I’ve talked a lot about comic book properties, whether they’re DC, Marvel or something else entirely. What I have never done however is discussed the comic books themselves. Over the years I’ve read so many comic books and compiling a list of my favourites was hard. Whilst I have always been more inclined to DC with regards to the comics (and television, and pretty much anything that AREN’T films) there are equally good and iconic stories from Marvel. I need to read more from outside the Big Two and am working on it but for now, here are a list of my favourites. I’m not ranking them but will specify favourites from certain companies or characters. With that said, let’s get going-
The Dark Knight Returns
Before Frank Miller went mad he wrote some of the best and most acclaimed comic book stories of all time. 1986 was a landmark year for comic books, in part due to Miller’s defining work on Batman, The Dark Knight Returns. Picturing a post-apocalyptic version of Gotham, where Superman is used as a weapon for the military, an ageing Batman goes out of retirement to bring back law to what has become a lawless city. This story needs no introduction- it’s arguably the most well regarded story in Batman’s mythology. The old Bruce Wayne is a fascinating character, trying to escape his past but also trying to uphold the legend of the Dark Knight. Carrie Kelly is my favourite Robin, the commentary on the Cold War and American media is on point and still relevant today and the final battle is iconic and timeless. Packed with powerful imagery and themes, this comic is a must read for any DC fan.
Let’s talk about Disney. I’ve never, ever, ever, liked them. As a company that is. The stuff they pinch and slap their name on I love. I love Marvel (not theirs to begin with though), Star Wars (also not theirs), Pixar (again, not theirs) and several other franchises they “make” and/or steal. But as a company, I heavily dislike them. As a child this dislike came from simply finding their animated films dull and uninteresting, but as I’ve grown older I’ve found this dislike to be deeper than just finding the musical animated films to be the epitome of cringe (barring The Nightmare Before Christmas of course). As a company, Disney are legitimately terrifying, as their devouring of Fox shows. No, I’m not going to call any Fox film a Disney film. They’re Fox films. And with the release of their streaming service Disney+ coming soon Disney seems like they want to monopolise entertainment as a whole. And that’s… not good. Let’s dive into why Disney’s control over entertainment is really, really, really, really bad.
Hear me out, hear me out. I don’t have a problem with a female Thor for those reasons. I’ve had this issue for years but with the recent news at San Diego Comic Con it’s time to finally address it. Marvel Studios announced their Phase 4 plans and I’m very very excited. Marhershala Ali as Blade? Yes. The Eternals coming to the big screen? Yes yes yes. A Black Widow film with David Harbour involved? Perfect. And whilst I am very excited to see Thor 4 (or Thor: Love and Thunder, which is a bit silly even by Waititi standards) one piece of news has left me apprehensive. Natalie Portman is set to return as Jane Foster and take on the role of Thor, just like her character in the comics. But here’s my problem- Thor. Is. A. Character. Not. A. Title.
July will be Ben’s Month of Reviews. Whilst I am currently on holiday (in York en route to Edinburgh to be precise), thanks to the magic of the Internet I am still able to write a whole bunch of reviews for recent fandom properties I’ve seen recently. First up, the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, the second solo Tom Holland film and a film that features the big screen debut of one of Marvel’s coolest villains, Mysterio. How does it stack up? One of the best sequel’s Marvel’s ever done.
It’s been a few months since the Infinity Saga came to an end with Endgame. Whilst it isn’t the end of Marvel Studios, it is the end of what we know so far and the film has set up lots of exciting possible futures for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the Fox acquisition and other heroes being established, I’m going to guess where Marvel may take their universe now that the primary heroes are dead. And with Far From Home just around the corner, let’s look to the future of Marvel. Unlike my Endgame review this will be spoiler filled as I think enough time has passed now for everyone to have seen Endgame. With that said, let’s look to the future. For this list, I will be looking at properties that either already exist in the MCU or have been announced/heavily speculated to happen-
I didn’t just watch that film (you know the one) this month. I made good use of my Easter holiday to check out some famous, and not so famous, films.
The Silence of the Lambs
Had I seen it before? No.
How did I watch it? Netflix
Famous for being the only horror film to ever win Best Picture, The Silence of the Lambs is an iconic film for so many reasons, chiefly the spine-tingling performance of Anthony Hopkins as the immortal Hannibal Lecter. And no, I will not say he is the lead actor, he is a supporting actor. A well deserved Oscar in the wrong category. The lead character is Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling, an phenomenal film hero who stands up to the most disturbed minds on the planet and still survives. The film is a masterpiece of pacing, writing,acting and directing and nearly thirty years on it still has such a strong impact and effect. The film is primarily a psychological battle of wits between Lecter and Starling, with the two trying to one-up each other at every turn, resulting in riveting viewing. Even though I know a lot of the twists and turns the film still gripped me, which is a credit to the talents of Jonathan Demme. His use of close ups and shot composition have gone down in film history and he masterfully directs the extended sequences of Lecter and Starling talking to each other to create some of the most intense dialogue scenes of all time. This film deserves every award it ever got and more. It’s truly spectacular.
Eleven years ago a film by an untested studio, directed by an indie director with a star who was no longer seen as bankable and based on an obscure comic book character from a company that went bankrupt a decade before was released. From this singular film came the biggest, most ambitious and risky endeavour ever put to film- make Marvel comics cool to the mainstream. Obviously Blade, the X-Men and Spider-Man were all successful but Iron Man kickstarted a decade of interconnected films, bringing obscure comics into the mainstream and changed Hollywood forever. All this leading to the Endgame. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is my generation’s Star Wars, and the hype and anticipation for Endgame has been unprecedented, eclipsing even that of Return of the King and Deathly Hallows Part 2. In my lifetime, only The Force Awakens had this much riding on it. Was it worth the wait? Was Infinity War too high of a bar?
In short.. Endgame surpasses expectations. It is the perfect ending for this journey that started with Iron Man. It’s three hours long but is perfectly paced, never dull and an experience that has to be seen on as big of a screen as possible. Watching this film with a group of Marvel obsessed friends, at midnight, surrounded by a full cinema, in 3D is an experience I will never forget. It is my favourite film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I will have to watch it a couple more times to see if it reaches the heights of my Holy Trinity of Comic Book films (Batman Returns, Spider-Man 2 and Logan if you’re interested).
Action scenes! Part of the parcel that comes with comic book films. Thanks to the rise of computers and new filming techniques we have seen some truly spectacular comic book battles, and to honour Avengers: Endgame let’s take a look at some of the finest brawls presented on the silver screen. To qualify for this list, two or more combatants must be physically battling each other and have somewhat equal strength. Excluded are chase scenes (with warm regards to The Dark Knight’s highway pursuit), one sided demolishing (Wonder Woman kind of thrashes the German Army with no effort in the iconic No Man’s Land scene, despite it being a magnificent sequence) and action scenes that have no actual battles between opponents (take Nightcrawler’s White House sequence or Quicksilver’s standout scene in Days of Future Past). With that aside, let’s look at how the comic book world’s finest slug it out-
10. Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman and Johann Kraus vs Nuada and the Golden Army- Hellboy II: The Golden Army
With Endgame just around the corner, one key Marvel character has yet to be introduced- Carol Danvers. A very long and complicated comic book history including an alien who dies of cancer , a period in a coma when Rogue of the X-Men steals her powers, multiple identities and a long stint with the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Carol Danvers FINALLY became Captain Marvel only recently in the comics, leaving her former moniker of Ms Marvel to be inherited by Kamala Khan. Carol Danvers is one of Marvel’s most high profile and important female characters and no matter what the comics are trying to do to her (Civil War II? Really?) the fact remains that a film with this awesome character is long overdue. The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe does an excellent job streamlining the insane and convoluted backstory of the character into an accessible film and the result is a really fun time at the cinema that leaves you wanting more. And with Captain Marvel set to appear back on our screens in just over a month’s time, it’s great that her solo film has given audiences a taste of what Thanos will be feeling.
The Defenders are no more. Yesterday Netflix announced that The Punisher and Jessica Jones were cancelled, becoming the final casualties of the Marvel purge on Netflix. Whilst many may be quick to blame Disney’s upcoming streaming service for this as far as I know the Marvel/Netflix deal had nothing to do with Disney and it appears the shows were cancelled due to low viewing figures and lack of interest from even hardcore Marvel fans. So what happened? How did what promised to be the most exciting branch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe become no more?