Tag Archives: Geek news

Breaking Down the DCEU News

So when you devour geek entertainment news the way I do (ie. not dissimilar to Augustus Gloop set loose in the Wonka Factory), San Diego Comic-Con is like being at a lavish Vegas buffet. There’s almost too much, and I want up on most of it, so I guess I’m going to be bloated and uncomfortable later.

That’s the worst metaphor I’ve ever opened with but it is not inaccurate.

So I can’t possibly cover everything that was announced about everything I love that week, be it Arrow (Slade’s back! Yay!), Flash (Tom Felton isn’t back. Boo.), Westworld (Already filming, I guess?), or what have you. But DC made some announcements on the Warner Bros. panel, in addition to releasing a decent and more colourful new trailer for Justice League…

…that admittedly is still hiding how and when Superman shows up… they’ve also begun to clear up a point of contention with the franchise’s future.

Back in 2014, Warner Bros. made as low-key an announcement about their planned slate of DC films as it was possible to make, addressing shareholders rather than Comic-Con attendees. It laid out about nine films over the course of five years, including two Justice Leagues and a far-off Green Lantern reboot. But then 2016 happened. After the negative critical reception and mixed fan reactions to Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad, everything seemed to be in doubt. New potential projects were being announced as in development left and right, whereas their previously announced films, looked shaky, with Flash in particular going into a tailspin of quitting directors and rewrites. So the question became, what exactly is going on over there?

Well, at Comic-Con, they announced… not a firm slate, but certainly their next wave. Their primary to-do list after Aquaman, the only post-League movie they’ve managed to get camera ready thus far. So let’s take a look at what they announced: what we know; what, based on the comics we might expect; and if I resist the urge to believe that everything’s going to be Wonder Woman-good from here (I’d love that but have no hard reason to assume it), how excited should we be?

We’ll skip over Justice League and Aquaman and go right to 2019.

Shazam!

Even before the big panel, news hit that the next DC film to go into active production will be Shazam, which… interesting. That’s interesting in a couple of ways. First, it’s an open declaration that they haven’t completely abandoned their original plan, since Shazam is still aiming for a spring 2019 release. That said, there is a lingering question mark.

Prior to Wonder Woman, the big “stay excited for DC movies” banner was the eventual arrival of proven franchise-saver Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Shazam’s classic nemesis, Black Adam. But the story began shifting… instead of Black Adam being the villain in the Shazam movie, he’d instead be introduced in a solo film, which given how interesting an anti-hero Black Adam has become in the last two decades, honestly seems like a better idea than doing both origins at once. This, naturally, led to some questions about whether Shazam was still on the table.

Well, now Shazam has a rough filming date, a release date, and a director, while all Black Adam has is Dwayne Johnson’s determination to make the movie once his busy schedule opens up. You know, assuming that 2020 presidential bid doesn’t happen.

What do we know?

Shazam has a director, David F. Sandberg. Not a big name, but a promising up-and comer. It starts filming in January/February of 2018, with a projected release date of April 5th, 2019.

With all of that in mind, you’d think we’d know more. Casting rumours about which Stranger Things kid is playing Billy or what Channing Tatum-type is playing his adult self or something. But all we know on that front is that Black Adam won’t be appearing.

What can we expect?

Shazam is about as far as it’s possible to get from the dark, brooding atmosphere that has clung to DC films from Batman Begins all the way to Suicide Squad. It’s the ultimate in wish fulfillment.

Classic origin story: ten-year-old Billy Batson encounters the wizard Shazam, who makes Billy his champion. By saying the wizard’s name, Batson gains the wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus (that one’s kinda vague), invulnerability of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. In short, he transforms into a big, muscular, adult superhero who’s basically Superman with no vision powers. For seven decades and change, he went by Captain Marvel, but since Marvel Comics has at least three of their own characters with that name, DC recently laid down arms and just started calling him “Shazam,” since that’s the name everyone knows him by anyway.

So it’s a little weird that this kid-friendly superhero wish fulfillment movie is being handed off to a director best known for horror films, but I guess he’s got a decent eye. If Jordan Peele can jump from sketch comedy to horror and knock it out of the park, maybe Sandberg has more bullets in his gun than making light switches scarier than they need to be. And hey, given that Shazam’s rogues’ gallery is called “The Monster Society of Evil,” maybe a touch of horror background isn’t the worst. Like Monster Squad.

There’s no word yet about what villains we can expect, with Black Adam off the table, but there’s three strong candidates: for brain vs. brawn, there’s Shazam’s own Lex Luthor, Dr. Sivana. For the creep factor: Mr. Mind, a Venusian caterpillar with mind-control capabilities. But I’m placing my money on Ibac.

Ibac brings all of the “like the hero but evil” that origin movies have been using for their villains ever since Iron Man, but without the complexity of Black Adam. Like Shazam, his name’s an acronym of his abilities: the terror of Ivan the Terrible, the Cunning of Cesare Borgia, the fierceness of Atilla the Hun, and the cruelty of Caligula. That gives us more promising action set pieces than Sivana, and builds the acronym-based mythology up, readying us to meet Dwayne Johnson as the wizard’s less noble champion from the ancient mid-East, Teth-Adam.

How excited should we be?

Hard to say. There’s so little to go on here. But the one thing that most gives me hope for this movie is that all the details, from script to overall vision to company approach, are coming in the wake of the bright, hopeful, inspiring Wonder Woman, which means they’re moving in the right direction to tackle Billy Batson. And hey, there’s this rough concept art for the costume.

Wonder Woman 2

I mean, duh. This is a gimme. The most financially successful DC film since 2012, and most beloved since at least 2008. Of course they want to stay in the Wonder Woman business.

What do we know?

It’s said to be set in the 1980s, at the end of the Cold War. The first film’s director, Patty Jenkins, and the co-writer/DC mastermind Geoff Johns are working on the story right now. Gal Gadot will be back as Diana, and to the surprise of no one who witnessed their chemistry, they’re trying to bring back Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. Wonder Woman 2, or whatever they call it, will arrive in December of 2019: 30 months after the last movie, one year after Aquaman, and way too damn long from now.

What confuses people is that they still haven’t officially confirmed that Jenkins will be directing. I mean come on. Whatever she’s asking must be worth it.

What can we expect?

Wonder Woman was a triumph for Warner Bros., so I have to assume they’ll try to keep the same inspirational tone that made it a hit. For villains? I don’t know. Diana hasn’t fought a lot of Russians. I, personally, would love to see devious corporate tycoon Veronica Cale turn up, but for reasons I don’t have time to go into. In short, she and Dr. Sivana could open the door for the sovereign nation of mad scientists I used to enjoy in the comics. Or they could have Diana fight personified misogyny in the form of woman-hating telepath Dr. Psycho. Yes, that’s his name. Not odder than Dr. Poison.

Should we be excited?

If they sign Jenkins, yes, absolutely. If they somehow don’t… less so. Because what we really want is “more of that,” and replacing their best director since Nolan would not be the right first step.

And now things get more vague.

The Batman

The 2014 movie slate didn’t include any Batman solo movie, but come on. It was always coming.

What do we know?

We know that director Matt Reeves (the man behind the excellent Dawn of and War For the Planet of the Apes) has taken over from departing director Ben Affleck, and has also started over from scratch on the script. It would be easy to see this as a slam against Affleck and Geoff Johns, who had been writing The Batman up until that point, but it seems to just be how Reeves works as a director.

Reeves approached The Batman the same way he approached the Apes franchise. He went to the studio and said “This is the movie I want to make. This is what an Apes movie I’d want to direct would be,” and then held to his guns against any studio notes pointing in another direction. So it makes sense that he’s starting over on the script. He didn’t sign on to direct Affleck’s Batman idea, he wants to make his Batman idea.

We also know that rumours aside, Ben Affleck will absolutely be playing Bruce Wayne. Affleck has said that he’d be a background chimp in an Apes movie if Reeves asked him to. But Joe Manganiello might be out as Deathstroke. And if that’s why Deathstroke’s back on Arrow, I’m fine with that.

What can we expect?

Reeves promises a noir-esque Batman movie, with more focus on Batman the detective. Which I’m good with. It’s a new take. Big-screen Batman’s just been about the villain punching since 1989. His best big-screen detective work should not be Adam West figuring out that when the solution to the Riddler’s riddle is “an egg,” he means they’re attacking the UN. Other than that? No idea. It’s early days. Whatever story or characters Reeves is considering, he isn’t sharing.

Should we be excited?

I would say yes. Affleck does a good Batman, and Matt Reeves makes good movies. I think we have a good shot of being more Nolan than Schumacher here.

Justice League Dark

No, this would not be the new title of Justice League Part 2, which is absent from WB’s plans. Perhaps they’re waiting until the first one comes out and reassessing, or maybe they don’t want to discuss it openly while the issue of “So is Zack Snyder being replaced, and by whom?” is dealt with.

Justice League Dark is a now-ended title in which the magic-based heroes of the DC Universe unite to tackle magical problems that the Justice League can’t handle. The cast rotated frequently, but typically revolved around wizard con artist John Constantine, sorceress Zatanna, and acrobatic ghost Deadman. Their book might not be running, but they did just get an animated movie on Blu-ray with Matt Ryan reprising Constantine.

What do we know?

That the original treatment for this movie was written by Guillermo del Toro, and every report about the ongoing development has said they’re sticking to it. Probably because they want to keep del Toro’s name on the project as long as they possibly can, because that gives it value. Sadly, the director of Hellboy making a magic-themed DC movie was a dream too beautiful to live.

Other than that, very little. Honestly I’m surprised this got announced as being in the next wave and not Black Adam, all things considered.

What can we expect?

Ideally? A magical Guardians of the Galaxy. A group of misfits who are thrown together to save the world from something no one else can handle. Worst case scenario is Suicide Squad with more spells and less boomerangs. I would prefer the first thing.

Should we be excited?

…I don’t know. I’d like to say yes, but other than the well-done animated movie, I don’t have much to go on. Maybe if they nail down a director, and said director says “We’re going to show the world why Zatanna belongs on the A-list,” I’ll have a better idea.

Batgirl

This right here might be the money movie.

What do we know?

That it’s written and directed by Joss Whedon. What we don’t know is whether signing on to make this movie is what led to Whedon being asked to work on Justice League, or if making a Batgirl movie was part of Whedon’s asking price to write and ultimately direct additional Justice League scenes. Doesn’t matter, it’s happening. Barbara Gordon, Gotham’s premiere lady crime fighter, is coming to the screen in a non-Lego context.

There is neither a name nor a short list attached to the lead role, but if Joss is anything approaching clever, he’ll get JK Simmons to keep playing Batgirl’s father, Commissioner Gordon. I don’t need Batman to show up. I wouldn’t complain, but I don’t need it.

Release date hasn’t been set, but Whedon is expected to start work on it in early 2018, once he’s rested up from reshooting Justice League.

What can we expect?

If he’s focusing on The Killing Joke and Barbara’s recovery from being paralyzed, expect a lot of complaints about a male writer tackling a sexual assault survivor’s story. With luck, he either skips that or only briefly touches on it. With extra luck, maybe he incorporates some of the more recent Batgirl stories, as the defender of Burnside, Gotham’s Brooklyn. Barbara juggles school, work, and fighting upscale crime alongside DC’s most diverse supporting cast. And it’s more targeted to women than men, which would be great for a studio trying to keep the interest of all the women inspired by Wonder Woman.

Keeping Batgirl in Burnside might also help with the fact that I don’t anticipate a lot of overlap between this and The Batman. Reeves and Whedon will probably do their own things. If they want to prove me wrong, and sync their films up, hooray, but Reeves has been clear about sticking to his vision, and after Age of Ultron Whedon is probably wary of having to jam a bunch of awkward franchise-building scenes into his movie.

Should we be excited?

Yes. Yes we should. Though maybe play it cool until filming starts, so the gods don’t try to take it from us like they did Guillermo del Toro’s Justice League Dark.

Flashpoint

And here we hit the controversy.

What do we know?

That the Flash movie is still happening, and is now called Flashpoint. And that one fact has raised a lot of eyebrows and a few alarms.

What can we expect?

The thing about Flashpoint is that it’s less famous for what it was, and more for what it did. Flashpoint was about Barry waking up in a world where his mother wasn’t killed when he was young, but the ripples of this change have made a dark and terrible world, one with no Flash or Superman, one where Thomas Wayne became a more brutal Batman when his son was killed (and Martha went crazy and became the Joker), one on the brink of destruction as Atlantis and Themyscira are fighting a devastating war. Wonder Woman conquered England, Aquaman flooded western Europe, and things are only getting worse.

But what Flashpoint is famous for is DC using it to reboot nearly their entire product line into the New 52, with fresh starts for basically everyone but Batman and Green Lantern. So like Captain America: Civil War, naming it Flashpoint kind of points in a direction.

Some question whether Warner Bros. will use this movie to similarly reboot their film universe. Others, like me, realize that’s probably not the best idea. Whatever you think about the DCEU this far, rebooting it once they finally find their stride is going to look ridiculous. And if Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s Flash break out the way Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman did last year, they’re not going to want to change much. By the time we reach Flashpoint, either their product will be better and won’t need rebooting, or things will have gone wrong and a reboot isn’t going to save them.

Others have asked whether Flashpoint would be used to replace Ben Affleck or Jared Leto, as rumours had claimed Warner Bros. was interested in doing. They must have written all of those articles or videos in the narrow window between Flashpoint being announced and Ben Affleck soundly denying the rumours he was leaving. But hey, you went ahead and posted them anyway, because what’s a little debunking between friends.

Now… there is potential here. There must be, since there’s already an animated movie based on this story, and the third season premiere of The Flash TV show is named after it. Seeing Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa go to war as twisted versions of Wonder Woman and Aquaman could be fun, albeit everything the DCEU is trying to move away from. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Thomas Wayne Batman? That I’d pay to see. But there is that one little nagging problem… if this is your first Flash movie, you don’t have an established Reverse-Flash to be the main villain. The one Barry assumes is responsible for all of this. And I’m not positive there’s a great workaround.

Of course they could be doing the Marvel thing and using the name without using much at all of the story. But if that’s true, man, you could have picked a less notorious name.

Should we be excited?

…Too soon to tell on that one, but so far I’m more concerned. It doesn’t help that instead of finding a Matt Reeves with a Flash story they really want to do, you need to find people willing to make that specific Flash story.

Suicide Squad 2

Time for something simpler.

What do we know?

That Suicide Squad made enough money that they want to make another one. Jaume Collet-Serra, another horror director, is rumoured to be close to signing on, and Joel Kinnaman (Rick Flagg) once expected to film in 2018, but any of that could prove wrong at any moment.

What can we expect?

That Warner Bros. will do their best to keep Will Smith and Margot Robbie involved, because they were seen as the highlights, and Warner Bros. wants very badly to stay in the Harley Quinn business.

Should we be excited?

Finding a less accomplished, easier to control director isn’t a great first step, seeing as Suicide Squad’s problems had “studio interference” written all over them.

Green Lantern Corps

And to wrap up, the last of the 2014 slate still on the table, with Justice League Part 2 and Cyborg absent from the announcement.

What do we know?

That they’re aiming for a cosmic-themed buddy cop movie, with a veteran Hal Jordan training a rookie John Stewart. Who’s going to write, direct, or act in it is up in the air.

What should we expect?

Getting pieces in play for all of the other Lantern Corps would be my guess. The Emotional Spectrum, and the associated ring slingers, are one of the biggest parts of Lantern lore to be added in decades, so I think it’s safe to say we’d see some set up for Sinestro, Larfleeze, the Star Sapphires, ect.

No I’m not explaining who they are. You’re on the internet. Google them if you’re that curious.

We’re at 3300 words? Wow. I do ramble on about this stuff. Okay… um… bye, then.

Superhero Season in Review: The Final Chapter

And so it’s come to this. But before we get to my superhero rankings, let’s see how some other geek shows would have done in my earlier categories.

Because it’s my blog and I do what I want.

Beyond the capes

There are a handful of geek-oriented TV shows I like that I disqualified for not being superhero shows. But they’re worth some kudos. So let’s do a speed run through the previous categories. Warning: this is even less comprehensive than my previous entries, because I don’t watch Once Upon a Time and am seriously behind on Sleepy Hollow (thought I’d catch up on Netflix, that still isn’t an option) and Supernatural.

Though Supernatural’s a little long in the tooth and probably wouldn’t have made it anyway.

Best Male Lead: Sherlock Holmes, Elementary

Or as you know him, the OTHER Sherlock.

Or as you might know him, the OTHER Sherlock.

Sherlock Holmes is a misanthrope. All recent adaptions can agree on that. Good with mysteries, bad with people, and generally fine with that, and Johnny Lee Miller’s Sherlock is no exception. But where BBC’s Sherlock is better at tackling the big, canonical mysteries and making events out of them (only having to write three episodes every two years helps), CBS’s Elementary has more time for character growth and development, and to my surprise, they’ve been making use of it.

Sherlock is still Sherlock, still blunt, still generally bad with people and uncaring about social niceties… but he’s become a genuine friend to Joan Watson, better able to open up. Their partnership has evolved from Detective/Assistant to Detective/Protege to essentially equals. He took on a new apprentice in Kitty Winter, demonstrating new depths of emotional investment in another human being beyond their use to him. Miller’s Sherlock has become a rich enough interpretation of the character, one I’ve become so invested in, that the threat of him having a relapse into heroin addiction was genuinely frightening. And that’s quite an accomplishment for a show that started as “Crime procedural but with Sherlock Holmes,” or as it seemed some network executive was picturing it, “House, but instead of fighting disease he solves crimes.”

Honourable mention: the 12th Doctor, Doctor Who. He may be less cheerful and cuddly than Ten or Eleven, but he’s still the Doctor, as seen in this speech.

Best Female Lead: Liv Moore, iZombie

LivLiv Moore (get it?) had it all: a promising medical career, a perfect fiance, friends and family… now she’s single, working in a morgue, and pushing away anyone close to her, because after a boat-party-turned-horror-movie, she’s a zombie. If she eats a steady supply of brains, she stays mostly normal (if pale), hence the morgue job, but the brains come with a consequence: she absorbs the owner’s memories, so she uses that to help Seattle police detective Clive Babineaux solve mysteries by pretending to be psychic. All part of adapting to life after death.

In addition to memories, Liv also absorbs some of the deceased’s personality. Thus far she’s been a passionate (in more ways than one) artist, a sociopath hit man, an extreme sports junkie, a would-be relationship guru, an agoraphobic gamer/hacker/troll, a military sniper, an alcoholic journalist, and more, all while still being Liv. And like I said last time, Rose McIver is nailing it each and every week. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the creator of Veronica Mars knows how to write a kickass detective heroine.

Honourable mention: Joan Watson, Elementary. Like Sherlock, Watson’s evolved over the last three seasons, from a doctor-turned-sober-companion to a skilled detective in her own right. Not a traditional Watson, but a damn fine one.

Best Supporting Character: Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti, iZombie

Ravi

Liv’s boss and sole confidant, Ravi figured out her secret pretty quickly (he noticed chunks of brain kept going missing from the bodies), but instead of being horrified, was simply fascinated. The only person Liv can be 100% honest with (or even 30%, really), Ravi’s become her (excuse the term) lifeline… and is convinced he can find a cure to her condition. Plus he’s got a charm to him, is pleasantly nerdy, and brings an enthusiasm to their casework that keeps things lively. All without any unnecessary romantic tension.

I mean, he cares about Liv, but he’s not an idiot. She is just SUPER contagious.

Honourable mention: Kitty Winter, Elementary. Survivor of a horrifying crime, she turned to investigating criminals. But her trauma made it hard to be taken seriously, as it made it hard for her to even make eye contact with strange men, let alone be convincing about her findings. But a chance encounter after a failed attempt to make a report to the London police got her noticed by Sherlock Holmes, who takes her under his wing, and trains her in his techniques. Sherlock’s tutelage never reduces her to a victim, even in his slightly ham-fisted attempts to be protecting, and in a flashback, we learn the full truth: Sherlock didn’t save Kitty. Mentoring Kitty saved Sherlock, right when he was at his lowest. She’s gone now, as her story (adapted from one of the classic novels) always had an endgame, and her farewell to Sherlock was a little heartbreaking. Here’s hoping she finds her way back to New York someday.

Best villain: Missy, Doctor Who

Missy

Spoilers for Doctor Who, Series Eight. Skip over this if you want to stay unspoiled.

Throughout Peter Capaldi’s debut season as the Doctor, we get glimpses of an eccentric woman named Missy, who seems to be collecting all of the people who die during the Doctor’s adventures. Villains, allies, bystanders, all find themselves in one of Missy’s offices. That’s all we’re told at first… her name is Missy, she has a particular interest in the Doctor, and she claims to run Heaven. It’s not until the two-part finale that we learn the truth… and it’s a hell of a thing. Who is Missy?

Big-time spoiler here.

Missy is classic Doctor Who nemesis The Master, regenerated from John Simm into Michelle Gomez, and she’s used the dead to build an army of Cybermen.

[collapse]

Michelle Gomez was so good in the role that I liked her as a villain even when she was doing things designed to be painful to watch. And it was her motivation that pushed Missy to the top of the list… she wasn’t trying to conquer all of time and space, she was giving the Doctor a dark and terrible gift. She wanted him to admit that he isn’t better than her, that they share the same darkness, because then they could be friends again. She’s a monster, yes, horrifying, to be sure… but this time around, she just wants her best friend back.

Honourable mention: Blaine DeBeers, iZombie. Turned into a zombie at or shortly prior to the same party as Liv, Blaine found an upside to zombie life… scratch a few one-percenters, and he’s living the high life, making tens of thousands of dollars a week keeping the rich and undead in fresh, haute cuisine brains. Evil? Sure, he’s monetized being a literal predator and doesn’t care who gets hurt. But he’s played by Alias/the Revenant’s David Anders, who’s never not fun to watch.

The Main Event

Okay, let’s wrap this puppy up. Who’s the best series? Instead of giving you the three best and one worst, here’s my full rankings of super hero TV.

#7

gotham

For every one thing that works about Gotham (Bullock, Cobblepot, the brewing mob war), there are three that don’t (Barbara, Nygma, seriously how old is Harvey Dent gonna be when he becomes Two-Face if he’s already a prosecutor, Barbara again, she’s that awful). The Wayne Enterprises conspiracy plot has no real momentum, and the series premise basically guarantees a great deal of wheel-spinning. There’s enough there that I’m gonna watch at least the start of season two, but if they don’t want to get their asses kicked by Supergirl, they’d better do some serious course-correction instead of doubling down on their flaws.

#6

con3

Constantine loses some ground in the standings for getting off to a weak start. The show had strong potential, especially in its lead character, but took a while to start seizing that potential. And they didn’t do the best job with canon characters Felix Faust or former Constantine nemesis The First of the Fallen. But they started to find their feet, it was still a fun watch, it was sad to see it go, and the tiny hope that Matt Ryan’s Constantine may yet find his way to Starling City is exciting.

#5

SHIELD

Certainly an improvement over their lacklustre first season, but as is their habit, they may have overcorrected a smidge. In season two, they burned through plots almost too quickly. Hydra only lasted half the season and their primary nemesis, paving the way for Dark SHIELD (amazed no one else ever called them that…), which skidded to a halt so that their last three hours could be devoted to something else entirely, war with the Inhumans. And right in the middle of that last, most awkward gear shift, a token movie tie-in that was almost as half-assed as The Well, their bait-and-switch Thor: the Dark World “tie-in” that remains the show’s worst episode.

But unlike a year ago, I’d have actually been sad if the show got cancelled. If there’s one thing Agents of SHIELD is good at, it’s reinvention and course correction, so let’s see what season three can do.

#4

arrow-2-09I love Arrow, always have, and I’m as surprised as anyone to see it not make the top three. But you can love something and admit it’s had problems. A less cohesive season arc than season two, flashbacks that felt less essential, a little too much weepy Felicity… I believe in the show, love the larger universe its responsible for, and look forward to season four, but I’ll admit this wasn’t their best year. Still good, not quite great.

#3

Carter

Perhaps Agent Carter’s short run-time did it favours. It’s amazing what freeing yourself of the filler episodes a 22-24 episode season requires can do for your narrative. But if a great lead, reliably entertaining banter between Carter and Edwin Jarvis, and a glimpse into the history of the people who trained Black Widow aren’t enough for you, Agent Carter was also about something. They used old-school spy action to lure you into a look at the difficulties of women in post-war America, as the returning men tried to push them back into the background, and how even “safe places” like the ladies’ apartment complex Carter moves to are places of control and puritan judgement. Agent Carter was smart, fun, and necessary.

#1&2… And we have a tie

flashdevilLook, I’ve given this more thought than anyone rationally should, and… I can’t. I just can’t. I cannot, in good conscience, tell you which of these shows is better.

You see, the thing about rating things from one to ten, is that there is no objective ten. Or at least that’s what I read once, and it made sense to me. The notion was, a ten is simply a nine that fills a personal niche. Daredevil and The Flash are, and it is not just me saying this, it’s all over the web, they are nines. They are both excellent television shows. As it happens, Flash hits more than one niche for me, having been a massive Flash fan starting in the 90s, a Firestorm fan in my formative years, and an Arrow fan recently.

So while it would be tempting to declare Flash the best superhero show on TV, I can’t ignore the fact that it is almost custom-tailored to my exact tastes (having Mark Hamill reprise his role as the Trickster from the 90s series? I’m not made out of stone).

Daredevil and Flash have the best supporting casts, the best leads, the best plotlines, but they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Daredevil has the better production value. It plays less like a series and more like a 13 hour film. Every episode is tied to the central narrative (save two things), something a shorter runtime makes easier to do. It’s gripping, yes, but grim. And it doesn’t quite stick the landing in its finale. Also, it suffers the same issues as Age of Ultron, in that they occasionally break from their own story to set up other properties. Want to know what Matt’s mentor Stick was doing in New York, or who he’s reporting to? Sorry, you’ll have to wait for (I assume) The Defenders in 2017.

The Flash is more joyful. Brighter, more fun, and more, for good or ill, comic-booky. Daredevil tries as hard as it can to not be a superhero show, despite taking place in the same universe as the Avengers. Matt’s traditional costume, and the name “Daredevil,” don’t show up until the end of the last episode. I don’t think they ever use the word “Kingpin.”

Flash, on the other hand, is loud and proud about its comic book origins. Easter eggs are, simply put, cooler and more frequent. Where Daredevil tried to keep its villains as grounded as possible (except, okay, for the ninja and the mandated tie-in to Iron Fist’s mystical city of Kunlun), Flash caps off a steady stream of comic book supervillains by having Barry fight a telepathic gorilla. And it’s great. And it should be said… for all that the MCU’s selling point is that everything is connected, Flash and Arrow’s DCWverse is just better at being a shared universe.

On the other hand, The Flash had an Iris problem for most of the season. You wouldn’t catch Daredevil half-assing Karen Page because they didn’t know what to do with her.

They’re both great. They’re both better and worse than the other in different ways, and which you prefer will come down to personal taste.

And with that… we’re finally done. On to other topics. Such as the delayed-but-imminent season finale of Writers Circle. Is “Decisions and Deneuments” as good as Flash’s “Fast Enough?” Well… it’s not as heartbreaking. Some might say… it’s the reverse.

mic drop

 

Superhero TV Season in Review Part 2

So last time, I went over my favourite and least favourite characters from the year’s superhero shows: male leads, female leads, supporting cast, and the most controversial of them all, best villain.

I admit… maybe Wilson Fisk was overlooked. Perhaps Daredevil suffered in my rankings because I watched all of it over a month ago, while the finales of everything else (except Constantine) were fresh in my head. I’d totally forgotten about Fisk’s speech in which he realizes he’s been the villain this whole time.

And even beyond that, there’s Wilson Fisk’s international cartel, Captain Cold and the Rogues, Gotham of all things managing to make Victor Zsasz as fun to watch as he’s ever been, it’s been a great year for bad guys, somebody was going to get left out, I’m sure I’m sorry.

I think those were the only oversights, so… wait… no… iZombie is based on a comic book… we’re not calling it a superhero show, are we? Because if we are… well, Best Female Lead would have gone differently. Oh Rose McIver. You are nailing it.

No. No, we’ll assume it doesn’t count.

Anyhoo, round two!

Best fight!

Your average superhero show needs some action. Sadly, not every show gets this. Smallville spent its entire eighth season building up a battle between Clark Kent and Doomsday, and said battle lasted about fifteen seconds. Heroes gave rivals Sylar and Peter Petrelli dozens of powers to play with, then limited their big climactic fight to punching.

Thankfully, those days are gone. For two years, Arrow was the gold standard, but then Daredevil happened, and Agents of SHIELD let Mortal Kombat: Legacy’s Kevin Tancharoen go to work. As a result, onscreen action has kicked it up a notch this season.

Some honourable mentions: Melinda May vs. Melinda May’s doppelganger in Agents of SHIELD’s “Face My Enemy” for a double-dose of extra-cool Ming Na fighting; the Flash vs. the Arrow in The Flash’s “Flash vs. Arrow” (okay, maybe I didn’t need to specify the combatants… I said “Flash” a lot just then) for nailing a fight based around Oliver Queen’s skill and experience vs. Barry Allen’s sheer speed; Arrow vs. an unarmed Ra’s Al Ghul just for Ra’s’ opening line (“I will take your swords, when you’re done with them,”); and pretty much every fight from Daredevil. All of them, always. But here’s the winners.

Bronze medal: Reverse Flash vs. Err’body, “Rogue Air”

Mild spoilers for Flash’s first season.

After an episode filled with self-doubt, betrayal, and defeat, the Flash faces down the Reverse Flash, a man he’s never been able to beat one-on-one. At first, the other was simply faster: but even as Barry works to improve his speed, his opposite number has been fighting the Flash a lot longer than the Flash has been fighting him (wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey), and so at this point in Barry’s career, Reverse Flash is simply the better fighter. So… it ain’t looking promising.

And then, at the last moment, in swoop Firestorm and the Arrow. Me, I’m a sucker for all things Firestorm, as I’ve said, and having the Arrow go a few rounds with the Reverse Flash (with the help of Ray Palmer’s nano-tech) was a treat. Plus there was just something inherently pleasing about seeing everyone come together to take on the Reverse Flash.

Check it out if you like. Although there are potential spoilers for Flash’s first season and Arrow’s third.

Silver medal: Skye vs. Like Half a Hydra Facility, “The Dirty Half Dozen”

A year ago, Skye was just starting to learn how to be a SHIELD agent. She started the first season as a hacker with basically no combat skills. Now, in one single take, we see what nearly a year training under Melinda May can do.

No spoilers, no context really needed, so check it out. This is some John Wick-level stuff right here.

The only way that sequence could have been better is if Skye remembered she has super powers.

Gold medal: The Daredevil Hallway Fight, “Cut Man”

Come on. You’re on the internet. You knew where this was going. Daredevil had the best fight chroeo on anything that could be called television this season, and its crown jewel is the scene in which a bruised, bloodied, clearly exhausted Matt Murdock still punches and flip-kicks his way through at least nine Russian gangsters in one single take.

Let’s just watch it, shall we?

Worst: Flash vs. Clyde Mardon, “Pilot”

This was a tricky one. Like I said, the days of Smallville-style anticlimactic one-punch-and-it’s-done battles with Doomsday or Darkseid, or Heroes never delivering a proper fight between Peter and Sylar, are currently over. Currently. Heroes Reborn is coming, we’ll see what happens.

I considered throwing Constantine under the bus here, but Constantine isn’t based around physical combat. He magic and deceit, you can’t really blame them for not having big fight scenes. Might as well accuse Elementary of not having enough time travel.

But the fight between Flash and weather-powered Clyde Mardon (his more powerful brother Mark would actually be named Weather Wizard) basically came down to Flash running really fast in a circle. And it could have been shot better. But they’ve improved at making Flash’s speed-battles visually interesting as the series progressed.

Best emotional moment!

Nothing like a good old-fashioned feels-bomb. Some of the best Doctor Who episodes can also be the most heartbreaking. And like fight scenes, superhero TV’s attempts at these have also evolved since Smallville.

Potential mild spoilers.

Bronze medal: “I can’t take one more step.” Daredevil, The Ones We Leave Behind

Daredevil gets… kinda dark. Well, that’s not true. It starts dark and it stays dark. And that takes its toll on the central characters. In the back half, a wedge gets driven between Matt Murdock and his best friend Foggy Nelson, a wedge they both accidentally take out on their assistant Karen Page, who ends up alone in what used to be a group effort to bring down Wilson Fisk.

But by the end of the episode, Matt has learned an unpleasant truth about one of Fisk’s allies, and how they finance their operations. And after pushing his friends away (as his former mentor said he would), after suffering defeat after defeat against Fisk, this unpleasant truth is his breaking point. And when Karen, who is suffering from her own trauma, confronts him, he confesses… not that he’s the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen,” as the media has called him, but that fighting this crusade alone has become too much to bear.

“I can’t take one more step on my own,” he says. And while Matt and Karen are still keeping huge secrets from each other, they reconcile, and Nelson and Murdock begins to come back together. It’s a nice moment.

Silver medal: “I don’t want to die down here.” Arrow, [episode redacted]

Team Arrow loses a valued friend and ally, a painful blow to the entire team. For the whole episode, however, Oliver doesn’t openly react. He doesn’t cry, he doesn’t mourn. He remains the big shoulders, because he knows that his team has no one else to turn to. No one else they can rely on. In his words… if he grieves, no one else can.

Until the end.

Oliver began the season feeling he needed to shed the last remnants of Oliver Queen to focus on being the Arrow, but in one moment, his grief, his fear, his sadness is too much to bear.

The killer hasn’t been found, but the initial shock has died down. The team makes their way out of the headquarters, until only Oliver and his first and closest ally, Diggle, remain.

“John?” Oliver says, his voice cracking. And honestly, it’s odd enough that he doesn’t call him “Dig.” Then, standing over the body of someone he’d been close to, who had been claimed in his crusade…

“I don’t want to die down here.”

Stephen Amell kind of nailed that moment. And yes, it got to me a little.

Gold medal: Basically the whole damn thing, Flash, “Fast Enough”

Flash’s season finale is an emotional roller coaster. Barry finally has the chance to do what he’d never thought possible: go back in time and stop the Reverse Flash from killing his mother. But there are consequences. Martin Stein warns that changing this moment could change everything in the lives of Barry, those around him, or any life the Flash has touched. Which is a lot of them by this point.

Barry seeks out advice from Iris and all of his dads. Joe says Barry has to do it, even though he’s afraid of what he himself would lose: the joys of having helped raise Barry into the man he’s become. Barry’s actual father, who would get his wife and fifteen years of his life back, begs Barry not to do it, and says his mother would agree. Henry Allen is proud of who Barry is, even beyond being the Flash, and is against Barry risking any of that by altering the chain of events that forged him. Iris says to listen to his heart, because why wouldn’t she. And Harrison Wells… has his own agenda.

Every big conversation leading up to Barry’s choice is not just a pull but a yank on the heartstrings, and they nail every one, and the episode is just getting warmed up. As far as heartbreak goes, saying goodbye to the man who’s been a second father, knowing they might lose everything they’d been to each other is the warmup act.

But I can’t elaborate. It’s the perfect end to a stellar season, but it will stab you right in the heart, over and over.

Worst: Barbara leaves Jim, Gotham, “The Mask”

After thinking “I bet if I ask Gotham’s reigning mob boss, like, super nicely, he won’t kill my fiance for trying to arrest him” was a great plan, Barbara Kean has herself a little breakdown, and decides to a) leave Jim Gordon, b) start using drugs again, and c) hook up with Rene Montoya again.

And I didn’t care about a single bit of it. Except by being annoyed that she and Montoya were back together again, because their whole thing was just the worst. Rene Montoya, shining star of Gotham Central, the former Question, should not be stuck in a plotline where she’s trying to prove Gotham’s last honest cop is corrupt because she wants to bang his girlfriend, then becoming an enabler.

God damn you, Barbara, and anyone who wrote for her.

Best storyline!

Stories are neat! Sorry, don’t really have a clever opening for this category. I’ll just… I’ll just start, shall I?

Honourable mention goes to Agents of SHIELD for their introduction of the Inhumans. The story worked well, gave new depth to Skye, and moved faster than any plot from season one. It would make the podium if I honestly believed that it was setting up anything in the movies, be it the source conflict in Civil War or even the actual Inhumans movie. But given that it never seems like the movie branch of the MCU cares even a little what the TV branch is doing, I just… I just don’t.

Bronze medal: Rise of the Atom, Arrow

Given all my various rantings about Ray Palmer on Arrow, I don’t think I need to say much here. Quality origin story for a quality character.

Silver medal: The Long Game of Harrison Wells, The Flash

The twists and turns of Harrison Wells’ schemes surrounding the Flash, his love/hate relationship with Barry, and the mega-emotional payoff were a masterclass in long-term storytelling. That’s really all I can say without spoiling stuff.

Gold medal: “I’m just trying to make my city a better place,” Daredevil

The thing that made Daredevil really excel, and had people demanding to know why I ranked anyone over Wilson Fisk for best villain, let alone Oswald Cobblepot, is that Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk have matching goals. Both are trying to save Hell’s Kitchen, both believe themselves righteous, but they’ve taken drastically different and equally self-destructive paths. Matt is (often physically) fighting the city’s criminals and corruption, while Fisk is using them in an attempt to burn down the city and rebuild it. Both lose allies along the way, though one of them loses allies a bit more deliberately and permanently. Both see themselves as saviours, while being painted as devils.

Having more time to breathe helps make the struggle between Murdock and Wilson much richer than the average movie hero/villain relationship, and it’s a treat to see.

Worst: Theta Protocol, Agents of SHIELD

I’d say something with Barbara on Gotham, but she never really had a “story,” per se. She’d just show up, be a mixture of boring and annoying, do something we didn’t like that felt unmotivated, then disappear for a few episodes and we’d all be happy. She couldn’t even do “be in a bad plotline” right.

Instead, I’d like to toss a few jeers at Agents of SHIELD’s super-forced attempt to connect to Age of Ultron. In the second half of the season, we learn that Coulson’s band of misfits aren’t the only people trying to rebuild SHIELD, and that the rival SHIELD doesn’t trust Coulson in charge. They begin to lure Coulson’s right hand, Melinda May, to their side by revealing the various things he hadn’t been telling his team, including something called the Theta Protocol. What is it? Why hasn’t he told anyone? Will this dark secret project tear apart Coulson’s allies?

No. He was just fixing up the old helicarrier for Nick Fury so that he could swoop in and save the day in Age of Ultron. That established in a thirty second cold open bit, everyone said “Sure, fine,” formed a single SHIELD basically immediately, and got back to dealing with the Inhumans.

They spent three episodes on the Theta Protocol, made finding out the truth a huge deal to May and Simmons, and then tossed it aside in a thirty-second cold open and forgot it ever happened, all so that they could try to give Agents of SHIELD some sort of connection to Age of Ultron. Which is kind of all for nothing, because there is still a goddamn Chinese wall between the movies and Agents of SHIELD.

According to Age of Ultron, the Avengers had been hitting Hydra base after Hydra base for months, probably ever since Winter Soldier. Hydra was the primary nemesis for the first half of SHIELD’s season. You’d think, if the Avengers were fighting Hydra at the same time, somebody on the show, either Coulson or one of the Hydra bigwigs, would have noticed it and thought it worth mentioning.

But they didn’t. And Age of Ultron made no reference or even vague allusion to Coulson or Theta Protocol. So the whole thing ends up feeling like a desperation play to be relevant, a Mary Sue fan fiction where Coulson is totally involved in stopping Ultron even if nobody notices. And then it’s back to our utterly non-Ultron-related plot.

Man these things get long on me… next time, the wrap-up, including my picks for best show.

Superhero TV Season in Review (Part 1)

We begin our segue into a post-Writers Circle Confidential world… at least while the brain trust figures out what between-season bonus material we’re doing.

So in the meantime, now that I’ve managed to get through all of the big comic series for the TV season… okay, except Walking Dead… let’s do a Year-in-review! No, I’m not going to dig up my blogs on what I wanted to see from geek TV this season, that’s no fun for you or me. Instead… let’s do us an award show! Best and worst in a variety of categories.

That’ll be fun for at least me.

(I considered calling it “Geek TV” instead of “Superhero TV” so that I could accuse Game of Thrones of not being “geek friendly,” because this season it isn’t friendly to any of its audience, it hates its audience and wants us to suffer, but… Walking Dead kind of screwed me out of that by existing and being a show I haven’t watched in over two years.)

This week, best and worst characters!

Best male lead!

Sadly, as far as comic book shows go, saying “Male lead” is virtually redundant. Hurry up, Supergirl.

This year, Oliver Queen failed to avenge a loved one and Phil Coulson lost his team’s trust plugging a plot hole from Age of Ultron… which did nothing at all for the plot of his own show… so three freshmen take the podium.

Bronze medal: Matt Murdock, Daredevil

daredevil

Matt Murdock spent the first season of Daredevil in a dark, dark place, fighting against insurmountable odds to make post-Chitauri Hell’s Kitchen a better place. Charlie Cox did a brilliant job portraying Matt’s exhaustion, growing isolation, and resolve to keep swinging no matter what.

Silver medal: John Constantine, Constantine

con3

To put it simply, Matt Ryan was note-perfect as John Constantine. He nailed the look, the darkness, the cynicism, the self-hatred, the way that Constantine has to be practically press-ganged into doing the right thing, but when he does, he’s unstoppable.

He’s the perfect magic-slinging con-artist wizard. Sadly, there seemed to be slightly less market for that than needed. If they can’t find a new home for the series, I’m hoping against hope that Constantine finds his way to Starling and Central Cities next year. Maybe do a magical consult for the Legends of Tomorrow.

Gold medal: Barry Allen, The Flash

THE-FLASH-Full-Suit-Image

It’s not just that relatively young Grant Gustin has been unexpectedly good as Flash’s Barry Allen. Which he has. I no longer flinch at hearing a cast member of something is a Glee veteran. It’s not just that he sold every heartbreaking moment in the finale, which oh gods he did, don’t get me started.

It’s that Barry Allen is, simply, the best hero. The inspiration, the light in the darkness, the one who struggles to be on the right side, even in his first year as a hero. The Flash had a stellar first season, and it couldn’t have done that without a stellar lead.

Worst: Jim Gordon, Gotham

Look. He tries as hard as he can. He doesn’t do a bad job as Jim Gordon. But the problem is, “Angry that the system is corrupt” and “So dedicated to doing the honourable thing that he gets himself in trouble” only takes you so far when the show doesn’t let you move forward. As such, Jim gets in a rut while his partner gets all the development.

Best female lead!

Gonna have to stretch the definition of “lead” here, but our gold medallist demanded the category exist.

Ohhhh this is hard. This shouldn’t be so hard. Why aren’t there more female leads. Why are the ones who exist so underwritten. I want to say Laurel from Arrow, but that whole “I’m-a lie to my father for a year until it explodes in my face” thing isn’t doing her any favours… Flash’s Caitlin Snow is not what you’d call a lead… the women on Gotham are almost unilaterally terrible… This isn’t why we can’t have nice things, nerd culture. Shit like this. Okay. Doing my best.

Bronze medal: Skye, aka Daisy, aka Quake, Agents of SHIELD

Skye

Skye takes the bronze just for being Agents of SHIELD’s most-improved character. A weak link of the first season (better than pre-Hydra Ward, not on par with Melinda May), she came into her own in season two both as a SHIELD agent and our perspective character into the world of the Inhumans. While I’m still hesitant to believe that this plotline will have much if any impact on the Marvel movies (even the actual Inhumans movie), it gave Agents of SHIELD something to do besides sit around and wait for a movie to react to, which after their first season they sorely needed.

Skye met her murderous father (a highlight of the season), discovered she’s an Inhuman (and that Inhuman is a thing you can be), gained seismic powers, and became enough of a badass that even without powers she managed a couple of John Wick-level one-take fight scenes that rival any action sequence this season.

Silver medal: Karen Page, Daredevil

Karen-Daredevil

Daredevil had a slight problem with throwing its female characters into peril for plot purposes, but I give Karen Page props for never fully becoming a damsel in distress. She saves herself about as often as Matt and Foggy do (Really? She needs Foggy to save her at one point? Goddamn), even if in one case she potentially does considerable damage to herself in the process. On top of that, she’s instrumental in the crusade to expose and convict Wilson Fisk, and when Matt can fight no longer, it’s Karen who picks him back up.

Matt saved her physically, and she saved him spiritually.

Plus Deborah Ann Woll was amazing in the role. That helps. It was the kind of performance that gets characters brought back from the dead in the comics. Assuming she survives season two, anyway… no guarantee there…

Gold medal: Peggy Carter, Agent Carter

Carter

Was there any doubt? Comic TV was hit and miss at best when it came to writing female characters, but with Peggy Carter they nailed it. Having female showrunners couldn’t have hurt. Haley Atwell made Agent Carter’s eight-episode run appointment viewing. And Haley herself is advocating increasing the diversity on their white-ass cast.

The best written and best developed female character in geek TV, and a certified badass to boot.

Worst: Iris West, the Flash

Ugh. Again, it’s not the actor’s fault. The Flash didn’t have many flaws in season one, but their treatment of Iris goes right to the top. Greg Berlanti and His Amazing Friends learn as they go… mostly… and one thing they’re learning is that “I must protect my identity from those closest to me” gets old FAST.

It certainly did with Iris.

The problem is, the wider the circle of characters who know the hero’s identity becomes, the weirder it gets when certain characters are left out of the loop. So it was with Iris. When nearly the entire cast knew Barry’s secret by the end of the pilot, “We can’t tell Iris to protect her” just… lacked credibility. It stuck her in a shallow and unflattering story for nearly the whole season.

Also… if you’re going to set up a romance plotline between two characters, you really need more than “Well, they got together in the comics” if you’re going to ask your audience to get invested in them. That’s all that Oliver and Laurel had on Arrow, and by the end of season one, the writers wisely moved on.

Best supporting character!

It’s generally understood that a comic book show needs an ensemble. Obviously team shows like Agents of SHIELD and Legends of Tomorrow need an ensemble, but even shows based around one guy like Arrow, Flash, and Daredevil still need a strong supporting cast, like the team from STAR Labs or Wilson Fisk’s cabal of international stereotypes. And man, by and large it’s working. The Daredevil cast helps build a surprisingly blood-soaked 13-part epic, the Arrow ensemble saves us from the godawful voice-over narration from the first episodes, and the crew from the SSR in Agent Carter are what sell the overall theme of “the difficulties facing women in post-war America.” Here’s some standouts.

Bronze medal: Harvey Bullock, Gotham

Bullock

Gotham’s supporting cast is one of highs and staggering lows, but Harvey Bullock is one of the highs. Gotham could jump from often okay to great if they fired most of the cast and just made it Bullock and Alfred solving crimes while Penguin conquers the underworld in the background.

Where Jim Gordon was stuck in a holding pattern of “Curse this city’s corruption that by the nature of the show can’t change in a hurry,” Harvey Bullock could grow and evolve. Harvey started out symptomatic of the GCPD’s corruption, but has been gradually changed by exposure to Jim Gordon’s honest ways. If the entire show could be a little more like Harvey Bullock, they might get somewhere.

He also gets basically all the best lines.

Silver medal: Ray Palmer

Arrow

As I said when I talked about Legends of Tomorrow, the best thing Arrow’s third season did was introduce Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer. Sure, they turned him into a nerdier, ad-hoc Iron Man, but damn it it’s working. Routh’s quirky charm made Ray Palmer a highlight of any episode he was in, and justified making a second spinoff, which means DC is now the CW equivalent of CSI at its peak.

Gold medal: Joe West, The Flash

West

 

His mother may have died when he was a kid, but Barry Allen has a wide variety of dads. His actual father, Henry Allen, who he hopes to one day see out of prison; Harrison Wells, his mentor, the man who’s teaching him to be the Flash; and Joe West, the cop who took him in after his father went to jail. And while nearly all of Barry’s scenes with his father are touching, and Harrison is there to teach him how to use his speed, there’s a real love between Joe and Barry. Joe was Barry’s lifeline, the first in line to help him through his tough times. By midseason, I was terrified that the bloodlust Greg Berlanti and the Funky Bunch demonstrated on Arrow would turn on Joe.

And to be honest… he might not have gotten the gold a week ago, but his scenes with Barry in the finale were incredibly touching. Barry wasn’t born Joe’s son, but damned if Joe hasn’t become the father he needs. A father willing to make a sacrifice beyond measure for the benefit of the man he raised.

He’s also the conscience of Team STAR Labs, Barry’s first and best ally in the quest to find the Reverse Flash, and has the best reactions to Barry’s powers.

Worst: Barbara Kean, Gotham

God damn. Barbara is just the worst. The absolute worst. Remember what I said about needing something other than “they get together in the comics” to make us invested in a character? At least the Flash writers tried. Barbara is… she’s nothing. She started useless and kind of whiny, became something to throw in danger to motivate Jim, and when it was clear that she was the worst character on a show that wasn’t exactly knocking their whole ensemble out of the park, instead of trying to course correct they doubled down. It was like they went out of their way to find new awful plot points for her.

She ruined Renee Montoya. Created for the animated series, hero of No Man’s Land, primary character of Gotham Central (one of the best Batman spinoffs ever), heir to the title of The Question, that Renee Montoya. In a better world, she’d be the lead character of a Gotham Central TV show. Instead, she’s the second worst character on Gotham, was barely in the back half of the season (did she or her partner even show up after the fall finale? I can’t remember, they were that unmemorable), because her story was tied to Barbara and Barbara was fucking toxic.

As of the season finale, she may be god damned irredeemable. This woman cannot possibly be Batgirl’s mother. I will not accept that.

Best Villain!

Now here we have an embarrassment of riches. If you’re a comic book fan, then this season brought you Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins, Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad, Deathstroke, Absorbing Man, Hydra, the Kingpin, a 1940s Black Widow, Felix Faust, Eclipso, most of Flash’s rogues gallery, Mark Hamill reprising the Trickster, and even Gorilla Grodd.

Gorilla Grodd. On network television. What a time to be alive.

And those aren’t even the three who made the podium.

Bronze medal: Cal Zabo, Agents of SHIELD

Cal

 

The first season of Agents of SHIELD, like any Marvel movie but the first Thor, had a villain problem. None of them were interesting until after Winter Soldier. Season two fixed that with Hydra’s Daniel Whitehall, but more than that, Skye’s murderous father, Doctor Cal Zabo, known to comics fans as Mr. Hyde. They never said that on the show, though. Which would never happen on The Flash. Someone would have been calling him Mr. Hyde by the end of his first episode. Just sayin’.

Cal flipped from genial to rage filled at the drop of a hat. He was capable of sudden, brutal, even horrifying violence. But deep down, he was just a man trying to bring his family back together, after they were torn apart (metaphorically, and in one case disturbingly literally) by Hydra. All he really wanted was to find his daughter, and bring her home.

And thanks to Kyle MacLachlan, he was riveting.

Silver medal: Oswald Cobblepot, Gotham

Oswald

Is Oswald even really a villain? His main targets are Fish Mooney and Sal Maroni, far worse villains than he was at the start. But I guess he does kill a lot of people along the way… that flower delivery guy didn’t deserve what happened…

What he is, though, is the most fascinating character on the show. Jim’s crusade to clean up Gotham can’t really succeed, because if it did, why would the city need a Batman? But Penguin’s bloody climb to the top of Gotham’s underworld? That’s good television.

Although… he is weirdly selective about when he’s capable of violence. When Fish or Maroni confront him, he cowers. Any other time, he takes the knife train right to throat town. Which is enough to bump him down to second place.

Gold medal: The Reverse Flash, I think you can guess which show he’s on

Reverse Flash

“I’m not like The Flash at all. Some would say… I’m the reverse.”

Fifteen years after Barry’s mother was killed by a mysterious man in yellow, Barry came face-to-blurry-face with him in Flash’s fall finale. He uttered those words above, and we had our arch-villain. Those words, along with his other signature quote, “To me, you’ve been dead for centuries,” are still echoed across the internet wherever Flash fans find a chance to comment on something.

Reverse Flash’s long game provided The Flash’s central mystery, and its conclusion was the season’s best finale. That’s really all I can say. There’s some serious spoilers involved here.

Worst: Raina, Agents of SHIELD

God I hate Raina. She was insufferably smug when she thought she was on the right side. She moved from villain to villain, be it the go-nowhere Centipede plot of season one, Agent Garret, Cal, Hydra, or the Inhumans, so that every major plot had Raina smugging it up. She was obsessed with “What we become,” something that only made sense because corporate synergy kept the show on the air long enough to reach the Inhuman plot, and when she finally did “become,” she was instantly whiny about what she got, blaming everyone but her own hubris. Until she saw a way to use her newfound powers to be a big shot again, and then bam, right back to smug.

Thank god the actress playing her is on Preacher now. Season three should be Raina-free.

Next time… best stories, fights, and more!

Let’s Talk Supergirl

Last September, I took a look at all the geek/comic TV heading to screens, including then-reigning champ Arrow’s third season and comeback kid Agents of SHIELD’s second.

Well, there’s some new kids on the block, and they both have trailers out, so let’s take a deep-dive into Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

…Still do not love that title.

Supergirl!

The first look at Supergirl has been a little controversial. Some like it, some find it too… for lack of a better word, “girly,” as though that’s a bad thing for a show about Supergirl that might be trying to attract a younger female audience. Some compare it to the satirical Saturday Night Live sketch in which Black Widow’s solo film is a romcom.

I do not agree, but we’ll get to that. Let’s take a good, close look at this trailer.

0:04: “My name is Kara Zor-El.”

Yup, it’s from the Arrow/Flash guy alright. Wouldn’t be a Greg Berlanti joint if the main character wasn’t telling us their name and a brief synopsis of their life at the start of each episode.

Well, one of them doesn't have it down yet...

Well, one of them doesn’t have it down yet…

Although, since we’ve paused… I found it odd they pronounce it “CAHR-ah.” I usually think of it pronounced “CAIR-ah,” and certainly Smallville backed me on that. But, you know, whatever.

0:09 “My cousin, Kal-El…”

Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the trailer right now. I don’t know why, but they never once use the name “Superman.” It’s always “Him” or “Your/my cousin.” There cannot possibly be a legal reason why a show about Supergirl can’t say “Superman” out loud, I refuse to believe in something that pointlessly stupid. Spider-man used the word “Superman.” I can imagine a narrative reason why Kara and company wouldn’t say it, maybe she knows him as “Kal” or “Clark” and hearing him called “Superman” feels weird to her, but… this whole “Don’t say his actual name” thing is just off-putting right now, and it’s not just me who thinks that.

I SEE him. He's right there. He's not bloody Voldemort, say his name!

I SEE him. He’s right there. He’s not bloody Voldemort, say his name!

0:26 Montage!

Wow, we just skimmed over a lot… I mean, a lot. All of Kara’s teen years on Earth, and our only glimpse at her adoptive parents, played by former Supergirl Helen Slater and former Superman Dean Cain.

In case you blinked. Or had a seizure.

In case you blinked. Or had a seizure.

This is something that Flash, and before them Smallville, liked doing. What I call Legacy Guest Stars. Heck, both of these actors were on Smallville at least once, now that I think about it. As Clark Kent’s birth mother Lara and a guest villain who was almost but not quite Vandal Savage, who we’ll be talking about when I get into Legends of Tomorrow.

That we just fast-forwarded through that much exposition makes me wonder if this is gonna be a two-hour pilot. I mean, there’s a decent chunk of plot in this six minute trailer even without all that backstory.

0:48 “Fun. Dating’s… fun.”

Kara at work. Where we meet her friend and co-worker whose crush on Kara is either unnoticed, or she’s just trying to be gentle about how unrequited it is. Guys? If I may? Let’s add “friendzoned” to our list of forbidden words instead of “Superman,” okay? Please? Trust me, you’ll be better off.

0:53 Enter Cat Grant

Cat Grant is a decent character when done well. Will that be the case here? Only TIME… will tell. Now, I can see why some people would think, at this point, that the series feels a little more Devil Wears Prada than Agent Carter, but let’s press on.

1:11 James Olsen

Too good for "Jimmy" all of a sudden?

Too good for “Jimmy” all of a sudden?

And here enters Jimmy–sorry, James Olsen, Sup–“That guy’s” best pal. There’s been a lot of race flipping in comic properties lately. Man of Steel’s Perry White, Powers’ Deena Pilgrim, Daredevil’s Ben Urich, Preacher’s Tulip, Thor’s Heimdall, Flash’s Joe and Iris West, and that’s just off the top of my head. And I’m fine with that. It’s more than okay, it’s a good thing. As a white male Superman fan, I don’t feel I’m losing something by having Perry White or Jimmy Olsen be black, and if that causes a black viewer to gain something, then by all means, let’s make the superhero world a little less gleamingly white. The only real issue is that an article about Asian representation in Daredevil made me notice that with the exception of Polynesian Aquaman, the positive examples of race flipping (that is, the ones where a traditionally white character is cast POC and not the other way around… looking at you, Prince of Persia…) are all going to black actors. There are other ethnicities to choose from.

What I’m less okay with is tall, buff, pretty, confident James Olsen. I don’t care that Jimmy Olsen isn’t white. I care that he isn’t a nerd.

But, you know, I’m sure I’ll bounce back.

1:28 “Oh… gosh…”

You can tell me Kara going a little awkward fangirl over Jimmy–James, sorry, still feels weird– is a little romcom. But you can’t tell me it isn’t adorable.

IT'S CUTE, GOD DAMN YOU

IT’S CUTE, GOD DAMN YOU

1:46 “I feel like I’m not living up to my potential.”

So I feel like this is where the people bringing up Black Widow: Age of Me stopped watching. Up until this point, the trailer for our TV show about a superhero has involved Kara stressing about work, not noticing her friend’s crush, being tongue-tied because she met a boy, and needing her big sister to help her pick out an outfit for a date. Not exactly Peggy Carter, and bringing up comparisons to David E. Kelley’s failed and apparently awful Wonder Woman pilot, which tried to make the Princess of the Amazons and current God of War into a crime-fighting Ally McBeal. (The presence of Ally McBeal herself, Calista Flockheart, doesn’t necessarily help with this.)

But if you pay attention to this scene, she is saying that all of those things people seem to be complaining about shouldn’t be the things that define her. She wants to be more than that. Why don’t we all calm down and see if she gets there? Alright?

1:57 “I can fly! At least I think I can.”

I also think the haters missed some significance here. Kara is a woman who, for the last decade and change, has had to work every single day to keep a huge part of herself secret. She’s so committed to hiding her Kryptonian heritage that she’s never even tried to fly. Why wouldn’t someone like that be a little awkward around people? Especially if they’re trying to model themselves after their cousin’s (great, now I’m doing it) mild-mannered routine?

2:00
DC…Not “From the producer of Arrow and The Flash?”

Okay, so, there is a second, more action-oriented trailer that briefly leaked but has been pulled which does remind us that the guy behind this show, Greg Berlanti, also brought us Arrow, which as a reminder is great, and The Flash, which is amaze-balls. Seems they’re experimenting with ads targeted at different demos, and this main trailer isn’t aimed at the people who gravitate to the DCW-verse. Or maybe they wanted to downplay the connection since they won’t be crossing over anytime soon.

Or at least they really shouldn’t. Superman exists in Supergirl’s world (even if no one will say his name), and has for at least a decade. Over on the CW? Not so much.

Anyhoo, this is the part where Kara learns to fly in a panic so she can save an entire plane. Don’t remember any parallel to that in Age of Me.

2:51 Kara gets squeeful

She gets a little excited, yes.

She gets a little excited, yes.

Given that the primary complaint about DC properties is that they’re too grim (with the sole exception of The Flash), maybe we should all be okay with a Supergirl who gets a little excited seeing herself on the news after her first flight successfully saves an entire plane. I know I am.

3:18 “What do you think is so bad about… girl?”

This would be a nice little speech about reclaiming the word “girl” as a positive term, and how calling her “SuperGIRL” doesn’t diminish her as a person… if I didn’t kind of suspect it was written by someone named Greg.

Perhaps I’ll just move on. Except to say that I really, really don’t see why anyone thinks Botox is a good idea.

No reason. Just a random observation.

No reason. Just a random observation.

3:36 “I’m going to tell you something about me…”

Clue number two that the Flash/Arrow braintrust is behind this… she’s already telling her friend her secret identity.

Good.

If three seasons of Arrow and one of the Flash have taught us anything, it’s that “I must hide my identity from the people closest to me” gets old fast. And kind of illogical. Before long you’re thinking “Wait, the entire League of Assassins knows Oliver’s secret, but not his sister? That makes what kind of sense?”

Plus giving the hero confidants helps immeasurably from a narrative standpoint. Arrow didn’t really take off until Diggle became Oliver’s partner.

So yeah, tell Ducky or whatever his name is your secret. Especially if it allows this next montage.

I like that it takes some experimentation to figure out a) how to successfully fight crime (her steering’s a little off when flying after a car), and b) her outfit. Especially when they open with one that seems to make fun of all of Supergirl’s past questionable costume choices.

Nope. But thanks for trying, love-struck best friend dude.

Nope. But thanks for trying, love-struck best friend dude.

Also, does that guy die later? He’s not in the preview at all after this section.

4:58 “Welcome to the Department of Extranormal Operations.”

The DC Universe has its share of shadowy governmental or extra-governmental organizations. There’s international operatives Checkmate, about whom I could write an entire separate article; there’s ARGUS, who in the comics exist to monitor/liaison with superheroes (especially the Justice League), and do… other stuff, I guess, on Arrow and the Flash; there’s SHADE, who specialize in the freakily paranormal… and then there’s the DEO.

The DEO are dicks.

I say this because their most recent appearance, comics-wise, involved hunting down Batwoman, almost letting her cousin die to uncover her secret identity, and then using the information to blackmail her into being their operative and going after Batman.

Here, they deal with all things alien, which sometimes leads to a group you can trust (Doctor Who’s UNIT), and sometimes really quite does not (Doctor Who’s Torchwood, pre-Captain Jack).

So, in short, no, I’m not surprised that the guy in charge is kind of a dick to Supergirl here.

5:17 “Go back to getting someone’s coffee.”

Okay, so, yes, it super looks like the general or whatever from the DEO was mean to Kara and she went home to cry about it and consider giving up being Supergirl. The second, leaked trailer lends some important context: she also gets her ass whupped by the bald alien with the axe. So her first time out goes badly, and she wonders if this was a good idea. Before you complain that makes Kara too much of a girly-girl, an observation.

The same thing happened in the pilot of The Flash.

Barry tried to catch a villain, did it so badly a civilian died, and he needed Oliver Queen to convince him not to give up, and Harrison Wells to convince him to keep fighting when round two proved difficult. That’s a part of the Hero’s Journey monomyth, called the Ordeal. The Green Lantern movie took some flak for spending its entire second act here, but it’s still an important step. This time, it’s Kara’s adopted sister (who is played by Chyler Leigh, who is awesome, so shut your pie holes) who inspires her to keep going.

I wonder why they cut this trailer to skip that kind of important context. I wouldn’t have. It’s just so helpful to explaining things. Making it look like she quits because the DEO guy was a dick isn’t helping your pitch, guys.

End montage

This first-look trailer has one key thing in common with the Flash trailer from a year ago… both kind of sum up the entire pilot. But while Flash ended with a 25 words-or-less summary of the climatic battle between Barry and Clyde Mardon (not-quite-Weather Wizard), this ends with a montage of action beats and Kara flying… oh yes, and James Olsen knows who she is too. In fact, Superman may have sent him to check in on Kara, and certainly gave him a gift to pass along.

Which, like I said… sure. Fine. The secret identity thing gets old, like I said.

And there’s this, which… oh my yes.

Damn right.

Damn right.

As movie/game critic and unofficial Marvel pundit Moviebob said… it’s a light-hearted comedy/adventure show geared towards a female audience, which is exactly what a show about Supergirl should be.

Overall? Kara’s adorable (still pronouncing it CAIR-ah in my head…), the action looks well done, the humour works for me… yeah, I’ll give it a go when it starts up.

In six months. Dang it.

Well. No time left to talk Legends of Tomorrow. I guess we’ll get into that over the weekend, after tomorrow’s Writers Circle Confidential.

Marvel’s Civil War? Huh. What is it good for?

I was going to take a break from geek media this week. I really, really was. Even started a different post yesterday. And then… well, and then this happened. In short, Marvel announced that Captain America 3 will feature Tony Stark, and will kick off (or possibly be) an adaptation of their 2006 event miniseries, Civil War.

Let me sum that up for you. After a group of superpowered youngsters trying to launch a reality series attacked a group of super villains in Stanford, Connecticut, leading to a massive explosion next to a school, the US government decides that maybe all these super heroes shouldn’t be running around unregulated and passes a law requiring anyone with powers to register their identity and powers.

I know, right? After a national tragedy the US government attempts to pass laws restricting the thing that made that tragedy possible. What kooky impossible scenario will those comic writers come up with next?

Anyhoo, Tony Stark leads the pro-registration charge, feeling that this law is both necessary and inevitable. Captain America isn’t sure about this, seeing it as encroaching on the liberties of his friends and allies, and when he’s informed by SHIELD that he either rounds up all of his friends who don’t register or gets shot full of tranq darts and thrown in a cell right about now, he goes on the run and forms the resistance.

Since the book was called “Civil War,” I think you can guess where things go from there.

You can see why Marvel Studios might be eager to bring this Captain America/Iron Man slugfest to the big screen, since despite its many flaws and frequent shipping delays it remains one of the biggest Marvel events of the last 10 years (not that the recent ones are anything to brag about, but still). And you know what? I’m not even going to speculate that they decided to do a movie about Iron Man and Captain America fighting because DC is doing a movie featuring Batman and Superman squaring off. Gonna give Marvel the benefit of the doubt here, and say that either this was already the plan when Batman V. Superman was announced, or they honestly don’t give two shits about what Warner Brothers and DC are up to, because why would they need to?

But maybe they should have given this one a little more thought. Because there are some real problems in trying to adapt it.

Here’s some examples.

Need actual armies for a war

The comic Civil War featured two entire armies of super heroes going at it. Dozens of A and B list characters at war in the streets while dozens more C and D list characters got rounded up by Iron Man’s forces. And as a reminder, one of the key issues involved divulging their secret identities to the government.

Right now, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has eight super heroes.

Eight.

Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, and War Machine/Iron Patriot. Three of them don’t even have powers, and not a single damned one of them has a secret identity. Hell, three of them were government employees until SHIELD shut down, and one of them works for the military!

But that’s not entirely fair. Between now and May of 2016 that number will go up a bit. Between Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and the launch of Daredevil on Netflix, they’ll be up to… let’s see… 12 super heroes. And one, maybe two secret identities.

Still not quite enough for a war, is it? Yes, they could introduce a wave of new super heroes through Agents of SHIELD… but will they? Will they really? They’ve shown no interest in doing that so far, and Agents of SHIELD might not last past this season if their ratings keep sliding. Which is a shame, because unlike this time last year, they really don’t deserve to be cancelled.

But it doesn’t really matter how many C-list heroes Agents of SHIELD introduces. There will still be some glaring absences.

They can’t do half the story

Here’s some key plot points from Civil War that the movies can’t realistically use.

  1. Spider-Man unmasks. The one big jaw-drop moment of Civil War was Spider-Man revealing his identity on public television, because Iron Man said he had to. There is some rumbling that Sony and Marvel might be nearing an agreement regarding Spider-Man, which would allow Marvel to use Spider-Man in their team-up movies, but Peter Parker had been Tony Stark’s right-hand man for months prior to Civil War in the comics. Tony Stark had become his friend, boss,  and mentor, and that’s how he convinced Peter to unmask at all. Even if Marvel and Sony figure this out, they’re not going to be able to establish that bond between Age of Ultron and Captain America V. Iron Man: Dusk of Shwarma. Not unless they do some serious rewrites to Ant-Man.
  2. Tony Stark builds a super human prison in the Negative Zone. As part of the overall theme of “Tony Stark embodies the worst elements of the Bush administration, but we pretend it’s okay that he won for some reason,” Tony Stark built a prison to lock up all the unregistered super heroes in something called the Negative Zone. No, you don’t know what that is. Nor do the majority of the people who watch Marvel movies. So I can’t see them fitting it in. And odds are Fox is going to claim they own it, because it’s linked to the Fantastic Four. Hey, that reminds me…
  3. The Fantastic Four split up. Mr. Fantastic was on Tony’s side from day one, but Invisible Woman and Human Torch sided with the resistance and the Thing decided to emigrate (he didn’t get far). Aside from Cap and Iron Man being at each other’s throats, the Civil War splitting up Marvel’s first family was one of the big emotional beats. And since Fox would rather release a Fantastic Four movie they seem weirdly ashamed to talk about than give the rights back to Marvel, kiss that plot point goodbye. Why did Susan leave Reed? Well, it had something to do with…
  4. That clone of Thor that killed a fellow hero. Iron Man’s side accidentally drew first blood when their cyborg clone of Thor went a little nuts and killed Goliath, a fourth-string Giant Man knock-off. The only reason they had a clone of Thor is that the real Thor had been missing for quite a while, as Marvel had taken the character off the bench for a few years. So even if cyborg clones were something the Cinematic Universe did… and I guess there’s no reason it couldn’t be… why would they have a clone of Thor when the real Thor is right there? Unless he dies at the end of Age of Ultron or something–holy shit are they going to kill Thor in Age of Ultron? It would explain why they aren’t even talking about a third Thor movie…
  5. The Punisher joins Cap but Cap doesn’t know how he feels about that. Doesn’t sound like much of a plot point, but that is literally all that happened of note in issue five. Civil War spent three issues treading water and then crammed all the plot into one big fight scene in issue seven. But anyway, Marvel does own the Punisher again, but they’re not doing anything with him. Unless he turns up on Daredevil (he should), nobody in the Cinematic Universe knows or cares who the Punisher is, so this would be even less of a plot point than it was in the books.

So, yeah. Can’t do any of that. Well, maybe the Thor clone. And the problem is…

There’s not much plot left

Once you’ve taken out Spider-Man unmasking, the Thor clone killing Goliath, the Fantastic Four breaking up, the Negative Zone prison, Spider-Man switching sides, and the X-Men not giving a fuck, there’s barely any plot left. All you really have is Iron Man fights Captain America until the Real Heroes of 9/11 tackle Captain America and shame him into surrendering.

No, I'm not kidding. Yes, it was that ham-fisted.

No, I’m not kidding. Yes, it was that ham-fisted.

And is that really a whole movie? Is it?

Seriously, Civil War was the second most underwritten Marvel event in recent memory (the most underwritten was Secret Invasion, but that’s a whole other rant). Seven perpetually delayed issues with four issues’ worth of story and a hackneyed ending in which Iron Man happily sails a helicarrier into the sunset because normal people didn’t seem to mind all that terrible stuff he did, so it must have been okay. It set up interesting stories, as the Avengers were split into two teams, one team being anti-registration fugitives, and it led to the death of Captain America, but Civil War itself was all sizzle, no steak.

But when did Hollywood start minding that.

Moving along.

The actual plot doesn’t make any sense with the cinematic Avengers

So two things have to happen for this story to get going. Tony Stark has to support a government bill clamping down on super heroes, and Captain America has to oppose it. And both of those things have some problems through the lens of the Cinematic Universe.

Why, why I ask you, would the Tony Stark of the movies go along with this? It makes no sense. No sense at all. This isn’t the comic book Tony Stark who was Secretary of Defense until Scarlet Witch got him fired (yes, that’s basically what happened). This the movie Tony Stark, who basically flipped off a Senate committee while declaring he’d “privatized world peace.” The Tony Stark who, upon joining up with everyone on the SHIELD helicarrier in Avengers, spent as much time trying to figure out what SHIELD was up to as Loki. The Tony Stark who, we’re told, founded his own private spy agency in the wake of SHIELD’s collapse in The Winter Solider.

This is a Tony Stark who gives zero fucks about what the government thinks is best. Unless something in Age of Ultron happens to seriously change his perspective… and yes, I admit that it could… this Tony Stark seems completely unlikely to start chasing down Bruce Banner or Steve Rogers because some senator or general asks him to.

And then there’s Captain America. Cap opposed the registration act because of its violation of civil liberties, especially the “round up everyone who doesn’t give us their secret identity” part. But with no real secret identities in play, what’s driving this act? One theory I’ve heard is the whole “Your powers are too dangerous to be unregulated” angle.

Okay, I was just kidding around in the intro, but everyone sees how this then becomes about gun control, right? And Captain America would be the figure leading the charge against gun control. That’s… problematic. Captain America is always used as the face of what’s morally right in Marvel projects. Maybe it’s because I’m not from a flyover state, but given all the mass shootings that keep happening in the US, having their moral center on the other side of this issue is… well, it’s uncomfortable.

They’re going to make this movie. It’s going to be a hit, especially if rumours that Cap 3 is slowly becoming Avengers 2.5 are true. But it’ll have to be a HUGE hit to pay for all the additional cast it needs. And I thought that somebody should be bringing up all the ways in which trying to make this story work on screen is flawed.

Let’s talk geek controversy

People who know me know how closely I follow geek entertainment news. Mostly they know it from those meetings where everybody sits me down and tries to explain how my obsession with geek entertainment news has affected them, and then I yell “No, the showrunners of Agents of SHIELD need an intervention!” and then come the tears… We have fun.

Anyway, some geek news as of late has caused ripples of controversy. Allow me to explain a few of them, and why I think they’re kind of a big deal. Well, as much of a big deal as movies based on superheroes are capable of being.

Ant-man shenanigans

What’s the deal? For eight years, as long as there has been a Marvel Studios, filmmaker Edgar Wright was pitching a movie based on Ant-man, a character who couldn’t possibly have been at the top of anyone’s list to give his own movie.

Not that the list couldn't use an edit.

Not that the list couldn’t use an edit.

Edgar Wright is behind such cult favourite movies as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, and The World’s End. He is a filmmaker of singular vision. He may not have the box office clout of a David Fincher, but damn he’s got the talent. And for nearly a decade he’s been asking for the chance to use those talents on a movie about Ant-Man. Only to pull out of the project right before it was due to start filming.

It’s now generally known that the reason for this split was that Marvel, late in the game, requested script changes Edgar Wright didn’t want to make. Whatever Wright had planned, it was too big a break from the Marvel model, and they wanted to correct that. A move not everyone on Team Marvel agrees was a great move.

Huh. Their other cult-favourite writer/director. Go figure.

Huh. Their other cult-favourite writer/director. Go figure.

Since then, other writers (three and counting) have been brought in to rewrite the movie, because nothing says “Quality movie” like four different screenwriters.

Why does this matter? A lot of the buzz following the split looked at what this might mean for future Marvel films. Are they anti-auteur? Why is a company that built its reputation being different and taking risks now pushing for safety and sameness? Were they worried that Guardians of the Galaxy might be their first failure? (Announcing a release date for the sequel before it was released says no, and their box office to date says they never needed to be) Will they have trouble attracting actors if they’re going to make a habit of changing the entire project (at least the script and director) after everyone’s already signed on? The cast committed to Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, after all, not the version they’re ultimately shooting.

But that’s not why it matters.

First of all, those are questions thought up by a media that loves a good downfall story. Marvel’s on a winning streak on the big screen. Nine movies in, and eight are unqualified hits (Incredible Hulk didn’t bomb, but they’ve certainly been reluctant to talk sequel). Their movies have flaws, yes, mostly their inability (or unwillingness) to write good villains… fine, except for Loki that one time… but they’re reliably fun to watch and typically make a decent profit, and as long as that second thing is true, losing Edgar Wright will not hurt them as a company. Actors like being in blockbusters, so as long as the movies are hits, Marvel won’t have problems finding casts. It probably won’t even hurt Ant-Man’s box office much. More people were going to watch it based on “From the studio that brought you Avengers: Age of Ultron” than “From the director of Shaun of the Dead.” That’s just a fact.

It matters because it’s sad.

It’s sad that Edgar Wright chased this project for so long only to have it mutate into something else, something he couldn’t be a part of. It’s sad that Edgar Wright will never get to make his Ant-Man movie, and it’s sad that we won’t be able to see it. Because while I don’t know what the new writers are changing, or how much if any of Wright’s original story will still be there, I have seen every movie Wright has directed, and each and every one of them is amazing. So I cannot believe that this new Ant-Man movie will be anywhere as good as Wright’s would have been.

Doesn’t mean it won’t still be worth watching. Most of Marvel’s product is. But it could have been more. And it’s sad that the world’s most consistently successful film studio is now publicly against doing things differently.

Lady Stoneheart

What’s the deal? Game of Thrones is huge these days, but the fandom is split into two factions: those who read the books, and know it better as “A Song of Ice and Fire,” and those (like myself) who are just watching the TV show. As such, discussion of Game of Thrones (the show) is carefully divided, so that fans of A Song of Ice and Fire (the books) can discuss things without spoiling it for those of us who haven’t been reading ahead.

A covenant that was broken in the wake of the fourth season finale.

Now I’ll do what most websites didn’t and refrain from spoiling anything. Suffice to say, many of the book-reading fans expected the fourth series to end with a jaw-drop moment from the end of book three (which is approximately where they’ve gotten), that jaw-drop moment being the arrival of a character referred to as Lady Stoneheart. When the Lady didn’t appear, the internet went crazy, wondering why she wasn’t there and if we should expect her next season, spoiling who she is for the TV crowd all the way. Even the article headlines and choice of photos made it hard not to know what they were talking about.

As it stands, the producers are not claiming Lady Stoneheart will be turning up next year. They could just be lying in an attempt to preserve the surprise… which would be odd, given how badly that blew up in JJ Abrams’ face with Star Trek: Into Darkness (of course he was Khan, he was always going to be Khan, telling us he wasn’t was wasting everyone’s time). Maybe they’re hoping a few people remain unspoiled that they can shock in the fifth season premiere. Or maybe they’re authentically leaving her out. Which… seems problematic.

Why does this matter? Because this would mean one of two things, and they’re both bad signs.

Option one: they’re just skipping her. By and large, Game of Thrones has stayed pretty close to the source material. But they have left the odd thing out, and everyone from die-hard book fans to author George R.R. Martin has clucked their tongues at the showrunners over it. Some of what they’ve left out seems inconsequential (does it really matter whether someone’s death was called a suicide rather than framing some musician we haven’t seen since book one?), some of it less so (Rhaegar Targaryen might have been long dead when the series started, but he may have a larger impact than the show has suggested), but I’m not sure dropping an entire storyline is a good idea.

Especially since they might need to add stuff to fill the gap, and they do not have a strong track record. Season four, they invented a story involving the Night’s Watch mutineers in order to boost Bran Stark’s screen time, and all it brought to the series was a) yet more rape, right after they were (rightfully) accused of having too much rape as it was, and b) a near-miss where Bran and Jon Snow almost find each other but don’t, which we already did in the third season finale, and also almost finding family but then not has basically been Arya’s entire story for two seasons. The Caster’s Keep arc was pretty much pointless, so I’d kind of prefer they stick to the books rather than keep trying to add things.

Option two: they’re leaving out Lady Stoneheart because she’s ultimately not that big a deal. They’ve read book five, had some conversations with George R.R. Martin, and know that the Lady Stoneheart plot is short-lived and doesn’t impact anything, so they’re giving it a miss. In which case fuck you George R.R. Martin.

Which is apparently mutual.

I get wanting to subvert expectations. I get wanting to be unpredictable. But three times now, George Martin has taken a character I like, given them a plotline I want to see play out, and then ended it with a swift death for the guy I’m rooting for and a victory dance for Cersei goddamn Lannister. It’s getting old, and if it turns out Lady Stoneheart also ends in betrayal and swift, pointless death, then I will hold this over the head of every single person who tells me to read the books, because at that point I no longer consider the books worth reading. Because you can’t be “unpredictable” by doing the exact same thing over and over.

New look for Batgirl!

What’s the deal? Recently, DC announced a new look and a new direction for Batgirl, one which is seemingly directed towards teen girls. There was the usual wailing that comes whenever Gail Simone stops writing Barbara Gordon, but most of the reaction has been positive. Fan art of the new costume is already spreading.

It is pretty snazzy.

It is pretty snazzy.

In addition to the new look, Batgirl will be more immersed in youth culture. The most valid critique I’ve heard of this is that the new look and approach would have been better suited to Stephanie Brown, who briefly held the mantle of Batgirl prior to the New 52 reboot, than Barbara Gordon, who’s been through a bit too much to pull off the carefree youth angle. But you know what? Fair as that may be, I’m not certain I care.

Why does this matter? Because a Batgirl aimed at younger women is a bloody brilliant idea, that’s why.

I’ve accepted the fact that enough things are targeted at us 30-something (and up) white dudes as it is, and maybe other demographics could have a turn. Women like comics, women would like to be able to enjoy comics, so writing a comic with women, even girls, in mind is a good plan.

And yes, absolutely make it a major character like Batgirl.

Besides, I remember the last time DC tried this. Pre-New 52 they made Supergirl a book for younger female readers. They made her more relatable to teen girls, made her… proportions less exaggerated, her costume less form-fitting and her skirt a few inches longer (with the editorial mandate of “I never want to see Supergirl’s underwear again”), and not only did this not ruin the book, that was as good as Supergirl’s comic has been since Peter David stopped writing it over a decade ago. I still read Supergirl, but I miss her teen-girl-friendly days.

As incoming writer Cameron Stewart said, “One young girl being inspired by Batgirl is worth 20 dudes complaining that the costume looks ‘hipster.'” And that’s a sentiment I can get behind.

Just need to catch up on my comics so I can actually start reading it when it comes out…

Black Captian America and Girl Thor

What’s the deal? Meanwhile, over at Marvel, upcoming storylines will see Captain America lose his super-soldier-ness, and Thor no longer be worthy of Mjolnir, meaning they’ll both need replacements. Steve Rogers will pass his title and shield to Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, recently seen in the Winter Soldier movie, while Thor will be replaced by a female Thor.

Which, well, is kind of weird. Marvel’s been shouting “No, she’ll BE Thor!” rather than a different character wielding the power of Thor but keeping their own name, like Beta Ray Bill, Thunderstrike, or anyone else who’s done that ever. This woman (not sure what her name was earlier) will be Thor in the same way Donald Blake was Thor way back when, a story mechanic that was dropped decades ago and retconned out of existence a few years back. So that’s… that’s weird, is what it is, but that’s not what really strikes me as uncomfortable about all the press Marvel has been seeking out around these stories.

Why does this matter? Because diversity in comics is important, and I’m not sure they’re doing it right.

I’m not saying making Thor a woman or Captain America a minority is the wrong move. Making Batman black or Doctor Who a woman or what have you will have far more impact than introducing a new minority superhero whose comic gets cancelled a year or two later then drifts into obscurity. But… well…

Every single thing I know about Marvel comics says one thing: this will not last. In recent years, Marvel had Bucky take over the title of Captain America, used a mind-swap to turn Dr. Octopus into the Superior Spider-man, killed major characters off… but almost none of it took. Most deaths lasted less than two years, in one case less than two months. Steve Rogers was back from the dead right around the time his first movie opened, and Peter Parker was Spider-man again right in time for Amazing Spider-man 2 to hit theatres.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is out next May, and if Steve Rogers and male Thor haven’t reclaimed their titles by then, it’ll be a small miracle given Marvel’s track record. And if Sam Wilson hasn’t stepped down by then, he will when Captain America 3 opens the year after.

And the thing is, Marvel is the only company to actually pull something like this off long-term. In their Ultimate line, Peter Parker’s been dead for years now, and half-black, half-Hispanic teenager Miles Morales has been in his place, and that book is thriving (Ultimate Spider-man has long been the best, and often only good book in that line). But it seems powerfully unlikely that that’s what’s happening here. This looks to be two short term stories that Marvel’s crowing about like they just re-wrote the rulebook or something.

And that’s ultimately the issue I have. A black guy taking over the role of Captain America for eight months would be a non-issue if they weren’t shouting from the rooftops about what a bold move it’s going to be. Crowing about how progressive they are for character changes that almost certainly won’t last just feels… tacky.