Monday, March 31, 2014

My review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier rocks.
by rick olivares

It’s not your typical superhero movie. It never will be because Cap is just a guy on some kind of steroids with only his wits, physical strength, and indomitable will to keep him ahead of the game. It’s an action film with espionage overtones ala Jason Bourne. And that means the action is fast and furious.

As a long time Cap fan (the Mad Bomb storyline during the American Bicentennial was the first ever book I got), seeing the first and second films are a dream come true. I watched the old Cap films where Reb Brown played Steve Rogers/Cap. I knew of Brown from the war flick, Uncommon Valor where he starred alongside Gene Hackman, Fred Ward, and Patrick Swayze. He didn’t seem the ideal Steve Rodgers but there it is. It was difficult watching those two Captain America movies but I did because I was a fan. Those two made a case for why it was difficult for comic book characters to be adapted into film. That is until the Michael Keaton Batman and The Rocketeer.

I have made it a habit of mine to not read any of the release stories and gossip so when I watch the film, I don’t know what to expect outside of what I see in the trailers. Try it. It actually makes for pleasant viewing.

I basically thought that they had adapted Ed Brubaker’s excellent storyline The Winter Soldier that brought back Bucky Barnes. But as the film unfolded, it was increasingly clear that the plot borrowed more elements from another classic Marvel Comics story, Nick Fury vs. SHIELD than Brubaker’s Cap masterpiece from a few years ago.

I found myself somewhat in denial that the movie producers and scriptwriters touched up that classic SHIELD story (written by Bob Harras and penciled by Paul Neary). The Marvel movie universe is fairly new and I felt that SHIELD was only getting operational when it was already infiltrated. But the writers explained it well by tying in elements from Captain America: The First Avenger (the Arnim Zola angle and Hydra).

Furthermore, the pace of the film wasn’t the Brubaker style that is more cloak and dagger but is more akin to the run of Mark Waid and Ron Garney back in 1996 (20 years after the Mad Bomb storyline). What characterized Waid’s Cap -- and I will borrow his lines (from Captain America #454) here – was “the man torpedoes through the plot with little time or patience.” And verily so, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one non-stop action film where there are car chases to go with multiple shoot-em-ups and close quarters fight scenes.

It’s a triumph for writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who juggle multiple lead characters from Cap, Nick Fury, the Black Widow, and the Falcon. There’s time for some characterization as we see Natasha Romanova’s character fleshed out. And there’s some romantic tension between her and Cap (although the Black Widow realizes that this is a no win situation for her with Rogers). Nevertheless, I wish to see more of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow… Whew. Breathe. Now, exhale.

Back to the movie… I won’t give away any spoilers here. Suffice to say that the world today is not in hues of black or white (when his golden generation knew what was right and wrong) but with lots of grey areas. And that reflects on the geopolitics that come into play. Hence, SHIELD’s building bigger heli-carriers that can wipe out threats even before they happen.

As Cap notes, “This isn’t freedom – it’s fear.”

The old ghosts and soldiers of Cap’s day have come back to haunt him in the modern world. However, his foes have adapted to the changing times but Rogers refuses. And he fights the evil within.

My only beef with the film is Alexander Pierce and Jasper Sitwell used as villains. They weren’t villains. No. No. And an emphatic "No."

As I have said, not reading much promotions about the film, I was surprised to see Georges St. Pierre as Batroc and I loved it. That was just as cool as seeing Cyril Raffaelli, the French Parkour traceur who appeared in Live Free or Die Hard (the fourth in the Die Hard series of films). These French-speaking guys sure are bad ass.

Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter is another cool cameo. I look forward to seeing more of "Agent 13" in the next Cap film.

By film’s end, we see Baron Strucker and I wondered if the Fenris twins were around the corner. Instead it was Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. And the film leaves us with the teaser of Bucky and that Cap will next appear in The Avengers: The Age of Ultron.

It’s a darn good film that thrills you no end. I love Captain America: The First Avenger but Captain America: The Winter Soldier surpasses the first film and is one of Marvel’s best if not one of the best superhero films.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Getting back some of my favorite comic books

I have amassed a huge comic book collection in my over 40 years of collecting. Unfortunately, I lost most of them to a devastating typhoon while others to the ravages of time and lack of care while spending a long time abroad. 

Unlike before where I stopped collecting for two years and in doing so sold a lot of the remnants, this time I stuck to my love for the medium even after all these years. Only now, I get what I like. There is no need to collect everything.

In the last three months, I began to order a bunch of back issues that I wanted to get back. I ordered them from Mile High Comics and from My Comic Shop. There are a lot of new titles out there that I like -- Thor God of Thunder, The Sixth Gun, and Daredevil to name a few. But sometimes -- and I am not saying this because of a generational thing -- I believe the old stuff are a lot better. 

I collected X-Men with Uncanny X-Men #93 (but I first read it when the Neal Adams stories came out) and the Fantastic Four (beginning with George Perez' issues). Mike Baron's and Steve Rude's Nexus is a book I love as much as I did when I first bought it off the racks in Filbar's in Cubao (the first branch located at the corner of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard and not the New York, Cubao branch). I love Jack Kirby's return to Captain America during the American Bicentennial in 1976. That was the "Madbomb" storyline and I used to get my copies at the Army & Navy Club in Manila. 

Anyways, here are some of the back issues I got.

I was never a Green Arrow fan. My one memory of the character was seeing him lose his cool at the end of one story of Justice League of America as he almost got into a fight with Hawkman. Now I picked up The Longbow Hunters because I was a fan of Mike Grell's art on the Legion of the Super-Heroes. I liked Grell's stuff on Warlord and Starslayer and had issues of those titles so picking up The Longbow Hunters was an easy decision. The series will go down not only as his best work ever but perhaps the definitive Green Arrow story. I bought all three individual issues and the trade paperback (pictured above). I also picked up a few other Grell GA stuff.

My original TPB of The Longbow Hunters was destroyed during a typhoon and the original edition was out of print.

DC Comics recently came out with a newer trade paperback but somehow, it didn't cut it for me. I had to get the original first print of the TPB. And so I did. Fanboy satisfied.

Spider-Man has got to be one of my five best comic book characters ever. I loved the old John Romita issues but I only read the copies of an older cousin of mine. When I began to collect the book, Denny O'Neill was the writer. He was followed by Roger Stern and those issues from #200-251 were some of the best ever. I have nothing left from that run (destroyed as well). I have a few trades like the Wizard edition that collected "To Stop the Unbeatable Foe" and "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man" (#250) but I wanted to get some original back issues.

Two of my Spidey faves are J Jonah Jameson-centric stories: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #18 that was penned by Stan Lee who returned to the book after over a decade's absence) and illustrated by Ron Frenz while the other was an issue titled "I Cover the Waterfront" from Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man. That was written by Bill Mantlo (who also wrote Amazing at one point) and drawn by Ron Frenz as well. Frenz at that time was hailed as the second coming of Steve Ditko and I loved his throwback style. In both books, Peter/Spidey took a backseat to Jameson but old webhead made an impact. I love these stories. 

I didn't collect G.I. Joe I have to admit. I was familiar with the book and read the copies from y friends' collections. When it was advertised that Michael Golden was going to illustrated Yearbook #2, I bought one. When I moved to the US, I purchased one during a New York Comicon. But I left that went I went back to the Philippines. When I got home, I couldn't find the copy I had purchased all those years ago. I have searched back issue bins for this. And I finally ordered it thru My Comic Shop.

I became a fan of Michael Golden from his days on The Micronauts, a title I love and wish I still had all those back issues. He was even better when he got on The Nam. This issue of G.I. Joe was a delight to glean. Plus it had the Oktober Guard!

I never really collected Magnus The Robot Fighter. My grandfather bought me a few of the Gold Key issues but they didn't impress me then. Yes, I know. I was wrong but I was young. I picked up the tie-up with Nexus because I was a Nexus fan and because Mike Baron and Steve Rude produced the book. The tie-in with Predator was due to the artwork of Lee Weeks who I felt was the second coming of the great David Mazzuchelli. I have since become a fan of Magnus and am looking to get those back issues.


Other stuff I got: the second wave of Amalgam Comics titles, Nexus Dark Horse issues, Detective Comics #500 and #572 (pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths), Crisis on Infinite Earths #2 & 3, Uncanny X-Men #275, and a bunch of others)

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Pull List for March 12, 2014 Manifest Destiny, Bad Blood, Astor City, Uber etc

Manifest Destiny #5 (Image) One title a keenly look forward too. I am glad they stopped from making it a introduce a monster per issue. Their moving forward and now we are moving into the whys and wherefores. 

The Mercenary Sea #2 (Image) Dive! Dive. This book moves into some serious action as bullets fly. 

Bad Blood #1 (Dark Horse) One of my faves of this batch. A vampire story with a twist as cancer-ridden young man fights some vampires that have turned his life upside down.

Uber #19 (Avatar) Kieron Gillen finally takes his foot of the accelerator to allow some characterization. And it's enough to build to the next one that's going to be a slam bang affair as a Battleship class Uber is launch straight at London. The Blitz Part Two.

Astro City #10 (Vertigo) I honestly think that Busiek's run on this title while at Image is far better. It's a good read but not great. Cannot put my finger on what seems wrong. But I still enjoy it. Just don't think the stories are on parallel as what came out before.

One Hit Wonder #1 (Image) Wanted to try this because of Ariel Olivetti's art (The Last Avengers Story among others). Like Bullseye/Nemesis/Natural Born Killers except that he is a hit-man for hire. Hope they take this is a direction no one will not see coming. Or else it's off to the trash bin.

Hawkeye #17 (Marvel) The most disappointing of the bunch. The series started out well but it has been limping as of late. And late is the operative word. Delayed releases. Stories that drag on endlessly and really don't seem much. The endless "Bro" storyline that should have ended some time ago. And now a filler issue. I am close to checking out of this series. Since when did Clint Barton act like a sad sack loser? When did he become Peter Parker? Enuff of this, Matt Fraction. Get on with it.

Fantastic Four #2 (Marvel) Two issues in and I am not blown away. Yet

Superman/Wonder Woman #6 (DC) Honestly, I just get this because I always thought that Superman and Wonder Woman are made for each other. But this is nothing special. They just get their asses kicked by General Zod and Faora.

Captain Marvel #1 (Marvel) So far some of the best books Marvel is putting out are the -- for lack of a better term -- chick-books. There's Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk. And the relaunched Captain Marvel starring Carol Danvers sounds interesting. But the jury is still out.

All-New All Different X-Men #24 (Marvel) Picking this up out of force of habit. Dredging up old storylines. Nothing new. Send them back to their time already.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

At the Robotech Voltron signing at Comic Odyssey today

With Melvin Calingo and Elmer Damaso during the Robotech Voltron book signing this afternoon at Comic Odyssey. Not really a fan of Robotech and Voltron but I picked it up because of these two guys. Now hopefully, I'll like the characters and the story.

Would you believe that they also worked on Culture Crash (the comic magazine) during the early years of the new millennium? I lost all my copies of that but got issue #10 today at Comic Odyssey.