Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 2

Published: October 11th, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, Mike Perkins

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

This was a pretty good second half to the original Winter Soldier story. I liked the first half a bit more though. But I think that’s because reading this lacked tension, as I knew that Winter Soldier was actually Bucky and that he’d come around and start to see the light.

That lack of tension is my fault for taking so long to read this story. It’s certainly not Brubaker’s fault and I’m sure this was tense as hell for those that read it for the first time in 2006 without any knowledge of the Winter Soldier character.

I like that Brubaker does spend a good amount of time flashbacking to World War II and the Invaders era. The context was nice and the parallels between Cap and Bucky’s lives then and now was well done.

This story also adds in Falcon and Iron Man, which obviously influenced the MCU films that saw these two characters chime in on Cap’s relationship with Winter Soldier.

Like the previous volume, the art was really good and Brubaker truly benefits from having solid artists on his Captain America books, as they definitely enhance the atmosphere and tone of the plot in the right way.

For Cap fans who haven’t read the Brubaker run, you’re doing yourselves a disservice. Hell, for fans of just the movies, this is definitely worth checking out just to understand the depth of these characters’ bond.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 1

Published: March 1st, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, J.P. Leon

Marvel Comics, 167 Pages

Review:

At the start of Ed Brubaker’s historic Captain America run, I wasn’t paying attention to comics. I found my way back to them around the time that Cap died, a few years into Brubaker’s tenure. So I never got to read the original Winter Soldier story.

I’ve got to say, this pretty much lives up to the hype. However, I’m only speaking as someone that’s read the first part, as the story covers two volumes.

So I don’t know how this will conclude or where it will go in the immediate future but this was a damn fine setup.

This may be the best and the most human Steve Rogers has ever been written. This explores the layers to his character and it does a fantastic job of giving the reader the right context without just relying on them to know Cap’s backstory. Additionally, it also doesn’t just dwell on the past and act as a lengthy modernized recap of those events.

I also love the art. And honestly, it’s the evolution of comic book art that really brought me back to the medium. And one of the books that lured me in was Captain America.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Film Review: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Release Date: April 22nd, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Linda Cardellini, Tessa Thompson, Rene Russo, John Slattery, Tilda Swinton, Hayley Atwell, Natalie Portman, Taika Waititi, Angela Bassett, Frank Grillo, Robert Redford, Ty Simpkins, James D’Arcy, Ken Jeong, Yvette Nichole Brown

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 181 Minutes

Review:

“You could not live with your own failure, and where did that bring you? Back to me.” – Thanos

*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.

Here we are… the end.

Well, it’s the end of an era but not the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although, this may be the end for me, as there isn’t much else I’m looking forward to from the MCU after Endgame. Granted, there hasn’t been much news on what’s coming next, either.

But anyway, how was this film? The big, badass finale to a 22 movie franchise?

It was good but it wasn’t anything close to stellar.

My biggest issue with it was that it was a pretty big clusterfuck that had too many parts to try and balance. Where the previous film Infinity War did that just fine, Endgame had so many more extra layers thrown on top of it that it was overkill. I mean every single character that had any sort of significant impact on MCU storylines over 22 films ended up shoehorned into this thing. Even Natalie Portman, who wanted nothing to do with these movies after being in two of them and dialing in a mediocre performance both times.

Also, the time travel element to the story did a bunch of things that didn’t make sense and they also pissed on Back to the Future because it’s easier to shit on a classic (and its fictitious application of quantum physics) than to actually write a coherent time travel story of your own. Endgame opted to go the lazy Doctor Who “timey wimey” route than to concern itself with paradoxes and all that other catastrophic nonsense. They even kill a version of a character from the past and it in no way effects the present version of that same character.

The big battle at the end was the most epic thing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done but what should have felt like Marvel’s version of The Return of the King felt more like Ready Player Two. It was a CGI shitfest and I’m not even sure how Spider-Man was web-swinging on a large, open battlefield where the only objects above him were fast moving spaceships going in the opposite of the direction he was swinging in. But whatever, physics is hard, brah.

I liked that this film gave us some closure for some major characters. Granted, I’m not all that happy with what that closure was but like Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., I’m also very, very tired of this franchise. I feel like Endgame really is a jumping off point for fans that have rode this train for 11 years that feel like they need a break. I feel like I need a break and even if my mind was made up before this film, Endgame really solidified it.

Although, I am a bit excited for whatever happens with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor. As for the rest of the characters and their films, I don’t really care. I think I’m only really enthused about cosmic Marvel and not Earth Marvel, at this point.

Almost all of the acting was damn good, especially in regards to Robert Downey Jr., Karen Gillan, Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson.

Brie Larson on the other hand is a fucking charisma vacuum and every time she was on screen, I felt like I was looking at a first time community theater actress trying to play Nurse Ratched. And the Justin Bieber makeover was terrible. That scene where she blew up the ship and floated there, victoriously, just made me yearn for someone, anyone else to be in that role. My brain immediately thought, “Man, imagine if that was Charlize Theron, the theater would’ve just erupted instead of everyone just sitting here sucking loudly on empty soda cups.” I’m not wrong, I rarely ever am.

Anyway, the movie was messy but it had some really good moments. But this isn’t a movie that can stand on its own. You need the previous 21 films for context or all of this would be lost on you. Sure, it’s emotional and some bits are powerful but without 11 years of context, the weight isn’t there. And I prefer to judge films on their own merits as a sole body of work and not as an episode of a TV show or a chapter in a book. But at the same time, there is no way you can recap everything before this, as this film series is now too damn big.

Well, it’s over I guess. In 2008, it was hard imagining this day. But here it is. And I’m tired.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.

Comic Review: Captain America: White

Published: February 17th, 2016
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

Marvel Comics, 150 Pages

Review:

I’ve really been enjoying these color themed Marvel books by the dynamic duo of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.

What made this one really cool was that it was a Captain America story from World War II, which featured Bucky, a slew of other heroes in cameos as well as Red Skull as it’s big baddie.

While I’ve always enjoyed Sale’s art style, his use of colors and inks in this book make it feel like it’s a comic from the era it was set in. Well, at least visually. The narrative style by Loeb feels modern, even if the setting isn’t. But it all comes together quite nicely and this was a stupendous read.

The central focus of the story looks at the relationship between Cap and Bucky. Unlike the films, Bucky was the smaller, weak sidekick and not the badass that Cap looked up to. In this story, Bucky looked up to Cap and was always trying to please him like a little brother searching for approval. You really felt the emotional weight of their relationship and what they mean to one another.

The story is action packed and there are several high points. The biggest for me, though, is the final showdown that sees Cap try to save Paris and Bucky, who is held captive by Red Skull.

Hands down, this is solid work from Loeb and Sale and one of my favorite Captain America stories ever put to paper.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.

Comic Review: The Punisher: World War Frank

Published: August 22nd, 2018 – December 19th, 2018
Written by: Matthew Rosenberg
Art by: Szymon Kudranski, Greg Smallwood (covers)

Marvel Comics, 129 Pages

Review:

It’s been a long time since I cared about the Punisher. So long in fact that even though I knew this new series was starting, I didn’t seek it out. It wasn’t until someone I trusted told me that I needed to check out the first issue, as it read like classic Punisher and was a no nonsense, balls out, action packed, political thriller.

They weren’t wrong. This thing was a high octane festival of testosterone overload. While that might not appeal to some people, to fans of the Punisher comics of the late ’80s to early ’90s, this comic is a true throwback to that style and tone. Although, it is modernized, it still feels like those old comics I read when I first fell in love with the character as a scrapping young comic reader and creator.

Now this story arc is full of cameos but no one distracts from Frank Castle being his best self and even when other people (heroes and villains) try to prevent his one man war, he is too driven to be deterred.

The main antagonist here is Baron Zemo, who is one of my all-time favorites and who has been underutilized outside of Thunderbolts comics. Zemo isn’t the only villain though. We also get the Mandarin, Jigsaw and some others.

The issue that sees Jigsaw confront the Punisher while he is in a jail cell is incredible. It was the biggest high point out of several. But that’s what this story arc is, it’s a lot of high points and it’s jam packed with action and even some mystery.

World War Frank is not just solid storytelling, it is one of the most solid Frank Castle stories in years.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: old school late ’80s to early ’90s Punisher and the recent Marvel Knights 20th anniversary event.

Comic Review: Winter Soldier: Winter Kills – One-Shot

Published: December 27th, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Lee Weeks

Marvel Comics, 39 Pages

Review:

It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything from Marvel’s Civil War era but I though that I’d give this one-shot a chance, as I must have missed it back then. Plus, I like Winter Soldier and I like one-shots.

This takes place while the original Civil War was going on. It focuses on Winter Soldier trying to adjust to life after having been a brainwashed killer for so long. It also takes place on the first Christmas after he was freed from mind control while calling back to his last Christmas before everything went really bad for him, back in World War II with Captain America and Toro by his side.

This is short and sweet but it hit the mark for me.

You get to see the camaraderie between Bucky, Cap, Toro and Namor during the war and how important those relationships were. Then Bucky, now as the Winter Solider, is alone on Christmas, goes on a mission for Nick Fury and gets tied up in a fracas with Hydra, The Patriot, The Vision and the female Hawkeye, Kate Bishop.

Even though heroes find themselves on different sides of the Civil War divide, they come together out of respect for who Winter Soldier was and because it’s Christmas.

This isn’t as mushy as it sounds though. There is a lot of solid action and a good gritty tone while also critiquing what Christmas and America have become in the decades since Bucky was just a soldier in the 1940s.

Winter Kills is an enjoyable read and helps to build up Winter Soldier as a character. This also came out just before he took over as Captain America for awhile.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Marvel’s Civil WarCaptain America: Civil War and the Ed Brubaker run on Captain America.

Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Release Date: April 23rd, 2018 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 149 Minutes

Review:

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right. Yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. ” – Thanos

*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.

Well, this film has been ten years in the making, as it is the culmination of everything that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man hit theaters in May of 2008. Ten years and eighteen films later, all the carefully crafted moving parts come together to create a unified front against the greatest cinematic Marvel villain of them all, Thanos.

So cramming in all these characters is a tremendous feat. And really, I think everyone’s biggest concern was how that would work. Despite my concerns and fears, I haven’t anxiously anticipated the release of a film as strongly as this one since 2008’s The Dark Knight.

But having now seen it, I finally know whether or not the Russos succeeded in successfully conquering such a tremendous feat. So did they succeed?

To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Oh… Hell… Yeaaah!!!”

The way that the Russos balanced everything was incredible. It’s as if they read a ton of major comic book crossover events in preparation for this incredible task and they sort of took their cue from them.

What I mean by that is that this film handles itself like a well written crossover mega event in the comics. It segments the heroes into different groups on different missions, all fighting for the same endgame. It’s like when a crossover is spread over four different comic titles and when you read them in a collected format, you get a story where each chapter is an issue from a different comic. Like X-Cutioner’s Song from the early ’90s was spread over Uncanny X-MenX-FactorX-Men (vol. 2) and X-Force. When you read them in chronological order (or in a collected trade paperback) each issue/title focused on a specific group that was different from the previous chapter but all the stories were part of a bigger tapestry that saw everything come together. That’s exactly how Avengers: Infinity War works, which is really cool to experience in a live action format.

So you have multiple groups here: one led by Captain America that goes to Wakanda, one lead by Iron Man that goes into space, the Guardians of the Galaxy split into two groups with one of them being led by Thor and then there is Thanos’ story and he does get a lot of time to shine. In fact, he was handled better than every Marvel Cinematic Universe villain that isn’t Loki. But who knows, Thanos may still eclipse Loki when it’s all said and done.

This was a pretty long movie but it needed to be and unlike other Marvel movies that seem to run on for too long, there wasn’t a single moment where I looked at my watch or felt antsy like I needed them to wrap it up. In fact, when I got to the end, I felt like I had finally exhaled and I couldn’t get up out of my seat, there was a lot of amazing stuff to process and I sat there with a smile, completely and utterly impressed with how this turned out.

It’s obvious that the special effects are good and some of the most impressive ever created. Marvel never disappoints in that regard.

One thing that really stood out for me much more than it ever has in any other Marvel picture was the score. This film has a very good and memorable smorgasbord of booming orchestral tunes and the Avengers theme was re-imagined in some creative ways. Alan Silvestri really came up with an incredible score that serviced not just this film but served the entire franchise well. There aren’t scores like there were through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s but this one felt like a throwback to that superior era for movie music.

If I had to compare this to anything, it’s like if someone took the best parts of both The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars movies and then mixed them together and replaced those films heroes and villains with Marvel characters. It truly was incredible and I can be a snobby dick that’s hard to impress sometimes. I just wish the modern comic writers at Marvel would take their cue from these movies and write comics worthy of these characters once again. But as superheroes are dying in print, they are thriving on celluloid.

Simply for the fact that I haven’t felt like this after seeing a movie in the theater since The Dark Knight, ten years ago, I have to give this film a perfect score. Sure, it’s not the greatest movie ever made but it is a f’n clinic on how to do a massive team up movie and a film that is presented on a massive scale that doesn’t lose itself and keeps you very engaged. Granted, this film also benefits from having 18 movies before it, where all of these key characters, minus Thanos, were able to be developed in preparation for this Royal Rumble of a superhero movie.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.