• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

Non-Review Review: Iron Man 3

Where do you go after The Avengers? Marvel brought together four separate superhero franchises to produce one mega-blockbuster last summer, producing the most successful film of 2012 and one of the most lucrative films in the history of the medium. It’s a tough act to follow. If Iron Man 3 is any indication, it seems like Disney and Marvel understand how they want to progress from here. Shrewdly deciding not to compete with The Avengers on scale, Iron Man 3 is instead a character-driven action thriller specifically tailored for the character of Tony Stark, with writer and director Shane Black very clearly having his own idea for the hero who first launched Marvel’s shared universe.

While Iron Man 3 isn’t quite perfect, it’s a solid superhero blockbuster, and perhaps second only to Kenneth Brannagh’s Thor as the best superhero film produced by Marvel Studios.

Who da Iron Man?

Who da Iron Man?

Continue reading

Iron Man by David Michelinie & Bob Layton (& John Romita Jr.) Omnibus, Vol 1 (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.

It’s hard to believe, given the high profile the character has attained since Robert Downey Jr. first played Tony Stark in Iron Man back in 2008, but Iron Man used to be one of Marvel’s second-tier characters. Of course, like any other comic book character, Iron Man has had his ups and downs. There have been solid runs by great creative teams, and disappointing stories told by writers and artists unsuited to the character. However, Iron Man never really had one of those iconic comic book runs of the seventies and eighties, the kind of high-profile character-defining run like Walt Simonson’s tenure on Thor or Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil or Chris Clarement’s extended run on the X-Men franchise.

Perhaps the closest to such a run from the Bronze Age is the work by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, who actually enjoyed two extended runs writing for the character at the end of the seventies and into the eighties. This gigantic omnibus collection includes the first of those two runs, which were bisected (mostly) by Denny O’Neil’s extended time on the title. While it’s not as cohesive and solid a run as any of the aforementioned examples, it still demonstrates a solid understanding of Iron Man, and features two of the character’s most iconic stories.

You have to whip it...

You have to whip it…

Continue reading

The Sopranos: Down Neck (Review)

I’ve said before (and many far smarter individuals have said it before me), but The Sopranos really feels like a novel for television. You can see that approach most distinctly in the first season, where David Chase cleverly structures the show that we spend more than half the season getting to know the cast, and getting comfortable with them, before things actually start happening in any truly meaningful sense. Of course, things have happened. The restaurant exploded, Junior and Tony nearly came to a head, but the approach has really been first and foremost about defining who these characters are, before we really get into what they do.

Down Neck, halfway through the first season, is really the perfect example. Not much really happens. Sure, plot threads advance. Livia discovers that her son is seeing a therapist. We hear that Junior is really settling into his new-found position of nominal authority. However, the most significant beats of Down Neck are concerned with character. A large portion of the episode is an extended flashback focusing on a dead character, and the rest sees the family dealing with the possible diagnosis of Anthony’s Attention Deficit Disorder. Hardly what one might have expected from the halfway point in the first season of a mob drama.

Family values…

Continue reading

The Avengers: The Crossing Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

“One of the nineties’ most notorious narratives!”

– well, the back cover wasn’t lying

The Crossing has become a watch-word for nineties excesses. Essentially a gigantic crossover between The Avengers and the various Iron Man books (including War Machine and Force Works), it is renowned for its clumsy editorial mandate: the event was designed to replaced Tony Stark with a younger version of himself. Fans have come to reflect on The Crossing as one of the most awful comic book storylines ever concocted, an example of the mess that Marvel had made of their line of books during a decade not exactly renowned for its taste.

I know it’s fashionable to trash The Crossing, and I know that it is every bit as ridiculously nineties and forced as its editorial mandate would suggest, but I can’t help but think there are some nice ideas to be found here, if one wades in deep enough into the crap. Don’t get me wrong, there’s not nearly enough to justify the tangled bloated mess of a plot, and I’m not going to argue the consensus is wrong, but I do think the massive catastrophic failure of The Crossing was one of execution, rather than one of ideas.

Shockingly bad?

Continue reading

Avengers Disassembled: Iron Man – The Singularity (Review/Retrospective)

And so I’ve finished my trek through the tie-ins to Avengers Disassembled. And it was surprisingly painful. Sure, Robert Kirkman’s Captain America at least made sense if you looked at it from the right angle, and Mike Oeming’s Thor was one of the best stories to feature the character, but the Invincible Iron Man and Captain America & Falcon tie-ins serve to illustrate just how lost some of Marvel’s top books were at the time. The Invincible Iron Man actually had two arcs tying into the big event, from two very different creative teams, perhaps illustrating that Marvel was aware of this fundamental dysfunction. Unfortunately, neither is especially impressive, and both feel like they are simply treading water, waiting for Avengers Disassembled to put the book out of its misery.

Things look Stark…

Continue reading

Avengers Disassembled: Iron Man – Turf War (Review/Retrospective)

It’s probably true that in comics, like in any other medium, you have a preference towards the stories that brought you into that medium. While I think Marvel was doing some truly exceptional stuff during the early part of the 2000s, like Morrison’s New X-Men or Waid’s Fantastic Four or Garth Ennis’ Marvel Knights: Punisher, I think that the Avengers line of books were all struggling to find a direction. While I have some issues with the clunky crossover- and tie-in-reliant nature of the period, I do think that there was a lot more energy for the Avengers-related titles after Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers Disassembled. Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor can stand alongside the best interpretations of the characters, with Matt Fraction’s later Invincible Iron Man run also standing as a classic Iron Man run.

These Disassembled tie-in issues offer a pretty solid indication of where Marvel’s Avengers comic book line was just before the crossover, and most of them seemed to be in very serious trouble. There are two arcs from The Invincible Iron Man collected here, from two very different teams, and neither seems to know exactly what it is doing.

Iron Man decompressed?

Continue reading

The Sopranos: Pax Soprana (Review)

I think it’s possible to make the argument that The Sopranos can be read as that illusive “great American novel”, just handily divided into eighty-six chapters and televised as opposed to written. Sure, it’s a show about the mob, but it’s also a compelling examination of the disillusionment festering at the heart of the American psyche. Tony might be a New Jersey mob boss, but most of his problems aren’t too far disconnected from those eating away at the American middle class. (Hell, I’d argue that it speaks volumes to the Irish psyche and probably many other nationalities as well.) As such, across the crucial first season, Chase and his team of writers seem to lay down and establish the core themes, allowing Tony to confront and explore just one of the many gnawing insecurities eating away at any middle-class father. In College, Tony wrestled with the idea that his daughter might discover who he truly is, while Pax Soprana explores the notion of impotence and insecurity – some times literally.

Psyche!

Continue reading

The Sopranos: College (Review)

College is interesting because it perfectly captures a lot of the themes at the heart of The Sopranos, effortlessly blending Tony’s upper-middle-class concerns with his familial obligations (both to his nuclear family and to the mob). At the same time, it explores many of the inherently contradictory aspects of modern living, including the implied acquiesce to a culture of greed and corruption. College is the first time that we really see Tony get his own hands dirty, and it’s the point at which we explore how complicit Carmela is in his shady dealings and illegal activities. I think it’s a show that really pins down what the show is going to be – and it’s no surprise that the episode won Chase his first writing Emmy for the show, and is reportedly his favourite episode of the series.

Driving the conversation...

Continue reading

Sopranos: Meadowlands (Review)

It’s interesting how slowly The Sopranos approached the violence of what Tony does. Of course, the pilot episode (The Sopranos) featured Tony brutally beating a debtor in an attempt to earn his money back and the subsequent episode (46 Long) featured Tony beating up an employee at the Bada-Bing for failing to work the telephone properly, but the show generally eased us into seeing Tony as a truly “bad” guy.

It was never ambiguous about his mob connections or the crimes and violence that he committed or that he authorised others to commit, but the first few episodes generally keep that violence somewhat insulated from Tony. Paulie and Pussy brutalise the car thieves to reclaim a teacher’s lost car, while Tony’s threatened castration of a Jewish man refusing to play ball is kept off-screen. While Tony would commit his first on-screen murder in the next episode (College), Meadowlands feels like the first episode to truly present Tony as a borderline sociopath, and to demonstrate just how aggressive and possessive he can be.

Paying respects...

Continue reading

The Sopranos: Denial, Anger, Acceptance (Review)

Denial, Anger, Acceptance marks the first episode of The Sopranos not written by creator David Chase. In the United Kingdom, it’s traditional for a particular writer (or writers) to write every episode of a given series, to the point where you are quite likely to find a television show credited “by” a particular person. In the United States, due to longer seasons and various other concerns, such an approach isn’t feasible. (There are exceptions, such as Aaron Sorkin’s tenure on The West Wing, where he contributed eight-one scripts in the show’s first four seasons.) However, The Sopranos remains associated with its creator, David Chase, so it’s interesting to look at Denial, Anger, Acceptance as the first episode written by a writer other than Chase, in this case Mark Saraceni.

Sticking his neck out...

Continue reading