Subverting the Superhero: Deadpool Review

So my partner and I went to see this movie on the weekend:

You may have heard of it.

If you haven’t heard of Deadpool, he’s Marvel’s merc with a mouth and one of comic’s best kept secrets (until now, of course). He hails from the X-men universe, and has crossed over with almost as many people as his more famous counterpart, Wolverine. Deadpool (aka Wade Wilson) is a mercenary, ex-Canadian black ops, and was given his powers by a shady organization that promised to cure his terminal cancer. The procedure does cure his cancer, but gives him horrible scars and leaves him mentally unhinged. Comics Deadpool is a violent, foul-mouthed anti-hero with next to no morals and a billion and one wise-cracks. He’s one of Marvel’s most unconventional characters, and he is loved by many fans. In the film, Deadpool’s girlfriend is kidnapped by the aforementioned shady organization and he must use all of his violent skills and wise-cracking to save her.

This isn’t the first time that Deadpool “graced” the big screen. He also appeared in X-men Origins: Wolverine (2009). While the fans loved Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal of the character, some storytelling decisions were….well…really terrible. There’s no way around it. I’m not mad at you, X-men Origins: Wolverine. Just disappointed.

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As a massive X-men fan, and a Deadpool fan, I was looking forward to seeing the character redeemed. This time I was not disappointed. Good job, movie.

I’m going to try not to spoil the movie, because that would be unfair. There is one spoiler I will let slip through, though, because I think it’s awesome: Deadpool is from my hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan!

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Was Deadpool a perfect movie? No. Was it a perfect Deadpool movie? It came damn close.

Let me explain. Deadpool’s general plot-line (man loves woman, man must save woman from bad guys) felt a little too formulaic. I would have liked to see the character’s unconventionality reflected in the plot-line that the writers chose to use. Of course, I understand the writers choice to stick to a familiar story–Deadpool himself is so odd and out there that I imagine the writers felt like they had to keep the story simple so that this wackiness could shine through. I understand, though it was a missed opportunity.

I would have also liked to see more call-backs to the X-men universe. I understand that the movie’s team would have wanted to distance themselves as much as possible from X-men Origins: Wolverine, but it should have been Weapon X that transforms Wade Wilson into Deadpool! That’s more of a nerd quibble than anything else.

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Deadpool is, at his core, subversive. He was created as a parody of the dark and gritty characters populating comics in the 90’s, and has been poking fun at anything and everything ever since. He’s He breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience. He recognizes that he’s in a comic book/fan fiction/movie/video game and will call out the writers. He is violent, sadistic and rude. And the movie nailed this. I can’t give too many examples of how this looks in the movie, but rest assured, it’s there. Lots of comics get this right. Whoop-dee-dee. He’s funny and violent, big whoop. What made this movie one of the best portrayals of Deadpool is that the movie made this character human.

A trait of the alpha-male comic book hero that many critics have called out is a lack of vulnerability. Deadpool can often veer into this too. However, this film shows Deadpool’s vulnerabilities. He’s insecure about how he looks after the procedure. He has affection for other characters, including his best male friend, Weasel, and his roommate, Blind Al. He also goes through horrible things and survives, but barely. He’s a human being.

This isn’t seen enough in comic book movies, and I was so happy to see it in Deadpool.

So was it a perfect movie? No, but it did give one of the most three dimensional portrayals of a comic book character that I’ve ever seen.

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God bless,

Kelsey J.

Attack of the Mary Sue: Reviewsday Tackles GeNext

In 2008, Marvel Comics decided to do something a little bit different with the X-men. They conceived a timeline where the X-men aged in real time, and in the year 2006 the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters was made up of the children and grandchildren of the original X-men (and Fantastic Four). The series was entitled GeNext. The series follows continuity up through X-Men Vol. 2 #3, completely skipping over the Dark Age. That’s right, folks–according to Chris Claremont, this is a series where the 90’s never happened.

Issue two of the series finds a mysterious girl called No-Name, the Grandson of Colossus, a girl from the Savage Land, the grandson of Reed and Susan Richards, and the son of Rogue and Gambit dealing with teenage angst–X-men style. The comic begins with No-Name and Colossus’s Grandson, Pavel, sharing a few romantic moments, before No-Name receives an odd phone call and unexpectedly leaves the campus. Her friends go after her and fight a gang of mutants known as the Shockwave Riders, who use technology to enhance their natural abilities and who apparently know No-Name.

The story of the GeNexters is very short, and the rest of the comic is taken up by a comic about the original x-men and a surprise party for their lone female member, Jean Grey. I wasn’t expecting the actual cover story to be so short, and I was a little bit disappointed. There wasn’t much to the story of Jean Grey’s happy birthday either, and it ends with Jean Grey getting drooled at by her male teammates in a brand new costume. I was way more invested in the teenagers.

The art is gorgeous. I particularly liked the cover, by artist Doug Alexander Gregory. My favorite, favorite part of the comic was these little black and white sketches done around the panels, done as a sort of introduction to the characters and as a “where are they now” of the X-men. I loved this. I thought it was so clever to have this done, instead of straight-up telling the readers these details.

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When I read the synopsis, I expected the story to have a fanfiction-esque quality to it. The story did and it didn’t read like fanfiction. The comic, in true X-men style, is an entertaining mixture of teenage drama and high-stakes action. Despite starting at Issue Two, I knew exactly what was going on. Some of the parentage wasn’t obvious, but the reader didn’t need that to understand the story. However, the characterization left a little bit to be desired. After the “look! It’s Rogue’s child! Look! It’s Colossus the third!” factor there wasn’t a lot to the characters.. The only characters who really got any development were Pavel and No-Name. I was willing to forgive this, because I know this is only one part of a series, but it still would have been nice to see a bit more of the characters other than their fighting ability. That being said, Pavel is well developed and is given a nice little exchange with No-Name.

No-Name was one of my main problems with this comic. She isn’t a bad character, per say, but she reads a little too much like a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue, for those of you who are fortunate enough to never have encountered one, is a character who is perfect, who all the other characters like, and who often has a tragic backstory. This character is often an author self-insert, though I really doubt that this is the case with No-Name. She’s just really perfect. Everyone likes her for no apparent reason–not that she’s a bad person, you just never see any of the characters other than Pavel interact meaningfully with her. The story revolves around her, and she seems just a little bit too “mysterious” and has a mysterious secret past and her telepathic scan was inconclusive and ugh. I’m not really sure what her character’s role in the story is other than someone to get everyone else riled up about saving her, and I don’t like that. I think it could have been done better.

That being said, I would read more of this series. I enjoyed the action and the artwork and, while I feel that the characterization has room for improvement, the rest of the story works on its own merits.

 

Comic Credits:

 

Artist:  Norman Lee (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Doug Alexander Gregory (cover art)

Writer: Ed Dukeshire (letterer), Mark Paniccia (editor), Jordan D. White (assistant editor)

Other such things: Joe Quesada (editor in chief) Dan Buckley (publisher)

Reviewsday: Resident Alien

Let’s switch gears and review a comic from a less popular comic book house this week. I’ll be reviewing issue #1 of “Resident Alien” by Peter Hogan (script) and Steve Parkhouse (art) from Dark Horse Comics.  In this series, an alien accidently crashes his ship in rural America, and decides to take refuge among the people of Patience. The alien disguises himself as a semi-retired doctor, using his alien powers to keep the townspeople from seeing his true appearance.  The town’s doctor has been murdered, and “Harry Vanderspeigle” is tasked with helping the police find the real killer–while keeping his cover!

The cover of the comic led me to expect more of a slice-of-life series than the murder-mystery that the book actually is. However, I enjoy murder-mysteries, so I was completely fine with what I got. The story is well written and paced well, so even though the comic was dialogue heavy I was still intrigued. I was a fan of how expertly Peter Hogan wove multiple plotlines together. I hardly see this done well, so Resident Alien was a real treat in that regard.

The art leans towards minimalistic, but is crisp, clean and expressive. The style works well with the story that’s being told. I love love LOVE the design of “Harry Vanderspeigle”, who is distinct from other portrayals of alien life that I’ve seen while being interesting and humanoid.

The characterization, much like the art style, is crisp and clean. The characters are distinct from each other, and though not fully realized, are round enough that they’re still interesting. As this is issue one, a bit of under-development is expected, and I’m willing to let the author have some room to develop the characters.

However, this isn’t the first issue of the comic as I initially expected. The book opens with a note to read “issue 0” of the series before reading issue 1. Since when do comics have an “issue 0”? When did this become a thing? Luckily, Hogan is a good enough writer that issue 1 makes sense on it’s own. My main issue, though, was that the first time I read the comic I skipped the blurb on the inside cover (because I thought this was the first issue) so I didn’t know that “Harry Vanderspeigle” was in disguise. The audience never sees him from the perspective of the human characters. Since the other characters react to him as a human, I simply assumed that this was a world where alien contact was a normal thing. This isn’t a deal breaker, don’t get me wrong. It just changed the flavor of the book.

All in all, I enjoyed this comic. I was invested in the murder-mystery and the characters right away, and I’m planning to look for more of this series so that I can find out who killed the town’s doctor–and if “Harry” is ever discovered.

 

God bless,

Kelsey J.

 

P.S: Please like and comment!

Reviewsday: A Miracle on Yancy Street

 

Merry Christmas to all of you! It’s time for a Christmas comic review!

Even though this comic came out in February. I guess the 90’s were different times.

I will be reviewing Issue 361 of the Fantastic Four comic book, which bills itself as a “special holiday extravaganza”. It’s Christmas Eve at the Baxter Building! Benjamin Grimm, aka The Thing, is contacted by an old friend from his days as a youth on Yancy Street. The Thing must locate his friend’s kidnapped son with the help of the Yancy Street gang. Meanwhile, Johnny Storm is dealing with the aftermath of his marriage to the Skrull Lyja, who disguised herself as the blind artist Alicia Masters in order to get close to the Fantastic Four. The real Alicia has returned and the family is in a somber mood. Johnny Storm vows to restore the Christmas spirit to his family so that his nephew Franklin can have a merry Christmas.

Christmas is only a small part of the comic, so I don’t know if “holiday extravaganza” is appropriate. Regardless, the comic was very entertaining. I didn’t expect a lot of depth going into the comic, because it’s a Fantastic Four Christmas comic. I was honestly expecting a different storyline where Doctor Doom must take up the duties of Santa Claus after shooting him down over Latveria. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The subplot involving Johnny Storm carried a lot more emotional heft than I expected. The main plot involving Ben Grimm, the Yancy Street Gang, and eventually Doctor Doom, was very fun to read. Ben Grimm was the star of the show, and was written very well. In terms of the other characters, as I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed Johnny Storm’s characterization in this comic. He showed an emotional depth that I’m not accustomed to seeing with the character. The “resolution” to both plots (see later) was a lovely Christmas, which was the perfect way to end this tale. I knew exactly what was going on throughout the story. However, it should be noted that I have a familiarity with the characters and basic premise behind the Fantastic Four already, so I may be unable to properly review this aspect of the comic.

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The art quality is fairly good, but I wouldn’t say great. Some of the colouring is off and there are scenes where the details of the faces of the characters are difficult to make out. There are also scenes (such as an explosion) that could have used more detail.

The biggest issue I noticed was that the Ben Grimm plot didn’t have much of a resolution. The gang and Ben find the kidnapped boy at the mercy of a gang of robots. It’s never directly revealed who is behind the operation–Doctor Doom appears, but only because he too is trying to stop the robots, who are behind drugs or something. It’s never quite clear. It had the feeling of having the drug subplot shoehorned in, which wouldn’t surprise me given the era of comics this issue is from. For those who aren’t mega dorks, comics started taking an anti-drug stance in the 80’s and early 90’s, and it often wound up having the flavour of an after-school special. Heck, even Doctor Doom hates drugs in this comic! His reasoning is entertaining, so I suppose that makes up for it.

The big question is, since I’ve already read more of this series, how does this issue stack up in quality to the rest of the series? I’d say fairly well. Though the drug plot feels like an afterthought, the characterization and excitement of the story more than make up for it. I’d recommend this comic to anyone looking for a fun little Christmas treat.

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God bless, and Merry Christmas,

Kelsey J.

 

 

Reviewsday: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

An English professor of mine once told me (and I can’t find where he got it from, forgive me) that the most powerful types of horror is horror for another person. I have to agree with him. All horror works on this principle, in my opinion, because if the reader feels nothing for the characters, doesn’t empathise with their struggle and hope for their misery to end, then the author has failed. The example my professor gave our class to illustrate this principle was Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken which features a little boy slowly losing himself to the symptoms of schizophrenia. The story is excellent, and the reader was made to fear for this little boy and the life he would lead with this illness. I mention all this today because the graphic novel I’m reviewing today also deals with a young person slowly succumbing to their own inner demons, and the horror around it comes from knowing how this troubled boy’s story will end.

My Friend Dahmer was written and drawn by the artist known as Derf Backderf, real name John Backderf . It was published by Abrams ComicsArts in 2012, which publishes groundbreaking graphic novels and illustrated books about the creators and the history of comics art, animation, and cartoons”  As the title implies, the work is based on the author’s real life friendship with infamous serial killer Jeffery Dahmer, but it’s about adolescence, loneliness and the strange world of inner darkness that can lurk inside, unnoticed, until it’s too late.

You might be able to tell that I really like this graphic novel.

The graphic novel is entertaining, in a dark way. In terms of more traditional “entertainment”, the antics of young Derf and his friends, and even some of the “Dahmerisms” (Dahmer becomes a sort of class clown in high school) were funny.  However, the story of Jeffery Dahmer is essentially like watching a train wreck: you know that it’s going to go horribly, horribly wrong and yet you can’t look away. Backderf’s art style is superb and really brings the story to life. The style is reminiscent of caricature, featuring exaggerated facial features and over-the-top movement, and is extremely expressive. This allowed the reader to see every micro expression of every character, and allowed the emotion behind the story to come through.

The story itself is told very well. It follows the five act plot structure, which I thought was a little odd for a memoir, and it worked quite well. Dahmer was portrayed as both a protagonist and an antagonist at different times in the book, but Backderf weaved it together so seamlessly that it takes re-reading and analysis to figure out. It’s one of those stories that you want to read again and again to catch all the nuances and all the little details. I constantly knew what was going on, and could easily follow Dahmer’s descent downwards–even if I didn’t want to.

Jeffery Dahmer is well characterized, which is probably a good thing because he’s the main character. What makes this book so horrifying is that Backderf spends so much time fleshing out Dahmer that the reader starts to feel a bit of empathy for him, as Backderf clearly does. My main issue with this book is that Dahmer is characterized so well that the other characters seem flat next to him. Young Derf himself seems like an afterthought in this story, and doesn’t feature much until shortly before his friendship with Dahmer ends. This isn’t a big issue, since the focus of the story is Dahmer, but it would have been nice to see a bit more of the inner worlds existing around Dahmer, if only to highlight that a world existed around this one individual.
I don’t know if I can call this graphic novel an enjoyable read, because it’s genuinely hard to watch Dahmer become, well Dahmer. I would call it horrifying at best. But I feel like it’s an important read, because it’s a reminder that, as much as we wish it wasn’t so, real-life monsters are all too human.

Reviewsday : Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E #7

The Basics: 

Series: Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E

Subtitle: Rise of the Humanids

Issue Number: 7

Company: DC Comics

Creators (because the book gave no indication of who did what and the internet won’t tell me): Jeff Lemire, Alberto Ponticello, Walden Wong

Brief Synposis: Frankenstein and a bunch of other monsters work for Shade, I guess. I don’t have a clue. There’s a mummy and a werewolf and some kind of demon guy.

Review:

I’m a total sucker for Frankenstein’s creature (I refuse to say monster, because everyone with half a brain knows that deadbeat dad Victor Frankenstein is the real  monster) and I thought hey, he has a series where he has a gun.  Sweet–in theory. In practise, not so much.

The art quality is decent. It’s pretty clear where the characters are in space and how they’re moving. However, the faces of the characters aren’t very expressive, and it’s hard to tell how each character is feeling. The artist seems to alternate between three cliche faces (too cool for this, angry teeth gritting, slightly open eyes). The story doesn’t exactly pick up the slack. It moves along well. It is paced okay and a sense of urgency is communicated. However, the characterization is lackluster at best. The character’s traits feel token, and if each character didn’t have different speech balloons you wouldn’t be able to tell who was speaking by the dialogue alone. This became especially troubling in the frequent fight scenes when there are a lot of characters speaking. This also showcases another problem: none of the characters have a good reason to be there, and their dialogue in the fight scenes is a clear giveaway.

I had no clue what was happening for the entire issue. S. H.A.D.E stands for Super Human Advanced Defense Exectuive, which explains why all these “monsters” work for them, but they also have a city for some reason. They also had these Humanid things to help them before they gained sentience and rebelled, but why they rebelled is not clear. It seems that Victor Frankstein just loves creating things to mistreat them until they rebel against him. Or her, in this case. For some reason, Frankenstein is a little girl with telepathy. This isn’t the only weird thing that never gets explained. I buy a demon, or a werewolf, but I do not buy a de-aged and re-gendered Victor (Victoria?) Frankenstein. Also, a character who I believe to be reptilian has mammary glands. Why. Why is this a thing. And I guess Frankenstein did wind up making his creation a wife…with giant boobs who dresses in BDSM leather gear. And Frankenstein’s creature (called Frank) has a kid.

What.

The.

Hiffel.

The nitty gritty is: would I buy more of this series? Honestly, probably not. There were some nice action scenes but everything else was just mediocre.

A/N: If the creators of this series or the folks credited at the beginning of the post read this, drop me a line so I can properly credit you!

God bless, and happy reading,

Kelsey J.

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