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Non-Review Review: Avengers – Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a hot mess.

It is fun, witty and fast-moving. However, it is also disjointed, uneven and awkward. Age of Ultron is a big and bombastic summer blockbuster, but it feels like Marvel learned very little from The Avengers. Rather than simply taking what worked in the first film, it often seems like Age of Ultron doubles down on every part of its predecessor. There’s more action, there’s higher stakes, there’s bigger conflict, there’s more Tony, there’s even less of an idea what to do with Thor, there’s more continuity.

"Hey, at least I beat the Terminator prequel to cinemas, right?"

“Hey, at least I beat the Terminator prequel to cinemas, right?”

“More” seems to the be the word here. Age of Ultron is bigger than its predecessor in just about every way. The film boasts an ensemble so large that it threatens to collapse under its own weight – a fact perhaps wryly acknowledged by the genocidal robot’s evil plan at the climax. While it is nice to have more diversity in the cast – The Avengers are no longer a bunch of white guys and their token female colleague – it does seem like Age of Ultron strains and groans under all that Joss Whedon and Marvel heap upon it.

Bigger is not always better.

You know, "pull Thor's hammer" is probably not a family friendly party game...

You know, “pull Thor’s hammer” is probably not a family friendly party game…

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Watch! Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer!

The trailer for Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron has arrived. Check it out below!

Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Moon Knight (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!

One of the more endearing aspects of comic book publishing is the way that the “little guys” occasionally get a shot. There are mountains of titles published each month featuring iconic characters like Batman or Wolverine, but the major companies are occasionally willing to check chances on more quirky and unknown characters using top-tier talent. One of the big surprises of DC’s “new 52” relaunch was the decision to put superstar writer Geoff Johns on pop culture joke Aquaman.

Despite the fact that he has never quite set the world on fire, Marvel seems willing to invest in repeated attempts to launch the character of Moon Knight. Most recently, writer Warren Ellis has launched a new volume of the comic with artist Declan Shalvey. However, before the latest relaunch, Marvel tried another high-profile take on Moon Knight written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Alex Maleev, the duo responsible for one of the best-loved runs ever published on Daredevil.

The series made it to twelve issues, before Marvel cancelled it due to disappointing sales. Bendis has insisted that it was always the plan to end the series after twelve issues, but it seems strange that the series was not announced as a miniseries. Still, it’s easy to understand why Moon Knight struggled to find an audience. It’s great to have Bendis and Maleev crafting an on-going street-level comic book, but the series seems almost at war with itself, struggling with the difficulties of fitting this character in this particular role.

Oh what a knight...

Oh what a knight…

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Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers – The Age of Ultron (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!

Age of Ultron is Brian Michael Bendis’ last hurrah on Marvel’s massive Avengers franchise. Bendis began writing Avengers when it was a third-tier comic book property, and he was – in a large part – responsible for turning the comic franchise into a sales juggernaut. The fact that Marvel was simultaneously working on a massive cinematic universe built around these characters – if only because they’d sold off most of the other ones – probably didn’t hurt.

So, with Bendis moving off the Avengers franchise, ceding the crown of lead Avengers writer to up-and-comer Jonathan Hickman, he wrote Age of Ultron. It was a story the author had been hinting at for quite some time, from the first arc of his relaunched adjectiveless Avengers title through to his short run on Moon Knight. Having completed a grand sweeping story arc running from Avengers Disassembled through to Siege, Age of Ultron feels like an epilogue to Bendis’ run – a post-script to the tenure of the man who changed the franchise.

It also feels, rather awkwardly, like the most self-consciously Avengers-y Avengers story ever aveng(er)ed.

Over-exposure is killing Wolverine...

Over-exposure is killing Wolverine…

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West Coast Avengers Omnibus, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Thor: The Dark World towards the end of next month, we’ll be looking at some Thor and Avenger-related comics throughout September. Check back weekly for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

I’ve never been especially fond of the classic Avengers. The group has always seemed particularly insular and self-centred for a comic book superhero team, with so much emphasis on their by-laws and regulations, their posh fifth avenue mansion and the strange sense of pride that second-tier characters like Hawkeye seem to place on their own importance within the Avengers franchise. There have been great runs, and there have been comics that I have enjoyed a great deal, but I will concede that I am not a fan of the Silver and Bronze Age Avengers aesthetic.

West Coast Avengers is a clear attempt to develop the franchise, to give Marvel a second high-profile Avengers book. Launched in 1984 and running for a decade, the book followed the establishment of a second superhero team branded on the classic Avengers model. Of course, part of me suspects that this was all just a plan to get Hawkeye out of the mansion (“you and Mockingbird can relocate quickly… and the sooner you do — the sooner our west coast team is operational — the better!” Vision insists).

There are moments of wry self-awareness in West Coast Avengers, but far too much of it reads far too earnestly.

And yet somehow this guy has appeared in two of the biggest superhero blockbusters of the past five years...

And yet somehow this guy has appeared in two of the biggest superhero blockbusters of the past five years…

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Acts of Vengeance: Daredevil vs. Ultron (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.”

In celebration of the release of The Avengers, this weekend we’re taking a look at the massive 1989-90 crossover “Acts of Vengeance”, which pitted various villains against some unlikely heroes. I’ll be looking at some of the most fun match-ups. This arc is collected in the companion omnibus.

I’ll confess that I haven’t read all of Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil run. I’ve just read the issues contained in various crossover collections like Inferno, Mutant Massacre or even Fall of the Mutants. While any run on Daredevil is going to rest in the shadow of Frank Miller’s character-defining work, I find it interesting that Nocenti managed to so effectively tie the book back into the heart of the Marvel Universe. Miller defined the book as a noir adventure, and the tendency has been to follow that approach. While Nocenti writes the same Matt Murdock that Miller defined, she cleverly tends to put him in a different context, producing rather interesting and engaging results. Nocenti’s Daredevil is very much a superhero book, even though it follows Miller’s characterisation, and that gives it a unique flavour.

Stickin’ it to the man…

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Kurt Busiek’s Avengers – Avengers Assemble! Vol. 4 (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.

I don’t envy the fourth collection of Avengers Assemble! On one side of this collection, you have three volumes of work featuring the collaboration between writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez. On the other side, you have the epic conclusion to Busiek’s run, The Kang Dynasty. Between the two, you have this collection – which features only six actual issues of The Avengers, the rest padded out with annuals or specials or miniseries. It’s something of a transitional time. A lot of the story is about the impact of what has happened so far, while foreshadowing what’s to come.

One 4 all?

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