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?

#REVIEW: Loki, Season One

The tl;dr version: I hate time travel stories, and I am so, so tired.

I keep threatening to actually review Avengers: Endgame, which I never actually did. I was hip-deep in family crisis at the time I saw the film, and the reason I’ve not written it since then is primarily because the post is going to end up being 12,000 words long, and it’s not going to be fun to write. The short version: I think that Endgame, for all of its fan service and plethora of holy shit moments, in the long run is easily the worst Marvel movie, and in a lot of ways ruined the MCU. Endgame chose the worst imaginable way to solve the story problems that Infinity War set up, and because of the choices made in that film every MCU product since that film has had to be about Endgame.

And now, every single post-Loki MCU product has to be about Loki, too. And this is not an improvement.

(I’m going to assume you’ve watched the show, but sort of talk around the details a bit? So spoiler warning, I guess.)

I’m still going to resist the urge to make this post ridiculously long. I’m supposed to be back in my training in fourteen minutes, and honestly I’m hoping to get the entire post finished before then. Let me get the positives out of the way first: the actual show itself, in a vacuum, is pretty good. Tom Hiddleston is, of course, an amazingly talented and charismatic actor, and they’ve surrounded him with a cast that doesn’t really have any weak spots. I thought the pacing for the program was great; I didn’t think there were any filler episodes (you wouldn’t think this would be possible in a six-episode season, but it is) and while it ends in a very cliffhanger fashion it definitely tells a coherent story, or at least it does once you accept that you have to have watched, like, 25 movies and two days of TV that came beforehand. Nothing in the MCU is really internally coherent any longer; you either accept that or you don’t as part of the product.

The problem that I have is that one of two things have to be true about this show, and neither are good: either I, someone who has been reading Marvel comic books for nearly four decades and is well-versed in the minutia of things like alternate timelines and multiverses, completely misunderstood what the deal was with Loki’s Time Variance Authority, or the entire concept of the Goddamn show doesn’t make a single damn drop of sense from start to finish.

It will not surprise you to learn that I am not blaming myself for this one. It’s possible that I Just Don’t Get It, but I really don’t think that’s the case. I think I understand It, to the degree that It can be understood, because the fundamental problem is that It doesn’t make any sense.

I can accept, begrudgingly, the concept that the Avengers were “supposed” to go back in time in Endgame and steal an Infinity Stone from themselves, but that Loki picking up that same Infinity Stone from where it was dropped and poofing away was not “supposed” to happen.

I cannot accept that a timeline where Loki is a fucking alligator is due to a single “variance” in a timeline, or that a variance that leads to Loki being a woman (strangely, called Sylvie; why does she have a different name from the other Lokis? No idea.) would lead to that variant Loki being culled at, like, eight. That problem definitely happened earlier than that.

This is already multiverse shit before the show creates the multiverse. A world where Loki is a Goddamned alligator is going to be different from our world in a whole lot of ways other than this one dude being an alligator. You can’t just prune the alligator and everything else is fine. And since this show happens before Infinity War or Endgame, and ends with the multiverse being created and Loki getting dumped into some other universe than the one he started in … is the MCU prime universe still the same? Did the multiverse get created before Infinity War or Endgame, or is that just another mess?

We already have Is This Person a Skrull or Not floating around as a universe-wide problem. I really don’t need Is This The Real Universe or Not dumped on top of it, especially when it’s done this sloppily.

I gotta get back to my meeting, but I think you get the idea. I’ll see Black Widow this weekend; we’ll see if that sets me off too.

On Captain America and racism

First things first: I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as I can, and really, Episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is not really an episode that can be spoiled, but something minor might slip through here and there if you haven’t seen the episode yet.

So, the whole thing about this show is this extended meditation– and, to put it out there, it’s a process I’ve very much enjoyed– on what the idea of Captain America is, and on what America itself is, and what it means when America’s so-called ideals don’t match up with America’s actions. We’ve been repeatedly reminded that the super-soldier serum makes you more of what you already were, and we’ve had the moral exemplar of Steve Rogers hovering over the entire show as someone everyone on the show is trying to live up to. Left unclear is whether Rogers is actually still alive; Sam and Bucky have both used the word “gone” for him several times, and everyone else thinks he’s dead, but I don’t know exactly what the situation is there.

They’ve done a good job of making John Walker a character who people can empathize with to some degree without making him sympathetic, I think, and it’s clear and getting clearer by the moment that he’s not up to the job of Captain America. But is anyone? Is Sam, who Steve Rogers actually gave the shield to, worthy of it? Is Bucky, for that matter, who doesn’t seem to want the job but also seems more than anyone else in the story to need there to be someone out there called Captain America? (Bucky, by the way, has served as Cap in the comics. So has Sam.)

And then there’s this specter of racism that’s hung over the entire show. Early on, Sam and his sister Sarah are denied a loan by a bank officer. He blames it on the effects of the Blip, and of course they leave that frisson of deniability in there, but you wonder. There’s Isaiah Bradley, a Black man experimented on in the process of developing the super soldier serum and later locked in jail and forgotten. Walker literally tells Sam to his face that America will never accept a Black Captain America– and, hell, judging from the reaction when he was Cap in the comics, America had a lot of trouble with a comic book about a Black Captain America. And then there’s Walker himself, a less-than-great white man propped up by a Black wife and a Black best friend, introduced to a screaming crowd by a Black marching band, and who only has the shield in the first place because a Black man gave it up and the government stole it.

All this is leading into me wondering why the hell Bucky and Steve aren’t big racists.

Now, okay, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: these versions of those characters can’t be racists, and that’s why they aren’t. Marvel needed Chris Evans’ Captain America to be all-caps-and-italics CAPTAIN AMERICA, and while Bucky is allowed his dark side, what with the decades of murdering, we still need him to be sympathetic and a hero. Both Rogers’ and Barnes’ man-out-of-time thing is played mostly for laughs and nothing else; Cap doesn’t understand pop culture references and doesn’t like to swear, and Barnes read Lord of the Rings when it first came out, because he’s a hundred and nine damn years old. So we’re just going to choose to ignore certain aspects of being a white man in 1945 who suddenly wakes up in 2015 (or whatever year Captain America: The First Avenger was set in) and is immediately confronted with a Black man in a position of enormous power and has absolutely no questions about it. Bucky Barnes grew up white in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 40s but he has a date with a Japanese girl in the first episode and has immediate chemistry with Sam’s sister in the fifth, and never once treats his Black Best Friend ™ with a drop of paternalism or condescension or anything.

Well, okay, he won’t move his seat up, but I don’t think that counts. And maybe you’re wondering Wait, Luther, are you seriously saying that every white person in the 1940s was a racist? To which my answer is, yes, I absolutely am saying that, at least by modern-day standards. And Steve and Bucky haven’t had eighty years of changing society to drag them along, they got plucked out of one timeline and dropped into another with no time to adjust in between.

But, to be clear: I don’t actually want Bucky accidentally dropping the n-word about Sam’s sister and having an episode where he apologizes. I don’t want Steve Rogers calling the Black Widow “Toots,” or blowing the Scarlet Witch shit for being Jewish, assuming she actually is Jewish in the MCU, which is sort of up for debate.

But it would be damned interesting to see a sort of What If? or Elseworlds-type series where Cap gets brought back by the type of person who is always holding up the forties and fifties as some sort of American Golden Age, something we should try to get back to, only to find out that the guy who was such a big hero in World War II is a massive asshole by anything approaching modern standards. The Ultimates universe leaned into this a little harder than the regular Marvel universe ever has; their Cap was jingoistic and a sexist and a whole lot of other things, but it was mostly played for comedy and/or shock value; what I’m looking for here tilts closer into villainy, and I want to see a story where America’s reaction to Captain America is part of the story. They got into that a little bit when Sam Wilson became Cap in the comics, now let’s see what happens when Steve Rogers himself is held up as this great guy and turns out not to be. What if Cap came back to modern-day America and rejected it? What if America rejected him, and said this is not who we want to be?

It’s been fun to think about, at least.


A quick social media note: I shut down my Facebook and Instagram accounts yesterday, at least temporarily, and as such blog posts won’t be shared there any longer. We’ll see if this hurts traffic or engagement on the site; you can still share posts yourself with the social media icons below, and sign up for email updates somewhere in that list of boxes on the right there.

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.