A long goodbye: a review of Avengers Infinity War Part 1

In a rare change, I saw a movie on the weekend of its release. I kept Friday free because I had a bit of a cold and an eye abrasion that I wanted some quiet time to heal (no court, in other words).

I slept in and by mid-morning felt so much better that I wanted something to do. Since the Avengers movie debuted the night before, I thought I would see if an afternoon show would be too crowded.

The theater was half-full even at 1:30 on a Friday afternoon with school in session. It was not too crowded and sat back with my popcorn to enjoy the show.

Wikipedia has a nice plot summary, so I am using this with my own comments added. If you are concerned about SPOILERS skip the regular font – my comments are in italics on the right side of the page.

I hate continued movies (Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean), paying full price for half a film … but I must admit I liked this movie very much and cannot wait for the conclusion.

landscape-1500890190-avengers-infinity-war-poster-resized-1

SPOILERS AHEAD!

From Wikipedia:

Having acquired the Power Stone from the planet Xandar, Thanos and his followers—Cull Obsidian, Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive—intercept the ship carrying the survivors of Asgard’s destruction. Thor, Loki and Hulk are powerless to protect the Asgardians. Heimdall uses the Bifröst to send Hulk to Earth before being killed. Loki gives Thanos the Tesseract to spare Thor’s life, but is killed after attempting to kill Thanos, who departs with his followers and obliterates the ship.

The movie starts about twenty minutes after Uncle Thor’s Goofy House of Wacky Fun (e.g. Thor: Ragnarok) – hereinafter called GHWF – leaves off. The so-called humor of GHWF still infects this scene like a late-stage venereal disease. But it does not last long. Perhaps the producers finally realized that the genocide of an entire culture is not the place for fart jokes.

Hulk crash-lands at the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York City, reverting to Bruce Banner. He warns Stephen Strange and Wong about Thanos’ plan to kill half of all life in the universe. In response, Strange recruits Tony Stark. Maw and Obsidian arrive to retrieve the Time Stone from Strange. After a battle including Peter Parker, Maw captures Strange; Stark and Parker pursue Maw’s spaceship, while Banner contacts Steve Rogers.

Thus tying in the excellent Doctor Strange movie and bringing into conflict the two most egotistical characters in the Marvel CU: Stephen Strange and Tony Stark. Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr excel here.  It is a joy watching these two superb actors relishing their roles.   It almost makes you forget their equally wonderful casting choice for Spider-Man.  Here the humor is in character and appropriately placed – it would have to be with Strange and Iron Man trying to out-pompous each other!

Oddly, Mark Ruffalo is given little to do – intimating the Hulk does NOT want to metamorphose back. Is he scared? Will this tiny but interesting bit of characterization be explored in the second movie? I hope so.

In Scotland, Midnight and Glaive ambush Wanda Maximoff and Vision. Rogers, Natasha Romanoff and Sam Wilson rescue them, and they take shelter with James Rhodes at the new Avengers Facility. Vision offers to sacrifice himself by having Maximoff destroy the Mind Stone in his forehead to keep Thanos from retrieving it. Rogers suggests they travel to Wakanda, which he believes has the resources to remove the stone without destroying Vision.

Seeing Captain America is the thrill of this scene. Chris Evans captures the essence of Cap as much as Downey does Iron Man’s. Viewing CA: Civil War is VITAL to understanding the interactions between most of the characters in this and later scenes.

The Guardians of the Galaxy respond to a distress call from the Asgardian ship and rescue Thor. He surmises Thanos seeks the Reality Stone, which is in the possession of the Collector at Knowhere. Rocket and Groot accompany Thor to Nidavellir to retrieve a weapon to kill Thanos. There, they and Eitri create Stormbreaker, an enchanted axe. Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis find Thanos at Knowhere with the Reality Stone already in his possession. Thanos kidnaps Gamora, his adoptive daughter, who reveals the location of the Soul Stone to save her captive adoptive sister Nebula from torture. Thanos and Gamora travel to Vormir, a planet where Red Skull, keeper of the Soul Stone, informs him the stone can only be retrieved by sacrificing someone he loves. Thanos reluctantly throws Gamora to her death, granting him the Soul Stone.

The Guardians provide most of the humor of the movie and it works wonderfully. Most of Thor’s quips are pulled back to his pre-GHWF days: calling Rocket a rabbit, etc. (Gee, a funny comment in keeping with his chraracter? To quote Thor in his previous movie: “What the hell?!”) The humor of Drax, Starlord and Mantis, are so appropriate ad in-character it finally reveals how forced Thor’s “comic” quips (I will never call these exchanges “dialogue”) are. Fortunately, it appears the adult writers threw out the childish ones when the scene shifted to Nidavellir and Thor became the more serious character he was meant to be.

And Nidavellir was exactly as I imagined it to be since the first Thor movie said the nine realms were really nine planets – steampunk on a cosmic scale! Peter Dinklage’s cameo as a dwarf was a highlight – as was making this “dwarf” tower over everyone else!

It was during the Nidavellir scene I realized what was happening. Three groups (the two Avenger splinters and the Guardians) split up and tackle different parts of the problem – holy moley! It’s a Gardner Fox JLA-JSA team-up!

Nebula escapes captivity and requests the remaining Guardians meet her on Titan, Thanos’ destroyed homeworld. Stark and Parker eject Maw from his ship and rescue Strange. Landing at Titan, they meet Quill, Drax, and Mantis. Strange uses the Time Stone to view millions of possible futures and states there is only one in which Thanos loses. The group forms a plan to confront Thanos and remove the Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos arrives, justifying his plans to Strange as necessary to ensure the survival of a universe threatened by overpopulation. The group subdues him until Nebula deduces Thanos has killed Gamora. Enraged, Quill retaliates, which breaks the group’s hold on Thanos, and he overpowers them. After Strange surrenders the Time Stone in exchange for Thanos sparing Stark, Thanos departs for Earth.

Another superb battle scene!

Upon arriving in Wakanda, Rogers reunites with Bucky Barnes. The Avengers task Shuri with extracting the Mind Stone. Thanos’ army invades and the Avengers mount a defense alongside King T’Challa and the Wakandan forces. Banner, unable to transform into the Hulk, fights in Stark’s upgraded Hulkbuster armor. Thor, Rocket, and Groot arrive on Earth and rally the defenders. Midnight, Obsidian and Glaive are killed and their army is routed. Thanos arrives and retrieves the Mind Stone from Vision, destroying him. Despite being severely wounded by Thor, Thanos activates the complete Infinity Gauntlet and teleports away.

There were prior battle scenes? The fight for Wakanda is so massive and incredible it makes us forget all that came before it. It compares with the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Return of the King. Yes, I am comparing this movie to Return of the King.

Awesome. I am using the word in its original sense.

Watch Captain America and Black Panther run ahead of the other warriors. Pure athleticism and a wonderful small bit that will stick with me every time I think of this movie.

Thor’s appearance almost made me stand and cheer. Here is the son of Odin as he should be.

Thanos’ plan comes to fruition as half of all life across the universe disintegrates, including Barnes, Drax, Groot, Mantis, Maximoff, Parker, Quill, Strange, T’Challa, and Wilson. Nebula and Stark remain on Titan, while Banner, M’Baku, Okoye, Rhodes, Rocket, Rogers, Romanoff, and Thor are left on the Wakandan battlefield. Thanos, healed, retreats to a small nipa hut as he watches the sunset in satisfaction.

Omnipotent villains in comics always bugged me. Why doesn’t Thanos just wipe out ALL of the Avengers/Guardians and/or wipe them from existence since he has the power? It will be interesting to see what the remaining heroes do.

In the post-credits scene, Nick Fury transmits a distress signal as he and Maria Hill, amongst others, disintegrate. The device displays a red-and-blue star insignia.

This is what the post-credit scene should be – a tease of thing to come. “James Bond will return”. It introduces (kind of) Captain Marvel.

***

So there it is.

I liked the movie very much but will hold off until the movie is “done” with the second part before I decide on a scale. It is always a thrill to see Chris Evans as Captain America and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man –  and since Evans has already said he is “resigning” as Cap we must enjoy them while we can. Both actors have yet to disappoint even if their movies do.

I saw it in 3D. Don’t bother … except for the Wakanda battle the movie is darkly filmed – so much that I had to remove the glasses in some scenes just to see what was going on. Perhaps the lack of lighting helped keep them under budget?

Thanos was an excellent villain – he was not a raving lunatic but determined, pensive and … thoughtful. We have no doubt he thinks he is doing the right thing. Well, perhaps not the RIGHT thing, but the ONLY thing that resolves the problems of the universe as he sees it. Someone has to make the hard decisions, no one else can do it but him. It makes him even scarier…

The plot of infinity War is well-thought-out, the heroes each have their time to shine (which granted is not long). Given the scope of the movie, the action and characterization is VERY well-balanced.

And damn that entire Wakandan battle scene was cool!

landscape-1522945902-mlu-17652-r

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Advertisements

The 300th issue of … everything!

This is my 300th blog. Not a big deal to people who blog everyday – they would hit 300 in their first year, but for me? A big deal.

The 300th issue (or any anniversary issue) is a big deal in comic books, too. It’s a chance to celebrate an anniversary with a special issue (and increased sales) featuring the end of an epic story arc – or the beginning of one. It could be the final issue – or debut – or a new creative team or character.

It only really became a big deal in the Bronze Age. The few Silver Age 300th issues were ignored, at least on the cover. Probably because sales were not yet sluggish enough that there was a NEED to celebrate.

It takes time. Published monthly, a comic book would reach its 300th issue in 25 years.

I honestly believed I found all of them – American comics only of course … let me know if I missed any. Enjoy!

4 Color Nov 50

4 Color from November 1950

The only #300 from the Golden Age I could find! 4 Color printed several comics per month, sometimes weekly and at times even six per month! No wonder it only took a bit over ten years to reach the milestone!

Most Disney comics were published by multiple companies over the years. Fortunately they kept the numbering intact. Scroll over the comics to see issue name and date.

People forget about one of the longest running comics ever!

Big Boy June 1986

Big Boy June 1996

Oddly, I checked Popeye and other popular cartoon figures and the only one whose comic made it to #300 was …

Tom & jerry Nov 77

November 1977

Dave Sim said from the beginning that Cerebus would only go to issue #300. How I loved the comic in the early to mid-1980s. A shame the run ended with little fanfare. It is the only independant I could find…

Cerebus March 2004

March 2004

No Harvey comics made it to #300. Timely, Quality & Fawcett didn’t last long enough for their comics to reach #300.

But the big two had plenty, so did Archie. Primarily because both DC and Archie (MJL) published comics steadily since the 1940s.

Scroll over the comics to see the title and date. Note that Laugh and Pep were published first and got to #300 4 years or so before the character-titled comics.

DC’s #300s holds no real surprises… the Legion of Superheroes was formerly called Superboy and Adventure also once hosted their … er … adventures as well (making Superman-themed comics account for 1/3rd of the DC comics listed) . Our Army at War and House of Mystery were the pinnacle of their genre. Hellblazer may be a surprise to some, but only because of its late date.

Note that the Silver Age comics (Adventure, Action, Detective), made very little tadoo about their 300th issue.

Several Marvel comics made it to #300 due to their sheer popularity! These comics were raised to monthly status much quicker than their DC bretheren.  The dates vary widely, too, helped by the fact that Captain America, Hulk, & Thor had different titles during the Silver and Bronze Age (Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish and Journey into Mystery respectively) but kept their numbering when named for their stars…

Will we ever see #300s again? I don’t know. In this day and age of reboots and “Special Collector’s first issues” we may never see comics reaching #100! Time will tell.

What were my favorites? Frankly, the ones I bought from the stands: Superman 300, Batman 300 and Wonder Woman 300.

What were your favorites?

See you at 400!

Special thanks to Lone Star Comics for searching their data base and using their photos!

Michael Curry

Iron Man: and Call my Killer … Modok! Marvel Novel series #6

#6: Iron Man: and Call my Killer … Modok! by William Rotsler.

The author is a four-time Hugo Award winner for his art and the author of many Star Trek novels as well as the author of the novelizations of the movies Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Futureworld. He died in 1997.

By now the cover artist signs his work: Bob Larkin, cover artist for many Marvel magazines.

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans

Released May 1, 1979; the book is 189 pages long, although the story begins at page 9.

Gratman: Evanier Electronics is mentioned as a business. Mark Evanier? He had no connection to Iron Man and at the time of this paperback, he worked mainly with DC Comics. However, the next book, #7’s Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts: Nightmare is dedicated to him, so it is likely.

***

AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics, a science-based terrorist group) attacks Tony Stark during a college lecture. Stark, as Iron Man, fights them off successfully but still sustains some harm to his already-damaged heart. Cue origin recap.

One of the sergeants in charge of the failed kidnapping faced AIM’s mysterious leader (we comic book fans – and those who remember the title of the book – have a pretty solid idea who the leader is). The kidnapping having failed, the leader thinks up another cunning plan – he shall create an army of Iron Man suits!

He activates two of his sleeper agents in Stark International to create a diversion to successfully steal the Iron Man armor blueprints.

Modok tries to sell the blueprints to the highest bidder, but Stark outmaneuvers Modok by auctioning off the Iron Man suit directly. At auction, it is bought by an Arabic businessman. Modok kidnaps the businessman and his suit.

Surprise! The suit is really Iron Man himself! He is defeated by Modok and unmasked as Tony Stark.  Stark is then forced to create a new Iron Man suit for Modok’s #1 henchman.

Meanwhile, Happy and Nick Fury & Shield find Modok’s hiding place and attack. Iron Man and the henchman in the new suit duke it out. Ol’ Shellhead then sets his sights squarely on Modok!

***

The author does an excellent job of juggling the superhero action and the “civilian” moments of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts and employees of Stark International – we even read moments with the AIM sleepers and soldiers. It makes the novel more … grown up.

It would have made a nice juxtaposition to show Stark creating the original Iron Man suit in Viet Nam with the new suit he was creating for Modok. It would have put the origin flashback near the end of the book, which may have been a drawback being too close to the big finish.

Speaking of that, twenty pages is spent recapping Iron Man’s origins in the jungles of Viet Nam. It is excellently done! The author tells us how Tony met and hired Happy Hogan in a later 15-page flashback. Modok’s origin takes about five pages. More than 20% of the novel is flashback.

Interestingly, I tried to listen to Tony Stark/Iron Man speak in Robert Downey Jr’s voice but could not. Despite his (deservedly) owning the role in the recent spate of movies, and being able to hear his voice in the recent comic books and animated TV shows (where such an imitation is likely done intentionally), I can’t hear Downey speak these lines. Only when he is Modok’s captive and Stark’s dialogue is more smart-alecky and defiant does the current version of Iron Man seep through.

And the author does a wonderful job, despite the sometimes comic-booky dialogue. It does not happen often, but when it does, it is jarring; especially considering how wonderfully the rest of the dialogue is written.

Examples: “Iron Man swears it!” and (I am not kidding you) “I, Modok, knew at once how he hoped to trick me. Me, Modok, he tried to trick!”

Yoda-speak this reads like does…

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.