Saturday, December 13, 2008

Secret Invasion: worst. finale. ever.

Here’s what I predicted at the beginning of SI:

Possible Skrulls

1. Spider-Woman.

Called it.

2. Anybody who’s 1970s version didn’t pop out of the crashed Skrull transport (Spider-Woman, Iron Fist, Black Widow, Echo, Ares, and Sentry). In the Director’s cut, Bendis emphasis this panel but suggests it could be all Skrulls. all humans, or even half and half. First, all human would be stupid, and half and half is just cheating.

Called it. But then they brought back a bunch of them--that was weird. Maybe it’s a trick, but really it just seemed like a total cop out. The Skrull’s are a big threat, not big enough to kill anymore than maybe three major characters, but they’re a really big threat. Seriously. Really. Big. Whatever. But every loser that piled out of the space was, indeed a Skrull, but we quickly lost count of who was where and what--and interest. Like halfway through Reed Richards fixes the whole infiltration thing.

Skrull connections

1. AIM was hiding a Skrull in the last Ms. Marvel issue.

Remember when AIM and Hydra had something to do with Nazis?

2. Everyone involved in the Raft Breakout story.

I still don’t quite get why they needed the pterodactyl guy, but I did call the connection, which was almost stated outright by the writers—so, not much of a call.

3. Latveria was invaded by Fury (because they were supplying two-bit villains with super weapons, which was the plot of “acts of vengeance”, right?), and then Fury went underground, so maybe there’s a connection.

Well, not so much a connection as an easy way to write a bunch of SI Fury spy stories.

4. The Hood suddenly grows a spine puts together an evil organization…

Well, apparently this was the way to make him a player for Dark Reign. Whatever.

5. Anybody Kree is automatically connected by rule of lazy writing. Ex: Inhumans, Hulkling (half), Marvel Boy.

Yes, yes, and yes, they all got a taste.

6. Civil War…

Yeah, the Skrulls loved all this, and they made Stark look bad, hey I thought they hated Richards, but really the Civil War was just their “friend with benefits.”

What’s the likely outcome?

1. Somebody rides to the rescue (after a series of defeats that seem devastating). But the villain will do some interesting things.

Completely true. Actually, a couple people rode to the rescue, but the big one was Thor (although Reed Richards seemed to really save everyone). The twist was Osborn getting the credit, which is really kind of “the American people are stupid” as a plot device. And I can’t even figure out how it works considering he was dead, he knew who Spider-Man was (he works with Venom who knows who Spider-Man is! Everyone knew before Brand New Day—wait, didn’t Punisher kill two villains because of the Parker reveal? Are they dead? That was only a year ago and I’m completely confused), and lastly he was completely nuts. But we’re stupid, we’d turn to anyone waving an American flag in a crisis, just like we did with (insert political enemy’s name here). Whatever.

2. This event somehow leads to the next event, and that next event is when “all will be revealed.”

Yes. Except the revealing stuff is more about Osborn’s Dark Reign and the “secrets of the Marvel universe.” They’re gearing up to retcon Emma Frost and then there’s “whatever happened to baby cage” and what about all the Skrulls that didn’t die or get captured???!? All…will be…revealed…if you just keep forking over the cash!

3. Either they got the goods or not, but ultimately, even if they dared to do an occupation series, general status quo is coming back.

That “embrace change” ad run seems to be hype, but while there’s a few loose ends, come on, one battle in central park and we’re back to good guys and bad guys, in fact we have a great number of missing good guys back. The difference now is the gov’ment good guys are now clearly the bad guys, so, now there’s not even a suggestion that the conflict is complex… Osborn is now Stark. Stark is now wanted, just like Cage, Web-head, and the Hulk. At least, Osborn isn’t going to constantly show up, tell rogue super-heroes to “stand down,” and then let them walk. When was it that the gov’ment was the good guys in Marvel?

4. The purge continues.

The Wasp died, the Wasp. And why do we care? They didn’t even make it clear Thor killed her. Totally the woman in the refrigerator. Personally, I think Marvel is all about the Teen/Mature rating these days. Captain America may have bit it just so they could get the okay to have a new Cap waving a gun around on every cover. The other day in a book store a dad was about to show his little kids comics, like he use to read, and picked an issue up. I leaned over to warn him that particular issue probably wasn’t something he wanted to give his little kid—what with the murder and the torture and the overt sexuality. In a super-powered world Marvel’s moving into the government’s role and hopefully world-wide power struggles, which is actually reasonable except they ain’t Tom Clancy. Still, they’re moving things toward a more realistic world, one that’s not so divorced from the media and government. Trimming the fat is fine so long as there’s a point. Is there a point? All… will be… revealed… Whatever.

So, officially, it was an interesting story with a “whatever” ending. Kind of like Cap just stopping the Civil War or Hulk refusing to kill anybody in WWH, hmmmm.

Best of the Event: X-Men. While the X-Men’s new home in San Fran might secure them as the “alternative lifestyle” superheroes, the book’s SI run gave us some hardcore Scott Summers without Logan stealing the spotlight. Hit and run tactics, ruthless/lethal force, and the use of WMD, Scott Summers is actually cool, when did that happen? (Honorable mention to Thor).

But here’s why I’m buying Dark Reign: Dr. Doom may, in fact, have been given his balls back.

First, Fantastic Four had him kill future Sue Richards (which I also called). In the preview of Dark Reign, Dr. Doom scares Emma Frost, detects the Hood in inviso-mode, makes Loki as a God, and senses Norman Osborn coming to the room. Namor looks like a tool (seriously, terribly off-model), Frost a stripper, Loki a dominatrix, but Doom looks tough as nails—shows the artist has a little love for the Doctor. Maybe, just maybe, Marvel’s finally going to bring back the Master of Menace. But with the insulting way the Sentry yanked his mask off before SI, I doubt it. Keeping Doom on a team has always been difficult, and is Doom really going to put up with Osborn?

What possible goals could Osborn have? Complete power? Why, so he can run the world? Revenge? Look, Osborn is going to give freedom to act to his conspirators. Probably something like this: Emma Frost gets protection for mutants, She-Loki gets help in battling Thor, Namor gets his kingdom back and maybe revenge, the Hood (and Dorramu? or however you spell it) gets to rule the super-criminals if he keeps it quiet—and everybody (except maybe Loki) hates Stark. But what does Doom get? Does he need anyone’s help? Taking out Reed Richards? They gang up on each other’s foes? Wasn’t that also the premise of “Act of Vengeance”?

Oh, well, Doom’s in it, so, I’m in. Besides, next issue, all…will be…revealed…


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Punishment for Punisher Fans

How bad is Punisher: War Zone? Bad. Really bad. And this from somebody that liked the Daredevil movie. It’s not just bad. . . it’s punishment. . . (Couldn’t resist).

The Thomas Jane movie was flawed, but it tried. PWZ doesn’t try. In the earlier movie, Castle is at least kind of developed as a character. PWZ just plops him on the screen.

So, the Punisher creates Jigsaw and accidentally kills an undercover FBI agent. Jigsaw tries for revenge with the dead FBI agent’s family as bait. You’d think a simple plot like that would be hard to screw up.

You’d think. PWZ needs an editor to attack all the odd extra minutes of getting out of cars and staring blankly at other characters. Jigsaw is played for laughs, but his face is well done though seemingly similar to the wheelchair bound billionaire bad guy from Hannibal. Seriously, he’s personally searching a house for $200K, which doesn’t seem like a lot of money, and giving Patton-like speeches to gang members. Looney Bin Jim is as interesting as a drying paint, and just runs around hurting himself and quoting medical trivia. Furthermore, their entire criminal empire seems to be made up of four guys. And the Russian mob boss they anger? He’s got a dozen guys that show up and then he basically disappears from the film. But wait, there’s a possible terror angle, right? Wrong, any terrorism talk is a complete red herring.

The cops are morons, which is only offset by the idea that they are all protecting Frank Castle during his rampage. But would they really not care that the Punisher killed a fed? Microchip doesn’t do anything remotely interesting, except introduce a throwaway character that has nothing to do with anything. Everything that’s not melodrama is cartoonish. Yes, cartoonish—in a bad way.

That brings us to the Punisher himself. He looks right. The acting, especially the voice, isn’t bad. The skull symbol is down played, which we can live with. He fights okay. But his dialogue, hardcore-ness, and brains are unacceptable. Take a gander at this little exchange:

“What’s the plan?"
"The plan is I go in and get them."
"That’s the plan?!"
"That’s all the plan I need.”
And apparently all the work the script needs, too. Seriously, did they film this over a long weekend?

And he jogs. What? Jigsaw is after the widow and her kid? I better take off at a medium trot across Manhattan. Somehow this Punisher can hit a cartwheeling meth-head in the air with a rocket launcher, but watching him slowly reload is important for the realism. Gee, maybe if he’s such a bad dude he could reload without constantly looking down to fumble with his battle-rattle?

The Punisher does do some things right: mercy killings (which the audience is envious of), abrupt shotgun blasts to the head, and some creative kills. But where are the claymores? Where are the flame throwers and heavy machine guns?

Now, you have to say the final scene is reasonably like the Punisher comic: an abandoned building full of armed gang members who barricaded the windows but forgot to build up any cover to fight behind in the squeaky clean hallways. They just hide in the rooms waiting to be killed video game style. And Jigsaw does do a good job with the whole “final showdown thing.” But, really, the best action you saw in the previews.

Why can’t we get a good Punisher movie? It’s not hard. Frank Castle kills a bunch of criminals and makes Jigsaw. Jigsaw pulls some twist like kidnapping his cop conspirator’s family. Castle saves them and then learns that the big bad guy is really like the Police Chief or the FBI big whig. Before anybody can kill Frank the cops and media show up. He goes to jail, and while being brought into a courtroom Jigsaw attacks letting all the jailed criminals loose into the building. Big battle ensues, showdown on the roof, Frank kills everyone and maybe saves the judge for a little irony—maybe his buddy cop blows away the crooked cop and helps him escape. There, was that sooooo hard?

Punisher is about blowing away the bad guys. Hasn’t anybody seen a Deathwish movie? If we want some chuckles we’ll watch the Catwoman movie. You know what the Punisher really is? Ultimate Punisher plus Welcome Back Frank. A serial killer of criminals and a military trained warrior using special forces warfare against the scum that the law can’t seem to deal with. The Punisher is a soldier, a murderer, a grim but fun anti-hero that outsmarts the bad guys and shocks the audience with his brutal tactics. Somebody buy a copy of The Dark Knight DVD for the people that made this and let them know they just can’t crap out a loser comic book movie anymore!