FINALLY

I have been so, so down on the Marvel Cinematic Universe lately, but there are still a couple of projects coming that I’m genuinely excited about: specifically, the Disney+ series for Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and, of course, Ms. Marvel. Kamala Khan is one of my favorite comic book characters– there are two of her on my desk– and while they appear to have made some substantial changes to her powers and her origin for what mostly seem like reasonable reasons, the core of the character seems to be there. That “I’m a superhero!” dorky running away moment at the end there? That’s Kamala Khan. I don’t mind the look, at least, of the crystalline new power set, although I do hope they find some way to make her powers intrinsic to her and not something that’s triggered by those bracelets she puts on in one shot. I don’t have a problem with making her not an Inhuman, since the Inhumans are dumb not part of the MCU yet anyway, but I don’t want her powers to be part of her costume. Make ’em sparkly, whatever; she’s gonna be tricky for TV budgets anyway. Just make them her powers and make her her and I’m on board.

(I can– and have— bitch for hours about how the movies have fucked up Superman and Batman. I really don’t have any of those moments yet for Marvel characters. Once they got Tony Stark and Captain America perfect, I knew the characters were going to be in good hands, and I’ve not seen reason to back off on that initial assessment.)

Just … please, please, please, can we get through this series without the word “multiverse”?

#REVIEW: Peacemaker, Season One

So. Um.

I gotta admit; I’m really surprised to be writing any of this. I’ve seen … four James Gunn projects, I think? The two Guardians of the Galaxy movies and his Suicide Squad movie, which introduced Peacemaker as a character. I understand he’s in the comic books; if I’ve ever encountered him there, I don’t recall it. Most of Gunn’s projects have landed in the same spot in my head: that was entertaining, and I’m done thinking about it now. He tends to over-rely on music to drive his emotional beats forward, which it turns out is way more annoying if you’re watching with closed captions on so that all the lyrics appear on the screen, but that’s not a huge thing and it’s literally my only general gripe about his work.

Peacemaker is the best thing he’s ever done, and it’s not close, and — and this is the part where I’m really surprised to be writing this– it’s mostly because of John Cena’s literally unbelievable, as in “I don’t believe he’s really this good,” acting talents. I don’t know much about Cena, really; I know he (used to be?) a pro wrestler but that’s not something I really follow, and he made no particular impact on me in The Suicide Squad. But his charisma and his incredibly malleable face carry this show. I think the best thing to compare him to is Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool; it is so obvious that he loves playing this character that his enthusiasm is infectious and it carries through on every frame of the show that he’s in. He is not exactly surrounded by acting slouches– the only two I’m familiar with are Robert Patrick who has a grand old time playing Peacemaker’s racist-as-fuck evil supervillain father and the awesome Danielle Brooks playing Leota Adebayo, otherwise known as Amanda Waller’s daughter, but everybody is doing solid work here. Freddie Stroma, whose real name is Frederic Wilhelm C.J. Sjöström, is a particular standout as Vigilante, a character I’d be perfectly happy to see another spinoff for.

But back to Cena. He is playing a big dumb douchebag, and that’s probably being kind to the character. But he manages to play the big dumb douchebag in such a compelling fashion that not rooting for him is inconceivable, and he’s in control of himself enough that every time Peacemaker feels the slightest twitch of an emotion you pick up on it. I don’t think that I’ve ever said this about an actor before, but the ways he uses his eyes and his mouth to convey emotion are just amazing. I know that probably sounds weird, but watch the show. I swear, he’s doing something different here, and to find this performance in the middle of this violent, profane, shouty middle-school testosterone-fest of a comic book show is really something special. It’s getting to be very rare for me to make it through any kind of TV or movie nowadays; I regularly will watch an episode or two of something, proclaim it to be something I really like, and then never watch it again– so the fact that I was eagerly looking forward to watching the entire season is really worth reinforcing. If you have HBO Max, definitely check this out, and if you don’t have HBO Max, if you have any other reason to pick the service up for a month, go for it.

Three Trailers

It has been … a day, and I find that I’m not in the chattiest mood tonight. So let’s talk about some stuff that’s coming out.

The Eternals

This trailer is the first thing I’ve seen from this movie that gave me even the vaguest interest in seeing it. I’m still not going near a theater– this and Shang-Chi are going to have to wait until they’re available on Disney+ for me to watch them– but this actually made me think for a few seconds that I might have some interest in seeing it. There was never any chance that I was actually going to skip the thing, and I still don’t know a damn thing about any of the characters, but at least it’s on my radar as a mild positive and not a thing that I have to put up with.

Star Wars: Visions

Given my lifelong disdain of anime and my utter inability to get into any of the Star Wars animated projects no matter how hard I’ve tried, you would think that this show would have no appeal for me, and I am as surprised as you are to announce that you would be completely wrong in thinking that. I am all in. I don’t know if this is in canon or not– I feel like lightsaber umbrella might be a concept best left out of the official SW universe– but I’m genuinely excited about this, for the novelty if nothing else.

Speaking of novelty …

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

I’m including this out of sheer schadenfreude. I liked the Kevin Smith Netflix thing well enough, although it didn’t change my life and I’m not chewing my nails over the second half of the season. But He-Man nerds got all bent out of shape about that, and then the next thing Netflix throws at us is this? As I’ve said many times, I have no real skin in this game, but even I was looking at this by the end and thinking maybe they’d gone a bit too far. Seriously make Battle Cat a dog who turns into a wolf and say it’s inspired by He-Man. Call him Boy-Dude or something.

I am seriously looking forward to the fanboy tears, though.

#REVIEW: Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Pt. 1

First, let us be clear about a couple of of things: I could not be more squarely in the demographic this show was aimed at if I tried. I am a geeky male, born in 1976, who was seven years old when Masters of the Universe premiered in 1983. My brother and I were both hugely into the show, so much so in fact that we refused to share our toys and you therefore need to check the bottoms of their feet to see which ones my mother colored in with a black Sharpie, which indicates that they belonged to me. I still have the vast majority of them; my son played with a bunch of them while he was growing up, too.

The second thing to be clear on is that there is literally nothing you could do to or with the He-Man franchise that would anger me. Yes, these toys were a big part of my childhood; yes, there are still plenty of things that were part of my childhood that I may have Opinions on(*); He-Man is simply not one of them. I will resent the Cubs for the rest of my life for the way their baseball games used to pre-empt my He-Man cartoons but there’s not a damn thing anyone can do with the franchise now that’s going to get me sucking my teeth and muttering at them. It’s just not possible.

(It’s also worth pointing out that Netflix has already surprised me by making me a huge fan of their She-Ra series, so I would have been remiss if I skipped out on this one. The huge success of She-Ra meant that trying out Revelation was practically mandatory.)

That said: this is about as good as I could have expected a Masters of the Universe continuation to be, I think, and having watched the five-episode Part One, I find that I’m still in for Part Two. It’s hard to write in depth about this without spoiling some things, but in general, folks die, and the show in general is a hell of a lot bleaker than I remember the cartoon ever being, but for the most part it’s all still there, right down to Evil-Lyn actually continuing to insist on being called Evil-Lyn for a good chunk of her screen time. There are fanboys yammering about how the female characters, particularly Teela, Lyn and another named Andra who was supposedly in a couple of episodes but who I don’t remember, are in the show too much; those are bad people and their opinions are to be disregarded with swiftness and prejudice. My biggest complaint? Sarah Michelle Gellar voices Teela, and while I was a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and am firmly used to thinking of Sarah as a badass, her voice doesn’t fit her character. Teela’s drawn big, and should have a deeper, brassier voice than Sarah’s. The performance is fine with my eyes closed, but it just didn’t fit the character for me, particularly since I know Sarah’s voice so well and she’s not really trying to mask how she sounds.

Everything else? Good stuff, or at least as much as it can be given that this is Masters of the Universe we’re talking about. Tri-Klops is the main villain, as the leader of a technology … church … thing that … worships? something called Motherboard? And there’s a Holy Sprocket, because … that’s a tech word? I guess?

It’s completely fucking ridiculous, but again: MotU, so … whatever, and I did find it interesting that it set up a bit of a split between the characters who are mostly tech-focused and the magic wielders. This has always been a series where anything goes, basically, so it was kind of cool that when Eternia’s magic starts draining away the tech-focused characters step up and try to take over.

Also, I liked Orko, for the first time … ever? And I can’t believe that I’m actually typing this, but there are some character bits between him and Evil-Lyn that were actually really interesting.

Don’t pay for Netflix for this or anything, but if there was any chance you were going to watch it, follow through on that impulse.

(*) I tossed this question out on Twitter earlier today, tagging my wife: what is the most ridiculous thing that I have strong opinions about? Like, they can do whatever they want to He-Man, and I think the last decade or so has fairly adequately displayed my flexibility regarding comic books and Star Wars. Is it the DC movies? Is the murderverse the thing I get the most fanboy-irrational about? Maybe. Any other possible contenders?

THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER: Early Impressions

After nearly a year of avoiding sickness, I called out for the second day in a row today, and not even for the same reason I called out yesterday: I woke up in the middle of the night with my eyes trying to force themselves out of my head, and that was it for sleep for the rest of the night; ibuprofen didn’t cut it at all. My son woke up as I was in the office submitting my absence and, damn near in tears, described the exact same symptoms I had, so he quickly got called out from school too and then both of us went back to bed.

I’m … fine now? Mostly? I guess? Sure, let’s go with that.

We watched the first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier tonight, the super short tl;dr version is that I felt like this started off quite a bit stronger than WandaVision did, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

More details, with some minor spoilers (really, there’s nothing especially spoilable in this episode; I could describe it minute-by-minute and I think it’s still as enjoyable): the show starts off with a big set piece as the Falcon rescues an American soldier from a terrorist group that’s trying to take refuge in Libya; this sets up early that this show clearly has as much budget as they want, as it looks every bit as good as any of the movies have. Interestingly, the soldier he rescues is named Torres, which– okay, there might be a spoiler behind that link if you’ve never heard of the character, but he and Sam appear to be friends and he is Somebody in the comic books. Sam and Bucky’s stories don’t actually ever cross over in this episode; Bucky is busy being sad and dealing with PTSD and hanging out with elderly Asian men and being rude to dates, and Sam eventually ends up at his family home in Louisiana, where he attempts to help his sister get the family shrimpin’ business back on its feet and is summarily denied a business loan.

And this is kinda where things get interesting, because the banker blames the Blip as the reason he can’t give them the loan– the world’s population just suddenly increased by three or four billion people out of nowhere a couple of months ago, and none of them have anywhere to live, and it’s a whole giant fucking mess and the banks aren’t handing out loans right now. Plus, you two are, y’know … Black, and well we’re very sorry we can’t help you but oh look at this pile of plausible deniability over here! Isn’t that convenient?

So it looks like the show is headed in some interesting directions even before we get to anything explicitly superheroic; I have been open in believing that the Blip was the worst possible choice to resolve the story mess that Avengers: Infinity War left the MCU in, mostly because of the unbelievable number of unavoidable knock-on effects that it’s introduced. I’m still convinced that there’s no way they can take this seriously enough, especially when you consider that the Blip was literally across the entire universe, but at least they’re trying a little bit, and I’d like to see them dig into this. Bucky is getting some attention, too; Captain America’s man-out-of-time thing was mostly played for laughs when it was addressed at all, but the first thing we see of Bucky is his refusal to play along with his government-mandated therapist, which is very Silent Generation, and a few minutes later you find out that his only friend looks to be in his seventies or eighties.

(I still kinda want to know why he didn’t just go back to Wakanda, but maybe they’ll get to that, and his time there is mentioned during the therapy session.)

I wasn’t expecting this to turn out to be super character-driven, as these two are definitely among Marvel’s more militaristic characters, but so far I’ve really liked what I’ve seen. We’re only getting a total of six episodes, but they’re going to run longer than WandaVision’s did. I’m looking forward to them.

(Oh, one more thing, and just let this roll around in your head a bit: we get several close-ups on Captain America’s shield, the one he gave to Sam at the end of Endgame, throughout this show. That shield in the logo up there? That is not Captain America’s shield.)


I strongly suspect that this isn’t going to surprise anyone, but I have still not seen Alien of Steel, Angry Bat-Themed Ninja vs. Murder Alien or the original cut of Violence League, and I have no plans at all to subject myself to this “Snyder Cut” thing that just came out. If that’s your kind of thing, glory in yo’ spunk, as BB King used to say. I’m not going near it.