Weekly Comic-Book Roundup #1

As a writer, I am always looking towards other creative fields for inspiration. Growing up and well into adulthood now, one of my biggest sources of creative inspiration has been comic books. Whether it was all powerful heroes like Superman or everyday vigilantes like Batman, I’ve loved reading the stories of DC Comics, Marvel and more. The incredible world building, mythology and character development are part of the inspiration for me as a writer when I look to build my own fictional universes. For me and many others out there, comic books serve as the modern day version of Greek mythology, not to mention the other various mythologies of our world.

With that in mind, I want to try and start a new weekly series where I review the comics I read in that given week. Not all of these will be brand new releases. However I think comic books can stand the test of time, and I want to keep that storytelling power alive by sharing with you all what I read in the world of comics. So with that in mind, here is the first comic book roundup.

Thor, Volume 1: The Goddess of Thunder (Thor (2014) #1)

Written by Jason Aaron

Illustrated by: Jorge Molina, Russell Dauterman 

Synopsis

Who is the Goddess of Thunder?

The secrets of Original Sin have laid low one of Marvel’s greatest heroes. The God of Thunder is unworthy, and Mjolnir lies on the moon, unable to be lifted! But when Frost Giants invade Earth, a new hand will grasp the hammer–and a mysterious woman will take up the mantle of the mighty Thor! Her identity is secret to even Odin, but she may be Earth’s only hope against the Frost Giants. Get ready for a Thor like you’ve never seen before as this all-new heroine takes Midgard by storm! Plus: The Odinson clearly doesn’t like that someone else is holding his hammer–it’s Thor vs. Thor! And Odin, desperate to see Mjolnir returned, will call on some very dangerous, very unexpected allies. It’s a bold new chapter in the storied history of Thor! 

CollectingThor 1-5

Verdict

As a longtime fan of Thor, I have to say that I personally was loving this new twist on the mythology. Already playing off the classic Norse mythology of Asgard, Odin and Thor himself, this new story showcases the god of thunder in a whole new light, as his power is bestowed onto a new hero, the goddess of thunder herself Thor. Playing with the mystery of this woman’s true identity, it allowed the Thor we know to take a hard look at himself and decide whether he was a hero without the hammer or not. Meanwhile, the narrative played well with the modern day social problems many women face. Told they can’t do the same job as a man and aren’t as powerful, the new Thor shows that she is just as worthy of Mjolnir and the power of Thor as the original Odinson, and more so than any other man in the universe. A hero in her own right, the artwork captures her raw power and the almost fantasy-like quality of classic mythology we’ve seen for ages in art. This is a must read story of female empowerment, heroism and adversity against all odds. 

Rating: 10/10

Convergence (Convergence 0-8)

Written by: Jeff King

Illustrated by: Carlo Pagulayan 

Synopsis

This is it! The entire DC Universe from the dawn of time through the New 52 stars in CONVERGENCE, an unprecedented event that brings together your favorite characters from every era and series—and none of them will ever be the same.

The evil alien intelligence known as Brainiac has stolen 50 doomed cities from throughout time and space and brought them to a place beyond the Multiverse—a sentient planet of his own design, a world with the power of a god. As heroes and villains from dozens of worlds battle each other for their very existence, it’s up to a ragtag band of warriors from a slain Earth to put an end to this threat that bends the Multiverse to its will. Reality itself hangs in the balance…

Existence comes to end and a beginning with writers JEFF KING (USA’s White Collar), SCOTT LOBDELL (SUPERMAN: DOOMED) and DAN JURGENS (BATMAN BEYOND), and artists CARLO PAGULAYAN (Incredible Hulk), STEPHEN SEGOVIA (GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS), ANDY KUBERT (DAMIAN: SON OF BATMAN) and ETHAN VAN SCIVER (GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH). Collects CONVERGENCE #0-8.

Verdict

A fantastic delve into the concept of the multiverse, DC Comics unleashed a whirlwind story of sentient planets, monstrous AI villains who sought to control, and a madman who’s quest for power nearly leads to the destruction of the multiverse. Meant to end the New 52 branding (not necessarily the stories themselves), this crossover event featured the heroes of Earth 2 as they sought allies across the other captured realities of Brainiac in hopes of returning home. The blend of stories and universes was well thought out and gave fans an opportunity to follow a group of heroes not always featured prominently such as Jay Garrick’s The Flash or the Flashpoint Batman. Now one critique I would have is if fans are unfamiliar with the New 52’S Earth 2 heroes or storyline, or the multiverse as a whole, it might be a bit confusing to follow the overall plot. Not as much time was spent exploring the character’s backstories (especially due to the sheer volume of various incarnations of characters), but overall the story still shined and laid the groundwork for the coming of the Rebirth storyline in the years to come.

Rating: 8/10

Batman, Vol. 1: I Am Gotham

(Batman (2016) #1)

Written by Tom King and Illustrated by David Finch

The Synopsis

Part of the most critically acclaimed, best-selling, all-new line of volume one graphic novels, DC Universe Rebirth!

He is Gotham City’s hero, its Dark Knight, its greatest protector. He is Batman. And he is not alone.

There are two new heroes in town-a pair of masked metahumans with the powers of Superman and a devotion to preserving all that is good about this twisted city. Calling themselves Gotham and Gotham Girl, they’ve saved Batman’s life, fought by his side and learned from his example.

But what happens if Gotham’s new guardians go bad? What if they blame the Dark Knight for the darkness that threatens to drown their city?

When sinister forces are unleashed that can warp the minds of men and make heroes into monsters, the time will come for Batman and his allies to decide once and for all: Is Gotham a force for good…or an engine of evil?

From the blockbuster DC Universe Rebirth event comes BATMAN VOL. 1: I AM GOTHAM-the beginning of an all-new saga in the life of the Dark Knight from superstars Tom King (GRAYSON) and David Finch (WONDER WOMAN), featuring an all-star cast of creators such as Scott Snyder (BATMAN: THE COURT OF OWLS), Ivan Reis (JUSTICE LEAGUE) and Mikel Janín (JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK)! This great starting-point graphic novel collects BATMAN: REBIRTH #1 and BATMAN #1-6. 

The Verdict

Writer Tom King and illustrator/artist David Finch expertly bring the gritty world of Gotham to life in this first volume of Batman’s Rebirth story. Exploring the influence and inspiration that the legend of the Batman has on the citizens of Gotham, (whether it’s a young boy and girl inspired to become heroes or low-level criminals spurned into becoming deadly villains), this volume does a marvelous job of showcasing Batman’s hope for a Gotham that is always protected, even if he were no longer there. It also does a great job of showing how the most noble and heroic person is susceptible to negative influences, and could easily fall to the dark side, so to speak. It’s a haunting and poetic story of good versus evil, and the dangers that come from stepping into the role of a city’s hero. 

Rating: 10/10

Advertisements

Interview with Travis Smith

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I got into writing about superheroes and philosophy after reading an article by Adam Barkman published in Comment magazine. I could give that a try, I thought. Why not? Barkman looked at superheroes from a “mythological” point of view; I would prefer to look at them from a somewhat more human perspective. When I discovered an article by Jonathan V. Last in The Weekly Standard that I disagreed with I took it as an opportunity to respond. Last argued for the timeliness of the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman films; I argued that Spider-Man was a better hero for our times, in commemoration of what was then the fiftieth anniversary of Spider-Man’s first appearance. Little did I know that this one article would lead to an entire book on the subject.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

University professors are asked to find ways to engage in the public dissemination of knowledge. Most of our research is written for an academic audience. How does someone like myself take what I study and teach in the history of political philosophy and make it relevant for a wider audience? Well, if Plato can discuss the popular heroes of his time, whose adventures are depicted in the epic poems of Homer, then why can’t I look into superheroes, whose stories have become popularized lately in so many feature films? I look at them to find out what they might teach us about ourselves and our ideals—who we imagine ourselves to be at our best, or who we would become if only we could be better than we are?

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I’d point to the value of thinking critically about the things we happen to enjoy, and the possibility of thinking critically about ourselves in the process. This is something we can do even with respect to our amusements—the music we like, the TV shows we binge on, the athletes we admire, the vloggers we subscribe to. Focusing on questions of ethics when doing so leads us to wonder: How does thinking about the character of this or that person, whether real or fictional, help me to better understand the worldview and motivations of people similar to them—whether that’s someone I’ve encountered in my private life, or public figures like politicians, leading professionals, or outspoken celebrities? What answers to life’s problems do they represent, and should we heed them? What does whether I like or dislike some particular person or character tell me about myself?

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

In the classroom, I draw on a lot of examples from popular culture in order to make old ideas and arguments seem relevant and familiar to my students. With respect to superhero stories in particular, I’ve read plenty of comic books over the years and re-watched the movies based on them more than enough. I put that hobby to use in Superhero Ethics.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I would like to know why Tony Stark doesn’t share his most advanced technologies with everyone—whether they want him to or not. Why not save people from ever needing saving again through upgrades and alterations to the human condition? Not that I would want him to—but I don’t really understand why he doesn’t. That said, I’d be concerned that by pushing him on it I might inadvertently convince him to give it a try, or else stop playing the hero entirely. Either way, better to keep my mouth shut, really. The most interesting line of dialogue to me in Avengers: Infinity War occurs when Thanos tells Iron Man, “You are not the only one cursed with knowledge.” In Superhero Ethics I argue that Tony Stark willfully refrains from drawing the furthermost consequences of his views regarding human nature and our place in the cosmos—including, ultimately, that he himself is insignificant. He struggles with a nagging suspicion that his pride—which is substantial—is vanity, and all of his efforts and sacrifices are offered in vain.

I’d also like to hear Wolverine explain his fascination with Japan. I think it’s because culturally, feudal Japan is practically the exact opposite of present-day Canada. We can be glad that imperial Japan at its worst was ended non-fictionally and still romanticize traditional Japanese society in fiction as representing honor-based society at its best. Still, I’d like to hear Logan’s perspective on it over a few bottles of beer, hoping he’ll call me “bub” at least once—and that I’ll be able to sneak out the back door of the dive bar before the inevitable brawl gets underway.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Personally, I avoid using social media. I worry that it’s an engine of incivility.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Read. A lot. Read a lot of good books. Even books you imagine you’ll dislike by authors you expect to disagree with. For starters, read about Achilles sulking in his tent in the Iliad if you haven’t already. Also, learn to take criticism well, and be your own harshest critic. Reread everything you write, out loud, and ask yourself if it actually says what you want it to say in the best possible way. Always be revising but recognize that your words will never be perfect. Nothing that you decide today is good enough for now will seem good enough later in retrospect—and that’s okay.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

Some people have asked me whether I’ll write about Superheroine Ethics next. Or perhaps Supervillain Ethics. What about something fandom-adjacent, like Pro Wrestling Ethics? Within this genre, I haven’t decided yet. As a professor of political theory, I intend to publish more on the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, including pieces informed by my analyses of superhero stories, on subjects such as bravery, magic, and the imagination. I’m convinced that Thomas Hobbes himself thinks he’s like a superhero or something.

Bonus/Fun Questions:

Who was your favorite superhero growing up?

On Saturday morning cartoons, I liked Green Lantern best, mainly because of Sinestro. As a teen, I connected most with Rogue. For over a dozen years now though, Ms./Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) has been my favorite. I await her feature film debut in 2019 with great anticipation.

Do you prefer Marvel or DC? Or do you find them to be on equal footing overall?

When I wrote Superhero Ethics, I didn’t just focus on my favorite characters. I wanted the book to be accessible to casual fans and a general readership. I didn’t want it to be accessible only to those of us who have read a hundred thousand comic books. My book might give the impression that I prefer Marvel, but my analyses weren’t decided by my subjective preferences. I tried to give more generous readings to characters who interest me less and be tougher on characters I like most. Speaking personally, I am a fan of both universe’s characters. I started reading comic books as a pre-teen at the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and DC successfully persuaded me to disregard the pre-Crisis multiverse as no longer relevant and too confusing and supposedly unsophisticated. As I have gotten older, however, I have discovered how fantastic Silver Age Superman, Flash, Legion, and Earth-Two stories are. I have also enjoyed exploring DC’s western and war genre comics, too, such as Jonah Hex and Haunted Tank.

Which non-Marvel or -DC hero do you think would fit into the ethical discussion of superheroes? 

Sailor Moon and The Tick were favorites of mine when I was young. Captain Planet probably deserves some critical analysis, too, but I don’t think I could sit through enough episodes to assess the character fully.

If you were to create your own hero based on the ethical discussions raised in your book, what would that hero’s name be, what powers would they have (if any), and what villain/threat would they face to mirror the challenges of our world?

I already have a hero in my wife. [Awwww!] Putting up with me and my hobbies has got to be challenge enough. And who knows what kind of villainy I’d be up to if she wasn’t always asking me, “What are you doing?!?” I try to keep in mind how Aristotle would have told Ajax to listen to Tecmessa.

Thank you, Anthony, for the opportunity to discuss Superhero Ethics with you. I’m glad that you enjoyed the book!

About the Author:
Smith_Travis
Travis Smith is the author of Superhero Ethics (Templeton Press). He received his PhD from Harvard University and is associate professor of political science at Concordia University. He has been collecting comic books since he bought Uncanny X-Men #207 with his allowance in 1986. His writing has appeared in the Weekly Standard and Convivium Magazine. For more information, please visit https://www.templetonpress.org/books/superhero-ethics

Get 50% Off Loads of New Reads at the First-Ever Barnes & Noble Book Haul Blowout!

Superhero Ethics: 10 Comic Book Heroes; 10 Ways to Save The World; Which One Do We Need Most Now? By Travis Smith | REVIEW

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Superheroes are one of the biggest money grabbers of the twenty-first century. Fans around the world love flocking to the world’s of Marvel, DC and other comic book publishers who make the most popular comic books, films, television programs and more. Yet there has been one question that has always been on fans minds since the comic book industry began: who is the best of all the heroes? While this has always been a matter of popularity, but author Travis Smith has done something truly spectacular by focusing not on their popularity, but the ethics of each character and comparing it to our society today and what we truly need in a hero. That’s what makes Superhero Ethics: 10 Comic Book Heroes; 10 Ways to Save The World; Which One Do We Need Most Now? such an incredible read. Here’s the synopsis:

Whether in comic books or on movie screens, superhero stories are where many people first encounter questions about how they should conduct their lives.

Although these outlandish figures—in their capes, masks, and tights, with their unbelievable origins and preternatural powers—are often dismissed as juvenile amusements, they really are profound metaphors for different approaches to shaping one’s character and facing the challenges of life.

But, given the choice, which superhero should we follow today? Who is most worthy of our admiration? Whose goals are most noble? Whose ethics should we strive to emulate?

To decide, Travis Smith takes ten top superheroes and pits them one against another, chapter by chapter. The hero who better exemplifies how we ought to live advances to the final round. By the end of the book, a single superhero emerges victorious and is crowned most exemplary for our times.

How, then, shall we live?

How can we overcome our beastly nature and preserve our humanity? (The Hulk vs. Wolverine)

How far can we rely on our willpower and imagination to improve the human condition? (Iron Man vs. Green Lantern)

What limits must we observe when protecting our neighborhood from crime and corruption? (Batman vs. Spider-Man)

Will the pursuit of an active life or a contemplative life bring us true fulfillment? (Captain America vs. Mr. Fantastic)

Should we put our faith in proven tradition or in modern progress to achieve a harmonious society? (Thor vs. Superman)

Using superheroes to bring into focus these timeless themes of the human condition, Smith takes us on an adventure as fantastic as any you’ll find on a splash page or the silver screen—an intellectual adventure filled with surprising insights, unexpected twists and turns, and a daring climax you’ll be thinking about long after it’s over. 

This is truly one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. The deep analysis of each of these well known heroes and the complexities of each character’s heroic actions and their motivations is something that’s always fascinated me. Yet never before has someone so articulately brought these issues to the forefront of the comic book industry and given audiences a deeper connection to these heroes as Travis Smith has done.

The book allows audiences to really analyze the motivations these characters have for taking on the mantle of hero, and whether or not their actions are completely selfless or not. It also compares these heroes and their ethics to our current political climate and gives historical context to these hero’s actions as well. It’s a really interesting and wonderfully different perspective that allows a wider audience as well as die hard comic book fans an opportunity to really understand the heroes they love in a whole new way.

Overall I loved this book. It was entertaining yet educational all at once, delving into political, intellectual, philosophical and of course ethical questions no one usually bothers to ask about the superhero community. Yet the author does a superb job of bringing these issues to light and giving us a chance to look deep within ourselves and determine which hero represents our best, brightest and most ethical hero in the twenty-first century. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copy of Superhero Ethics by Travis Smith today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author:

Smith_Travis

Travis Smith is the author of Superhero Ethics (Templeton Press). He received his PhD from Harvard University and is associate professor of political science at Concordia University. He has been collecting comic books since he bought Uncanny X-Men #207 with his allowance in 1986. His writing has appeared in the Weekly Standard and Convivium Magazine. For more information, please visit https://www.templetonpress.org/books/superhero-ethics

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War Review (SPOILER FREE)

It’s all lead to this. Ten years in the making, Earth’s mightiest heroes have finally gathered together to face the MCU’s greatest villain, Thanos. The ultimate architect of the threats faced by the Avengers, the Mad Titan goes on a bloody warpath of destruction across the MCU in the recently released film, Avengers: Infinity War. Here’s the synopsis:

Avengers-Infinity-War-Captain-America-Leads-the-Charge-noscale.jpg

Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and the rest of the Avengers unite to battle their most powerful enemy yet — the evil Thanos. On a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones, Thanos plans to use the artifacts to inflict his twisted will on reality. The fate of the planet and existence itself has never been more uncertain as everything the Avengers have fought for has led up to this moment.

To say this film both amazed and stunned me would be a gross understatement. My first reaction of course was this:

6198f4d82ea5718dad9eb6ae735557ea.jpg

After my initial shock wore off, I realized I had just seen the best MCU film to date. While films like Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Captain America Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming all have blown me away with incredible storytelling over the years, this film did something truly unique, and that’s bring a huge, cosmic and company wide comic book event to the big screen. We’ve seen individual stories emerge beautifully over the years in the superhero film realm, but Infinity War took a massive story like Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity and combined both big events into the stuff comic books are made of.

null

I have to tread carefully, as I promised not to spoil anything for you guys. I highly recommend you see this film, and if you guys want me to make a separate post talking about the film’s shocking moments and what my theories for the future of the MCU are, then leave a comment down below letting me know. However for the context of this review, I can say that the film was beautifully made. The visual effects of course were brilliant, and getting to see so many heroes and characters interact for the first time was amazing to see. The best scenes featured interactions between the likes of Dr. Strange and Iron Man, Thor and Rocket Raccon, and Scarlett Witch and Vision. These characters stole the show as far as I’m concerned, as did Gamora, who had the biggest connection to Thanos throughout this entire film.

hero_Infinity-War-2018

The performances given by these actors was incredible. Not only did we get the amazing humor we’ve come to expect from these films, but the MCU finally delved into darker storytelling and showed a very visceral, real comic book war unfold. The emotions were running high throughout the entire film, from the movie’s opening scene to the closing credits. Joe and Anthony Russo did a brilliant job directing and bringing this story together, proving they have a profound command on the MCU and it’s overall direction. The film did a great job of connecting to big Marvel Comics moments, left plenty of Easter eggs and theories running to keep fans guessing until the next film, and provided one of the biggest shocks in superhero film history. With only Ant Man & The Wasp and Captain Marvel set to premiere before the big Avengers 4 film, fans will be eagerly anticipating the untitled Avengers movie in hopes of seeing how the first book of the MCU franchise ends.

920x920

I loved this movie. I look back at my time watching this movie, and I can’t find one flaw in it. The villain was fully flushed out, and Josh Brolin did an amazing job of providing an incredible performance as the MCU’s greatest villain to date. The acting and directing was superb, and the overall story was able to do something very few superhero films can do, and that’s shock the audience. If you guys haven’t yet, be sure to see Avengers: Infinity War today!

4A40C53D00000578-0-image-a-2_1521206605813IW-2

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

Want to know what you’re missing out on my @snaps.chatsss ? I pretty much became Thor yesterday. To see this and more, check out my snapchat, BigAntone34. #snapchat #snapchatme #snapchatupdate #thor