Cover to “Marvel Comics Presents” #112, Steve Lightle, 1992

Wolverine and Typhoid Mary.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Wolverine: Rahne of Terra” (1992)

This was the first “Wolverine” graphic novel I ever owned — “Wolverine: Rahne of Terra.”  It was an “Elseworlds”-type of story in which Wolverine, along with Rahne of the New Mutants, was transported to some sort of sword-and-sorcery universe.  (It didn’t affect any continuity in the main Marvel universe.)

It was much better than it sounds, having been written by the great Peter David and illustrated by the equally great Andy Kubert.

 

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Wolverine Rahne of Terra - Doug

Wolverine Rahne of Terra - The Beast there is

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Spider-Man and Wolverine teamup in “Perceptions” (1991)

These were the first comics featuring Wolverine that I ever owned — the 1991 Spider-Man “Perceptions” storyline in which he guest-starred.  This had gorgeous, unique art by Todd McFarlane.  (I think he scripted it too.)

This would have been when I was a sophomore in college, and it was even before McFarlane would go on to form Image Comics and launch his most famous character, Spawn.

 

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Throwback Thursday: 80’s Wolverine posters!

The first of the posters you see below was created in 1987 with art by Art Adams; the second in 1989 with art by Mike Zeck.  (Is there something ironic about an artist named “Art?”)  These definitely bring back 90’s memories for me, though — I remember looking them on my friends’ dorm room walls at Mary Washington College.  (The Adams’ piece that popped up in the dorms might have been different; there are several variations of the image, and I seem to remember an all-black background.)

That would have been the Spring of 1991, toward the end of my freshman year.  It was just before I’d really discovered superhero comics, even though I’d grown up with Sgt. Rock, Indiana Jones, Conan the Barbarian and Archie.  I thought costumed heroes were generally a stupid idea; not even the Batman craze after the Tim Burton’s 1989 film attracted me to the genre.  (Burton’s film was actually considered quite groundbreaking at the time; this was long before Christopher Nolan’s amazing work eclipsed it and its sequels.)

I didn’t even know who Wolverine was.  (Trust me, I was fully converted to both Marvel and DC fandom during my sophomore year.)  I remember listening to a classmate muse about the image of Wolverine fighting Captain America — if Wolvey’s adamantium claws could cut through anything, and Cap’s adamantium shield couldn’t be broken, how would the melee depicted play out?  (Yes, I’ve long since learned that Cap’s shield is made of vibranium; I’m just not sure if that’s a retcon or not.)

 

 

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“The … Stalking Dead?” (A review of “Daredevil” S2E1)

[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ONE SPOILER.]  So the fantastic John Bernthal is now the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Punisher,” debuting (however briefly) in the first episode of Netflix’ “Daredevil” Season 2.  I just know that there is a great “Walking Dead” joke hiding around here somewhere; but I can’t seem to put my finger on it …  (Something about … Blind Grimes?  Disabled Rick?  Daredevil can’t see “stuff?”  Or “thangs?”)  You people work that out for me.

Bernthal’s arrival is dream casting, every bit as perfect as bagging the inimitable Robert Downey, Jr. as the MCU’s Iron Man.  Even though the actor speaks only a single word, it’s goddam beautiful.

That’s one of the better things about Season 2’s first outing, which, for me, fell into the category of “good, but not great.”  (I’d still give it an 8 out of 10, and I feel certain the season will get better.)  What we see in S2E1 is mostly setup.  The episode clearly tried to introduce tension by grooming the Punisher as a frightening antagonist, with limited success.  Even casual Marvel fans know that Frank Castle is a good guy, and nothing close to a Big Bad.  Yes, he’s an anti-hero who fatally shoots villains, and will be a foil for Matt Murdock’s Boy Scout restraint (as he was in the comics, back in the day).

But I doubt that the Punisher can be made scary or truly tension-inducing.  (Are we afraid of Wolverine?)  We know that his shoot-em-up tactics won’t leave Daredevil dead.  (This isn’t “Game of Thrones” or TWD.)  And I’d guess that most viewers, like me, aren’t too emotionally invested in this show’s minor characters.  (The only exception would be the quite interesting and three-dimensional Karen Page, still wonderfully portrayed by Deborah Ann Woll.)  Hell, I think the show would be better if the painfully annoying Foggy Nelson were made an early casualty.  Finally, if the show stays true to the original comics, then the Punisher has that most sympathetic of “origin stories” — a murdered nuclear family.

Both the Punisher and Bernthal have such devoted fanbases that a lot of viewers will probably root for him against Matt.  (Our very own Blog Correspondent Len Ornstein, for example, was known for firmly being on “Team Shane” for TWD.)  Looking back at my fervent comic-collecting days in the 1990’s, I seem to recall the Punisher having a far bigger fan following.  He was a mercenary and Vietnam veteran who simply shot up whatever corner of the Marvel Comics universe to which his quarry had tried in vain to escape.  Fans compared him to DC Comics’ iconic cash cow, Batman.  Matt Murdock, on the other hand, had niche appeal.  He was a liberal superhero if there ever was one — a Columbia-educated defense attorney who employed nonfatal force, and who fought for the “everyday man on the street.”  He was like a grownup, thoughtful, socially conscious Spider-Man.  If ever there was a comic book hero who would join the American Civil Liberties Union, it was Daredevil.

Moving forward, I think that Netflix will need an altogether different adversary than Castle to raise the stakes emotionally, and bring suspense to its second season.  Maybe the show will accomplish that with Elektra, who we know will also appear.  (And fans of the comics know that this integral character has far greater implications for our hero.)

The new season’s inaugural episode might have been slightly better if it had been tweaked elsewhere, as well.  Much ominous language is devoted to characterizing the Punisher as a killer with military proficiency.  We kinda don’t see that.  The largest action set piece shows no precision or professionalism, just a room full of gangsters being hosed down by gunfire from an offscreen shooter.  And while the sequence itself was dramatic, it seemed like something that could have been perpetrated by a (very well armed) street gang in a drive-by shooting.

We also see some of the dialogue problems that were so evident in the first season — as superb as the screenwriters are, they don’t do casual conversation among friends very well.  There’s the same forced banter and an embarrassing lack of chemistry among the three lead protagonists, this time on display during an awkwardly staged after-work barroom pool game.  (It’s particularly puzzling because Woll and Charlie Cox are both very good actors.)  This show scripts its villains, petty crooks and adversaries with such flair — why does it seem to fail so often with friendly conversation?  And why bother with these strange attempts at Scooby-Gang camaraderie in the first place?  I think it’s a weird creative choice.  These are serious characters leading serious lives.  It seems implausible to me that they should be so frequently upbeat anyway.

Hey — if I’m nitpicking a lot here, it’s only because I love the show, and consequently hold it to a very high standard.  It really is the best superhero adaptation on television.  My review of last season was absolutely glowing, and I honestly think that Season 2 will be just as good.  If you haven’t checked out “Daredevil” yet, you ought to.

 

 

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A review of “Deadpool” (2016)

I’ve never read a single “Deadpool” comic book, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the movie.  It’s  a fun, creative and …  unconventional entry into the “X-Men” film  franchise that actually made me laugh out loud a few times.  I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

It isn’t high art.  It’s got a thin story based on a rickety plot device, nearly no exposition, and it includes some cartoonish action that I thought was just too over the top, even by comic book movie standards.  (Our hero dodges bullets and survives a stab to the brain.)

It helps to bear in mind this movie’s real purpose — fan service for the infamous niche character’s evident legions of followers.  “Deadpool” isn’t meant to be densely plotted, like “X2: X-Men United” (2003), or genuinely cinematic, like the Christopher Nolan “Batman” films.  It’s a long awaited, R-rated feature film to please loyal fans of this profane, adult-oriented antihero, who would be out of place and necessarily bowlderized in a mainstream superhero-teamup flick. (And I kinda get that — I loved the “Wolverine” comics when I was a kid, and, trust me, his film incarnation is tame compared to its source material.)

“Deadpool” is damn funny.  The movie succeeds by making us laugh.  And combining a raunchy comedy with an “X-Men” film gives it a weird, cool, subversive vibe.  It makes you wonder if Stan Lee would approve of this sort of thing … until you see Lee himself in a cameo at the story’s strip bar.  It’s fun to know that dirty jokes indeed do exist within the “X-Men” movie universe.

The lowbrow jokes made me cringe one or twice (“baby hand.”)  But you’ve got to give the movie credit for delivering its bathroom-wall humor if that’s what the original character is about.  (Are the comics like this?)  Ryan Reynolds is genuinely funny, and his deadpan delivery is perfect.  The film might not have even worked at all with out him.

By the way, this movie actually reminded me a hell of a lot of a long-ago flick that I absolutely loved, but which I’m guessing is largely forgotten — Andrew Dice Clay’s “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” (1990).  That movie also had a foulmouthed, lone, maverick antihero who often broke the fourth wall, and that also made me laugh like hell.  I know it sounds like a strange comparison, but they’re very similar films.

Finally, I’d like to think that the Wade Wilson we see here actually IS a version of the Wade Wilson that we first met in the widely lamented “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009).  (And how can he not be, if that movie is canon?)  If “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014) rebooted the timeline, then the Deadpool we’re rooting for here was never recruited, corrupted and experimented upon by William Stryker.  So you can have your cake and eat it, too.

 

 

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Dali does Wolverine.

I found this on Facebook; it was just too good not to share.  That maple leaf representing Wolverine’s Canadian heritage is an especially nice touch.  I am unaware of the (actual) artist.

When I was 10 years old, I would argue at length with the kid next door about who would win in a fight — Wolverine or Silver Surfer.

Sigh … okay, I was actually 20 years old, and a college junior, and I was arguing in Mary Washington College’s New Hall with senior John Mathias.

“But he has the Power Cosmic!” John endlessly asserted about Silver Surfer.

If Wolverine’s adamantium claws could cut through anything, I astutely countered, “then they could cut through the Power Cosmic!”  Then I took another swig of my beer.

I had a well rounded education.

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