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Review – Captain America : The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Marvel Studios may have finally crossed the point of no return.

With the release of Captain America:The Winter Soldier, the Disney/Marvel powerhouse has given us the first page to film adaptation that truly mimics the internalized feeling of reading a comic book. Avengers came close, I will admit, but Winter Soldier is the first film where established characters mingling organically within a shared universe isn’t treated as a gimmick. There is a significant difference in the way Captain America handles the idea of our central character teaming up with other heroes and the way Avengers did. Specifically, here it is treated as the status quo. In the Avengers, everyone teaming up to save the day seemed like a novel approach to deal with the threat at hand. Here, it’s simply the way things are and it is for that reason that anyone who reads Marvel comics on a regular basis can attest to why Winter Soldier felt the most like an actual comic brought to the screen than even Avengers did.

In any given Marvel book these characters will cross paths and help each other with their various ordeals and the reader doesn’t bat an eye. That is just how things work in the Marvel universe. Winter Soldier is the cinematic equivalent of that phenomenon. The world building that has been in development since Ironman back in 2008 has finally peaked with Captain America:The Winter Soldier. Marvel has successfully translated not only their characters but the overall feeling of their shared comic book universe onto film. A bigger accomplishment than successfully adapting these characters to another medium has been Marvel’s ability to change the way the modern movie-going audience thinks about the idea of franchise films and the importance of each sequel moving forward. Just look at the way audiences react here in 2014 compared to 2008. Now, the idea of leaving a Marvel film before the credits end is absolutely ludicrous. As an audience, we’ve been trained like Pavlov’s dogs to salivate at each teaser sting. We know Marvel’s films are woven together like a web and we’re all just waiting to see where the next thread goes. When Man of Steel was released last year, several reviews remarked at how DC didn’t even attempt to make any hints at connecting a larger universe. Marvel has associated the idea of the larger universe with their own brand and marketed the idea of the interconnected world of superheroes as the only way to be successful in the comic book movie world. In short, much like their reinvention of storytelling in the sixties, making movies “the Marvel way” has become synonymous with success.

In honesty, Captain America : The Winter Soldier is a success on multiple fronts. As a standalone film it breaks the mold set by its predecessor and becomes bigger and bolder than the first film ever attempted to be. When the news broke that the film would be directed by Communty alum Joe and Anthony Russo, the internet seemed ready to decry the move as Marvel’s first major misfire. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Left field choices for directors often yield amazing results and Marvel is never one to shy away from odd choices. Let us not forget that the fella who directed Elf gave us Ironman. Wild-card director James Gunn is bringing us Guardians of the Galaxy later this year. Essentially, what films like Winter Soldier show is that Marvel is gaining ground by making bold choices and trying new things. The Russo brothers show that they can stage an action scene better than anyone else in the game. The fight scenes are phenomenal and, what’s more, they are edited in a manner that makes them vibrant and aggressive without being incomprehensible. The action in the first Captain America film was passable, but not truly memorable. That film was helmed by veteran director Joe Johnston, who brought us action classics like The Rocketeer, and while I don’t want to take away from how effective The First Avenger was, it stands in a very dark shadow cast by its sequel. Everything about Winter Soldier is bolder than First Avenger. The only thing anyone can say about Captain America : The Winter Soldier is that by virtue of being a sequel to, in truth, a number of other films, it doesn’t earn its own effectiveness by its own merits. The film simply could not exist without the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe evolving to create the DNA from which it was spawned. While the film could be viewed by itself on its own, so much of what makes it truly sing is how well it builds on the ideas of others.

That is truly what makes it an honest to god “comic book” movie.

The world of comic books have been building upon what came before for the better part of seventy five years. Ed Brubaker turned Captain America on its head when he wrote the Winter Soldier storyline in the comic series. Nobody can deny that. But the effectiveness of that story arc also owes to decades of sentiment built up over the Captain America/Bucky dynamic that dozens of writers had toyed with in the pages of multiple comics. Dismissing Captain America because it embraces its place in a shared cinematic universe is a mistake. A few reviewers have lamented the ability for new viewers to hop on board the Marvel train because of how dense the world is becoming, and yet those same reviewers are quick to dismiss the idea of rebooting a franchise like Spider-Man or Fantastic Four so quickly. Essentially, walking into a Marvel film from this point on requires the audience to be on board and in a mindset that is not asked of the audience of any other major franchise. Marvel has made movie fans into comic book nerds without them even noticing.

Captain America : The Winter Soldier is equally as ambitious as Avengers was, simply in a different manner. It is a subtle difference, which might seem odd considering that the film is as loud and bombastic as it is, but in the end I feel like it is also will go down as one of Marvel’s biggest victories as it firmly establishes a mindset that the audience has to embrace to enjoy the total package. Only time will tell if theater goers have truly embraced that mindset. I would say the opening numbers for Guardians of the Galaxy will tell the whole story. Until then, Marvel still has a lot to be proud of. This is truly a massive achievement, and comic book fans should be very, very happy about the future of comic book films. At least as long as they’re produced by Marvel.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Blog Posts

 

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Review – Doc Unknown v. 1 : The Secret of Gate City

J. Goodson Dodd:

I did a signing with Fabian last Saturday and picked up his book. This is what I thought of it,

Originally posted on Comics Con Queso:

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I love pulp comics. I’m a big fan of The Spirit in particular. I have most of the hardcover archive editions that DC put out a while ago and even managed to suffer through those First Wave reboot issues a few year back. The style and atmosphere of pulp comics appeal to me on more than a few levels. With that in mind, I have to admit that much of the current slate of pulp stories don’t truly work all that well. Having worked for a good long while in a comic book store I can attest to the fact that pulp fans are avid and loyal people but they are also basically begging for scraps in the current market. Mark Waid is doing great work with Green Hornet right now, and I’ve heard great things about both Shadow and Doc Savage, but in my personal opinion people are buying…

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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Blog Posts

 

Third Planet Signing – January 18, 2014

Signing with Fabian Rangel Jr at Third Planet

Signing with Fabian Rangel Jr at Third Planet

This past Saturday I returned to my old stomping grounds to sell and sign some books next to Fabian Rangel Jr, a fantastic up and coming writer in the comics world from Corpus Christi, Texas. He’s the writer on such amazing graphic work as Doc Unknown, Los Muertos and Boss Snake. He is currently writing backup stories for the Image Comics series Five Ghosts and gathering rave reviews in the process. If you’re a fan of fun pulpy goodness, I recommend you check his stuff out on Comixology or try to catch him at the upcoming STAPLE show in Austin in a few weeks time.

I probably had more fun at this signing than I have had in a very long time. The folks at the store are like family to me by now. The manager, Alva, and I run the Pop and Schlock Podcast together and helpful store clerk Dusty is the nicest guy you will ever possibly meet and most definitely the most well-read comics fan I’ve ever encountered. He’s like a walking encyclopedia of comics knowledge.

Big thanks to TJ, Alva, Dusty, and Jim at the store for fascilitating the signing and to Fabian for being such great company. Also thanks to everyone in the local community who showed up to support the signing and the cool group of dudes and ladyfolk who hosted an amazing after-party with just the perfect amount of cats and kidney pie. You guys rock. (Even Meredith, who is a horrible human being who likes to start ruckus on Twitter for no good reason except to make children cry)

I will likely be appearing at the store again later this year, hopefully with No Fate For Failure in my hands. Details will become available when I have them.

Regards,
J.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Blog Posts

 

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Space City Con – Galveston, TX – January 2014

Booth K18 - Space City Con : Galveston, TX - January 2014

Booth K18 – Space City Con : Galveston, TX – January 2014

Well, I know I’ve let this blog lapse into a bit of neglect. Let’s go ahead and get that out of the way right now. I apologize up front for not keeping people in the loop with regards to my utterly fascinating and always spectacularly thrilling exploits. In reality I have just been in transition from my previous job at Third Planet Sci-Fi Superstore in Houston to a new day job elsewhere. It has been a stressful transition, managing the hustle and bustle of holiday retail work at the store and balancing that with all of the necessary work I I had to plow through with regards to the human resources needs of my new employer. I’m happy how things are going for me right now, but I exhausted is not a big enough word to describe my condition.

But despite all that, I did manage to make it to Space City Con down in Galveston this weekend. I had a great time and I would like to thank everyone who bought a book or signed up for the newsletter for No Fate For Failure. I did manage to work on that book a little more in what small amount of downtime I got at the convention and hopefully you’ll be receiving exciting news about the completion of that project before summer hits us this year.

The con itself was a different experience than I have had with some other conventions. I don’t want to be too negative but I believe it was poorly timed for attendees, which in turn means it was poorly timed for the exhibitors. Hopefully they will be able to work on this issue before the next one rolls around because I would like to attend again, this time with several copies of No Fate For Failure stacked up on the table.

Consider this my happy new year post. I think this year will be exciting for a myriad number of reasons. There WILL be a new book this year, the time of release is the only debatable factor at this point. And the Pop and Schlock Podcast that I started in Q4 of last year is going to expand by leaps and bounds as well. I hope you people like me because you will be seeing a great deal of me in 2014.

All the best,
J.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Blog Posts

 

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Comic Review – Hinterkind # 1

Originally posted on Comics Con Queso:

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You know, I’ve been writing about the good work that Image is doing with such frequency lately that I haven’t really had much time to sing the praises of other imprints. Dark Horse has been churning out some great work lately, and so too has Vertigo. You know, Vertigo? The imprint responsible for Y The Last Man, Fables, Ex Machina, and 100 Bullets? When Karen Berger left the company earlier this year, a lot of people considered it a sign that DC Comics was shuttering Vertigo and wouldn’t bother to utilize the brand. After all, Hellblazer went away and Constantine got his own DC title. Things certainly looked like they were going in a different direction.

But DC seems to have given Vertigo some breathing room. Brian Azzarello returned to pump out a 100 Bullets miniseries, Fables and Fairest are still going strong and now we have a new…

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Blog Posts

 

Mark Waid’s Open Letter To Freelancers

Originally posted on Comics Con Queso:

MarkWaidOn Tuesday, comics writer Mark Waid, whom I have met and can confirm to be one of the nicest guys in the comics business and who if you talk to for more than thirty seconds will reveal exactly how smart, knowledgeable, and in love with the comics business he really is, posted an open letter to freelancers who may have found themselves gobsmacked by publishers and the way they are being treated by editorial staff. Mark Waid has been around the block enough times to know what he’s talking about. I’m going to post the whole thing in full so nothing gets taken out of context. I think this needs to be seen by as many people as possible. Not just the freelancers he addresses, but the fans in the industry who might not really get what some of their favorite writers and artists are going through on a regular…

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Blog Posts

 

Pop and Schlock Podcast – Episode 000

Originally posted on Comics Con Queso:

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Hey everyone! Remember when I talked about launching a podcast a while back? Well, the first miniature episode went up today, just to get the RSS feed in place and test things out. If you would, head on over to the page and give it a listen, or download the episode directly by clicking THIS LINK.

Thanks a bunch guys!

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Blog Posts

 
 
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