Archive for Marvel Comics

Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2017

Posted in books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2018 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Man, 2017.  That was a RIDE.  Kind of crazy it’s over.  But one good thing we get out of it is another of my semi-famous year end round up articles.

My book/movie logs have sort of gone through an upheaval the last two years. Back in 2008-2009ish I first put them up on Google Spreadsheet. Then, in 2016, I converted over to an online database tool called Airtable. I *really* liked the features and functionality of Airtable plus their iOS app was pretty slick.  However, I found out in early 2017 that the free version of Airtable only holds so many rows of data and that I had just busted up against the ceiling with both of my movie/book log databases.  If I wanted more, I’d have to pay.  Not willing to do that for these logs I once again searched for a replacement and wound up taking another look at Google Spreadsheet.  I decided to see if I could mimic some of the Airtable functionality in Google.  I was partially successful.  Through some fancy custom cell formatting, template sheet data validation and a little bit of script writing I was able to punch up the usefulness of my original Google Spreadsheets logs.  so I created a brand new spreadsheet, called it Book Log v2 and reimported all my data.  Now I have a visually nice representation of the books I read throughout the year including some cell highlighting for the current year and my rating system.  Here’s a quick look at the Book Log v2 in Google.

Book Log v2

All of this maneuvering and formatting is to make articles like this year end list easier to do.  So, let’s get on with it.

The rules, this list contains 5 books and 5-ish comics that I read for the first time in 2017.  No re-reads.  That particular rule really hampered the amount of books I could pick from because I did a lot of re-reads this year.  I’m re-reading the Artemis Fowl series and I did a few Star Wars re-reads this year so my “new to me” books in 2017 were much lower than usual.  But the comics were *also* hard to pick because I read a ton of them this year and there were some stellar entries.  So let’s see what I decide.  I don’t even know myself as I’m typing this.

Books


The Reckoners Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson – I picked up the first two books of this series on a lark in an Amazon sale for super cheap. I was aware of the author having already read one of his other more famous works, Mistborn, which made this list back in 2015. These books sounded interesting, sort of a dystopian future involving super heroes.  Several years before the books begin, a red sun called Calamity appears in the sky and causes certain people to gain powers.  These people are called Epics.  There are different levels of Epics based on the strength of their power profile.  Unfortunately, when someone gains powers and they start to use them, they change.  They become meaner.  More vain.  Paranoid.  It causes the Epics to essentially take over the world and create little fiefdoms in the larger cities.  The books follow a small resistance group called The Reckoners that work behind the scenes to undermine and even kill the worst of the Epics.
So I read the first two books, then there was a short story Sanderson wrote set in this world called Mitosis that I read, and I finally picked up the third and final book in the series and finished it all this year.  One of Sanderson’s strengths is world building.  He creates these super interesting worlds that work like our world but are different in many interesting ways.  Mistborn was the same way.  Just watching the mechanics of these books’ worlds happen is fascinating and he builds interesting characters in both regular humans and Epics.  So, this series is a winner.  Definitely give it a shot.


George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger – I love reading hyper focused history books involving little known tidbits of US history, especially in the revolutionary war period.  I know the Culper Ring was a hot topic for a while leading to this book, a TV show, and also a fictional thriller series by Brad Meltzer which all revolve around the secretive spy organization (side note: I’ve read that fictional thriller, it’s called Inner Circle and it’s pretty good, if a bit long).  This book is a pretty great condensed history of the Revolutionary War that mostly focuses on the real life exploits of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring and it reveals who all was in the ring and what they risked and sacrificed to be a spy during the Revolutionary War.  It’s totally engaging and I really loved it.  I’m now very interested in reading more of Kilmeade/Yaeger’s history books.  The next book involves Thomas Jefferson and Tripoli Pirates.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling – I decided I wanted to read this book but I also realized it had been a few years since I’d read the original series in full, so I decided to do a re-read of the Harry Potter series first.  I started Sorcerer’s Stone on Dec 14, 2015 and finished Deathly Hallows on Dec 29, 2016.  I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend and with much trepidation I began to read it this past summer (I had no idea how this was going to come off).  I shouldn’t have worried.  It’s delightful.  Almost a celebration of the entire Harry Potter series.  It sort of Back to the Future II‘s the story of Harry Potter.  The story takes place years later.  It involves our heroes’ children and what they deal with having such famous parents.  We get kids that don’t fit in and fall in with friends other people think they shouldn’t have due mainly to parents’ old rivalries.  There are time turners and visits to events from the original books, but now we see them from another angle.  I haven’t gone out to see what the reviews on this are but I could see people possibly not being happy because there’s a lot of retread over the original book stories.  Maybe even a bit of fan pandering.  But honestly, that’s why I loved it.  The characterizations were spot on.  The events were fun and I felt “whisked away” into whatever adventures the book took me.  It was a surprise how much I liked it.  I wasn’t originally going to buy this book, but I liked it so much I wound up buying the paperback at Sam’s to put on my shelf right next to Deathly Hallows.  As good as the original series? No.  But it’s a fun revisit of these characters and a world I was happy to jump right back into.


Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – I read and reviewed this back in February 2017 for my ongoing “Oz Reviews” that I do here from time to time.  It’s simultaneously a reinvention of Oz and a semi-sequel to the 1939 Oz film.  It’s kind of hard to describe.  I thought I may not like it due to how it may or may not reinvent Oz, but in actuality I quite liked the book.  It uses familiar Oz iconography and builds a world around it that seems both different and the same.  It’s new, but it’s familiar.  I mentioned before how good Brandon Sanderson is at world building in his books.  Paige does an admirable job world building in this series as well.  The sheer number of Oz deep cuts that show up are impressive between characters, objects and events that are mentioned.  And the story around it is interesting.  I’ve since read three of the prequel novellas as well as the sequel, The Wicked Will Rise.  I plan on continuing the series.

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2016

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2017 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Here I go, writing another one of these year end round up articles that I’m shocked to be writing every year. 2017. CRAZY. What a ride 2016 was. Hopefully 2017 will give us a bit of a break.

This past year was an interesting year for my book/comics list.  After so many years of logging my books and comics reading via Google Spreadsheet, I actually converted my logs over to an online data tool called Airtable. It’s similar to Access in that it is a relational database but the user entry interface is very simple to create and similar to Excel. Plus being able to link specific information between tables really helps in cross referencing and spelling.  You have no idea how many times I misspelled author names throughout my logs.

Here’s what my book log looks like now on Airtable.  I’ve converted all my logs back to when I first started in 2007.

airtable_books1

The blue colored fields in the screenshot are actually linked to another table.  I was able to also create the Rating field on the right with different color coded ratings to make it easy at a glance to see what is going to make my year end list and what isn’t.  Plus, Airtable makes all of this data entry even easier with a nice app for my iPhone or iPad that makes it easy to log entries on the go.  Google Sheets had one as well but Airtable’s works better.

So that’s all the behind the scenes stuff.  I had a better year for novels.  I was able to pick 5 this year.  Again, comics were booming and I had a tough time paring down to 5.  But I did it.

So, without further ado, here’s the list!

Books


The Old Man and the Sea (1952) – Ernest Hemingway – I don’t read classics as often as I used to.  I really need to remedy that.  There are two reasons why I read this.  #1, it was featured in the movie The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington as a book he’s reading. #2, Steph checked it out from the library with a bunch of other books and I, on a whim, picked it up to read.  It’s actually really good.  I quite enjoyed it.  I’m probably not going to pick up any other Hemingway, but I’ll definitely try to read more classic lit this coming year.  I’ve been wanting to re-read Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, so maybe I can get that done.


Steve Jobs (2011) – Walter Isaacson – I’ve now read two of Isaacson’s famous biographies and let me say that I’m hooked. Back in 2014 I read his biography of Benjamin Franklin and it nearly made my year end best of list.  This one about Apple founder Steve Jobs actually cracks the list. It’s not only a great portrait of a complicated man, but it’s also a great look at the beginnings of our technological age we live in now.  I would love for Isaacson to tackle Bill Gates in a full book, but I’m not sure that’ll happen.  Isaacson did write a book called The Innovators that really digs into the people who created the computer and the Internet; going as far back as Alan Turing and jumping forward to people like Larry Page and Bill Gates.  That will probably be next on my Isaacson reading list and the closest I’ll get to a full Gates biography by him.


Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel (2016) – James Luceno – The “New Canon” of Star Wars books since Disney has taken over has been very…hit or miss.  Since those books started in Fall 2014, only one has made my year end list.  And honestly, I think that one novel (Star Wars: Tarkin), also written by James Luceno, would work perfectly as a side-quel to this book.  This is the written prequel to the movie Rogue One and it’s pretty great.  It digs deep into the relationship between Galen Erso and Director Krennic.  It also explores a bit more the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin all while adding in backstory to how the Death Star was built and how it works and what they use to power the planet killing laser.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! (Landover series Book 1) (1986) – Terry Brooks – I talked about this book earlier in my High Fantasy Month article back in March.  It’s a different setup for a fantasy series and I really enjoyed it.  I had bought the collection of the first three books in the series, but I’ve not delved into the second book yet.  However, it’s on the plan for this year.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: Marvel’s The Living Mummy

Posted in comic books, monsters, mummy, nostalgia, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2016 by Paxton

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Marvel has had a long history with monsters.  I’ve covered several monster titles from Marvel for previous AWESOME-tober-fests like Tomb of Dracula, Frankenstein and Werewolf by Night.  Well, not surprisingly, Marvel also had a mummy character.  He was called The Living Mummy and he debuted in the horror anthology series Supernatural Thrillers, issue #5, August 1973.

Supernatural Thrillers #5

You may remember the comic Supernatural Thrillers as I reviewed issue #2 last year which contained an adaptation of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man.

The first four issues of Supernatural Thrillers were mostly adaptations of existing work; Stephenson’s Jeckyll & Hyde, Robert Howard’s Valley of the Worm, Sturgeon’s It! and the aforementioned The Invisible Man.  With issue #5, editor Roy Thomas had Steve Gerber create a new original character to be run as a feature.  While issue #6 would contain a somewhat sequel to Irving’s Sleepy Hollow, issues #7-15 would solely feature the character The Living Mummy.

Living Mummy

The Living Mummy started out as N’Kantu, son of the Chief of the Swarili Tribe in ancient Cairo.  He is 21 and is preparing to become a tribal warrior by taking the Test of the Lion.  While away on a hunt, N’Kantu returns to his tribe to discover that the Pharoah Aram-Set has conquered his tribe and enslaved them to work building monuments. N’Kantu helps plot a rebellion, but his planning is discovered and he is sprayed with a paralyzing liquid that renders him immobile. Then his blood is replaced by a special alchemical embalming fluid, he is wrapped in bandages and put in a coffin to lay, immobile, for the next thousand years.

Living Mummy origin

After about a thousand years, the paralyzing liquid wears off and N’Kantu escapes from his coffin, however, he is completely insane due to being trapped immobile in the dark for a millennia. So he goes on a rampage in “modern” Cairo.

He gets electrocuted which knocks him out, then is electrocuted AGAIN and is revived.  Goes on another rampage.  Meets an archaeologist who cures his insanity, but unfortunately N’Kantu is then sent to another dimension. And in this dimension, we get a few stories of The Living Mummy…wait for it…IN SPACE.

Mummy in space!

Yep, he’s trapped in space fighting aliens.  Doesn’t get much more awesome than that, ladies and gentlemen.

After the mummy shenanigans in Supernatural Thrillers, N’Kantu would break out and guest star in other titles like Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up and Deadpool Team Up.  He made the jump to television in the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man, Super Hero Squad and Hulk and the Agents of SMASH and even joined The Legion of Monsters at one point.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

Countdown to Avengers 2: Captain America the Winter Soldier

Posted in comic books, movies with tags , , , , on April 22, 2015 by Paxton

captainamerica7

As we did back in 2012, the blogs at Nerd Lunch, To the Escape Hatch and Cavalcade of Awesome are doing a Countdown to Avengers as we lead up to the release of Age of Ultron. In this countdown we are reviewing all the Marvel content that we can from within Phase 2. This is one of those reviews.

Captain America: The First Avenger was the last solo film of Phase 1 before The Avengers. So, appropriately, the Captain America sequel is the last solo movie of Phase 2 that will lead directly into The Avengers sequel. Coming in, I loved the first Cap movie. I loved it’s time period, I loved the cast, I loved pretty much everything about it. And I had a lot of doubts about the movie before it began in that I thought Chris Evans was all wrong for the role and I didn’t initially like that the movie took place back during World War II (even thought that’s the perfect place to set the movie).

So, I wound up loving the first movie and then came this sequel.  And again, I was not sure until I started seeing images of Chris Evans in the “stealth suit”.  And then the first trailer hit.  And the cast came together.  Black Widow.  Falcon.  Modern day SHIELD.  ROBERT F**KING REDFORD is now in a Captain America movie.  It just ballooned into so much awesomeness that the actual movie couldn’t possibly live up to what I was seeing.

And on watching, the movie is every bit as awesome as I wanted it to be.  It’s amazing what the directors did with this sequel.  This movie is completely different in tone, color scheme, sensibilities and setting than it’s predecessor but it completely works.

cap02

First off we see a more seasoned Captain America.  He’s been in our time for a few years and has trained extensively with SHIELD.  The opening mission, storming a hijacked freighter, shows you everything you need to know to understand that THIS Captain America is BAD ASS.  We’ve seen Captain America be pretty awesome in The Avengers, but this movie cranks that idea “up to 11” and hammers that home.  We also see that Cap is becoming a little concerned with the direction that SHIELD is taking in response to external threats.  There are several really good scenes with Cap and Nick Fury debating this very issue, is SHIELD protecting or promoting fear.  It’s a valid and very relevant discussion.

Speaking of Nick Fury, we finally get to see him do something.  The attack on Fury’s car is a wonderful little scene where we get to see Fury’s quick thinking and quick acting save himself from capture and possible death.  And how awesome was the AI in that car?  And the hidden dashboard cannon?  Great little scene.  Another little scene I liked when I saw the movie theatrically was Steve going back to visit an elderly Peggy Carter.  However, now that I’ve watched Peggy in the Agent Carter mini-series and re-watched the original Captain America movie, that scene becomes HEARTBREAKING.  There are several more levels of heartbreaking sadness and loss that permeate that scene.  Especially thanks to the excellent Agent Carter series.

falcon

And I love the addition of Anthony Mackie as Falcon.  I originally thought Falcon was a sort of, “we don’t need him but we need to add a new character” addition.  But I was wrong.  Mackie crushes it and I now want him in more movies.  Plus, how great is a movie that implies a giant action scene that we never get to see?  Cap, Black Widow and Falcon have to break into a military installation to steal back the Stark wing technology, but we never see it!  That needs to be a movie.  NOW.

And I haven’t even talked about the return of Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier.  He’s a great foil for Captain America.  I really liked him as a villain, but he’s more of a henchman than a mastermind.  I do hope we see more of him.

Now that the movie is over, I’d love to see a Captain America and Falcon movie where they are chasing Bucky.  The end of this movie teases that, but it looks like the next Captain America movie is going to be Civil War, which I can only assume does not cover that.

The status quo that this movie leaves will make the next Avengers movie interesting because I’m not sure how many years later it is in the new movie.  SHIELD was destroyed and has to be rebuilt.  I assume the Avengers are sort of an autonomous entity without any governmental connection.  Will that be addressed or has enough time passed that that doesn’t really matter anymore?  I don’t know.

As it stands, I liked this movie so much that I think it’s my third favorite overall Marvel movie behind only the original Iron Man and the first Avengers movie.  We’ll see if this changes after Age of Ultron.

But I’m not the only one that has ideas about this movie…here’s CT with his thoughts:

Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been referred to by some as Avengers 1.5. I wonder just how integral it will be to Avengers: Age of Ultron. It is the Phase 2 film that will have changed the world the most since the first Avengers film. The fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. is huge and will have to at least be addressed since they will no longer play a role in bringing the team together. I look forward to seeing if Black Widow and Cap have any interactions in Avengers 2 since they worked so well together here. Black Widow now has strong ties with all the Avengers except maybe Thor.

Besides pieces set up for Avengers and the plot lines sets up for future Cap movies, the big set up for future movies is the mention of Stephen Strange. Sitwell references him as though Strange is already a known person, at least by Cap. Is he already Sorcerer Supreme or just a really, really famous surgeon? It will be interesting to see how that plays out in a couple years. 

Other Countdown to Avengers reviews:
CT’s review of Iron Man 3.
Robert’s review of Thor: The Dark World

Cavalcade Comics 05 – The A-Team Meet Chuck Norris

Posted in comic books with tags , , , on December 10, 2014 by Paxton

Cavalcade Comics: VCT

Greetings, everyone. I’ve been a bit absent the last month as I’m in heavy training for my marathon and amidst preparations for the holidays…or should I say, Holley-days?

Today’s post was originally planned for Ninja Day this year but I really dropped the ball on that one. But, I wanted to get it out there, so here is issue #5 in my ongoing Cavalcade Comics Vintage Comic Throwdowns series.

The A-Team Meet Chuck Norris.

Cavalcade Comics 05

I think CT should get a kick out of this one.  How cool would it have been if Chuck had actually joined The A-Team?  Amazing to think about.

This cover was contructed mostly from two Marvel Comics issues.  Yes, Marvel had both an A-Team comic and a Chuck Norris comic.  Similar to the previous Godzilla vs The Shogun Warriors, why this particular crossover never happened before now is beyond me.

A-Team (1984) 01 - 00 - FC Chuck Norris 02 - 00 - FC

The A-Team come from the first issue of their comic (left) and Chuck comes from the second issue of his comic (right).  I also used logos and a few extra ninjas from other issues of each of these series.

For some reason Chuck Norris and the Karate Commandos was under the Star imprint, which was Marvel’s line of kids comics featuring things like Alf, Thunder Cats and Star Wars: Droids.  This was most likely because the Chuck comic was based on the cartoon of the same name.

Hope you guys are having a great holiday.  I do have some stuff planned for before the end of December, so stay tuned!

Cavalcade Comics #4 – Ghost Rider vs Ghost Rider Halloween showdown!

Posted in comic books, pop culture with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2014 by Paxton

Cavalcade Comics Vintage Comic Throwdown

Welcome to issue #4 of my Vintage Comic Throwdown series where I pit character vs character in a vintage comic book cover showdown.

This time, since we are only DAYS away from the start of AWESOME-tober-fest 2014, I thought I would do a somewhat Halloween-type throwdown featuring two “supernatural” characters. And I chose two incarnations of the Ghost Rider character. Check out my cover for Cavalcade Comics #4 – Ghost Rider vs Ghost Rider.

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Many people may not realize that Ghost Rider actually started out as a Golden Age gunfighter character that debuted in 1949’s Tim Holt Western Comics #11. The character was originally owned by Magazine Enterprises but was bought out by Marvel and revamped in the 70s into a motorcycle riding demon.  And now I have them battling each other on the city streets.

For those that like to know, this cover is primarily based on Marvel’s Ghost Rider #31 from 1978 (left) and I took the original Ghost Rider from Ghost Rider #2 from 1950 (right).

Ghost Rider 31 Ghost Rider 02

Because this is a special Halloween issue, I decided to make an alternate cover.  This second cover is based instead on an old Golden Age Ghost Rider cover instead of the newer Marvel cover.

Cavalcade Comics 04b

Imagine that this is the direct cover and the previous one is the newsstand cover.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: Marvel’s Simon Garth: The Zombie!

Posted in comic books, monsters, pop culture, zombies with tags , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2013 by Paxton

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In 1953, the forerunner of Marvel Comics, Atlas Comics, released the fifth issue of their horror anthology title, Menace.

Menace 5

In this issue, in a standalone story written by Stan Lee and drawn by Bill Everett was the debut of a character known only as, The Zombie.

The Zombie

The short story offered no background, just the simple setup of a zombie walking the swamps who is controlled by a mysterious evil man in a hidden cabin. After the story first appeared the character sort of disappeared.

Then in 1974, editor Roy Thomas plucked the character from obscurity and made him the star of his very own horror themed magazine called Tales of the Zombie.

Tales of the Zombie 01

The magazine re-printed Lee’s original Menace story, but then Thomas had Steve Gerber and Joe Buscema craft a prologue story, Altar of the Damned, to fill out the zombie backstory and give the character a name; Simon Garth. Gerber and Buscema then did another story called Night of the Walking Dead to continue the character’s adventures forward.

New stories in each issue of the magazine were mostly done by Steve Gerber and Pablo Marcos.  Other notable contributers included Doug Moench and Chris Claremont.  Simon Garth’s final appearance in this magazine would be in issue 9 which awesomely culminated in a story arc at his daughter’s wedding.

Tales of the Zombie 09

The magazine would actually go release issue 10, but it featured the character Brother Voodoo and not Simon Garth.

Since the 70s, Simon has popped up in appearances all over the Marvel Universe including Spider-Man, Blade, Dracula and, most recently, was a main character in Marvel Zombies 4.

He’s not had his own series again, but he did get a few mini-series in 2007 under the Marvel MAX imprint.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.