Sound Off! Deadpool 2 — Speculative Chic

The Merc with a Mouth returns! Check out three different perspectives (including mine!) on Deadpool 2 over at Speculative Chic.

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, break the fourth wall and discuss Deadpool 2, which premiered in the United States on Friday, May 18, 2018. 20 more words

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Infinity War Reviewed

What did you think about Infinity War? Check out several different perspectives (including mine!) over at Speculative Chic and share your thoughts!

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, team up to fight the biggest bad and discuss Avengers: Infinity War, which premiered in the United States on Friday, April 27, 2018. Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction,…

via Sound Off! Avengers: Infinity War — Speculative Chic

Marvel Movies Ranked (Includes Infinity War!)

Thanos has arrived.

With the release of Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel has delivered on a promise made during the post credit scene of the first Avengers movie. The Big Bad of the MCU is finally here and ready to make some noise. Which has everyone wondering, is Infinity War any good, and how does it compare to other Marvel movies?

While my actual review for Infinity War is still in the works, today I will be providing a sneak peek by ranking all of the Marvel movies, from my personal favorite to those I am less enthused about. This is a fun exercise I like to complete after every new Marvel release, albeit typically not with this much depth. One thing I have discovered over the years is that while some things remain constant about The List, there is also a fair amount of shifting things around. My opinions on a movie may change over time, especially if it’s one I find myself rewatching frequently. So on top of providing a strict ranking, I’m also going to divide my list up into three tiers: top tier, mid tier, and bottom tier. The actual ranking of the Marvel movies might change with my mood, but this is something that remains pretty constant.

Without further ado, here are all the movies ranked according to my personal preference.

Top Tier Marvel Movies

The Avengers (2012) To me, the first Avengers was a perfect storm of awesomeness. Getting to see so many of my favorite heroes come together for the first time was ground breaking in so many ways. So many aspects of the MCU, from the very Whedonesque mix of humor and drama, to the audacious set pieces, to the interpersonal relationships that have come to anchor this mega-franchise, all had there start here. It even managed to avoid the most common pitfall of Marvel movies by delivering a strong villain. Out of all of the Marvel movies, this is the one I have rewatched the most, and holds the steadiest place in my heart. It’s not just one of my favorite Marvel movies, it’s one of my favorite movies of all times.

Captain America: Winter Solider (2014)- One of the interesting things about these top tier movies is how many of them were not just entertaining, but managed to transform my expectations of what the MCU could accomplish, and none of that is more obvious than in Captain America: Winter Solider, a grounded spy thriller with seriously high stakes, taut pacing, strong performances, and heart wrenching character drama. Marvel movies may be best known for their humor and overall sense of fun, but when they get serious, it really pays off.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)- Aaaand sometimes you just want humor and overall sense of fun, and what’s the harm in that? Guardians of the Galaxy successfully launched the cosmic arm of the MCU, proving that Marvel didn’t need to be limited to earth-based capes and cowls style adventures. But perhaps the more impressive things about Guardians is just how audacious is it. An 70s-music inspired space comedy starring a lovable cast of characters-including a talking raccoon and his best friend, a sentient tree? Yes. please! After The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy is the Marvel movie that I’ve rewatched the most.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)- While Infinity War didn’t seem to charm critics as much as some of Marvel’s other films, out of all of Marvel’s offerings this one gave me the most feels. And it’s easy to see why. Marvel spent ten years making me fall in love with its characters, and then put them all in extreme danger. Thanks to a big character death in the first scene, it felt like no one was safe this time around, and the Russo brothers, who directed Infinity War, notched that tension up further by interspersing the big ballsy set pieces with genuinely moving character moments that reminded me why I loved these characters so much. On top that, Infinity War managed to recapture the same feeling I had while watching the first Avengers, seeing so many of these characters interact for the first time.

Iron Man (2008)- Nowadays, looking at the financial juggernaut that is Marvel Studios, it’s easy to forget that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. When Iron Man was released 10 years ago, they were faced with a fair amount of skepticism. How would the studio find financial success when the rights to their most popular characters were owned by Fox and Sony? Not to mention the judgmental comments people made about lead actor Robert Downey Jr’s past. But that skepticism was quickly proven wrong when Iron Man turned out to be such a damn good movie. Lead by an electrifying performance by Downy Jr, Iron Man is a movie that holds up extremely well over time.

Black Panther (2018)- I went back and forth over the placement of Black Panther and Iron Man on this list. But while Tony ultimately won, T’Challa has quickly become a new favorite of mine. Much like Guardians of the Galaxy expanded on the MCU by going to space, Black Panther accomplished this by largely leaving the western world behind. The film sidesteps the Marvel villain problem in a BIG way with Erik Killmonger, but what ultimately sold Black Panther for me were its female characters. Diverse in both personality and drive, the women of Wakanda each possess a vibrancy that could anchor their own films. I hope the MCU keeps them around for a long time.

Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)- I, like many people, wasn’t looking forward to this iteration of Spiderman. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the character, but was tired of seeing the same Peter Parker story over and over again. And then Spidey-actor Tom Holland charmed me in Captain America: Civil War, and continued to win my heart in Spider-man: Homecoming. Instead of treading water, Homecoming does a fantastic job of breaking new ground in the MCU, by focusing on a teenage lead in a diverse urban setting, and bringing back the secret identity, a classic superhero trope largely abandoned by the MCU. Spider-man: Homecoming may technically be a Sony movie, but the quality of the film is what I’ve come to expect from the MCU: sky high.

Mid-Tier Marvel Movies
Captain America: Civil War (2016)- AKA Avengers 2.5! All kidding aside, it would make sense that the third Captain America would be more team focused then previous installments, given Steve Rogers’s rise to leader of The Avengers in Age of Ultron. And while some members of ensemble cast are better served than others, Civil War is nevertheless quite the impressive balancing. Based around the relationships in Steve’s lives, from humble beginnings (Bucky Barns and Peggy Carter), to his new life as an Avenger (Tony Stark especially), the film also brings in two new headliners (Spiderman and Black Panther) in exciting ways. Civil War was a fitting finale to the Captain America trilogy, and a nice preview of things to come in Infinity War.

Thor (2011)- It’s often been criticized that the first movies in Marvel trilogies tend to follow a familiar pattern: a selfish white guy (Tony Stark, Thor, Peter Quill, Stephen Strange) turns over a new leaf and learns how to be a hero. And well… that’s criticism is perfectly valid. But when it’s done right, it really works, such as in the first Thor movie. Yes, the romance is kind of rushed, and the less said about some of those wigs the better, but I found myself really swept up in both Thor and Loki’s story. In addition, the Thor movies are the only franchise (with the exception of Ant-Man) that deal with blood relations, as opposed to found families, which brings a unique spice. Thor is one of my most rewatched Marvel movies, and I think I’ll always have a soft spot for it.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 (2017)- One of the drawbacks to making a follow up to something truly unique is what looked like groundbreaking before can quickly start to resemble a formula. And while Guardians of the Galaxy, vol 2 suffers from this a bit (that and the fact that the humor can occasionally veer into overly cartoony) the movie was still incredibly enjoyable to watch. A lot of this lays at the feet of the films talented cast, and the wonderful relationships shared between these memorable characters. By the end of the film (which featured one of the most tearful deaths in the MCU) I knew that I was a Guardians fan for life, and look forward to what happens in Vol 3.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)- When I first saw Captain America: The First Avenger, I remember enjoying it just fine, but not finding it as satisfying as some of the other MCU movies. Weirdly enough, the movie holds up much better when seen in the context of the wider MCU. And yes, it suffers from the Marvel villain problem, and there are one too many montages, but thanks to a compelling performance from Chris Evans, Steve’s journey holds emotional weight, which is what makes this movie work so well for me.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)- Warning- some of the placements on this list might leave you scratching your head a bit, and I’m going to guess that said head scratching is going to start right about… now! Okay, so I know that for many viewers, Age of Ultron is their least favorite Marvel movie. And while it’s my least favorite Avengers movie, I actually like it as a whole! Yes, there are a lot of areas where it struggles. Between character arcs, the Ultron storyline, and setting things up for Infinity War, it ends up falling short in a few places. And it suffers from the Marvel villain problem. But the character interaction is what really makes it work for me. I also really like the two new characters introduced here: Scarlet Witch and The Vision. So while Age of Ultron is far from my favorite, it’s admittedly a Marvel movie I enjoy plenty.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)- The head scratching continues. I also liked Thor: The Dark World! Yes, Thor: The Dark World is probably the worst offender when it comes to the Marvel villain problem, and the relationship between Thor and Jane continues to be uneven, but I really like the Thor characters. I loved watching how the Thor/Loki relationship developed, and connected very well with the more humorous bits. Despite it’s title, I ultimately found The Dark World to be a lot of fun. Also, better wigs!

Iron Man 2 (2010)- Given the strength of Robert Downey Jr’s performance as Tony Stark, it’s sometimes easy to forget how uneven the Iron Man movies can be. But I ended up rewatching this one recently while visiting my family and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, which brings it up a notch. Yes, the movie suffers from the Marvel villain problem, and Black Widow’s introduction is uneven, but the set pieces are really thrilling (especially the Monaco racing sequence), and the chemistry between the cast is on point as always.

Thor: Ragnarock (2017)- Now I know some of you are in complete shock! What is this? You say. The best reviewed Thor movie is so far down the list? To which I say, yup! Thor: Ragnarock is a daring entry into the MCU. I love much of the humor, and I think we can all agree that the MCU is better for having Korg and Valkyrie in it. But there are some tonal issues in this movie that marred my viewing experience, and the brutal mowing down of the Warriors Three, done with so little respect to their characters, is unforgivable. I enjoyed this one, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not my favorite.

Ant-Man (2015)- Sometimes your experience with a movie is dragged down less by what the film itself has to offer, but more by what it could have been. Ant-Man, in so many ways, is a successful superhero film. It’s well cast, has a unique feel to it when compared to the rest of the franchise (likely a result of hiring a comedic director), and is a generally feel good time at the movies. But then you think about the quirky masterpiece it could have been had things worked out better with Edgar Wright. And, like others, it suffers from the Marvel villain problem in a big way (despite it’s best efforts not to. Not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but far from greatness.

Doctor Strange (2016)- Speaking of movies that are far from bad, but still aren’t that great, let’s bring out Doctor Strange! It’s one of the best reviewed films in the MCU, which I believe to be 100% due to director Scott Derrickson’s impressive visual style. My problem with Doctor Strange is the fact that if you take away that impressive visual style, it ends up feeling very routine. Remember what I said about the “selfish white guy learns how to be a hero” plotline. Here’s an example where it’s not quite as successful. On top of that the movie suffers from the Marvel villain problem (again, despite its best efforts!), and the humor doesn’t always hit. Doctor Strange is a franchise brimming with potential (seriously, the talent level of that cast alone!). Let’s see if we can achieve that next time.

Bottom Tier Marvel Movies
The Incredible Hulk (2008)- I remember almost nothing about this movie. Seriously, almost nothing. I recall a scene where the villain (played by Tim Roth) gets an incredibly painful series of injections, and the Stan Lee cameo. That’s it. “But Nancy,” you might be saying, “this movie came out ten years ago. How well can you be expected to remember it?” And while that it true, this is an issue I’ve had for years. And sure, while part of that is due to the fact that they pretty much retconned the movie when they recast Bruce Banner, I still feel like a Marvel movie should leave a greater impression on me. And this one didn’t.

Iron Man 3 (2013)- If The Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man 3, and season 6 of Arrow has taught me anything, it’s that the villain switcheroo is really difficult to pull off. This is where you present a serious threat (in this case The Mandarin) and reveal halfway through the movie that the true villain is someone far less obvious. So you need to make the second villain unassuming enough to not give away the surprise, yet impressive enough to appear more of a threat than the first. And for me, Iron Man 3 didn’t pull that off, which left me feeling more disappointed then any other Marvel movie has so far. Sure, I liked some of the individual scenes in Iron Man 3, but not the movie as a whole. I think that every Marvel movie fan has a particular film that just didn’t click with them. For me, this is it.

And that’s it (phew! that took longer than I thought). My full review of Infinity War should be coming out next week, first on Speculative Chic and then posted here. I hope everyone enjoyed the latest Avengers movie as much as I clearly did!



Rodent-Based Crime Fighters and Super Administrators: Our Favorite Superheroes

Who’s your favorite superhero? With Infinity War on the horizon, we discuss some of our favorites on Speculative Chic.

Infinity War is coming, Infinity War is coming! To say that some of us are excited would be an understatement. With this in mind, I asked our contributors something simple: who’s your favorite superhero? It doesn’t have to be one of the obvious heroes. I humbly submit that Buffy Summers is a superhero, for example.…

via Roundtable: Our Heroes — Speculative Chic

WAKANDA FOREVER: We review Black Panther on Speculative Chic

Are you one of the handful of people who hasn’t seen Black Panther yet? Maybe we can convince you otherwise. Check out this great group  post I took part in.

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, join the cry of “Wakanda forever!” and discuss Black Panther, which premiered in the United States on Friday, February 16, 2018. Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not…

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Do you think Ms. Marvel deserves her own movie?

Then check out this coulumn I just posted over on Speculative Chic! Now is clearly the perfect time for Ms. Marvel to enter the MCU.

The future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has never looked brighter. With the incredibly cool-looking Black Panther and the much hyped Avengers: Infinity War set to hit the screen before the summer, the short term is sure to be filled with excitement. And the long term looks just as good, thanks to Marvel’s acquisition of…

via 5 Reasons Why Ms. Marvel Needs Her Own Movie — Speculative Chic

Top 10 of 2016: Comics and Graphic Novels

This is part four in a series of top ten lists. For movies, television shows, and books, check out their respective posts.

Out of all of the lists I made, this was the trickiest, because my comic book reading is pretty much all over the place. I read single issues, graphic novels, and the occasional manga series. Oftentimes, I read current releases, but I also dig into older runs. As a result, this list is kinda chaotic. I’ll try to be as honest about what I actually read without diving into information overload.

Without further ado, here are my top ten comics and graphic novels of 2016, leading up to my number one favorite.

10. Daredevil. Written by Mark Waid. Illustrated by Chris Samnee– This year I finished off the longest run on Daredevil by reading the final two trades, and even those last few issues were pretty freakin’ fabulous. The Waid/Samnee run on Daredevil was exciting, and fun, but not afraid to get serious as well (they gave Foggy Nelson CANCER!). The artwork was dynamic and unique, and the characters were oh-so-lovable. I have yet to dive into the Charles Soule run, which follows this, but it has some sizable shoes to fill.

9. The Private Eye. Written by Brian K Vaughan. Illustrated by Marcos Martin– The Private Eye is a self published webcomic by Vaughan and Martin that has been collected into this ENORMOUS hardcover collection. And I don’t necessarily mean enormous page count. The panels here are some of the largest I’ve seen. The Private Eye has a singularly unique concept. In the future, The Cloud bursts, sending everyone’s private information out to the wild. To protect themselves, everyone takes on a secret identity, complete with costumes and masks. Take this cool worldbuilding and combine it with a noir-esque storyline and you have a comic that’s really worth your attention.

8. Wonder Woman: The True Amazon. Written and Illustrated by Jill Thompson– In this graphic novel, Jill Thompson re-imagines the Wonder Woman origin story in a rather surprising way. Sure, it involves amazons, and ends with Diana leaving Themyscira, but it also suggest that maybe growing up as a spoiled princess had some… adverse effects on Diana’s personality. As a result, Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is less about Diana discovering her powers, as much as it’s about what inspired her to become a good person. What brings this to the next level is the fact that the hand-painted style artwork is so gorgeous, almost more like a storybook then a comic. Not all existing fans will appreciate this portrayal of Wonder Woman, but if you’re looking for a good place to start with the character, then this would be a great choice.

7. Monstress. Written by Marjorie Liu. Illustrated by Sana TakedaMonstress is a grimdark fantasy that takes place in a gorgeously illustrated matriarchal fantasy world, involving Lovecraftian level horrors, and chibi-style sidekicks. And if that description sounds like your type of book, seriously, why haven’t you read this yet? Writer Marjorie Liu has really hit her sweet spot with this one, and Sana Takeda is one of the best artists currently making comics. I’ve only read the first trade, but I am so ready for volume two.

6. Saga. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Illustrated by Fiona Staples– This is one of the comics I read in single issue form- although I am a couple issues behind due to holiday shenanigans. It says a lot about the quality of Saga given that this year produced the storyline that I’ve been the least fond of (the prison storyline) yet it’s still this high on on my list. So instead of falling in love with every issue, I merely enjoyed the crap out if it. Saga remains the perfect place to go for a wonderfully weird sci-fi adventure that’s not afraid to step on your heart every now and then. I’m really looking forward to catching up on this one.

5. Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat. Written by Kathe Leth. Illustrated by Brittney Williams– I’m also reading this one in single issue format, although it couldn’t be any more different than Saga if it tried. Patsy is a wonderfully relatable protagonist. She’s trying to help out people with superpowers who don’t necessarily want to become superheroes or villains, AND juggle her complicated past, while dealing with the crazy machinations of the Marvel universe. The fact that this comic feels so grounded while totally embracing the crazy-cakes backstory of the protagonists is a real testament to the writer, Kathe Leth. This is a great selection for those looking for a light, fun read, starring a female superhero.

4. Ms. Marvel. Written by G. Willow Wilson. Illustrated by Adrian Alphona. This year, I read the 4th and 5th trades for G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel and damn it’s still good. Kamala Khan is everything I want my superheroes to be. Admirable, yet flawed. Well intentioned, yet still learning about herself. This year, Kamala dealt with her newfound fame as Ms. Marvel as well as the massive crossover event, Civil War II. As someone who usually despises crossover events, I’d like to hold up the Ms. Marvel comics as an example for how to incorporate crossover events while still keeping the storyline personal. Too often, crossovers feel like useless filler that detract from the protagonist’s current journey, but that was not felt here. Civil War II brought some massive changes to Kamala’s life, and I can’t wait to see what happens to her next.

3. Attack on Titan. Written and Illustrated by Hajime Isayama. This year, I’ve been keeping up with the manga, Attack on Titan, reading volumes 17-19, as well as the spin off, No Regrets. Last year, the manga, while still good, was caught up in a political arc that didn’t always play to Isayama’s strengths. Now, the emphasis is on character drama and action, which is where Attack on Titan shines the most. Attack on Titan is one of those series that 100% worth all the hype it gets. The spin off, No Regrets, which focuses on Levi’s backstory, is also really great, despite the fact that it wasn’t written by Hajime Isayama. I am both excited (and dreading) to learn what will happen to our cast of characters next.

2. Wonder Woman. Written by Greg Rucka. Illustrated by various. Now this is going to be the most confusing item on my list, because while everyone else is reading Greg Rucka’s current run on Wonder Woman, I’m reading the one he wrote ten years back. And why am I doing that? Because it’s awesome. I still have a few more issues to go, but time and time again, I have been impressed at how well Rucka manages to capture Diana. Wonder Woman is a peacekeeper, but also a warrior. A diplomat, but also someone that will kill when necessary. A woman who isn’t bound by traditional women’s roles, despite being from an ancient society. It can be difficult to capture a character who wears so many hats, and is seemingly full of conflicts, but Rucka always portrays her with dignity and grace. I can see why they invited him back for a second run.

1. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Written by Ryan North. Illustrated by Erica Henderson– Please. You know me. What else could I pick for my number one? I only wrote an entire column praising Squirrel Girl, and this run specifically. There’s just something so lovable, so perfect, about Doreen Green. She’s feisty, strong, smart, and compassionate. The artwork by Erica Henderson is just suits the story so well. And it’s so nice, that in a world where humor is so often devalued and looked upon as lesser, that you have a comic that’s not afraid to put the lighthearted first, and is pretty much universally praised for it. Squirrel Girl is my favorite superhero of 2016, and my favorite comic book (I’m reading it in trade paperback form). I can’t wait to see what she gets into next.

Honorable Mentions: Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Run- last two trades), Paper Girls (current issues), Lazarus (current issues), Black Widow (Mark Waid/Chis Samnee run- current issues)

Anything I miss? I’d love to hear what everyone else has been reading for comics this year.

Next, for my final top 10 list, I’ll be talking about my random favorites. Think music, podcasts and anything else that didn’t fit into the previous categories. Hope to get that up soon!