Friday, April 27, 2012

Moon Knight - Where Do We Go Now?


Moon Knight - Where Do We Go Now?


Moon Knight can't seem to catch a break.  Marvel's street level anti-hero has always had a decent fanbase, but Marc Spector apparently can't hold his ground with Marvel.  Over the past few years, The Fist of Khonshu has had no luck with keeping a strong ongoing.

The fantastic 2006 series brought the hero back in an extremely dark and powerful way.  He was at the bottom and readers religiously followed the stories of Marc's increasingly difficult life.  This bleak period in his life spawned 30 issues (plus a special and an annual) before coming to an end with the entertaining stories "The Death of Marc Spector" and "Down South."

Marc would return with his own title in 2009, Vengeance of Moon Knight.  This had a promising start, sporting a heavily armored Marc with a renewed sense of justice.  He came back to New York in the Dark Reign infested world and was looking to make a difference.  But, a man can only do so much with just 10 issues.

For the latest take on the character, we have Moon Knight by the immensely popular writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev (cue raving about their take on Daredevil).  This run brought some huge changes to Marc.  He left his entire supporting cast behind in New York and traveled to Hollywood where he wanted to become a producer.  His mental well-being and case of multiple personality disorder went off the deep-end.  He was no longer restricted to being just Marc, Jake, Steven, and Moon Knight - he was now hallucinating and trying to be other Avengers.  But, with drastic change comes mixed results.  Lasting only 12 issues, this series received some pretty solid reviews.  However, a good chunk of Moon Knight fans (based on my conversations across multiple forums) weren't happy with such a massive change to the character.

You try to change the character too much and a good deal of the long-time fans protest... but if you try to do more of the same, it never seems to work.  So where do we go now with Moon Knight?  Is he simply a character that'll never stick, or is there a formula that can boost him to A-list status?  As a Moon Knight fanboy, I feel obligated to weigh in and share what I'd love to see for the character next time around.

-The Creative Team-
Moon Knight needs to strike a great blend of dark action and a strong connection to his supporting characters.  We know he can be more violent than the traditional hero, but we need a cast that'll evoke our emotions and make us give a damn about what's going on in his life.  Personally, I think Mike Benson (second half of the '06 run, Deadpool: Suicide Kings), Rick Remender (Venom, Uncanny X-Force), Christopher Yost (Scarlet Spider, X-Force) or Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Daredevil) would all be excellent picks and they could create exceptional Moon Knight stories.  As for the art, Mike Deodato Jr. or David Finch are without question the top picks.  Ryan Stegman has been absolutely delivering with Scarlet Spider, so he'd also be a great fit, too.


-The Character-
We've seen Marc at his worst (Civil War era) and we've seen him at his craziest (recent run), so how about we give the man's emotional scars a break and focus on returning him to a place inspired by his classic era (a la Dan Slott & Amazing Spider-Man).  He's once again loyal to Khonshu and a full moon increases his strength. But unlike recent events, this time around the God (who is real) doesn't call for Marc to create a body count... but instead demands for Marc to spread fear and respect for his deity.  This takes away the conflict he has with his agenda because that's something we've seen too many times before.  That story feels like it's on loop at this point and it would be nice to see a clear minded and focused Moon Knight doing what he does best: knocking out villains.

When it comes to his multiple personality disorder, I say throw the whole thing out the window.  He was never truly that crazy (before the current run, of course); he created Jake and Steven for tactical reasons.  Jake was around to obtain information at a lower level, and Steven was there to get high level information and pose as a front for how he obtained his wealth (which was done through his years as a mercenary).  The different personalities would sometimes suggest different things, but he was always able to take full control (best displayed in West Coast Avengers).  While I applaud Bendis' effort to bring new dynamics to the character, giving no solid explanation for the big change wasn't overlooked by many and I feel as though it was banking on most believing the stereotype that Marc is indeed bonkers.  After boosting the craziness in Hollywood, I say have him return to New York with a clear mind and finally realizes he doesn't need the personalities.  In the end, he's simply a hero, and his real personality (Marc Spector) proved that a long time ago in Egypt by doing everything he could to stop Bushman.  Casting aside these personal issues we've seen time and time again will allow the writer to provide a heavier focus on the supporting cast (Marlene, Frenchie, etc) and greater plots surrounding villains posing the real threat instead of his own emotions.

-The Villains-
His rogues gallery is in dire need of the New 52 treatment.  Many haven't been seen in awhile and others just aren't exciting.  Bushman is his main foe, but at the end of the day he brings nothing special to the table.  He gave Marc a deliciously brutal fight in Vengeance, but aside from that, the guy was never that big of an obstacle.  When we last saw the villain he was losing his mind, so it might be interesting to see Bushman be the man to fill the title's crazy quota.  Seeing the likes of Morpheus and Deadzone return would be most welcome, and, dare I say it, find a way to give him an equivalent of the Sinister Six.  If these villains with an agenda against Moony aren't stacking up individually, have this crazy Bushman unite them. Ultimately, Mr. Spector simply needs bigger adversaries with bigger agendas.  In my opinion this will be one of many critical elements for his success.

-Increase His Role-
Moon Knight has a rich history of interacting with a lot of characters, but as of late he hasn't really done anything of any importance in the 616 Universe. This should change if you want more people interested in him and having him fill the role of "supporting character #7" on a team book likely isn't going to cut it.  Giving him more respect and time in the spotlight among the superhero community will hopefully lead to more readers being curious about the character.  As much as I dislike forced cameos, make an effort to have him a part of the world he's in. New York is packed with characters and it shouldn't be uncommon for him to be bumping shoulders and appearing in other titles. 


Are these suggestions something you'd like to see in Moon Knight's next title or do you have something else in mind for the anti-hero?  Or, do you think it's finally time for Moon Knight to just call it quits and spend a few years in limbo?  Feel free to speak your mind in the comments section below!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods review


The Cabin in the Woods manages to throw the horror and comedy genres into a blender, and the result is a delicious product that's ridiculously fun and warrants watching at least once.
The Cabin in the Woods is a modern-day Army of Darkness. High praise, I know, but it's worthy of the title. There's not much I can say about the overall plot without spoiling all of the fun, so I'll keep it to the basics. The Cabin in the Woods follows a group of stereotypical college kids (the stoner, the sports guy, the scantily-clad hot girl, amongst others) that head to a cabin deep in the woods for a weekend getaway. Meanwhile, mysterious figures are keeping a close eye on the group and the chaos and bloodshed follows shortly after their seemingly relaxing vacation begins. 
I know what you're probably thinking. This is all too familiar and there's no reason why you'd want to see this scenario play out for the millionth time. I felt the same way after seeing the trailers and going into this movie, but that assumption is completely false. This isn't just another generic horror flick or something you've already seen before. The concept behind this film is ridiculously far-fetched in a good way and allows for tons of hilarious elements and creatures to be tossed our way. 
The film is being heavily pushed mostly as a horror experience, but it's the sharp writing and witty humor that makes The Cabin in the Woods so superb. It's absurdly funny, and that's something I've come to expect whenever the talented Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is attached to a project. The director of Marvel's The Avengers co-wrote and produced the flick, and there are plenty of standout comedic scenes that simply feel like a segment slapped with a Joss Whedon seal of approval. A Whedon vibe with banter is almost never a bad thing and there's plenty to be found here. Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard makes his directorial debut and has had an extensive history with Whedon, writing episodes for BuffyAngel and Alias. You can tell the two had a blast working on the script and the final product is one of the most entertaining movies I've seen in awhile.
While The Cabin in the Woods is going to keep you laughing the whole time, odds are no one is going to be having any nightmares over this one. It's not a scary movie, but that clearly wasn't the main focus of the film. I think it's important to note this just in case anyone believes this is a horror-heavy movie based on the trailers portraying it as such. The majority of the horror elements are indeed predictable, but I will confess that one jump scare did get me. At the same rate, keeping the trailers focused on the attempted spooks and not the smirks means you're going into this one without having the best jokes already ruined by the trailers, so that's a plus.
While the main characters are all archetypes, Whedon's ability to craft great banter and develop individuals breathes more life into these characters along the way. The tag team of Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford really steal the show. Unfortunately discussing their roles would severely take away from all the fun to be had with their scenes. Fran Kranz (Dollhouse) once again delivers as the goofy and comedic dude, while everyone else performs ably as well.
The final act of The Cabin in the Woods is truly something special. Attempting to describe it won't do it any justice. It's just something that needs to be watched to be fully appreciated. Things take a wild turn and the theater was in a permanent state of laughter and bliss as the events unfolded on the big screen. Oh, and how could I forget to mention the fact that there's a secret cameo thrown in there that sci-fi fans will appreciate as well? 
Simply put, I loved The Cabin in the Woods and had an extremely good time watching it. The CGI is a bit shoddy and it isn't all that scary, but it's hilariously fun and more than deserving of checking out on opening night.

A-

(taken from my review at UGO)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wolverine's Best Battles

He's the best there is at what he does, and what he does is very, very bloody. James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine has appeared in thousands of comics, and in the pages of those books, we've been treated to countless impressive fights involving the X-Man. Wolverine's decades of dedicated training under some of the best combatants has turned him into one of the most dangerous street level characters in the Marvel 616 universe. Having claws that can cut through almost everything and a virtually unbreakable skeleton doesn't hurt his odds, either. His rogues gallery (Sabretooth, Cyber, Lady Deathstrike, etc.) consists of plenty of characters that can give ole' James a fight worth watching, but Logan's A-list status means the Canadian also gets to go toe-to-toe with dozens of familiar faces in the Marvel Universe. Wolverine has been in hundreds of throw downs, but here's a collection of my favorite one-on-one battles with him.  Did your favorite not make the list? If so, please be sure to share the issue and why it's your favorite.


VS Crossbones, Fear Itself: The Fearless #7

It doesn't matter if you're one of Captain's greatest villains or just a random thug, bullets will never cut it against the runt. The heartless mercenary Crossbones (Brock Rumlow) took on Wolverine and the outcome left a major mess for the janitor to clean up. Crossbones is known for being a tough guy, so the villain pumps plenty of rounds into Wolverine before even recognizing that his tummy has been sliced open by Wolverine's foot-long claws. Instead of making a run for it, Crossbones arrogantly blasts a few more bullets into Logan, but Wolverine's healing factor and adamantium is too much for the thug to overcome. James slices Crossbones's gun apart and then, without any remorse for his human enemy, thrusts all six claws through the baddie's chest. Luckily for Brock, Hellstorm conveniently shows up and burns Wolverine. A small dose of magic later and Crossbones is back to full health, but the emotional scar of getting his ass handed to him by Logan has to hurt. 

VS Silver Samurai, Uncanny X-Men #273
Wolverine and Kenuichio Harada (Silver Samurai) go way back. Despite slashing and stabbing each other apart, they hold a mutual level of respect for one another. Harada's power lets his blade cut through virtually anything, but luckily for Wolverine, that weapon isn't putting a dent on his adamantium. Even when Harada lands a killing blow or two, Logan's healing factor gives him quite the unfair advantage. This 3 page fight in Uncanny simply rocks. Both land plenty of brutal strikes before Wolverine breaks Harada's arm and has him at his mercy.

VS Omega Red, X-Men #5
There's no shame in losing to Omega Red (Arkady Rossovich). The guy's death spores can kill a person in mere moments and his carbonadium armor and coils make him an absolute pain to deal with. But Wolverine? He spits in the face of impossible odds. Despite being outclassed by Arkady, Logan makes it a fight worth remembering. The Canadian dukes it out nonstop with the Russian super soldier for nearly 18 hours before finally going down for the count. James eventually gets his revenge, though. A few years ago the runt baseball tossed the m-blade (a sword that negates healing factors) right into Omega Red's heart, allegedly killing the '90s villain.

VS Hulk, The Incredible Hulk #340
Hulk and Wolverine have a long and blood-soaked history, but one battle stands out from the rest. Believe it or not, Wolverine actually tried to avoid this legendary battle at first. Hulk kept egging him on, and one thunderclap later, it was time for the warrior's waltz. Todd McFarlane's work makes this classic battle in the woods a gritty visual delight. Wolverine draws first blood on the grey brute and even takes him down with a horrific stab clean into Hulk's chest. But Logan's not the only one with a healing factor, and the two rush back into their dance of death. Wolverine's internal thoughts in the captions add a nice layer of depth (dealing with man vs. beast; the pain in his body and all that jazz) to this must read Hulk vs Wolverine battle.

VS Sabretooth,  Uncanny X-Men #213
If I could only read one Sabretooth (Victor Creed) and Wolverine fight, this brutal mesh of claws and stabs at the X-Mansion would be my pick. Victor humiliates Rogue and Psylocke before making his way to the main event: Wolverine. What happens next is one of the most epic stalemates in comic history. The two go blow for blow as they duke it out across the rooftops, plummet into the pool, and continue their absurdly violent bout towards the edge of a cliff. Both bruised and bloodied, Sabretooth tries to escape the X-Men by diving off of the ledge, but Wolverine quickly follows and grapples him before the two crash into the waves below.  In true villain fashion, Sabretooth manages to escape.

VS Deadpool, Cable & Deadpool #44
The merc with a mouth has a handful of solid encounters with Logan, but their swords vs. claws round at a HYDRA base is my pick. This 3 page fight is fairly short, but it's so very sweet. It gives both characters proper credit as they display just how skilled they are with their respective weapons, but ultimately, those two blades can't compete with Wolverine's six adamantium claws and the pointy things end up pinning Wade to a wall. The comedic banter from a Fabian Nicieza written Deadpool (Wade Wilson) is always a joy, too. Oh, and then there's Bob, Agent of HYDRA and Weasel in the issue.

VS Captain America, Wolverine: Origins #4
Seeing the American super-soldier and Weapon X project duke it out is a fanboy overload for many. Despite their popularity, these two fan favorites have only had a handful of fairly short fights, but their battle in Daniel Way's comic overshadows the other fights these two have had. Lasting multiple pages, the two A-listers inflict seriously damaging injuries on each other and Cap even slashes Wolverine across the chest with the m-blade. A legless Nuke (courtesy of Wolverine's claws) and the X-Men eventually interfere, but this melee is terrific. 

VS Spider-Man, Spider-Man versus Wolverine #1
The wall crawler is faster and stronger than Wolverine, but that didn't matter very much in this comic. Wolverine's confidence and flurry of claws made Spider-Man question his own abilities and even his own speed. However, the reason this throw down happens is the true gem of the comic. Wolverine is going to kill Charlie, a woman he cares deeply for. She's on the run from just about every government on Earth, and Logan was going to give her a painless end instead of torture from the KGB. But Spider-Man and his heart of gold step in and stops Wolverine before he can end Charlie's suffering. Spider-Man bashes Wolverine's face over and over against a tombstone, but he says the only thing the brutal strikes did was make Logan smile. They end in a draw, with Spider-Man's hands gripped around Logan's throat, ready to snap his neck, and Wolverine's fist under Spidey's chin, prepared to pop his claws. A helicopter shines a light on them, and in the confusion of the chaos, Spider-Man throws a blind strike when he thinks Wolverine is behind him and ready for more. Yet it wasn't Wolverine standing behind him; it was Charlie. Spider-Man ends up killing the very woman he just fought to save. Ouch.

VS Sabretooth, Wolverine #301
It looks like Sabretooth has returned from the dead just so he can get his ass kicked all over again... and I must say this is a jaw-droppingly good ass kicking. Seriously, it doesn't get much better than this. I'll let the page speak for itself. Stare at that image and enjoy just how awesome this victory truly is.