Four Letter Nerd

Category - Marvel

4LN Movie Review – Doctor Strange (SPOILER FREE)

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Doctor Strange was the first comic book character that I loved beyond just fantasizing about flying, or being super-strong or fast. I loved him for existential reasons. I mean, I was a kid so it wasn’t like I understood it that way at the time, but I was drawn to the way he saw into realms that no other “superhero” could. He protected the world from invisible threats, and that fascinated me. The idea that he spent day after day risking his life to safeguard the world from things it never even knew existed, and it was mostly a thankless responsibility. I also was drawn to how he earned his powers through a process of learning to open his mind, rather than just through some accident or experiment. To add on top of all that the fact that he spent his entire life as an arrogant prick before being humbled by an accident and then going on to be the Sorcerer Supreme… It was like this “Saul to Paul” story, and for a kid who grew up in church, that resonated with me. (Also, his real first name is Stephen, and I’m pretty narcissistic so…)

Before I go any further, I will say that, while this isn’t a spoiler review and I will not reveal any specific plot points from the film, there will be some vague references and generalizations, as well as a few comparisons, that could still divulge more than you want to know. Read on at your own risk.

Film Synopsis: “Dr. Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave. He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.”

The film is pretty much a straightforward origin story (think Captain America: The First Avenger). We learn about the threat the motivates the second and third acts, and we meet Stephen Strange and get a sense of how incomparably talented he is as a surgeon and as an egotistical dick. Then we follow him on his journey through humility to reclaim his former glory, but along the way he realizes he’s destined for so much more.

I understand that the basic plot structure and story development feel a little… safe… for some people, but I comprehend it a little differently. Remember I mentioned “Saul to Paul” in the intro? Well, if you’re not familiar with that reference I’ll explain. The Paul spoken of is the Paul from the Bible. The one who wrote anywhere from 8 – 13 books of it (depending on who you ask). The story is that, before becoming a passionate apostle for Jesus Christ, Paul was named Saul and actually spent his life punishing those who claimed to follow Christ until one day he’s blinded and hears the voice of God telling him to quite being such a dick (I’m paraphrasing here). He then goes on to be what some would say was the greatest evangelist of the Christian gospel. The parallels between his story and the one given to Stephen Strange are quite apparent (and I would imagine that it could be on purpose, but that’s something you’d have to ask Stan “The Man” Lee). Stephen is a man of great talent, who puts his entire trust in science and reason, but finds himself crippled and unable to continue living the life he’s built. He goes in search of anything that could restore him but ends up discovering a whole new, more purposeful fate. I’m not staying it’s an exact replica, but there are many similarities.

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So, you’re probably thinking, “Dude, what’s with the f***ing bible story?” First, you should be ashamed of yourself for using that off-color language. Second, I’m getting to it, so don’t get your f***ing panties in a wad. The main reason I spent so much time on the Biblical comparisons was to better explain why Scott Derrickson was not just the best choice for director, he was the only choice. You see, Scott, from what I can tell, seems to have a legalistically religious background, which is something I share in common with him. From Wikipedia: “He graduated from Biola University (the Bible Institute Of Los Angeles) with a B.A. in Humanities, with an emphasis on literature and philosophy, and a B.A. in Communications, with an emphasis on film, and a minor in theological studies.” (Afterwards, he went on to earn a Masters in film production from USC School of Cinematic Arts.) He made The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which isn’t like any other demonic possession horror film out there, and he also made the tragically underrated Deliver Us From Evil. As I mentioned in my review for the later, Scott is very, very good at blending the supernatural with reality because he genuinely comprehends both of them differently than the average person, and Doctor Strange is proof that he perceives the possibilities and literal application of their coexistence. Scott also grasps the nature of Stephen Strange better than any other director that could’ve been considered because I think he sees those same biblical similarities that initially captivated me.

I understand that by using words like “biblical” and “religious” I could potentially be frightening you on what awaits in the film. I assure you, as someone who is no longer religious in any way, there is no propaganda or indoctrination. I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to show you why this guy was the clear choice to take on the project.

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OK, so moving on to the acting performances. They’re all fantastic. There isn’t one weak link in the entire cast. I rarely make the right call when it comes to speculating on who should take on a comic book character role, but I actually called Benedict Cumberbatch early on and he didn’t let me down. I’d even go so far as to say that this is his least Cumberbatch-ian performance to date. I know that his Sherlock Holmes would probably make you think he’s perfect for Strange but they really are very different characters. The way he plays Sherlock is more smart and socially awkward. Sherlock isn’t really an asshole, he’s just so brilliant that his intellect dominates his personality. Stephen Strange, while also very brilliant and intellectual, really is just an asshole. Like, he could choose not to be, but he doesn’t. Benny (I call him that), also nails the emotional range for the character. There’s a moment when Strange is meeting The Ancient One for the first time and he begins to realize that, even though he was told to forget everything he thinks he knows, this is nothing like what he imagined it to be and he begins to lash out in a way that anyone who’s ever lost hope or faith can relate to 100%. In that scene, Cumberbatch makes you feel in your own soul the level of hopelessness that Strange is experiencing. I was moved by it.

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Aside from ol’ Benny, there’s Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Mordo, who in the comics is mostly Strange’s adversary but here we see him in more of a co-mentor role. He does a great job of playing the strong compatriot to Strange’s ever-questioning student. Tilda Swinton really shines as The Ancient One. She’s wise and unaffected by Strange’s skepticism, but even though you know there’s more to her than what’s on the surface there’s still more you don’t expect hiding underneath that. The character’s layers run deep and she shows each of them to us with authority and grace. Mads Mikkelsen plays Kaecilius, a zealous former student of The Ancient One. I love Mikkelsen in pretty much everything he’s in, and he serves his role well here. Kaecilius is harded and angry, he fights with merciless fury, but there is a moment that you briefly see the vulnerability that forged the path he chose and it’s easily Mikkelsen’s best performance of the whole movie. I’ve heard people say that Rachel McAdams’ role as Strange’s colleague, and former girlfriend, Christine Palmer was underused, but I argue that she served a very crucial element of the film, which is Strange’s remorse for his past behavior. They already have a rocky past, but after his car accident and ensuing spiral into depression, he treats her very cruelly and comes to regret that. Her forgiveness is a key element in shaping him into the man he becomes by the end. Easily the best standout in the film, though, is Benedict Wong as… well, Wong. In the comics Wong is more of a manservant/butler type, which is an unfortunate representation of the time in which the story was first created, but here he’s the librarian for Kamar-Taj, which is the name of the monastery where The Ancient One and the other sorcerers train and reside. He’s a no-nonsense dude with an invaluable wealth a knowledge. Also, he helps to make the movie so damn funny. His serious, “straight-man” performance to Cumberatch’s “awkward white guy” moments make for comedy gold.

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Probably the most compelling aspect of the film is the visuals. There are no words in any language that I’m aware of that when strung together could accurately and sufficiently describe what you’re seeing in this movie, but by the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth I’m gonna try. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything like the cinematography in this film, and I’m pretty certain that no film up to this point has ever been as ambitions as it is with the CGI. There’s never a moment where you think, “That looks fake.” It all looks completely real, every rotating building and collapsing floor. Even the mind-bending alternate realms have this structure and layering about them that make them feel almost believable. There are moments where you have to look down at the floor or at something else in the theater just to remind yourself that no one spiked your slushie or Twizzlers with LSD. It’s that hypnotizing. (I imagine that anyone who dropped acid while listening to “Led Zeppelin IV” or “Dark Side of The Moon” has already encounter most of what’s on display here.)

I saw the film in the IMAX 3-D format, and I know that most people don’t love the price tag that comes along with that, I sure don’t, but I would strongly encourage you to see it this way. I don’t think I’ve ever recommended the IMAX 3-D over the standard format in all of my time writing reviews, but this one was made to be seen this way. It’s not just a movie, it’s an experience. There were times that I found myself completely entranced with the depth and scope of the film. As someone who puts zero faith or interest in industry award ceremonies, if this movie doesn’t at least get some recognition for it’s cinematic visual achievements, then there is absolutely no justice in the world.

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All-in-all, Doctor Strange is a visual achievement, not just within the Marvel Cinematic Universe but the whole of film in general. The acting is superb, with Benedict Cumberbatch delivering what is maybe his most diverse performance to date, and the rest if the cast standing very strong alongside him. Scott Derrickson and Marvel Studios have crafted a magnificent film that threatens to consume you with astonishing visuals, but keeps you firmly grounded with a story that attempts to imagine the perseverance of the human condition on a realistically emotional level.

Also, when you head out to see the movie this weekend, make sure you stick around after the credits start to roll because their are 2 scenes you’ll miss if you leave early, and they’re both clues to what the MCU has in store going forward…

4LN Comic Review – The Unworthy Thor #1

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Series – The Unworthy Thor
Writer – Jason Aaron
Art – Olivier Coipel, with recap by Russell Dauterman
Color Artist – Matthew Wilson
Publisher – Marvel

Summary from Comixology: “The Odinson’s desperate search to regain his worthiness has taken him out into the cosmos, where he’s learned of the existence of a mysterious other Mjolnir. This weapon of unimaginable power, a relic from a dead universe, is the key to Odinson’s redemption — but some of the greatest villains of the Marvel Universe are now anxious to get their hands on it as well. Can The Odinson reclaim his honor, or will the power of thunder be wielded for evil? The quest for the hammer begins here.”

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So Jason Aaron’s God of Thunder run is one of my all time favorite series.  It not only reawakened my love for comics, but cemented Thor as one of my favorite heroes.  Everything about it – from the villain, to plot, to the art (especially Esad Ribic’s) just clicked on every level.  When my local shop put up their poster for The Unworthy Thor, my interest was piqued.  I mean, Aaron just gets the character of Odinson (the god previously known as Thor), so I was looking forward to another series centering on the Thor from God of Thunder.

Let’s just say that Aaron knocks this book out of the park.  I haven’t been following the most recent Thor series, but I’ve kept up with the overall story.  This book opens with Odinson in a Sisyphean struggle to regain a Mjolnir (I say a Mjolnir because the cover shows the hammer carried by the Ultimates Thor), before going back three months to show us how he got in this predicament.  Both the recap and the main story have that sense of epicness that I felt was lost when the title transitioned away from Odinson.  I am not saying the other Thor was not good, just that Odinson has that extra mythological oomph that really pulls me in.

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Aaron is not the only Thor alum on this creative team either.  Olivier Coipel worked on several issues of J. Michael Straczynski’s run – the one that features Asgardia hovering over Broxton, Oklahoma.  This little geographical tidbit endears me to that title.  Because my family is from Oklahoma, and I love that fact that some podunk town in the Midwest had the gods of Asgard living alongside them.  Seriously though, I was reading that series while visiting my family in Oklahoma and thought about going to Broxton just for fun, but Google Maps showed nothing but farmland.  I didn’t even see a small-town diner.  Aaaanyway, it’s really awesome to have Coipel back in action.  I loved to see his take on this new version of Thor, and it’s fantastic.  There is a lot more realism in the art this time around, which is a necessity with the overall style, and Coipel just nails it.  The fight scenes are visceral, and the moonscape is damn near mythological in scope.

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The art team also includes Russell Dauterman who is responsible for the pages in the preview.  His art is freaking beautiful.  The small battle scene that opens the book is almost worth the price of admission in and of itself.  In a lot of ways, his art reminds me of a less stylized Juan Jose Ryp, and I love his art too.

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When it’s all said and done, The Unworthy Thor #1 is a great start to a new series.  There have only been a few books that immediately grabbed me and had me texting my comic shop owner to add it to my pull before the pages have shut.  Kudos to Aaron and the rest of the creative team for bringing the thunder in Thor’s continued quest to regain his hammer.

 

Music Pairing:
I am not as well versed in music as my fellow 4LNers Stephen and Bill, but I did find listening to Immediate’s Trailerhead:Saga a good fit for the mythic scope of this title.

Who Should Direct Deadpool 2?

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It was recently announced that Tim Miller, the director of Deadpool, had left the film’s sequel due to the commonly used explanation of “creative differences.” Apparently there just happened to be so many people simultaneously trying not to do any work, or pay attention to their loved ones, and therefore this seemingly innocuous news sent the internet into eruption! “MY GOD HOW WILL WE GO ON!” I myself wasn’t immune to the uproar. I believe my initial reaction, without having all the details, was mostly a barrage of expletive-laced insults aimed at the FOX executives. Then upon hearing that it was actually “creative differences” with Deadpool star, and all-around great guy, Ryan Reynolds my insults redirected from FOX execs and took aim at Miller himself. I’m #TeamReynolds all the way and I will not stand for that s**t. Finally, I ate a Snickers, calmed my tits, and reminded myself that this is all just business and there’s no cause for alarm. Tim Miller did a phenomenal job on Deadpool, but the extent of his involvement on the sequel, at this point anyway, was script work. He hadn’t actually signed on to direct yet anyway, so it’s not quite as crucial as myself, and all the other bored neckbeards made it out to be.

(Side note: There are also rumors that his departure could have been due to a disagreement with FOX over what the budget of the film should be.)

Then came the petition… Apparently, some asshat thought it would be a good idea to get people all riled up over the possibility of Quentin Tarantino taking on directing duties for Deadpool 2. First: sit the f**k down, Tarantino wouldn’t do this in a million years, or for any amount of money that FOX could possibly afford. Second: His style is so different from the tone of Deadpool that it would never feel right. Just because someone is a good film-maker doesn’t mean that they should do everything you want them too. I love The Witch, but it wouldn’t be a good idea for the director, Robert Eggers, to take on a Spider-Man film, because what he’s great at and what the nature of that character requires are two completely different things. (Although, I will say, I bet he could direct the s**t out of a Morbius short film. Get at me, Rob. I gots some ideas fo ya.)

Apparently, people are also throwing out names like Mathew Vaughn, Guy Ritchie, Edgar Wright (OK this one I could actually see working out), and even Seth Rogen & Adam Goldberg. Plus, there’s people out there who are clearly great at action-comedies, like Paul Feig and Phil Lord & Chris Miller. Again, all great people who have done great work, but none of them have quite the right… Je Ne Sais Quoi… to capture what Deadpool requires.

So where does that leave us… Well, just who would be qualified to direct Deadpool 2? Deadpool was Tim Miller’s first time directing. That was a gamble with a YUGE payoff in the end. For the sequel you want someone who has at least a couple projects under their belt; someone with a fresh perspective, who has proven that they can at least maintain the tone of the first film but also add their own special touch and expand beyond what we’ve already seen. They also need to be able to sync well with Ryan  Reynolds, because the man IS Deadpool. He rightly deserves to have at least half of the creative input for the character since he’s the man under the mask. Plus, Deadpool 2 has to be literally the funniest f**king movie on the planet.

I have scoured my brain to bring you a list of “up-and-comers” and some established filmmakers who I believe have the ability and vision to take Wade by his tiny baby hand and walk with him into the world of “Successful Sequels That Are At Least Comparable The First.” (We’re still working on that label name.) The list in no particular order is as follows:

 

Tommy Wirkola

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Wirkola would be most known for writing and directing Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. A film that, while didn’t garner much critical acclaim, was received decently by audiences, as it made over $225 million off of a budget of about $50 million. What you may not know is that he’s also responsible for the cult hits Dead Snow and Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead. Both films have been massive critical successes. Wirkola knows how to make a funny movie with an balanced level of action and fright. Not that Deadpool 2 would need the added fear-factor, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to have someone around who has a knack for it, especially if they wanted to introduce lesser known villains like Black Talon or Slayback.

 

Eli Craig

Craig started out acting in films like The Rage: Carrie 2, and Space Cowboys, where he played the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones’ character Hawk. He went on to make the brilliant and hilarious Tucker and Dale vs Evil in 2010. After that film turned out to be a critical hit he was tapped to helm the pilot for the Zombieland TV show. That wasn’t quite as well received. I maintain that this is in no way a misstep on Craig’s part. Look, SOMEBODY was gonna make that show. He gave it his absolute best and there are some quality jokes in there, but recreating the dynamic of that phenomenal cast with actors you can pay a whole lot less was always gonna be a problem, and there was nothing he could’ve done about that. (He’s currently shooting a film titled Little Evil, with Evangeline Lily and Adam Scott, that not much is known about.) T&D is one of the funniest horror-comedies that’s ever been made, and I think Craig absolutely has what it takes to keep Deadpool’s middle-school sense of humor feeling fresh while capturing intense, smaller scale action sequences.

 

Rawson Marshall Thurber

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Not only is Thurber a handsome bastard the will steal not only your girlfriend but your sister, mom, cute aunt, ugly aunt, AND gam-gam, he’s also a seasoned writer and director with films like We’re The Millers and Central Intelligence in his repertoire. Oh yeah, and a little movie called DODGEBALL. Ever heard of it? Of course you’ve f***ing heard of it. It’s the actual definition of awesome. It solidified Vince Vaughn’s place as a comedy juggernaut, gave us the closest thing we’d ever get to Ben Stiller replaying Tony Perkis, and might be one of Rip Torn’s all-time best performances ever. Central Intelligence came out earlier this year and has already secured a spot as one of the best action-comedies this decade. Even We’re The Millers was a massive financial success, making $270 million off of a budget of $37 million. The guy knows funny, plus he’s proven he can craft an action film, AND who wouldn’t want to see that dapper fella standing next to Ryan Reynolds on the red carpet…?

 

David Gordon Green

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Green is easily the most experienced of this bunch. He’s produced several comedy series, including Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals, and he directed Pineapple Express, which has some of the best lines Danny McBride has ever delivered on screen, and is also responsible (alongside Hot Fuzz and Tropic Thunder) for reigniting the R-rated Action/Comedy craze we’ve been enjoying. He’s also the brains behind the movie Joe, from a few years ago, which saw Nic Cage give his best performance since… hell, I don’t know… Adaptation? If he can do THAT, he can do ANYTHING. Green is a master of making funnier things either remain as funny or be funnier, plus he has an understanding of how to apply action movie dynamics to that formula. He also, however, knows how to make a dramatic film with tension, and Wade has some things in his past, some very emotionally heavy things, that would be brutal to see explored on screen alongside all the brain-exploding-headshots and fart jokes. It’s all about balance, people.

 

Christopher Landon

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You’re looking at that name and you’re all, “Landon… Landon… that sounds so familiar.” Well, you’re right. Chris is the son of Bonanza‘s own “Little Joe”, Michael Landon. Hollywood heritage aside, Christopher is an extremely talented writer and director. He wrote Disturbia (No, not that one. This one.), as well as many of the Paranormal Activity films, and he even directed Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. The main reason he makes my list, though, is Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. That movie made made me laugh so hard, and it had some really incredible small-medium scale stunts that I think show he’s capable of taking on bigger ones. The humor of that flick though, man, it almost dead on matches the humor of Deadpool, which is just basically just grown-ups making middle school style jokes with adult content, and Scouts is high-schoolers making middle school style jokes with adult content, so… I think you catch my drift.

 

Jason Lei Howden

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Howden isn’t just the final name on my list chronologically, he was actually a last minute addition entirely. While I was researching some other films mentioned above I was reminded of his directorial debut Deathgasm, and decided to look into his past work more. Now, Deathgasm is probably one of my favorite movies of the last few years, and not just because it revolves around dudes who play in a black/death metal band (I’m a HUGE metalhead), or because it’s one of the most beautifully gruesome horror movies to grace the screen in years. Well… OK, maybe it’s entirely because of both of those things. But once I began researching Howden’s career I instantly realized why he’d be perfect to take on Deadpool 2. See, Howden was a part of the visual effects teams on films such as Man of SteelGhost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, The Avengers, and The Wolverine; as well as Prometheus, and all 3 Hobbit films. I mean… right? Say what you will about some of these flicks, but it’s 100% undeniable that they are all massive visual accomplishments. Tim Miller also had visual effects work in his background before taking on Deadpool. (He worked on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and was the second-unit director on Thor: The Dark World.) When you think back to that car chase/crash sequence, or the ending where the “helicarrier” comes crashing down and all the insanity of that, and what must’ve gone into visualizing those scene… It starts to make sense that someone with that skill set would be a perfect choice. Plus, much like with Scouts Guide, Howden proves in Deathgasm that he can capture “lewd” humor in way that doesn’t feel like you’re just hearing the same 4 dick and fart jokes over and over, which is something Deadpool also easily achieved. Plus again, I just really like the idea of the director of Deadpool 2 being a metalhead so that there’s a possibility for a Cryptopsy cameo. (They’re Canadian just like Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool! THIS HAS TO HAPPEN.)

 

Look, I get that at this point there may seem like no perfect choice. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t even have complete faith in *all* of my picks. There was no way of knowing how it would work out with Miller on the original though, and I think that risk is what made Deadpool so exciting and such a success. They threw caution to the wind and made a bat-s**t-crazy flick with outlandish humor and excessive violence and now it’s, among many other accolades, the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. So let’s just all try to agree that a lower-profile director provides us the best chance at risky film-making which in turn provides us the biggest opportunity for a grand payoff. Or, I guess, it also provides us the best chance for a massive failure… huh. S**t.

4LN Comic Review: Darth Vader #25

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Series: Darth Vader
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Page Count: 46
Price: $5.99

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Summary from Comixology: “It has all built up to this! Vader’s trials against Cylo’s creations! His machinations against the Emperor! His covert missions with Doctor Aphra and her murderous droids! All comes to fruition in an ending you can’t miss!” (Not from Comixology but should be stated immediately, that cover is f*cking awesome.)

Darth Vader has been my favorite of all the Star Wars books since it’s release in February of last year. Darth Vader #25 is the perfect end to one of the best books being published. This book is a lot like Breaking Bad, I’m saddened that it had to come to an end, but I’m glad it didn’t drag out and become a chore to keep up with (*cough* Son’s Of Anarchy *cough*). Kieron Gillen understood the character of Darth Vader so well that he makes it completely unbelievable that Hayden Christensen could become the Sith Lord.

This issue was full of perfect conclusions for a 25 issue long story. My fellow 4LN writer Stephen Andrew and I agree that Vader Down had one of the most BRUTAL comic book lines in a long time, but I now believe that the most brutal line of Darth Vader was said in this final issue. There are two moments in this book that left my jaw literally hanging open because I just couldn’t believe how ruthless Darth Vader truly is. I want to go into detail, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers that will take away from the experience of reading this issue.

From beginning to end, Salvador Larroca’s art has been absolutely prepossessing and captures the grandness of space and Star Wars. From epic outer space light saber battles to intimate character designs, Larroca has thoroughly brought Darth Vader back to life in comics. When it comes to writing a villain, Kieron Gillen is truly one of the best writers for that bracket of characters. Gillen does a fantastic job of writing part of a story that we all know (I.E. Vader can’t die yet because we aren’t at Return Of The Jedi yet), but still leaving suspense and wonder with what will happen with all characters involved. Looking back on this book now that it’s over, I couldn’t think of a better creative team for it. Gillen and Larroca truly worked elegantly together.

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From issue one to twenty-five, Darth Vader has been one hell of a roller-coaster and full of surprises. I am really disappointed to see my preferred Star Wars book come to an end, but I’m also excited for whatever becomes the next on-going Star Wars book (crossing my fingers for Boba Fett or Kylo Ren).

(Writer’s Note: This review was written before the announcement that Doctor Aphra would be landing her own SW ongoing title)

Thanks for 25 distinguished issues of Darth Vader Salvador Larroca & Kieron Gillen. If you haven’t been reading Darth Vader, now is not the best jumping on point, since this is the epic conclusion; but, you will not be disappointed if you hunt down the previous issues (or trades) because they will be entirely worth the price. In my honest unabashedly biased opinion, this is one of the best final issues from Marvel. Ever.

Also, the book is $5.99 which really blows, but it is more pages than a typical issue, and part of that is an epic mini issue in the back about Darth Vader slaughtering Tusken Raiders while killing time on Tattooine waiting for a couple bounty hunters. Made it worth the extra couple dollars.

Music Pairing:
John Williams, like all Star Wars book reviews.

4LN Podcast, Episode 4: Do The Big 2 Just Not Cut It Anymore?

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This week we discuss the differences in tone of story & content between The Big 2 and independent/creator-owned comics. Specifically, I share why, for the most part, I just can’t get emotionally invested in Marvel and DC comics anymore, and how that’s helped me fall more in love with lower-profile series’. How about you? Do the superhero stories of characters like Batman and Captain America just not do it for you? Let us know in the comments!

4LN Saturday Morning Review: Han Solo #1

Series: Han Solo
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Mark Brooks
Colors: Sonia Oback

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Summary from Comixology: “Everyone’s favorite scoundrel gets his very own series! Han is given a top-secret undercover mission for the Rebellion- rescuing a number of informants and spies. His cover for the assignment? Only the biggest and most infamous starship race in the galaxy! You know- the race Han has dreamt of winning his entire life. Will he keep his mind on the mission? And can he manage to pull it off while keeping the lead? Best-selling author Marjorie Liu (X-MEN) comes to the Galaxy Far, Far Away along with superstar cover artist Mark Brooks (ULTIMATE X-MEN) in his return to interior art! Face it, readers- there aren’t enough scoundrels in your life!”

I’ve been fairly excited for this book.  Ever since the announcement of the new Star Wars books, I think everyone has been anxiously waiting for a new Han Solo story. After the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I personally feel like I need to know even more than I already do about the life and times of Han Solo. Han Solo #1 does a wonderful job capturing the mood, look, and attitude of our favorite scoundrel.

Marjorie Liu does a superb job at matching the tone the original movies. The book takes place after he was awarded his money for rescuing Leia and then destroying the Death Star, which has made him one of the most wanted men in the galaxy.  This is why Han remains so reluctant to help the Rebellion again. After some convincing, Solo decides to help save three rebels under the disguise of being a pilot in the race he’s always dreamed of winning: The Dragon Void.

Mark Brooks, this books artist, is absolutely incredible. His work looks almost identical to the characters in the movie, it’s great seeing such realistic looking characters in a comic book. Brooks also does a wonderful job with his attention to details and character designs. With such a vast universe of life forms, Brooks makes each supporting and background character look truly unique and rare, which is much needed in a Star Wars book.

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If Han Solo is a character you love, or you are just looking for a new book to read, you are going to want to jump on this book. Liu and Brooks make a fantastic team, and do a wonderful job at capturing the tense and unknown feeling of watching the franchise for the first time. This is going to be one hell of a ride, and we are going to see if the Millennium Falcon will be able to run the Dragon Void as quick as it ran the Kessel Run.

Music Pairing:
John Williams, Star Wars theme.

Donald Glover joins cast of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

This is really exciting news for any and all Spider-Man fans. There has been an online petition, rumors, and tweets to get Donald Glover to play Miles Morales, Spider-Man from the 1610 universe, also known as the Ultimate Universe and there is a chance that all the praying will pay off.

 

Tom Holland from Civil War will be returning as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Michael Keaton starring as a  villain, Marisa Tomei as the beautiful Aunt May (Never thought I would say that..), and Zendaya as the female lead. What role will Donald Glover be playing? Well, at the moment we don’t particularly know for sure, but there is a fantastic chance that he will be the fan favorite web slinger Miles. But, typically, Miles is portrayed as a younger character, which makes him so unique and relatable for all readers that were not white.

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If you aren’t familiar with Donald Glover’s work, he was in The Martian, Community, 30 Rock, and Magic Mike XXL. He’s also extremely successful as the rapper Childish Gambino.

I for one am hoping ad banking that Donald will be on the silver screen as Miles Morales. Donald Glover has already worked as this character before, on The Ultimate Spider-Man TV show. What do you guys think? Will he play Miles or some other character? Sound off in the comments!

4LN Comic Review – The Punisher #1 (2016)

Series – The Punisher (2016)
Writer – Becky Cloonan
Art – Steve Dillon, with Frank Martin on Colors
Publisher – Marvel

Summary from Comixology – “FRANK CASTLE LOSES CONTROL! A by-the-numbers drug bust is about to take Frank Castle by surprise…and he HATES surprises. The horrible fallout threatens to send The Punisher into the heart of darkness, but Castle won’t make that journey alone: A DEA agent is on his trail and attempting to get into his head…but what horrors will she find there, and will she survive the experience?”

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The Punisher is a fascinating character. There are so many dimensions to him that I think get lost a lot of time in the way he’s perceived. Frank Castle is a decorated war veteran. He’s not just some thug who arbitrarily murders people. He’s very intelligent and can think quickly in high pressure situations. Sure, he works outside the law, which can either be an attractive aspect or a complete turn-off for readers, but he has complex reasons as to why he does what he does. He’s just a man of few words typically so it’s incredibly important for whoever writes him to capture that complexity with as much behavioral expression as possible. (Also, I may be WAY over-thinking it.)

The Punisher (2016-) #1

I was a huge fan of the previous Punisher comic, written by Nathan Edmondson, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when this new series was announced. I’ve been a fan of Becky Cloonan’s work for a while now though, and Steve Dillon was the artist on Garth Ennis’ Punisher series years ago and that’s my favorite Punisher run ever, so there was no doubt in my mind that this creative team would do the series justice.

The story opens with some nefarious guys planning a drug trade, and some respectable DEA agents planning to stop it. Little do either of them know that The Punisher is wise to both parties, and has a plan of his own to inconvenience them both. There’s this great exchange between two of the DEA agents where one says to the other that “the price of righteousness is paperwork.” That is an absolutely brilliant statement, and a clear reason as to why Frank operates the way he does. Do you see how clever this is? Cloonan has the establishment character say with complete conviction the exact thing that Frank is rails against when it comes to law enforcement and the judicial system. These people are not corrupt or crooked. They’re playing by the rules and that’s what Frank believes doesn’t work. His disagreement in methodology becomes apparent when kicks in the door of the criminals warehouse and starts un-aliving every motherf—er in the building. At one point, and I want you to pay very close attention to this because it’s genius, he stabs a dude with an iron rod, then he picks up a cinder block and uses it to hammer the guy into an electrical box that’s behind him. THAT HAPPENS IN THIS COMIC. If for no other reason, you should buy this book just for that page.

The Punisher (2016-) #1

As I mentioned previously, Steve Dillon’s run on The Punisher several years ago with Garth Ennis is my favorite that the character has ever been done and I’m thrilled they brought him back on for another go-around. The man has a been drawing comics for damn-near four decades, and he’s a consummate professional. His style is frequently imitated but no one can ever pull off what he does. He’s clearly inspired by the classic comic art of the 60’s and 70’s but he puts a modern spin on it that makes it partner so well with dark and violent stories. In many cases, art that seems more traditional, and less realistic, makes violent comics not seem so heavy. What Steve does, though, cause it to feel even more brutal, and creepy too. The final page of this issue, which gives us a better glimpse into the nature of the main villain “Face”, is a perfect example of what I mean. It’s a full page of cartoon art, that is equally disturbing as it is beautiful.

The Punisher (2016-) #1

This 1st issue of the new Punisher series is a fantastic start to what I believe will be a violently good series. It sets an exciting and brooding tone that perfectly captures who Frank is, and how fans feel about him. The art is top-notch, and the story has some mystery to it that will have you eagerly anticipating the next issue. If Jon Bernthal’s recent turn as the The Punisher in the second season of Daredevil got you pumped about the character then I highly recommend you head down to your local comic shop and pick up a copy of this book. You’ll be bloody glad you did.

 

Music Pairing –
I really felt like a grind or powerviolence band would fit perfectly with the tone of this issue. I almost chose Magrudergrind, but ultimately went with the dudes in COVE, a local Nashville band that hammers out some punishing hardcore grinding jams. Make sure you play their self-titled album really loud while you read The Punisher so that you get good and pissed off.

4LN Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War

Official Film Synopsis:

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

You’re going to hear, if you haven’t already, a lot of things about this film that are… exaggerations. You’re also going to hear things that sound like exaggerations but are 100% correct, or at least 12% correct. (I suppose an argument could be made for 15…) You’re going to hear people say that this is what Avengers: Age of Ultron should have been, that it’s good in spite of Captain America himself, that Spider-Man steals the show, and various other assessments and critiques. Without spoiling anything specific, allow me to clear up some of the questions and concerns you might have rattling around in your head.

First off, Spider-Man. Those of you concerned about Marvel revealing too much of him in trailers, stop worrying. That was only the tip of the web-slinging iceberg. There’s so much more to love from him in the final product, and you will not be disappointed. Does he steal the show? Not entirely. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s great. Maybe the best on-screen Spider-Man of all-time (or potentially at least). I wouldn’t say that he steals the entire show, however, but he does have a surprisingly commanding presence on screen. Tom Holland was clearly the perfect actor for the part because his Peter Parker and Spider-Man aren’t different. With Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield, they both played Parker and Spidey with different personalities. As if putting on the mask made them someone completely different. Though it’s only brief in the grander scheme, what we see Holland do is just play them the same. A more unified Parker/Spider-Man, if you will. It’s very refreshing and after the credits finished rolling I found myself way more excited for the future of Spidey.

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Another thing I’ve heard is that this movie achieves what Avengers: AoU failed to. To be honest, I’m not sure what that even means. Like, I clearly didn’t watch the same movie as the people who feel this way because AoU was enjoyable for me and I understood it. (Also, it banked over a billion dollars so…) I’m not gonna spend a whole lot of time defending it, but I do feel like it’s a disservice to the journey that lead us here to treat any aspect of it as superfluous. There are themes that have been consistent through every MCU film since Iron Man that come into play in Civil War and without any one of them this film wouldn’t be able to complete in the way that is does. I know, I’m being vague. I don’t want to give away anything, I just want you to take this into consideration when you’re watching the movie and trying to compare it to others.

Then out of that attitude, emerges the idea that it’s not really a Captain America movie, it’s an Avengers movie, and Cap isn’t all that crucial. These people… should not be allowed to watch movies. At all. Ever again. I am one to rarely “can’t even”, but this makes me not be able to even. I’ve never been eating a cheeseburger and thought, “You know what this doesn’t even need? Meat.” A shit ton of condiments between two buns isn’t a meal, it’s sad. Why would you think that the ingredient that pulls everything together is the one thing you can do without? Cap’s reluctant but brave resistance of the newly implemented status quo is what moves the entire plot. He may not necessarily be the engine, but he’s definitely the fuel.

So what is the engine? Well, that would be the brilliant Daniel Brühl as Zemo. His role has been mostly downplayed from the very beginning, but he’s what puts just about everything happening here into motion, and once the third act concludes you understand his motivation and significance. Brühl brings a human depth to the Zemo character that he lacks in the comics. It’s one of those things where you could argue that they really didn’t have to name him Zemo at all, but the nod to the source material is nice gesture.

I also want to acknowledge how great Paul Rudd is as Scott Lang/Ant-Man. He proves himself a perfect team member and does more than his fair share of fighting. I feel like his contribution to the film could get overlooked by all the other great performances and moments, but he doesn’t miss one beat picking up right where he left off in Ant-Man, and helping Spider-Man with lightening the mood. The first act of the film is pretty serious and rocks back and forth between action sequences to story heavy scenes with mostly dialogue. Once those two show up though, you’re laughing uncontrollably.

Another performance that really stood out for me was Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross. It’s such a unique and impressive performance from Freeman, who usually plays more shy, timid, and/or awkward characters. He turns in a very strong, very confident portrayal. I don’t want to say that I didn’t know he had it in him, but he seems like such a passive, good-natured guy that I really didn’t.

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Even though I’ve only addressed a few, every single performance was perfect. There’s not one weak link in the entire cast. Plus, the story is compelling and will have you guessing all the way through to the end. Even the parts that seemed predictable were only partially so. When you think you’ve figured something out, just know that there’s more to it that you haven’t even considered. I think the Russo Bros. have crafted a damn-near flawless blockbuster superhero film. It may not have the same type of suspense and depth that CA:WS has, but it’s a different type of film also, so it’s tough for me to superficially analyze the differences.

I’ve always sided with Cap in the Civil War debate. Part of that may be that I just don’t like Tony Stark in the comics, but RDJ is great as Tony and, while I still don’t find myself swayed to his point of view, I feel like this film did a great job of expressing why he feels the way he feels and that his actions are propelled by emotion because of his personal experiences. Cap is emotional is some ways too, but there are never moments that he seems out of control. Tony is emotionally unstable and therefore you wonder how much control he’s able to maintain over himself. I don’t worry about Cap taking things too far, and I feel like Tony has to stop himself from taking things too far. In some cases he fails and almost everyone suffers for it. It’s a cycle with this guy.

Final word: Captain America: Civil War is one of the best comic book movies ever made. It’s packed full of action, mystery, humor, and raw emotion. It collects every feeling you could possibly feel and condenses it into a two-and-half-hour roller coaster ride that leaves you excited and eagerly anticipating the future of the MCU, rather than lethargic and confused. You’ll be smiling ear to ear as you exit the theater and you’ll almost certainly seriously consider just walking back up to the box office to buy a ticket to the next showing. Save yourself the trouble and just go ahead and buy them at once so that you can keep your seat. You can thank me later.