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Monday, September 15, 2014

Behold! 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron' Official Synopsis

Next year's biggest film now has an official synopsis. No big surprises here, other than a confirmation of J.A.R.V.I.S. becoming Vision, but we're one step closer to what will surely be the biggest film of 2015.

Marvel Studios presents Avengers: Age of Ultron, the epic follow-up to the biggest Super Hero movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure. 
Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron stars Robert Downey Jr., who returns as Iron Man, along with Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Together with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and with the additional support of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, the team must reassemble to defeat James Spader as Ultron, a terrifying technological villain hell-bent on human extinction. Along the way, they confront two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and meet an old friend in a new form when Paul Bettany becomes Vision.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon and produced by Kevin Feige, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series The Avengers, first published in 1963. Get set for an action-packed thrill ride when The Avengers return in Marvel’s Avengers:Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015.
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Matt Damon Returning To 'Bourne' Franchise

According to Variety, the possibility that both Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass denied is apparently coming to fruition, as both the actor and director have entered into negotiations for a fifth film centering on the titular Jason Bourne.

What's unknown at this time is if this new potential film will replace or release alongside the already planned Bourne feature set to star Jeremy Renner, returning to the role of Aaron Cross, and directed by Justin Lin. That sequel was slated for July 16, 2016.

Renner's film,The Bourne Legacy, did not meet Universal's expectations, drawing only 250 million worldwide compared to the 442 million its preceding film, The Bourne Ultimatum, notched. So in all, a not so surprising move, and another unfortunate step-back for Renner's career as headlining tent-pole star.

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Scott Glenn Is Stick In Marvel's 'Daredevil'

Veteran actor Scott Glenn who recently appeared in the HBO Series The Leftovers, and films like W, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Bourne Ultimatum has been cast in the upcoming Netflix series Daredevil as Matt Murdock's mentor in his fight against crime: Stick.

Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb told Marvel.com:
Stick is one of the most important figures in Matt Murdock's life and Scott Glenn embodies all the qualities of someone so integral to this hero's journey...There are few actors who could bring such the authenticity, gravitas and charisma to such a key role in Matt's journey to become the super hero we call Daredevil.
Once again, Marvel continues a pretty impressive casting streak and Daredevil, on paper, could be one of their strongest successes. Glenn joins Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elden Henson, and Rosario Dawson in a cast that's physically is pretty pitch perfect to their comic counterparts (with Dawnson as the exception being that we don't know who she's playing).

Daredevil hits Netflix this coming May.

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Avatar Press Announces Alan Moore On 'Crossed +100'


Anytime Alan Moore has a new comics project in the pipeline, its reason to pay attention. Considered by many to be one of, if not the greatest comic scribe of all time, Moore has produced a number of masterpieces (or something approaching it) each decade since the 1980's (Miracleman, The Saga of the Swamp Thing, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, his run on Supreme, Top Ten, Promethea, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

Since 2009, he's slowed down significantly, producing only the latest (wonderful) installment of the aforementioned League and the much more divisive Neonomicon. Moore has also been working on his second prose novel, Jerusalem, in which he claims he's been able to "solve death" and apparently somewhere around one million words long or just a little under.

Today, Avatar has announced a new Alan Moore story-line in the Garth Ennis created series Crossed, which focuses on a world plagued by an epidemic that causes those infected to carry out their most evil thoughts (and are dubbed "The Crossed" based on the cross-like rash that appears on their faces). The twist here being that Moore's storyline will take place 100 years in the future of the Crossed universe and the initial outbreak.

Moore on the appeal of the series to him personally:
What kind of human future would there be at all? Would humans all be gone? Once I started thinking about this, and I checked all this with Garth, and he thought that it was logical, it seems pretty sound. So, that’s been part of the thrill of it. I think people think of Crossed as a horror story, and I can see why. It is extremely horrible. But actually I’ve always had my problems with genre, and I am coming to the conclusion that genre has really only ever been a convenience. 
Now, looking at Crossed, I was actually thinking that this, for my purposes, is a horror story, but it’s also a science fiction story. I was thinking that Crossed is actually a science fiction story that has got a really, really high horror quotient. So that was the way that I started approaching it. I was treated Crossed as a “What if?” story, which is the premise of most science fiction.
Series creator Garth Ennis added:
So it turns out Jimi Hendrix wants to play in my band. He wants to sing my songs. I don’t usually worry about vindication, but Alan is probably the one person whose opinion would be enough to change my mind about what I do.
He’s the most talented individual the medium’s ever seen or ever will; that he’s writing Crossed means everything to me.
The fine folks at Bleeding Cool have summarized the series thusly:
Crossed: +100 features characters in a specific enclave of survivors, many of whom have never actually seen an infected Crossed individual and are seeking to build a future for themselves upon the ruins of the past. The natural world has returned to human cities in force, and humans are resorting to reclaiming basic technological advancements. Central to the narrative is Future Taylor, a female archivist intrigued by science fiction of the 20th and 21st centuries, and her struggling team of reclamation workers. When they encounter a small group of Crossed, they are troubled by the implications of proliferation from the violent and infected beings, and set out to uncover the mystery of why Crossed seem to be increasing and behaving unusually in the region. Is there really any hope for rebuilding human culture, or will the Crossed epidemic finally stamp out human evolution through the last of the straggling survivors?
We'll be excited to check out the latest Alan Moore comic offering in December. 
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Comic Spotlight Review: Aliens: Fire and Stone #1


On the most recent episode of the podcast, we talked a bit about Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1, and how it could be the beginning of a rebirth in the franchise for Dark Horse. In just a week and a half, we'll get the second installment, Aliens: Fire and Stone #1, written by Chris Roberson and drawn by Patric Reynolds. Being big fans of the movie franchise and enjoying Prometheus last week, we were thrilled to get the chance to check out this issue a bit early! I'll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible.

The story begins on LV-426, after the events of Prometheus (the movie), but before Ripley returns in Aliens. We see the Hadley's Hope community devastated by the alien outbreak, with the last group of survivors frantically running with the creatures just on their heels. Their plan is to use a mining vessel, only meant for transporting materials from surface to orbit, to get off planet and send a distress signal.


Naturally, things go wrong. The brood of aliens is fast and brutal, and while the comic is not overly gory, it doesn't shy away from showing how hopeless any kind of confrontation with the creatures is. The story is very intense, with breathless pacing that makes it read very quickly as you anxiously turn the pages. Whereas the Prometheus comic is more exploratory and science-based, Aliens is much more horrific and action-packed, much like the contrast between the two films. Interesting, too, is the idea that this book may take place mostly in the alien jungles of LV-223, which immediately brings to mind environments more out of the Predator movies than the cold spaceships of the Alien franchise.

Roberson has started planting seeds of interesting characters here in terraforming engineer Derrick Russell, greenhouse supervisor/teacher Genevieve Dione, and surveyor/prospector Nolan Cale. Cale might be particularly interesting in issues to come as he plays a similar role to Baltar in Battlestar Gallactica, his cowardice having directly lead to the potential doom of his party.


Reynold's art adds much to the issue, really selling the heart-thumping pace. He's got a Sean Phillips sort of style that lends itself very well to this kind of story, and the work on facial expressions really gets across the sheer horror of the situation. He has a tendency to pull the camera (so to speak) back and let us see the fleeing people and the terrifying creatures swarming behind that is a different choice than the usual over the shoulder view, and it creates a different kind of tension.

Most interestingly is how it already has begun to weave through the film series, finding times and places that warrant extra exploration. We're talking about a series that regularly has decades (if not centuries) that pass in between films, so there is a lot left uninvestigated. It works very well with the Prometheus comic that came out last week as well, actually acting as a prequel to the prequel to Aliens in some ways. At any rate, it's very exciting to see how these gaps will be filled and how this rich universe will be explored!
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Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 39

Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes #1
by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story

This looks like so much fun, and the perspective here is utterly classic!

All New X-Men #32
by Sara Pichelli

This is a fun and colorful layout, but the real key here is Miles in the center, very small. Pichelli nails the facial expression here.

 Judge Dredd #23
by Jeffrey Veregge

I absolutely love the cartoony slant and minimalist design on this cover.

 Sensation Comics feat. Wonder Woman #2
by Gene Ha

I like the coloring here, and it's interesting to see Wonder Woman in a classic superhero style pose.

 Edge of the Spider-Verse #2
by Robbi Rodriguez

Great contrast between the minimalist costume and setting and the wonderful facial cartooning, plus a cover that uses sequential storytelling is always a win in my book.

 Eye of Newt #4
by Michael Hague

Really phenomenal coloring and texture here.

 The Wicked and the Divine #4
by Kevin Wada

Wada is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists out there. What a fantastic design!

 Jim Henson's The Storyteller Witches
by Shane-Michael Viduarri

I really like the inkwash or watercolor on the framing and background, and the character work is quite nice, too.

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook!  
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: Doctor Who - "Listen"


Under Moffat's tenure as show runner for Doctor Who, we've seen a number of great one-off horror based episodes, from last season's "Hide" to season six's "Night Terrors" and "The God Complex". While none of those were penned by Moffat, we also know that he has created some of the scariest new creatures for the show, including the Weeping Angels and the Silence. After last week's fun romp, I was very much looking forward to a classically scary episode of the show, with the potential to be a really great stand alone story and perhaps, if we were lucky, a new alien creature.

We got some of those things, for sure. The first half of the episode is indeed a truly great horror story. We begin in an unusual way as the Doctor, by himself, acts almost as if he's giving a lecture, working through a logical problem: what if there were a creature so perfectly evolved to hide, that no one has ever seen it? What would its purpose be, but more importantly, what would it look like? It's a strange beginning, but as we then go through Clara's failed date with Danny Pink and accidentally find ourselves in his childhood, things pick up rather quickly.


The scene in Danny's orphanage is easily my favorite scene of the new season, and probably the most legitimately scary for the show. What a great play on the classic monster-under-the-bed trope to have the monster sit on top of the bed while they are under it! The scene really exemplifies one of the qualities that I always tout as part of my favorite episodes: doing a lot (story-wise) with a little (visually), with "Midnight" being the best example. With just a hidden figure under a blanket and the idea that this is a creature that's never been seen before–and might react violently if seen–Moffat's created a very intense sequence.

Unfortunately, the episode quickly makes several 180° shifts soon afterwards that take the story in a very different direction. While I enjoy the big season-long arcs, they are often overly confusing and drawn out, so I typically lean more towards liking stand-alone stories that add to the characters, and I think this episode was an attempt to do both. It felt almost like it was originally a two parter: the horror episode with a mysterious Danny Pink in a spacesuit reveal at the end, and a mythology building episode about the Doctor's childhood and his greatest fears. Each could be very compelling on their own, but crammed together it feels like we only got half of each of those stories.


Some of these big mythology reveals were quite stunning, primarily having Clara interact with the Doctor as a child and having her connect that setting and the themes of the episode to The Day of the Doctor and John Hurt's War Doctor. I'm excited to see that we're beginning to see the tiniest bits of what the seeds sown in both that special and Time of the Doctor are going to lead to, in particular how Gallifrey will become part of the show again. However, these big reveals left the episode a bit muddled, as if these surprises just sort of shoved the other story to the side, unresolved. Did Clara grabbing the Doctor's foot from under the bed somehow create this recurring nightmare within all people throughout the universe? Is the creature under the bedsheets and scratching outside the time machine at the end of the universe a literal manifestation of the Doctor's fear? Is Orson Pink Clara's son or grandson, and how did he end up with the soldier toy if she gave it to the Doctor? Perhaps I missed a crucial detail or two, but the end of the episode left me relatively clueless and wishing we could've seen more of Danny's childhood or Orson's time traveling ordeal.


What the second half does do is add to the Doctor's character in a way that's consistent to what we've seen so far in the season: he's becoming a much more human Doctor. While bold and confident on the outside, he's frightened of the same things we are, namely the dark. The idea of fear being a superpower, one that gives you heightened senses and superhuman speed and strength, is an interesting and empowering one. This is a pleasant change in dynamic: now he's strong and questioning to cover up fear, rather than silly and manic to cover up sadness. I'm enjoying that this season they are building up this new Doctor through comparison, with a hero in Robin Hood and with an anxious little boy in Danny Pink.


Overall, I felt the episode was hit or miss. There are some great elements that separately could have made truly great stories, but forced together they both felt lacking. If you've been listening to our theories on the podcast, though, this episode does perhaps confirm some of our suspicions...One idea is that Missy (oddly absent in this Moffat written story) is a regeneration of the Dream Lord seen in season five's "Amy's Choice," and the heavy emphasis on dreams in this episode could hint towards that in some way. Maybe more important is the clue left when the night watchmen in Danny's orphanage looks away, then looks back to find the Doctor has vanished: the Doctor totally is Batman!
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