Saturday, December 15, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the best movies I have ever seen. It's like it was made just for me. I'm finding it difficult to name something I didn't completely enjoy from this film. I'm serious, it blows every other Spider-Man film out of the water.

The film stars Miles Morales, pretty much as you know him, who gets bitten by a radioactive spider (or at least, it might be radioactive) and stumbles onto a multiverse portal project created by the Kingpin. What he also sees is Spider-Man get killed while trying to shut it down. Out of nowhere he meets what seems to be Spider-Man back from the dead, but is in fact a Peter Parker from one of these parallel universes, who just so happens to have a much worse time of it than the Spider-Man Miles is familiar with. From there we meet Spider-Woman (Spider-Gwen), Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham, and Peni Parker with her robot SP//dr. They go out to shut down Kingpin's experiment while Miles learns how to be the Spider-Man he has to be.

Visually, it's a feast for the eyes. It borrows comic book aesthetics and certain tropes, like narration boxes for internal monologues and onomatopoeia hanging in midair. It's one of the most inventive and interesting looking animated films I've seen in the last decade. It doesn't just try to copy panel structures without bothering to figure out what makes them work, (like some other directors coughSnydercough) it takes just enough to feel like reading your favorite comic but transforms it into something entirely new. The various Spider-People all look unique and fit their respective universes without being out of place with their fellows. Spider-Ham is Warner Bros. cartoony, Noir is eternally in black and white, but when they stand together it just works. The finale is an amazing spectacle, as they tend to do in these superhero films, but not once did I have trouble distinguishing the action or get bored from just too much stuff.

The writing is phenomenal. None of the Spider-Men is a one-for-one recreation of a Spider-Man you may know and love (save for maybe Spider-Gwen) but it doesn't matter. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller just get it. Sometimes it seemed like other filmmakers didn't get Spider-Man the same way I do, but these guys? They do. I can't stress this enough, when they look at Spider-Man they understand everything I think of and what makes the character so important to me. The main Peter Parker of the film, played by Jake Johnson, is washed up, depressed, divorced, fat, not financially solvent, and yet he's still a perfect Spider-Man. All the retcons in the world can't net you the true feeling of an authentic human Spider-Man. It's the polar opposite of Dan Slott's CEO Spider-Man, and gets right everything that portrayal got wrong. He doesn't have to be a super-smart successful owner of a Fortune 500 company, he just needs one trait. When Spider-Man is knocked down, he always gets back up.

Our main character, however, is Miles Morales, and I am so glad they went with him. For one, it's his first appearance in a film, so we don't have to see yet another Peter Parker origin story. He's a perfect newcomer, a breath of fresh air, so when other Peter Parkers show up, it's someone who knows about Spider-Man the same way the audience does. Finally we get an origin movie that is more than just an origin story. They don't just set Miles up so he can possibly do more interesting things later, this story is interesting and thrilling and new and also just so happens to contain an origin story as well. It doesn't contain some nobody uninteresting villain just because you have to have one of those in a superhero movie. It's everything I found wanting in every Marvel movie made so far. I can't believe the same company that made the goddamn Emoji Movie made this.

The film is peppered with little easter eggs and references to Spider-Man lore, so much that I'd have to watch the movie a few more times to get even half of them. (Don't worry, I absolutely will.) And what's so refreshing is that you don't need to know all of these trivial facts to enjoy the film, and they aren't the sole reason it was made. (Solo anyone?) It's genuine care and, dare I say it, love for the character, for his legacy and for all the cool ideas associated with him.

I was afraid, going in, that this would copy Dan Slott's Spider-Verse series in the comics, with some weird group of Spider-Man eating vampires and then they all just kinda show up to fight them and it doesn't make a lot of sense. Thankfully, they just took the base idea and the title. It's more akin to the finale of the Spider-Man Animated Series from the 90's where he meets a bunch of alternate selves. Just without Madame Web, THANK GOD. Comic-wise, it's a lot like Bendis' Spider-Men series, where Miles meets a more experienced adult Spider-Man and you get some real growth between the two. Truth be told it doesn't directly adapt any comic, which I'm thankful for, since a lot of times all you can do it draw comparisons between the two, which waters down the adapted work.

If I had to nitpick SOMETHING (and let's face it, I do.) it's really just one thing. Spider-Man Noir and Peni Parker don't get a lot of development in the movie, with Noir there mostly for jokes about Film Noir and whatnot. I get why they did that, giving each of these characters a full arc would've ruined the pacing, especially since we get so much character from our other Spider-People. In a way, it's actually a positive. It left me wanting more, I would love to see the Spider-Crew travel to the Noir of SP//dr Universes in a sequel.

Obviously I'm incredibly biased, seeing as half the point of this website is to talk about Spider-Man even when (ESPECIALLY when) nobody is even reading, but this movie is a 10/10. 100%. A slam dunk. Criterion collection. A masterpiece. I wish I could marry this movie. If I only had one piece of media to watch for the rest of my life, it would be this film. If you like Spider-Man AT ALL, I highly suggest you watch this movie. Even if you don't like Spider-Man. If life is a hopeless barren waste where all you can see is disappointment and regret, I recommend this film. And I hope to god they make a sequel, and put Lord and Miller in charge again. I would follow those men to the ends of the Earth.

Wait it didn't have the Spider-Signal in it, certified rotten, F grade, it's trash.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Spider-Man Redemption Parts 3 and 4

Oh hey, did somebody want more irrelevant Spider-Man comics from the 90's nobody cares about?

No? Oh.

Well. Here it is anyway.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Redemption Parts 3 & 4

As we ended last issue, Ben Reilly's girlfriend Janine was being carted away by the police for the murder of her father, whom she killed in self defense. Maybe by now things have gotten better?

Looks like somebody's got a case of the mondays! Janine is being held in jail, awaiting trial. As she's being transported in a prison van, a mysterious man breaks into the van and frees her, under pretense of taking vigilante justice.

YES! There's the window breakage I need! Doors are for losers!

Anyway turns out it was Ben Reilly in disguise, come to bust her out of the joint so they can go on the run together. Kaine watches from afar, until he falls off a roof.

He's still mad that Ben could ever be happy while Kaine is still a mutated garbage pile of a man. I can relate. His needlessly convoluted plan, however, remains in motion.

We meet back with Ben and Janine, planning for their flight from justice. But Ben won't go on until Janine explains why she left all those years ago. Turns out, it was under threat from Kaine, who, as he does, broke into their house at night and kidnapped Janine. Then he takes her on top of the Golden Gate Bridge, because I guess they were in San Francisco. Oh hey, maybe they'll see Venom! So tell me, why did Kaine take her on this particular field trip?

C'mon Kaine! You don't gotta take nobody on top of a bridge for that! Just quietly resent and wish misfortune upon them until you collapse into a pile of your own spite and cynicism. Like the rest of us!

...But I'll keep the bridge in mind...

So yeah, Kaine makes Janine write a fake suicide note and somehow whips up a fake body for the authorities to fish out. Ben's understanding enough now that they've been reunited, but it doesn't last long!

Doors, Kaine! They're on every building! You just turn a knob! At least with a window you can see where you're going! No wonder you're not accepted by society. Well that and the fact that you put a bomb in the diner.

Wait, come again?

The last issue opens with Kaine saving the other patrons of the diner. See? He's not all bad, though I guess this is the part where he lets Ben and/or Janine perish in the flames. That's what this was all leading up to? He really could've killed either of them at any other point. Blowing up a diner doesn't really connect with the rest of what he's done thusfar, but whatever, at least it led up to something.


So it looks like Kaine's thrown his whole giant, three issues worth of plan out the window. Man, that must be quite a disappointment. How's he taking it?

These millennials and their suicide jokes, right?

Ben refuses, of course, and urges Kaine to turn himself into the authorities. Instead, they fall back on old habits and start beating the crap out of each other. The police arrive, I'm assuming called because of the diner explosion, and try to break them up. Kaine grabs an officer and flees to a billboard, where cops are ready to shoot to kill. At the last minute Ben shoves Kaine out of the line of fire. Well, now that they both have a chance to calm down, I'm sure Kaine will see where he went wrong.

We've all been there, buddy.

But it turns out Ben's words have had an effect, as Kaine surrenders to the police. Unfortunately for Ben, Janine's come to the same decision, wanting to finally put her past behind her. You know, that's a nice little bow on top of this and all, but really we could've gotten here much earlier if Ben hadn't broken her free. As long as he's not planning anything this time.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Concept Corner: 01011001

There is a fine line between genius and insanity. Breaching the limits of our current paradigm can often be seen as lunacy before its time. On the other side, something lauded as revolutionary could be the product of madness. Unless we know the mind of the person creating it, this will always be a mystery to us. In fiction it becomes more nebulous. What happens if an author starts to believe the stories he is telling? What if he's believed them all along? Could we even tell?

That brings us to Ayreon.

Concept Corner: Ayreon - 01011001

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Venom: Funeral Pyre

Coming as a complete surprise to me, Venom's the talk of the town! After the recent film, which I didn't think was super great, and a few new series Marvel is putting out, one of which put the symbiote back on Brock, people actually know who he is again. Who would've guessed anyone would still care about a giant buff goo-man with sharp fangs and a slobbery tongue? Well, anyone aside from me. I always cared. Even when he was stupid. Especially when he's stupid. Like this.

Comic Review: Venom: Funeral Pyre

Funeral Pyre is yet another of the Venom limited series that took place after Lethal Protector. These were a bit of a mixed bag. Obviously I love Lethal Protector, but you get stuff like The Madness as well, which... you know. Funeral Pyre falls along the latter side of the spectrum, though it still holds a special place in my heart.

We begin on the rough and tumble streets of Oakland, near Venom's current stomping grounds, as a gang called the... Jadoo are terrorizing people for no reason at all. One of their prospective members seems less than thrilled with the situation.

After they go chasing some old guy and his nephew with no aim in sight, the new guy saves the kid and sends him for help. Who else does the kid go to but somebody no one should ever ask for guidance.

Turns out the new member is actually a journalist, investigating old HYDRA labs in California, one of which happens to be the base of Jadoo. Gray, the journalist, decided to join in order to check out the old lab, but now he needs to kill someone to be initiated, or be killed himself. You know, boilerplate gang stuff. Rescuing him is easily within Venom's purview, as long as someone even more unhinged doesn't show up and ruin everything.


So instead of everyone fleeing to their homes and calling their mothers, the Punisher's arrival somehow sparks a gang war. In the first of many distractions, Venom briefly fights the Punisher before he remembers he has shit to do. Back with JADOO, Gray explores the hideout and finds the old lab, still operational after all this time.

No time for that though, because there's a gang war on! Back with Venom, he's had no luck finding Gray, but he does find Punisher, who quickly hits him with a sonic beam and traps him in a jail cell. In the next issue, using a tendril of the symbiote, he breaks free and starts punching Punisher's van.

Gray, however, is having a poor go of it.

Having committed murder, Gray falls into despair. But now Venom's free, and with the skills he garnered as an investigative journalist, I'm sure he'll be right on Gray's trail in no time!

So his strategy is to talk to everyone still alive in town and just ask them who has a birthmark. Or just grab people at random and see if they have a birthmark or not.

Given that this is not the best canvassing method, Venom takes longer than the Punisher to find the Jadoo HQ. The Punisher slaughters his way through, forcing Gray into the HYDRA lab, specifically the testing chamber.

He pops out glowing red and real mad. Last at the finish line, Venom finally arrives at the lab, but not to a warm welcome.

As the final issue begins, Pyre, as he's now referring to himself, zaps Venom and Punisher with microwave blasts, which cook Venom like a frozen mac and cheese. They fight for a bit, with Pyre being a little bit unreasonable assigning blame. I mean, he did join a gang with no plan. It's not Venom's fault he's an idiot. The Punisher tries to nullify Pyre's power with "anti-waves" but it doesn't work.

After Venom pins him down with some equipment from the ceiling, Pyre decides to just burn the whole place down. Long story short, Venom and Punisher escape and Gray, after having committed murder and mutated into a superpowered red guy with 80's hair, probably dies. What's Venom's takeaway from all of this?

I think I'd call it more an endless stream of incompetence from everyone involved, but you do you. What's important is: dozens of people have died and nobody is ever going to be held accountable. And Pyre will never be seen again. Great job, Venom!