Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

Non-Review Review: Captain Marvel

The biggest problem with Captain Marvel is one of spoiler culture.

“Spoiler culture” is a fascinating cultural phenomenon, and one that is interesting as a facet of cultural consumption that arose parallel with the internet. It is perhaps a logical extension of the manner in which information flows these days. Information travels instantly and in all directions, quickly consumed and quick disseminated. In the nineties, it was easy (or easier) to avoid spoilers to films like The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense. After all, there was no Twitter or Facebook to share information. If somebody had already seen the film, they had to be physically talking to somebody else to discuss it, and it was posisble to establish the ground rules for the flows of information before the conversation progressed.

In an era where simply being on the internet exposes a person to torrents of information, the advent of “spoiler culture” seems logical and rational. People want to be surprised. People don’t want to know the finer points of a story before witnessing it first hand. People do not want the easter eggs given out or the finer details dissected. This is an understandable response. Having an experience described is no match for actually having that experience first-hand. So a culture has grown up online about preserving surprise and controlling the flow of information. This is fine. This is healthy. This is good. Mostly “spoiler culture” is just common courtesy and common sense. A reviewer should not reveal anything to a reader that they themselves would not want to know.

As with any philosophy, there is a tendency to take things too far. Sometimes “spoiler culture” descends into self-parody. Reviewers were famously told not to reveal any information about the plot of Blade Runner 2049, which ironically made it very hard to sell the movie to a potential audience. Some more extreme adherents felt betrayed when Sony released a trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home before Avengers: Endgame, as if the fact that Sony was making another Spider-Man movie would give away the resolution to the cliffhanger from Avengers: Infinity War. Naturally, Infinity War came with its own massive spoiler-warning from the studio, with reviewers told that “Thanos demands [their] silence.” This despite the fact the ending was lifted directly from a comic.

Captain Marvel embodies the worst impulses of “spoiler culture” because it confuses a logical and organic narrative development for a big twist. There is a reveal that comes around the half-way mark of the two-hour film which fundamentally changes the nature of the story being told. It plays against the story that had been set up to that point, and is positioned as a game-changer. It is a “twist.” It is a “big” moment. It is the kind of development for which Thanos would demand silence. Except it’s not really. It is not an actual twist. It is a plot point. It is a story beat. It is a part of the story that makes a great deal of sense in the context of the story as it is being told. However, Captain Marvel decides to play this game-changing story beat as a revelation.

There are a couple of big issues here. Most obviously, the actual narrative development is quite literally the only way that Captain Marvel could go without becoming something completely and irredeemably monstrous, so it is entirely predictable. (The twist is only a surprise to audience members who genuinely believe that Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie is likely to play out as extreme white nationalist propaganda.) More than that, though, it creates a larger problem with the flow of the story. The decision to play this story beat as a twist means the film has to conceal its hand for the first hour and fifteen minutes. This means that Captain Marvel is almost half-way over before any member of the cast gets any real character development.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Punisher MAX by Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon (Review/Retrospective)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

“This was the only way Frank’s story was ever gonna end,” Fury remarks in the closing issue of Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon’s Punisher MAX run. Picking up the threads from Garth Ennis’ celebrated run, Aaron decides to offer a definitive account of the end of Frank Castle’s one-man war on crime. It’s interesting that this is a story that had never really been told before. Even Ennis’ The End was set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future to write an allegorical conclusion to Frank Castle’s campaign of terror.

Aaron might not have as firm a grip on Castle as Ennis, but he has a pretty compelling hook. More than that, though, Aaron’s irreverent and playful style suits the book quite well. Aaron has a tendency to write cartoonish and larger-than-life characters in his mainstream superhero work, and Punisher MAX is decidedly cartoonish and larger-than-life. That’s part of the appeal. In many ways – and not just in his choice of artistic collaborator – Aaron’s Punisher MAX feels rather like Garth Ennis’ Marvel Knights: Punisher run written with the sex, violence and brutality of his Punisher MAX work.

It’s a potent cocktail.

Very armed and very dangerous...

Very armed and very dangerous…

Continue reading

Avengers: Endless Wartime by Warren Ellis, Mike McKone & Jason Keith (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

Warren Ellis is one of the great comic book writers. Ellis works in a bombastic larger-than-life style that is never too beholden to the current continuity of whatever company for which he is currently working and which remains accessible to just about anybody who might want to pick it. His Extremis remains the perfect introduction to Iron Man, while Ultimate Human is the most syner-tastic marketing tie-in ever written, its release coinciding with that of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.

At the same time, Ellis’ work-for-hire can occasionally feel a little reigned in, a little too relaxed and too casual – lacking the energy and enthusiasm of his stronger work. Sadly, Avengers: Endless Wartime is a book that never quite measures up to its potential. An original graphic novel written by Ellis and illustrated by Mike McKone, Endless Wartime has a wealth of clever ideas, but never manages to get too excited about any of them.

Some men just want to watch the world...

Some men just want to watch the world…

Continue reading

Infinite Crisis: The Adventures of Superman – Lightning Strikes Twice (Review)

This month I’m taking a look at DC’s massive “Infinite Crisis” Event. Although it was all published in one massive omnibus, I’ll be breaking down the lead-in to the series to tackle each thread individually, culminating in a review of the event itself. Check back for more.

I think it’s quite nice that DC went to the effort to collect the vast majority of tie-ins to Infinite Crisis inside this gigantic omnibus, even when the book didn’t necessarily get its own miniseries like Villains United or The O.M.A.C. Project. Like Sacrifice, Lightning Strikes Twice was a crossover between the Superman books leading into the events of one of the lead-in miniseries. In this case, writer Judd Winick was setting up the events of Day of Vengeance, the magic-themed crossover designed to tidy up and reenergise the mystical side of the DC Universe.

Super-punch!

Continue reading

The Avengers: The Kree-Skrull War (Review/Retrospective)

The Kree-Skrull War is perhaps the grandaddy of great Avengers story. A series of interconnected one-shots with subplots congealing into an arc, it allowed writer Roy Thomas to really define the Avengers. Written towards the start of the seventies, the saga feels like something of a transition from the innocence of the classic Silver Age superhero sci-fi zaniness and a more sombre and mature Bronze Age. Despite its age, the adventure still holds up remarkably well, partially because Thomas has some very clever ideas that are still reverberating around modern comics, and also because Neal Adams’ artwork hasn’t aged a day.

Thomas had quite a Vision for the title…

Continue reading

Annihilation: Conquest (Review/Retrospective)

This is the tenth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s shared universe (particularly their “Avengers” franchise) over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity.

Perhaps it was the novelty of Marvel’s Annihilation crossover which lent the series its appeal. It took some of the more often overlooked space heroes of the Marvel Universe and tied them all together as part of a gripping narrative fighting against the extinction of life itself. It was loud and bright and colourful and frentic – it was perhaps the best crossover that Marvel have produced in the past five years or so. So I was very much anticipating the sequel, Annihilation: Conquest – hoping that it could be another breath of fresh air in this long trek through Marvel’s shared universe. Unfortunately, it seemed that a lot of energy of the original was gone – the series couldn’t help but feel somewhat anti-climactic.

Feel the Wraith...

Continue reading

The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 4

It did take me a while to get into the series, but it’s hard to describe James Robinson’s fantastic superhero saga as anything other than mandatory reading material for anyone with an interest in the genre, its history or its evolution. Starman was the comic book of the nineties, and a fresh look at an already classic concept. Alan Moore picked apart the superhero genre in Watchmen, declaring that the medium was growing creatively bankrupt. Robinson seems intent to prove otherwise. Brick by brick and strand by strand, Robinson has painstakingly given us one of the most interesting and complex creations in the medium. Often exploring and questioning the roots and the clichés of the superhero genre, Robinson is prone to revel in them. If we are interested in the evolution of the genre, Starman is the book for you.

Everything is better with Nazis...

Continue reading