggins thing going on, and you know that both him and Cap are good people in their hearts. Whereas Loki can be too angry and unpredictable (and murdery)... and Thor is honestly sometimes just too pretty that it’s hard to look at him directly (it’s like staring into the sun). I guess what I’m concluding is... you marry Cap / Bucky. But for a good time, call Thor / Loki.

DUY: Not showing the other winter soldiers/having them being dead: cool twist or big disappointment?

JEFF: I kind of figured they were either dead or escaped, movie didn't have enough time for them to fight a bunch of winter soldiers and then have Steve vs Tony, which from the previews we knew was still coming

JD: I liked it. It gave Nemo another layer of his character.

DUY: Heeheehee. Nemo.

JD: Not an autocorrect. I actually typed that.

MATT: Movie was basically Finding Zemo...

DUY: Another aspect where the premise falls apart for me: Ross outlines all the times that the Avengers destroyed stuff, but for at least two of those (New York and Washington), they minimized the damage.

TRAVIS: Ross likes picking fall guys, though. He likes bogeymen.

JEFF: Ross starts that conversation saying the world owes them an debt it can never repay, then tells them that world wants force them into being regulated and subordinate to act when it says they can/will act. Well if that don't inspire people to want to save the world or stop an alien invasion, nothing will. Ross is an excellent choice for an antagonist for the team, would have been nice to see Peter Gyrich used in this too.

DUY: All my nitpicks can be easily explained by character flaws (Tony's ego, Ross being a dick), it's just, come on, everyone, get some perspective. And can anyone really blame Tony for being so pissed at Bucky at the end there? And what do you all think of Bucky actually taking responsibility for the stuff he did under mind control?

KATHERINE: I don’t blame him and I don’t think Bucky blamed him either, which kind of made it all sadder. I think Bucky had to take responsibility. I think he’d be less sympathetic if he denied it or didn’t remember. I envisioned the mind control to be like that Black Mirror episode where he’s conscious of what’s happening but he’s not in the driver’s seat, he’s stuck watching it happen but has no control to stop it. That’s actual torture that will haunt him forever, as opposed to the bliss of ignorance.

MATT: It’s all in Stan’s eyes.

JD: I don't blame him. That's one of those times when a fistfight to the death is acceptable.

ANTONIO: I get the lashing out part of Tony confronting Bucky, but it’s still not his fault. Bucky is as much a victim as Tony’s parents were.

KATHERINE: Totally agree. But acknowledging that would take a lot of thinking and rational reasoning that Tony couldn’t be expected to do in the heat of the moment, so I get it. I feel like the two of them seeing each other again will be really awkward and emotional.

JD: It will be interesting when Tony sees Bucky again.

DUY: It would be interesting to see where Clint, Scott, Wanda, and Sam ended up. We know Natasha's on the run, Bucky and probably Steve are in Wakanda. One wonders why they didn't just all go to Wakanda. Also,

DUY: So who wins the Kilmer Award for Civil War?

MATT: Mission Report December 16, 1991.

DUY: There's too many, but I'd probably give it to RDJ, actually.

MATT: For comics recommendations, one could read Civil War, thus concluding my only comic recommendation (as a comic I've actually read!).

JEFF: Captain America: The Captain is a good story of Steve giving up the Captain America name when told he had to be an agent of the government instead of operating on his own.

Mar 14, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Avengers: Age of Ultron

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, the sequel to their most successful movie yet.

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Comics Cube Roundtable

Avengers: Age of Ultron was released on May 1, 2015 and made $191 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $459 million in the United States and $1.4 billion total worldwide.

DUY: Officially speaking, Ant-Man is the final film of Phase 2, but it feels like the first film of Phase 3 to me, so we're gonna call this the end of Phase 2.

JEFF: It is used to plant seeds for the next Cap and Thor movies and foreshadow the Infinity War, and I find that really hurts the movie's flow a lot for me.

MATT: Yeah, this movie was more about setting pieces, but was ultimately fairly incoherent. Strucker just dies, making him just sneering and pointless. Quicksilver is meh. Clint getting a lot of time actually works fairly well. Mostly, though, I just want to curse like a motherfucker about the idea of dropping a city state to restart life.

JD: If you take this as the middle part of the unofficial trilogy of Avengers, Age of Ultron, and Civil War, I think it's fine. But on its own it doesn't stand up well.

TRAVIS: Ultron might be the only part that works for me. And, I might be the only person, Ultron works for.

MATT: I think James Spader as Ultron is the perfect RDJ foil given their 80s characterizations.

DUY: This is my single most hated MCU movie, and it along with Iron Man 2 may be the only ones I actively truly hate. I talk about how much I hate Dark Knight Rises, Batman v Superman, and Man of Steel, but Age of Ultron is just as bad. My sentiment of it is brought up only by the good will that came before and after.

JEFF: When it came out I remember walking away fairly disappointed in this movie. It's not horrible to me, but falls short from the movies that preceded it and doesn't fulfill its potential. Part of it is definitely the setting up plots for other movies, and another part is probably Isaac Perlmutter's behind-the-scenes involvement.

DUY: We can't talk about Age of Ultron without talking about the choice to put Black Widow and Banner in a romance, with Black Widow feeling like she's a monster because she would be unable to have a baby. Personally, I think the backlash is more of a side effect of the fact that she's the only woman in the group, and that it would be significantly lighter if there was more female representation. Thoughts?

TRAVIS: I like their romance. They're pretty cute, in a good awkward way. But, the sterilized thing has been done better elsewhere, even with Widow, that I feel there's little excuse for how poorly it's handled here. Even if nobody meant us to conflate that with the "monster" bit, they're put together on screen for us. That's on them.

MATT: I liked their pairing. It was set up in Avengers and I think it works well. I always thought when watching this movie, she felt that the Red Room turned her into a monster due to massive amounts of murder. But her dialogue in that scene is bad regardless.

DUY: First glimpse of Widow's backstory with the ballet assassins. Personally I'd rather this have been saved for her own eventual movie. Thoughts?

JEFF: I think it was time for some character building with her. This was the fourth movie Widow was in after all.

LAMAR: This movie had tons of character work...but almost all of it was unnecessary and forced. It's so distracting that the best action pieces, some of which are among the best in the MCU, didn't interest me because I was taken out of the movie.
"I think the backlash is more of a side effect of the fact that she's the only woman in the group, and that it would be significantly lighter if there was more female representation." -Duy
TRAVIS: Ultron's drunk baby schtick still warms my heart. "I think I killed a guy. He was a good guy." Half-apologetic at tearing a man's arm off in overreaction. His what-a-child-thinks-is-brilliant master plans.

DUY: He also basically looked at the internet for 15 minutes and decided humanity was terrible, which... is realistic.

TRAVIS: I suppose I do miss the comics version, in the sense of his Sophocles obsession. But, maybe he gets that from Hank, and Tony is more of an, "I just need ten minutes and the internet" guy.

MATTHEW: I really enjoyed the opening action sequence. There's a shot where everybody is lined up and it looks exactly like a big double page spread straight from a comic. The only thing it's missing is Cap yelling "Avengers Assemble!"

DUY: I agree, the opener is amazing. Which just sets up the rest of it for my disappointment.

JEFF:I loved the opening action as well and the hammer-lifting scene before Ultron shows up but too much feels forced in this movie. There was a natural flow in the first movie that feels absent here and is written like we're just suppose to accept things like them using the Hulk against a Hydra base now when Steve didn't feel the need to call The Avengers during Winter Soldier when there was a bigger threat.

MATT: Compared to the first Avengers and Winter Soldier, this movie is a bummer. It's just not coherent and they try to do too many things, thus ultimately giving Ultron (and Vision) short shrift. Although, upon further review, Vision has 3 daddies and is a it's totally a backdoor Three Men and a Baby reboot.

DUY: The Vision's creation had some of the fanboys in my theater marking out, but it's so rushed and extraneous to the entire story.

JEFF: I really think they should have left this out of the movie and putting an infinity stone on his forehead makes him way too powerful.

There was a natural flow in the first movie that feels absent here... -Jeff

MATT: Tony's army of Iron Men was creepy as hell, which I believe was the point.

DUY: It's also a good continuation from Iron Man 3, the kind of detail that I feel they don't carry over into other movies enough.

JEFF: The Hulk/Iron Man fight wasn't disappointing at least. That scene where Hulk spits out a tooth and Starks reaction was gold.

DUY: This is another movie where I thought Thor's jokes were severely out of place. "I am Thor, son of Odin, god of thunder, and I am running out of things to say" is a complete missed opportunity for a badass moment.

JEFF: This would have been much better with less screentime used to plant seeds. Sometimes all you need is one good line to plant a seed like when Banner mentions the name Wakanda, better without The Vision at all (Ultron survives to create Vision in another movie), and better with more time for just Ultron. Ultron is one of The Avengers' biggest in-book villains, but here it feels he's diminished with a lack of time for motivation and a master plan that feels cheesy.

DUY: You know I'm disengaged with a movie when the flaws are the stuff I focus on. Does someone have a no-prize explanation for why in the world Tony would have a change of clothes for Pietro and Wanda within the quinjet?

TRAVIS: Tony entertains a lot of people, who might lose their clothes? So, there's a little mix and match wardrobe? (I don't even remember the clothes-change issue, to be honest.)

DUY: Wanda and Pietro's clothes get wrecked, and Tony happens to have exact copies in the quinjet.

TRAVIS: That wacky guy!

JEFF: He has a machine to make clothes, usually for Banner. He has a machine for everything

DUY: I'll take it. This movie sees the introduction of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, referred to as "miracles" and not "mutants," while at the same time another version of Pietro showed up in Days of Future Past over in the X-Men franchise. How did you like the Maximoffs in this movie?

MAX: Personally I found Pietro underwhelming. He should be amusing in that sardonic elitist kinda way. Less aloof and more like a Lannister in Game of Thrones.

DUY: One of the points of contention is the long middle at Hawkeye's farm, where it's revealed that he's been married to Velma from Scooby Doo and has had a family this whole time. This gave some depth to Hawkeye's character but could be said to have really slowed down the momentum of the movie. Thoughts?

MATT: It is a beefcake excuse to show Steve ripping the logs.

JEFF: But didn't the first Avengers movie have similar pacing in it? It started with action, slowed down for introductions, Thor vs Iron Man, slowed a bit when they got back to the Helicarrier, then Thor vs Hulk, quick breather and big finish. It just seems like the slow pace scenes in the movie got more time, which is what Whedon wanted and fought to have in the film.

DUY: This movie gives us our first death in Quicksilver. Death had, at this point, long been a point of contention for MCU movies, with fans believing that the dead should have stayed dead (Coulson, Fury, etc.). This movie gives those critics what they wanted. Does it work?

TRAVIS: I don't really get the "there have to be deaths, and they have to be permanent," urge, but I accept it is there for many fans.

DUY: One of the reasons I was never really in favor of anyone dying prior to Infinity War is that this felt like an ongoing job, so anyone dying is basically someone losing a really fun job. I believe the Quicksilver actor made it explicit that he didn't want to come back. I'm looking at it now and realizing that any actual deaths are probably best served to come with Infinity War.

MATT: Quicksilver's death is also a pale, pale comparison to the inevitable: Coulson

I don't really get the "there have to be deaths, and they have to be permanent," urge, but I accept it is there for many fans. -Travis

DUY: Is the Vision worthy or is it because he's a machine?

TRAVIS: Probably both.

MATT: JARVIS is probably more worthy. Speaking of which, I do like the intense look Thor gives Steve when everyone is trying to lift the hammer. It wiggles!

TRAVIS: I honestly dislike Cap *wiggling* it. Especially if humility is a big part of MCU hammer worthiness.

DUY: All the talk near the end about how they should just blow up Sokovia and Cap even considering that particular course of action is probably my biggest disappointment with this movie. Cap wouldn't give up!

MATT: I think this speaks to the films uncertainty in deciding what it wants to be. Is it an action movie where our heroes solve a problem or is it a character piece where we learn more about the heroes? The individual movies were able to balance this because they could focus. The team-up movies can't. The characters need to be settled so they can act.

DUY: Matt, what makes something like this different to balance compared to Guardians, where they all only exist as a unit?

MATT: So Guardians had to use economy because the characters weren’t established, hence more archetypes. Avengers 2 has established characters, you can shade them a bit, but sending Thor off on a half-assed vision quest isn’t necessary.

TRAVIS: I only remember Scarlet Witch exists when I think of this movie. And, then I remember that Scarlet's Witch is probably a more effective movie than Age of Ultron, and I think of all the talent combined in Age and their huge budget and... sad.

Sending Thor off on a half-assed vision quest isn’t necessary. -Matt

DUY: Who wins the Kilmer Award for this movie?

MATT Spader’s Ultron is so out there, he at least deserves and honorable mention.

DUY: And, comic recommendations for the Age of Ultron? I'm going to go with the obvious and say Ultron Unlimited from the Busiek/Perez run.

JEFF: If only the movie was as good as that story.

TRAVIS: Ultron Imperative, because it's the best Ultron comic. And, Endless Wartime, because it's a fantastic Avengers comic about hubris and smashing.

JEFF: Avengers Epic Collection vol 4: Behold....The Vision, West Coast Avengers: Ultron Unbound and Avengers: The Bride of Ultron.

JD: Earth X. Creel absorbs Ultron and kills millions. Then saves everyone. It's great. And dumb. But great, too.

LAMAR: JLA/Avengers. People just need to read it, has nothing to do with this movie and I hope no comic I ever read makes me reminisce on this film.

Mar 12, 2018

Johnny Storm’s Addicted to Twin Peaks

There's a nutshell description, a sell for every character in fiction, from made-for-TV movies to monthly comics. But especially with serial fiction, there are developments that fly in the face of those nutshell sells. The backstory or interests that, when you stop to think about them, make the character different, and refreshed. Harry Potter is, by the middle of the series, a wealthy, blessed, beloved-by-his-teachers jock at the top of the only sport his school cares about. That sort of thing. Lolita is a lonely scared rape victim.

Johnny Storm’s Addicted to Twin Peaks
Travis Hedge Coke

Captain America is an artist from Brooklyn who got beat up all the time.

Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, was addicted to Twin Peaks.

Iceman, Bobby Drake, can be crazy racist and used to make jokes about being gay, and being his friends’ lover, named "Lance," before finally coming out.

Patsy “Hellcat” Walker’s mom, sold her daughter, Patsy’s soul to the Devil, in exchange for a small media empire.

Here’s how Clark “Superman” Kent talks to lazy police:

Dagwood Bumstead of Blondie fame, was fantastically wealthy and he gave it up (and went on a hunger strike) to marry his beloved, the title character of the strip.

Batman villain, Bane, is a voracious reader, but his lack of normative life experience (he grew up in a a maximum security prison as a prisoner), means he misunderstands the politics and social dynamics of much of what he has read.

T’Challa, the Black Panther, has a white brother and, Wakanda was openly soliciting visits, concerts, and performances by great artists and thinkers from around the world since the latter part of his father’s reign.

For all his fatherliness, the first version of Splinter, raised the Ninja Turtles explicitly as a small army to get revenge for him.

The Thing holds several advanced degrees. He just also has an accent, speaks in regionalisms, and is best friends with a super-genius.

Emma Frost read Beast’s mind, when he was publicly claiming to be gay, but only confirmed that he had never had a physical relationship with another man, stopping short of confirming him straight.

Often appearing the adult in comparison to her partner, May Hopkins, Gunsmith Cats’ Rally Vincent is also a teenager, pretending to be in her mid-twenties.

Memory issues aside, Wolverine is well-versed in early 20th Century writers and painters, from Hemingway to Picasso.

Vision once declared himself to not be a white man, as he is not human, and his skin is bright red. An issue later, he created a human disguise to live more comfortably; a white man.

Reed “Mr Fantastic” Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four, listens to Bob Dylan and reads Clive Barker.

Before becoming a superhero, Captain Marvel was an Air Force pilot, spymaster, and for a time, head of security at NASA.

As a teenager, Sue Storm encountered and survived an attack by Dracula.

Bruce Wayne had living, and monied family when he was orphaned. None of them took him in and he was, ultimately, raised by the family butler.

Mar 7, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Guardians of the Galaxy

If you’re anything like us, than you were blown away when the first Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped.  The extended Comics Cube family was so excited that we have decided to embark upon a full re-watch of the Marvel Studios film series.  Every week we are going to watch and provide a roundtable discussion about each Marvel movie in release order.  Next, that ragtag group of space explorers.

Countdown to Avengers: Infinity War
Guardians of the Galaxy
Comics Cube Roundtable

Guardians of the Galaxy was released on July 31, 2014 and made $145 million on its opening weekend.  It ended its theatrical run at $333 million in the United States and $773 million total worldwide.

TRAVIS: I was pretty sure this would be just okeh, or worse. It was neither. It was awesome.

ANTONIO: I was pretty excited for this one. Even before it came out, I just kept going, “Groot in a flowerpot! Groot in a flowerpot!” ‘Cause that’s how things went in Annihilation: Conquest. One thing I do hate is that DnA gets all the credit, though. That just bugs the hell outta me.

JD: I at first did not dig the trailer. Looking back now I can see its genius. The familiar music mixed with new characters, something that was very different yet also somehow nostalgic. I admit I was wrong and I'd say it has since become the standard for the genre.

JEFF: I remember seeing this movie when it came out, it felt like a joy to watch from the opening credits sequence to the post credits scene. Marvels cosmic play ground is so deep and rich in characters that I really want more movies set off earth.

MATTHEW: I was really scared that this was going to be the one that completely went off the rails. Throughout the entire movie I was waiting for it to do just that. By the end I was just awestruck.

LAMAR: Let me tell y'all something right brother had never read a Guardians comic, and was skeptical about the whole movie. He paid for his ticket, and I told him if he didn't like it I'd give him the money he paid back. We went down there and he acted a pure fool, okay? I thought he was gonna get thrown out on his ass for his behavior, but he had a festival in there. Even old people were losing their minds over this movie. I even stopped watching the movie so I could see how people were reacting to it. I was sitting there like, "These Guardians are banging this damn theater." To this minute one of the most gratifying movie experiences I've ever had, easily.

MAX: I was a victim of hype on this one. I came in expecting so much. Not just because of the positive critical response and box office but also a few lifelong DC fans i know who called it their favorite superhero film. If you can believe it, I barely laughed on first viewing. I left feeling like the whole thing tried too hard and failed. Since then, I’ve watched it a couple more times and reversed that opinion (though for some reason I still prefer Vol. 2)...goes to show how much mindset can play into our opinion on a movie or comic or whatever.

DUY: I'm with you on this one. Hype gets me negatively too. I only saw this movie once in theaters and I don't think I appreciated it as much back then. Part of it is me having no prior attachment to these characters, and a part of it is me being a "space racist," meaning I'm prejudiced against stories that happen in space. I enjoyed it a lot, but I really got an appreciation for it when I was able to watch it on video. A part of that is because I tend to play movies in the background as I do other stuff, and this had the sweetest soundtrack. I appreciate it even more now after the second movie, but that's a discussion for the second movie.

MAX: Apparently the biggest point of contention was the batshit insane. It’s a no-brainer. especially in hindsight with the influence it’s had on Ragnarok and the newer DC films.

MATT: This is the one I was most unsure of coming in phase 2. I had no idea who these people were, where they were, or why a tree and talking garbage panda would be involved. Given my reservations (and missing it in the theaters), I found myself liking the latest Chris added to Marvel's pantheon and most of his supporting cast.  Zoe Saldana can't read the lines well (for some reason, I just think she can't use contractions). I did love the music, Yondu, Kirk from Gilmore Girls, and Drax. We'll come back to Drax later I suspect.

TRAVIS: I like Sean Gunn having his own character, but it's weird to me, having him be the body for Rocket and not the voice. That's always off to me. (See, also: Hellboy.)

To this minute one of the most gratifying movie experiences I've ever had, easily. -LaMar

MATT: Ronan is kind of a wasted villain.

TRAVIS: Ronan didn't feel wasted to me. His intro was pretty cool.

MATT: My problem with Ronan (and Thor 2's villains) is we get told motives, but not really shown. So Ronan just appears to be doing Thanos's dirty work for him, until the inevitable villain double cross. I had expected more understanding of the antagonist's motivations more from previous installments (Thor, Iron Man 1 and 3, Winter Soldier, Avengers). This felt like a bit more of a backslide. I learned more about the guy from Boogie Nights' family than I did the (slightly smaller) big bad. It's mostly a quibble though.

TRAVIS: They lost a big war, he's a supremacist, so he wants to crush them as revenge. I suppose that resonates with me as a scary villain motive. Seems believably dangerous. Him fetching baubles for Thanos seems a distant second to that.

MATT: This also comes from my general confusion as to what the Kree are in the comics. I never followed along with the space folk. I just looked up who the actor was and damn, it was Lee Pace from Pushing Daisies. Now, not having Ronan make a pie was a waste.

DUY: My problem with Ronan is the same problem I had with Malekith. Yeah, they're scary, but beyond that I didn't really find anything memorable.

JD: The problem with a few of MCU villains is that they are just placeholders for Thanos. I guess that's the downside of showing everyone your movie slate three or so years out.

MAX: Here’s what I wonder. How do you address that without taking away from what makes the film work? You don’t want any less screentime for the heroes, and you don’t want to make the film longer. So do you rewrite Ronan’s scenes? A certain amount of it needs to be nuts and bolts stuff: establish him, his relationships and his objective...there’s not a lot of time left. I guess that’s where Blanchett’s Hela in ragnarok was able to squeeze out a bit more personality in the time she had.

MATT: It’s more about establishing stakes for the heroes. Only Drax and Gamora should care really. You need Andy Dwyer to care too to sell it (Groot and Rocket are probably not gettable in the first movie).

MAX: Well yeah, so do we do that by strengthening the relationships with Drax/Gamora/Ronan, or do we show Ronan doing more straight up evil stuff (ala Hela slaughtering the Warriors Three)? In all honesty, I’m having trouble remembering any of Ronan’s scenes beyond Pratt’s performance of “Ooh Child.”

DUY: That's where I'm at with the "Marvel has weak villains" criticism too. Maybe they do, but after Hackman's Lex and Nicholson's and Ledger's Jokers, it's nice to give the heroes more screentime.

MATT: For me, it's about being economical. Think of a movie like Raiders of the Lost Ark, you get maybe five minutes of time (not a lot in a two-hour plus movie) to establish villainy among the non-Nazis (Nazis are easy, hence my lack of complaint in the First Avenger). You can do it quick. I honestly forgot the link between Korath and Ronan. That's how you get Andy to care (since he's established as a rogue and not a general do-gooder).

DUY: To be perfectly fair, Ronan at least looked badass.

MATT: Looked badass, but also like he was crying black tears for days. Too emo

ANTONIO: I like the idea behind Ronan. He was a product of a war that spanned generations. He was probably raised on so much propaganda that it seemed more like his government betrayed him when the peace treaties were signed. The problem with that idea is that they skimmed over it, didn’t really explore it much, ‘cause it’s a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. But the seeds of an interesting backstory were there. Oh, and that ending. If Quill doesn’t at least try to rap-battle Thanos in Infinity War, I’m gonna be sorely disappointed.

DUY: The dance-off is probably the defining moment in the entire movie, and to its critics, the moment that undercuts the entire movie. What do you guys think in general about Guardians being a comedy?

ANTONIO: Ronan’s a little bitch for not taking the challenge! He knew he couldn’t handle Starlord’s outlaw dance moves.

MAX: Loved it. Literally watched that part over and over. I saw rabid people on YouTube who had a problem with it...I don’t get those people.

DUY: Dazzler the miniseries, in the 80s, ended with Dazzler singing the villain into submission. That was majorly panned in the 80s. Either times have changed, or 2010s movie fans are a way different breed from 1980s comics fans.

You don’t want any less screentime for the heroes, and you don’t want to make the film longer. So do you rewrite Ronan’s scenes? -Max

DUY: We keep bringing up degree of difficulty with these things, but this one had to take the cake, right? Iron Man, Thor, and Cap proved you could do movies based on characters that are, at least, the archetypes in-universe, but this is the one that removed any excuses. If Rocket and Groot can work, no character really has an excuse for not working.

TRAVIS: More, I think, an accomplishment for getting the fans who were sure they couldn't accept them, than with a general audience. Getting a general audience to embrace Groot is probably not that difficult.

DUY: I don't think Rocket on his own would be that difficult (that's basically a Pixar movie), but Rocket with the spaceman and the green assassin is the "This is one careful step away from going all kinds of wrong."

TRAVIS: It just doesn't feel very distant from any other successful space opera. They're Star Wars/Star Trek/Space Truckers. Flight of the Navigator. Captain Eo. Dot dot dot ""in a superhero movie!" though, I guess that's a thing.

DUY: Good point. I keep forgetting star wars exists and is unfairly successful. Also, I'd believe the nonbelievers in the concept may include studio executives, the types who would think Galactus is better depicted as a giant cloud

ANTONIO: Rocket catching the gun while riding Groot. I can see why non-comic fans loved them so much. And jeez. That anguished cry from Kid Quill when his grandfather carries him out of the hospital room... Also, "pelvic sorcery!"

TRAVIS: The "mystery" of the alien girl wearing his old Earth shirt after the time jump is my favorite instance of really-missing-the-point in MCU clickbait articles and message board threads.

ANTONIO: What “mystery”?

TRAVIS: How did this girl he just picked up just happen to come out of his bedroom in a hurry wearing... a shirt he owned?!? Popular theories point to her having brought it with her or being connected to Quill's father, because those make sense.  This has, "It's Punisher in a van!" beat by miles and miles.

ANTONIO: I like Punisher in the moving van theory!

DUY: What Punisher in a van theory?

ANTONIO: Winter Soldier. The moving van that hits one of the cop cars chasing Fury.

(Marvel) somehow have managed to transform good actors into transcendent ones and cast bad actors so perfectly that it takes advantage of all their strengths and disguises their weaknesses. -Katherine

DUY: I was really scared about Batista playing Drax since I have a general aversion to wrestlers acting and since I don't even like him as a wrestler, but he made me love him. "Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too quick. I would catch it."

ANTONIO: His acting in this is pretty bad, but he gets a lot of good lines and gimmick so he gets a pass. He definitely grows as an actor by the time he shows up in the new Blade Runner movie.

DUY: His character in this one is such that I think the bad acting even helps. And also highlights his overall growth for Volume 2.

JD: I was confident in Batista. Before he left WWE he was did a program with Rey Mysterio that was a best friend break-up angle. He had morphed his character and it was compelling.

MAX: His acting works like magic for Drax. I think he’s perfect.

KATHERINE: Drax is hilarious. I didn't know anything about Batista before but walked out thinking that he may have been the funniest out of a cast of insanely funny characters. If he's not a good actor, I couldn't tell because he was pitch perfect for the character.

TRAVIS: I can't get behind Bautista being a bad or weak actor. He's not moving out of range, but I've never had issue with him in a movie.

DUY: I have a general aversion to wrestlers acting in big movies, because I'm generally unable to see them as anything other than the wrestler. Yes, this applies to the Rock too. But Batista is one who at the time I wasn't even convinced of in terms of his wrestling character, so there's that.

KATHERINE: That should say everything about Marvel's casting prowess. They somehow have managed to transform good actors into transcendent ones and cast bad actors so perfectly that it takes advantage of all their strengths and disguises their weaknesses.

DUY: It definitely does go towards Marvel's casting prowess. Up to this point, the one piece of casting I was absolutely sure would work was Ed Norton as the Hulk, and... it didn't, really.

MATT: Yeah, Drax was a surprise. I think they played into Bautista's strengths (i.e. don't say much and certainly nothing complicated). Plus, not he gets to have fun pretending not to understand metaphors.

Does anyone think that GotG can be a lasting sci-fi franchise, like Star Wars, Star Trek and Aliens? -Jeff

ANTONIO: So there’s this part in the ship where Ronan knocks them all down and Drax falls back against the steps, right? He barely lands before he’s back up and running at Ronan. I hate that part.

TRAVIS: The cameos in this one were heartwarming. Lloyd Kaufman could have completely thrown me out of the "world" and instead I was laughing and felt more in the world. Completely missed Rob Zombie, though.

JEFF: Does anyone think that GotG can be a lasting sci-fi franchise, like Star Wars, Star Trek and Aliens?

MATT: Since it’s set reasonably far away from Earth, for now, maybe.

DUY: I don't see any reason why it couldn't be. The Marvel Universe has a lot to choose from, especially now that Fox is back.

JEFF: I think that this is an area that Marvel is missing in its TV efforts. They could bring Nova or Mar-Vell to the small screen and explore a lot of the cosmic landscape that they'll never have enough time for it a film.

DUY: When the movie was coming out, there was talk that Nova was going to show up, played by Nathan Fillion. He instead voiced an alien prisoner that Groot ends up putting in his place. At this point, Nova has yet to show up in the MCU, but he does seem to be someone that the internal fandom hopes will show up at some point.

DUY: Favorite Guardian?

ANTONIO: Rocket, of course. Dude broke out of 23 prisons. You gotta respect that.

KATHERINE: I find Drax the funniest, but overall favorite would probably have to be Groot. For the juxtaposition of his purehearted innocence and his capability for super deadly force. After he skewers a line of soldiers and smacks them around, his big sweet smile is so damn charming. Also, Baby Groot is so cute I can’t even stand it (more of a discussion for the second film, but since he makes a cameo here he kind of counts).

JEFF: Groot, and honestly without him I don't see this movie being anywhere near as successful.

DUY: I feel like my favorite is Gamora, just because of her backstory, but she was also my biggest disappointment, and this is where prior knowledge of the whole thing works against me -- I know she's supposed to be much more dangerous than she's portrayed. But "I have spent my life surrounded by my enemies. It would be an honor to die among friends" hit me hard.

JD: I like Gamora a lot. I think there's tons of potential for the character and I can't wait for her to interact with Thor and Tony and Natasha.

DUY: Favorite song from the soundtrack?

JD: The correct answer is "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways. Any other answer is wrong.

JEFF: Without a doubt "Ain't no Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. It's such a great feel good song and it fit perfectly with what they showed after Quill read his mother's letter and opened her gift. Gamora dancing a little, Yondu smiling at the troll doll in the orb he was tricked with, the Nova Corps officer embracing his family. It all fit together perfect and the music resonated with me a lot. I've been using an part of that song for my ringtone ever since.

DUY: Mine is probably "Ooh Child," likely because it's connected to my favorite Tupac song. But "Come and Get Your Love" really does just kinda get the movie going

MATT: Why do you make us choose? It's like choose your favorite member of the Marvel family. We know you want to choose Mary, but secretly we all know you're an Uncle Marvel. The correct answer is "Hooked on a Feeling."

MATTHEW: "Come and Get Your Love."

I like Gamora a lot. I think there's tons of potential for the character and I can't wait for her to interact with Thor and Tony and Natasha. -JD

DUY: Who wins the Kilmer Award for the movie?

MATT: Yondu, hands down. Second is Rocket.

JEFF: I'm going with Groot here, he's the show in every scene he's in.

DUY: Comics recommendations for Guardians of the Galaxy?

LAMAR: Annihilation, no question.

JEFF: After Annihilation, Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, volumes 1 and 2. Then Cosmic Avengers; this version of the team is pretty recent. These books are the start for them as the Guardians. Also the 2007 Nova series is an underappreciated book.

TRAVIS: The Ellis/Pacheco Starjammers mini. And, the Morrison/Jones Marvel Boy.

ANTONIO: Annihilation: Conquest, you heathens!