Thursday, July 10, 2014

I'm sorry, I was having a flashback...

( Warning: Very vague spoilers for Arrow and Once Upon a Time ahead. )

I really like having flashbacks in a TV series. Whether it be a single episode where we get into a character's backstory/origin or a show entirely cut between the past and the present like LOST. There's just such an added thrill for me when I start seeing connections between what a character does and the motivations of their past. Especially when we get into superheroes with their assorted origins.

I've noticed that when a TV series is based very heavily on flashbacks, there are usually one of two ways that they go about it.

The First Method: Random flashbacks that are shown as they become relevant to happenings in the present.
I am currently watching the ABC series Once Upon a Time and it fits well into this category. We start off with the Evil Queen making threats at Snow White's wedding, then jump back to her hunting Snow down in the woods, then the huntsman first hired to kill Snow, and then into the first time Snow and the Queen met. Obviously, these events are being show out of chronological order, but they are always relevant to what is happening in the present storyline.

Example: Evil Queen swears revenge in flashback = The results of her revenge are the foundation of the series and therefore it needs to be explained in the first episode.
Evil Queen and Snow White's first tragic meeting in flashback = Snow asking why Queen hates her so much in later episode.
With this method, things are dredged up from the past as they are needed. After a long while you get a sense of just how things played out in the grand scheme of things, but it can become a chore to puzzle it all together. Though that can be part of the fun as long as the audience doesn't get the feeling that you're making it all up as you go, which I have suspected of Once Upon a Time.

The Second Method: Chronological flashbacks that just so happen to align with current events.
I am also watching the CW series Arrow and it really introduced me to this method of past and present running alongside each other. This first episode shows Oliver Queen being rescued from being marooned on an island in the present and then shows how his ship wrecked in the first flashback. From then on, the story is pretty well locked into both past and present flowing at the same rate. As Oliver becomes "the hood" or "the vigilante" he's essentially a savage killer bent on saving the city from itself. This is well balanced by the flashback to the spoiled brat that was marooned on a hellish island for 5 years becoming more and more bent on the idea of survival at any cost. You get to see Oliver come unwound in the past as you watch him try to hold it together in the present. This provides such a great parallel.

Example: Oliver finally has to kill someone in order to survive on the island in a flashback = The vigilante finally decided that there has to be a way to save his city without being a killer.
A good friend of Oliver's dies on the island in a flashback = Oliver survives a near death experience in the present only to be haunted by said friend's ghost.
With this method, there is a huge element of predictability involved. Like, we know the latest "Get off the island" scheme is doomed to fail because he has to be marooned for five years to get to the current storyline. But the amazing thing here is when the writer's can still surprise you with certain things that unfold, even when they've revealed so much to you already.

I personally like Arrow's method a bit more than Once Upon a Time's. Mostly because TV series in general have this notion that they have to go on forever and ever and only end up losing their charm (Supernatural and Stargate). However, I know that Arrow's story must have a definite conclusion because after the 5 year span is up, we'll have caught up to the present story.
With the random flashback method, you could very easily say that this out of the blue thing that supposedly happens between two other points was totally part of the continuity from the start (like Tinkerbell and the Evil Queen being pals) and it might totally be true, but after a while I start to wonder doubt that.
With the chronological flashback method, I may know right off the bat that certain things are going to happen (like everyone has to die because Oliver was rescued from the island alone), but there's a great sense of continuity that comes from being able to predict some things and feel that the story can't surprise you. And Arrow still manages to surprise me every season, so that whole feeling is probably a bit presumptuous anyway! They're just lulling you into a false sense of security!

That's all for now. Thanks for reading! TTYL.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I was wrong about the Superior Spider-Man

 I’ve avoided reading Superior Spider-Man in the past out of the principle of the thing. Spider-Man is my favorite superhero because of his virtue and his sense of responsibility. Essentially, it’s not the web-slinger that I love; it’s Peter Parker.
So about a year ago when Marvel Comics “killed off” Peter Parker (on the cusp of Stan “the man” Lee’s 90th Birthday no less!) I was outraged and vowed not to even give the “New Superior Spider-Man” the benefit of the doubt. Otto Octavius “Doc Oct” had killed Parker and taken over his body all with the intent of stealing Parker’s life and becoming a better Spider-Man. He then proceeds to be a huge jerk to EVERYONE and becomes a much more self-seeking, ruthless, and pompous version of our hero. While he’s being a jerk, we’re supposed to follow along and root for him? No, thank you! This sort of thing is not welcome in my subscription box!

Then I got word that Peter Parker was going to make a comeback this April! Such wonderful news! I happily grabbed up a few issues of Superior Spider-Man so that I could watch that poser fall to the ground in flames while Peter made his triumphant return!

Boy was I surprised by what I actually saw…

During the course of this “Goblin Nation” story arch, we learn that Peter is still in Doc Oct’s head. He’s just a few scattered memories clinging to the old Peter Parker identity while trying to remain hidden among Otto’s memories. The poor guy nearly lost himself in the mess that was Otto’s life, but in the end he found himself. He remembered that he was Peter Parker and all the heartache and joy that came with that name. He wasn’t just scattered memory anymore; he was back and ready to fight for his life again.
Meanwhile outside the mindscape, the Superior Spider-Man was fighting a losing battle against the Green Goblin and his Goblin Nation. The woman that Otto loved was in danger, New York was burning, and even the Avengers have in mind to lock Spider-Man up when they get their hands on him! Quite a mess you’ve made here, Superior Spider-Man.
In the chaos and confusion of failing the city so completely, Otto nearly lets an innocent child get killed by the Goblin. Peter Parker shows his hand by mentally urging Otto to leap into action and save the child’s life. Now Otto knows that Peter’s consciousness is alive in the back of his mind and powerful enough to contend with him should he choose to do so. 
This is what the former Doctor Octopus had to say to that:

“I didn’t really know what I was in for. I was arrogant... No. It’s more than that. We’ve both been in each other’s heads. We know the truth. I’m arrogant, yes, but it’s because I know…underneath it…that I’m not the best. I’m flawed, so I overcompensate.
But you…you’re guilt ridden because deep down, you know that you are smarter than others. Better. But it came at a painful price. So you sabotage yourself. That won’t happen today. You said it yourself, when lives are at stake, you don’t hesitate. Today you must accept that you…are Superior.”

Otto Octavius then proceeds to completely erase himself for Parker’s mind. His childhood, his accomplishments, his failures, and even the woman he loves all disintegrate before his and Parker’s eyes. To save the city, to save the woman he loves; Otto finally allows himself to die so that Peter Parker can save them all with no distractions.
If I was shocked by this villain’s selfless, kind, and humble sacrifice, you can imagine Peter’s shock. He’s Spider-Man once again, but not because he had to fight for his life. It was because Otto gave his life up. Otto saved Spider-Man and now it’s his responsibility to save the city from the goblins and to save Anna Marie (Otto’s love) or the sacrifice will have been for nothing. Thus, the web-slinger returns.

I was wrong about Superior Spider-Man. I’ve been too harsh and I’d judged too quickly. Otto did learn a thing or two while he was in Peter’s head. He was never the hero that was Peter Parker, but he was heroic in the end.

So I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Superior Spider-Man #30 (Goblin Nation part 4) if you come across it at your local comic shop. Not just for the return of Peter Parker, but for the last heroic act of Otto Octavius as well. It was a truly good piece of writing.

 Superior Spider-Man (2013) #30

Published: March 26, 2014
Rating: Rated T
Writer: Dan Slott
Cover Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

"Goblin Nation" - Part 4 of 5 Since the start of DYING WISH, it has ALL been building to this.One of the most important moments of the ENTIRE Superior Spider-Man Saga!Once this happens, it CANNOT be undone!DO NOT MISS THIS ISSUE!

Thanks for reading, true believers! TTYL.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kid's Stuff, That's all it was...

Superheroes have been my coping mechanism for reality since I was in my early teens. Ever since a period in my life where I felt my world was falling apart and I would turn to Spider-Girl to watch her life fall apart courtesy of “the old Parker luck.” Here was a teenage superhero that hadn’t had her Uncle murdered, her parents taken from her in a mugging gone wrong, or even been involved in a lab accident to gain her superhero persona! I could relate to this ordinary girl who only wanted to do what was right because she was raised with a great sense of responsibility. She wasn’t born of tragedy, but she was still going to do her part to save the day.

Even with this lucky break, hardship still attacks at every corner. Super villains abound (of course), selfish and hateful people attack her family, and let’s not forget the traumas of high school drama.
Why doesn’t she quit this gig? What has being Spider-Girl ever done to ease any of this suffering? Nothing! They say crime doesn’t pay, but superhero-ing doesn’t exactly count as a lucrative career either.
But our dear Mayday Parker isn’t a quitter. She cares too much about her family, friends, and even the innocent bystander to ever look the other way. Caring may not do you any favors, but that doesn’t mean that you stop. Selfless love and abandonment of self made May a hero in my mind. Her attitude towards struggle was quite an inspiration to me, as I’m sure you can tell.

Nowadays, I find it hard to fall back on such farfetched ideals. How can I read comics, write comics, and blog about comics when there are such serious issues going on in real life?
Seeing connections between Spider-Girl’s decisions when fighting the villain Carnage and my own struggles on whether I should live up North or down South...such childish notions! A correlation between May’s founding of the New Warriors against Crazy Eights and Funny Face and my own struggle to find a job? Seriously?
Just think of what respectable adults might think if they read these silly scribbles. It’s time to give up such silly ideas and grow up, right?

It is true; I don’t need my fictional superheroes to find someone to aspire towards. There are plenty of real life heroes that set great examples for us all every day.
Yes, real life heroes can let you down sometimes, but fictional heroes can do that too (just ask the Superior Spider-Man). These guys have been made up by flawed human beings, therefore they are imperfect as well. (That’s the logic that Hank Pym used to stop Ultron in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.)

I can’t justify my fascination with these caped crusaders. All I know is that thinking of the world I live in from their point of view helps me when things are tough. The secular world has wandered so far from what is good, is it so wrong to cling to this one shard of moral fiber?
Surely God uses this light in the darkness to help guide those who are lost. He is truth and goodness itself. If something reflects these things, do they not also reflect our Lord?
Maybe I am grasping at straws here, but I will do so for as long as I am able.

“I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”
— Puddleglum (The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis )

Thanks for reading. TTYL.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thor (as a movie? ...Squeee!!!)

Alrighty then! So I was able to see Thor: The Dark World and wanted to add my opinion to the aether. (Pun totally intended.)

Alright, so I have a habit of getting starstruck by these superhero movies and not realizing that they have feet of clay until the DVD release, but I highly doubt that this is the case this time around. This is mostly because I was honest with myself about what I did and did not like about the movie.
It opens with the mandatory exposition of what happened centuries ago when Asgard fought in this one war, etc, etc, you'll probably remember that from the first movie. Then we open to Loki's judgement for his resent crimes against humanity, which is a brief scene, but it sets things up for later.
There is an obvious change in our hero, Thor, since his last lead title movie. He's more mature, more humble, not nearly so naive, and an all around capable hero.There seems to be very little else for our hero to do now, other than get the girl and ascend the throne.
Then the Dark Elves attack and throw everything into chaos with some awesome sci-fi battleship action that Lucas himself might envy. The fights aren't at all tedious in this film. A combination of creative writing and wonderful cinematography make them exciting and strangely believable for such sci-fi fantasy. Every ship and every knife wielding villain has a purpose, a mission, a design beyond just filling out a scene.

If that's not enough to compel you, then the character interaction should do the trick. I hardly know where to begin on that front.
Thor and his beloved Jane are a much better couple than last movie. Mostly because Jane is in genuine danger, not simply caught in the middle of a conflict, but the cause of it. She's in trouble so Thor acts as support and she accepts his help. A bit damsel-in-distress-like, but Jane remains a capable character and therefore avoids most of the cliches.
Thor and Odin All-father act very much like a father and son. Odin has his eye on his son's future, hoping for his happiness. Thor looks to his father respectfully though he doesn't agree with him on all counts. When Thor challenges his father's authority again, it is out of moral conviction, not pride.
Thor and his newest foe Malekith are no disappointment either. The dark elf has such a stage presence at times that you totally believe that he can beat up the mountain of a man that is Thor. And although their fight soon becomes personal, Thor fights him with his responsibility to the Nine Realms first and foremost in his mind.
And Thor and Loki...I must say that they are what sold this movie. Loki resents pretty much everyone but himself for his imprisonment, but more so for their neglecting him. Thor has given up hope that he and his brother will ever med their relationship, so he sees through his lies easier than he once did. Yet with all this, their relationship almost grows! Thor is so patient with Loki as the god of mischief teases and jabs at him and Loki admires his brother all the more for his new found distrust. It's amazing!

I shall not spoil the ending for you. It suffices to say that things were left open for future films, but I don't think you'll find it at all unsatisfying because it feels very complete as a whole
I give it Four out of Five stars once again. ****_

The lack of that fifth star can be attributed to poor, poor Erik Selvig and Darcy.
Darcy was charming as always, but it kinda felt like the film was throwing her a bone to keep her happy. And Selvig has been ruined for me. He was great in the first film, skimmed over in the Avengers, and now reduced to a joke. Poor guy...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Not every creep in Gotham wears a purple suit...

Terry McGinnis: Not every creep in Gotham wears a purple suit.
Barbara Gordon: It'd make my job easier if they did. 
-Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

There are some villains you can't do anything about. Barbra and Terry are referring to the slimy CEO of WanyePowers, who is totally in league with the bad guys and also totally untouchable. Same sorta situation with Lex Luthor most of the time. These guys in suits are notorious for mocking the hero with the big "you can't touch me" speeches and the annoying thing is that they're totally right.
What do you  do about the less blatant supervillains out there? Sure, when you have psycho killers in bright green and purple costumes, people don't mind if you beat them up. Heck! They expect the hero to do so! What kind of a superhero sits by while innocent people are being victimized by these nuts?
But the quiet villains, the ones that don't ever go so far as actually causing trouble firsthand, they're the ones that you'll get in trouble for beating up. They do a great job of making the hero seem like a villain if they try that.

Does that make them less dangerous than costumed villains or just the opposite?
Unlike the Green Goblin or the Joker, who are immediately recognized by citizens and authorities, these villains can go on hurting people. You can't just beat them and call it a day. Odds are that you might be sitting across from the bloke at a charity event and have to smile and nod when they come to talk to you.
They think they're above the law or worse case scenario; they don't think they're villains. What authority could possibly touch them?

I'd like to connect this now with a real life problem that I'm sure we all have to face to some extent. What do you do when you have these sneaky villains in real life?
Instead of a physically abusive person, you're dealing with jerk who can hurt with words far easier than fists.
Instead of a corrupt boss stealing money from the company, you have a mean boss that doesn't care about his workers.
These guys are by no means the type of people on which you sick the cops. In fact, if you are a good Christian person, you're supposed to be respectful and loving to these sorts of people. "Love thy enemy," right?
There's nothing you can do about a person that's just short of "super" villain. Punching them in the face and being just as mean as they are won't do any good.

So does this mean you throw in the towel?
No, you can't do that. What sort of superhero would you be? You keep fighting the good fight, even when the villain has the upper hand on you.
Yes, you always have to seek out justice, doing whatever you can for the innocent people in harm's way, but it's not your place to be judge and jury for unsavory people (even the Dark Knight knows this). Let Paxton Powers, Lex Luthor, the Kingpin, and all those hidden villains think that they've won, that they've risen above any reprimand. A hero's strength of character is what truly wins the battle. It's not their ability to leap tall building and punch through walls that the villains should fear. It's what the hero stands for that gains them victory.

"But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord." -Joshua 24:15

Thanks for reading. TTYL.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2 Years Later...

Don't you just hate it when authors make a two year jump into the future? Or when a blogger you were following disappears for two years?
I don't know if I shall continue updating this regularly again, as what I usually do here is review movies and comics, with which I'm very out of practice.
Maybe I'll get started on reviewing superhero movies again when Thor the Dark World comes out in November.

For now, how about a review of an issue of Superior Spider-Man comic? Normally I don't bother with the Doctor Octopus version of Spidey, but a certain other version of the wall-crawler made me want to pick this up.

Superior Spider-Man #17

• HE’S BACK...BECAUSE YOU (LOUDLY) DEMANDED IT! THE RETURN OF SPIDEY 2099! • (and an Osborn you have not seen in a while) 

Price: $3.99

Review:  Okay, so I had no clue who Spider-Man 2099 was until a few years back when my brother bought the Shattered Dimensions video game.
Anyway, this issue starts with Miguel O'Hara (Spider-Man of tomorrow) having his timeline broken by something that happened in the "heroic age" aka modern Marvel comics. And here's the great part! His timeline is being erased by the Superior Spider-Man killing off Miguel's grandfather! (Is there any old pal of Parker's that Octavius isn't going to tick-off?) And so the comic sets our two heroes up for a clash ending the comic until next month.
It was pretty easy to follow despite my lack of knowledge on the current happenings of the title and Miguel's timeline is kinda explained quickly as the story progresses. All in all, a nice set up that will cause me to pick up #18 when it comes out, even if it is just because I hope that Miguel will clean "Parker's" clock.

Remember 2099 fans,
Marvel does these sort of crossovers to see if readers would support a character. Buying Superior Spider-Man now will let them know that you want to see O'Hara again.
Thanks for reading. Excelsior!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thor (as a movie? Really?)

Okay, time for another review. I have to say that I was really worried about this one from the start. In comics Thor is a myth made real, the God of thunder, he's from another realm, and he talks funny.

To make this work as a movie, you'd think that it'd have to be completely focused on either Earth (with Thor being just another hero with a starnge origin) or Asgard (becoming very Clash of the Titans-ish). I was worried when I saw that the movie would actually be fairly split between the two realms. "Setting up the Asgard and its gods, telling an origin story, and its all going to mixed up with S.H.I.E.L.D.???" There's no way that could all fit into a two hour movie!

It can if you make them all relevant to each other.

Asgard is quickly set up as "the myths of the Norse gods were really about these guys from another realm. The Frost Giants are bad guys." It then goes on to introduce Thor and Loki as brothers (one of whom shall one day be king). Thor grows to be a proud warrior and Loki a trouble maker. So when the Frost Giants enter the palace during the announcement of Thor being the next king, he's more than a little upset. Thor goes off to get answers from the Giants and ends up starting a war between them and Asgard. Thus he is banished to Earth.

You'd think that the movie would get very boring with all this set up, but it doesn't. The characters, more than anything else, keep your attention as this all moves along. There's a lot of personality to them all.
And S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't slow things down much either. They just act as the scary men in black that are making things hard for everybody.

Lastly, I have to applaud Tom Hiddleston for his proformance as Loki. He was more than just a good villain, he was a great character! Loki's past can make him a fairly tragic villain and the problem with tragic villains is that you end up liking them in a small way becasue you feel sorry for them. "He's a good person underneath!" you might say. But Loki isn't. You do feel bad for him at many points in the movie, but "underneath it all" he's not a good person, he's a trouble maker! Its so sad when you see how much Thor loves his brother Loki, but you end up feeling bad for Thor and liking him more instead of feeling that way about Loki.
But don't think that Loki is nothing more than a bad guy. His character had layers to him. He doesn't think he's the bad guy, but he knows that what he's doing is wrong. Twisted, no?

Thor's change from arrogance to humility is a little fast, but they handled that well enough for a two hour movie. He's quickly humbled by the loss of his powers and the kindness his friends. By the end, you do see him as a hero. He accepts the fact that he will not be allow to Asgard and that it is probably better that way for everyone. And when he learns that Loki lied to him and plans to kill him and other innocent people, he doesn't get angry. He believes that he must have done something to provoke Loki to do this. He actually apologizes to Loki and offers up his life to save his friends and the people of Earth. Thor has learned that glory and praise aren't anything of worth. The life of every person is precious and that is now what he fights for.

My only complaint would have to be that the movie felt a bit open ended. I understand that they want to do that so they can bring Thor back for the Avangers movie, but I think each of the movies leading up to it should feel complete on their own.

I give it 4 stars out of 5. ****-