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  • Premiere Date: July 7, 2013 Produced by: Man of Action, Marvel Animation Directed by: Eric Radomski Starring: Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, Adrian Pasdar, Bumper Robinson, Roger Craig Smith, Fred Tatasciore, […]

    Avengers Assemble, Episode 1

    Premiere Date: July 7, 2013 Produced by: Man of Action, Marvel Animation Directed by: Eric Radomski Starring: Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, Adrian Pasdar, Bumper Robinson, Roger Craig Smith, Fred Tatasciore, […]

  • Published: February 2013 Publisher: DC Comics Genre: Superhero Writer: Scott Snyder Artist: Greg Capullo Format: Single Issue Pages: 40 pages Grade Sheet Characters/char. development: Plot structure: Writing style/script: Dialogue/character interaction: […]

    Batman #17: Death of the Family finale [freeform]

    Published: February 2013 Publisher: DC Comics Genre: Superhero Writer: Scott Snyder Artist: Greg Capullo Format: Single Issue Pages: 40 pages Grade Sheet Characters/char. development: Plot structure: Writing style/script: Dialogue/character interaction: […]

  • <strong>8/10</strong> for a solid plot, strong characters, interesting character development, fantastic action, amazing acting, and wonderful writing.

    Marvel’s The Avengers

    8/10 for a solid plot, strong characters, interesting character development, fantastic action, amazing acting, and wonderful writing.

Reviews
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Avengers Assemble, Episode 1

Avengers Assemble

Premiere Date: July 7, 2013
Produced by: Man of Action, Marvel Animation
Directed by: Eric Radomski
Starring: Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, Adrian Pasdar, Bumper Robinson, Roger Craig Smith, Fred Tatasciore, Travis Willingham

Grade Sheet

Characters/char. development:
Plot structure:
Writing style/script:
Acting:
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Diversity/stereotypes:
Romance: N/A
Visual spectacle/SFX:
OVERALL AWESOMENESS: 6/10

Overall Impressions

So I might be a little biased, since Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is literally my favorite television show in the entire universe, but the pilot episode of its successor, Avengers Assemble (you can download the first episode free on iTunes now), feels decidedly weaker. Then again, I’ve never really enjoyed pilot episodes in the first place, so I will wait before passing judgment.

The premise is that the Avengers disassembled after what we assume was the Battle of New York and continue fighting bad guys solo. Tony spies on all of them, bitching at JARVIS and whining about how they don’t need his help, before he finds out Cap is fighting Red Skull. Iron Man flies off to assist him, just in time to see him vaporized by Red Skull, who is working with M.O.D.O.K., who promptly takes down Iron Man. Iron Man issues a call to gather the team back together again–the Avengers Protocol–and convinces them to avenge Cap.

I don’t mind the premise, but the blatant antagonism felt a little heavy-handed to me. I get that a bickering team makes for better character development, but I think they went a little overboard to “echo the tone and feel” of the live-action film. It’s okay if the teammates don’t like each other—it’s uncomfortable and kind of sad if they appear to hate each other for no reason. (Seriously, why is Hawkeye so angry? He just came across as kind of mean.)

There were gems: Thor’s explanation of the Valhalla party of the night, Natasha’s nicely animated hair, the sudden and inexplicably intense bromance between Cap and Iron Man (you won’t hear me complaining, but wha?!). And I enjoyed the Falcon introduction very much. The fanboying over Cap was a nice nod toward their history together. I always really like Bumper Robinson’s voice acting, so I’m looking forward to what he will bring to the show.

The episode felt a little too fast-paced to me (all action and little character), but it is only the first of a two-parter, so we’ll see. The animation, which mixes 2D work with CGI, is nice, but it’s neither a detractor or particularly impressive so far. Visually, it reminds me of Ultimate Spider-Man (I assume this is intentional and will probably hold true for Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. as well), but the tone and overlapping voice actors is where the similarities between the two end. The palette of Avengers Assemble feels much darker.

My brain can’t seem to stop drawing comparisons between this show and its predecessor, but I am determined to judge it on its own merit. Stay tuned.

The Verdict

Though the first part of the pilot has pacing issues and seems to be trying to hard to emulate the tone of the Avengers movie, there is the potential for another great Avengers cartoon. Here’s to hoping that they do more justice to the characters in Part 2.

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Batman #17: Death of the Family finale [freeform]

Batman 17

Published: February 2013
Publisher: DC Comics
Genre: Superhero
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Format: Single Issue
Pages: 40 pages

Grade Sheet

Characters/char. development:
Plot structure:
Writing style/script:
Dialogue/character interaction:
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Depth/themes:
Diversity/stereotypes:
OVERALL AWESOMENESS: 9/10

 

Maybe it’s because I am so much more of a Batfamily fan than a straight-up Batman fan, but I thought this issue was fantastic, and I liked it more than anything else of Snyder’s run. I adored how literary it was (I love the visual aspect of comics, but I will always be a words person first and foremost), all the subtleties and nuances in the writing. I think the criticism of feeling “underwhelmed” is in large part due to people not getting the joke Snyder was playing on us the entire time. Don’t you see? The joke’s on you, the reader. Our experience reading this arc mirrors that of Batman and the dinner plate. God, that meta is brilliant.

Then again, maybe it’s just people having different ideas of what makes for an epic comic. I love action and adventure in every medium, but my favorite comics are always the ones that manage to artfully balance danger and heroics with quality character interaction. And I have this masochistic love for fictional stories that break my heart. The conclusion to the “Death of the Family” arc was so sad and so right. Gems like this:

Batman: I have faith in them.
Joker: Well… Well, you shouldn’t. They’re not your family. They’re killing you, you know. They’re making you—
Batman: They make me stronger.
Joker: LIAR! You know they don’t make you anything but.

I loved this exchange from the moment I first read it. Bruce’s conviction is so lovely. But upon the second read, it hurt, knowing that Joker is unable to make Bruce lose faith in his family, but he is successful in making everyone but Alfred and Dick lose their faith in Bruce.

As a reader, you know that Jason, Tim, Damian, and Barbara have issues. Lots of issues, plus varying degrees of issues with Bruce specifically. You know that Dick has plenty of issues with Bruce but that he has unconditional faith in him and is someone who’s eager to show his love for people and takes comfort in company. You know that Alfred is Bruce’s rock, no matter what. You know that Bruce is a pretty silly guy, taking all these kids (plus others!) under his wing and then being all cold and stoic and just totally failing at emotions. But this story uses the Joker as a catalyst and takes those basic tenets of the Batfamily and puts them at the forefront of the status quo, turning them on their heads and painting them in a starker, uglier light, to the point that they actually change the status quo. Bruce doesn’t reach out often, but this is one time that he reaches out. He just wants to see them, to talk to them.

“I invited them over to talk.”

And they turn him down. So he just sits there in the darkness, alone, brooding. What he’s known for, what he always says he prefers—but this was one time he just wanted to be with his family, and it’s with a heavy heart that he realizes that the Joker stole that from him.

You know what the worst part is? Dick is smiling when he calls Bruce, but he’s the one Bruce betrayed when he went to see the Joker in Arkham. Bruce tells Alfred that it happened soon after they took Dick in. Yeah, he betrayed the others by not telling them about that incident, but he straight up risked the life of the boy he’d rescued—just to satisfy his fucked up curiosity, to prove something to himself. UGH. MY HEART. That’s good writing.

Also, everyone should read Batman & Robin 17. It was a really great epilogue to this whole arc, and my god, I didn’t think it was possible for me to love Alfred any more than I already do.

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Marvel’s The Avengers

Release Date: May 4, 2012
Produced by: Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures
Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon, Zak Penn
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson
Runtime: USA: 143 min
Viewed format: 3-D, regular

Grade Sheet

Characters/char. development:
Plot structure:
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Acting:
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Diversity/stereotypes:
Romance:
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OVERALL AWESOMENESS: 10/10

Overall Impressions

My god. If you haven’t seen Avengers, I don’t know what to say to you. Except…SPOILERS AHOY!

I am writing this review after my fifth viewing of this film in the theaters. Nothing in this movie ever gets old. The cynical part of me continues to search for weak spots upon every viewing, but then awe and inspiration take me over and blows my mind again.

Every element of this film is so strong: the characters, the actors, the script, the special effects, the settings, the fight choreography. But the best thing about this film is something absolutely essential for all ensemble media — and nigh impossible to achieve: It managed to showcase every character in a different way and justify just why they deserved to be on the team and/or why they deserved to be in the film. Going in, even knowing that Joss Whedon would do the franchise justice, this was my biggest fear — that the film would not be able to explain to mainstream audiences why such a team was necessary and why each of these people deserved to be on — and belonged on — the Avengers. But the film managed to do that, and so much more!

I think it goes without saying that every character was written fantastically and brought to life by each actor. Fury was cryptic and shady and an asshole and a badass. Steve was haunted but sharp and stood his ground, eventually taking his place as field leader. Tony snarked like his life depended on it, drank whenever he was not fighting or working, and sacrificed himself without consulting the rest of the team or considering any other options. Thor was arrogant without being condescending and protective of both Loki and Earth. Bruce was tragic but resilient, and the Hulk was most definitely a force to be reckoned with — and loved. Natasha was manipulative and fierce and dangerous, and Clint was a smart mouth (though I really wish Hawkeye had had a larger part as himself). The expansion of Coulson’s character was lovely, and Maria Hill had some great lines that illustrated her sharp mind and future potential. Loki was extraordinary as the film’s antagonist, mad from his journey after 2011’s Thor, so desperate for attention and vengeance and a place to belong that he was teetering on the edge of madness. Each of the characters even got their own development arc. I hadn’t even dared to hope for that kind of artistry, but it was executed so wonderfully.

The dialogue itself was so good, too. What amazing writing. Lines like Steve’s “When I went under, we were at war. They say we won. They didn’t say what we lost.” Loki’s furious “I was a king! The rightful king of Asgard, betrayed.” Thor’s earnest “You give up this Tesseract! You give up this poisonous dream. You come home.” Bruce’s aloof “So you’re saying the other guy saved my life. That’s nice. Save it from what?” Tony’s nicknames, from Reindeer Games to Capsicle to Legolas. Natasha’s no-nonsense “Love is for children. I owe him a debt.”

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: What I love best about Marvel films is that they are action-packed but each fight scene has a purpose and isn’t there just to be there. Far from mindless, they incorporate elements of drama, comedy, suspense, and romance to form a product that is solid and neither overly preachy nor needlessly violent. There are real consequences in these movies, but bad things don’t just happen for the sake of being “realistic.” A superhero film doesn’t need to be campy to be loyal to its source material, and it certain doesn’t need to be gritty to appeal to mainstream audiences. To me, Avengers is the perfect action movie — it is everything that a live-action comic book film about a superhero team could be. Folks, this is entertainment at its finest.

Random Thoughts

  • Seamless scene transitions! Nick Fury says “soldier;” the next scene introduces Captain America. Cap says “ocean;” the next scene is of Iron Man in the ocean. Black Widow says “toys” in reference to scientific machines; the next scene shows Selvig working on the portal machine. FLAWLESS. Each transition felt like a page turn in a comic book, snapping back and forth between characters and situations in a fast-paced but clear manner.
  • The acts were so clear and executed so well. That infamously difficult-to-get-right third act battle kept me on the edge of my seat, and even though I knew the good guys would win, I had no idea how they were going to do it.
  • I love Natasha’s unimpressed “Hi” when she first meets Steve.
  • BIG THREE BATTLE. Actually really good at illustrating their strengths and weaknesses. Tony’s cocky. Thor is arrogant. Steve sees the best in everyone.
  • I LOVE the bonding scene between Tony and Bruce. “So you’re saying the other guy saved my life. That’s nice. Save it from what?”
  • When JARVIS and Tony talked when he was in the Iron Man armor, they always referred to the suit as “we.” Something I’ve never noticed before and find absolutely adorable.
  • Speech patterns of each character were written and executed beautifully. Steve’s clipped, declarative sentences. Tony’s uncontrollable rambling. Natasha’s level, apathetic tone. Loki’s unhinged wavering between calm amusement and absolute fury.
  • THANOS. I legimitately screamed in the theater at that reveal the first time, no joke.

Favorite Lines

  • Steve: When I went under, we were at war. They say we won. They didn’t say what we lost.
  • Tony: You have reached the life model decoy of Tony Stark, please leave a message.
  • Loki: I was a king! The rightful king of Asgard, betrayed.
  • The Other: You will have your war, Asgardian. If you fail, if the Tesseract is kept from us, there will be no realm, no barren moon, no crevice where he can’t find you. You think you know pain? He will make you long for something as sweet as pain.
  • Bruce: Is that the only word on me?
    Steve: Only word I care about.
  • Loki: It’s the unspoken truth of humanity. That you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.
    German Old Dude: Not to men like you.
    Loki: There are no men like me.
    German Old Dude: There are always men like you.
  • Tony: You might have missed a couple things. You know. Doing time as a Capsicle.
  • Steve: What’s the matter? Scared of a little lightning?
    Loki: I’m not overly fond of what follows.
  • Thor: We were raised together. We played together. We fought together. Do you remember none of that?
    Loki: I remember a shadow. Living in the shadow of your greatness. I remember you tossing me into an abyss. I who was and should be king.
    Thor: So you take the world I love as recompense for your imagined slights?
  • Loki: The mindless beast makes play he’s still a man. How desperate are you, that you call on such lost creatures to defend you?
  • Bruce: That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats.
  • Loki: Is this love, Agent Romanoff?
    Natasha: Love is for children. I owe him a debt.
  • Loki: Your ledger is dripping. It’s gushing red and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything? This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child at prayer. Pathetic! You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, something that makes up for the horrors. But they are part of you and they will never go away. I won’t touch Barton, not until I make him kill you. Slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear. And then he’ll wake just long enough to see his good work and when he screams, I’ll split his skull. This is my bargain, you mewling quim!
  • Steve: I know guys with none of that worth ten of you.
  • Bruce: I know. I tried. I got low. I didn’t see an end, so I put a bullet in my mouth…and the other guy spit it out. So I moved on. I focused on helping other people. I was good.
  • Clint: Do you know what it’s like to be unmade?
    Natasha: You know that I do.
  • Tony: I’m not marching to Fury’s fife.
  • Bruce: So this all seems…horrible.

The Verdict

See this. It is a masterpiece.