Captain America: Civil War – A Movie Review

(Spoiler-free)

When it comes to Marvel movies, I am pretty good at remaining objective.  DC movies …  not so much – I’m a fanboy.  I can honestly tell you that if you’re a fan of the super hero genre, it just doesn’t get much better than Captain America: Civil War.  This movie absolutely satisfied on every level.

As you probably know, the premise of the film hinges on the fact that the United Nations wants to oversee the Avengers due to the consequential collateral damage that ensues after their actions.  Tony Stark, due to the series of mistakes he’s made over the last eight years, thinks it’s a good idea.  Steve Rogers, after the Hydra fiasco, only trusts those in his inner circle.  Thus, factions arise.  And when the Winter Soldier, Rogers’ childhood friend, seems responsible for more carnage, those factions go to war.

I won’t go into greater detail than that for fear of spoiling the plot, but rest assured the movie is far more complex than the above synopsis.  There are deeply motivated characters in this film, and each believes their actions are justified.  I think this movie succeeds primarily because there has been a lot of groundwork and characterization developed over the years with these men and women – their conflict feels intensely personal and legitimate as a result.

Furthermore, their conflict is handled with both grace and dynamism.  Everything you want to happen when they fight happens – it is a delight.  And while the movie is deathly serious at times, and while there are real consequences to the level of power displayed, the film, like Shakespeare, knew when it was time to lighten things up.  The one-liners in the movie are hilarious, and certain characters provide the levity needed to keep things fun.  (I’m sure you can guess who those characters are.)

What I also loved about the movie is that every character got a moment to shine.  It’s amazing they were able to cram so much in so deftly.  I know this movie is called Captain America, but this also truly Iron Man 3.5, Avengers 2.5, and Spider-Man 0.5.  They left so much for future movies to explore – I can’t wait!

The amazing action, the emotional turmoil, the “wow” moments, the hints at the future, and the fantastic humor made Captain America: Civil War a joy on every level.

The New Avengers, Vol. 6: Revolution – A Graphic Novel Review

I really enjoyed this volume of New Avengers. The title gets a bit of a shake-up after the events of Civil War with a revamped, underground Avengers team featuring a black-suited Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Spider-Woman and the welcomed additions of Iron Fist, Dr. Strange and Ronin (a much-missed old friend wearing new duds).

The volume begins with beautifully rendered art by personal-favorite Alex Maleev. (Wonderful to see Bendis and Maleev together again!) I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but this tale in particular focuses on a long-missing Avenger and his search for a former teammate. Consequently, he doesn’t quite find what he’s expecting. Writer Brian Michael Bendis delivers a simplistic story invoking powerful characterization and potent emotion.

The rest of the volume features art by Leinil Yu and the new New Avengers. Yu’s art is a conundrum for me. It’s not particularly pleasing to the eye, yet it is absolutely charismatic and captivating. Yu is adept at delivering interesting angles and frames while cleanly progressing the story. I find myself studying each and every one of his drawings perhaps more than any other comic book artist in recent memory.

I’d also like to congratulate Brian Michael Bendis. He obviously wrote Revolution with Civil War and the then-upcoming Secret Invasion in mind, and so he’s careful to catch the reader up while planting seeds for the future. However, this is not what especially impressed me. What did impress me was the fact that Bendis played with flashbacks and perspective in order to deliver the whole of Revolution. Instead of giving us a linear story playing out from issue to issue, he took an artistic approach and allowed the reader to bridge some gaps and become mentally involved in deciphering the plot. Don’t get me wrong, even with the interesting technique, it’s a pretty straightforward story, but such added touches go a long way in satisfying me.

Overall, with the eye-catching art, inspired story-telling, and new additions to the team, New Avengers: Revolution was a very good experience.

New Avengers, Vol. 5: Civil War – A Graphic Novel Review

I had the distinct advantage of reading this collection well after I read the unified edition of Civil War, so I must admit my perspective would be different from someone unfamiliar with the outcome of Civil War and its fallout.

That said, knowing what I know about Nick Fury, Iron Man, and Captain America’s current storylines, this volume of New Avengers was incredibly insightful and pertinent.

Though Brian Michael Bendis is the writer throughout, each separate issue making up the larger volume is drawn by a different artist and focuses upon a different character from the New Avengers.

While I don’t believe any of these issues are “must-reads” in order to understand the larger storyline of Civil War, they certainly help illuminate character’s motivations and set up plots to come in New Avengers and Mighty Avengers.

I’d also like to say that there is a component to this volume featuring Sentry drawn by Pasqual Ferry that alone makes the entire volume worth buying. I could take or leave Sentry as a character, but Ferry’s rendering of Sentry interacting with the Inhumans is an absolute delight. Certainly Dean White’s colors add to the beauty of Ferry’s art, and I really hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. In my opinion, Ferry is the go-to guy when it comes to interplanetary adventure, as I first learned with his stunning art in Adam Strange: Planet Heist.

New Avengers: Civil War is a great volume if you’re looking for different artists interpretations of some of your favorite New Avengers; it’s enlightening if you desire further character motivation during Civil War; and finally, it’s a nice springboard to new plots in New Avengers.

Had I read this in “real” time I don’t know I would have enjoyed it as much, but with 20/20 hindsight, I thoroughly relished New Avengers: Civil War.

Life Imitates Art

Note: Originally Published 10-1-06

This is kind of old news, but, heck, you might just enjoy it anyway…

A few weeks ago I returned to my hometown of Beardstown, IL.  The Beardstown Houston Memorial Public Library found it in their hearts to invite me along with several other local authors to take part in a short talk and book signing, and I could not have been more excited to touch base with old friends and promote my latest short story collection, The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume II.

The signing was to be held on Sunday, September 17th, and so my lovely wife and I drove down to B-town Saturday afternoon so we could visit with my parents and try out the new Mexican restaurant.  (New to my wife and me, at least.  Pretty good food, by the way.) 

After dinner we returned to Mom and Dad’s house and were discussing what I should talk about during my allotted time the following day.  Many, many ideas were being thrown out faster than a cat with its tail on fire when my wife, let’s just call her Kristen (because it’s her name), asked us what was the day’s date.

“September 16th,” we answered.

At that moment Kristen reminded me that one of my stories took place on a critical date-you guessed it-September 16th!

I freaked out.

Now, you’re saying to yourself, “So what?  It’s just a happy coincidence, like when you make sure you don’t have anything in your pockets before you do laundry and find a twenty dollar bill.”

I would agree with you normally, as we’re both fairly agreeable people, but you need to know a bit more information before you dismiss that date so readily.

You see, growing up, there existed many a legend in my hometown of Beardstown.  One such legend claimed that if you went out to a certain cemetery at a certain time of night, there stood an old Civil War statue what would wave its arms and its eyes would glow red.  Me being the brave soul that I am never tempted fate as I’m fairly certain seeing something like that would turn my thick and lustrous dark brown hair stark white. 

However, those small town myths stuck to me and when I began writing the short story entitled “The Legend of Josiah Mibb,” found in my latest short story collection The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume II, that supposed Civil War statue served as the basis of my disturbing tale.  

I can feel your curiosity through my keyboard, so let me give you the gist of “The Legend of Josiah Mibb.”  In it, a small town has been dishonored for over a century because their soldiers who took part in the Civil War revolted against their commanding officer, Josiah Mibb, doing horrible, terrible things to him.  The town was so ashamed, they erected a statue in Mibb’s honor, but it did little to ease their humiliation.  It did nothing to settle Mibb’s anger, either, as once a year, even to this very day, the statue of Josiah Mibb comes to life and if you’re caught near it, you will soon find yourself dismembered, just as he was by the mutinous soldiers. 

A young man and his wife return to town to visit the his parents, and when his wife learns of this tale and that the very date the statue was due to come to life was on the very day they were visiting, well, her inquisitiveness could not be satisfied unless she tempted fate and visited the statue.

As all husbands must, her husband gave in against his better judgment and they found themselves confronted with the statue at the very time it was to come to life.  What happens next, you ask?  Well, you’ll have to buy the book to find the answer to that, my friends, but let me tell you this: The legend of Josiah Mibb is not all that it seems, as our young husband and wife discover.

But, back to the original purpose of this growing-by-the-second-entry, the date in which the statue of Josiah Mibb was to come to life proved to be the exact date Kristen and I sat in my parents’ house-September 16th!  And, much like the wife in my short story, Kristen insisted we try to find the real Civil War statue my story was based upon.

I reluctantly gave in, and so, faster than you can say, “Boy, maybe we shouldn’t tempt a possibly haunted statue,” Kristen, Mom, Dad, even Carlee: The Foley Mascot, and I loaded into the Rendezvous.

Keep in mind that I didn’t even know the location of this statue!  I thought it was in one, but my mom thought it was in another, so we went with what Mom thought.  We drove across town and got on Chandlerville Road, pulled into the cemetery just outside of town, and, within no time at all, there we saw it!

We parked in front of it and my wife and I both experienced an extremely surreal moment.  The dang thing looked exactly as we had imagined it!  Weird, weird, weird, WEIRD!  The statue was surrounded by many Civil War era headstones and, upon closely inspecting each and every one of them, I was greatly relieved to find not one had a name in common with any characters from my story.  My wife, on the other hand, was just a tad disappointed that the coincidences had apparently ceased.

Thank the stars the statue’s eyes didn’t start glowing red like in my story.  I would’ve thrown in the towel had that happened, for sure.

New Avengers: The Collective – A Graphic Novel Review

Brian Michael Bendis continues to spin out entertaining reads with his take on the Avengers. While characterization is a problem when using cornerstone characters, it is certainly fun to see all of our favorites working as a team.

I’ve been a Bendis fan for a while and I enjoy his interpretation of the Avengers, especially the banter. While it doesn’t go overboard into the realm of flat-out comedy, there are times when I can’t help but laugh at some of the snide remarks. My only complaint is the transition of artwork with the inclusion of Mike Deodato. He’s a fine artist, don’t get me wrong, but I’d gotten so accustomed to the previous beautiful renderings of this series that the drastic change in style with Deodato was a bit of a jolt.

The Collective is a logical follow-up to the House of M series as well as hints at Civil War, and it completely amuses, but again, this arc is not the stuff of character-driven plots. If you’d like to see Bendis at his finest with those sorts of stories, I recommend his masterful run on Daredevil.

I’m really enjoying The New Avengers and recommend the entire series thus far.