Logan (2017)

Piotrek: Times are good for comic book fans. Old stuff is easily available, new things are often good, and movies/tv… our genre is probably the strongest one today, with so much being done, everyone can find something nice. Solid stories, visual experiments (Dr Strange, Legion!), profane (Deadpool) and civil (Guardians) comedies… and now Logan.

Ola: The newest instalment in XXth Century Fox X-Men franchise is a story loosely based on the premise of Old Man Logan, one of the most famous graphic novels about Wolverine. It features a post-apocalyptic near future, where United States are in turmoil, symbolized by the absence of the Statue of Liberty, regular institutions such as police or National Guard or medical help no longer work, and the world once again becomes an arena of fight between the weak and the strong. The mutant gene has been suppressed; superheroes are no longer around; and those who stayed behind are not what they used to be.

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Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch, The Ultimates (2002)

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The famous reimagining of the mightiest Marvel’s heroes, the Avengers, was the love child of Millar, praised here for his work on Civil War, and Hitch, a British comic book artist known mostly for his detailed, and usually late, work ;). The comic book turned out to be as controversial as popular. The authors’ ideas on how should the contemporary Avengers look like inspired the movies’ creators and through them – made a huge impact on the whole Marvel universe. Can you imagine a different Nick Fury than Samuel L. Jackson?

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Jackson served as the model for the comic book Nick Fury long before he even dreamt of appearing in this role in the movies. Before that, Nick Fury was white and looked a lot like a good-bad western sheriff. A bit like Sam Vimes, actually 😉 And it all leads us to Clint Eastwood ;).

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The primary idea was simple, tested earlier by Spidey, for who else could take the risk and survive? 😉 In the early years of the XXI century there was a deep, a bit anxious feeling among the Marvel moguls that their beloved heroes got old and slightly outdated. That their stories became so convoluted that only the most hardcore fans even cared about them any longer and could count all the times the heroes died and were brought back to life. The idea of a new, fresh start seemed all of sudden very promising.

And lo and behold, here they are. But changed rather more than we would expect.

[Attention! Mild spoiler alert!]

Meet the Cap, a rather brutish, straightforward guy with a tiny, shameful penchant for cruelty. A hero as a soldier, as a civilian… well, I don’t think I would like to cross him. Meet Hank Pym, a self-assured, conceited genius and a secret wife-beater. Meet his wife, the famous Wasp, who can change into a tiny, sparks-flinging creature not due to any marvels of technology, but to her mutant genes. And meet Thor, an ex-patient of a psychiatric hospital, an anti-globalist and anarchist who has delusions of being a God’s son. But best, or worst, of all, is Hulk.

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Bruce Banner is such an insecure weakling with a gigantic inferiority complex that you wouldn’t believe he can also change into a cannibalistic monster driven by the lowest animal urges. And his Mister Hyde side, by the way, reminds me a lot of Cú Chulainn in his warp spasm:

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[End of spoilers]

Well, the idea of updating the old, well-known and well-liked heroes certainly paid off. The first thirteen issues had been a huge commercial success and were soon followed by two sequels, each thirteen issues long, which later even got their own sequels ;). The graphic novels served as an outright visual inspiration for the cinematic Marvel universe, from the first Avengers movie through Captain America: The Winter Soldier and to Avengers: Age of Ultron. The movies didn’t follow the dark, at times cynical story line of the Ultimates, opting for safer and less controversial depictions of the superheroes. I can’t say I fault them: Ultimates are dark indeed and it’s sometimes difficult to reconcile the traditional images of the heroes with the ones proposed by Millar and Hitch. The new Thor was endearing, but the nasty side of Hank Pym or the brutal monstrosity of Hulk took a lot from their original charm… You can’t help but start to ask the question: what it means to be a hero? Which, in the end, is the question all fans of superheroes should ask themselves ;).

As a study in the deconstruction of super-heroism, Ultimates fall short of the ideal, which in this case is unequivocally Watchmen ;). But as a story in the what-if genre, a slightly darker type of tongue-in-the-cheek, brutal fun, Ultimates are a pretty decent entertainment. The story, as usually in Millar’s case, is solid and intriguing, touching on many contemporary problems. Watchmen are a clear inspiration here, with the heroes being simultaneously the cause and the solution of the problem. As for the graphics… Hats off to Hitch, because the visual side is stunning, with wide, dynamic frames instantly bringing to mind panoramic shots from action movies. The British artist might be slow-working and always late, but his work is worth waiting for.

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All in all, Ultimates, at least #1, is a must-read for the Marvel cinematic universe fans, and a nice-to-read for the hardcore fans of the comics. Published fourteen years ago it’s really old news by now, really, but if anyone out there haven’t read it yet, it’s high time they do it now :).

Score: 8/10

Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, Marvel 1602 (2003)

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In the wake of last night’s match (Poland vs. Portugal in EURO2016, for those who didn’t watch, it was 1:1 and Poland lost in the penalties) I decided it was high time to take a closer look at certain aspects of alternative reality. Let’s indulge into a bit of “what-if”, shall we? 😉

Neil Gaiman is known mostly as an author of very popular and critically acclaimed fantasy/horror novels, such as American Gods, the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards winner, but he’s also a great comic book writer. His series The Sandman, an imprint of DC’s Vertigo, had been one of the most influential – and popular graphic novels of late 90’s and 00’s. But this post is not about The Sandman ;), besides I’m sure Piotrek has much more to say about it than I ever will. No, this post is about a one-off job Gaiman did for Marvel in 2003, a few years after The Sandman ended.

Marvel 1602 is a traditional, albeit a bit tongue-in-the-cheek, what-if story. In an alternative reality, Marvel superheroes live in the Elizabethan times, fighting against threats from this and other worlds. The main story arc revolves around the discovery that their sole existence, which happened 400 years too early, is inseparably linked to a lethal threat to their whole world.

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Spidey! (1962 – present)

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© John Romita Jr.

He’s a mature man now, Spider-Man – after all, he’s over half a century old already. But he keeps his youthful appearance and spirit as well as Wolverine or even better – clearly he must be a Chosen One. And he is. One of the all-time fan favorites, appealing to readers of all ages and genders, Marvel’s mascot and ultimate scapegoat – Spider-Man has never had an easy life. He started out as a nerdy, bullied teenager, for God’s sake! And that’s everything but easy. He didn’t have a chance to become someone’s sidekick, learning from the best of the best, but  set out to begin his superheroic life as an angsty, pimply, awkward boy who suddenly was given (or cursed with) mysterious superpowers. He had to learn everything by himself, and paid a steep price for that knowledge. After all, the only people in Marvel universe who died and stayed dead are Parker’s uncle and his girlfriend. Even he himself died at one point, rather gruesomely at that. Clearly someone in the Marvel team has it in for him. And yet, he endures it all, and has the guts to make wisecracks about it. Arguably, he’s also the funniest Marvel character which, coupled with his unwavering, absolutely uncompromising morals, makes him a lot more convincing and likeable than Cap (yes, even after Civil War :P).

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Batman vs. Robin (2015)

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When I learned of Piotrek’s bold plans to see and review of Batman v Superman next week, I decided to save the face of the Dark Knight and give you a review of Batman vs. Robin first :). Wait, wait; Batman vs. Robin? You sure you got the title right? The answer is yes. Batman vs. Robin is a pretty recent addition to a long series of animated movies set in DC universe. And contrary to the popular opinion of translating DC universe to the screen (with the exception of Nolan trilogy, of course), there are some veritable golden nuggets in this pile –like the famous Batman: Under the Red Hood, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which I very much want to see. The animated movies are more or less faithful to comic books – though more often than not that faithfulness is rather questionable – and they are decidedly not children-friendly. The creepiness factor is high, the style of the animation is quite close to the comic books, i.e. dark and gritty, and the main themes are pretty serious, from child abuse to betrayal and murder.

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The comic was better! Alias/Jessica Jones

Alias is one of the best comics Marvel Universe has to offer. If you have snobbish friends that never wonder beyond “proper literary fiction” and avangarde graphic novels with unrecognisable art and no plot – here is something superior to show them how wrong they are.

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Great stories, good art, complicated, interesting characters. It works well and gives a new dimension to Marvel Universe.

Jessica Jones is something similar. A very good tv series that can be easily recommended to somebody not into superhero stuff. Because most of the connections to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe had been cut out. Not all… sometimes the destruction of the city during fights from big MCU movies is mentioned, we know that one of the secondary characters will get his own series, and that Jessica will return to team up with other Netflix superheroes. But, while an excellent piece of tv in its own rights, as an adaptation Jessica Jones is IMO a disappointment.

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On lists or lack thereof

Making lists is one of the favorite pastimes around the web – and probably not only there. Lists of best books in any given year or month, lists of worst zombie movies ever, etc… It’s as if structuring and prioritizing one’s experience or even group preferences became the best source of available information. Show me your list and I’ll tell you who you really are.

We’ve been mentioning our own lists on the blog at least several times already – the TBR lists, mainly. The problem is, my personal lists are few and far between, and they are not even proper lists with any discernible hierarchy. I have rather sets of items, where each item holds more or less similar position to any other. And even of those I have only two worth mentioning: TBR and TBB.

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