Monday, September 10, 2012

What to read, what to read...

I'm in that strange place when I've finished multiple books at the same time and now I have to start a few new novels to keep happy. I just finished reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, a unique science fiction story set in Thailand. I have shelves of books I still need to read and picking can be impossible.

Right now, I'm looking at reading Forbidden by Ted Dekker, because a friend read it and I told him I would. After that, we're both planning on reading the first Left Behind book, mainly for book club laughs. I'm not expecting to love it, but you never know.

I have some strange stuff I want to read, like Chariots of the Gods. I bought it, not for spiritual insight, but for the fun of crazy theories and because I liked Prometheus so much. I still have a bunch of older books I need to read, especially on my Kindle, like the first Tarzan story and The Brothers Karamazov.

One the sci-fi/fantasy section, it's almost too much! Sequels reign supreme as I have to read Green Mars, Mistbord: The Hero of Ages, Second Foundations, The Fall of Hyperion, Speaker of the Dead and Star Wars: Dark Force Rising. Add in classics I haven't read like Ringworld and Stranger in a Strange Land and I realize I have too many options. I still have The Heroes waiting on my Kindle!

On the Christian shelf, I really want to read Nancy Pearcey's Saving Leonardo, since I loved her Total Truth. I have a bunch of relationship books to read, one being Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage, which I'm excited about. Plus, I have plenty of John Piper and R.C. Sproul books to plow through.

Normally, I'd take a break every now and then and read a Michael Crichton book, but as I've said before, I've read a most of his books now and there's little left!

The big plan is to limit my comic book intake for a while. I love them and will still be reading a bunch, but I'm cutting back on my "read anything and everything" mentality with comics. They're great, but they keep me from finishing books and I've become a bit obsessive lately. Spiritually, I make superheroes into idols, thinking way too much about them when I spend little time on God. Books like Usagi Yojimbo won't be going anywhere, but I'm not sure I need to read every Moon Knight comic to be a happy camper.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Networking and Not Working

I'm in crazy networking mode right now. I got myself a Google+ account and connected it to everything. Now, my Youtube, HubPages, Twitter, Blogspot, Goodreads, Facebook, Google +, and Gentlemint are all working together in one way or another. It's been crazy because I've been trying to connect it all to an email and be under the name Eric Mikols, as opposed to duskvstweak. The latter is my handle and self-chosen internet name, but if I want people to identify me, it's time to start using my read name on things like Hubpages and Blogspot.

It would be nice if I actually had something to share these days. My video work has taken a hit to the non-existent. I've been doing a lot over at Hubpages lately and this blog has taken the hit. I like being read and it happens over there. Still, making this the center for my Goodread reviews has helped.

I wish I had more to add to the internet. I used to feel like I was apart of something bigger with my videos but they never got seen. It's easy to feel ignored in the vast cyberspace.

I've been keeping busy with Camp NaNoWriMo. I'm about 20,000 words in, which puts me behind. Still, it's the farthest I've been in a long time, maybe ever, to writing a full book. It would be nice, someday, to be famous enough that this blog is my main website for all my readers. If I ever do become an author, it will be nice having done a lot of the social media stuff early on.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom: Doomquest

Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom: Doomquest
Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom: Doomquest by David Michelinie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fun Iron Man/Doctor Doom story. I read the first part a while ago, but it still holds up. Any story where you can say "Doom travels back to Camelot and starts a zombie war" is a good one. The future story is good as well, though it's wackier being an 80's story. One thing I like about Marvel 80's is that a lot of fun stories were being written fully aware of their own zaniness. Good fun!

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: Iron Man: Armor Wars

Iron Man: Armor Wars
Iron Man: Armor Wars by David Michelinie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a cool story. Stark's Iron Man technology has been stolen and integrated into tech villains and Iron Man is out to get it all back. Stark crosses lines in this volume, going against the his better judgment for the success of the mission. He beats up on a military superhero by accident, betrays Captain America, and causes a villain to self-destruct, all because Stark was careless with his tech. While it's not told as well as it could be, the whole thing is a success and I would love to see this story adapted to the films. It would be a much better tale than "Demon in a Bottle".

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Superman: Secret Identity

Superman: Secret Identity
Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. I love books like this. Stories about people dealing with super powers is such a real way, with such real reactions, I can't get enough of it. Busiek writes an optimistic "Chronicle" here and it's great. The emotion of Clark as he deals with his power and changing life is written with a realistic tone that never breaks the believability of the story, Superman or not. Watching Clark get his powers reminds me of all the things I would want to do with that same gifts. Flying around the world, breaking atmosphere, living above the clouds, it's all well done. Watching Clark age as real emotion to it, as his powers weaken, as others fill his place, as he looks back on what really mattered. This is a story about life, not powers.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Iron Man: Armor Wars Prologue

Iron Man: Armor Wars Prologue
Iron Man: Armor Wars Prologue by David Michelinie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This volume is still as fun as the previous but not as memorable. The term "Prologue" is used liberaly here, these stories taking place before the Armor Wars but having little to do with that story. There were some good moments with Justin Hammer and his group of villains (poor Blizzard can never catch a break). This book also had the introduction of the Ghost, who I'm enjoying in Thunderbolts. Good, solid storytelling, just not much to tell.
I hope the Armor Wars lives up to the hype.

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Review: Batman: The Cult

Batman: The Cult
Batman: The Cult by Jim Starlin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had never heard of this story until it was lent to me. It's pretty gruesome throughout and has one heavy 80's vibe. Batman is put through painful moments in this book and the lack of the comic code worked in it's favor, or at least most of the time. The biggest issue I had with this book is that it's heavily influenced by Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns". The content, the violence, the mood, it's all reminiscent of Miller's book. Even the Batmobile gets a Miller take in this.
The more I think about this book, the less I like it. Batman seems ineffective and easily manipulatable and the book seems like it's being dark for the sake of being dark. Interesting but not a powerful success.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On Apocalypse Now

I finally got around to watching Apocalypse Now. When I took my Art and History of Film class a while ago, we only watched clips of this movie in class but the assigned viewing went to Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather and Godfather: Part II. Having seen all three of these films I can now say that Apocalypse Now is the superior film by far. I enjoyed the first Godfather movie, even if it wasn't the greatest film ever, but I found the second one to be one of the most over-hyped movies I've ever seen. The plot was dull, the best actors had been killed in the first film, and it went on for far too long. There's a lot of people out there that would be very angry to hear that, but I just can't see what they see.
Apocalypse Now? It's a movie that lives up to its legend. With "The End" opening the movie and the sound of the helicopters flying overhead, the film gripped me from the beginning and never let me go. It's a long movie, about 200 minutes, but I never felt bored. Coppola shoots the movie in a chaotic, trippy fashion, exemplifying the whole war. There's no escape from the anarchy that ravages the movie, the soldiers without command or the battles that erupt out of twitch trigger fingers. Watching this movie reminded me of Aguirre: The Wrath of God, even though the two are completely different stories. But both movies force the characters down a seemingly never-ending river with little hope of victory against the jungle, the people defending it, and their own madness.

Martin Sheen is amazing in the film. Throughout the entire story he seems to be both containing the insanity around him and allowing for it take him over. He's reserved, but farther gone than he would like to admit. The scene with the passing crop boat, and the wounded woman, tells you how much the war has effected him. Marlon Brando is great as well, much better than he had been in the Godfather films. He's completely out of his mind but you want to believe there's something there at the end.

The real star of the movie, though, is the color. Coppola made a movie where color is everything. The scenes at night, passing by bridges filled with machine gun fire and explosions, is almost carnival in its color scheme. The blues are cold, the reds are mad, and the greens are either the beauty of the jungle or pure insanity. The skies, the landscape, the villages, all of these seem to be painted with such purpose and care that I can't even imagine how Coppola got every scene to look the way he wanted. In such a chaotic film, there is such purpose to the shadows that it almost defies my belief.

Definitely a great film, the best of Coppola's I've seen. I also preferred this over Stanly Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, another trippy Vietnam film. I don't know if I have the energy or insanity to watch it again, but I know that if I walked into a room with Apocalypse Now playing on the television, I wouldn't be going anywhere.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On The Tree of Life

I just watched The Tree of Life last night. Terrance Malick is an interesting director, at least. He doesn't really make movies, he makes experiences. When I watched The Thin Red Line last year, I was struck by how beautiful the cinematography was and how much the battle in the village felt like I was there. 

His new movie, while going through the creation of the entire universe, is the story of growing up. Jack, the main character we focus on, is a young boy dealing with his father. He goes through it all, being the loved only child, the strangness of dealing with a new sibling, wanting to be like your father, hating your father, hating your family, learning to like girls, hating yourself, hating God, coming back. It's all there and the camera never stops moving. With that, the experience of life never stops in the movie and you feel the pull and confusion of growing up.

Brad Pitt is great as Jack's father, split in his love for his sons and his inability to relate to them. You can see his awkwardness when hugging them, you can see his own frustration with his actions but his inability to stop. Jessica Chastain doesn't have many lines, but her non-verbals cue you in on everything that she's dealing with as Jack's mother. Sean Penn, as the adult Jack, is fairly useless. 

Which leads me to the biggest issue. This work, being an experience, is not a movie. There's a story in there, but the resolution is how you make it. My problem? I don't like abstract art. Call me out on that if you want, but I don't get it or it's appeal. The story of young Jack? Perfect, in all most every way. The "maybe this is really happening or maybe it's just a metaphor" ending? Keep it to yourself, Malick. With that said, I will admit to being moved almost to the point of tears during the creation parts, but that was pretty straight forward. Universe begins, forms, and then we watch the small American family. The possible "heaven" scene at the end with a shambling Penn? It doesn't need to be there.

That said, I could have used some more dinosaurs.

Review: Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Considering that the title reads "Why Video Games Matter", you would think Bissell would try and prove that point. Unfortunately, he misses the mark. In it's essence, this book is a series of reviews to games the writer has played. Very little is talked about in regards to video games being art or culturally significant. Maybe I've just been out of the gaming scene for too long but it was hard to get into this book and read the loving memories of someone else playing video games. His chapter on playing Resident Evil for the first time was good, and made me feel that I missed out on something back in '97, but that chapter is the only standout. I half-expected each chapter to end with an official grade of the game, but Bissell must have been trying to tell us why his book mattered more than the subject matter.

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Review: Iron Man: Iron Monger Premiere HC

Iron Man: Iron Monger Premiere HC
Iron Man: Iron Monger Premiere HC by Dennis O'Neil

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second book in my attempt to read through Iron Man and I liked it. Iron Man is a fun hero and the writers of the 80s seemed to realize that. Similar to the Demon in a Bottle collection, Iron Monger is really only present for the last issue, while the ones leading up to it are slow progressions to the ultimate showdown. Stark has to deal with the fallout of his drinking and how weak it made him feel to be Iron Man. Those stories are okay, but the constant whining of Stark gets old fast. But the interplay between him and Rhodes is fun and the last issue is a winner. Stane is villain who mostly works, even when he veers on the silly, but his final move at the end proves he's an interesting guy. Really, it's just fun to read these issue for the 80's vibe but the story is good too.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era

Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era
Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era by Jonathan Gray

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I was 17, I would watch South Park and the Daily Show and gain my opinions of current events off of those shows. Honestly, despite what some might say to that, I was more informed then than I am now. Both kept me up to date on the political climate, the war, and events of our country. Somewhere, I stopped watching both, mainly stopping South Park for it's crude humor. But I only stopped watching the Daily Show due to it's time and my changing schedule.
Reading this book made me rethink what I've been missing and now I'm watching the show again online, where it's much easier to adjust time for. This book highlights the power of satire, the mistakes or failures of the genre, and the importance of political satire. A good read for someone who doesn't know how they feel about the current state of satire television, or for someone who might doubt the importance of The Daily Show and its kin.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle

Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle
Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle by David Michelinie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun comic. Not great, but fun. I liked the 80's vibe of the whole affair, and Tony Stark is a fun character. I read this with the desire to read an important Iron Man story, which was Demon in a Bottle. Having heard so much about it, I expected a long battle between Stark and alcoholism. This book however, is seven issues of Iron Man dealing with Justin Hammer and some super villains, getting stressed, having a drink once or twice, and then going full alcoholic in one issue. I'm of two minds of this.
On one hand, it's great to see that such a big story could be covered in a single issue back in the day. The writers really new how to compress a story. On the other hand, it seems like a big enough issue to deal with over the course of a longer format. It's not until the last issue of this volume that Tony becomes an alcoholic, ruins his life, decideds to battle the bottle, overcomes, and is back in the game. It's about 15 pages of real struggle.
Still, it's a good story, and the non-DIAB issues are fun enough to warrent a read-through.

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Review: Batman: Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, Vol. 2

Batman: Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, Vol. 2
Batman: Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, Vol. 2 by Greg Rucka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As good as I thought Batman: Bruce Wayne: Murderer was, the following volumes never matched up. The story slowed down and refused to pick up the pace over the next two volumes and we were treated to a very in depth, CSI mystery that moved at a crawling pace. Honestly, I don't remember much of the second volume alreay, as most of it was the Bat family reiterating the Bruce could be the murderer.
This volume started to move much faster, but it took Batman getting back in the game to do so. While the first volume had me wondering who the real murderer was, the second caused me to stop caring, and this volume spoiled the whole thing (hint: don't look at the cover). Considering that was the only thing I was really into near the end, knowing who did it was a letdown.
As a whole, the story is good, in pieces, it flounders.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

On Gary and High School

I'm working on an animation project for one of my classes. It's a story I've written about Gary, a teenage zombie who just wants to feel normal in high school. After writing the script and reading through it again, I realized how much of myself I've put into the Gary. Aside from the fact that he doesn't speak, he goes through a lot of the same things I went through in school.

1. Gary basically lives in his room. Why? Because his family is distant and doesn't really understand him. Sure, they're flesh and blood, but they don't understand why he hates school. To Gary, his family is there but not in a protective sense. In his room, he's free just to be himself, surround himself with posters that he relates to, and is able to relax without feeling the world watching him.

2. Gary hates the school bus. A school bus is a satanic transportation device and the day I stopped riding that thing was a very good day. You are taking all the problems of high school, all the people you wish you didn't have to see, and cramming them in a 50 seater with enough room for knees to touch and sleep to be impossible. This invention is able to compress all of high school in a 20 minute ride through the city. For those who don't fit in, it ends the benefit of giving you no escape route. There were days, on the bus, that all I could do was wish that I could fly and never get inside that leather-scented bus again. The "cool kids", if there is such a thing, sat in the back and smoked pot or made out. Sitting up front was no win, since those on probation were there and hated you for not being in the same boat as them. So, I sat in the middle, trapped between two worlds I wanted nothing to do with. Gary lives the same life and my heart goes out to him.

3. Gary hides behind a book. It's all I could do as kid to escape that hell the state demanded I go through. Reading let me out of class, out of bullying, and kept my head down. Gary, who has no friends, just wants to go unnoticed. It's like an ostrich with its head in the sand. The reader no longer concerns himself with the real world and, in doing so, hopes the world does the same to him. Most of the time, there's no such luck.

4. Gary has a very specific bully, Dwayne. How is it, in a school of thousands, one person can find another person just right for him. It's like the bully is specially made for you. He knows all the things you hate to hear, knows all the names you can't stand, and knows exactly how to make you hate life. Dwayne doesn't bully any one else but Gary and somehow, my bullies never bothered others. I should feel flattered but I think I could have done without.

5. Gary can't talk to the girl he likes. Like a bully, there always seems to be one other person made just to make you hate school. She's the crush, the girl you want to see every day, who you can't talk to lest she realize you exist. Gary has Courtney, a pretty girl who doesn't tease him, but giggles at his geeky moments. She's the girl that any poor soul in high school crushes on. Gary will sit there, forever, and imagine talking to her. But it's only a dream, we know our place and keep to the status quo.

6. Gary is alone during lunch. It's strange how this can happen. You surrounded by class mates but you still find the one spot that keeps you isolated. You sip your milk and watch the minutes go by as lunch ends. What kept me from talking to others? The same thing as Gary, a set belief that any venturing to others will end in failure, as the past has proven to be true. Poor guy.

7. The gym. Here it is, one of the biggest reasons to hate high school. I'm glad that a program, meant to improve intelligence, still grades you on a basis of athletic and physical ability. There is no reason for this anymore. Gary, a zombie, is barely attached as it is. He limbs fall off trying to climb the rope or lift weights, he can't swim, and he's the target of dodgeball. The school system is broken and gym proves it.

But Gary is unlike me in one big way. He goes to the dance after school. Why? Because he hopes to see Courtney and still is positive about change. I never had that dream. I knew my place. After school dances were for people who enjoyed school. An after school dance was not on my agenda. I had games to play, books to read. But Gary takes that chance and it pays off. I won't say how, as I still want you to watch the thing when it's done. The ending, in a way, is an alternative to my own choices. In as much as Gary is like me I can use him to see what might have happened. It's all dramatized and given a fun tone, but, who knows, maybe it could have been me?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

On Ghost Rider and Cameo Characters

I saw the new Ghost Rider movie and it wasn't that bad. Not to say it was great, or even very good, but it was much better than the first movie. In fact, the new one really worked to create it's own identity, something the first failed in the realm of super hero movies. This film is a Ghost Rider movie, because it can't be anyone else' movie. The cinematography and direction would only work for a character as weird as the Spirit of Vengeance.

But it's still not a great movie. Nic Cage does a good job at being weird and likable, especially in the scene where he's fighting back the Rider persona. But even with the head first approach of both actor and directors, the character of Ghost Rider is not a strong one. Johnny Blaze has all the elements of a good Marvel character; tragic past, poor decisions, and lifetime to make up for those bad choices, but the rest of his story fails to intrigue. When the Rider shows up, he's creepy and has that punk attitude you need in a flaming skeleton biker, but in the end, he's a flaming skeleton biker. He lacks the real personality as the Hulk, who can be stopped in his rage to confront what he's done, or even DC's demon Etrigan with his weird rhyming. The Hulk, who tends to be as wordless as Ghost Rider, can show emotion. The Rider can be a skull on fire.

Not to say I don't like the character. He can be written well, as some comics have proven, and even this movie proves he can have a presence. The problem is that it's not a presence that can carry a movie. Ghost Rider, in my opinion, is a cameo character. As a cameo character, he should show up, steal the scene he's in, and leave with us wanting (or at least with us thinking we want) more. If Ghost Rider were to show up in a future Dr. Strange movie to help the good doctor, that would be cool. Starring in his own two hour movie? Not so much. This is the same thought I hold to with him in comics. Have him show up in a few issues every now and then in other character's books and move on. Maybe give him a miniseries every now and then but never his own book.

But Ghost Rider isn't the only character who suffers from cameo status. The Punisher, Steel, Catwoman, and Elektra have proven this theory to be true. The Punisher would benefit from making a cameo in a Spider-Man or Daredevil movie, like he did in the comics. In fact, considering Fox owns the rights to both the Punisher and Daredevil, it seems like common sense to include them rather than stretch them out. Elektra only works with Daredevil, Catwoman with Batman, and I have no idea for Steel. But even a movie as bad as the Fantastic Four knew to keep the Silver Surfer as a side character and not give him his own film. There's a reason these characters, and Ghost Rider, fail at the box office and don't leave an impression of us, it's because they can't by themselves. A cameo character is meant for just that, and trying to make it go further will only hurt him.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: Batman: Bruce Wayne: Murderer?

Batman: Bruce Wayne: Murderer?
Batman: Bruce Wayne: Murderer? by Ed Brubaker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was great. I guess I've been reading a lot of mediocre Batman books that I was surprised I could like one of his books so much. There are some great moments throughout, but really, it's the whole story that shines.
Bruce Wayne has been framed for murder and is now in jail. Unlike Matt Murdock people now accept to be Daredevil, Bruce can't let any hints out that he's Batman. So, he sits and weights, all while his city is without his protection. But Bruce is only a part of this story, as Nightwing, Robin and Oracle all deal with their own feelings towards Bruce and the case before them. Nightwing goes through some emotionally powerful moments in dealing with Batman, especially at the end of the book. All of Batman's "family" have their own theories and beliefs about Bruce's innocence and their struggles with those beliefs make for great writing. The end, with Batman's heavy and dangerous decision, is big moment and is probably the most growth and character I've seen in a Batman story in years.
The art changes throughout but stays at high quality. Really, this whole book is amazing and it's pacing is spot on. Highly recommended.

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On Sidekicks

There's a difference between the Marvel and DC comic book universe but it's hard to define. Both universe have characters that mirror the other such as Green Arrow (DC) and Hawkeye (Marvel), both tell similar stories such as Brightest Day (DC) and the Heroic Age (Marvel), and both are long running super hero universe with interconnection between titles.

One difference I've been looking at is that Marvel, with one or two exceptions, doesn't have sidekicks. At all. I'll give someone Bucky to Captain America but in reality, Bucky has become his own character in his Winter Soldier arc, and considering few reading today read about Cap and Bucky, it's safe to assume few connect him as a sidekick. While on the other hand we have Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow all with "families" of sidekicks. A few years ago, when Marvel launched the Young Avengers, there was a bit of irony to it, since we all knew the Avengers didn't have sidekicks, and the creators went with that. Hulkling, Patriot, and Iron Lad were all unconnected to their adult versions, except by name.

So, why is this? Why is the DC universe littered with sidekicks while the Marvel universe has next to none? My theory, such as it is, is that the DC universe needs sidekicks to battle its own iconic nature.

Superman and Batman represent the main point of my theory. Superman is almost a non-character, he doesn't change. He struggles and makes hard choices, but he doesn't change. He's not a character that will grow from one story to the next. He will always be Superman, no matter what happened in previous issues. That's why there are so many retellings of his origin, because its the only time in his story that's he's allowed to grow and be a character. After that, Superman is an icon. Batman is the same type of problem, he's essentially a non-character. The tone might change in his book and go from campy to dark, but the character doesn't move forward. Batman is a mission obsessed character, who has all the knowledge and skills he'll ever need. It's part of the reason his origin is so compelling, it's when he's the most unsure and goes through the most change.

Marvel, on the other hand, while recognizable with Spider-Man and the Hulk, are less iconic. Spider-Man doesn't hold the same power or respect of Superman, no matter how much his movies make. But that's okay, because his movies show what makes Spider-Man successful. Peter Parker, as a character, is always growing and changing. He has his core message, that great power comes with great responsibility, but that's a creed to strive for whether than one that is lived out constantly. In fact, watching Peter struggle with that creed can come with the most amount of drama. Other characters in the Marvel universe gain from the same appeal. Iron Man is cool but watching Tony Stark deal with conflicting motives and his own addictions is the drama, and the character growth that we want to see over long periods of time.
I think, at a certain point, someone over at DC realized this issue. Considering comics are a constant, long-term source of entertainment, Superman and his fellow heroes needed more than their iconic status to carry them through. If Batman can't change, can there be a character like Batman, related to Batman, who interacts with Batman, who can change? Yes, there can and they named him Robin. And then Nightwing. And then Batgirl and Huntress and Spoiler and Red Hood and so on. Superman has Supergirl and Superboy. Flash has a whole family of speedsters and the Green Lantern has a whole corps of fellow heroes (though, I might argue, the Green Lantern corps is a very Marvel idea and DC should be thanking God they came up with it first).

But this works, because Robin can change while Batman doesn't. Robin can struggle with the ideals he stands for, he can die, he can turn to the dark side, he can kill. Supergirl can abandon Earth, Speedy can suffer from AIDS, Kid Flash can become the Flash. This is the power of sidekicks. I've heard some people argue that sidekicks are stupid, a comic device that didn't age well and makes little sense. We've all heard the countless Batman and Robin jokes. But I think the DC universe needs sidekicks, otherwise it's in danger of growing stale from it's main heroes own advantages. A sidekick doesn't just help a hero, he saves it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: Hyperion

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book surpassed any expectations I had. Truth be told, I knew next to nothing about it, except that I remember it being named dropped to me once. When I began reading it, I was surprised to find that the structure was many different stories of pilgrims on a quest. What was great about this style was that it allowed for Simmons to write different genres throughout the book, and he did a great job on each. From religious, to military, from cyberpunk, to space opera, each story is told masterfully as if it were the only one in the book. The main mystery of the Time Tombs and the Shrike intrigued me, but not as much as the pilgrim's stories. I had some favorites, even though I liked them all. However, near the end of the detective story, I was reaching my limit. It was not as easy to read the last story but it was still rewarding and I'm glad to have found this science fiction masterpiece.
And yet, the four stars stand for an unfinished tale. The book ends, with each story being told, with all the pilgrims nearing the end of the journey. But, we don't see it. That's for the next book. I was very angry that fact and, while I'll easily pick up the next volume, the lack of a real ending hurt my view of this. Still, I loved it and will finish the story, regardless of how many volumes.

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Review: Robopocalypse

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really good. I can see why people make comparisons to Crichton with this but it stands out on its own, even past the "World War Z" similarities. Unlike the zombie novel, this book keeps the focus on a select amount of people, who end up intersecting and helping each other in strange and unforeseen ways. Some of the characters are likable, some are bland, some are robotic. Either way, almost every chapter kept my attention. There is a creepiness to the early parts of the book, during the isolated incidents, and then Zero Hour.
I guess my biggest criticism is the actual robot threat. It's always present and our heroes talk about how terrible it is, but aside from a few moments, it never seems very destructive and effective. I guess I just wanted to see Zero Hour explored more, and more of the failures of mankind to fight back. But, I guess that's the give and take of a faster novel, you exchange the atmosphere and build-up to see the full timeline of events without having an 800 page novel.
I couldn't put this book down and read it in one day, and it never felt like I was rushing through to just finish it. It was something I wanted to keep reading to see what happened next.

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