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Superheroes with a sense of humor

There is a tendency to make superhero movies dark — just look at almost any movie based on DC comics to see what I mean. That’s why I’m so happy that movies based on Marvel characters have a sense of humor, and lately those movies have even been funny too. Films this year like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had downright comedic elements that made me laugh more during them than any comedy film in recent memory. And to be honest, I’d rather go to a movie to have fun and laugh with the characters on screen who take revelry in the joys of having superpowers — than spend that time contemplating how bad things are. There’s too much of that kind of contemplation in real-life right now.

Even the non-Marvel Marvel movies were pretty good this year

If you ask me the best superhero movie of 2017 was the final X-Men movie Logan. It had it all; was well-acted, well written, had an interesting setting, etc. etc. etc. And the same goes for the latest Spider-Man movie Spider-Man: Homecoming too that had lots of humor and a great story too. And the most interesting thing about those films is that while they’re based on characters from Marvel, they were produced by studios other than Marvel Studios. 20th Century Fox for the X-Men characters and Sony for Spider-Man. Which means that it’s not just the geniuses at Marvel who can make good superhero movies, it can be anyone if they’re given enough leeway from the studios to see their vision through to the end without too much interference.

Taika Waititi

I think the director of the best Marvel Studios movie this year Taika Waititi with Thor: Ragnarok should be let to direct whatever movie he wants next. Be it comic book or otherwise. The guy had a hand in the brilliant Flight of the Conchords TV series and his last two movies before Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople were funny and moving and as brilliant as Ragnarok too. Heck, he also played via motion capture and voiced the character of Korg inRagnarok who arguably stole the show from the likes of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and even Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

The Eclipse

I’ve been looking forward to the eclipse that happened last August for quite some time now. And though it wasn’t a total one in our area, nonetheless I thought it was pretty cool. It’s not every day that the Moon has the gall, downright audacity to pass in front of the Sun!

Bruce Springsteen had a really interesting life

I wasn’t huge fan of Bruce Springsteen’s music growing up. I think some of that had to do with him being one of the mega-music stars of the 1980s, his music being everywhere and his “Born in the USA” being used as an anthem for, well, just about everything. Still, I’m interested enough in Springsteen as a person to have checked out his autobiography Born to Run and am glad I did. Springsteen’s lived such a unique and varied life, from being penniless to almost

being drafted during the Vietnam War to then becoming one of the most successful musical acts of all time that his autobiography is one of the best reads I’ve had in a while. Oh, and he can really write and is one heck of a wordsmith too. Then again that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as the guy’s become a multi-millionaire by being one of the world’s most recognizable songwriters.

The best story to take place in Antarctica since The Thing: Whiteout

The comic series Whiteout has been around for a while now but recently a new collected edition was released that includes every Whiteout comic story ever. About a US Marshall at a station in Antartica who has to investigate the first murder there, Whiteout is a nail-biter from beginning to end written by the great Greg Rucca with some of the best looking harsh, yet realistic looking art from Steve Lieber.




Direct Beam Comms #106



TV

Stranger Things season two

“Oh can’t you see, you belong to me?” – The Police

The second season of the Netflix series Stranger Things avoided the dreaded “second season problem” many series that have fantastically successful first seasons face — mainly to not miss with high audience expectations. This season begins about a year after the end of the first where things have returned to normal back in Hawkins, Indiana. Or have they? When a mysterious blight begins infecting the pumpkin crops outside of town it’s quickly apparent that whatever was thought destroyed from the alternate “upside down” dimension from the first season was in fact only slightly deterred. And instead of having to face man-sized monsters, the kids of Hawkins must now face something more along the size of an office building that wants to claim our planet as its own.

Opposition

Much of the second season’s focus was on an opposition either between the kids of Hawkins and the adults, or both the kids and adults together against the things in the “upside down.” Will (Noah Schnapp) spent most of the first season trapped in the alternate, black “upside down” dimension. And while Will looks normal, something’s wrong as he begins experiencing visions of some thing that scares him. But no one will listen to him except his friends including Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink). But what can they do when not even the new head of the secret government Hawkins Lab Dr. Sam Owens (the always wonderful Paul Reiser) believes that anything’s wrong. They think that even though there’s still an open portal between our two dimensions that with regular burnings things can be contained. But as any good army general can tell you, containment can only last so long before there’s some sort of unexpected breakout.

Contradiction

One thing I found interesting about the second season was the contradictions between it and the first season of the show. In the first season the character of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) had escaped from that secret lab where then leader Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) had no qualms about using murder in order to get his way. In the second season a nicer head of the lab Dr. Owens is trying to help the Byers family return to a normal life after the first. The question is can Dr. Owens be trusted, or is he just another Brenner in disguise?

Premonition

A lot of what is Stranger Things is about characters knowing things they shouldn’t be able to. Be it Eleven being able to cast her mind out to see what other people are doing or even young Will hoping that everything with him’s going to be okay, but knowing inside that it’s not. That’s a big theme of the second season of Stranger Things, the idea that we can fool ourselves into thinking that everything’s going to be okay when the actual outcome’s doubtful. Like in the 1980s with things like toxic waste, nuclear weapons, pollution were in the headlines where people hoped for the best and tried to ignore the worst. Like the characters in Stranger Things come to find out, we can try to delay the inevitable, but the inevitable comes no matter what we do.

Compromise

If “premonition” is a theme of the second season, then “compromise” is too. Like with Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and the Hawkins lab, agreeing to bring Will in for regular tests, even if he’s secretly hiding Eleven from the spooks in a cabin in the woods. Or even Will’s mom Joyce (Winona Ryder) who’s trying to give Will a normal life after almost losing him, even if it means that she’s also trying to constantly keep him within eyesight and know where he is at all times. Life is full of compromises, and in Stranger Things that’s no different.

I can’t say that I liked the second season of Stranger Things as much as I did with the first, but if I did that would be saying a lot. That first season is a modern day classic that will be studied and imitated for years to come. Even if the second season isn’t as good as the first I’d still argue that it was a great one. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, was never quite sure where things were going and found the show a lot more gory and bloody than I thought it would have been. But in a a good way.

If the first season was what you get when you cross a story in the tone of Stephen King with the visual stylings of a director like Steven Spielberg, then the second is all that plus a hint of the comic book series X-Men thrown in for good measure. If what Eleven is, basically a mutant, and what she goes through in the second season, basically having to choose between someone like Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters or Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants — this season of Stranger Things veered slightly away from the template of the first season which had more straight-horror with elements of sci-fi and went for the full comic book TV series this season.

There’s a New Mutants movie about young X-Men in the making that’s due out next year that actually stars at least one of the regular cast of Stranger Things. From the one trailer that’s been released for that film it seems to have elements of horror that really hasn’t been in any superhero movies to date. It’ll be interesting over the next few years to see just how much elements of Stranger Things, like adding elements of horror to a comic book movie, will begin turning up in other movies TV series since I’d argue that if they do Stranger Things is the reason.

Comics

Whiteout Compendium

One of my favorite comics Whiteout is now available in a collected edition.

From Amazon:

The critically acclaimed and Eisner-winning WHITEOUT graphic novels from Greg Rucka (LAZARUS, WONDER WOMAN) & Steve Lieber (THE FIX, SUPERIOR FOES) return in this new compendium! Carrie Stetko is a US Marshal tasked with enforcing the law in one of the most remote and inhospitable places on earth―Antarctica. Collects WHITEOUT and WHITEOUT: MELT under one cover!

Punisher Epic Collection: Capital Punishment

The march of Punisher collected editions being released in 2017 continues with Punisher Epic Collection: Capital Punishment. Collected here in nearly 500 pages of material is content from 13 issues of Punisher as well as three different graphic novels.

From Marvel:

Collects Punisher (1987) #63–75, Punisher: G-Force, Punisher: Die Hard in the Big Easy, Punisher/Black Widow: Spinning Doomsday’s Web. The Punisher hits Europe! When Frank Castle heads to London in pursuit of the assassin Snakebite, he fi nds a whole continent of trouble – and also his biggest fan: the British vigilante Outlaw! Their fragile Anglo-American alliance must survive a deadly chase from country to country that will draw in mercenaries from Batroc to the Tarantula! But can the Punisher put a stop to a plot that goes all the way up to the Kingpin himself? And if he returns to America in one piece, Frank will be targeted by the anti-vigilantism task force known as V.I.G.I.L.! Plus: the Punisher in space! The death-dealing Baron Cemetery! And a tense team-up with the Avengers’ own Black Widow!

Movies

Annihilation movie trailer

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Steve Lieber Whiteout Carrie Stetko drawing