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Refresh: Fantastic Fail

In 2005, Marvel’s oldest superhero team made their transition to the big screen. Sure, the story was cheesy, the dialogue clunky, and the whole thing was just plain goofy – but, hey, at least when it was bad, there was a (literally) smokin’ hot Chris Evans to keep you entertained for that half hour it’s on in the background while channel hopping at Christmas. That attempt and the sequel probably should have been more aptly titled: Mediocre Four.

So, surely, ten years later Fox will have learned from their mistakes – a reboot of the super team is absolutely justified. Everyone deserves a second chance, right?! …Right…?

Wrong.

The Fantastic Four do deserve a second chance. Very much so. But only if the entire creative team are willing to create something genuinely rewarding – a true homage to the source material. I mean, there’s half a century’s worth of ideas to play with – and there’s some true gold in there. This means Fox did not deserve the redeeming opportunity with this property, given that their primary drive was to crank something – anything! – out before their license expired.

This is a reboot we did not need and, upon seeing it, I definitely didn’t want it. Lazy, uninspired, and dull, Fant4stic was more of a fizzle out than a flame on. Yet another origin story, it’s filled with awkward references to who our lead characters are to become, which became instantly infuriating.

The sheer laziness of the film was frustrating. I believe the majority of reboots are due to creative idleness, but this one really takes the biscuit. The plot was mediocre, and didn’t really go anywhere. The entire film felt like one long build up to something, but that climatic event never happened – other than the blessed release of the credits finally rolling after a very long hour and a half. In fact, their powers were barely used, with it taking a whole fifty minutes of the hour and thirty run time to make their voyage into time/space.

Even the excuses for action were half-cocked. ‘Hey guys, we’ve shared a small hip flask of alcohol between three fully-grown-adult-men. We’re definitely wasted. We should try that dimensional teleporter ourselves. We won’t have sobered up by the time my friend gets here from out of town.’ Or, my personal favourite (paraphrased), “Let me go back to that dimension. I belong there, I don’t want to be on earth. Let me go back, or I will destroy this planet.” ‘No, you belong here, with us. We’re family blah blah blah.” *moral compass dies and a great big black hole is opened as revenge.* Just let him go back to the damn dimension. Good lord.

To make matters worse, the actors looked plain bored 99% of the time, barely interacting with each other, and usually sounding overwhelmingly uninterested in what the others had to say. Even the edits and reshoots were lazy – there were more holes in this than a worn out sieve. For instance, Sue’s wig continuously changed colour, and Reed had the opportunity to suddenly shave walking along a corridor to see to a very urgent matter. No one cared about this movie. It was so unabashedly, infuriatingly obvious.

The dialogue also could’ve undergone a major rework. I spent the majority of the film grimacing uncomfortably. It was filled with ‘this isn’t relevant to what’s going on right now, but we need to squeeze it in somewhere for the plot to progress’ moments. Not to mention the sheer tactlessness when confronting the fact Sue is adopted, which has to be one of the more awkward conversation exchanges I’ve witnessed. There is absolutely no lead into Reed bringing up the topic, he just does, then goes on to sympathise with her experience. He obviously knows how it feels, because, as he tells Sue, he wishes he had been adopted: he just doesn’t get on with his parents. Gosh darn, Richards – what a tough life you lead.

Talking of dialogue, I’ve had a lingering bad taste in my mouth since the closing exchange in which they discuss their team name. As soon as I realised where it was going, I recoiled in genuine horror and embarrassment. Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do i– oh no… they did it. Sigh.

I didn’t hate Fantastic Four. It just wasn’t good. It was a waste of huge potential, as if Fox resigned to the “it’ll make a ton of money ‘cause it’s superheroes” mind-set. But that’s not how it works. Each of Marvel’s most popular films have a serious dose of heart behind them – even DC isn’t as lazy as this. There isn’t a reasonable excuse for just how bland this film is: if films about a space-Raccoon and an ANTman (for crying out loud!) can be enthralling, moving, and genuinely entertaining, so can a movie about the world’s oldest superhero team! For instance, I would like to see Ultimate Richards unravelling to become the antagonist of recent years – the megalomaniac scientist of the FF.

You know it has gone wrong when the movie takes such a critical clobbering that it’s rated lower than the Green Lantern and Batman and Robin. But we have the sequel to look forward to in a couple of years – surely it can’t be worse than this… right?

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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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Agent Carter

I was rather sceptical about watching Marvel’s Agent Carter, given that it was heavily promoted as ‘Peggy’s life after Cap’. Perhaps I was afraid I was going to be offered 8 episodes of sulking and crying, with some other soldier swooping in and showing her it’s okay: there’s still a fella out there for her! But with all the Age of Ultron backlash, I was determined to find something out there that Marvel had gotten “right”. And boy, have they got Agent Carter right!

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I instantly fell in love with the series. Instead of being everything I feared it would be, it was everything I was hoping it would be – and then some! Yes, we pick up Peggy right where Cap left her, and of course she’s upset. But this dame ain’t got no time for wallowing, see. We’re whirled straight into post-war 1940s America, where the boys are returning home and the women are being pushed out of their jobs. The one and only left clinging onto the SSR, in hope of making some kind of difference, is Agent Peggy Carter.

Agent Carter tackles a lot of the issues post-war America faced, particularly focusing on how the people were effected: everyone, not just the women. Injuries merely scratch the surface in this show, as Marvel delves deeper into the impact of emotional trauma and mental stress that soldiers faced in the warzone: seeing their friends die, killing – and all for what? It’s brave for a television show, particularly one led by a female, to focus on men being afraid, or startled, or upset by their experiences. But it only adds to the power of the show. It’s okay for boys to be upset, to feel frightened, or to need help. It’s not weak – it’s human.

Similarly, the show focuses heavily on the consequential return of women to the home as men return from war looking for work.  As Peggy continues to boldly walk into work every day, she not only faces the challenges of being an agent, but being a woman in the workplace. Instead of being given assignments, she’s told to make the coffee or get the lunch order; to do the paperwork and maintain the files. She’s reduced to little more than a secretary despite her capabilities. But it’s not only in the workplace that we see these changes – it’s also demonstrated in post-war accommodation for single women who no longer lived with family in women’s hotel, The Griffith. The ‘independent’ women living within these walls were anything but. Governed by an old crone who dictated their visitors, commanded their eating hours, kept a close eye on all of their actions and comings-and-goings, it was incredibly difficult to be your own woman in the 1940s. Luckily, the girls in Agent Carter have that fun rebellious side, mimicking the naughty adolescent behaviour you’d likely see in a classroom as children sneak sweets in class as their headmistress’ back is turned.

“No man will ever consider you as an equal… It’s sad, but it’s true.”

My biggest admiration in regards to Agent Carter was how apt, appropriate and relative it was. Despite being set in the 1940s, much of the message felt rather familiar. As Peggy battled daily to be taken seriously, to do something right, and to live her own life, she was continually undermined and ridiculed. Despite her amazing abilities as an agent, she just could not break that glass ceiling.

One episode I found to be particularly poignant in subtly reflecting the portrayal of women was in the second episode, throughout which the popular radio show: The Captain America Adventure Program was frequently ‘aired’. In it, Betty Carver (Peggy’s pop-culture portrayal) was a weak, whimpering woman: the damsel in distress the media so often enjoys portraying ladies as being. However, during one broadcast, as Captain America beats up the Nazis to save Betty, Peggy is busy beating up the real bad guys in real time to save the world. The parallel yet paradoxical nature of this scene was incredibly effective. We see the real woman pitted against what the media wants us, the audience, to perceive as real. And it’s through this power the media holds over us that our preconceptions of gender are born. But here we see the reality, head on confronting and contradicting what we’re supposed to believe – and it’s amazing.

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“There’s a difference between being an independent woman and a spinster.”

There is no love interest for Agent Carter. Her heart belongs completely to Steve Rogers, and he’s sadly on ice. But that means Peggy is not driven by love, or trying to impress a boy. And how refreshing that is! Instead, she’s determined, driven by her desire to honour Captain America’s memory, do the right thing, and uphold democracy. That’s not to say heroines don’t need a partner to be awesome. Let’s just look at Black Widow in Age of Ultron (yes, I went there. And I think the above quote is particularly apt in that argument!). But to not be solely driven by the desire to impress a mate is so rarely seen in film and television, particularly those targeted at a female audience, that it added a whole new dimension to Agent Carter.

Any hints of objectification are also absent. The show is so classy, I could see my face in its neatly polished shoes. Hayley Atwell is absolutely stunning, and it’s amazing to see that she has a figure. Not just a stick in a dress, there are actual curves which accentuates the gorgeous style of the 1940s. I aspire to one day pull off wearing a skirt suit like her! In the one scene where Peggy is caught changing, there’s no creepy lingering on her body, or a close up of her backside, or anything remotely sexualised. Instead, it focuses on her battlescars. Women can be beautiful with ‘imperfections’, and they don’t need to parade around half naked! So many healthy life-lessons!

One of my favourite aspects was the stereotype-swaps in the series. Two of our leading male protagonists, Howard Stark and Jarvis, donned the typical roles of women in TV series. In Howard, we found the damsel – the man needing to be saved. Of course, he also embodies the ‘slut’, but that’s the Starks for you. And in Jarvis, we have the whipped house-wife with a strict routine of cooking and cleaning for his wife before they settle down and listen to their radio shows before a prompt bedtime. He even knows how to sew buttons. The bumbling butler stereotype has been done before, but Jarvis in Agent Carter presents something truly different. And although he may take on the guise of the ‘weak’ house-wife figure, he also emerges a hero, empowered by his adventures with Peggy, proving anyone can be a hero as long as they’re fighting for the right thing.

I would urge every person reading this to please watch Agent Carter. Watch it yourselves, pass it to your friends and family, show it to your children. Only eight episodes long, with a second series on the way, it is vital this show gains and maintains the support it deserves. Not only is it a thrilling adventure series about spies and secret agents, but it’s potentially the strongest piece of work Marvel has created for the television or movie theatres so far. A charming show with class, style, and sophistication, its characters are more than punching bags: they’re complex – the men and women – showing the difficulties and trauma caused by war. What this show does for everyone is open doors. It’s okay to be upset, or need help. It’s okay to be a man, and it’s okay to be a woman.  There’s been a lot of outcry online recently about how poorly represented women are in the Marvel cinematic universe. Well, here she is. Agent Carter is right at the other end of your remote control. A woman who is strong, in control, and a role model to anyone: I’d say Marvel have got this totally right.

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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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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.

MarvelSecretWars

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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My Week in Comics: Avengers Assemble

The moment has arrived. The follow up to 2009 smash hit blockbuster has officially landed in cinemas. Grossing $44.8 million at the international box office in just two days, Age of Ultron is already a hulk-sized success, so it’s no surprise that this week the majority of comics’ news is centred around the Marvel super-group!

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

My past week has focused almost exclusively on the return of the Avengers. As the team assembled in London this week for the international premiere, my sights were set on getting a glimpse of the stars in person. (Not as a creepy stalker: see previous post on fandom here: https://faceittiger.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/embrace-the-fandom/.)

On Tuesday night, I scored a ticket to the filming of the Graham Norton show, which promised Avengers star guests. Of course, I was front and centre – and I wasn’t disappointed as Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and Elizabeth Olsen settled themselves on the infamous red couch. Straight from the premiere at Shepherd’s Bush, the trio were in good form, and shared some fantastic stories. We were in the studio for well over 2 hours, but you can see the cut version now on iplayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05s769y/the-graham-norton-show-series-17-episode-3.

There have been a number of heated talking points around the Avengers’ various press junkets this past week. From sexist slurs to unprofessional and inappropriate journalism, it’s all been covered, making the Avengers a bigger talking point than just a new movie.

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Let’s begin with the area that bothered me the most. The sexism. May I begin by pointing out that Black Widow has once again been left off all the Age of Ultron merchandise? There are no toys, no t-shirts, no lunchboxes. She’s a big part of the movies, and even has a more independent storyline in this instalment (with rumours of her own film surfacing once again – yes please!), and the only major female connection girls have into the MCU Avengers franchise. So why is she not being included? There’s a market for it – a loud and proud one – so why is Black Widow being pushed to the side in favour of Iron Man, Cap, and Hawkeye (seriously – HAWKEYE.)

This leads nicely into Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans’ ignorant response regarding Black Widow in an interview earlier in the week. The pair were asked about Black Widow’s new relationship in the movie, and how surprised the interviewer was that it wasn’t with Hawkeye or Captain America, given their close relationships in past movies. Renner and Evans responded in a juvenile manner, explaining that Johansson’s character is a “whore” and “slut”, laughing the question off. Now, press junkets must be boring. I can’t even imagine how tedious it must be to answer the same questions repeatedly throughout a press tour around the globe. So, yes, I understand how having a laugh probably eases the monotony of this. But – these people have a responsibility. Particularly when you’re embodying Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in one of the biggest franchises of our time. It’s not okay to speak about women – or anyone – like that. They need to remember they are role models and real life heroes for so many people.

Their comments were particularly damaging considering what I’ve already stated about Black Widow’s underrepresentation. It’s only further highlighting the problems we have with the representation of women in media, particularly in comics and film. It seems Johansson’s character can’t be defined by her ass-kicking ability, her dark history and how she’s overcome it, or her independent character. Nope, it’s about men and who she’s dating. And the response didn’t even acknowledge the fact that she’s her own person: an independent woman capable of making her own choices that don’t need to be justified to anyone. I have to admit, I wasn’t overly surprised Renner was involved in this, and his insincere apology has only furthered this opinion on the actor. But Chris Evans is a different story. A strong actor who interviews well (this incident aside…) and comes across favourably in social media, Evans is one of the last men on earth I want to be upset with. He’s Captain America for goodness sake! He has since apologised for the comments, and seems to understand how damaging they can be. Want to read more? There’s a fantastic article on Nerdist recapping the incident and its impact which you can read here: http://nerdist.com/yes-jeremy-renner-and-chris-evans-black-widow-comments-are-problematic/

Sometimes it’s the interviewer, rather than the interviewee, who can get it totally wrong. Yes, I’m talking about channel 4’s interview with Robert Downey Jr, conducted by Krishnan Guru-Murphy. Now, warning signals tend to go off whenever Guru-Murphy’s involved. A terrible “journalist” who seeks to provoke rather than investigate, he appears to be increasingly relying on controversy to remain relevant and, well, on TV rather than actually doing a good job as a reporter. From provoking Tarantino on his use of violence in movies (when he should have been talking about Django Unchained), to questioning Richard Ayoade about being a black man in the British entertainment industry (when he should’ve been talking about Ayoade’s book), he frequently strays from the topic at hand to provoke and annoy his interviewees. Tarantino famously “shut his butt down”, and Ayoade handled it very well, flipping the interview onto Guru-Murphy, clearly making him uncomfortable with his own journalistic “style” – or lack thereof. Perhaps he’s gunning to be the Katie Hopkins of Channel 4. But, next on his hit list was Robert Downey Jr. In the press room to promote Age of Ultron, Downey Jr gladly answered questions about Iron Man and his relationship with the character. The interview was going well, and Downey Jr was perfectly polite and responsive to the questions. But then it turned, Guru-Murphy hulked out – but not in a cool, green, building-smashing giant way. In a completely idiotic way: a way that he knew would get him thousands of hits on youtube (it’s interesting to note Channel 4 have disabled comments from being posted on the video).

Now, what I find totally, completely and utterly inappropriate about this is not that he’s questioning Robert Downey Jr about his difficult and dark past – a topic which has been covered a zillion times before. But the fact that he wanted to pry into his family life, asking if he still blames his father for his drug and alcohol abuse. That’s not investigative journalism, or professional etiquette in the slightest. That’s poking a bear with a pointy stick in the hope it attacks. RDJ was totally right to walk out. He wasn’t rude or unjustified. The actor has pulled himself out of a difficult place and really made something of himself. He’s secured himself in a successful franchise, and started a family. He regularly does charity work, and he supports independent films to aid rising stars of the industry. If you really need to reopen the scar which has been picked at for years now, ask him how he feels about the change he’s made in his life and how he’s going to continue to improve. Provoking him by asking how he feels about his relationship with his father is unnecessary, irrelevant and unprofessional – particularly when he’s there to talk about the film.

But there are occasionally moments of brilliance in times of interviewing crisis. Cosmopolitan magazine (Yes, I was shocked too) decided to flip the table when talking to Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson this week, and it was great. They both entered into the spirit of it, and I think Ruffalo’s embracing and accepting of the idea was fantastic, fully acknowledging inherently sexist habits in celebrity interviews. Hopefully this will open the doors to a world where both men and women can answer the thought provoking questions, and no one will ever be asked again “who are you wearing?!” – because, really, who cares?

But the controversy doesn’t stop there! Nope, Age of Ultron has kicked up a storm! Some loud voices are angry at a comment made by Iron Man during the movie as he tries to lift Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. He refers to “reinstating Prima Nocta”, and the ‘mewling quim’ doors from the Avengers have been reopened and JOSS WHEDON IS A HORRIBLE SEXIST PIG!

No. Let’s calm down.

First of all – let’s have a show of hands of who, off the top of their heads, knows what Prima Nocta means? Who, as soon as the words slipped from Tony Starks’ mouth as he joked with his friends, stormed out of the cinema, cursing Whedon and his family?

Not being one of these people, I googled the phrase when I saw people were unhappy about it. Apparently best known for its use in the absolutely 100% historically accurate movie Braveheart, it refers to the practise of a nobleman being with a peasant woman on her wedding night instead of her new husband. These traditions have been referred to throughout history, but it’s disputed as to whether or not it was ever actually a real law, leaning closer to the ‘it’s not real’ camp.

Regardless, it was referenced in Age of Ultron, and voices have cried “rape!” It seems very unlikely to me that Whedon, the openly feminist writer and director who has created some of the most kick-ass women in film and television history (Buffy, hello!), would deliberately celebrate the idea of reinstating laws where a nobleman could take a peasant woman against her will on her wedding night. It could well be a poke at the idea Whedon didn’t know what ‘mewling quim’ meant when he wrote it into Avengers Assemble, using an old-world term of phrase that sounds impressive, but is incredibly tongue in cheek. It could be a reflection of Iron Man’s arrogance – and the fact he’s a notorious playboy. Or yes, it could be a throwaway rape joke that shouldn’t be there. Words are powerful and have meaning, but taken in the grander scheme of things, this has gotten a little out of hand. Rape jokes are not funny, and completely unnecessary, but in context of the film, that’s not what this is. It’s possibly people looking a bit too far into something which isn’t there. The lesson: don’t take Braveheart as gospel truth.

MARVELous

It’s not all Avenger news this week though! Let’s take a look at what else has been going on.

Netflix’s super series, Daredevil, has already been signed for a second season! Hopefully we won’t have to wait until the other Hells Kitchen shows have aired to meet the bigger bads in Daredevil’s world!

In All-New X-Men, Iceman (Bobby Drake) has officially come out! This has obviously caused some outrage and confusion amongst X-Men readers and fans, but the character’s sexuality has been in question since the late 1980’s. Exploring the internet, the outrage is evident: many are convinced it’s a marketing ploy, some believe it is exploiting sexuality to sell more issues, and others believe it’s the devils work. But it’s encouraging to see some embracing the change and celebrating the fact there’s an openly homosexual character in a popular comic book. Long-running comics like the X-Men pass through so many different hands of writers, artists, editors, and producers that change will happen; good and bad. I don’t believe it’s an event to sell more issues, but to reflect our changing times and how diverse and tolerant the Western World is becoming.

Marvel has also announced that they have officially teamed up with Telltale Games for a 2017 release! More news will be coming soon!

HAHAHA – Don’t Make Me Laugh

Jared Leto’s new look as the Joker in upcoming film, Suicide Squad, has officially been released. The internet doesn’t quite know how to feel – and to be honest, neither do I. The Joker has had so many changes and inconsistencies over the years, it’s difficult to say “that’s not the Joker”. His constant state of flux is a large part of his appeal. But it’s not the Joker. It’s an embarrassing attempt to be edgy. Yes, I understand at this point he will have been through years of mental and physical struggles, and yeah, he’s crazy. But who is dumb enough to tattoo the Joker – stick moving pins in and out of his skin?! I can’t really see him sitting in a chair for a few hours, or picking out fonts to have ‘Damaged’ scrolled across his forehead. I also don’t see him as believing himself to be damaged. If anyone with dyed hair and tattoos is a psychotic criminal, we should probably all be locked up. Although it’s clearly a reference to Brian Bolland’s art in The Killing Joke, it doesn’t work. Nope. I’m not a fan. But I’m reserving full judgement until we’ve seen the trailer.

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The Dark Knight Returns – AGAIN

It was announced yesterday that Frank Miller will be returning to DC for a third instalment of his Dark Knight books. Frequently hailed as some of the greatest Batman comics, fandom is abuzz with excitement to see what Miller does next. The Dark Knight III will be released Fall 2015

Drop Outs and Sign Ups

When DC manage to take a step forward, they end up backtracking about 20 steps, particularly in their movie franchises. Wonder Woman’s Emmy-award winning director, Michelle McLaren, dropped out of the project for undisclosed reasons. She has been replaced by Patty Jenkins, so it’s a relief to see a woman is still in charge of the first female-led superhero blockbuster. However, McLaren’s departure is concerning. Hopefully this switch of director means we’ll still see Wonder Woman on the big screen in 2017.

Keen to keep DC on their toes, Marvel has found its writers for Captain Marvel in Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Meg LeFauve (Inside Out). They’re determined to have strong female voices resonate throughout every aspect of the film, which is very pleasing to hear. Rumour has it Angelina Jolie is forerunner for the 2018 female led-features’ director.

REVIEWS

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4

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If you’ve not picked up Squirrel Girl yet, you’re seriously missing out. It’s so much fun, I even enjoy reading the Previously page! Yes, it’s silly, but it’s also fantastic. There’s real heart behind the nuts. This issue confronts the ridiculousness of gendered language, as well as the meaning of being a hero (okay, that second one is in, like, every supers book…). But where else can you find a fun, family-friendly, female led superhero comic, where the heroine in question can defeat both Galactus and Thanos – and doesn’t always need to punch people into oblivion to do it?! Smarts, not scars. That should be her slogan!

Thor #7

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Why are you reading this instead of Thor? Stop – go pick it up now!

I particularly loved the final page of this issue, where Thor Odinson has rounded up the mightiest heroes he knows, and it’s the women of the Marvel universe. I need it as a poster to display proudly on my wall. I’m so excited for issue 8 – where we finally learn her identity!

What I particularly love about this new Thor is the fact that she is confronting the idea of being a strong female superhero, and why she constantly has to justify it. Why shouldn’t a woman be worthy of holding the power of Thor? It’s also great to see that she’s consistently drawn as muscular and athletic. I would kill for her arms. But she’s not scrawny, or scantily dressed. She’s how a female God of Thunder – or anyone who throws a heavy hammer around while beating the bad guys – would look.

Giant Days #2

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BOOM!’s new book, Giant Days, finds its stride in this second issue, which I enjoyed a lot more than the first. Confronting the horrific realities of Freshers Flu, the comic is genuinely funny and has a great dynamic. It’s a very real look at female friendships, whilst all the characters have their own independent struggles. I think this is a book which will grow more in each issue, and I plan to keep reading. The art is fantastic – a nice change from a lot of the styles in popular comics today. BOOM’s creator owned line is growing to be very strong, and I look forward to seeing what else they throw at us.

Archie vs Predator

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Well, this is a cross-over I didn’t believe until I saw it sitting on the shelf. It works, in a very weird way. Archie and the gang win a holiday to a tropical island, and accidentally bring home a Predator – literally. The idea and execution is so ridiculous that it’s fantastic. The Archie element is like a teen soap-opera from the 1940s, but the addition of Predator makes that a little more bearable and intriguing.

My only concern with AvP is that I sincerely hope it’s a parody. Having never read Archie comics, I don’t know how the usual group dynamic normally reads, but I pray it’s not like this. If it is a parody, AvP does a great job at portraying the stereotypical tropes found in the horror genre when a group of young friends go exploring together, only to run into danger. The guys are slick and sleazy, and the girls live to impress them and dress in amazing clothes. This is funny – if it’s a joke. But what troubled me is that it may not be. Archie comics could be about this world of couples, where the girls only live to impress the guys and the guys chase whatever girl looks prettiest. If that’s the case, it should have stayed in the 1940s when that was the American dream. Even when you’re fighting monstrous space creatures, your audience needs to be taken into account, no matter how crisp and clean your stories are.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2

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Another re-imagining of a classic series from Archie comics, but very different from AvP, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has a chilling old-school horror/folklore feel to it. It’s creepy and reads like a Grimm fairytale. Similarly, the art style is anything but the clean lines you’d expect from Archie. Instead it’s scratchy and distressed, harking back to EC horror comics of the 1940s. This isn’t a recreation of the Melissa Joan Hart series I watched growing up as a child, but rather a dark tale of witchcraft and devilry. It almost read like an old romance comic that had gone wrong, warning the dangers of a woman scorned. I found Chilling Adventures of Sabrina neither good nor bad, but intriguing. I’m interested to see what direction they take with it long-term. Plus, you can’t fault anything with sassy Salem the cat!

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