Blogging A to Z Day 15: Marvel Cinematic Universe

What is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you might ask? It’s the shared movie universe inhabited by all of the Marvel Studios movies – but not necessarily by the movies made by other studios. So in are the Avengers and their solo movies, and out are the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Spider-Man. Kind of. And more recently, this is a shared universe also with two television shows, keeping fans entertained between movies.

In an era when so much of movie talk is about re-boots, re-makes, sequels, and adaptations, the Marvel Cinematic Universe just seems to blend right in. And there are plenty of folks who worry that the money the movies are making are going to kill the comics that they are based on – making the comics the secondary focus, rather than the primary.

So instead today, I want to approach this from the other direction. Because while on the one hand these movies might seem like they’re all something old, made new again to turn a profit – on the other hand, they are showing a whole new way of storytelling and franchise building, which has turned out to be both good and bad!

Piece by piece, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown. The little teaser moments connecting the movies, people like Nick Fury and Agent Coulson (first name Agent), were great for the fans. Sure, it also maybe left us skeptical, and the radical departure from the direction they were heading in Iron Man 2 shows that they are learning and adapting.

Since The Avengers, and its run as the third biggest box-office film of all time, their plans have really grown. At this point, we know what their films are going to be between now and 2019. And if that’s not enough, the TV shows have been getting better – with Agent Carter this year being a particular treat.

Agent_Carter_Official_Logo

There have been shared universes before, between shows, between movies. Star Trek springs to mind. However, Star Trek had a pattern of TV show and then movies. And some periods of multiple shows on at once. Marvel is pulling off something different – a show springing from the movies, and then returning to movies, then back to show.

One of their perceived competitors, DC, is not trying this. They have a separate TV and movie universe going on right now (check out all the great Arrow reviews here on Sourcerer!). Totally different from one another. And then we’re seeing all sorts of other studios trying to create franchises that work like Marvel’s – with multiple movies being made at once, with different teams, in a shared cinematic universe. Shared universes are great and all, but Marvel’s doing something more.

They’re doing a complete, gigantic, all-in shared universe. It’s definitely influencing their comics. It’s definitely making them money. But it’s also definitely entertaining fans and generally just a great time. So while it’s something old, it’s also something new – something hard to duplicate, and so very fragile. Will it hold up over time, as these further movies come out? I guess we’ll all have to wait and see.

This post was by @CompGeeksDavid of the Comparative Geeks and regular Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Comparative Geeks

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Blogging A to Z Day 7: Flash

As someone who had not read too many comics I only was tangentially connected to the comic book world and therefore did not know much about the Flash, besides being the fastest man alive. When the show Flash started on the CW I got excited mostly because it was by the same people who brought us Arrow, which I love. The only thing being that I really did not know much about Barry Allen or the Flash in general.

The more I find out the more I really love the Flash as a character! A lot of what I know comes from watching the show, but I have also looked at what others have posted and watching some of the cartoon movies. The Flash really has a heart that is different from some of the other characters in the universe.

One thing I love about Barry Allen is his optimism and his passion. Now maybe this is just the show, but other things I have seen and found seem to confirm this as well. Recently we watched the animated movie Justice League: Doom, that points out the weaknesses of various DC superheroes including the Flash. The Flash’s weakness is his need to protect others; this is demonstrated in that movie and in the show. At the same time of all of the weaknesses it is the most endearing. He just wants to protect people and for those that need help he wants to help.

From a full gif-set on Tumblr.

From a full gif-set on Tumblr.

There is a great Tumblr post that I saw recently that looked at an episode of Justice League Unlimited where Batman and Orion try and help the Flash out because they disagree with how he handles his enemies. At the same time they just want to come and beat everyone up. The Flash on the other hand can take some time and is able to talk to one of the enemies. This in turn leads him to the rest of the enemies that are trying to kill him. Even getting the one enemy that he talked to to turn himself in. It really is a great moment and contrasts so much with the other superheroes.

The great part about Barry Allen is that his optimism and passion is infectious. He is too smart for his own good, but his strength is not in overpowering an enemy, but outsmarting them. Also, at times his power is the fact that he legitimately cares what happens. It is so different from other superheroes, particularly those in the DC universe. It is kind of a refreshing change of pace, especially when it is contrasted with Arrow which does get incredibly dark and serious. Flash presents a world where so many things are possible.

This post is by @CompGeeksHolly of the Comparative Geeks, where you can find other posts about Flash, like this one. For more A to Z posts, check out Comparative Geeks!

Arrow: Season 3, Episode 9 – The Climb

arrow-header-5I know a few weeks have passed since this epic cliff-hanger, and the shock has probably worn off a little, but whenever I think about the episode I’m thrown back to the moment Oliver was run through with Ra’s al Ghul’s sword and my brain pulling a major ‘Champ’ on me (‘Wake up, Ollie. Wake up!’). Clearly he isn’t really dead, but still, as a season finale it was pretty phenomenal.

Arrow-Season-3-Oliver-Death-Ras-al-GhulSince then, and with speculation abound as to how Ollie might return (Lazarus Pit anyone?), I’ve had time to digest what actually happened. So let’s break it down and look at the events leading up to the deadly showdown. I won’t be discussing each scene in sequence, rather pulling things together so they are easier to discuss.

The opening with Oliver and Detective Lance summed up the pair’s evolving relationship for me. Interrupted during what was evidently a Christmas party at the precinct, Lance ducked out of the back door to find a villain neatly wrapped and ready to go – along with a ‘Merry Christmas’ from Ollie, in case he didn’t get it the first time. Throw in a quip about Oliver being the closest thing to a partner Lance’s got and I was grinning like a goof at the underlying respect for each another. They both get the job done in their own way. The scene may have been window dressing, set-up so Ra’s al Gul’s assassins could jump Oliver in the ally, but it was the brief interaction, more than the fight scene, which drew me in.

arrow-nyssa-and-maseoAt least until Nyssa dropped the bombshell (one we should have seen coming) and Oliver was given 48 hours to bring Sara’s killer before her father, or Starling City would pay in blood. As far as incentives go, slaughtering hundreds of people to weed out the culprit, is a lot more effective than a group detention!

The presence of Maseo Yamashiro was a shock (the assassin Sarab). I’ve pondered for a while about the purpose of Ollie’s flashbacks to Hong Kong, so was a least hopeful a resolution was coming – if only in part. As we’re on the subject, I’m going to tackle this episodes flashbacks out of sequence. They began with Ollie’s torment about his more persuasive interrogation tactics, revealing the existence of OMEGA (a virus cloaked in the guise of an antibiotic). The following scenes reveal the existence of a drug called Vertura, which tied together nicely with the revelations about Sara’s killer. But we were talking about OMEGA – as Oliver and Maseo uncovered China White’s plan to create the bio weapon, they became a real threat and predictably this led to a fight scene between China White and Tatsu Yamashiro. The flashbacks culminated in China taking Maseo’s wife (clearly it didn’t turn out so well if he is now serving the Demon’s Head.)

There are so many secrets woven through the storyline that it’s hard to keep up. Pretty early on in the episode there was a scene with Laurel and Thea at Sara’s gravestone, which seemed to indicate a new layer to the web of lies. Now I know what Thea’s secret is (the sister killing secret, not the kick ass and take no prisoners part), I’m excited about how this arc will develop.

dinahLaurel’s other scenes involved her mother, who came to town for a surprise visit. I was surprised by her controlled reaction to the news of Sara’s death. It all fell a little short for me, considering her earlier passion, but their final scene made up for it, and Dinah Lance telling her daughter to make the killer pay – to make them suffer.

I love scenes with Felicity Smoak, the producers really knew what they were doing by bringing her on board – in a lot of ways she’s the heart of the team. They made another great move when they introduced Ray Palmer (aka The Atom) to the series. He’s currently Felicity’s new boss, and their screen time often makes me smile (even if it’s a grimace). The writers are keeping us guessing about his superpower though, and I’m not particularly patient by nature. At the moment he’s playing it cool, though he does seem to be developing an obsession with Miss Smoak (bordering on stalker material). I really like his character, though I can’t stop thinking of Superman (I know he only made one film), and that scrambles my brains a little!

In the previous episode Ray and Felicity kissed, so they had to deal with the fact Ray had a major freak out and left. The best part, for me, was Felicity’s exit from the conversation, as she mumbled about having to go to work – which made me laugh even before Ray piped up ‘But you’re at work!’

Arrow-309-Rise-of-The-AtomRay later shows up at Verdant (see what I mean about those tendencies), and Felicity had no choice but to listen to his apology (not when she knew what they were sitting on!). It turns out his fiancée was killed during the reign of terror instigated by Slade Wilson and his army of Mirakuru imbued warriors. This culminates in Ray showing her his creation – a machine to protect the city, and A.T.O.M. is born. Felicity’s quip ‘Why does this keep happening to me!’ seems apt, especially as she is drawn to yet another hero, hell-bent on saving the world. I’m sure you can guess I’m really looking forward to Ray’s development as a character.

Some of my favourite scenes of this episode involved Team Arrow. They began with disappointing news about a degraded DNA sample from the arrows which killed Sara. Of course, since they have powerful friends, this was dealt with by reference to Caitlin at STAR Labs and the use of their convenient toys. When the DNA results came back it should have been a surprise to see Ollie’s face appear on the screen, but it wasn’t. The writers are really good at planting clues, so I’d already guessed at the direction they might take.

Arrow-s3e9-Team-ArrowOnce they fit the pieces together, all roads led to Thea. Of course Ollie refused to believe his sister was capable of murder. He decided to bring out the big guns and confront Thea in the suit, hoping to find some answers. Imagine his surprise when she kicked ass and hightailed it over the balcony. It was priceless! The perfect way to reveal her little secret.

Arrow-309-Merlyns-TrickStill, it took a showdown with Malcolm Merlyn to bring it all home. Incidentally, John Barrowman was superb in this scene. He owned it! The fact he used his own daughter as a puppet (with the help of Vertura) to serve his own agenda was not as powerful as the moment he told Ollie to challenge Ra’s al Ghul to a trial by combat.

Throw in a few snapshots of Ollie climbing a brutal, snow-peaked mountain throughout the episode, and it all comes down to this. Oliver must throw himself on his sword to save his sister. When he is presented before Ra’s, the Demon’s Head responds, ‘You’re just a boy!’ which showed a side to him we haven’t seen before and hinted at his age (and we’re back to the Lazarus Pit). Since Ollie proclaimed he was the killer, and made the challenge to trial, things went downhill from there. The best part was Ra’s admitting it had been sixty-seven years since he’d last been challenged. The words ‘I accept’ were spine tingling!

Arrow-s3e9-Oliver-Felicity-forehead-kissOllie was then given twelve hours to get his affairs in order. The scene with Thea was gut-wrenching, despite the fact she had no idea he was about to sacrifice himself to protect her. There were also a few tearful goodbyes among Team Arrow (I swear I saw a tear in Roy’s eye!). Okay, so I’m teasing with you a little. I’m sure fans of Oliver and Felicity (Olicity) were in their element when he uttered the words ‘I love you’ – it was actually an extremely moving scene and Stephen Amell handled it with aplomb.

So, that brings us to the battle, which took place on consecrated ground for the League. The tension was unbelievable; the stoic hero making the ultimate sacrifice. Ra’s al Ghul’s skills were terrifying. He fought with one (and sometimes two) hand behind his back and as far as sword fighting goes, he whipped Ollie’s ass. Still, I had faith in Ollie because, come on, he’s the Green Arrow (‘Wake up, Ollie. Wake up!’.) Even when Ra’s whispered ‘Don’t be afraid, my son. Death comes for us all.’ I still didn’t believe it.

ollieAnd, I don’t know about you, but I’m counting the days until Arrow returns!


NB: Images used within this review are the copyright of The CW Network. All rights reserved.

A Basic Primer on the DC Multiverse

Cover to The Multiversity #1 courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis.

Cover to The Multiversity #1 courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis.

Happy new book day, everyone! A lot of news came out of San Diego Comic-Con this year, and quite a bit of it is relevant to this column. As I’ve announced previously, Batman shall always form the core of these posts, but extending my critical gaze over the breadth of the DC Universe is useful from time to time, especially with how much I have leaned on DC’s multiverse in several of my posts without fully explaining it. Due to Grant Morrison’s presentation last week on his upcoming Multiversity series, that task is made significantly easier.

Image of the multiverse courtesy of DC Comics.

Image of the multiverse courtesy of DC Comics. Click for larger image.

Here, we see the official map of the New 52 DC Multiverse, courtesy of DC Comics and generated primarily through Morrison’s imaginings. This is a close-up of the 52 universes of the Orrery of Worlds itself, which is the network of universes under observation by the nearly omnipotent Monitors. Also note that the spaces between universes is labeled as the Bleed, as readers of Warren Ellis’s Planetary and Morrison’s Final Crisis are already aware. To begin, I wish to draw your attention to a few established worlds.

First off, the primary universe in which nearly all of DC’s stories are set has traditionally been considered Earth 0. Though several new standalone stories bear the Earth 1 label, it is unclear if they are actually set in the Earth 1 listed above. Earth 2, also the site of its own stories, was originally the home of DC’s misfit (and elderly) Golden Age characters, but now has a cast of superheroes as young as those present in its primary narrative universe. Earth 3, now destroyed in the New 52, was revealed recently to be the backwards universe playing home to the evil counterparts of the Justice League known as the Crime Syndicate. This last point factored heavily into the recent Forever Evil storyline by Geoff Johns and will likely remain an important event for some time.

There are also several worlds that have not been officially designated but are easy to pick out or have not been changed overmuch since the onset of the New 52. It has been rumored that the Charlton Comics characters DC purchased in the 70s (Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, the Question, etc.–the inspirations for the characters in Watchmen) will factor into The Multiversity, and that world has traditionally been labeled Earth 4. Additionally, based on its cubical appearance in the image above, I would hazard a guess that Earth 29 is Bizarro World. Other worlds and characters that will play a large role in The Multiversity include Earth 23 and its Obama-analogue Superman, as well as (a likely unchanged) Earth 26’s Captain Carrot—an anthropomorphic rabbit superhero.

A final note on the many Earths mentioned here: even higher on the cosmic numbering scale than Earth 0 is Earth Prime, the world of DC’s audience. That’s right; even the real world—a world that sees everything else here as simple myth—is a part of the celestial ordering.

Taking another step out to offer an even broader look at the multiverse, DC also provides us with this image of the godly realms that lie over the physical universes themselves.

More expansive view of the multiverse courtesy of DC Comics.

More expansive view of the multiverse courtesy of DC Comics. Click for larger image.

In this image, you will not only recognize such (fairly) universal concepts as Heaven and Hell, both fully established in the DCU, but also New Genesis (ruled by the benevolent Highfather) and Apokolips (enthralled by the god of all evil, Darkseid) of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World masterpiece. Careful viewers will also notice traces of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman present—note Destiny of the Endless at the very top of the image and the realm of Dream beneath him. And there are many, many more worlds that have not been officially named in the New 52 as of yet, though there have been several incarnations of the DC Multiverse already.

Further, there are many stories that have accepted numerical designations (or other titles) seemingly for the purpose of setting them apart from the main DC Universe. These include Milestone Comics (or the Dakotaverse), the older DC Animated Universe (Earth 12), the Vertigo Universe (Earth 13, now fused with Earth 0), the Wildstorm Universe (Earth 50, also now fused with Earth 0), and Earth 19 (the setting of Gotham By Gaslight). Additionally, many successful standalone stories have also been granted their own universes, among them Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier (Earth 21), Kingdom Come (Earth 22), Superman: Red Son (Earth 30), and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Earth 31).

This has been a basic introduction to several universes at play in the DC cosmic narrative. I’m very thankful for the new visual aids to help along such a presentation. What do you all think of this so far? Are any of you confused? Please feel free to leave questions or concerns in the comments below and I’ll do my best to clarify things. I plan on doing more with this concept in this column, so hang onto this post as a convenient reference. Don’t forget to follow my personal blog over at quaintjeremy’s thoughts and/or tweet me @quaintjeremy.

Another big week for comic picks:

Batman Eternal #17

Justice League #32

Sinestro #4

The Sandman: Overture #3

Avengers #33

New Avengers #21

Uncanny Avengers #22

Hawkeye #19

Fatale #24 (final issue!)

East of West #14