Secret Wars Agents of Atlas #1 Review

Of course on Battle World, almost everyone has “Kill Doom” on their bucket list. That motivation has made the vast majority of Secret Wars very hit or miss, but mostly miss. That’s fine for a few of the series, but sometimes a series embraces its messed up world and its adventure takes place largely in spite of Doom being god. Agents of Atlas does it in what might be the most refreshing way possible: a fairly simple rescue mission.

Synopsis

The book opens with a brief description of Baron Zemo who rules Metropolita with a ruthless iron fist. SHIELD acts as his bludgeon, and the Agents of Atlas is the only group who stands against him in any significant way. Gorilla Man has a meeting with agent Coulson because Johnny Woo (leader of the Agents) is missing. Turns out SHIELD isn’t the bludgeon the Agents thought they were, and off they go looking for Woo. As a plot, it’s pretty simple. So, what gives it it’s A+? As far as I’m concerned, there are three things: the art, the quirk, and the tightness of the narrative.

Art

Steve Pugh handles the art. I know him most memorably from Generation X (Marvel’s most underrated book IMHO), though his CBDB reads like a good portion of the comic book reading public’s “best of” lists. His art is clean, and expressive and makes good use of heavy lines. Those seem like such basic comic-art requirements, but Secret Wars has been overwhelmingly plagued by some low-rent looking art. But, in a single panel, we don’t even need the caption to see the looks of absolute haunted trauma.

Secret wars agents of atlas 2

He captures reactions and subtle details of non-human characters as well. It’s not really a ground breaking skill, but it’s nice to be able to interpret emotions via faces without having to rely on story cues (looking at you, Mike Land). I mean, ultimately, Pugh isn’t the best artist, or even the best artist of Secret Wars, but his clear, crisp art is.

Quirk

The story is full of quirk, both inherent to the concept of Atlas, and playing within the bounds of Marvel. Just for eyeball’s sake, (most of) our heroes:

agents of atlas 1 potw

Gorilla Man: a man turned gorilla through a curse, and whoever kills him inherits the curse
Marvel Boy: alien royalty psychically bonded to a UFO (not pictured)
Namora: cousin to the ruler of an underwater kingdom
M-11: a robot riddled with some pretty faulty programming.

Not pictured are Jimmy Woo — Chinese American secret agent; and Venus — a living siren acting as goddess. I mean, really, the team cries out for a Morrison run. If there’s anyone out there who can incept that idea in his brain, then by all means, please do. For the sake of the world.

The weirdness doesn’t end there either. I mean, Baron’s making these:

Secret wars agents of atlas 1

And I don’t care about spoilers, but there’s some weirdness with Baron’s sun that’s too delightful for me not to want you to discover it on your own.

Narrative

I think the best thing about this, like the Silver Surfer stories, and “Pax Romana” is that not a single word or panel is wasted. The story is so tight and fast paced. Every element feeds just perfectly into the next, and all the tension is character driven: because Gorilla Man is so good, they hunt for Jimmy Woo; the story resolves in part because M-11 is able to overcome his faulty programming. Zemo’s evil is the result of a very flawed search. But the action feels purposeful and fast and inventive, and you can’t wait to see what comes next. I mean, u guys…

Secret wars agents of atlas 3
I frequently think that Marvel tries to steer away from the weird and nonconformist sometimes because now they’re owned by Disney, and as such, their entire survival depends on being accessible, non-alienating, and recognizable. It just feels like genuine fresh air to see something so unique.

Rick and Morty: Season Finale Review

Alright guys. Hey guys. Look: I know we haven’t reviewed any Rick and Morty, That’s not for lack of desire, it’s for lack of time, alright guys? You know what I mean when I say, when I say I haven’t had any time? Yeah, while you guys have been bleep bloopin your blip blops, I’ve been busy working, and being a parent, and, like, dealing with a sick toddler, AND a sick wife. You know what that’s like? Yeah. That’s what I thought.

So, when I say that I just finished — just. finished. — the season two finale and couldn’t help but write something about it, you know how serious it is. And because this is Rick and Morty, and it’s a grown up cartoon for grown up people, I’ve gotta invoke the principles behind this gif:

Rick and Morty sensitive

That means if I spoil it, you’ve gotta put on your big boy (or girl, I don’t discriminate) plague mask and deal with it. Alright? Good.

So, my theory of Rick and Morty is that it’s a philosophical pessimism tragicomedy space opera. Always has been, always will be. And if you don’t know what I mean by “philosophical pessimism,” go watch True Detective (just the first season? Apparently?) and get yourself educated. Jesus. I can’t be responsible for every little fragment of your life.

The problem with philosophical pessimism is that it isn’t really fit for human consumption. The only ways we have to deal with it are to detach from reality in a psychotic way, drink ourselves into a stupor, or recognize that we only have a limited amount of time and space while we hurdle through this stupid universe, and your best bet is to try to game the system while you’re here. The problem, though, is as living creatures, our very cells and chemicals predispose us toward wanting to live, and admiring life. See that baby? Here, have some dopamine, says our brain. Oh, you liked those strawberries did you? Here’s some dopamine. Yeah, you like how running three times a week lowers your bad cholesterol  and prevents heart disease? Dopamine. On the house. Our brain is a life chemical pusher, and our bodies are junkies.

We see all this in Rick Sanchez. And we see it all culminate.

The episode centers around this.https://i2.wp.com/i.imgur.com/yGRtQ0P.gif

Bird Person’s wedding, in which he gets shot by his bride, Tammy, who turns out to be working for the Galactic Federation. They don’t like Rick, or Bird Person, or most of the people at the wedding, and the hunt is on. But Rick knows, all things being equal, the universe is an equally horrible place no matter where you go, but he doesn’t want to get caught. Three worlds sport the kind of life they want, but they have their own issues. The first one:https://i1.wp.com/i.imgur.com/dsBfWRL.gif

And I don’t even have to communicate to you the dangers of a cob based planet.

The second, which speaks for itself:

https://i0.wp.com/i.imgur.com/3svsfQ0.gif

The planet they end up occupying? I mean, it’s not terrible, but they did hunt the pig to extinction for breakfast.

morty planet
Uh, 20 yards that way, or, y’know, 300 yards the other way.

And that’s where Rick’s self serving pessimism hits the wall. The only way for his family to be happy is for him to be absent. So that’s what he becomes.

And then that music? Damn, girl.

So what do you think happens next, huh? Oooooeeee!

My prediction is a definitive and nearly irreversible schism between Jerry and his family as the rest of the family attempts to rescue Rick. And Jerry? Since he’s all about that positive reinforcement and he just got a job (an intergalactic government job even), and he’s going to feel the need to be loyal to the alpha dogs in his world. OOOOOEEEEE! Gonna be family versus family you think? Huh? OOOOOOEEEEE! Wubalubdubdubs!

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Star Trek: the Motion Picture

I think this was the first movie I ever watched recognizing it as science fiction. It’s an intensely boring movie by most people’s estimates, but for some reason, it grabbed ahold of my curiosity as a five year old and still hasn’t let go.

1

Ever since I was a kid, the kind of movies that let me know my place in the universe was small and dwarfed by the more mundane concerns of the rest of the universe has always appealed to me and triggered my sense of wonder. This is compounded by the fact that, as it turns out, the solar system sized robot is a child looking for its father.

The movie excels at its portrayal of mind bending alienness: a machine of unimaginable proportions wrapped in some kind of defensive cloud of also unimaginable proportions communicating on wavelengths simultaneously too advanced and too archaic. It simply wants information and a greeting, but this being millions of miles in length doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, and that’s lethal for those around it.

2
They don’t know it yet, but these birds of prey are about to be cornholed. Cornholed, cornholed, cornholed.

Our best human qualities are the only things that can stand being this close to this particular fire. They are best represented in the dual opposites of Ilia, the Deltan, and Spock, the Vulcan.

Ilia Represents sexuality and perfect empathy
Ilia Represents sexuality and perfect empathy
Spock represent celibacy and perfect intellect
Spock represent celibacy and perfect intellect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roddenberry’s possible sexism aside, it’s Ilia’s perfect empathy, and her feelings that overcome the V’Ger (the unspeakable galactic monstrosity) programming, ultimately allowing the crew to resolve the drama of the whole movie. It is Spock’s indomitable curiosity that discovers the ultimate truth of what V’Ger is. The best parts of what being a human has to offer is represented here in these characters, and any foray into the unknown without either vital part is doomed to fail. But…

I never noticed this before, but Spock’s near slavish adherence to logic, reason, research, and his curiosity makes him a duplicitous character at times. In the course of the movie, he is warned repeatedly about risking the ship and its crew in the pursuit of knowledge. Eventually, he schemes his way into a flight suit and out of an airlock.

5

This puts everyone else in a difficult position: ultimately this kind of curiosity pays off and paves the way for ultimate resolution, but it means that intelligence ultimately believes in the rightness of its conviction regardless of what convention and authority say. So, how much do you trust the intelligence of those around you? Every great advance within culture and society is abhorred by the structures preceding it.

The movie resolves in a case study of chaos theory. Knowledge of a largely symbolic gesture nearly 300 years earlier proves to be the only thing to subdue this angry toddler of a Lovecraftian monstrosity.

6

Spock, in his psychedelic light trip through the guts of this mechanical creature discovers an entirely different galaxy populated by machines whose minds are so vast and alien and old as to be incomprehensible to his capable Vulcan brain. Shooting into this unknowable landscape comes our fragile ancient Voyager satellite with its inscription about a creator. A religion is made, and a timid toddler (by the scope of machines) granted a shaky kind of sentience sets out in pursuit of the creator. His only hope is to be reunited in eternity with the creator. Even machines suffer delusion.

After diligent research, the crew finds the return codes for the satellite, and it is satisfied in having found god. But, god must come with it. It must join with god and carry this experience home. It won’t leave unless the creator comes too.

7

Earlier in the movie, V’ger steals Ilia – her mind being most receptive to the kind of machine magic necessary for his work – and makes a perfect mechanical copy of her to investigate the Enterprise. V’ger, perhaps showing his mechanical privilege, believes the Enterprise to be the sentient being, and the humans to be invasive parasites. It’s Decker’s (above) gentle persistence and constant reminders at the relationship he and Ilia shared that overcomes the mechanical duplicate’s programming. And it’s Decker’s love for Ilia that allows him to sacrifice himself and return with the Ilia-unit and V’ger to an unknown home world. The movie closes with Kirk’s observation that we’ve witnessed the creation of a new lifeform.

8
Just in case you were curious what that new life was

 

 

 

Grant Morrison to take Editor-In-Chief Chair at ‘Heavy Metal’ Magazine

Heavy Metal is one of those magazines that I’ve definitely gotten a cultural contact high off – I’ve seen the 70’s animated movie, own probably 28 things with Frazetta’s art on it, as well as exposure to artists like Mobius and H.R. Geiger – but a magazine I’ve never actually opened.

But starting in 2016, comic book superstar Grant Morrison will be taking over as editor-in-chief for Heavy Metal magazine. I think it’s an intelligent move; Morrison’s earliest gigs were with 2000 A.D., whose own magazine is very Heavy Metal flavored. Plus, I’m willing to bet the current owners (no one you’ve heard of) are banking on Morrison’s unending popularity to super inject their magazine with new found relevance. I’m thinking it’ll work.

I love Morrison’s punk rock attitude toward comics, and am legitimately looking forward to the opportunity to crack open a Morrison edited issue.

Source: EW

Community Review – “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” S6E13

How do you even write about the final episode of the sixth season? Being the show that it is, every season after its second was assumed to be its last. In an almost emotionally-debilitating way, this show has given its fans more closure in its finales than you get from probably any other show, and more than we’ll ever get from Firefly (unless you read the comics. What are you doing if you don’t read the comics?), Carnivale, and Wonderfalls – just to name a few of my favorites. I mean, if you’re reading this, I don’t have to tell you what it’s like being a fan of this show and the kind of emotional toll it exacts in a way few other shows do.

But there is hope. If you listen to Harmontown (WHY AREN’T YOU LISTENING TO HARMONTOWN? HUH? ADRIAN?), or the final words of this episode’s ending gag, Yahoo! freakin’ loves Community. It gets huge views, and it’s doing for Yahoo! what it never seemed to be able to do for itself once Google appeared – primarily name recognition and a sense of loyalty. One of the Yahoo! producers recently said that they aren’t eager to let go of Community any time soon. Plus, how about that ending card?

I know I’ve gotta actually start this review, but where to start? I mean, did you see that?

Pros:

Dean-Nouncements:This is one of my favorite gags from older seasons that seemed to have mostly vanished as the show got more abstract and experimental. But as a season finale set piece, it’s an amazingly smart piece of callback from earlier seasons to automatically generate a sense of nostalgia.

Silly Dean-fits: This whole segment where the group seems utterly flummoxed at the idea that Community, *HAHACKHEM* I mean Greendale, is saved is, roughly, 1,000% how every fan feels. No way is this pig in the green zone. So, y’know. Nipple Dippers 4eva.

"I didn't even notice. Good for him."
“I didn’t even notice. Good for him.”

In honor of my favorite Dean costume, I leave you with god himself.

What? That’s crazy. People use LinkedIn?: In addition to being a funny line, it’s exactly how I feel. I recently got paid to invite over 1,500 people to a CPA conference using LinkedIn, and this was my mantra every two minutes. Also, how cripplingly sad is Elroy’s exit? I like him as a character, but I feel like he was barely explored. I hope he comes back if for no other reason than stability.

Pitches: Oh my god you guys. Oh my god. How about just a series of pics? By the way, have you seen OUR pitch for Season 7??

F*cks, don’t give any: Did anyone else’s head lift six inches from their body, do on full rotation, and then slowly settle back on your neck?

Annie and Jeff… not quite: It’s so great that the show didn’t simply not acknowledge this. It dealt with this. It might not be the resolve we were looking for, but they addressed it.

Sorry. Got something in my eye.
Sorry. Got something in my eye.

End gag: Wow. This season’s end gags have been transcendent and otherworldly. This insane combination of high concept and anxiety – laughing because it’s funny and because you’re scared what might happen otherwise. And did you catch that? That’s Dan Harmon’s voice. And he loves us. I had an opportunity to hug Dan Harmon a couple years ago, and I didn’t. I just awkwardly thanked him for his work.

end gag
“You stupid child. Nobody’s winning anything. Don’t you see? This means we don’t exist. We’re not created by god: we’re created by a joke. We were never born, and we will never actually live.”

Cons:

Nothing. I mean, I wish Troy could have popped in for a cameo, but the dopamine rush I got at seeing Shirley by itself made it worth it.

In Conclusion:

This episode. Wow. After saving my tenth image for the night, I realized I was just going to end up building my own Wiki-po-diuh out of this episode. It’s one of those rare crystalline perfect moments in TV that gives you everything you wanted out of the characters, nails all the jokes, and looks blurry because there’s something in your eye. I feel like I scraped the surface of what I could talk about in this episode: I didn’t even mention Abed or Annie’s departures, or Franky’s stiff and lame pitch, or how Todd might very possibly be having a mental breakdown. Oh, and Chang’s gay? Man. Or the super serious stuff, like how Abed’s still not coping without Troy.

The most interesting theme throughout the episode is how Jeff is the one now trying to hold the group together. The opportunist turned out to be the one with the greatest number of feels, and through his inability to cope with his own lack of mobility tries to convince everyone that stagnation is preferable to anything else.

No matter what happens, we'll always have this.
No matter what happens, we’ll always have this.

The season started a little rough with a couple episodes that really made me scratch my head, and the absolute lowest point being when Britta shit herself. But the last half really started picking up steam and ended on the best possible note. Hush Comics gives “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” an A+ #andamovie.

All images credited to Yahoo! Screen and NBC.

Community Review – “Modern Espionage” S6E11

The 11th episode sees the gang waging a secret war. A paintball war. An illegal secret paintball war. Despite Frankie’s constant recriminations against paintball, City College is offering a cash prize for the person who paints the most ball. In the midst of it is the mysterious sharpshooter Silver Balls. Can the gang wage their secret war, beat back the creeping scourge of City College, and unmask Silver Balls? I dunno. Prolly.

Pros:

community s6e11 modern espionage 03

STAR BURNS, MOTHER F*CKERS!!: Being the kind of guy I am, I am all over the Harmontown podcast and Community subreddit, and this has been a constant question all season: where is Star Burns? As hard as it may be to believe, the truth is Dino Stamatopoulos hates acting on Community, which sounds utterly inconceivable to us mortals. It’s nice that they gave him a character wrap up as nearly satisfying as Dr. Spaceman’s.

There is no paintball: This season has been real anemic on the side-characters. It’s great seeing Todd, Vicki, Starburns, and Garrett get such prominent roles.

community s6e11 modern espionage 07

Abed corrects us on homage vs. parody: I love Dan Harmon correcting the misapprehensions of his fans via Abed.

Koogler!: So, if you don’t know, like, if you were on a Japanese submarine since 1935 and didn’t learn the war was over, or you just got released from a Victorian asylum, The Koogler (or Fun Dad for this episode) is creator of Arrested Development and all around comedy god Mitch Horowitz. And if you don’t listen to Harmontown, well, I’m not sure what you’re wasting your life on, but go listen to it right now, and listen to any of the episodes with Mitch as guest star. Plus, this scene is great because Abed hasn’t gotten to do much this season. I love Jeff’s command that there be no “references, no callbacks” right before Fun Dad Koogler appears. And I love Abed’s line, “That’s the description of every paintball.” Oh, so you know your stuff.

community s6e11 modern espionage 06

“Desperate Deans call for dean-sperate measures”: I’m glad the double-deaning is back in play.

Abed and Annie in the morning: Abed and Annie teaming up is one of the best things to happen since King T. Rex defeated Hitler’s Murder Go-Bots.

Last action dean-ro: A dean action scene is unexpected, but deeply satisfying.

community s6e11 modern espionage 05

Who’s heckling me?: Abed. Abed is heckling you. Also, I love Kumail Nanjiani. He was a longtime Harmontown staple, plus he runs his own fantastic podcast, The X-Files Files, AND he stars in Silicon Valley. I love that he can take time out of a busy day to mastermind a hostile takeover. I also like their exchange about Indian vs. Arabic. Kumail is Pakistani, and talks, frequently, about the terrible stereotyping he experiences in the pursuit of acting gigs.

community s6e11 modern espionage 04

Frankie’s revenge: Frankie’s revenge is amazing. She’s been spending this whole season trying to fit in with the group being unsuccessful. I think she’s finally cracked it in her own way. Plus, this is the first time I’ve felt she’s clicked as a main character.

community s6e11 modern espionage 02

Monologues about Vicki’s solo show: These post credit sequences this season have been the most satisfying. I love the line they’ve struck between funny, touching, and uncomfortable.

community s6e11 modern espionage 01

Cons:

Club Club: I love the joke of Club Club, and the place of nightclubs as a threshold for heroes in the action genre. However, and this is my only criticism of this episode, the club looks cramped and cheap. In fact, this whole season periodically looks small and cheap. It doesn’t dissolve my ability to enjoy the show, but how many scenes have been shoehorned into that janitor’s closet in the last 3 episodes alone? Meanwhile, I’m not even 100% sure I’ve seen a classroom or the quad once this whole season.

Final Ramblings:

This is the best episode of the season so far. It continues this frustrating “Save Greendale” theme that’s permeated the last two seasons, but it mixes in some pure, bizonkers buhnaynays for good measure. The theme of saving Greendale has really dragged this season down, but this episode was able to synthesize that compulsion into the school’s longstanding rivalry with City College. And turn away if you don’t want spoilers, because, y’know, SPOILERS… but am I wrong in thinking that the janitor was Silver Balls? That was my suspicion when I watched the episode the first time, and I could have sworn that was even explained, but the second time through I can’t tell. Either way, best episode of the season so far, and the more restrained smaller scale espionage story really spiced up paintball, which otherwise might have been kind of a burnt out idea.


Hush Comics gives “Modern Espionage” an A for being able to muster up enough school spirit to make us remember why we love Community in the first place.

All images belong to Yahoo! Screen.

Community Review – “Advanced Safety Features” S6E7

Pros:

Do you believe half your politics?
I can’t even believe how much I love Britta Perry. First place is a struggle between Troy and Abed, and second place (or third, I guess) is a struggle between Pierce and Britta. But this season has made the Britta of Britta-ing Britta. It’s been almost mean spirited with how superfluous and dumb and gross they’ve made her. The episode opening up with the difference between prison and jail followed by answering honestly and thoughtfully to the question, “Do you believe half your politics,” instantly triggered my Britta jones. I was in. Already in.

Just a guy who knows Powerpoint:
This whole section killed it. As if his presentation wasn’t weird and self-indulgent on Changnesia levels, breaking two eggs expecting a dollar bill each time was inspired. 

Troy was really good at steel drums:
I like that the show isn’t trying to pretend Troy never existed and instead acknowledges (in the word’s of Abed), “I haven’t really been all that funny,” since he left. It doesn’t really excuse how nearly “year of the gas leak” season six has been, but it does create a kinship with the creators. Augmented with Abed’s remark about Elroy being “young Troy, or black Pierce, or Shirley without a purse,” it really feels like the creative team is saying, “I know those feels, bro.”

community advanced safety features 01

“Don’t even say that name without compensation.”
YES, emeffer, YES. A Britta episode that blows the wheels off this pig. Except it’s Honda instead of Subway. It’s so incredibly inspired that the person the most opposed to marketing is the person who gets hooked into it in the most invasive possible way. I can’t even put into words how jonesin’ this episode had me.

“We’re workshopping handshakes”
I love that Annie and Abed have latched onto each other. Thematically, it makes sense as they were closest to him emotionally and geographically. It’s also satisfying because, once again, the show is showing us that everyone feels everyone’s absence.

Annie and Abed's Handshake

 

A level seven susceptible
Dean’s insane need for approval extends to his buying habits. He’s not buying Honda, he’s buying the approval of Rick.

One mechanical alligator?
Finally Elroy feels like he’s got a spot in the show. The exchange between Britta and him about drawbridges slayed me. He’s also getting some emotional depth, and his resolve with Jeff (and not-Natasha of Natasha is Freezing) was great.

community advanced safety features 06

Cons:

Guerilla Marketing
I understand that an ugly truth of our world is that shows need sponsors to exist, and sometimes those sponsors demand their products be heavily featured. But I’m feeling like this show didn’t quite hit the post-modern irony that the Subway arc originally knocked so far out of the park that someone in Russia’s about to experience head trauma.

This will pay off later
I don’t think Frankie playing steel drums is funny. I can’t tell if it’s a joke because it’s not funny despite having the comedy formula, or if it’s a joke that swung and missed hardcore. I feel like either way, the entire setup and the payoff isn’t even nearly what I expect of the show’s self-awareness.

community advanced safety features 03

Wrap it Up, Folks:

I think this is without a doubt the best episode of Community this season, and one of the best Britta episodes. Though, speaking frankly, I think every Britta episode with the exception of the year with the gasleak, is a great episode. But this is probably number 3 after the UN episode and the original Subway arc. Srsly though folks, I don’t know if there was a single scene in this episode where Britta wasn’t funny.

In addition to finally doing Britta’s character justice, this episode expertly handled even it’s most minor plot lines. Dean’s need for approval destroys his need to be a good dean (and thus achieve approval. Jeff only does something like seek vulnerability when he’s still in a position of power. Thus, when Elroy gives him the validation he needs, Jeff has to pretend it makes no difference. Finally, Elroy feels like he belongs.

But that product placement is problematic. It doesn’t feel ironic enough and like just plain old product placement (for a reference on product placement that will make you violently puke in indignation, see Modern Family). I think there’s two things that needed to happen. First, the plot of the original Subway arch was so over the top, that the show didn’t need to tell us what was happening. This arch with Rick didn’t top the Subway arch: the idea before being that you can buck the norm and achieve desired ends by bucking the norm, but this time around the norm is set higher. Now, in order to buck you must buck harder.

Second, in shows like 30 Rock, pre-Yahoo Community, and Arrested Development, there are clues to let you know that they understand this is how it has to go, and they don’t have a choice, but as a show they haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid personally. I think the cincher here is when Rick says something like, “Do you have a problem with Honda’s quality?” and Britta says, “Of course not! Honda’s quality was never in question!” Britta should have instantly snapped back with something about child labor, exploitation of third world countries, or the kind of marketing that makes us think cars=happiness.

community advanced safety features 05


Hush Comics gives “Advanced Safety Features” a B+ (++++++++++). Definitely one of the better this season, if not the best, and I so badly want to give it an A, but the way the product placement was handled forces honesty to stop it just short.

All images belong to Yahoo! Screen.