Marvel Studio’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is the second movie in the Captain America series, is very much the best movie in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man and The Avengers come very close, but The Winter Soldier is a well-balanced mix of action and intrigue that superhero movies in general would do well to emulate. And it gets even better in comparison with its predecessor, Captain America: The First Avenger, which was a very lackluster and subdued affair with a boring villain and a boring plot. As such, the studio’s latest, Captain America: Civil War had a lot to live up too, and while it didn’t disappoint, it also left much to be desired.
Captain America: Civil War builds forward from the end of The Avengers: Age of Ultron from last year, and takes the overall story of the MCU forward in a plot that sees conflicts develop between the team members, conflicts that were hinted at in The Avengers and which are now magnified from several angles. As a pure action movie, Civil War does not fail to entertain and is right on point. But as an adaptation of the infamous Civil War storyline from the comics, it is unsuccessful and unsatisfactory.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers for the movie and even some for the original comics the movie is adapted from, so read at your own peril.
Agents of SHIELD is a show that has had a rather roller coaster ride since it debuted in 2013. It got off to a really shaky start and didn’t get better until well into the first season, around the same time that the phenomenal Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie came out. The first season ended on a good note, and then the second season last year beat most of my expectations with how good it was and how it introduced the Inhumans to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which was an excellent move on the part of the showrunners.
And now, after Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gotten more dangerous, because people with powers are being feared all over the globe, and because the misguided actions of Skye’s mother have released the Terrigen mist to spread all over Earth. New powered people are popping up everywhere, and it is up to SHIELD to keep them safe, and perhaps even put them in the field against those who would harm them. That’s the basis for the new third season of the show, which steps up the action and intrigue to a whole new level, and is the better for it.
Last time we were with Kamala Khan aka the new Ms. Marvel, Loki crash-landed a prom party and she rightly schooled him for his scheming and planning, in addition to some great heroics in general. That’s one of the most endearing things about the title and the character because G. Willow Wilson has made Ms. Marvel into a very fun and relaxed title that occasionally deals with real world issues but never gets too heavy with the allusions so that you go and think “geez, not this again”. More than a year on since release, and Ms. Marvel is still one of the best titles on the shelves, and for good reason!
Taken together, issues #13 through #15 of Ms. Marvel are about Kamala exploring more of her Inhuman legacy and also learning more about herself and fighting against everyday challenges borne out of the patriarchal bias of society. G. Willow Wilson has taken a somewhat similar line before, using Kamala’s adventures as social commentary in one way or another, but she really hits it out of the park with these three issues, and the art by new-to-series Takeshi Miyazawa impresses as much as that of Adrian Alphona before, making for a very seamless transition.
The previous issues of Black Widow have been pretty spectacular, as has been the norm on the title since its launch early last year. Natasha’s investigations into the organization CHAOS that has been causing all sorts of problems for SHIELD of late yielded some surprising results back in #15 and it made for a really interesting change of pace as far as the story was concerned. It also gave artist Phil Noto a chance to really go to town with the visuals and none of that seems to be headed for a slowdown in any way.
The two most recent issues, Black Widow #16 and Black Widow #17 are all about what CHAOS really is and what plans they have for Natasha and others like her all over the world. The reveal about CHAOS is something that really twists the head in ways you wouldn’t expect. Nathan manipulates the story in a really deft way and he shows some really mad skills as he has Natasha navigate the web of lies and half-truths being peddled by CHAOS. Supporting him, Phil also does a pretty incredible job and though some of the scenes were a bit more low-key than usual, his own mad skills were never in doubt I’d say.
There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .
Marvel launched its new line of Star Wars comics in January/February and one of the many new titles is Darth Vader, which is set in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin and has Darth Vader trying to make up for his mistakes. Or at least, that’s what I think writer Kieron Gillen is attempting to do here, but the first issue fell flat for me as far as the story and the characters go, though the art wasn’t so bad and was fairly decent in places. Being a huge fan of the titular character, this did not seem like a good start to me at all, especially as I’m still sour on the whole deal with Marvel getting back the rights to these comics.
Darth Vader #2 continues the story of the titular character having been verbally punished by the Emperor and going on a crusade to hunt down the rebels who so confounded him at Yavin, particularly the young pilot who destroyed the Death Star, a supposedly impregnable battle station the size of a moon. And my issues with the story continued, what with General Tagge being an absolute ass in this issue, acting just like the pompous fool of an Imperial officer I’ve come to expect. The art was marginally better too.
Of late, Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson transformed the title from one that was meant to remind us of the incredible potential of brand-new characters (and young ones at that) to one where the title could actually tap into the apathy of the modern generation and force them to sit up and take notice of the things around them. It was a nice (subtle) arc that I really liked, and it also brought to conclusion the whole thing going on with the supervillain The Inventor, with the whole thing becoming one of the most fun and awesome meta-arcs of any comics of late.
In this past week’s issue, we see a new guest character on the comic, none other than Loki Laufeyson, the adopted son of the All-Father Odin and the All-Mother Freyja. Loki is sent to Kamala’s high school by Freyja to find out and neutralize a threat to Asgard. Of course, said threat also involves The Inventor, so things are a bit woozy there for a while, but by the end, you see some fantastic stuff between Loki and Kamala, not to mention that Elmo Bondac’s art made for a nice change from Adrian Alphona’s typicla high standards.
Nathan Edmondson has been going full out with Black Widow of late, backing the SHIELD agent into a corner of hell and making her work doubly hard. Recently, she finally infiltrated a high-level meeting of CHAOS, the group that has been causing problems for SHIELD and for her right from the first issue of the series last year, and she didn’t exactly come out of it without a scratch. It has been a pretty incredible journey so far in this series, and with the addition of yet another guest star this past week, things look set to get even more crazy.
Black Widow #15 deals with the aftermath of Natasha’s infiltration of a high-level CHAOS meeting, a meeting that she forced to happen so that she could finally face her enemies. But things didn’t go according to plan since it turns out that CHAOS has hired soldiers who can, effectively, turn invisible. Problematic for sure, and much of this issue focuses on how Black Widow beats these guys, with some expert help of course. And that’s where the true fun of this book is, since each guest appearance so far has been handled artfully, and that looks set to continue with this one too.
As part of its bid to “revitalize” the Star Wars franchise, having recently acquired it from George Lucas, Disney last month launched a new Star Wars comic that resets the entire comics-verse established by Dark Horse Comics to just the six movies, the ongoing Star Wars: Rebels show, and something else that I can’t quite recall. The new comic is set in-between the original movie and its sequel, and it follows on from what the Rebels and the Empire did in the intervening time. It was a somewhat better comic than I expected, but also of a letdown in some ways.
So I was expecting this past week’s Darth Vader #1 to be different and be better, but I had my doubts about it since Kieron Gillen’s writing is extremely hit-and-miss for me, which the writer proves yet again with this issue. The artwork here is actually pretty good, which you expect from a team that boasts of Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado, but the writing definitely did NOT impress me, and it is frankly one big mess that I really didn’t get. Plus it seems to show Darth Vader and the Emperor both as very petty and one-sided characters, which didn’t help things.
Last time we were in the world of Ms. Marvel, we were witness to the titular hero stepping up big time to be a responsible member of her generation, and inspiring others to do the same. It was a great moment that I think underscores some real-world realities and thus writer G. Willow Wilson is able to better place her hero in the ongoing changing world of comics, where the comics are often a stark reflection of our world and our changing perception to it. Nothing to be scoffed at, that.
The Inventor has been ever-present since the start of the series and while G. Willow Wilson has dealt with some other things along the way, the story has still remained focused on Kamala’s first nemesis, someone who can be considered to be at-level and thus a good foil for her in some ways while also being the primary antagonist. With Ms. Marvel #11, G. Willow Wilson closes out her first mega-arc, while at the same time artists Adrian Alphon and Ian Herring continue to present some truly excellent artwork.
Recently writer Ales Kot turned Secret Avengers on its head when he revealed that Modok had actually been the one to have planned all the bad stuff that had been happening to the Secret Avengers and Maria Hill, and that at the same time his favoured henchman Snapper had also been quite actively involved in his master’s machinations. It was truly a head-twisting moment, as far as I’m concerned, and it helped put into perspective certain other things that the series had been developing of late. And all of that went hand-in-hand with the excellent art that the series art team had been putting out, especially of late.
In Secret Avengers #12 we see some more momentous things. The revelation about Modok has certainly been a game-changer, but events elsewhere have already gained steam and this issue deals largely with the fallout of such. If you are a fan of Secret Avengers in general or the characters found herein in particular, then this is an absolute must-read issue because we finally learn some of what goes on in Modok’s mind, and that’s more valuable than almost anything else.
Another week of a “Magic 40”, though no graphic novels.
This week’s surprise hits were Ivar, Timewalker #1 from Valiant, Mortal Kombat X #4 from DC, and Twilight Zone: Shadow And Substance #1 from Dynamite. The disappointments of the week were Spider-Woman #3 from Dynamite and Spider-Verse #2 and The Amazing Spider-Man #13 from Marvel and Vampirella: Feary Tales #4 from Dynamite. Ongoing greats were Wonder Woman ’77 #3 , The Flash: Season Zero #11 and Supergirl #38 from DC, Black Widow #14 and Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #4 from Marvel, and, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #6 from Zenescope among others.