Saturday, 20 October 2012

5 'Marvel: Now' Titles I'm Most Excited For (or why I never seem to have money)

Marvel: Now is finally here and to say I'm excited would be an understatement! Marvel's already off to a great start with Uncanny Avengers and the Point One issue but with the dozens of titles soon to launch even the most hardcore of fan is going to struggle to keep up with everything. So here's my pick of the titles I'm most looking forward to. Some minor spoilers ahead.

5. All New X-Men
The aftermath of Cyclops' and the Phoenix Five's action. Professor X's original students in the present day. The end of 'No More Mutants'. That's a plot combination any X-Fan would be excited by. Added to this, Brian Michael Bendis on writing duties and the promise of the X-Men being tied closer to the main Marvel universe, makes this a must-have for me. Oh and the return of a living-non-clone/hallucination/Phoenix Jean Grey.

4. Thor: God of Thunder
I love Thor! Of the core group of Avengers he's easily one of my favourites and the recent 'Everything Burns' event was stellar. The idea of being able to see his past, present and future in one book is certainly exciting. In fact it's one of the most high-concept books in the line-up. Although I don't know too much about the books plot (I'm trying to avoid spoilers lately) the art looks gorgeous and I can't wait to pick it up next month.

3. Avengers Arena
I don't think there's much I really need to say about this. Basically it's Superheroes meet The Hunger Games. That's all you need to know. In all seriousness one of the biggest draws here for me (other than the incredible premise) is the return of The Runaways. Although I'd have loved to see a full-fledged Runaways title, just to see Nico and Chase appear as tributes contestants is great (and I'm still hoping for Molly and Klara in All New X-Men).

2. Avengers/New Avengers
Jonathan Hickman's run on Fantastic Four has become legendary for his intricate plotting, so understandably most fans were excited when he was announced as the new writer for Avengers. And then the cast was (partly) announced. All the heroes from the film, Spider-Man and Woman, two New Mutants, Falcon, Ms. Marvel and Wolverine and that's not even the full cast. If that wasn't enough, just a few weeks ago we learned the Illuminati would be headlining New Avengers taking the book in a darker direction.

It will be interesting to see how much (if any) the teams cinematic success will impact on this book. Regardless I'm excited. Firstly, the series has an incredible set of creators. But secondly the book has an amazing cast. The group as a whole is diverse and interesting, I just hope Hickman can balance all the characters, although based on FF, he'll be fine. I particularly love the inclusion of Cannonball and Sunspot from the New Mutants. However speaking of a younger and diverse characters...

1. Young Avengers
This was always going to be my most-anticipated book of Marvel: Now. Wiccan. Miss America. Kid Loki. Hulking. Hawkeye. Protector. Now that's a team! The Young Avengers are by far my favourite superhero team. From their early days trying to stop Iron Lad become Kang right up until The Children's Crusade, I've followed every panel of their journey. I'm even cosplaying as Wiccan for Comic-Con. So it's no surprise that this book is top of my list for 2013.

However it's not just that. The preview (in Marvel's Point One issue) was one of the best stories featured and the artwork was great. I especially loved how the fight sequences are so distinct from those in other books. Kieron Gillen's work on Journey Into Mystery and Uncanny X-Men has been some of my favourite storiy arcs and I am so excited to see another ongoing Young Avengers series. All I can say is roll on January!

So there you have my top five Marvel: Now titles. That's not to say there aren't dozens of other exciting titles. In fact numbers 4 and 5 were incredibly close. I could have easily ended up with Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, Uncanny X-Force, Secret Avengers or FF on this list. I don't know how my wallet's going to cope!

Afterthought: How amazing is the variant cover for Avengers Arena #3?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Perk of Being a Wallflower (or that time I was creative)

Dear Charlie,

I'm touched you think of me as such as a good friend but I have to admit it took me a long time to get around to reading your letters. I'm sorry. I sincerely wish I had sat down to peruse them sooner but I was just too busy (I wish I could say with participating but that's probably a lie).

Let me just say how inspirational I found your story. Despite everything the world threw at you and your friends, you all just carried on. Charlie, I have to tell you, I relate to you a lot. Well to the times before you met Sam and Patrick, the shy wallflower. I think that's why I was so affected by your story, it reminded me of myself and I'm sure most people will see parts of themselves in you.

I don't really have much else to say to you because, well, I don't think you need it. Within that year of your life you shared with me you made it. Thats the important part. Despite all the obstacles, some of your own making, you survived and to me that's the true moral of your story. No matter how dark things may get, there's always light at the end of the tunnel. Well that and the importance of friendship.

Thank you for sharing your story with me. When I finished all your letters and saw your happy ending, for one moment, I felt infinite

Love always,
A Friend

NEXT READ: Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Afterthought: Ever since seeing the Perks film I have been listening to the soundtrack non-stop, to the point where I nearly know the entirety of Charlie's Last Letter. Nothing wrong there. However I now have 'Come on Eileen' stuck in my head and have been singing it all day. Sorry to anyone who's been offended by my awful voice...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Casual Vacancy: Book Review

I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. I want to love it, I really do. I love J.K Rowling's style, the characters were well crafted and the plot did finally pick up in the last one hundred pages. But that's the problem. It took 400 pages of exposition which moved at a snail-like pace for the story to begin to get interesting.

But before I get to my negatives lets begin with some positive. Rowling's styles has definitely matured since the last Harry Potter. The language and structure is more sophisticated suiting the mature content of the book. Although there are still an abundance of clich├ęs and an overuse of parenthesis, the book is well written.

More importantly Jo has managed to retain her skill at crafting characters, particularly the younger cast. Krystal, Andrew and Sukhvinder, despite severe personal flaws, are engaging characters who you strongly feel for making the tragic ending all the more affecting for the reader. However I do feel that, at times, the cast became too large leading to a convoluted novel with too many different perspectives. I'd much rather have seen a smaller cast who were given more time, allowing them to grow in a subtler and more natural way as at times some of the development felt a little forced.

I'm not sure how to describe the plot of this novel. I wouldn't go as far as some and call it boring but on the other hand it was hardly an engaging read. I suppose at best I'd call it a slow-burn. The beginning half was quite dull and at times a little pointless, however as plot lines began to draw together and the novel made it's way to the climax things thankfully began to pick up leading to a semi-satisfying conclusion. I say semi as I felt some characters could have been given a more complete ending but that's the price of such a large cast.

That's my views on the book itself but quickly I have to talk about one more element of the books content. Specifically Jo's use of sex. I understand that she was trying to make the book adult, but at times (quite frequently actually) I found this forced and didn't feel natural or necessary. I'm not saying that sex shouldn't have been in the book at all. Just not to the extent Rowling used it.

So how do I feel about the Casual Vacancy in one word? Conflicted. A part of me wants to love it. The cast, although vastly too large, were well developed and easy to empathise with and the climax was riveting and I struggled to put the book down past page 400. However up until that point I found the pace too slow and much of it unnecessary. The novel could easily have been much smaller with some stronger editing.

Maybe I'm being overly harsh as I was expecting much more, but my advice is only read this is the synopsis interests you. Don't make my mistake and pick it up just because it says J.K Rowling and you're hoping for a new Harry Potter because you will not find it here.

As the follow up to Harry Potter: 1 and a 1/2 Stars

As a standalone novel: 3 and a 1/2 Stars

Friday, 12 October 2012

Quick Update

Just a quick post today with some (very) brief thoughts on different things. All of these will probably be expanded on in later posts but here goes anywhere.

1. Once Upon A Time - Season 2
Is it just me or is this season better than the first? The show had a incredible first run but the opening two episodes this year have just gone from strength to strength. But I'm not sure if I can cope with these twists each week, (Spoiler alert) first the Enchanted Forest still exists and then Cora's back! I don't know where the writers get their twists from but I hope they keep it up.
Also Cora is definitely the Queen of Hearts (I think I just found the topic of the next Once Upon A Theory).

2. Glee Season 4.
Not too much to say about this one except I'm glad I stuck around through Season 3. Looks like Glee is finally finding it's feet again!

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I saw this film last night and was blown away! Unfortunately I didn't get around to reading the book beforehand (more on that later) but finally have a copy which I can't wait to read. Hopefully I'll be able to start it soon, once I've finished...

4. The Casual Vacancy
I will most definitely write a full review of this book soon but it's just taking me so long to finish. It's not that it's a bad book, it's just that nothing seems to really be happening. I'm only half way through so hopefully things will pick up but so far I'm not loving it as much as I'd hoped I would. Maybe I shouldn't have been expecting another Harry Potter and put too much anticipation on the book, but it just doesn't have the same spark and magic that Rowling's former books had.

Well, that was a quick post but I haven't really had much time to blog lately. Hopefully I'll write more thorough posts on each of these soon, my next post will probably be a full review of Te Casual Vacancy. With luck, I might just finish this weekend.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Fox's Shared Marvel Universe: Why it just won't work.

Earlier this week we received word that Fox had hired Mark Millar to oversee a shared universe for their Marvel properties. Well that was the least surprising news I've ever heard! Just a few months after Marvel's mammoth success with The Avengers, and the culmination of Marvel Studios excellent Phase 1, it seems everyone wants their own comic-book universe on film.

However Fox's just won't work. This isn't me being negative against Fox. I want it to work. Two of my favourite superhero teams are the X-Men and the Fantastic Four and I would love to see a successful film series for these characters (especially the FF who were ruined in their last set of films). It's just, unfortunately, these two properties just won't exist together.

Sure they live in the same universe on the page, but not to the extent that a team-up between them would make sense on screen. The closest relation between the two groups is Franklin Richards status as one of the worlds most powerful mutants and Reed Richards and Xaviers membership of the Illuminati (and that will definitely not work without Tony Stark). Neither of these are, in my opinion, valid basis for a shared universe, other than the odd cameo of Franklin attends the Xavier Institute.

Now the problem is Fox just doesn't have the sheer number of properties that Marvel has. In a weeks time (unless David Slade completely changes his mind) this will decrease even more once Daredevil reverts to Marvel. This leaves then with two which don't coexist together and any film will feel forced.

However that isn't to say Fox can't have a shared universe, they just need to forget the FF. The X-Men could easily sustain an entire shared universe. Not only are there the original films, the First-Class franchise and the Wolverine series (which should hopefully all come together in the proposed Days of Future Past film) but there are any number of characters from the comics who could be introduced.

Firstly Captain Britain and Excalibur assuming they have the rights could easily make a film with a tone distinct from many others and should presumable bring back Kitty Pryde and reintroduce Psylocke (the best and worst character in The Last Stand respectively). Then there's always the New Mutants, a team I'd love to see on film, X-Force, X-Factor, the list goes on and on.

But where does this leave Marvel's first family. Simple. In a franchise all of their own. The FF don't need the X-Men. All they need is a director with a good vision, a strong script and a talented cast. I could talk forever about how to make a FF film but I've already wrote a blog about that before and that's not what this is about.

So, these are just a few of my initial reactions to Fox's plans. I hope I'm completely surprised and it will be a success, however I just can't see it working. What I'd really love to see is the characters revert to Marvel and come together for one movie with all the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Marvel's hundreds of other characters (Civil-War anyone?). Well, a fan can dream...