Marvel Double Feature: Avengers Age Of Ultron & Ant-Man

avengers the age of ultronRight off the bat, I’ll admit that I did not actually watch Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man as a true double feature. We probably watched the latter a month ago and just peeped the former yesterday. But, since I didn’t write about the Avengers sequel, it seemed liked a proper time.

I went into Joss Whedon’s Ultron with fairly low expectations. It seemed like a lot of the people I follow on Twitter and actually communicate with weren’t super into it. The general feeling I was picking up on seemed to be that, while it’s got all kinds of spectacle, it didn’t live up to the original.

And that was my experience as well, but then again, this is a different kind of blockbuster super hero movie. The original — which I love — seemed custom built to show that all of these series-leading, mega stars could come together, fight the bad guys and look good doing it. Meanwhile, this film seemed built with a different goal in mind: showing how said group (plus new members) can work together even when times are tough.

It’s also clearly a bigger piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe puzzle leading up to Captain America: Civil War and the Infinity War movies. To me as a viewer, the first felt like it was worked into the bigger tale while this one was more obviously built to lead to something else. This is something I’m not usually a fan of in comics and even less so in comic films and it all just boils down to a feeling I get while watching.

And yet, I still found myself enjoying this darker take on team superheroics. Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision all make interesting additions to not just the team, but the universe at large. Plus, it’s not all dark. I could watch an entire TV series about the Avengers hanging out like they did at that party. I also just adore James Spader (as I mentioned here) so watching and listening to his take on the killer robot Ultron was a treat as he’s basically Blacklist‘s Raymond Reddington but crazy and a robot.

I think that the problem with this movie as related to the first one comes down to this fact: I don’t want to rewatch it a bunch. I probably could have sat through another showing of Whedon’s first Avengers film right after the first one and even stop flipping or pop in for a few minutes every time I see it on TV. I don’t see that happening here. In other words, it’s not nearly as fun as the first one, which it clearly wasn’t supposed to be, but it’s still a bummer.

ant-man posterAnt-Man is far from a bummer, though, which is great. I admit, my feelings towards these movies have been a bit tainted by elements from beyond the movies themselves. I’m not sure how I feel about every single film moving forward painting towards this gigantic epic that will end Phase Three. I love the inter-connectivity between these films, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want them all to be about this one big thing leading forward.

And then I watched Ant-Man and it felt like a nice step away from all that intergalactic craziness to just tell the story of a few people trying their best to not make the world a worse place. I love the approach of using this intelligent thief to wear a potentially fatal suit in an attempt to stop tech from ruining the world. It’s perfectly comic book-y, but also fits in so well with this universe and Paul Rudd just kills it. I also really enjoyed watching Michael Douglas who seemed to break the rule that every old dude in a Marvel Studios movie turns out to be bad. Oh, and how fun is Michael Pena? And how bad ass is Lilly? More of both of them please! Basically, everything came together to give me a beautiful mix of heist and hero that gets a major thumbs up from this guy.

However, all respect to director Peyton Reed who did a great job, but I still wish we would have been able to see Edgar Wright’s version of this film which we reported on all the way back in the days of Wizard and ToyFare. Yes I bet it would have been an amazing movie, but it more so bums me out that a relatively slow filmmaker like Wright spent ALL that time on a movie that just didn’t happen. He’s got such an amazing vision for what he makes that I want him to make all the movies he can and this felt like a major entanglement that resulted in a great vision for Ant-Man, but not a full-on Edgar Wright movie.

And, yes, I still remain a bit nervous about Marvel tying up too many of their films to Infinity War, but then I must remind myself that Guardians Of The Galaxy did a great job of incorporating some of that into its movie and this one basically skips over all of that. Back to what I was saying above, it feels like Ant-Man is its own thing that will get incorporated into the larger goings-on of the MCU instead of the other way around. I like that and as long as that’s the way these things go, I’ll keep enjoying them.

Mighty Marvel Trade Post: Thanos Rising, Silver Surfer Vol. 1 & Avengers Vs. X-Men

thanos rising Thanos Rising (Marvel)
Written by Jason Aaron, drawn by Simone Bianchi
Collects Thanos Rising #1-5

I’ve been requesting a ridiculous number of trade paperbacks from the library recently. I’ll sign into the system with an idea about one book to put on hold and the next thing I know, I’ve got a dozen or so books in the hold section and am getting a few messages a week from the library telling me my stacks are in. In an effort to put my thoughts down and get these books back into the system, I’m going to do some brief reviews here and move along.

First up we have Thanos Rising, an origin story for one of Marvel’s most powerful villains (and the driving force behind the fantastic Guardians Of The Galaxy) written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Simone Bianchi. I think this is probably the first interior work by Bianchi that I’ve actually read and I think he did a stellar job bringing the intensity and detail seen on his covers to the interiors.

Of course, it also helps that Aaron wove a compelling story about the bad guy who’s in love with death. This story starts with Thanos’ birth and travels with him as he grows into the genocidal maniac we’ve all come to know and love in Marvel’s cosmic adventures. Heck, there were even times when I felt bad for a character who almost killed Captain America. This feels like a great book to pass to someone who’s seen a Marvel movie and might be interested in getting into comics because it’s very much unattached to the more complicated universe.

silver surfer volume 1 new dawn Silver Surfer Vol. 1: New Dawn (Marvel)
Written by Dan Slott, drawn by Mike Allred
Collects Silver Surfer #1-5

When I’m sitting on the computer trying to think of books to look up, I try to remember which runs everyone seems to love. Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s Silver Surfer popped into my head and not long after, I had it in-hand. I’ve only just started reading Slott’s excellent Amazing Spider-Man work, but Allred’s an easy sell for me because I love Madman and his work on iZombie (I reviewed volumes one, two and three and have four waiting for a read).

Silver Sufer is an Allred-illustrated book that felt more like an Allred-penned comic, which was an interesting experience. The Surfer is on a vast vacation world, hanging around with a young quirky girl who could easily be played by Zooey Deschanel and having trippy nightmares about being trapped on Earth again. There’s also an awesome appearance by SS’s Defenders teammates Dr. Strange and Hulk. The story itself wasn’t my cup of tea, but how cool is it seeing Allred draw those characters? The answer is that it’s very cool. Overall, this story didn’t really latch onto me, but I liked the art enough that I’ll probably give the second volume a look just to see where it goes.

avengers vs. x-men Avengers vs. X-Men (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman & Matt Fraction; drawn by Ed McGuinness, Frank Cho, John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel & Adam Kubert
Collects Avengers Vs. X-Men #0-12, Point One #1

Back in my days at Wizard I was fully up to date when it came to the big time Marvel and DC events. But, it’s been about five years since I got the axe and a whole lot of craziness has gone on since then. DC implemented a complete reboot and Marvel rolls out an event roughly every year (plus more character or team-based side events). As I’m trying to catch up and dive into some X-books, it seemed pertinent to check out Avengers Vs. X-Men.

And I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed this book. I worried going in that it might feel like Civil War which, no matter how hard any of the writers tried, always seemed very much in favor of Captain America’s side, but in this case both Cap and Cyclops have pertinent points. Better yet, Cyke gets possessed by the Phoenix Force, so you don’t have to worry about his side making sense. More impressively, though, were the little bits and pieces that hit home. The second issue does a great job of framing these events that might seem commonplace and making them seem cool and huge.

I was also impressed with how well these issues flowed considering six different writers and five artists were working on the issues. I’m not always the biggest fan of events because they can easily get bloated and plot-driven, abandoning character along the way, but that wasn’t the case here so it gets a big thumbs up from me. Oh, also, it resulted in more mutants, so that’s cool!

Casting Internets

My ridiculously talented friends over at Marvel.com made this awesome video starring Howard The Duck demanding Lucasfilm celebrate the film’s anniversary. As a longtime fan of the movie, I wholeheartedly agree.

Speaking of Marvel and Howard, Marvel.com ran this interview with the movie’s star Lea Thompson and it was pretty interesting. I dig her for sticking up for Howard…and also for Caroline in the City. Another ridiculously talented friend took there rad photos of the Expendables MiniMates out in the wild for the Art Asylum blog. I absolutely must get my hands on these figures.

I really, really, really want The Perks Of Being A Wallflower movie to be good. Please be good. I’m not sure what to think of this trailer I saw on THR though. Gotta read the book again.

I don’t live in the city, but I do hear a lot of the news living fairly close. The most recent infuriating bit of nonsense to come out of there is Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to limit the size of soda people can buy. Seriously? This is the biggest problem in the city at the moment? It’s not the government’s job to keep people skinny, so cut it out commie. This Economist piece paints it in a different view: the mayor doesn’t think poor people can handle making the decision to drink less soda on their own and need the government’s help. Bleh.

The Detroit News talked to Colbie Smulders, Joss Whedon and Sam Jackson about her role in The Avengers. Interesting stuff, especially what she did to train for the film on her own.

Jared Harris talked to THR about last week’s episode of Mad Men. I only read a few sites about the show, but have there been any “Down Memory Lane” posts? There should be.

Jeez, Anthony Bourdain is not slowing down. In addition to getting a book turned into a movie and moving from Travel Channel to CNN, he’ll also be judging a food competition show on ABC. Dude’s gonna be busy. (via Eater)

I love reading about cocktails, so this Esquire piece about the cocktails of summer definitely had me interested. I’m particularly excited to try that Scotch Whiskey Punch. That’s on my summer to-try list. There’s a new James Bond book called James Bond Unmasked with new interviews with all six Bonds. It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine.

I am a gigantic fan of Fox’s New Girl, especially the ultra douche, but really a nice guy on the inside character of Schmidt played by Max Greenfield. As such, I enjoyed this LA Times interview with him.

I got a big kick out of watching The Totally Rad Show’s Alex Albrecht interviewing Snoop Dogg about the new Tekken for G4. Finally, this MC Escher Lego Star Wars diorama seen on io9 is just too damn cool.

Casting Internets

Always with the writing, like this CBR piece about Jonathan Hickman’s Secret, America’s Got Powers with Bryan Hitch and Jonathan Ross, Kurtis Wiebe’s Grim Leaper, David Hine’s The Darkness and Nathan Edmondson’s Dancer.

I also covered the Wondercon announcements for Dark Avengers and Hulk for Marvel.com. Check out Sketch Attack where my pal Rickey did a Lobo/OMAC mash-up!Speaking of sketchblogs, do yourself a favor and check out The Cat Made Me Do It. This Doctor Who pieces is a favorite.

Over on his blog, Jim Rugg remembers the indie comics covered in Wizard first in Palmer’s Picks and later Secret Stash. I used to get art for the latter and was introduced to lots of interesting concepts by the former.

I don’t know how I stumbled on Samurai Pizza Cats as a youngin’, but I sure did like it. Can’t wait to watch it again on DVD. (via Topless Robot)By now you guys know that I’m a pretty big Planet Of The Apes fan and will most likely post any art based on the series that I find. This one by Scott C that was shown at Mondo’s SXSW gallery is amazing. I want a print.

I wish this Geek Dad interview would have gotten a little bit more into the writing process of Adventure Time and it’s awesomeness, but it sure was a fun read.

Wired also had a really cool interview with Michael Chabon on writing the John Carter script and being a fan and writer of genre fiction.

I kept this Rolling Stone Black Keys story in my Read It Later for a long time. It’s four pages, but totally worth the read if you’re a fan of the band.

Rolling Stone also tells me that Jet broke up. I think I’ll listen to Get Born today, it’s been a while. Lastly, I love Dave Perillo‘s Treasure Chest Of Fun piece!

Casting Internets

As you can surely tell, I’ve been saving links up for a few weeks on this one. Still, I think there’s some goodness in here amongst me hyping my own stuff around the nets.

In addition to my daily Spinoff Online posts, I also wrote about Prophet, Ted McKeever’s Mondo, Lance Briggs’ Pilot Season entry, Brandon Seifert’s Witch Doctor, Mike Allred about Madman, Andy Suriano about Doc Bizarre, Tim Seeley about the Hack/Slash meets Hatchet annual, Kurtis Wiebe about Peter Panzerfaust and Brian K. Vaughan about his new book Saga!

I also wrote about The Vision’s different costumes over on Marvel.com and Dan Abnett’s Five Favorite Avengers.

I also, also wrote a list for Topless Robot called The 5 Best (and 5 Worst) Upgrades In Beast Wars History!

Meanwhile, my pal Josh Wigler got to interview TV’s Ron Swanson for MTV. I am jealous.

My other pal Brett White wrote about event fatigue in regards to Avengers Vs. X-Men for CBR. Like most big comic book events, I will ask my friends who read regular comics how it is and if they like it, I’ll maybe give it a look in a year when it’s in trade.

Dave Rapoza’s Masters of the Universe art on The Autumn Society‘s blog is so good it’s scary.

In case you were wondering, yes, Courtney Love is still batshit crazy and apparently Hole is filled with assholes. Shocker. (via Rolling Stone)

In other Rolling Stone-derived news, Black Sabbath will be recording a record with Rick Rubin. I will buy that.

If anyone wants to contribute to me seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall live this year, please contact my wife. (via Rolling Stone)

I finally got around to reading Image’s Eric Stephenson talk about the company’s blind submission successes. There haven’t been a lot, but I still found it pretty inspiring.

Wired‘s Relic Hunters talked to Richard Molesworth the Doctor Who detective! It’s fascinating how he’s helped get so many lost series’ back from the great beyond.

I really enjoyed Write Place, Write Time‘s look at Joe Hill’s office. I hope to have one like it in the future, though I’m thinking I’ll have a overboard before that these days. I wish I could live in Dan Hipp‘s brain sometimes. His Psycho/Adventure Time mash-up is wonderful.

It’s strange that bands that were relatively new when I was a kid are making their way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Congrats to the Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys and the Faces. (via Rolling Stone)

I’m super jazzed that Drafthouse Films picked up the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. I will see that as soon as possible. (via THR)

Finally, The Fwoosh kicked off the 30th Custom Con today! So far, the Dead Alive MiniMates are my favorite, but it’s early in the week!

Casting Internets

Hey look, I wrote this thing about giant Hulk collectibles for Marvel.com! And this thing about Hercules’ different costumes!

I also wrote Crossovers We Want To See: JSA & Invaders for MTV Geek.

And also, if you’re looking to see what’s on in the next two days, check out my TV column at Maxim. After seeing a bunch of shitty photos of the toys and whatnot the other day, it’s good to see legit artwork from the new Thundercats on CBR. I’m jazzed about the series and hope it eventually includes Silverhawks in an episode!

The other day’s Drawbridge art blog topic is Doctor Who. Check it out!

Bully‘s post about death in Fantastic Four comics is hilarious. Highly recommended.

Esquire asks if Kevin Smith is Hollywood’s Sarah Palin. I wanted to answer “no way” after reading it, but Stephen Garrett laid down a pretty convincing argument. Heck, even I’m getting a bit sick of his rantings and ravings and I’m a fan.

This infographic of all the Autobots in both vehicle and robot mode is pretty impressive and super duper geeky. (via /Film)

I understand very little of what my buddies Kiel and Ben say about Smallville, but it makes me want to watch that show. At least from the part where they start bringing in other heroes. Holy cats, I want these Back To The Future II 25th anniversary MiniMates. I know these Bill Mudron Amy Pond and River Song prints have gone around, but they just look so neat! Heck, $20 a pop ain’t that price either.
(via Shirtoid)

Late To The Xbox Live Party: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

To give you an idea as to how slow I am when it comes to finishing video games, I got Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 for Christmas last year and just finished it last night. There was many-month gap there were I didn’t even both playing it for a few reasons. First off, I had trouble with the save aspect of the game and wound up having to play the same level several times even though I thought I had reached a save point. Even after that I had a little trouble with the save/load menus because they give you two options that seem to be the same thing: load and continue. What’s the damn difference? I never quite figured that out. My other problem was that I loved the original game and this one didn’t come anywhere near that one for several reasons which I’ll get into shortly.

When the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance came out, I was working at Wizard. Though I had gotten there a little late for the epic Halo 2 marathons that I still hear about now from a few folks, the game makers sent a special Xbox 360 to the office and allowed us to play an advanced copy of the game which was such a fun experience. Tons of huge comic book fans all in one room surrounding a TV and cheering on their friends and coworkers beating up on various Marvel minions was so much fun and, of course, jumping in and playing ourselves, was great. That game spanned the breadth and depth of the Marvel Universe and really gave us a lot to have fun with. Eventually we had to send the 360 back, but after the game officially came out, Activision sent a bunch of copies to the office and I got to play through on my own. I had fun with the game even though it was pretty much the same kind of game as X-Men Legacy.

So, as you can tell, I had high hopes for the sequel. I was also hoping to play online with some friends, but I didn’t really push the issue too much (the one time I get a new game around the time it comes out and no one else is playing it!). The story of the game kind of follows the story behind Civil War, but actually has a more sensible ending and wasn’t nearly as meandering as the actual comic book story. That’s about all of the good things I have to say about the game. I mean, it wasn’t bad. I had a good enough time beating up on the never-ending parade of goons to fight, but I had a LOT of problems with it.

First off, video games starring superheroes should start off more powerful right off the bat in games like this. I understand that there need to be elements that can be upgraded as the game goes on, but it felt like if you weren’t playing one group of characters for most of the game, you’d be kind of screwed by the end of the game. Basically what I’m saying is that the Thing should never get killed in four seconds of any battle and that happened to me a number of times later on in the game. Leveling characters up is cool, but having to do so to survive later sections of the game takes a lot of the fun out of the whole endeavor. They give you all these awesome characters to play with, but you’re more rewarded for keeping the same team throughout the game. I got Venom and Green Goblin pretty late in the game and wanted to play with them, but they were so weak that it wasn’t worth it, they also didn’t have all their powers. I will claim ignorance and blame a little of that problem on myself because I forgot about the upgrade mechanics until just before I finished the game, but still, I’d rather just have powers that kick ass and go from there. The characters you’re given to play with also don’t seem powerful enough to play the game. I mean, I love Iron Fist and Gambit, but they’re not the guys I would recruit if I was fighting a supposedly world threatening enemy.

My other big problem with the game was how small it felt compared to the previous one. In MUA you went from Hell to Asgard and just about everywhere in between. This time around you go to Wakanda and Latveria. Woopdeedo. I know it’s hard to top such a huge story but fighting some heroes and villains who have been overtaken by Nanites really isn’t the way to do it. The lack of scope spread to the game’s end too. Anyone who played the first one will remember that, as you went through the game, there were a series of choices you had to make, whether to save this character or that and at the end of the game you were given a big overview as to how your decisions changed the entire Marvel Universe. This time around there was none of that.

All in all, I’m not sure what the point of making this game was as it turned out to be a huge disappointment both because it didn’t live up to expectations but also because, at the end of the day, it’s just another game like a bunch of other games that didn’t improve on anything. I finished and really just thought to myself, “What was the point?”