Impressions of Thor Comics
This evening I’ll share my impressions of some comics featuring the Nordic god of thunder himself, Thor. We’ve seen him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why not take a look at the Marvel comics that spawned him?
First I read through a collection of the very first Thor comics from the early 1960s. A handicapped doctor is hiking in Scandinavia when he enters a cave and finds a hammer that transforms him into Thor. Jack Kirby’s artwork holds up very well, with strong fundamentals, dynamic posing, and effective compositions within and among images. The writing, however, doesn’t. The cursory plots, basic characters, and hokey, often over-written dialog that are stereotypically associated with comics are present here. These comics were still worth a look.
Next I’ll share my impressions of the first two volumes of the new series Thor: God of Thunder. This is another series that Comic Book Girl 19 has recommended in her videos. The story arc in these two volumes centers on Thor’s millennia-long battle against an alien who has tortured and murdered deities throughout the universe.
The artwork is really nice, particularly with its rich, painterly colors. The graceful and dramatic compositions really drive home the actions and exchanges. The story jumps around massive stretches of time yet comes together in a way that I won’t spoil. The villain’s motivation turns out to be deep and touching and even Thor becomes as relatable as a super-powered deity can be. The plot never becomes terribly confusing and it becomes quite compelling as you follow through each chapter and page. God of Thunder is a solid cosmic fantasy. I might download another volume or two soon.
P.S. I know that it’s definitely off-topic, but I thought that I should take the opportunity to do this. I HAVE NOW LOADED THE SPACESHIP WITH THE ROCKET FUEL AND MADE MY FINAL EXIT, AND I HAVE TRAMPLED MY WAY BACK HOME TO PARTS UNKNOWN, BACK TO THE GODS ABOVE WHO HIT ME WITH THE POWER OF THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR, AND NOW I PASS THE POWER OF THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR DOWN TO ALL THE LOYAL FANS OF THE ULTIMATE WARRIOOOOOOOOOR! *SNORTS HEAVILY THEN AND SLOWLY EXHALES* Come to think of it, maybe the Ultimate Warrior could have played Thor, or at least some crazed Marvel superhero!
Impression of Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to record a podcast for this blockbuster movie. As a matter of fact, I doubt that I have the time or energy to do so again, even for the so-called big events. It’s likely that from now on my podcasts will be reserved for more personal messages. I hope that you aren’t disappointed.
In any case, today Jason and I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This makes a really nice follow-up to The First Avenger, which itself is a solid cross between superhero movie and World War II movie. Make no mistake—the Captain is no longer in a simple battle against a Nazi officer. Something’s not quite right with SHIELD, the organization meant to protect people from super-powered threats.
The paranoid-conspiracy-thriller style of the story lends itself to a twisting, winding plot that goes to all sorts of places without seeming to be overly contrived. It might even make you think about what you are willing to compromise to either live safely or live freely. You also get to see how the complicated scenario challenges the Captain’s idealism for truth, justice, and the American way. Speaking of characters, they are all ably portrayed.
Of course, there are also the fancy effects and the action set-pieces. The gunfights, the explosions, the chases, the all-out melees, and the duels are wild. The climax with the giant flying machines is, quite naturally, a highlight. The mind boggles over what we’ll see in next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the meantime, let me just say that this movie is solid.
Impression of Young Justice
No, I don’t have a joke post for today. Not even a post about the Joker. Instead, I’ve typed up a post about Young Justice. I’ve heard good things about that series. Somehow I managed to find that I could in fact stream it from Netflix, so over the last two days I actually streamed all of the episodes listed. It’s about a group of younger superheroes who gather in a group that could be called the youth wing of the Justice League.
You can easily see the high production values in the fairly smooth animation and the slick, detailed, richly colored artwork. What made Young Justice enjoyable for me to watch, which is probably also what has earned it a fandom, was how the writing strikes a balance between tense superhero action and character-based drama. The interactions between characters can be just as interesting as the battle and chase sequences. The hints of the larger story arc and the ongoing subplots also led me to stay tuned. Many individual episodes’ stories are also well-constructed. I understand that there was one more season of Young Justice produced and aired—I might keep my eyes peeled for that to show up on Netflix.
Impression of Mystery Science Theater 3000
Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a series with a steady cult following and has been highly influential for comedic writers and performers since its debut. A man is sent into space and forced to watch cheesy movies. To keep himself company he builds robots and they all make wisecracks during full screenings of these movies. During today’s session of babysitting the dogs, I went ahead and streamed three episodes on Netflix: “Phantom Planet”, “Mixed-Up Zombies” (the full title of which reads like a parody of a b-movie’s title), and “Gamera vs. Gurion”.
The solid, naturalistic acting from the series’ recurring cast makes the wisecracks more effective. Not all of the one-liners or exchanges hit the mark, especially with some of the more arcane references, but most are quite clever. The subplots and varied skits in the wraparound segments are a mixed bag, as sometimes they seem to merely waste time.
Overall, though, honestly found this series as a whole to be a bit of a grind. The featured movies are banal and junky enough that even the riffing wasn’t enough to really make the experience much fun for me. In truth, I’ve had more fun sitting next to Jason at the theater, making occasional discrete remarks while watching potentially good movies. Maybe you might find this TV series more fun. Maybe I’m just not the right sort of viewer for this sort of thing.
Impression of Dilbert
How many of you remember Dilbert? At one point it was an extremely popular newspaper comic strip. It even had an animated television comedy. That’s what you’ll read about in this post. I saw that it was available for streaming on Netflix, so I bookmarked it for later. When I came home from a job interview today and babysat the dogs, I streamed a handful of episodes.
The series is about an office worker (who owns a smarmy, megalomaniacal talking dog) who gets iinvolved in very strange scenarios in and around his workplace. It has simplistic artwork based squarely on the comic strip and the animation is average but competent. The voice-acting is very good. Each episode has a rapid succession of silly, random gags within a wildly exaggerated plot poking fun at some aspect of corporate culture. It didn’t strike me as all that special or impressive, though I understand that some people really like this series and I can see the appeal, so maybe you might enjoy it more.
Impressions of Donnie Darko, Pan’s Labyrinth, Et Cetera
With my mother away on a lengthy paying my aunt a lengthy visit and my father at the office during the daytime, I’ve been charged with babysitting the dogs again. As usual I’ve streamed movies from Netflix and I’ve even downloaded a couple for rental from the PlayStation Store. I have a lot to share so let me get started.
First up is Big Trouble in Little China. A surly and rugged trucker visits a friend in San Francisco’s Chinatown—and soon bumps into some serious supernatural phenomena. Kurt Russell gives an enthusiastic performance as that trucker. There is a whole cast of colorful characters, even if they are little more than stereotypes. There is also plenty of wild action and wild sights. The distinctive optical and practical effects of 1980s Hollywood holds up quite well here. The breathless pacing of the story doesn’t leave much room for development aside from exposition. If you simply expect a wacky fantasy thrill-ride, you won’t be disappointed.
I remember seeing bits and pieces of the original Ghostbusters when I was younger. I had watched the cartoon series. My brother and I even owned a couple dozen Ghostbusters toys too. I figured that it was about time to watch the movie again as an adult, especially after one of the main actors recently died. A trio of fringe scientists establish a ghost-hunting business and end up facing something both very real and very big. There are entertaining performances all around, particularly from the title characters. As with the movie in the previous paragraph, the puppetry and optical effects also hold up well, even if the stop-motion effects are spotty. The dialog is nicely written and delivered, including the oft-referenced one-liners.
Donnie Darko is one of those cult movies that you might have heard of a few times before. A troubled teenaged boy in the late 1980s sees a demonic man-rabbit who foretells an immanent doomsday. When disaster befalls his home, he must make sense of it all. It has some slick cinematography. The pacing is somewhat slow but even and solid. In all honesty, though, I have difficulty deciding whether the teenagers’ conversations are realistic or inane. What I do appreciate is that the movie gets into some serious psycho-spiritual drama.
The next movie that I streamed is The Secret of Kells. A young boy in a medieval Irish monastery—which is walled off from Viking forces by orders of his fearful uncle, the abbot—comes across the famous manuscript. He agrees to help finish it and he ends up embarking on a fantastical adventure. The first thing that strikes you is the beautifully stylized artwork, at once simplistic and geometric while also intricately detailed, coupled with brilliant lighting effects and consistently smooth animations. There is something about the story that I like, though I struggle to put my finger on it. Perhaps it is the intersection of art and spirituality. Perhaps it is the journey of encountering spiritual forces and a desire to give hope through creativity. Maybe that spoke to me.
One movie that I downloaded from PlayStation Store is Manborg. Let me see if I can offer a succinct summary of its premise. Nazi demons take over the world and one of its victims is rebuilt as a cyborg. This cyborg awakens many years later to topple the demons’ regime alongside a ragtag group of fighters. It puts multiple elements of b-movies into a blender to create a crazed whole. It is deliberately cheesy, hammy, and absurd, though not as overtly comedic as other absurdist stories that I’ve looked at on the Weblog. The absurd characters can be amusing, but they’re not all that intriguing. I was concerned the joke would grow old, and it eventually does. The fake trailer coming after the main feature shows that this kind of deliberate schlock is more amusing in smaller doses.
The other one that I downloaded from PlayStation Store is Pan’s Labyrinth. I figured that I would save the best for last. I had been meaning to watch this acclaimed feature from Guillermo del Toro for a while and I just now got around to renting and playing it. Pan’s Labyrinth is about a girl who goes with her mother to live with her stepfather, a cruel and merciless Francoist captain. The girl periodically escapes into a parallel fantasy-world and converses with a faun (apparently, the English title is misleading as the faun explicitly states that he is just a faun).
The concept of dealing with the Francoist regime hits close to home for me as a Catholic. I have seen too many of my co-religionists on the web blatantly whitewashing and glorifying that brutal, authoritarian dictatorship! I do not excuse the persecution of Catholics at the hands of the Communists who dominated the democratic Republic, as some of those people have accused me of doing—but two wrongs surely do not make a right. I may have seriously digressed by sharing that, so let me just get on with my impressions of Pan’s Labyrinth. It is often filled with elegant cinematography and beautiful and haunting sets. There are also plenty of high-quality CGI and animatronic effects. The story goes through a string of very dramatic and often chilling scenes, which lead up to an extremely bittersweet ending. It is most certainly a dark fairy tale for grown-ups; with that in mind, I highly recommend it as a thought-provoking and emotional piece of work.