Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ultimate Origins Review

    Today's offering should be interesting.  I have been trying to think of how to write this post for days (poor excuse for my absence) and I think that I finally figured it out.  In comics, the verbiage used to describe the story lines of a particular comic book universe are called the continuity.  Ultimate Origins was a VERY interesting book for me as it explained many differences between the "Ultimate" continuity and the pre-established Golden and Silver Age continuities that we all have come to know of through reading comics or watching comic book movies.  For instance, Spider-man became a superhero after letting a criminal escape onto the street who would kill his uncle later that night.  This is the way that the story progresses in both the Ultimate universe and the original text from Spiderman's first appearance in Amazing Fantasy.  The continuities are the same.  Conversely, in the world of Ultimate Xmen, Storm and Beast are dating.  That would never happen in the original Marvel universe.  Also, Beast died in the Ultimate Universe, but is alive and well in original continuity.  It is important to understand that the Ultimate universe is different from the original Marvel universe, especially for the entertainment value that can be gleaned from Ultimate Origins.
    Ultimate Origins begins with a scene that had occurred in an early issue of Ultimate Marvel Team Up.  Ultimate Marvel Team Up was a lesser known book and so the fact that they dropped in a big clue was interesting to me.  Spiderman and the Hulk have been battling through New York and have fought to a standstill at the docks when the Hulk powers down to tell Spiderman, "It's all connected."
    I had always wondered what that meant after I had read that comic book around 2003.  They teased a connection between two very different and random events such as the rampage of the Hulk and Spiderman's humble beginnings in this side issue.  Then, when we fast forward to 2011 and this seed came to fruition, I found myself given somewhat of a shock.
    I was beyond surprised that the way the Ultimate universe became connected, in the first issue of Ultimate Origins, was through three characters being criminals together.  Wilson Fisk, James Howlett, and Nicholas Fury start out as soldiers robbing homes during WW2.  James and Nicholas get caught and imprisoned, while Fisk escapes.  They take Fury and put him into the super soldier program for testing.  They send Howlett back to Canada for his own brand of scientific torture.  Fisk is actually the alter ego to the Kingpin, famous adversary of Daredevil, and I assume that he escapes with the spoils of war to form his character's immense fortune.
    Ultimate Origins does a great job with Fury's storyline.  It highlights the disrespect that African Americans received in the early years of our country.  Fury is treated like an animal.  This will be a theme to his life as we see later in the book.
    Now in the original Marvel universe, Nick Fury was just a human soldier, at the top of his game, that climbed to the pinnacle of the ranks in The U.S. Military Black Covert Ops SHIELD division.  In the Ultimate universe, Nick is a test subject due to his criminal background and is injected with super soldier serum.  This makes Fury the FIRST super soldier.  This is a nod to the often untold story of Isaiah Bradley.  Isaiah Bradley was the first super soldier and the first Captain America in the original Marvel universe.  Isaiah was created with the super soldier serum that was tested on and killed many African Americans during the Tuskegee Experiments.  Nick Fury, after becoming a super soldier escapes and disappears.
    James Howlett is taken to the Weapon X program in Canada where they do terrible things to him.  The way that Ultimate Origins really messes with you is that they take you down the path that is familiar to you from the original Marvel universe, but then leers off on it's own Origin story.  Original continuity is that Weapon X exploits James' mutant abilities that he was born with.  Ultimates universe says that Weapon X creates the mutant gene starting with James Howlett, or Wolverine if you prefer, and infects the populace with it.  Magneto saves him from the program and kills his own mother in doing so.
    Ultimate Origins features early looks at Bruce Banner, a teenage Dr. Henry Pym, who would later become Giant Man, and Richard Parker, Spiderman's dad.  We get to see all of these Main characters and how all of their stories are intertwined.  We see Magneto and Charles Xavier's friendship blossom, flower, and die.  We get all of these interesting glances at how the Ultimate universe developed and I have to say I find it more interesting than original continuity.  The updated themes and adult situations that are handled in Ultimate books is just refreshing.  It feels like the difference between watching a PG movie and a PG 13 movie.  The content is a little more mature, but a lot more realistic.  I find myself gravitating towards the new and not the old.  I loved Ultimate Origins.  The shocking truth about the deaths of Peter Parker's parents will have your jaw on the floor.  The sadness Magneto taps into when he rejects the idea that he was a simple experiment is gut-wrenching.  The impassioned speech that FDR gives to Captain America about WW2 makes you want to fight for America.  It's a very emotional book and gives the reader lots to chew on, but falls just a little shy of perfect.
    The side story that introduces all of these memories from the past is an Ultimate Fantastic Four/Carol Danvers story and it is BORING.  They find alien totem poles in strategic places all over the world just watching events take place.  It tries to be creepy, but it is sort of expected.  I think that "the Watcher" totem poles are much much cooler than the giant-headed avatar of doom from original continuity, but it wasn't enough to save this storyline.  It's a weak storyline that makes you long for the intrigue provided by the rich and colorful flashbacks.
    All things included, this is another Ultimate revamp that doesn't disappoint.  I love the length as five issues are easy to digest and the story itself is well contained.  Everything that I know about "Ultimatum," the story arc that follows Ultimate Origins, suggests it is a train wreck, but I feel compelled to read on.  Ultimate Origins is very pointed and I think that the strength that it possesses is in the emotions it conveys and the crazy plot twists it provides.  If you are a hardcore fan, it's a must read in my opinion.

~ Scott Deaux ~

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Ultimate Human

      Hello again to all my friends!  I'm glad to see that we have a few followers now and am looking forward to our first comment.  That's right, we have three followers and nary a comment on anything written, so it appears that Comical-Musings will continue to be 2 dimensional and I'm ok with that.  I mean what would you have commented on my previous postings anyway?  Well, that's why today I have dished up what could be a slightly controversial hotbed of interest and disinterest.  Today I present to you, Ultimate Human which is written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Cary Nord.    

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Feelings on H-E-R-O #1-4

      Greetings from your friendly neighborhood blogger, Scott.  Here we are at blog post #1 and I'm thankful that you have decided to follow me.  I'm writing my first post of substance to discuss the first four issues in the series H-E-R-O written by Will Pfeifer and illustrated by Kano.
      Two days ago, I was probing into various series, looking for something to entice me into reading.  H-E-R-O climbed slowly into my hands.  I had heard terrible things about this book, but was always interested in the concept.  That concept is taken from the original series called "Dial H for Hero."

"Dial H for Hero is a comic book feature published by DC Comics about a mysterious dial that enables an ordinary person to become a superhero for a short time, by selecting the letters H-E-R-O in order. Each time it is used, the dial causes its possessor to become a superhero with a different name, costume, and powers." - Wikipedia
You can read all about the history of the series here:
      So I began reading H-E-R-O and found it VERY enjoyable!  It starts with the main character, Jerry Feldon, going on a long rant about how depressed he is and the origins of said depression to a suicide help line operator.  I thought that this was an interesting and intriguing way to begin.  If you know that this is going to be a super hero book, you can't help but wonder why the ordinary joe, blessed by powers, would be so depressed.  I found myself identifying with Jerry from the start and ultimately throughout the book.  Whether he is super-powered or not, I found myself being empathetic towards him.  At times, nearly all of the time, Jerry is more awkward when powered up than not and actually fails more at being a superhero than he did at just being a normal guy.  There were three key moments that really stood out to me in this book.  This may be a spoiler to you if you have not read, so stop reading now and continue later, post-reading. 
      1. Afterburner gets tore up from the floor up:  When Jerry transforms into his first super hero alter ego, he instantly realizes that his name is "Afterburner."  Afterburner is large and muscley and can fly.  Jerry swoops in and stops a tragedy by saving a kid on a bike from a drunk driver in a semi.  Instantly feeling invincible, he swoops in to stop the semi using his "perceived invulnerability" and gets destroyed complete with internal bleeding!  I mean, he was all big and muscley and super strong, so he thought he was impervious, but I guess that he thought too quick.  As he lays out bleeding in the grass, he barely can hit the hero dial to transform him back.  Lesson learned.
      2. Jerry calls Molly:  Simply said, Jerry is horribly nervous when trying to call Molly, the girl he works with, for a date.  Jerry has to power up to gain confidence.  I think that this was a great stride to make Jerry human to us.  Who wouldn't want to hide behind something bigger than them when embarking on an adventure to court a new love?  This is one of my favorite moments in any comic that I have ever read.
      3.  The End?:  The end of the comic book shows Jerry working at the very same suicide hotline that he had called in to.  In the background, we see a picture of him with Molly looking happy.  I believe that what Will Pfeifer is trying to convey is the idea that Jerry is far more heroic when he's just being himself.  I loved this happy ending in a sappy kind of way.  Sometimes, things in comic books are realistic and harsh, but a happy ending just makes you feel good.  
      This comic book was interesting and kept my attention all of the way til' the end.  The characters, as I said before, are easy to relate to.  The story isn't necessarily "action-packed" and if you read comics just for EPIC fights, this will leave you disappointed.  Reading it was sort of introspective for me.  Unless you have always been the coolest most popular kid, Jerry Feldon works as a kind of mirror to how we feel.  Emotionally this book was gripping and you find it leaving you with good feelings and making you want to be yourself.  I really enjoyed it and would love to hear your comments after you read it.  Thanks again.

Welcome, welcome, welcome...

      This blog has begun!  My name is Scott and I am glad that you are here to read my random thoughts and musings.  I ask that you would keep all comments appropriate when commenting on a thread.  The idea of this blog is to allow people a forum to discuss comic books and generally most media in a non-threatening and amusing place.  I will never attack your ideas, or belittle your thought process.  We can all be friends when discussing this hobby that we have.  The picture that makes up the header for this blog is a beautiful panel painted by Alex Ross in the series "Justice" featuring Braniac standing with a monkey on his shoulder.  The statement that he makes is "No.  We all have our limitations, don't we.  That's why we need each other."  I thought that was appropriate because, face it, we are separated from other people into a tiny group of people that either still live with our moms, have the construction plans for the Millennium Falcon somewhere in our closet, or constantly debate whether today is the day that we should wear our Spiderman costume beneath our business suits.  To those who stand with me, I say welcome
      I may not be a professional writer, but I have mild credentials.  When I was in High School, my teacher Mrs. Cruz, would keep small compositions that I had written in her drawer for posterity sake naming the drawer "Scott's Thoughts."  So there you go.  In your face Mr. Pulitzer!  Anyways, I assume that this blog will be similar in make up.  Silly writings with the goal of increasing interest in a favorite hobby.  To be more pointed, the goal will be to highlight great comic book story arcs that I have read and then relay that information to you so that you can enjoy them too.  The only thing that gets me more excited than a great storyline in a time-tested comic is sharing the knowledge of the story within and thoughts that I have on said comic with someone else.  The joy that lights up in someone's eyes when they realize that the asinine little magazine with pictures and words that they just read was "AMAZING!" is second only to when they realize that this is not the only one.  Actually the cool thing that you just saw the character in that comic book do was probably tied to events that happened in the past and has great implications not only for them, but many others in their universe.  This makes for great discussions amongst fans and epic story lines backed by rich histories.  We are indeed lucky to be able to enjoy this together.
      I encourage you to read this blog and take my reviews and suggestions seriously.  Conversely, if you disagree with something written, I would LOVE to talk to you about it.  Feel free to comment often and we will build a community around this blog.  I'm excited to see what will come of this!  Thanks again for your patronage!