Marvel’s The Avengers in RealD 3D movie (Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures)
directed by Joss Whedon
Because one person demanded it, here are my thoughts on the Avengers flick — spoiler free, I assure you. There are two elements that influenced my movie-viewing experience Saturday night, and the first was seeing the movie more than a week after its release. The box-office success and hyperbole I’ve seen from fans and comics professionals alike online really built the movie up. I had people tell me even though they went in with high expectations, Avengers exceeded them. I didn’t feel the same enthusiasm for the film, though I couldn’t really pinpoint anything about it that disappointed in any real way. The movie’s paced well, and it boasts an interesting story, a punchy script, great effects and a strong emphasis on interpersonal conflicts to go along with the widescreen action in the third act. I was also impressed with how well balanced the movie is; all of the players get moments to shine. I was also surprised to find Scarlett Johannson’s role was pivotal throughout the film. The movie’s a lot of fun at times and boasts some great moments of humor, but it also exhibits some strong dramatic tension. The only character that doesn’t really seem like his original comic-book incarnation is Hawkeye. I also appreciated how the second act focuses on a much different sort of conflict than I expected, and the action in the climax unfolds quite differently than what the marketing campaign led me to expect. Nevertheless, while I thought the movie was solid across the board, I don’t agree Avengers the best super-hero movie ever made. The Incredibles and The Dark Knight stand above it for me.
The second aspect of the film that affected my appreciation was the 3D. I hated it. I found the 3D effects distracting and distorted, and they detracted from my experience in the theatre repeatedly. I had no choice but to see it in 3D, as the cinemas in my city offered only one evening showing in 2D, and it was at a time I couldn’t be there. I expect this movie will drive up sales of other Marvel flicks on home video, especially Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, as they’re required viewing in order to follow the plot in this billion-dollar success. 8/10
Mind the Gap #1 (Image Comics)
by Jim McCann, Robin Esquejo & Sonia Oback
I’ve yet to read Jim McCann’s acclaimed graphic novel Return of the Dapper Men, so my exposure to his work is limited to some solid Hawkeye and Mockingbird comics that Marvel seemed to lose interest in publishing after a short while. After perusing the pages of this first issue of Mind the Gap, it’s clear the continuity-laden confines of the Marvel Universe wasn’t playing to his strengths. This is a fascinating story, mainly because it’s a two-pronged one. There’s a criminal conspiracy unfolding in the everyday world, as a young doctor begins to piece together something is amiss in the case of a comatose patient who was attacked on a subway platform. But then there’s the mystery of the spiritual/psychic plane on which the woman finds herself as others care for her, war over her and plot against her. It’s not an easy story to describe, but it’s well crafted and well paced. McCann and his creative collaborators deserve a lot of credit for following in the footsteps of another recent Image debut, Saga, as they offer 45 pages of story and art for the price of a regular 20-page comic book. The value alone makes this comic worth a look, and the enigmatic plot will keep even the most casual of interested party coming back for the second issue.
The photorealistic artwork by Robin Esquejo and Sonia Oback serves the story well. Something more stylized might have been the more obvious choice, but the realistic look brings credibility to the plot and therefore enhances the intrigue and drama. The computer-coloring effects, black backdrops, and special fonts and word balloons do an excellent job of distinguishing between the mortal scenes and the spectral-limbo ones. I think the name of the title refers to the gap between the everyday world and the ever-changing plane on which the main character finds herself, but it doesn’t really encapsulate the plot or mood of the story — at least not that of this first issue. Still, that’s about the only gripe I have about this otherwise well-devised and challenging comic book. 8/10
Winter Soldier #5
by Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice, Stefano Gaudiano & Tom Palmer
Winter Soldier has been a great return for writer Ed Brubaker to the super-hero espionage riff he had going in the first couple of years of his run on Captain America. I’m enjoying the removal of the title character from the mainstream Marvel super-hero action and his reintegration into the darker, nastier corners of a dangerous world. But what’s most interesting about this new title is how Brubaker balances that harder, harsher edge with the fun and sheer goofiness of Marvel’s history and stable of characters. Somehow, the Red Ghost and his super-powered apes don’t seem out of place in this shadow world, and Dr. Doom’s bombastic nature brought a smile to my face amid the tension and action. I’m hoping for more of the same as the series progresses. After all, the foundation of villainy in the Marvel Universe is the Cold War. There are plenty of state-sponsored bad guys that once lived behind the Iron Curtain. Giving them new life in the Marvel Universe of the 21st century by way of this series is a great idea. Obviously, the core plot lacked a real punch; no one thought a nuclear attack would be successful, but the hero fails in a different way. The real conflict is Barnes’ effort to redeem himself and rectify the mistakes he’s made in the past, even if they were made under the control of others.
Butch Guice’s gritty style is even darker than usual. He’s adopted an inkier approach that enhances the licence-to-kill riff at play in this super-hero universe. He takes a realistic approach with the Red Ghost’s apes, making them seem like a credible threat instead of something silly. But at the same time, their master is portrayed pretty much as he was in Silver Age Fantastic Four comics, which brings out the campy side of the mix here. Guice’s take on Dr. Doom is quite traditional as well, but he still manages to depict him as an imposing presence. Bettie Breitweiser’s colors are in keeping with the darker mood as well. This is solid genre piece, always serving as a fun diversion any time a new issue hits the stands. 7/10
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