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The Defenders – Take Shelter (Review)

The Hand are an unequivocal disaster, looming large over The Defenders.

To be fair, this an entirely foreseeable problem. When the Hand were teased in the first season of Daredevil, they were at least interesting. Largely carried over from the Frank Miller comics that were a major influence on the series, episodes like Stick and Speak of the Devil suggesting something uncanny lurking in the shadows behind Wilson Fisk. However, as the Hand emerged from the shadows, they became a lot less intriguing. As they became less mysterious, they become more generic. By the end of Iron Fist, the audience had enjoyed enough of the Hand to last a lifetime.

“I’ll tell you where to Stick it.”

A major part of this problem is the fact that the Marvel Netflix shows cannot agree upon a single unifying theory of the Hand. What is the Hand? What are their goals? What are their motivations? What are their methods? It seems like every other episode had a different idea of what the Hand could be, allowing what had been a fairly simple premise of a secret ninja death cult to evolve into something that could be everything to everyone. With every reversal and twist and reinvention, the Hand became less ominous and more frustrating.

As a result, The Defenders suffers from the decision to build its story around the Hand. Much like the series reveals of Manhattan itself, The Defenders is built on a rather shaky foundation.

Homecoming.

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Avengers vs. X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

I’ll admit, I’ve always been broadly curious about how the Avengers and the X-Men franchises fit together. I’m not normally a massive fan of over-thinking the whole “shared universe” aspect of superhero comics. After all, how can Spider-Man continue to have it so tough when there’s a bunch of wealthy and well-loved superheroes who could vouch for him? Why wouldn’t Batman use Superman or Green Lantern for back-up all the time? It’s best not to dwell on the implication that all these comic books are unfolding at the same time, despite how fun the occasional crossover might be.

Still, I’ve always found it interesting that the X-Men books apparently share a continuity with Marvel’s publishing line. After all, the merry mutants are frequent victims of persecution and attempted genocide, the subjects of institutionalised racism and seem to spend the majority of their time as pariahs or outlaws. You’d assume that at least Captain America – the Sentinel of Liberty and all that – would probably want to take an interest in mutant affairs, or try to help them out a little.

Avengers vs. X-Men is a massive line-wide crossover between Marvel’s two largest and most iconic franchises. It is – as you might expect – mostly an excuse to throw the two sets of toys against each other, but it still has its fair share of interesting ideas. It doesn’t necessarily develop those interesting ideas in the most satisfactory direction, but it is surprisingly coherent for a twelve-issue series from five of Marvel’s highest profile writers and three of the company’s most respected artists.

Exactly what it says on the tin...

Exactly what it says on the tin…

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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 4 (Review/Retrospective)

As with the previous collection, the War looms large in The Spirit Archives, Vol. 4. While Eisner had been keenly following events in Europe from the start of the strip, things really come to a head here. These are the strips for the six months following the attack on Pearl Harbour, and – understandable – there’s a strong patriot undertone to everything here. Eisner would eventually put his patriotism into action when he was drafted, leaving his character in the hands of his staff – who dutifully kept the comic warm for him during his term of service. While Eisner’s early work on the strip isn’t quite as good as the work that would follow, and the shadow of the Second World War dominates, these are still fascinating stories told by a master storyteller.

Carrying on, naturally…

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Ultimate Spider-Man – Vol. 12 (Hardcover) (Review)

You know, Jeph Loeb actually managed to make quite the impression on Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics. While his Ultimatum was intended to serve as a “shot in the arm” to a comic book line with waning sales and interest, it’s telling that Marvel organised another event almost directly afterwards, with The Death of Spider-Man serving to reorganise that fictional universe once again. This collection, the twelfth in the Ultimate Spider-Man line, sees author Brian Michael Bendis guiding the book between Ultimatum and The Death of Spider-Man. (Indeed, the next book in the set is the Death of Spider-Man omnibus collection.)

As such, it’s not too surprising that these fourteen issues feel a bit disjointed and uneven, as Bendis deals with the aftermath of one radical status quo change while gearing up for another. That said, I still think that Ultimate Spider-Man represents the single most consistent run on the title, and Bendis still manages to keep things interesting, even if this collection doesn’t quite compile the author’s strongest run of issues.

Spider-Men…

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Catwoman: When in Rome (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

Catwoman: When in Rome technically exists to fill in the gaps in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, particularly in accounting for Catwoman’s absence during the early part of Dark Victory. However, it also exists as something of a “bridge”, connecting Loeb’s earlier Batman trilogy with Sale and his later work on Hush with Jim Lee. It’s an interesting exploration of an early phase of Catwoman’s costumed career, building off her origin in Batman: Year One and seeing the character attempt to move out of Batman’s shadow. While it’s hardly going to be remembered for developing a truly independent version of the character, it does make for an interesting read, and a fascinating companion piece to the rest of Jeph Loeb’s Batman work.

Go fish…

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Batman: Broken City (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

I can’t help but feel like Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso were massively unfortunate when they were asked to write Batman: Broken City. The story was placed immediately following the breakout sales sensation that was Hush, a massive blockbuster epic written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Jim Lee, offering a whistlestop tour of Batman’s iconic selection of villains. Azzarello and Risso inherited the title from them with considerable hype. These were, after all, the two creators of the celebrated neo-noir comic book 100 Bullets, so they’d work their magic on the title, right? More than that, though, their arc seemed to consciously play up its similarities to Hush, revolving around Batman’s attempts to solve a central mystery while taking a trip through his rogues gallery. Understandably, fans and critics were taken by surprise when they got a seedy detective vibe instead of an action epic. I can’t help but wonder if time has been kind to this six-issue storyline.

The Devil in the Pale Moonlight?

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Ultimate Comics Avengers by Mark Millar Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

Read our review of The Avengers here. And because it’s release day in the rest of the world, here’s a second Avengers-related review. And it’s a long one.

They say you can’t go home again. The Ultimates was easily one of the best comics of the past decade, and perhaps the comic that really got me into the medium. A clever, timely, astute and well-considered exploration of the superhero in the twenty-first century, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch undoubtedly had a massive influence on everything that followed. Of course, all this would seem to be for nothing when Jeph Loeb took over the franchise for Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum, two stories that were very poorly received and damaged the franchise quite considerably. So Millar’s return to write four six-issue miniseries of Ultimate Comics: Avengers seemed like a breath of fresh air. Critical and fan reaction to his twenty-four issue run has been somewhat muted, and there’s no denying that a lot of the magic from that origin story was lost. That said, I’ll concede to finding it an interesting, complex and occasionally compelling examination of Millar’s views on superheroes.

Not quite the ultimate Avengers comic…

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