Tag Archives: loki

Messages from Midgard #9 – Mimosas with Loki

This was a really enjoyable week in “War of the Realms” country with all kinds of heroic happenings going on from Spider-Man choosing to negotiate with and not fight both the Angels of Heven and the Nigerian army in League of the Realms #2 to Cul Borson finding redemption in Thor #13. This week also marks the return of anthology War Scrolls, which features one of Marvel’s best stories of 2019, namely, Wiccan going to drag brunch with Loki. Speaking of drag brunch, “War of the Realms” also got a head start on Pride Month by featuring LGBTQ characters in both League of the Realms #2 and War Scrolls even though the first one is a little more tragic as the angel Fernade mourns over her lost love, Anemone.

War of the Realms: War Scrolls #2

War Scrolls is really one of the “War of the Realms” tie-ins that I wish got more than three issues, especially when we’re blessed with a trio of stories that like we got in issue two. First up is the part two of Jason Aaron, Andrea Sorrentino, and Matthew Wilson’s Daredevil, God of Fear serial, which cosmic sizes a classic battle between Daredevil and the Kingpin. But, before things go from Netflix to Man of Steel, Aaron and Sorrentino do some chilling characterization in a Ben-Day dot flashback where Daredevil prays that he won’t beat a mass murderer to death. Wilson’ color palette switch from flat and old school to majestic fantasy mode helps the story keep its momentum, and although he’s a bad guy, it’s fun to see Wilson Fisk get one up on Malekith and the Dark Elves.

The second serial is a Doctor Strange one from Devin Grayson (Nice to see her getting work again), Paul Davidson, and Andres Mossa. It show the effect of teleporting all the civilians and heroes in New York to the North Pole on Strange and is also cute and charming along the way. The main plot involves Dr. Strange preventing Nightmare from attacking this plane of existence, and Davidson and Mossa channel their inner Ditko with psychedelic art that wouldn’t be out of place in a head shop circa 1968. Grayson writes Dr. Strange as a heroic figure a la the Doctor or even Morpheus from Sandman, who admits his mistake of teleporting the superheroes out of New York and shows Nightmare that fear can be fought and resisted to. And he does this all while taking a nap. (A cute kid even tucks him in and gives him a stuffed animal.)

War Scrolls definitely saved the best for last, and that is a drag brunch story by Anthony Oliveira, Nick Robles, and Cris Peter featuring Hulking, Wiccan, and Loki in a mini-Young Avengers reunion. It’s funny, sad, and Kid Loki turns Thor into a bear on the first page. Oliveira and Robles spin the tale of Loki’s relationship with Wiccan and the Young Avengers, and how even though he may have manipulated them and even cast his lot with Malekith the Accursed that they still care about and support him. The story is in direct conversation with Kieron Gillen’s Loki arc in both Journey into Mystery and Young Avengers and clears up loose ends while providing the reason for why Loki wears a horned helmets. Plus Jean Grey and Emma Frost drag queens get into a fight, and Oliveira, Robles, and Peter create a vision of the Marvel universe that is beautifully queer. This story alone (The Daredevil and Dr. Strange ones were great too.) earns War Scrolls #2 an Overall Verdict of Buy.

War of the Realms: Spider-Man & the League of Realms #2

In Spider-Man & the League of Realms #2, Sean Ryan, Nico Leon, and Carlos Lopez basically have Spider-Man herding cats, er, trying to get people like Screwbeard and Ud the Troll, who are hardwired to fight, to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. However, they start with a tragic love story, and Lopez uses beautiful whites and reds to show the story of the Angels Fernande and Anemone, who was killed by Malekith because he just wanted to know what killing an angel felt like. Fernande was the enemy in the previous issue, but now she’s a staunch ally of Spider-Man and decides to help the resistance against the Angels of Heven in Nigeria.

But this issue isn’t all triumphant, and Leon gets the opportunity to show Screwbeard, Ud, and Ivory Honeyshot, whose realm was the first one conquered by Malekith, shooting and fighting their way through Rome. The measured conversation and protective spells of the first half of the issue are replaced with catchphrases, explosions, and a foe that might be beyond any of them. The blows that Malekith’s main lackey Kurse land are powerful reminders of the pointlessness of unceasing violence, and Spider-Man’s probably going to have clean up the mess in the next issue. Because of its mix of fine and cartoon-y art, still quirky ensemble cast, and story that shows the results of both war and diplomacy, League of Realms #2 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.

Thor #13

In the Thor tie-in issues of “War of the Realms”, Jason Aaron and artist Mike Del Mundo have been doing a fantastic job of fleshing out the supporting Asgardian characters that have popped up throughout Aaron’s run. Cul Borson, the God of Fear and on a secret suicide mission from Odin, gets the treatment in Thor #13. Beginning in the present day with Cul surrounded by crying Dark Elf children, the comic is structured like a biography of the god with childhood flashbacks of him bullying Odin and eventually being banished to Midgard as the “Serpent”. As he fights through the mushroom mines of Svartalfheim, Cul is in conflict between wanting to be feared and loving and between caring for his little brother and wanting to usurp his throne.

Although the flashbacks include Cul overhearing arguments between Odin and Thor that made him wish he had a son and dark temptations from Malekith, Thor #13 is an action-oriented issue tempered by soul searching narration from Aaron. Del Mundo’s Cul cuts a dark figure in the sickly green of the swamps of Svartalfheim where Dark Elf children, who have been called unworthy, help build Malekith’s empire. He wants to leave them to die, but in a moment of supreme character development hacks off their chains. This leads to a resistance movement even if Cul never sees the fruits of his actions. He was a never a “good guy”, but in a tough moment, he did one heroic thing and can die without wasting his life. Cul’s last stand against the Dark Elves is pretty damn noble as Del Mundo fills his panels with bodies, and combined with Aaron’s insightful writing earns Thor #13 an Overall Verdict of Buy.

Giant-Man #2

“War of the Realms”‘ most random tie-in continues in Giant-Man #2 where Leah Williams fits Scott Lang, Raz Malhotra, Atlas, and Tom Foster into a fantasy quest narrative, and Marco Castiello’s art is still so shadowy and less than detailed that it is still difficult at times to immediately know who’s talking. (Tom’s shirtlessness, Atlas’ septum ring, Scott’s Ant-Man helmet, and Raz’s Skyrim do help.) In Hero’s Journey and college movie tradition, they end up facing a threshold guardian, who needs them to pay a toll and drink way too much at a party.

Williams’ gift for humor shines through in Giant-Man #2 with Tom’s knack for karaoke coming in handy when faced by Frost Giant locals, and it’s nice to know that there are some Dolly Parton fans in Jotunheim. Castiello also turns the nine panel grid into a grid of debauchery as Atlas keeps downing pints while tired dad Scott Lang passes out early. Also, the drinking songs are cleverly weaved into the plot of the miniseries as the team literally learns how Frost Giants are made and end the penultimate issue with a shot of their final obstacle and a side of how utterly expendable they are. By leaning into fantasy genre trappings and its characters’ dysfunctional personalities, Leah Williams and Marco Castiello create a fun event tie-in that earns an Overall Verdict of Read.

Fantastic Four #10

One thing that I loved about Fantastic Four #10 is that write Dan Slott and artists Paco Medina and Kevin Libanda start out by telling the story of the Fantastic Four moving to Yancy Street and Franklin and Valeria Richards trying to fit in with “regular” kids after working with the Future Foundation out in the multiverse and don’t force a tie-in. Franklin is struggling with the dwindling nature of his powers and going through an emo phase, and there’s a block party. Then, Slott introduces all the baddies from “War of the Realms” and connect it to the strength and resolve of the people of Yancy Street as Franklin realizes that growing up in this neighborhood and learning to never give up made Ben Grimm a hero long before the Thing.

I love how Slott writes Franklin and Valeria as ungrateful adolescents and not just cute kids with big brains and godlike powers. Franklin’s almost limitless superpowers have gone to his head, and it’s nice to see some of the kids in the neighborhood cut him down to size when he brags about his abilities instead of helping with art classes at the Grimm Community Center. However, this story nails the awkwardness of moving to a new area when you’re a kid, getting used to new people, and ways of doing things. It also shows that New York didn’t roll over when Malekith invaded, and best of all, introduces a friendship/rivalry between Moon Girl and Valeria that I hope gets fleshed out in future issues. Most of “War of the Realms” has involved street level heroes fighting cosmic threats, but Slott, Medina, and Libanda turn the tables and have the Fantastic Four protecting their neighborhood. This earns Fantastic Four #10 an Overall Verdict of Buy.


Although Marco Castiello’s giant blue Paul Rudd will haunt my dreams, this was probably one of the best weeks for “War of the Realms” with issues that focused on character and story and not making the millionth Dungeons and Dragons/Lord of the Rings reference. Even if Jason Aaron’s War of the Realms mini ends up being a bust, it won’t tarnish his classic Thor run, which has done a great job showing the journey of side characters during this event. Also, Anthony Oliveira needs to write a Young Avengers run ASAP, and Nick Robles has definitely entered the pantheon of sexy Loki artists after his work on War Scrolls #2 and even made the horned helmet cute.


Panel of the Week

If this panel doesn’t make you miss Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson’s Young Avengers, you have soul. (War of the Realms: War Scrolls #2, Art by Nick Robles and Cris Peter)

Super-Articulate: Marvel Legends Loki & Corvus Glaive

Rejoice, for I bring you tidings of great gladness from your lord and savior, Thanos! At his best, the Black Order of the films is finally complete! Bow down in subjugation, mortal wretches.

-Ebony Maw

Thank you, Ebony Maw, for that warm introduction. And he’s right; the film version of Thanos’s Black Order gets wrapped up courtesy of this Marvel Legends Walmart Exclusive two-pack. After a rocky initial offering online at Toy Fair time that sold out quickly, followed by a second listing online that caused problems for a number of customers (like this one), the much-anticipated Loki and Corvus Glaive two-pack started making its way into brick-and-mortar Walmart stores in the past few weeks.

Distribution on these is a bit of a crap shoot. The two Walmarts closest to me just outside of Indianapolis have been empty more than once, but there were plenty at one inside the city near the westside. I understand they’ve been fairly plentiful in California and the Chicago area, but again, your mileage may vary. Initial eBay prices were quite crazy, and some of them are still marked way too high, but with a bit of effort or connections with friends, you can probably find one for the regular price of $39.99.

Let’s start with the non-Odinson . . .

Loki: Why the figure is essentially very similar to the Loki from the Thor: Ragnarok assortment, there are a couple of good tweaks. Notably, the left hand is sculpted to be able to hold the included Tesseract; this, of course, mirrors the scene from Avengers: Infinity War wherein Loki is forced to offer the Infinity Stone up to Thanos. This is a solid Loki figurre, and the Hiddleston likeness is strong. I also like the cape (those that prefer their Loki capeless might find that this is a good cape for the Silver Sable/Lilandra head project we’ve mentioned before). I wouldn’t have necessarily gotten this figure on its own, as there are a couple of good Lokis out there and the classic comic version is due soon, but it’s a good figure, and one that will have a good home on my MCU shelves.

Corvus Glaive: This guy is totally why I came to this particular party. The stab-happy child of Thanos and leader of the Black Order is, well, excellent. The team did a terrific job here, going the extra mile on details like the raised pattern impressions on the cape. This face sculpt is absolutely full of personality and menace, too. The build is slight, mimicking the figure’s comic and film counterpart. The hands are shaped appropriately to hold Glaive’s signature weapon as well. Corvus Glaive is a strong figure and well worthy of inclusion into your own person Marvel Legends land.

As promised, I’ve included pictures of the entire Black Order; I opted to use the Armored “Endgame” Thanos. I’m not afraid to say that these five figures are kind of an achievement. Two years ago, I would have laughed at the idea that Hasbro would manage to work this many Order characters into the line already; I was wrong. Again, this is the MCU Black Order; maybe we’ll get the other comic members, Supergiant and Black Swan, down the road, but I won’t hold my breath. Regardless, Hasbro did an incredible job with their renditions of these films. The figures have that weight and mass and look just creepy enough. Hats off to Hasbro for going with this idea and seeing it through.

Overall, I think the two-pack is definitely worth it. Glavie is just great, and I like this version of Loki, too. Hopefully, the success of this two-pack will allow Hasbro to continue taking risks with character choice and be innovative in terms of exclusives.

Disney+ Launching November 12 for $6.99 a month or $69.99 per year

Disney+

The anticipation for Disney+, Disney‘s digital streaming service, has been growing. Rumors have been running rampant about shows that we might see, how much it will cost, and when will it launch. Now, we know the details as Disney has pulled back the curtain showing us what we can expect.

Disney+ launches November 12 costing $6.99 per month or an annual price of $69.99. It will include brand new original series exclusive to the ad-free subscription service. Here’s what they’ve announced.

The Technical

The service will allow downloading of content so it can be accessed offline. There will be individual profiles and that includes custom avatars.

It will launch over each major region of the world over a two year time frame due to expiring contracts in specific territories. The United States will be up first.

In the presentation, images of televisions, computers, Apple TV, Playstation, X-BOX, and the Switch were all shown indicating the service will be available to watch on those and more.

Disney and Pixar

The entire Signature Collection will be available on launch. Rumors had indicated Disney’s complete movie library would be available. All Pixar films will be available in the first year of launch. All Pixar theatrical shorts will be available at launch.

One of the original series to debut in the first year is Unknown: Making Frozen 2 which is a documentary series exploring the behind the scenes creation of the animated film.

The new Toy Story character Forky will get a series of Pixar shorts with Forky Asks a Question. Toy Story’s Bo Peep will also get a short entitled Lamp Life.

5,000 episodes of Disney Channel contet and 100 original movies will be available to stream on lucnh.

On top of that, more than 7,500 episodes and 500 films will come to the library.

Marvel

Captain Marvel will be available on the service on the first day. Disney announced two original series. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany will star as Wanda Maximoff and The Vision in the series WandaVision. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan will team up in The Falcon and Winter Soldier. Tom Hiddleston will play Loki in a series of the same name.

According to other reports, only four Marvel films will come to the service within the launch window.

Star Wars

All Star Wars films will be available on the platform within the first year of its launch. Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk will join forces for a series based on Cassian Andor. The Mandolorian, Jon Favreau‘s live-action series will premiere on launch.

More Originals

Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader will star in Noelle. Director Tom McCarthy will have an original film, Timmy Failure that will release in the first year. An adaptation of the best selling book Star Girl will come to the platform. William DaFoe will star in the original film Togo about a man’s real-life story about his and his sled dog’s journey through the Alaskan tundra. That will be out in the first year. A live-action Lady and the Tramp will come to the service.

The Phineas and Ferb Movie, a new animated adventure will come to the service.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is coming to the service.

And More!

More than 250 hours from National Geographic will come to the service and that includes the film Free Solo. The World According to Jeff Goldblum, from National Geographic, will premiere on the channel.

The Simpsons!

Disney+ will be the exclusive home for streaming The Simpsons starting at launch. That’s all 30 seasons on the first day of launch.

Messages from Midgard #2: Frog Thor Feelings

The “War of the Realms” settles into its second week with a trio of tie-ins that seem utterly unrelated: War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #1, Asgardians of the Galaxy #8, and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43. However, the first two comics are a shining example of how difficult doing ensemble casts are, and the third is a proof that Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a beautiful gift even when it’s an event tie-in. It even moves “War of the Realms'” narrative forward by showing how Malekith and his allies divvied up the different continents of the Earth. Stereotypically, the Frost Giants got Canada.

War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #1

The McElroys (Father Clint and sons Justin, Travis, and Griffin, but those names aren’t in the comic.) are big time podcasters known for their work on the advice show My Brother, My Brother and Me and the Dungeon and Dragons show The Adventure Zone, which I’ve listened to a couple episodes of and was a best-selling graphic novel for First Second. At first, I thought they were comic neophytes, but apparently, Clint McElroy worked on licensed comics like Universal Soldier and Green Hornet in the early 1990s. They team up with artist Andre Araujo and colorist Chris O’Halloran to tell the buddy road trip story of Balder teaming up with Miles Morales, Kate Bishop, Thori, Becca aka Deathlok 2.0, Sebastian Druid, and Wonder Man to protect Thor’s baby sister, Laussa.

Journey into Mystery #1 has a fun premise that is only a little bit related to the main “War of the Realms” narrative and pokes fun at continuity changes as well as certain character being “off limits” because of events. See, Balder wanted Peter Parker, Clint Barton, Dr. Strange, and the original Deathlok, but he ended up with the legacy versions. The McElroys and Araujo introduce the cast in a typical flash forward, flash back, flash forward, and big cliffhanger fashion. Each road trip member gets a humorous origin and is then thrown into the fray by the Norn, Skuld. The level of funny varies from Matt Fraction/Kieron Gillen cover band while writing Kate Bishop and Thori respectively to the genuinely clever situation of having Miles rescue Times Square cosplayers and a teen Deathlok making a fake graduation party with Life Model Decoys to feel less alone and more human.

The story should have hit its stride in its third part when the team is assembled and being chased in a truck by Sindr, the daughter of Surtr, and her fire troll/demon/generic being army. Araujo cuts to the right moments in the chase to build tension and gets to do real storytelling instead of just the funny faces of the flashback. However, The McElroys kind of lose track of their team in the chaos with Miles and Dr. Druid especially suffering. They do manage to write around Wonder Man’s superhero story sapping pacifism to give him a great moment. Journey into Mystery has its clever moments, but in chemistry terms, it’s more of a heterogenous mixture than an a homogenous one so, for now, it gets an Overall Verdict of Read.

Asgardians of the Galaxy #8

Even though 75% of its run has either been a tie-in to “Infinity Wars” or “War of the Realms”, Cullen Bunn, Matteo Lolli, and Federico Blee’s space faring, Asgard-connected team book has been one of Marvel’s hidden gems. It’s the spiritual successor of Bunn’s Fearless Defenders or even Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s run on Guardians of the Galaxy. The current team lineup is Angela, Valkyrie who sometimes swaps places with archaeologist Annabelle Riggs, Skurge the Executioner, Thunderstrike (The son of the one from the late 80s and 90s), Throg aka Frog Thor, and the dwarf Urzuul. They’re protecting a beacon that summons an army of undead gods, but Heimdall divests them of this and sends them to fight for Earth in the War of the Realms.

While Journey into Mystery gets to have its own plot, Asgardians of the Galaxy #8 takes place during the big battle for New York in War of the Realms #1. So, there’s not much plot once the book gets earthbound, and Lolli and Blee end up riffing off Russell Dauterman’s double page spreads, and well, they’re not Dauterman with a long lead time. But, even though, he’s stuck in the constraints of the event’s plot, Cullen Bunn has a one great trick up his sleeve: characterization.

Unlike Journey into Mystery where many characters are lost in the shuffle or are catchphrase shouters, Bunn gives each member of the Asgardians of the Galaxy at least one small showcase moment. Executioner and Punisher get to compare guns, and Black Panther compliments Urzuul’s weapon craftsmanship. (Wow, that came out wrong.) Cap tells Thunderstrike that his dad was a great hero, and Angela gets to be very angry at the Angels of Heven for siding with Malekith. However, the characters who come across the best are Throg and Annabelle Riggs/Valkyrie.

Throg made his first appearance way back in Walter Simonson’s run on Thor and was an ordinary Central Park frog named Puddlegulp, who was worthy to lift a sliver of Mjolnir and become the Frog of Thunder. Bunn and Lolli give him a moment of great tragedy when he returns to Central Park and sees all his old frog friends being burned up. He feels a lot of guilt for adventuring in space instead of protecting his people and gets a great action sequence that also riffs on Jason Aaron’s concept of Thor Odinson being unworthy.

But Annabelle is the center of Bunn and Lolli’s narrative in Asgardians of the Galaxy #8 as she continues to struggle with her Nova powers and the magic that Kid Loki gave her in the last arc. They keep shorting out, and she subs out with Valkyrie. Or does she. In a big moment, Annabelle rides Valkyrie’s flying horse to look for her girlfriend Ren in the middle of the carnage. They share a beautiful reunion before being literally ripped apart by the plot of War of the Realms. Bunn does a great job writing the only non-powered character and gives her a strong romantic and heroic arc despite this issue being an event tie-in. The emotional moments with her and Throg plus great individual action moments with the rest of the team makes Asgardians of the Galaxy #8 worth an overall verdict of Read.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43

The final “War of the Realms” tie-in and the unlikeliest even though Squirrel Girl has connections with Thor, Loki, and the Norse squirrel god Ratatoskr is Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43 from Ryan North, Derek Charm, and Rico Renzi. This used to be one of my favorite Marvel titles, but then I fell behind. However, North’s ability to couch exposition in jokes and Tony Stark/Squirrel Girl Twitter thread recaps caught me, the lapsed reader, up to speed as well as anyone who didn’t pick up War of the Realms #1. Basically, the event is an excuse for Loki to send Squirrel Girl on a mission to take out a secret Frost Giant base in Canada, and there’s lots of mysteries to be unbundled from this, including Loki’s alignment, which North hides in ambiguous and purposefully misleading dialogue.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43 is cute, funny, and the only one of these three comics to have a complete plot while having joke, riffs, clever action sequences, and some sweet interactions between Doreen and her parents, who live in Canada and sadly got rid of her Arctic variant costume. Derek Charm is one of my favorite current artists and is really the full package, including animated facial expressions, gesture cartooning, clever layouts, and above all, humor that is helped by North’s great footnote jokes. (His inspiration for the fight between Squirrel Girl and the Frost Giant made me cackle.) He even nails the mandatory superhero group shot splash page that should instantly get him a slot drawing the X-Men, Avengers, or Justice League. Renzi’s colors, especially for the Frost Giants, really pop and have an attitude to them. And his shadowy work with the Ratatoskr gives him the right level of menace.

North, Charm, and Renzi are a clever bunch of creators, and a linewide crossover offers them more opportunities to roast mainstream heroes, like Iron Man and Captain America while giving Doreen a new adventure and new bad guys plus family time. It’s not every day you get a comic that makes a running gag of the Asgardian spelling of “Hek”, but today is this day. For this, a physics defying Frost Giant battle, a joke about Jim Davis’ Silver Surfer/Galactus short story in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26, and Loki’s unlikely friendship with Nancy Whitehead, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43 gets an Overall Verdict of Buy.

The real heroes of this week’s “War of the Realms” tie-in were a hero that eats nuts, kicks butts, and tries to reason with her enemies before punching them and a heroic frog that despite his unworthiness still fights to avenge the people he loves. Also, writing a cast of ensemble characters in the middle of a summer crossover is like trying to walk and chew bubblegum. Jokes and emotional character arcs help smooth things over though.


Panel of the Week

The end result of messing with Throg from Asgardians of the Galaxy #8. (Art by Matteo Lolli and Federico Blee)

I want to make this column more interactive. Email me questions at ldalton626@gmail.com or tweet me at MidnighterBae, and I will answer them in an upcoming installment of Messages from Midgard.

Marvel Reveals Upcoming Series and Covers for July

Today, Marvel released a special edition of The Pull List, unveiling exclusive information for titles coming to comic shops this July! The episode shared details on writer Jonathan Hickman’s new direction for the X-Men; trouble for Rocket in “Guardians of the Galaxy”; The Thing and Hulk clash in “Fantastic Four”; and new series “Punisher Kill Krew #1” and “Loki #1.”

HOUSE OF X #1 (of 6)

Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Art by PEPE LARRAZ
Colors by MARTE GRACIA
Cover by PEPE LARRAZ

FACE THE FUTURE

Superstar writer Jonathan Hickman (SECRET WARS, AVENGERS, FANTASTIC FOUR) takes the reins of the X-Men universe! Since the release of Uncanny X-Men #1, there have been four seminal moments in the history of the X-Men. Giant-Sized X-Men. X-Men. Age of Apocalypse. New X-Men. Four iconic series that introduced a new era for Marvel’s mutants and revolutionized the X-Men. In House of X, Charles Xavier reveals his master plan for mutantkind…one that will bring mutants out of the shadow of mankind and into the light once more.

HOUSE OF X #1 (of 6)

POWERS OF X #1 (of 6)

Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Art by R.B. SILVA
Colors by MARTE GRACIA
Cover by R.B. SILVA

FEAR THE FUTURE

Superstar writer Jonathan Hickman (INFINITY, NEW AVENGERS, FANTASTIC FOUR) continues his revolutionary new direction for the X-Men. Intertwining with HOUSE OF X, POWERS OF X reveals the secret past, present and future of mutantkind, changing the way you look at every X-Men story before and after. You do not want to miss the next seminal moment in the history of the X-Men!

POWERS OF X #1 (of 6)

LOKI #1

Written by DANIEL KIBBLESMITH
Art by OSCAR BAZALDUA
Cover by OZGUR YILDIRIM

EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HERO! ALL-NEW ONGOING SERIES!

After dying a grisly death in THE WAR OF THE REALMS, Loki learned a valuable lesson in warmongering: Don’t get caught. But now he has a whole new set of responsibilities — and his brother Thor is not about to let him walk away from them this time. Late Show and BLACK PANTHER VS. DEADPOOL writer Daniel Kibblesmith takes the god of mischief in a thrilling new direction!

LOKI #1

PUNISHER KILL KREW #1 (of 5)

Written by GERRY DUGGAN
Art by JUAN FERREYRA
Cover by TONY MOORE

ONE MAN. TEN REALMS. TOTAL WAR.

• During the War of the Realms, Frank Castle made a promise of vengeance, and Frank Castle keeps his promises.
• A van full of orphans is about to make that promise a lot more complicated.
• How does a man kill gods and monsters?

PUNISHER KILL KREW #1 (of 5)

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #7

Written by DONNY CATES
Art by CORY SMITH
Colors by DAVID CURIEL
Cover by DAVID MARQUEZ

THE DEATH OF ROCKET BEGINS HERE IN ”FAITHLESS” PART 1

In the aftermath of the FINAL GAUNTLET, the Guardians of the Galaxy are taking some well deserved R&R. But their vacation is about to be cut short when a familiar, but radically powerful enemy returns. And what does all of this have to do with the whereabouts of a certain raccoon?

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #7

FANTASTIC FOUR #12

Written by DAN SLOTT
Art by SEAN IZAAKSE
Cover by ESAD RIBIC

Ben and Alicia are off on their dream honeymoon in a remote tropical paradise…until someone decides to crash it. Or should we say SMASH IT?! Get ready for the biggest HULK VS. THING FIGHT OF THE CENTURY! PLUS: The saga of the Future Foundation by Jeremy Whitley and Wil Robson!

FANTASTIC FOUR #12

Disney+ Gets a Second Star Wars Live-Action Series Plus a Loki Live Action Series is Being Developed

Disney‘s much talked about digital service finally has a name, Disney+. Along with that announcement, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger has revealed new series that are being developed for it.

The service is getting a second live-action Star Wars series. This series will focus on Rebel spy Cassian Andor during the early years of the Rebellion and before the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Diego Luna will reprise the role of Cassian Andor.

The service is also getting a live-action series centered around the Marvel character Loki and will star Tom Hiddleston.

This is on top of other new stories set in the worlds of Monster Inc. and High School Musical as well as another Star Wars set live-action series, The Mandalorian which takes place after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order.

Disney+ is scheduled to launch in the U.S. in late 2019.

Review: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26

SquirrelGirlCoverUnbeatable Squirrel Girl takes a little break in issue 26 for a special in-universe zine comic written and drawn by various heroes, villains, and denizens of the Marvel Universe. In real life, they are all written by Ryan North with Erica Henderson switching roles with her Jughead collaborator Chip Zdarsky to pen a surprisingly sultry Howard the Duck story. It’s a fun sampler that mostly hit and very little miss from the much vaunted series of three panel Galactus gag strips by Garfield‘s Jim Davis to Anders Nilsen and Soren Iverson’s poignant story of Wolverine befriending a Sentinel and shotgunning a beer with his adamantium claws. The series Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has a lot of fantastic action, jokes, and the occasional superhero parody, but it’s a book where Doreen listens to both her opponents and allies and tries to work things out with eating nuts and kicking butts. S

So, it’s fitting, we get this comic that is written by a wacky range of POVs beginning with Squirrel Girl herself who stutters through the intro about his being a fundraiser zine. We get to listen to Kraven, hear Spider-Man’s retort, and see the world through Tippytoe’s eyes, which is drawn and colored in an adorable manner  Madeline McGrane’s art and colors make this frame story definitely look like a zine you might pick up at the local coffee shop or one of those fancy schmancy zine stores in bigger stories. It’s followed up by Chip Zdarsky going the closest he’ll ever get to his work on Sex Criminals in a mainstream comic with Erica Henderson doubling as a film noir director, but more awkward. They use close-ups and small panels of Howard the Duck and his femme fatale/client like they’re egging Marvel editorial to linger on this scene more while adding a funny caption. Zdarsky doing Big Two interiors is a big treat, and he barely holds back.

Tom Fowler’s Brain Drain story is a nice showcase of the underrated Unbeatable Squirrel Girl supporting character and hews the closest to Henderson’s usual style on the book. His take on Brain Drain is philosophical, adorable, and structured like the computer science programs that the character loves. It’s oddly motivational too and worth a reread thanks to its erudite writing style. Speaking of rereads, Carla Speed McNeil draws a Loki comic that only makes sense forwards and backwards and is a great example of how the comics medium allows for flexibility of meaning using Loki as a litmus test. It’s a wonderful double page spread, and the best Loki story since Journey into Mystery.

After this, Michael Cho draws a Kraven the Hunter comic/Spider-Man diss story, which is a pretty fun riff off “Kraven’s Last Hunt” and features dead presidents. His art has a light hearted old school vibe while having a subversive take on superhero/supervillain relationships kind of like the main Unbeatable Squirrel Girl title, but from the bad guy’s perspective. It’s followed up by a one page retort from Spider-Man with some gorgeous, yet still funny digital painting work from Rahzzah, who teams up later in the book to do Nancy Whitehead’s photo collage comic with the help of North, who channels Dinosaur Comics in the strip. It’s a well-designed remix story that will make the non-artists reading this comic smile and the kind of mash-up that you would find in a real zine.

NilsonWolverine

But the heavy hitter of the bunch is Anders Nilsen and Soren Iverson’s Wolverine story that is fitting for an artist who had done a comic called Poetry is Useless. Anders Nilsen has a minimalist Euro style perfect for a comic about Wolverine getting talked out of killing a Sentinel, who challenges him to look past his shiny mutant killing exterior and team up with him to beat up some kaiju. (Sadly, this part of the story is off panel.) Wolverine gets a big epiphany moment when he realizes that he’s “hating and fearing” the Sentinel just like the X-Men have been treated for most of their career. This story is proof that more Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly guys should draw superhero comics.

Following this weighty, yet fun story is a couple of candy confections. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl colorist Rico Renzi draws an adorable and faux edgy Batman parody starring the one and only Tippytoe. It pokes fun at Batman’s angsty backstory as well as the fact that Tippytoe always plays second banana. Renzi’s art style is similar to the cartoon The Amazing World of Gumball with lush digital backgrounds and colors. Finally, Jim Davis, whose work I was familiar with eons before I ever opened a Marvel comic, transposes the classic Garfield and Jon relationship to Galactus and the Silver Surfer. It’s the same dad-ish, three panel punchline jokes, but told in a more cosmic key, and Davis has a lot of fun showing Galactus doing his planet devouring, face stuffing thing. His literal eye popping Silver Surfer has a similar manic energy to Robin Williams’ Genie in Disney’s Aladdin.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26 is a real treat as independent cartoonists, the creator of Garfield, and even the book’s colorist get to take a stab at some of the more familiar faces in the Marvel Universe while also giving Squirrel Girl’s supporting cast a moment in the sun. It’s sometimes poignant and always funny.

Story: Ryan North, Erica Henderson Art: Madeline McGrane, Chip Zdarsky, Tom Fowler, Carla Speed McNeil, Michael Cho, Anders Nilsen, Rico Renzi, Jim Davis Colors: Madeline McGrane, Chip Zdarsky, Rico Renzi, Rahzzah,Soren Iverson
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall:9.2 Recommendation: Read

Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok

Thor_Ragnarok_SDCC_PosterThor’s outings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been. . . uneven at best, to put it kindly. Indeed, Thor: The Dark World remains the unequivocal nadir of the MCU’s otherwise good track record. But given that and Avengers: Age of Ultron also being less than stellar — the last two times we saw our Asgardian hero — you might come in to this film with zero expectations.

Prepare to be blown away by one of the best movies in the MCU and certainly Thor’s best film appearance to date. 

Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as the Norse God of Thunder. Reunited with his presumed-dead brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), they track down their missing father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), who reveals a deep family secret — an older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death who has her sights set on the Asgardian throne.

Various misadventures find Thor reunited with fellow Avenger The Hulk / Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), against whom he is pitted in gladiatorial combat reminiscent of the storyline in Planet Hulk. They must escape back to Asgard to take on Hela with the help of a recalcitrant Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) who is probably the best part of the movie and given some of the most fun action pieces and one of the best character arcs of any person in the film.

But don’t be fooled into thinking most of this is a Planet Hulk movie. Its roots go far deeper than the relatively recent storyline. But if you take one part Planet Hulk, plus equal amounts Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson classic Thor, that’s the comics cocktail from which this springs.

The ringmaster for this particular circus is director Taika Waititi, who delivers something truly unexpected: different kind of Marvel movie. One of the most common complaints against the MCU is how similar / unoriginal / mass produced they feel. Thor: Ragnarok defies that claim with its humor, characters, visuals, and soundtrack.

This movie is funny. Of course, that should be of no surprise to those who know Waititi for his time working on Flight of the Conchords or his previous films What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It’s a very specific humor which is undeniably Kiwi in its politeness, awkwardness, and wry sense of irony — and wholly different from Joss Whedon’s or James Gunn’s much broader humor in The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy films.

Waititi also brings along some familiar faces to those who know his other films, including Rachel House, who plays a lackey of Jeff Goldblum‘s The Grandmaster in Ragnarok, is very similar to the character she played in Wilderpeople. And Waititi himself shows up (as he is wont to do in his own films) as Korg, a rock-person gladiator who ends up with some of the funniest lines in the film.

Waititi’s work has always been good before, but he’s never been given this big of a canvas to paint on. Wilderpeople especially felt like they spent the majority of the movie’s budget on a climactic, over-the-top car chase full of explosions that would make Michael Bay blush. With the ability to really cut loose — and decades of Kirby and Simonson art to draw from — Waititi gives us some of the most astounding visuals of the MCU so far.

While not quite as mind-blowing as last year’s Doctor Strange, the visuals Waititi seems to be trying to give us a late 70’s/early 80’s psychedelic trip of a sci-fi movie, complete with a soundtrack by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh — heavy on the Devo and John Carpenter synth vibe. Oh, and a heaping helping of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in case you couldn’t get enough of it from the trailer. Waititi also borrows (steals?) visually from fellow Marvel director Sam Raimi in fun and unexpected ways and includes perhaps the most interesting nod to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ever.

But a film always comes down to its characters and its themes. And this is where Thor: Ragnarok perhaps shines above many of its other MCU peers. Every character in this film goes on a journey. Their stories, interactions, and dialogue are incredibly well-woven together. Everything has a purpose and eventual payoff. It sits alongside its peer Logan this year for being so well-crafted from a storytelling perspective. One tiny complaint is that it gets a little too bogged down in its own exposition in the middle. It could stand to lose five or seven minutes, but not much more.

And at the end you ask yourself, “So what?”

One of the great joys of being able to analyze movies is to ask these questions. Is this just a cashgrab to get butts in seats, buy popcorn, and sell merchandising? There’s something unique in here, which requires going into very minor spoiler territory. Skip the next 5 paragraphs if you don’t want to know any more.

[Begin Minor Spoilers]

The title Thor: Ragnarok is instructive. Ragnarok — the Norse apocalypse — is the destruction of the world, and in the case of the film and the comics, of Asgard. But it often signifies a form of creative destruction or nihilism necessary for a new chapter.

Hela comes to Thor and Loki replacing their ideas of what Asgard was — a beautiful civilization that loves peace — with the true history that she once rode with Odin making war on the 9 Realms to capture their treasure and slay millions of innocents. Odin cast her out when he decided to switch brands from bloodthirsty warmonger to benevolent father-king, but he kept the gold and trinkets that made him powerful. But after a lifetime, Odin passes onto Thor the wisdom that Asgard is not a place– it’s people. You could just as easily insert for “Asgard” there the names America, Britain, Spain . . . New Zealand.

And so here we are in 2017. Maybe we’re looking at the world with fresh eyes, that the advances of “the West” are built on a bloody history of colonialism, slavery, and other forms of oppression. Perhaps we’re now seeing the chickens of our nationalism, jingoism, sexism, and quest for economic hegemony coming home to roost in the the rise of forces and ideals we long thought dead or outmoded. Perhaps Ragnarok — some creative nihilism — is what we need to wipe the vestiges of former power away to be replaced by a more pure, benevolent rule of law.

Or maybe it’s just a story about two brothers, one of whom has a magic hammer, and it gets smashed by their mean old sister, so they have to recruit a giant green monster to help beat her up. Could be that, too.

ONE OTHER THING (Is it a spoiler to reveal what isn’t in a movie?) If you’ve got your hopes up to see the final infinity stone, just tamp those expectations down. You do get a couple glances at the Tesseract (aka the Space Stone), but we already knew about that one anyway, right? Right. Just enjoy the movie without worrying about it moving that particular storyline forward.

But, of course, make sure you stay through the credits, because. . . well, you know the drill.

[End Spoilers]

It’s likely unfair to castigate the MCU for having movies that feel like they came off an assembly line. While it may have been true previously (again, looking at you, Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron), it’s worth noting how unique the Marvel Phase 3 films have been:

Captain America: Civil War is a philosophical political thriller and ethical Rorschach test with action set-pieces. (I still don’t trust anyone who is totally Team Iron Man)
Doctor Strange is a psychedelic mystic Hero’s Journey where the real enemy is ego.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a family drama where a reluctant patriarch has to lose the last vestiges of his mother and father to become the father he needs to be — and where a raccoon cries at the end as he wonders whether or not there is a god.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a John Hughes movie with superheroes.
Black Panther looks to be the most unique Marvel movie of all.

There is a theme running through all of these: the act of creative destruction. In all of these films, our characters have to give up something they love or thought defined them in order to take the next step in their hero’s journey.

Further, family looms large in Cap: Civil War, Guardians 2, and Spider-Man. Family is at the core of Thor: Ragnarok, as it’s essentially sibling rivalry writ large with intergalactic consequences. It’s almost like. . . they actually plan these things out and are trying to say something more broadly about the human condition.

Kudos, Marvel. And Kudos (or whatever the New Zealand equivalent) to Taika Waititi. You have created something unique that blends together some of the best parts of the history of the character of Thor, given us astounding visuals, great music, jokes to make us laugh, action to thrill us, and even some nuggets to ponder.

You’ve given us a film finally worthy of the God of Thunder. Go see this on the biggest, brightest screen you possibly can. And then hug your family and friends. Because even in an apocalypse, home is not just a place– it’s people.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Vote Loki this June

Timed with Super Tuesday (but teased for about a week) Marvel wants you to vote Loki in 2016. The all-new series will probably hit shelves this June and a creative team has not been announced.

The company has released two images.

VOTELOKI_Cov VOTELOKI_Cov_variant

They also want you to show your support providing images to use on social media as well as opening up a vote on Twitter.

Loki Premium Figure from Sideshow Collectibles

From the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sideshow Collectibles presents the Loki Premium Format Figure! Perfectly capturing Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s devious brother, this Asgardian god looms tall with his signature curved horns, regal armor, and magnificent green cape dramatically swept behind him. The figure features Loki clutching a Chitauri scepter in his hand while standing on a rocky terrain.

The Loki Premium Format Figure retails for $459.99 or with a payment plan $51.75/month.

 

 

 

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