Tag Archives: Comics

We Need to Talk About Furiosa.

My weekend blogs are usually a collective of thoughts on the comics I’ve read since my last rundown, but this week I want to focus on one, and one alone. We need to talk about Furiosa.

If you follow my blog, or have read any of my past posts, you will know I was among the many who highly sung the praises of Mad Max: Fury Road (which I argued should really be titled Furiosa’s Road), primarily for its fantastic Hollywood-shattering portrayal of women: fully developed characters in an action-packed movie so scarce on dialogue – never weak or purely plot devices. You can read my full appreciation of George Miller’s return here: https://faceittiger.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/mad-max-furiosas-road/. Surely, then, my excitement that the release a Furiosa spin off comic, to coincide with Vertigo’s new Mad Max franchise series, is understandable – and one voice in a chorus of many.

Oh boy.

Be careful what you wish for.

I’d like to begin by stating that, whilst obviously trying to remain in canon with Fury Road, it does not. This is not smoothly linked in, and it’s certainly not the prequel we deserve.

The beauty and brilliance of Fury Road is that we understood the background these women were escaping from without having to actually see it. The implication was enough, and the clipping of the belts added that extra nod just to make sure everyone was keeping up. And the women, each driven to gain their freedom, were so diverse: a shared goal from unique perspectives, each bringing something different to the team. It’s surprising, then, that Furiosa #1 has completely ignored these fantastic characteristics. Most shocking of all, although disappointingly unsurprising in the comics industry, is that almost every plot point is driven by rape. And not just the implication: graphic, brutal, disgusting, unnecessary rape. The powerful subtlety of Fury Road has been completely besmirched by Furiosa #1. Let’s take a closer look at just how wrong it went.

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The Wives

When we first meet the wives, we learn that Immortan Joe has gifted them with education: books, music, history lessons. Indeed, we’re told that giving these women a teacher was his “one fatal error”, because we all know how dangerous a group of educated women can be. Anyone else’s alarm bells ringing? And we’re only on page two…

The issue of education is brought up repeatedly throughout the 40-page book, and really makes each of the wives look like ignorant little flowers that desperately need protection. Rather than pulling from the implications in the movie that each of these women were interesting and led their own lives before being captured by Immortan Joe, they rely on Joe’s kindness of giving them a teacher. It doesn’t matter that Toast knew how to load a gun, and what ammunition to pair with each weapon when the other girls didn’t; or The Dag knew a thing or two about seeds (there’s one condescending page in the comic where they’re learning about peaches, their pits, and ‘oh, wow, seeds help things grow’). These women didn’t learn things through experience and share their knowledge with each other while held captive; they’re not interesting individuals: they’re lambs wrapped in blankets. The extent of focus on education is unnecessary, and could easily have been replaced by the women swapping stories from their life before. As Ana Mardoll stated in her fantastic post on Shakesville, “to me (and I’m guessing other women in theatres), it was no ‘mystery’ as to why the women knew things; they knew things because they were people.”

But it’s okay, you know. Immortan Joe really is a good guy, because he gives them such nice things. Books, music, knowledge, water. Surely being held captive, beaten, raped, held for a man’s pleasure is much better than freedom. Pfft. Who needs free will, amirite?!

I’m not joking when I say this is genuinely the attitude the majority of characters have in this comic. Furiosa tells the women just how good they have it; Joe asks “WHERE’S MY GRATITUDE?!”; and teacher, Miss Giddy, tells them to just “Stay calm within your core. In that place, he cannot reach you.” Great, because suppressing trauma is definitely the healthy and normal thing to do. I can have a bath, so please, continue to treat me as property!

The wives are treated as idiots by both the creative team and the other characters. They’ve just to put up and shut up, because it’s a lot better than anything else. They certainly aren’t capable of surviving outside by themselves, as Furiosa venomously reminds them. Miss Giddy also confides in Furiosa, telling her that the girls need a leader since they’re incapable of surviving alone. They’re reduced to nothing more than whimpering damsels, reading about peach pits.

To make it worse, the majority of their interaction with each other is when they’re being bitchy or emotional – but not, as Mardoll explains, genuinely emotional and deep, but “girly emotional”. They’re catty and cruel. Capable lashes out at Furiosa for not protecting them from Joe, and then apologises because she’s jealous. That’s right – she’s not mad because Joe’s raping them and keeping them against their will – that would be ridiculous! She’s got the red-headed temperament and is green with envy; “The moment you walked through the door… I was filled with envy. You looked so strong. Proud and Independent. A warrior magnificent.”

Am I the only one banging my head off the wall here?! The wives have been stripped of every single trope that made them so fantastic and interesting in Fury Road, and have been turned into dribbling children who need to be wrapped in cotton wool, and whose lives really aren’t that bad because they have baths and books. And to make things worse, their motivation for change isn’t the rape, or forced child bearing, or being held against their will – IT’S BECAUSE FURIOSA HAS TAUGHT THEM AND THEY SHOULD TRY TO BE LIKE HER.

The writers have well and truly created women who can barely tie their own shoes without guidance, never mind fight for their own freedom. They can’t think for themselves, apparently can’t survive themselves, can’t educate themselves. Urgh, I can’t even…

Furiosa

Oh my goodness, guys. We’re about to learn the back story of one of the most kick-ass women in cinema history. I bet it’s good! Okay, here we go, time to find out what happened to her to make her into the badass monster she is today. Ready?

Oh.

She was raped.

Great…

The creators have seriously missed an amazing opportunity. This could have been the chance to explore just what makes a female heroine, who is adored by male and female audiences, so intriguing, so mysterious, so awe inspiring. But no. I wish I’d been at the creative round-table:

‘So, guys, what motivates women? Where did Furiosa come from? How did she become a war-rig driver? And what about robo-arm?! The possibilities!’

“She used to be one of Joe’s wives, she was raped, and why not hint that she’s probably barren – so a rejected wife?”

‘GENIUS! We know how well that kind of approach worked out for Whedon!’

I held my head in my hands for a good ten minutes after reading Furiosa’s backstory reveal. I can’t get past the poor plotting. It’s like being presented with the Golden Ticket to Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but cashing it in to buy a life supply of advent calendar chocolate. But even then, surely Furiosa should have been more determined to help the wives rather than encourage their compliance? The narrative is weak, the writing lazy, and the opportunity wasted.

Their Bodies

One of my biggest problems with Furiosa #1 was the way in which pregnancy and women’s bodies were treated. On page three, we’re treated to a very graphic vaginal exam, in which the panel is framed by female legs. I’m sure this seemed like a fantastic creative idea, but as a woman who is now being forced to look through the eyes of an abused woman in a hugely intimate scenario with three slobbering guys in my vision, it’s unbelievably insensitive, and kind of insulting. Way to make a woman into a literal framing device, team. *slow claps*

We learn that these exams are so Joe knows when peak ovulation times are, which suggests his raping of these women is to repopulate with his teeny army of warlords. Haha, what suckers we are! They pulled us in with that trick, didn’t they?! It seems that the women are required to regularly ‘perform’ for Joe, and Toast’s disgusted sigh of, “where he puts it, there’ll be no babies” tells us that it’s as much for pleasure as it is for repopulation.

The list goes on and on with where the creative team totally missed the mark here. The girls are angry that Joe decides it’s finally time to rape Cheedo – the girl who is so young, she’s not ovulating yet – because she’s the only one not “infected by your poison”. Way to exploit the guilt felt by victims of sexual abuse, guys. There’s an attempt at abortion with a coat hanger which is overly graphic. Abortion is compared to war – I don’t think I need to expand on the idiocy and insensitivity of that. The writers can’t seem to grasp that, sometimes, women don’t want babies. Again, Mardoll brilliantly summarises the situation; “The movie narrative felt inclusive to me of differences between the wives: whether they wanted to abort or adopt out of their current pregnancy and have children, they were united in not wanting to bear warlords. Now the comic has twisted that to be a statement about a specific child, making the women’s flight for freedom just as much about ‘protecting’ that child from warlord-training as it was about making reproductive choices on their own.” And she’s right – in Fury Road, the women wanted total freedom: of their bodies, of their minds, of their choices – and they’d do anything to get it. In the comic, they are 100% objects. Their bodies, their minds, and their children and choices belong to Joe.

The Creative Team

The narrative structure of Furiosa #1 is almost an ironic paradox. When we come in to the story on page one, we’re met by a male storyteller, recounting the events of their tale to a captive audience, acting as an uncanny mirror of the comics’ entirely male creative team expressing the experiences of a female centred comic to their readers. I’m not saying men can’t write women – there are so many examples to shut that kind of argument down immediately. However, it’s important to remember that Miller was so desperate to get his sense of how women would respond in certain situations right in Fury Road, he enlisted the help of Eve Ensler (author of The Vagina Monologues) – and it certainly worked in everyone’s favour. So why not do the same for the comic?

In investigating unique female voices further, it’s necessary to draw upon genuine female experience. By ignoring the female voice, the creators of Furiosa #1 have resorted to the lazy writing tropes that have haunted women in comics – and blockbuster media – for decades, and that’s what completely destroys this comic. For example, as I stated already, rape is used repeatedly as the motivation for the plot to move forward, as well as providing “character development” (if you can call it that). Shall we count the excuses? 1. Furiosa is enlisted as protector of the women after Rictus attempted to rape Anghard; 2. Furiosa doesn’t stop Joe from raping the girls on page 10, because he’s the boss, and he’s giving them a nice life, right?!; 3. Furiosa’s a badass because she was raped herself; 4. Furiosa holds the girls back once more from Joe during the Cheedo incident; 5. Furiosa finally decides to help the girls, after seeing them repeatedly raped and abused. That is FIVE excuses in FORTY pages – technically, thirty-eight pages. That’s more than once every ten pages!

The handling of characterisation is so poor, it’s embarrassing. Gone are the women from the screen, replaced by whimpering idiots who need to be led. And even when they do begin their escape, it’s not as the team we saw in the movie, but as bubble wrapped ornaments, bullied by a condescending Furiosa. Theron’s depiction of Furiosa was determined and hard, but never cold nor hurtful to the girls. She was maternal rather than monstrous: a militant mother on a mission, and hugely likeable. It took me a long time to snap out of wanting to shave my head and drive around the desert. But here, she’s just as guilty as treating the wives as inferior idiots as Joe and the comics’ creative team are.

URGH!

Reviews and Responses

If the content of the comic didn’t make you angry enough, the response by the creative team and DC/Vertigo has been just as sickening.

When contacted by Rebecca Vipond Brink, asking for a comment on the Furiosa #1 issue (in all senses of the word), DC responded with “Thanks for reaching out, we appreciate it! We have no comment to provide and are declining the request.” In other words, “we couldn’t care less.” Great – thanks for caring so much about change, fan response, and female representation in comics, DC!

To make matters worse, when called out on Twitter, Furiosa #1’s co-creator Mark Sexton responded with:

“Best answer is that the use of institutionalised rape by Immortan Joe is not only central to the story but without it, the story could be viewed merely as a bunch of young girls whining about being kept in relative luxury by an older man who’s concerned with their safety. Not really much room for dramatic tension there…!”

Erm… Am I missing something here? It’s okay to keep people captive as long as you’re not raping them? Well, alright then. I’m sorry, Immortan Joe – you are a stand-up guy! Please, continue to lock up women to your hearts content!

Sexton has totally missed the point here. We all knew rape was a part of the back story. We’re not idiots – give your audience some credit. But it does not have to be the root cause of everything. It does not have to be the sole reason these women are fighting for freedom. It does not need to be the reason Furiosa is a mysterious soldier. It does not need to be shown so obviously, and played upon FIVE TIMES. It does not need to be the reason for appointing Furiosa protector of the wives, and it certainly doesn’t need to be the motivation for her finally helping the women.

In Furiosa #1, these women have lost themselves, reduced to little more than wombs and a robotic arm. I am so disappointed in the rich pool of opportunity which has clearly been ignored, only for comics to return to the static state of using women as little more than plot devices – but that’s where the problem lies: it’s a comic about these women – using them as plot devices in their own story doesn’t work. It makes it dull and even more infuriating that thought hasn’t gone in to establishing strong backstories in which these characters can be defined as different, interesting individuals.

I, for one, will be boycotting the book from here on out, and am disappointed that Vertigo agreed to print it in the first place. I would urge those of you with any interest in a Furiosa comic, and in learning more about her backstory, to stick to the fan-fic online and keep the fond memories of the powerful, developed women of Fury Road fully intact.

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She-Hulk

It ain’t easy being green, but Jennifer Walters certainly pulls it off with considerable style and grace.

A Harvard law graduate and prestigious attorney, Jen in her human form was already an undoubtedly powerful force in the Marvel Universe.  However, following a shooting by notorious gangster Nick Trask’s goons, Walters needed an urgent blood-transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner.  This procedure was not only life-saving, but life-changing.  Now infused with gamma-radiated blood, Jennifer Walters became She-Hulk!
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Whilst it would be nice to think Jen’s character emerged from the public outcry for a powerful She-Hulk, she was originally created following the success of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ live action television series of the ‘70s.  In an ownership-of-rights race between Marvel and CBS, Stan Lee rushed to create a female Hulk character and, in February 1980, The Savage She-Hulk #1 hit the comics’ stands.

Unlike Bruce, Jennifer learned to maintain her personality and control her rage (to a degree), particularly once Morbius the Living Vampire helped her to develop a serum which allowed her a greater sense of control over her hulk transformations.  This ultimately turns Jen from the ‘Savage’ She-Hulk into the ‘sassy’, as she finds her confidence in her new lean, green alter-ego; using it to unleash her unruly wild side.

To a female reader, this is perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of She-Hulk comics; Jennifer Walters completely rocks her She-Hulk persona.  In a society where so much – perhaps too much – pressure is put on women by magazines, commercials, film, and television to try and achieve that “ideal” look of a perfect, beautiful woman, it’s great to see a character completely embrace their identity.  She has no intent of hiding her green skin and unruly mess of hair; what she’s got, she flaunts!  Walters also stands out, particularly in recent years, for being depicted with an athletic body form.  Yes, there’s the purple-lycra leotard, however, Shulkie definitely looks like she’s clocked in the hours at the gym.  It’s such a refreshing take in the comics world, where many of the female characters still look like they have a tiny waist and ballooned chests thanks to the magic of plastic surgery and eating disorders (looking at you, Wonder Girl, Starfire – the list goes on!).  Walters has been put through the paces throughout the years regarding her transformation; her initial change understandably caused distress, but whenever her ability to turn into her green alter-ego is taken away from her, she is devastated.  It’s apparent that Walters chooses and enjoys spending most of her time in her liberating She-Hulk form.  So ladies, next time your hair’s out of place, or your make-up’s run, or you’ve got a spot that ONE day you needed to look great – just think What Would She-Hulk Do?  You’re right – she’d own it.

Confidence isn’t the only admirable aspect of Walter’s personality.  She’s hugely intelligent, working as a successful lawyer, even being approached by the magistrates of the universe to work on a case.  But she’s also compassionate, aiding minorities in their cases, helping to rebuild towns she may have destroyed, as well as specialising in Superhuman Law (let’s face it, the collateral damage has to be fixed somewhere!).  Her position as a lawyer has been skilfully examined in Charles Soules’ latest take on She-Hulk in the Marvel Now relaunch.  In Issue 4 (out yesterday!), we see Walter’s internal conflict in agreeing to take on a case for Dr Doom: we all know he’s a big bad in the Marvel Universe, but even they need help sometimes.  Her conversation with Matt Murdock highlights the moral difficulties superheroes as lawyers face: their heroics need to stretch further than the average vigilante’s.

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Shulkie also has a fantastic sense of fun and wit about her.  This is particularly evident through her breaking of the fourth wall.  She’s very aware that she is a comic character, often approaching the audience, as well as jumping out of panels and across pages of adverts.  This tongue-in-cheek style really compliments the other aspects of She-Hulks character.  While she can be taken seriously in big story events, her She-Hulk persona is all about embracing the wild side.  She-Hulk comics are bright and colourful, and usually one of the most fun ones on offer.

So, there we have it.  A character who embraces her flaws, ultimately realising that they are her real strengths.  She is potentially one of the most realistic female superhero characters around; okay, the green complexion, superhuman strength, and height probably won’t be achievable for everyone, but with a bit of self-confidence, anyone can channel their inner-Shulkie.  She’s also incredibly intelligent and respected in the Marvel universe, proving anything can be done with a bit of hard work.  By acknowledging both her human and superhuman personas are a part of her, Walters is able to be the strongest person she can be; herself.

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My Week in Comics: Secret Wars – Tidying Up the Multi-Verse.

Secret Wars

With Marvel’s Secret Wars event in full swing, the entire universe is slowly beginning to pull together, with whole new #1’s tying up loose ends and planting new seeds. These multi-crossover titles add extra depth to the Secret Wars scenario, but are they worth jumping on board with?

Secret Wars #3

Completely bewildered by the events of Secret Wars so far? Join the club! Lucky for us, all begins to become clear in issue three of the eight-part series.  Universes are colliding, and the past is starting to resurface for the characters under Doom’s rule. Having re-read the first three issues together, it’s obvious that by the time Secret Wars finishes, it will be epic in scale. Now that the multi-verses are undergoing huge upheaval, I cannot wait to see how and where things end, and where new beginnings lie for so many beloved characters.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1

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With our Secret Wars heroes facing little but destruction and devastation at the moment, Peter Parker has a tough choice to make. Now a husband and father, he begins to question his duty as Spider-Man. Is risking his life to aid the Avengers worth it if it means possibly losing MJ and Annie? In an event which is primarily an examination of survival, it’s an interesting perspective to see Parker struggle with this choice. Either way, he is heroic. He can actively save lives by being in the Avengers, or he can hang up the suit and save his family. It will be interesting to see how his final choice affects him, and everyone around him, in upcoming issues.

Is it worth picking up as a Secret Wars tie-in?: Absolutely. A completely new take on the complexities of being a superhero during huge events, where we’re reminded that they’re also human. It’s a question of priorities, and the flux of what great responsibilities really are as heroes grow older and their lives begin to change.

Armour Wars #1

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You’ve probably guessed it already, but Armour Wars is centred on the Starks. Set in Technopolis, we see a world which relies primarily on technology for advancement. Opening with Albert Einstein’s quote, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. The human spirit must prevail” is a powerful sentiment which echoes throughout the whole book. In a completely armoured world, where humanity and technology appear to have merged into one, and memories of running free without being encased in metal are distant and melancholic, it’s a haunting examination of how reliant humanity has become on technology. It’s also disturbing to imagine a world which feels it needs to be encased in a world of armour.

Is it worth picking up as a Secret Wars tie-in?: It’s a very interesting idea, and sets up for a much larger storyline. Establishing a feud within the ever turbulent Stark family, it’s raised a number of questions which are yet to be answered. A fun tie-in for Iron Man fans, or those with a particular interest in the human relationship and reliance on technology.

Giant Size Little Marvel: AvX #1

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Skottie Young strikes gold again with his adorable and hilarious take on the characters of the Marvel Universe. Giant Size Little Marvel plays exactly to Young’s strengths: his unique artwork and tongue-in-cheek writing style makes a comic about tiny avengers and x-men appealing to audiences of all ages. Filled with quick-quips, subtle jokes which make you linger over every panel, and over-the-top references, there’s something in this book that every Marvel reader of all ages will enjoy.

Is it worth picking up as a Secret Wars tie-in?: If you’re looking for light relief from all the fighting and universe upheaval, Giant Size Little Marvel is the book for you. Any Skottie Young fan will be delighted with his latest work, and its self-aware silliness only adds to its appeal. Full-on fun!

Old Man Logan #1

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Alongside creating brand new stories, Marvel are revisiting some of their older renowned stories to see how their universes are coping under the stress of Secret Wars. Old Man Logan is one of these titles. With Bendis picking up the powerful pen which Mark Millar once wielded, we return to the gritty world of Old Man Logan. Much darker than most of the titles on offer from the Secret Wars range, it was a fascinating read which enthrals and entices the reader. Exploring a desolate wasteland after the heroes are gone, Logan is determined to discover more of what’s going on. With the tone of a dark Western Gangster movie, with absolutely stunning art and colours from Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo, it’s a welcomed return to the comics-verse for the old man.

Is it worth picking up as a Secret Wars tie-in?: Yes. Dark and gritty, not only is it stunning to look at, but it’s a compelling read which carries the tone of a Japanese vengeance movie in the grim underworld of the wild west. Bendis is a worthy successor, offering a much more personal view of how Secret Wars is impacting the multi-verse.

Years of Future Past #1

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The mutants are never going to have an easy time of it, and alongside the death of so many during the Secret Wars, it’s inevitable that humans have once again pointed their finger-of-judgement towards those they fear for being different: mutant-kind. This time, we follow Christina Pryde, Kitty’s daughter, in the struggles against the Sentinels that are hunting the few remaining mutants. It’s a very powerful book, which brings the haunting history of the holocaust crashing into the modern era. Yes, it retraces a lot of Days of Future Past’s steps, but seeing it through new eyes, it’s an interesting examination of right and wrong, and what makes people “human”.

Is it worth picking up as a Secret Wars tie-in?: All fans of X-Men will undoubtedly enjoy this tie-in, and it’s a good one for anyone not keeping up with Secret Wars. Although there are a few references, it’s easy enough to follow without having to know the entire back story. With the style and tone of its predecessor, Years of Future Past is a great read with a lot of potential.

Outside of Secret Wars

It’s not all one big Marvel mish-mash of stories tying into one – many of our favourites are still continuing as usual, as well as a few new additions!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6

If you hadn’t already guessed, I adore Squirrel Girl, and it’s only getting better. This issue, we meet some new characters, our narrator is wittier than ever, and there’s a Girl Squirrel talking chiit to people. Charming as ever, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl goes from strength to strength! You’d be nuts to miss it!

Princess Leia #4

Princess Leia also seems to be finding its stride, and with astonishing sales figures each month, it’s great to see so many people invested in following her solo adventure. I cannot get over how gorgeous the art in this book is, and each issue I continue to admire Leia’s strong will. There’s an interesting parallel between Leia and women in comics and sci-fi, in that she is constantly being underestimated by everyone. Yet, she knows her own power and continues to fight to do the right thing. A new hope in comics!

Groot #1

On the back of Rocket Raccoon’s solo story success, the loveable tree-rogue, Groot, now has his very own series. It’s very sweet, and an interesting idea which will undoubtedly face challenges. How do you keep a character who only speaks three words from becoming boring? Surely the novelty will wear off? Yet, for having limited vocabulary, Groot is astonishingly expressive and emotion-filled in this first issue. There’s character beneath the bark. It will be fascinating to see if Groot’s roots can plant itself firmly in the comics’ universe.

The First Rule of Fight Club…

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The long awaited sequel to Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club has arrived! Being an overly-obsessive Palahniuk fan, I was excited yet wary to see how the sequel to his smash hit novel (although, apparently more people disappointingly recognise it from the Fincher movie) would work in comics form. It’s fantastic that Palahniuk is penning the story himself. We are not forced into an adaptation, but to the natural continuation of the story by the man who knows it best. What happened once we closed the final chapter of Fight Club?

We return to the life of our unnamed narrator (now named Sebastian). He is now on multiple medications for his ‘mental-illness’; is married to Marla and is father to a child; and is unhappy as hell. His life is falling apart. Palahniuk confronts the return to ‘normalcy’ as bluntly as possible: Sebastian’s life is crap – he’s unappreciated at a dead-end job, he feels very little, and he’s very aware that his wife is in love (or lust…) with his alter-ego. Tyler Durden is both the best and worst thing about himself.

Not all authors can transition their work from book to comic, but Chuck Palahniuk’s writing suits the comic structure perfectly. The timing, tone and tension are masterfully crafted. This is only enhanced by Cameron Stewart’s fantastic artwork. Combined, each panel is carefully and cleverly structured to add depth to the undoubtedly unravelling mind of Sebastian/Tyler. The distortion and disruption of panels by pills and petals demonstrate a sense of disarray in everyday life. Clever and gripping, Fight Club 2 looks to be a promising work of art, in both the literary and visual sense.

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My Week in Comics: Thor Almighty!

“Raise Hel, Goddess of Thunder. And let the rest be damned.”

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The big reveal has happened! Through the twists and turns of Thor #8, we finally learn who now wields Thor’s hammer – and she’s more than worthy!

The opening panel of issue 8 is astonishing: breathtakingly beautiful as Marvel’s army of females strike their battle poses as they attempt to destroy the Destroyer. I’ve really loved the depiction of women in this female-led Thor run. Never are the superheroes posed in an awkwardly sexualised manner or as skinny stick-figures, but as strong warriors. You can really believe that Thor is Thor, because she has the arms to hold Mjolnir. Athletic, not anorexic.

The story has also been consistently strong, and the anticipation building in the panels leading up to Thor’s true identity makes the reveal all the more powerful. The good news: the first trade collection of Thor: Goddess of Thunder is out NOW! The bad news: you won’t get far on the internet without the reveal being spoiled, so catch up soon!

Heroes in the Modern World

One of my favourite things about modern comics is seeing them fit into the modern world. Many of these superhero characters have been around for decades, so it’s always fun to see them adapt to the modern world. One example of this was found in Silk #4, where we see Peter Parker and Johnny Storm playing video games together. However, as Silk goes on to prove, we sometimes you can’t beat a good ol’ fashioned superhero hang-out as she and Johnny get their flame on during their first date by beating up bad guys.

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Perhaps this is what is so appealing about the new Howard the Duck series (with #3 being released this week). Howard the Duck is the modern approach to the idea of the “funny book” – a comedy adventure story which really does not take itself seriously. But its constant tip-of-hat to various pop-culture references both inside and outside the Marvel universe makes it all the more entertaining. The Spiderman joke in #3 had me laughing like a lunatic, whilst I nodded in appreciation at a Scott Pilgrim reference. It’s things like this that keeps comics fresh, and adds that extra connection with the audience.

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The Walking Dead #141

The twist between leadership styles was cleverly portrayed this issue: but who’s got it right?

“Lad culture is based upon the unscientific premise that women are genetically identical to Kleenex. It’s like creationism.”

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The first issue of Giant Days, I was unsure. Issue 2, I was willing to keep going. Issue 3: I am totally on board! This issue confronts lad-culture (and the usual female response) head on, and it is fantastic. It’s a popular trend these days for young men, or “lads”, to shame others they don’t see as being quite up to their standards on the internet. For example, girls are usually “sluts”; homosexuals are usually “fags”; and obese people are, well, usually the butt of all their jokes. And lads are usually the young men who sleep with as many “sluts” as possible, and make amazing jokes about minorities which they call “banter”. I don’t think I need to go much further in explaining how disgusting and derogatory “lad-culture” is. Luckily, Giant Days #3 does this for us!

In this issue, Esther has been on a night out, got a bit hammered, and ended up in a top-ten list on a University ‘lad/banter’ website. Humiliated, she understandably wants to crawl in a hole and die. Who wouldn’t?! And when her reports are ignored by the University as ‘harmless fun’ (which actually happens in real life – really, it’s a thing. Google it!), she loses all hope of ever regaining dignity.

Not only does Giant Days highlight the absolutely disgusting and objectifying nature of lad-behaviour, it also goes on to question that ‘fine line’ between feminism and misandry. Susan, in hope of avenging her friend, goes on a man-hating rampage, canvasing the campus about how terrible all men are because of this lad-culture.

Ultimately, Giant Days is a funny, but eye-openingly aware look at our modern society. All too easily is this newfound ‘lad-culture’ dismissed as ‘banter’, when in the harsh light of day, it’s bullying. It’s a free pass to objectify women and humiliate anyone who doesn’t fit into the ‘lad’ club – one I won’t be applying for membership for anytime soon. The fact that Universities and education systems tend to dismiss this kind of behaviour is awful: why let discriminatory behaviour go unpunished when it can lead to quite devastating effects for its victims? “It’s just a bit of fun” is exactly what Giant Days calls it out as: “Bad explanation!” But similarly, to combat this kind of behaviour, us ladies can’t go around pointing the finger at every male on the planet. It’s everyone’s problem.

The CW Sneak Peeks

The trailers for The CW’s Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow have been released, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about each of them! Admittedly, when Supergirl was originally announced, I had many reservations: they’d need to get it just right since it’s Supergirl – and that’s a big deal. Plus, how will an alien story fit in with all the very human (or meta-human) groundwork Arrow and The Flash have already established? Will it fit?

But the trailer looks promising, rom-com soundtrack aside. The work the CW has done on Arrow and the Flash has been brilliant, so I look forward to seeing how they handle Supergirl. Provided it stays more “I can stop the bad guys, lift aeroplanes over my head, and stop Earth from being destroyed” rather than “Golly, how do I juggle work, clothes, saving the planet, and boys?!”, we’ll be onto a winner. I’m on board for the pilot, at least!

As for Legends of Tomorrow: it may have a ridiculous name, but it looks anything but! A ton of fun bundled up into a TV series! A gigantic team-up on a small team! Because “sometimes the world needs a team” – or as close as it can get to one. And, Hawkgirl has landed– yay! Our heroes (of sorts) are teaming up to take on Savage. I can see a lot of bumps in the road to a smooth team-work approach, but I really can’t wait to see the story unfold, even if miniaturised Atom does look a little like a Lego man…

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Fiona Staples

This week let’s take a look at Fiona Staples, the multi-award winning artist best known for her ground-breaking work on Saga.

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Penciller, Inker, Colourist.  Staples has been actively involved in every aspect of comics’ art since 2005, where her project Amphibious Nightmare was published in an anthology collecting the very best of 24 hour comic day.  Her back-catalogue has since grown to an impressive collection.  After meeting Andrew Foley through Maple Ink Comics’ message board in 2006, she worked on her first series, Done to Death, a clash between vampire and hunter, published just as she was graduating from art school.  Staples also became part of the illustrator team behind the Trick r Treat graphic novel adaptation, as well as working on The Secret History of Authority: Hawksmoor with Mike Costa, and Button Man for 2000AD.  Finally, Staples has worked on North 40 with Aaron Williams and on Mystery Society with renowned horror writer Steve Niles.

Staples’ background in these sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and adventure stories undoubtedly set her in good standing for her most notable work to date; Saga.  Niles introduced Staples to Brian K Vaughan, which sparked the beginning of a hugely successful creative relationship, beginning with issue 1’s release in March 2012.  Co-owning the series, Staples was granted the opportunity to design all the characters, spaceships, and alien races, providing a huge sense of creative freedom in the comic.

An advocate for digital production, Staples has mastered the blend of traditional and digital techniques, hand-inking her characters before finishing the image on screen.  Her full-colour images are greatly inspired by anime and the worlds portrayed in video games.  And with the vast, detailed environments created in Saga, it’s no surprise she finds colouring digitally preferable!  However, Staples hand-letters her narration and paints the cover of each issue, creating a unique sense of freedom and elegance for each comic.  It is not only the covers and narration which escape the use of modern technology; we can see in the book itself Staples’ attempt to steer clear of traditional sci-fi tropes, as our protagonists travel in a wooden rocket ship, and much of the resemblance of traditional architecture and buildings in her scenery is certainly not accidental.  By mixing the traditional with the technological, Staples’ artistic style has helped to create a completely new fantastical world which defies the usual genre stereotypes; ultimately adding weight to why ‘Saga’ is one of the most popular sci-fi comic series today.

This distinction has not gone unnoticed.  Staples, Vaughan and ‘Saga’ have received huge critical acclaim, and been nominated for many awards.  In 2013 alone, ‘Saga’ won nine awards ranging from Eisner’s to Harvey’s to Hugo’s; two of which were awarded directly to Staples for Best Artist and Best Colourist.   And the nominations continue to roll in, with Staples being nominated for Eisner awards yet again this year.  The competition is tough, but my fingers are crossed for her!

Consequently, Staples is now one of the most recognised and respected artistic names in the comics industry, and rightly so.  Her constant hard work has allowed her to participate in a variety of projects.  Her variant cover art for the big companies like DC and Marvel are highly sought after, and her participation in the new Kickstarter Archie Comics series has been hotly anticipated by fans.  Her distinct style has ultimately led to her being part of a creator team producing one of the most popular fantasy comics of our generation, and this undoubtedly is due to the presence of her own creative voice.

So there we have it; a talented woman who has made a strong name within the comics industry; recognised by both fans and critics.  Who say’s girls can’t like comics too?!

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My Week in Comics: Secret Wars and Not So Secret Awesome Titles

Secret Wars and Swords of Sorrow

Summer’s officially kicking off in the comics’ world, with crossovers a plenty.

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First up is Marvel’s big event, in which the company is pressing the big red reset button, shaking up the multi-verse, and condensing it. It all starts with Secret Wars #1. Admittedly, there’s a lot to take in with this, even for a regular Marvel reader. This ultimately means that the “biggest event in the Marvel Comics Universe” may not be the friendliest jumping on point for new readers. Worlds are ending, but it’s not entirely clear who survives. Perhaps it will work best as a completed series. That being said, Jonathan Hickman’s writing is fantastic, and feels epic and poignant. The book is visually beautiful, with wonderful art by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, with an eerie grace to the violent, catastrophic events that unfold. But from the ashes of Secret Wars, a new universe will arrive. In June 2015, a whole new range of #1’s will be released, marking the beginning of a new era for Marvel. We have Guardians of Knowhere, Years of Future Past, Korvac Saga, X-Tinction Agenda, Groot, Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde, Thors, Marvel Zombies, 1872, Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos, and Future Imperfect – to name but a few! I, personally, am most excited for Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1! Thus, Secret Wars could essentially be considered as the big Marvel tidy-up event, where they tighten up their universe, make it more manageable and new-reader friendly. But who are we going to end up saying goodbye to on the way?

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Also on the crossover list was Swords of Sorrow, Dynamite’s big crossover event which teams together their toughest ladies in a fight which is yet to be properly revealed. Having never read any of Dynamite’s female led series, I entered fairly ignorantly. This, combined with little but set-up for the event, sadly opened the doors to criticism rather than curiosity as I struggled through the issue. Swords of Sorrow teams up the likes of Red Sonja, Vampirella, Jungle Girl, Irene Adler, and Lady Zorro (amongst others), which you would think would make a riveting read, particularly when penned by Gail Simone. Unfortunately, it didn’t read that way.

I hoped the cover image of four women dressed in nothing but, well, no, actually – not really anything at all, would be a sales gimmick to attract a male audience to read a female-centred event with a female creative team. Particularly with the awkward poses – Jungle Girl has gone a little Manara Spider-Womany, and the black woman in the silver (I have no idea of her name, as there’s no one resembling her within the pages of the comic?!) has gone for the red carpet ‘over-the-shoulder’ pout. Red Sonja might be wielding a sword, but with her stomach held in like that, she looks unhealthy, and kind of like she’s holding in uncomfortable wind. Unfortunately I quickly discovered that this is, in fact, standard costume if you are to be a leading lady in Dynamite’s comics, Irene Adler, Lady Greystoke, and Kato aside.

So, impractical clothing for warrior women to one side, does this comic show these women kicking ass? Standing up to a real villain? Proving that girls are just as powerful and awesome as boys without waving a big red flag that reads “HEY, GUESS WHAT?! WOMEN ARE GOOD TOO!”? Well, not really.

First of all, it appears that the villain of the piece is an egocentric male, who thrives on controlling women who ‘love’ him – probably not in the true sense of the word, but in that ‘worship-me-so-I-feel-like-I-have-power’ kinda way. And do you know what he does? He calls forward ‘the shard men, the soulless victims’ to ‘Avenge me…against ALL women’. Wow. Literal woman hating. To me, this seems a bit like one guy who’s been hurt by one woman, and is now on a tirade against all of woman-kind. Something that can be considered a bit too close to home in today’s world – admittedly, Elliot Rodger’s vendetta against women in May 2014 sprung instantly to mind –  and potentially stands as a more dangerous idea to be playing with than standard ‘world domination’ for wanting to be a villain. I expected better from Simone, and frankly I was disappointed by the underlining themes running throughout the issue. Surely there’s more reason than a misogynist for women to team-up in comics? And surely they can do it whilst wearing clothes? It will be interesting to see how the all-female Avengers A-Force bring a team of women together to save the day: will Thanos be peeved about being dumped and wage war on all womankind, or will they band together simply to try and make the world a better place for everyone?

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5

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How do you continue a series after defeating the biggest bad in all the galaxy? Luckily that’s not an issue The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has to worry about. SG manages to continue being a truly entertaining read whilst openly mocking its own position in the comics’ world. In #5 we take a step back from the action and hang out with some hostages whilst heroes of NYC try to save them from a dinosaur attack. In their time together, the hostages discuss tales of Squirrel Girl which they’ve heard in attempts to prove that they know who she is, prodding fun at the comics’ own position on the store shelf: the Unrecognised Squirrel Girl. As per usual, hilarity ensues, and I’m fairly sure Simon Pegg made a guest appearance. If you’re not reading Squirrel Girl, #5 is a perfect place to jump on board – don’t end up like the losers in the Statue of Liberty, confusing Squirrel Girl for Spider-Man (doy!) – be someone who knows Doreen Green is the real deal!

The Spiders Web

I think Silk might just be my favourite of all the spider-women just now (sorry, Gwen!). It’s such a beautiful comic in all senses of the word. It’s captivating, relatable, and intriguing. We’re beginning to learn so much more about Cindy’s past, and it doesn’t look to shiny and happy, which helps her to not only stop the villain, but try to convince them to turn their life around. Silk is so much more than beating up the bad guy. It’s a voyage of self-discovery for a young woman AND a super-hero. And Cindy is so easy to sympathise with. Perhaps it’s her tone, or her bewilderment by a lot of things now she’s back in the world, but she’s got something a lot of superheroes tend to miss.

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Similarly, Spider-Gwen has developed a truly accessible connection with its audience, particularly in its fourth issue. We really slow down and get a peek behind the mask. It’s clear Gwen’s been dealing with a lot of guilt, and not dealing particularly well… But this issue confronts that head on. We see her return to some sense of normal life. She visits Ben and May, and they discuss the loss of Peter in some particularly moving panels. I loved the connection between Peter and Spider-heroism: something he’s always drawn to, no matter which universe – the freedom to do the right thing.

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This is exactly what makes these female-fronted spider comics so appealing. It’s not all about punching the bad guy, but about being complex, flawed characters who make mistakes and must learn to get past them. And by getting closer to the character behind the mask, it’s increasingly obvious that you don’t need to wear a costume to be a hero.

Non-Compliant

Bitch Planet is quite possibly the most important comic book out there right now. Kelly Sue’s no prisoners approach to confronting feminism, conformity, and the corruption of power in the Western World is second to none, and truly eye opening. And these issues extend further than the strip itself. The back cover of every issue is covered with fake ads like this, which almost translate the real ads we see on magazines into its true blunt language:

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And perhaps the most important thing we can take from Bitch Planet is that the powerful reputation it has built, with a strong fan-base after just four issues, shows that it isn’t about the book.

And it really isn’t about the book. It’s about everything it stands for. It’s about oppression of the true self, the struggle minorities face every day. And the fact someone is speaking out about this so bluntly in a medium that is accessible to everyone is fantastic. It’s why so many have already got non-compliant tattoos; why cosplayers are dawning BP overalls. The message is powerful, and the demand is great. If anything, it shows there’s a real issue of equality in modern society when a fan-base reacts so passionately so quickly towards a confrontational comic. Bitch Planet has the power to initiate change, and it’s getting the message out there. It’s up to the non-compliant to carry the message forward.

Not far behind Bitch Planet in the world of strong feminism in comics is Rat Queens, and the second volume is out now! Another no-nonsense comic when depicting it’s female characters, Rat Queens is the rock ‘n’ roll fantasy comic you ought to be reading!

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In this second volume, we learn more about the fearsome four’s history, adding further layers to their histories. It steps back slightly from the reckless romps of the first volume and gives the world a lot more heart, building upon the foundations already set. The humour, action, adventure, sex, and drugs are all still there, but this time there was something more – something complex.

Perhaps my favourite thing about Rat Queens is the fact it depicts real women. Yes, they’re in a fantasy world and battle orcs and do magic, but these women are as real as they come. They have all the lumps and bumps in the right places. Their hair is regularly out of place. They are athletic, not anorexic. They are themselves, despite being social outcasts from their hometowns. And the message portrayed in Rat Queens to female readers is spot on. Vi’s father congratulates her on looking “strong.” Not beautiful, not slim – strong. Hannah’s mother encourages her to have “not a fear of knowledge, but embracing every facet of it.” Even the addition of eyeliner in the costume-wearing montage scene is bad-ass, because it’s not vain, it’s a sign that femininity is strong. And I love that: women can look beautiful, embrace themselves for who they are, be smart, and tough. These are the women who are true heroes, in the comics’ world and the real world.

A comic which depicts a man as the damsel in distress being saved by an army of women that is still popular by both male and female readers is an amazing feat, and shows that female warriors are not emasculating. And the fact that said comic is created by men?! Hallelujah! I think we’re making progress!

Now is the perfect time to read Rat Queens if you haven’t already: with the first two trades available you can catch up quick! For fans of fantasy adventure who aren’t easily offended by bad language, nudity, and straight talking women.

Age of Ultron: Upon a Second Viewing

I have been to see Age of Ultron again, and with the ‘feminist’ (I use the word loosely) outrage fresh in my mind, I decided to really pay attention to those issues which sparked such an angry response towards the movie.

First, we have Black Widow’s declaration as being a monster.

The online argument: the fact she can’t have children makes her a monster. How dare you, Joss Whedon!

Upon a Second Viewing: In this scene we see a frustrated Banner emotionally explain to Romanoff that he “physically can’t have kids”, desperately upset that he himself cannot father children. This is Natasha’s chance to open up. Her choice to have children has also been taken away. The word ‘monster’ does not leave her mouth until she states that the sterilization project is meant to make it “easier to kill”. Now, it might just be me, but I think her monstrosity is referring to that red on her ledger Loki mentioned in the first movie: all that blood on her hands. The fact that everything she worked towards in her life prior to the Avengers was to make it easier to kill. Let’s look at this further.

Black Widow seemingly joined the Avengers to redeem herself, to clear her ledger and wash away the red. And that’s what she’s doing. Scenes where she opens up shows progression. We see that she’s not the stone cold assassin she was trained to be, but is capable of being loving. Empathising with Banner’s loss doesn’t make her weak, it makes her human. And that’s progress. She’s more than the quick-quip, relatively cold spy of the Avengers, and more open than the “whoever you want me to be” Natasha of the Winter Soldier. Here we see her lay herself bare: someone who has been raised to keep secrets and kill is opening up and experiencing empathy. The sterilization was meant to remove any kind of maternal-instinct, that loving tie to humanity us ladies are lucky to have built into our very bodies, has clearly not killed off this capability of caring and emotion in Natasha. We see that through her connection with Barton’s children, and how fantastic she can be as “Auntie Nat”. Yes, perhaps a mistake was made in sterilizing Romanoff, but I think we have to remember that her choice was removed: not her desire. She’s not calling herself a monster because she is infertile. She’s calling herself a monster because she then chose to continue killing for years.

Second, we have Vision saving Scarlet Witch from certain death.

The online argument: Why did Vision have to save Scarlet Witch? I bet she could’ve made it out alive by herself. How dare you, Whedon!

Upon a Second Viewing: Absolutely nothing about this scene is ‘weak’ or misogynistic. Nothing. Scarlet Witch had literally just torn the heart from the strongest Ultron body with her bare hands. The world was caving in around her, and with no ability to fly, or run at super speed, it’s pretty certain she would have been crushed: particularly in her state of mind. Having just lost her brother, it’s unlikely she would’ve been in the best state to try and save herself. Vision swooping in wasn’t some kind of Prince Charming move: it was what any of the heroes would have done if any of the others had been in the same position. Example: Quicksilver swooped in to save Hawkeye from being shot. Case and point.

My biggest issue with this argument is that it suggests it’s weak to ask for help. It’s not. It’s absolutely not. I understand we’re in a position where women, particularly women in film and media, need to be increasingly portrayed as being tough and independent, because that’s what real women are, but everyone needs help sometimes. Do we really want to teach the next generation that they have to struggle through life alone? That having a problem or worrying about something or nearly being crushed to death by falling debris is something you have to deal with by yourself, because otherwise you’re weak and always being saved by men? No. It’s important to be tough, and independent, and to believe in yourself, but girls: listen up: IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP – YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO THROUGH LIFE ALONE.

Age of Ultron is a fantastic movie, but I can’t help but feel that people are expecting too much from it. It’s an action movie. If people were just a third as passionate about issues like equal pay, objectification, and equal representation as they were about Whedon’s “destruction” of the Black Widow character, and absolute sacrilege of having Scarlet Witch even being helped up by a man (who is an android anyway, guys!) never mind actually having her life saved, we’d probably be far more successful in solving real world issues.

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Age of Ultron

The comic book movie event of the year has arrived. Avengers: Age of Ultron burst into UK cinemas last week, and I was first in line to see it. Attending one of Cineworld’s triple bill screenings was the perfect way to experience the long awaited sequel to 2009’s Avengers (or Avengers Assemble for us Brits). Sitting through the Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier – two of the best Marvel movies to date – only added to the anticipation, rather than draining the life from you. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

Let’s get the critical stuff out the way first.

Right from the get-go, Age of Ultron is an action-packed, laugh-a-minute thrill ride. The opening scene sets the tone for the entire film: buckle up, cause there’s no stopping. Literally. The film does not stop to catch a breath. The audience is thrown into one thing after another after another. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s no room to be bored; there’s no space for unnecessary plot lines; there’s no time to question tiny flaws in an otherwise fantastic storyline. As soon as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes burst on screen, the audience is swept along on the journey, pulling them out of their seats and into the world of the Avengers: firing lasers, kicking ass, hulking out. And that’s great – because, really, that’s what these films are for. They’re ginormous, fun, super films! The bad guy threatens the world: the heroes save it! And that’s what we go to the cinema to see these movies for.

However, the Quicksilver pacing of Age of Ultron sadly left some scenes lacking. Joss Whedon’s original cut is over 3 hours long (yes please for the DVD/Blu-Ray release, I say!), and I feel some of the important scenes may have been lost in the editing room. For example, I found Black Widow’s relationship with the Hulk completely unnecessary. Not because ‘there’s no room for romance’ in the Avengers, just that the backstory was so completely washed over that I found it difficult to go along with. Sure, it’s sweet that they’ve found a way to calm Banner down. And why shouldn’t the ‘cold-hearted killer’ Black Widow find love in the ‘monstrous’ Hulk? But the plot moved so fast that the chemistry seemed forced, and I found it laughable rather than loveable.

Similarly, Stark had no time for penance. He created Ultron – threatened the world – and all he got was a stern talking to from Cap?! Yes, he was trying to do the right thing. And yes, he’s in a bad place after the climax of Avengers Assemble. But that doesn’t really excuse creating a robot bent on world domination – which is achieved by destroying mankind.

Finally, we didn’t really get to know the twins. Their screen time was so little that – during that shocking twist finale (it was totally setting up to be Hawkeye) – it was hard to be overly distressed when Quicksilver fell. I loved how creepy they were during their introductory scenes, and I wish they’d been used more.

BUT – this didn’t detract from the overall impact of the movie. Age of Ultron definitely impressed, and is a perfect companion to the first instalment. It’s fantastically written (and directed, obviously – thank you, Whedon!) and the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny. They come thick and fast, too. Particularly with Ultron, played by James Spader. His timing was fantastic and portraying Ultron as almost being human: a twisted soul with no compassion, only added to the character. A character who, perhaps, reflected Stark in this movie. Tony Stark – again played wonderfully by Robert Downey Jr – wanted Ultron to save the world, not to destroy it. The both believe Ultron has the ability to save the world – it’s the method that causes the problems.

The special effects have come screaming on since 2009 alone. Ultron looked great, particularly as the partially assembled Iron Man suit – a terrifying Frankenstein’s monster: a puppet without his strings. The Hulk’s effects have also vastly improved. Ruffalo’s emotion shone through the CGI and really added heart to the scientist’s violent alter-ego. I strongly believe the time for a stand-alone Hulk film has arrived, and Mark Ruffalo is the man to pull it off! The battle between Hulk and Iron Man in his Hulk-Buster suit was fantastic – metal on monster, with each as determined as the other to come out on top. And Vision was, well, exactly that! His make-up was so flawless I really believed there was a multi-coloured android on screen rather than an actor.

One of the things that most impressed me about Avengers Assemble was the equal amount of screen time given to each of the characters. No one felt left out or left behind. This was again the case for Age of Ultron. Each character had their moment to be developed; whether in a monologue or a nightmare vision; we learned a little more about each one. And each had time to beat up bad guys in a totally awesome manner (ladies and gentlemen). There was even room for cameos galore, which was great! And so much referencing that I’ve undoubtedly missed about 20 different things. You can really see the continuity of the films and television shows come together in Age of Ultron as well. The MCU is growing at a rapid pace, yet Marvel clearly have it so tightly planned that it feels organic. Nothing forced, just subtle harks back to previous events.

Ultimately, Age of Ultron was a blast: a Hulk-sized super smash that I’ll gladly watch again and again! It isn’t quite up to par with its prequel and Winter Soldier, but it definitely ranks high in the MCU and lays solid foundations for Captain America 3: Civil War. Scoring it a super 8 out of 10, it’s another high flying hit from Marvel. When you can complete a full day of work after just 3 hours sleep – running purely on Avenger adrenaline – you know it’s a good movie!

Now the wait begins for Ant-Man…

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