Film: Superhero overload

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UPDATE:  Iron Man had a killer weekend, racking up $104 million domestically, pushing it well over the $200 million mark worldwide.  By no small coincidence, the day these numbers were announced, Marvel announced that “Iron Man 2” (my predicted subtitle is either “Enter the Mandarin” or “Demon in a Bottle;” expect both the ten-ringed supervillain and Tony’s alcoholism to play a part) will be released on April 30, 2010.

Also announced were “Thor” on June 4, 2010, “The First Avenger: Captain America” (I am really not in love with that title) on May 6, 2011.  All three of these heroes, along with Hulk, whose movie drops on June 13, will feature in “The Avengers” in June 2011.

This is put on Marvel’s schedule on top of “Punisher: War Journal” this December 5, and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” next May 1.

Me?  I’m still waiting for a NEXTWAVE movie.

So, the Wednesday before last, CM Life had a little something you might have read: An entire Lifeline section devoted to comic books.

I wrote two rather intensive articles, we had a column, picks for the best comics, movies, music, TV, et cetera, and a killer (though admittedly non-comics related) book review by Mr. Frank Wisswell.

Speaking of Frank, he and I did a joint review of Iron Man this weekend, as though you needed anybody to tell you that it rocked.

“Joint” review meaning we did it in conjunction with one another. Just say no.

So, to finally cap off CM Life’s beginning of summer comic book coverage, I am going to do as others did for me in the April 23 Lifeline section, and give recommendations of truly rockin’ reads. So here is Belligerent Brad’s Pulverizin’ Pull List:

“Watchmen:” I absolutely consider this the best comic book ever written. It’s a story starring superheroes, but it is absolutely not a superhero book. This is a book about society, humanity, paranoia, absolutism, and morality. Alan Moore’s scripts and David Gibbons’ artwork deftly creates a living, breathing world that seems very real, while still being a very different world than our own. If you only read one comic book ever before you die, read “Watchmen.”

“NEXTAVE: Agents of H.A.T.E.” Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s hilarious masterwork deconstructs the superhero psyche in a way never done before. Ellis started from what he considers the “core” of superhero comics (from the perspective of writers and artists) and made this book primarily about people in bright costumes posing in the street, kicking things, and then blowing them up, sacrificing things like characterizations and plot in the process. However, Ellis is intelligent enough to flesh out this absurdly skewed world, making it hilariously irreverent, inventively violent, and simple genius. Our team of heroes (who consist of a second-rate Avenger, a Lara Croft wannabe monster hunter, an alcoholic misanthropic robot, a kleptomaniac mutant whose power is to make things explode, and a homeless Brooklyn man with galactic-level power bestowed by aliens) faces off with an insane military man who drinks milkshakes made out of baby chickens, murderous airborne koalas, and clones of Stephen Hawking that shoot laserbeams out of their eyes. Like the book says itself, “If you like ANYTHING, you’ll LOVE Nextwave!”

“Ex Machina,” “Y: The Last Man,” “Pride of Baghdad,” “Doctor Strange: The Oath,” “Logan:” These five titles have two things in common: They are written by Brian K. Vaughan, and they are some of the best contemporary comics that money can buy. “Y” is a 60-issue long story about a 20-something slacker who ends up being the last human male left on the earth, and finds himself fighting against certain death and biological obsolescence. “Ex Machina” is the tale of Mitchell Hundred, a man elected mayor of New York City, who just happens to be a former superhero that used his power to speak with electronics to keep the second World Trade Center tower from getting hit during 9/11. “Pride of Baghdad” is the most culturally affecting talking animal tale ever written, following four lions that were freed from the Baghdad zoo during the initial US bombings of the city. “The Oath” is a story about Doctor Strange that manages to make the character interesting (a first in roughly 20 years), and tell a great romantic superhero tale at the same time without seeming trivial. “Logan” takes place during Wolverine’s past and present in Japan, examining both his involvement in WWII and with his first love, in a way that has never been done before. All of Vaughan’s books contain snappy writing and a taste for the catastrophic, and all carry themes and points comparable with a prose novel.

“Umbrella Academy:” When I heard that Gerard Way, lead singer of My Chemical Romance, would be writing a comic, I expected to open up the first issue and be bombarded with depressing emo mush. Instead, Way delivers giant professional wrestlers elbow dropping squid-aliens and 9 year-olds fighting a zombie-robot reincarnation of Gustav Eiffel. “Umbrella Academy” is a quirky, hilarious tale of turmoil within a group of people who know no other life than superheroics. Way’s first mainstream comic work, complimented by the cartoony pencils of Gabriel Ba, is indicative of both Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” and Mike “Hellboy” Mignola’s “Amazing Screw-on Head.” Fool your emo friend into reading comic books by giving them this 6-issue miniseries. Conversely, give your comic nerd friends this book, and fool them into liking something written by Gerard Way.

“Helen Killer:” The first issue of this miniseries came out a few weeks ago, and I am already sold on the entire thing. Truth be told, I was pretty much sold on the premise alone: Alexander Graham Bell invents a device called The Omnicle, which gives a college-aged Helen Keller her senses back along with superhuman reflexes and strength, and she uses these abilities to become a bodyguard for President McKinley. Add to that premise some great dialog and crisp, clear, dynamic black-and-white art, and you’ve got an indie book that earns the endorsement from Stan Lee it boasts on its front cover.

Comment below if you have any thoughts, or books that you want to talk about, or email me at canze1bj@cmich.edu to tell me if you like branching out to other things, or if I should just stick to movies strictly.

–Brad Canze, the CM Life Movie Dude

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