A shapeshifting mediocre spy-thriller disguised as a Marvel action TV show.
So, I need to address my own personal elephant in the room first: the nature of taking a storyline that easily could have been it's own Thanos-level threat and making it a grounded miniseries focusing strictly on the non-super super spy side of the MCU. My biggest fear when this show was originally announced was that they wouldn't be able to make the stakes big enough without feeling too awkwardly empty of 'thems what do the Avenging.' Honestly, I haven't had those fears assuaged yet.
That said, our first episode, titled "Resurrection," does provide a fairly decent spy thriller featuring familiar characters. Nick Fury is called down from his position in space by Maria Hill and his green shapeshifting pal, Talos. Along the way, we meet a cheeky MI6 leader looking to smoke out some Skrulls, a plot set to trigger war between Russia and America, and more "hey do you remember that history we have together that either happened off screen or so long ago that we have to remind the audience about it" dialogue than you can shake an Adidas track suit at. The action was good, with some fairly well choreographed fight sequences; though, not as well executed as Marvel has done in the past. Samuel L. Jackson does extraordinarily well as Nick Fury, as always. He was born for this role, and I hope he knows it. Everyone else does fine, but most of the acting seems fairly muted. The characters barely seem like they want to be there, occasionally just mumbling lines almost inaudibly, and whole sections of dialogue just seem bizarrely confused as to what emotions the audience is supposed to take away from it.
As for the plot, the premise is fairly light. Skrull rebels are mad that they don't have a planet, decide to take earth by sowing chaos around the globe. Skrulls are immune to radiation, so I guess the plan is have America and Russia nuke each other into oblivion and then build a new Skrull planet on the ashes. Pretty shoddy plan considering what the world would look like after a nuclear holocaust, which I feel probably should have been researched during the development phase. I guess the nuclear power plant the rebels are hiding in doesn't have WIFI. Anyhoo, the rebels want to use a dirty bomb at a Russian cultural festival and somehow implicate the US in such an act. How they intend to do that, we haven't seen yet, we've just seen them explode a bunch of stuff and some Skrull played weird mind games with Nick.
Okay, I'm being harsh, but I do believe the series has time to improve. We just need to develop the story and the bad guys a bit more. Currently, they feel a little reminiscent of the baddies from Falcon & the Winter Soldier, in that their main motivation simply seems to be that they got mad at some point and couldn't shake it. Writers: people need more motivation than just being angry and/or slightly peeved (honestly most of the people in this show just look like they're wearing uncomfortable shoes). If moderate anger leads to terrorism, then the developer of Getting Over It would have been locked up years ago.
Overall, I'm luke warm to the series so far. Only one episode in, so time will tell, but it just wasn't a super strong start for me. Had some funny moments and great Nick moments. Some cool action. Beyond the little tidbits though, the real meat of the series just felt undercooked. Or half-cocked. One of those. And as for my initial fear I mentioned above, it seems like the response to making the stakes not big enough or too big to not be an Avengers level threat was to just make the stakes kind of... not exist in any capacity? Or feel very vague at least. Honestly, if you told me this script was written by ChatGPT, I'd believe you.
Speaking of: the AI intro was also garbage. Not worth cutting out paying jobs for.
Episode 2 comes out June 28th. We'll meet you back then to see if things have shaped up. Ha.
Maybe, just maybe, folks should just stop heistin', heh?
Sins of the Salton Sea #1 (w: Ed Brisson, a: C.P. Smith)
Publisher: AWA Studios
Not much to say about this one except that it is a no frills neo-noir book with a crazy amount of twisty-turns at a super high-octane pace.
Wyatt is a thief and an explosives expert who has given up the life of crime, now bouncing from town to town under different names, working menial jobs just to get by. One night he is confronted by his brother, Jasper, who asks him to help with one last job so Jasper can also quit: $50 million, give or take, easy smash and grab from some oil tycoon's son. However, the brothers soon find the job to be hardly as easy as promised, and as the bodies pile up, the two find the cargo to be even more confusing then the false intel.
Like I said, this book is incredibly fast paced. It goes from cold open to heist to chaos really fast. I like the twist and am curious to see if it's gonna drip a little sci-fi into the mix. Worth picking up if you're itching for an action/crime book.
In Hell We Fight #1 (w: John Layman, a: JOK)
Publisher: Image Comics
Hm, another book where a heist results in different cargo than the thieves expected.... weird...
Anywho, this book is super fun. Reminded me of a Chuck Palahniuk book from a few years back called Damned, wherein a 'Breakfast Club'-esque group of teens residing in Hell roll around mucking up the place. Similarly, this book sees three teens, namely Midori, Xander, and Ernie as they plan to rob an ice cream truck in Hell. They are joined, much to Midori's annoyance, by a young demon named Balphie. They go through with their plan and are SHOCKED by what they find!
It's a fun book. It's not the most humorous thing to come out of Layman, but it's interesting to see him write for a (potentially) younger audience. The characters are unique and have decent chemistry. The art is fun and paints a creative image of Hell. I've always been a fan of stories that make Hell into a fairly chill place. Like, it sucks to be there, but it isn't all rivers of molten blood and giant, all-devouring beasties. Some people just gotta live that day to day Hell-Grind.
North Valley Grimoire #1 (w: Blake Northcott, a: Guiseppe Cafaro)
Publisher: Whatnot Comics
So, to be perfectly transparent, most of the Whatnot stuff has been incredibly mid for me. I've tried most of what's been released, and it has all had a particular level of cheese that I just couldn't get into. Finally, however, a book has been released from them that I actually find pretty enjoyable.
This book is like Men in Black meets Constantine. We follow two main characters: Agent Malek, a field agent for a CIA offshoot called "FATHER Division," and Calista, a student at Hawthorne Academy in North Valley, VA. Malek is trying to recover a mysterious grimoire that was being sold by a black market dealer before teleporting away. Calista, on the other hand, is trying to uncover the truth of a mysterious book she found under bed and how it connects to her recently passed best friend, Jackson. The two stories, obviously, are intertwined and both characters will need to solve their own set of mysteries before the grimoire falls into the hands of FATHER Division or someone worse.
This book started as a self-published and crowd-funded novel in 2018, and Northcott has been slowly growing the IP from there. If you're a fan of modern mysticism, specifically magic that ties directly into technology, then this is a cool book to pick up.
Puc the Artist and the Myth of Color #1 (w: Miles Greb, a: Garrett Richert)
Publisher: Scout Comics
There's something inherently charming about a narrative that employs the meta of the medium as a part of the storytelling, and this book does an excellent job playing with the use of color as both a physical attribute to the comic, and a powerful magical component of the story. Another title that I loved that comes to mind in the same vein is Folklords, where the adventurous protag is seeing visions of another world - only for us to know that other world is our own, IRL. Honestly, those two books have a ton in common: young male lead just trying to do what's best, a spunky group of compatriots, a fantasy world that feels ripe with mystery; they both have a lot going for them and I'm pretty pumped about getting a new title in that same vein.
Are movies even allowed to be this good?
Coming into this film, we knew it was going to be a challenge to try and top the original, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But hot damn, they achieved. Incredible art, an engaging storyline, cameos and references and fan service, oh my! It's like watching the live-action world blend with the comic world in a majestic symphony. Well done, Sony (but don't get comfortable, we still know what you did to Morbius...).
Appearances can be deceiving...
We Are Scarlet Twilight #1 (w/a: Benjamin Morse)
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
I am honestly not a huge fan of books that try and tell a Golden Age type story, but hot damn if this book didn't come out swinging with some super cool twists and turns.
I can't explain what exactly happens without spoiling too much of the really cool surprises, but I'll explain what happens on the surface at least. Captain Lancet is your typical two-note 1930s super person. He has abilities that are better than normal men and radiation guns that somehow solve any problem thrown his way. He fights villains like Dr. Occulto and Madame Satanika. We find him trying to stop Madame Satanika and her cult "the Scarlet Twilight." After beating up a bunch of her underlings, he rushes off to try to stop the Madame herself at a local gala, utilizing his alter ego of Vlad Kingsley, Prince of Wallachia. If all this sounds rudimentary, let me drop some hints:
At times a parody and at others an exploration of the format, the book stays pretty close to the style it's based on. This only enhances the effect of the various surprises and shifts out of the format that Morse works in. It's a very cool story and promises a very wild ride. I was genuinely and very pleasantly surprised by this one.
Catfight #1 (w: Andrew Wheeler, a: Ilias Kyriazis)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Felix Lamarr is a spunky cat burglar living a fast life. He is in debt to some unsavory people, heisting priceless diamonds to pay off his debtors, and mostly just trying to avoid calls from his grandma. A solo act, Felix never teams up despite the generous offers he receives from a mysterious caller named "Schrodinger." However, stuff takes a turn when Schrodinger reveals that their target is none other than Felix's grandmother herself.
A web of theft, murder and intrigue, Catfight is an incredibly exciting first issue. The characters we've met are fun and organic, while the ones we haven't met seem eccentric enough to be the rogues gallery of a Shonen anime. The story in this first issue is fast and energetic, dragging the reader along to remarkable locations and dire situations page after page. Kyriazis art keeps the energy up by playing with layout in a fun and creative way during moments of exposition, while Dennis Yatras's colors fit the beautiful, vibrant locations perfectly and bring a pop to the whole thing.
A delight and genuinely fun to read, I highly recommend giving this one a chance. Great for heist/crime fans that like their stories more fun, less noir.
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