Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns (spoiler free)

Well, last night he did do that, no question. After watching Superman Returns last night, I can clearly see how this was as a Superman for a new generation. There will be tons of kids and teenagers and twenty-somethings who will see this movie and have Superman redefined in a shape and form that works for them. And that's really something worth celebrating.

Singer wrote and directed a fabulous movie. It is beautifully shot, the action sequences are top-notch and all of the interpersonal relationships are 100% believable. Singer included many subtle and gentle nods to the Donner movies, both in quotes, subtle references (that can be missed without harming Returns ability to stand on its own), and using the classic title sequence zoom with the John Williams Superman theme music. There are also some iconic images in the film, including a photograph by Jimmy Olsen that captures the scene from the cover of Action Comics #1.

James Marsden is at the best I've ever seen him as Richard White, the new man in Lois's life. He's Perry's nephew, generous, giving and heroic. In many ways, my complaints about how Cyclops was portrayed in the three X-Men movies are made that much worse by his role here. Richard White is the hero I wanted Scott Summers to be. Frank Langella makes an entirely believable Perry White, and Jimmy Olsen, played by Sam Huntington is at the same time the annoying cub reporter/photographer we know and love and a legitimate friend and co-worker to Clark and Lois.

Of the three principals, Bosworth is the weakest as Lois Lane. Not because she lacks the spark and fire that Lois needs to possess, because she does. That spark has been slightly redirected into her duties as a mother, and I was fine with that. There is a moment in the film where you see Lois leaving a risky situation that would have been out of character for Lois on her own, but the decision "I don't want to endanger my son" makes that choice believable.

No, my problem with Bosworth focuses entirely on her age. Kate Bosworth is no older than 24, and she looks exactly that young. Lois was already a successful reporter six (or more) years ago, when Superman first appeared in Metropolis. And it was nearly impossible for me to believe that Kate Bosworth was in college ten years ago. She plays the character well, and is quite possibly the most attractive of the live-action Lois Lanes, but her age was a difficult hurdle for me to overcome.

Spacey was, unsurprisingly, brilliant. His Luthor has more in common with the manic, mad-scientist, "Greatest criminal mind of our age" Luthor that was evident in the sixties and seventies, and portrayed by Gene Hackman, than the ruthless businessman Luthor that modern audiences (and especially fans of Smallville and the Animated Series) have grown accustomed to. However, Spacey actually manages to take elements from both visions of Luthor and bring them together. Where Hackman seemed somewhat goofy, Spacey portrays a Luthor that is clearly a psychotic, out only for himself, and willing to discard the lives of anyone who gets in his way. The moments you find yourself laughing at him are the same ones you will look back on as proof positive that the man is dangerously insane.

Really, this was a masterful performance on Spacey's part and if genre films were seen as legitimate by the Academy, I could easily see a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Spacey from this film.

Finally, we come to the Man of Steel himself, Brandon Routh. Somehow, Routh's portrayal is the hardest for me to analyze. Why? Because he isn't Christopher Reeve. And I don't mean this in a "I watched Christopher Reeve, I liked Christopher Reeve, Christopher Reeve was a hero of mine. And you sir, are no Christopher Reeve." kind of way. Because Routh was good, both as Superman and as Clark Kent. Superman was strong and kind, Clark was bumbling but good hearted. Both were dead on.

But Superman is special among superheroes. He doesn't wear a mask. Superman's face is Superman's face. And Christopher Reeve will probably always be the face I see when I think of the face of Superman. Oddly enough, I didn't have that problem with Tom Welling, Dean Caine or Gerard Christopher, probably because it was television and not the Silver Screen.

Or the problem might actually be that Routh does resemble Reeve, but has slight differences that add up. They are small and hard to put my finger on which means that he just felt slightly off, like a room where the walls aren't at 90 degree angles. I think that for those who don't immediately see Reeve's face when Superman comes to mind, Routh will easily become the new face of Kal-El, and he is a worthy choice.

And now we come to the problem with this review. It is easy to discuss the things I liked about this movie, and much harder to discuss my problems without divulging spoilers. So, I will try to touch upon them gently.

The first, which I can discuss, is the level of brutality in the violence of the movie. It is easy to believe that no one was actually hurt in the first two Superman movies. The action was cinematic and comic-book, and actual pain and injury and death are implied, not seen. The violence in this film is a bit more realistic. There is unquestioning proof that people die, and there is a scene where Superman is beaten that is just painful to watch.

Somehow, it is easier for me to watch Superman thrown across the city and impacted into a building and being hurt from that then the beating he takes in this film. The beating he takes is too human, too real for me to be comfortable watching Superman take.

The second element is the one I can't really talk about. There is a central theme to this movie that involves the relationships between characters that is well-done and realistic, but I just don't know if I can accept it as a part of the Superman mythos. All of the characters involved handle the situation in realistic, believable fashions, and none of the actions they take seem out of character, but it raises uncomfortably moral issues, moral issues that I just don't know that I can bring into my vision of who Superman is.

Overall, it is an incredible movie, and one I will both see again and purchase on DVD. But I'm not yet sure if I liked it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

You will believe that a man can fly.

In 1978, there was a movie directed by Richard Donner, which starred a relatively unknown actor by the name of Christopher Reeve. Despite being the star, Reeve's name did not appear first in the credits or even in early promotional material. There were two actors of much bigger note who took a role in this film. The first, was Marlon Brando, who played the father to Reeve's character. The second was Gene Hackman, who played Reeve's nemesis.

This movie told the story of an orphan who managed to find his place in the world, stand up to the face of evil, and in all likelihood, get the girl.

This movie was titled Superman, and it was one of the first movies that I was taken to (even if I was too young to remember it). It spawned several sequels, the first of which was excellent, and the other two which were... indifferent.

The last film in the series, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was generally deemed a dismal failure, and the series appeared to be dead. Later on Christopher Reeve suffered a serious accident which caused him to be paralyzed from the neck down. Sadly, Mr. Reeve died of complications from his paralysis before a cure could be found, but Christopher did a great deal to raise awareness and fund research into finding cures for paralysis.

Since that time, the orphan from the planet Krypton has been absent from the Silver Screen. He has made appearances in the animated DC Universe, first in his own show, then later with the Justice League. And there have been several television shows, each focusing on a different part of his life.

Today, Superman Returns.

The movie has a limited release tonight, with 10:00 p.m. and midnight screenings. The film has it's general release tomorrow.

I will be at the Arena Grand theatre in Columbus, Ohio tonight at 10:00, along with my wife and two good friends, eagerly waiting to see an icon and hero once more dominate the screen.

Marlon Brando is still there as the father. Gene Hackman has been replaced by the equally gifted Kevin Spacy. The familiar music from composer John Williams will be heard once more. And while no one will ever replace Christopher Reeve as Superman in my eyes. But I have high hopes for Mr. Routh, and I hope that after this movie is released, a new generation of children will have a face for the Man of Steel. I hope that he can inspire kids in a way that Wolverine and Batman just can't. The X-Men and Batman and Spider-Man are all heroes, no question. But Superman reaches out to the best and the brightest in each of us.

There will be a spoiler-free review here tomorrow.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Ever so slightly off-topic

Last year, as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) I wrote a novel. It wasn't brilliant, but it was pretty decent. Or so I'd like to think, based on the lies encouragment of my friends and family. The novel was a superhero novel, sort of, entitled Children of the Sleeper: The Awakening. I see it as a trilogy, and intend to write a sequel soon. I also intend to finish editing it and sending it to a publisher.

I've decided to start another novel. Not a sequel to CotS Book One, but something new.

I was playing with the Enter the Zombie sourcebook for the All Flesh Must Be Eaten roleplaying game, and hit upon an idea for a vampire hunter.

This hunter stuck himself in my head, and doesn't want to leave, so I'm writing a novel about him.

It's going to be a little darker than CotS. If CotS was PG-13, this is going to be rated R. I'm also writing it in first person, rather than the third-person-but-in-one-character's-head view
that I used for CotS. (And that I use for most of my character naratives in gaming.)

I'm not doing it for NaNoWriMo, which means I have to motivate myself to work on it. This might be somewhat difficult, since I'll be leaving Mindleaders sometime before July 10th so that I can start working for the state, giving me less time during the day to waste write.

So, for anyone who is interested, I'm posting it to my LiveJournal as I go along, just like I did for CotS. In an effort to keep first publication rights managed, the posts are friends only, so if you don't have a LJ, or I don't have you friended, let me know. Or, if you'd prefer, you can ask me to mail it to you when it's done.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Weekly Comic Round-Up (plus some notes)

So, I'm not doing real good at keeping this thing updated other than the Weekly Round-Ups, am I?

Well, in my defense, I'm trying to find a new job. I celebrated my birthday last week and my wife's birthday yesterday. I've also been driving between Columbus and Cincinnati in order to finally finish my skills tests in all eight of the weapons offered by the Society of American Fight Directors.

So, things have been busy.

But I know, I know. No excuses. You want me to make with the comic books!

52 Week Seven
Well, I said that Booster was eventually going to be smacked with a clue by four. I just didn't expect it to be quite this harsh. Or this sudden. Ralph tore him apart, as did the actor who played Booster's last supervillain.

Note to any future superheroes: If you're going to go to Metropolis to "replace" Superman, you have very big shoes to fill. If you fail in any way, shape or form, it will go very badly for you. If you are exposed as a fraud, it will go very, very badly for you. Booster managed to find this out within this issue.

We also got a glimpse of the future Batwoman, Kathy Kane. She and Montoya still have... let's just call them issues, shall we?

And Adam Strange, Animal Man and Starfire are still Lost in Space.

I repeat, I really like the fact that they're giving each story more time within the issue, and then letting the story drop for a week or two, as opposed to giving us two or three pages from each key story within 52.

Astonishing X-Men 15
Joss cheated. This isn't a new comic. This is a flashback to Uncanny X-Men 129, the first appearance of the Hellfire Club.

Ok, that's neither true nor fair, but he really did a wonderful job of evoking that sense. Especially the final panel with Kitty in the sewers. And the Hellfire club just did a wonderful job of taking the X-Men apart. I particularly liked watching Cassandra turn Wolverine into a little boy, and turning Henry McCoy into a literal beast.

The fight between Shaw and Colossus confused me, deeply. Surely Colossus remembers fighting Shaw? Piotyr isn't stupid, and his reaction to fighting the Black King shouldn't be to simply "hit him harder."

Still, another excellent issue from Whedon and company.

Captain America 19
The Skull now has Luskin wearing the mask? Oh, that's a damn shame. Poor Luskin. I don't think he gets to keep his body for much longer.

Lots of wonderful action in this book. Watching Cap, Union Jack and Spitfire take out the Master Man and his goons was just lots of fun. It pales next to the fun that was watching Cap and Union Jack get chewed out by MI-5, right up until Sharon showed up, but it was still fun.

I laughed to see Union Jack and Sharon get so close to stumbling across the Winter Soldier, especially since they were where they were because Cap and Spitfire wanted to be the ones to find Bucky.

I'm still not thrilled with the dark visuals in the comic. I understand that it makes Cap live in a grittier world, one where a well-placed gunshot can mean death, but I find it difficult to read. Maybe I'm just too used to brightly colored comics.

Giant-Size Hulk 1
The Giant-Sized Hulk comic has three different stories, of varrying quality. The first was an untold tale of The Champions.

(Seriously, did anyone ever really think this was a good idea? A superteam made of Ghost Rider, Angel, Iceman, Hercules, Nightstar and the Black Widow? It's like a lame version of the Defenders, who suffered from being inferior Avengers themselves.)

That said, the story was really good. It had the Hulk trying to save a life, and being attacked simply because he was there. The story of the Hulk's life, encapsulated right there. It also had some really good and humerous writing. I particularly liked Angel's reaction to being told to stop the Hulk, and Iceman's mocking of how the Hulk names his foes. "It's Angel, not Wing-Man. Ghost Rider, not Flame Head. And Iceman not... oh, wait." There was also a fun nod to Marvel's elastic continuity, with the confusion on Hercules's part about who the President is. "President Clinton? I thought it was President Carter."

The second story was just an internal confrontation between Banner and Hulk on Planet Hulk. We all know how I feel about Planet Hulk, so let's just leave it at that. Banner wants Hulk to leave, to go to the abandoned planet that Reed and the others tried to get him to in the first place. Hulk doesn't want to go. I agree with Reed.

The third story... well, the third story was something special indeed. It was a reprint of Peter David's excellent Hulk: The End. I hate to go into it here, because it deserves more space. Essentially, it deals with how Banner and the Hulk react to being the last things alive on Earth, following the final nuclear war. It's an absolutely chilling story. Go and read it, either here or the original printing if you can find it.

The Flash 1
So, following Infinite Crisis, this is the state of affairs for speedsters in the DCU:

Jay Garrick is still the Flash. His powers are typical metahuman abilities, making him superfast, but lacking the connection to the Speed Force.

The Speed Force is apparently gone. Gone, vanished, missing, not being tapped into by anyone.

And for some reason, Bart Allen returned from the Speed Force four years older, and with no superpowers. This has to be incredibly hard for him, since Bart was born and raised with his superspeed. He has no perspective of what it means to not have these abilities. It also means that he is four years older than Tim Drake, and Bart's other close friend, Conner Kent, is now dead.

We also meet two new characters. The first is Valerie Perez, an intern at STAR labs, investigating both Bart Allen and the disappearance of the Speed Force. She reminds me a great deal of Amanda Pay's Tina McGee from the television show. Not terribly surprising, since the creators of the series are involved with the comic now. We also get Bart's roommate, "The Griffin", who is trying to teach Bart how to party.

Of course, the Speed Force isn't actually gone. Bart now seems to have the Speed Force contained within himself. Interesting. They've definitely got me sticking around for more of this.

Justice 6
The Injustice Gang has taken the JLA apart. And it's even worse than simply defeting them. Because now everyone thinks the bad guys are heroes, because they're willing to use their powers to "help" mankind, while the JLA never did. (In a meaningful sense anyhow).

It's going to be a hard fight back. And the JLA is in trouble. The Atom was attacked in his hospital bed by Giganta, and remains injured. Hal was banished far into space, and has now converted himself to a series of electronic impulses inside of the ring. Batman was in the cave, controlled by Poison Ivy, and only has control of himself because of Wonder Woman's lasso. Wonder Woman herself is now scarred across her face.

And Superman just got thrown into the sun by Captain Marvel. At his own request.

With all of this going on, the fact that the Hawks have found that the Toyman is building an army of Braniacs is almost incidental.

It's only a so-so series in terms of story. But man it's pretty. And it's nice to see an adult version of the Superfriends, which is what Justice really is.

Last Planet Standing 4
Pass the popcorn, it's time to watch the end of the world.

Seriously, when things are so bad that the Avengers have to play clean up while the F5 call for the Silver Surfer, you know that it's time to ask yourself "Where are we going? And why am I in this handbasket?"

So, Reed finally figures out that Galactus isn't trying to simply eat the Earth. Oh no, he's going to create a new Big Bang. The disaster gets to the point where even the Revengers throw their hands in to help. After all, it's their world too.

Massive acts of heroism occur, of course. J2 manages to flip over tons of debris that threaten himself, Spider-Girl and numerous survivors. American Dream chanels Cap and gives the rallying speech to Spider-Girl, and the Vision tears himself apart in his effort to get through Galactus's force field.

But the real triumphant moment comes from the fight between Waverider and the Silver Surfer. The Surfer once more shows that he was the original of Galactus's heralds, and carries the experience to go with that power. He absorbs the power of Waverider, and heads to Earth to take Galactus on.

Only one more issue? I find this somewhat sad. But man, this has been one heck of a ride.

The New Avengers 20
I have to say, I was disapointed by this issue.

We've had great build-up to Civil War in other issues of this comic, as well as other books in the Marvel Universe. The character of Michael was intriguing, and his arrival at Genosha was spectacular.

But this just left me feeling flat. Xorn tried to send all the power of the depowered mutants into Magneto. Who didn't seem to want the power, while he was writing his memoirs.

Incidentally, as cool as it was in the movies, I didn't appreciate the repetition of the idea of "my human name" as opposed to "my real name." It worked in the film to encapsulate a deeper idea. In the comics, it just felt too simplistic.

And then the S.H.I.E.L.D. psi-agent blows up his head, the power dissapates, Magneto is captured, and Michael is left trying to figure out what to do.

It just was less than I'd grown to expect from this title. I suspect they got forced into a quick ending because of Civil War.

Shadowpact 2
So, I'd really like to learn more about this gang of murderous psychopaths. They interest the heck out of me. And I'm glad that someone commented on how similar they are to the members of the Shadowpact.

The individual battles were relatively uninspired. We now know that each member of this coven is more powerful then their corresponding member of the Shadowpact. Which means, of course, that in order for the Shadowpact to win they'll have to do something other than fight their direct opposites.

This, of course, will happen and the Shadowpact will save the day. The Blood Barrier will come down, and the Phantom Stranger will make sense of everything. I understand all of this.

What I'm interested in is finding out more about these people and why they are doing what they're doing. I've loved watching how they handle the hostages, and honestly am surprised we haven't seen more of it within comics.

Superman Returns Prequel 3
There was a fabulous series out awhile back called Lex Luthor: The Man of Steel.

Anyone else read it? Anyone?

I had some real serious flashbacks to that miniseries while reading this issue of the Prequel. The first issue of the prequel involved Krypton, and the second issue was all about Martha Kent.

This issue was about Luthor. Lex Luthor. Self made man. The most brilliant criminal mind of our age.

It's interesting watching as Singer tries to make Spacey's Luthor resemble the one we've grown used to from comics, Lois & Clark, the animated series and Smallville, but at the same time honor the Hackman portrayal from Superman: The Movie.

I think it works, but the only way to really know will be to see Superman Returns next week.

This issue is just about Luthor's release from jail, and the bitterness that can creep into a man's heart after five years. Spacey has a lot to draw from here. I can't wait to see how it translates to the big screen.

Swamp Thing 28
You're breaking my heart here guys.

I used to really, really like Swamp Thing.

The last twenty issues of the first series are still some of my favorite comics of all time.

So why am I left cold by the way the series is going? Is it that we took too long reconciling the Swamp Thing with Alec's mind and personality? Is it that it took too long to bring Abby and Tefe back?

Or maybe it's just the lack of interesting opposition. The Toad King just isn't exciting. He isn't epic enough.

Yeah, we now have the bits and pieces of the Floronic Man, now remolded into Woodrue. But... eh. I'm just not excited. And I want to be.

I'll give it another month. Let's see what happens when the Swamp Thing, Woodrue and the Toad King all end up in the same place. But if something exciting doesn't happen, I'm afraid that I'm finished with the series for awhile.

The Ultimates 2 11
Rarely does a comic book cover so accurately convey what the issue is about.

Oh, sure, it's a teaser. All we really see here is Cap's shield, Iron Man's armor and Thor's hammer. But those images together symbolize the Avengers. (Or in this case the Ultimates. Whatever.)

But the beatdown has ended. The Ultimates are ready to fight back. And fight back they shall.

Stark docks with his space station, and we'll see a new Iron Man armor next issue. Excellent.

Cap, Wasp, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are all ready to fight.

Loki is enjoying the mischief, but largely unable to directly act. The Black Widow has been taken out due to Stark's cleverness. The Ultron robots are under Pym's control, but they're inactive at the moment. Plus we can expect them to rebel against Pym.

But there are two really important things to note. Things that are very, very bad for our bad guys.

Thor is no longer in his cell. He may not have his belt or hammer, but he's free. Expect him to reclaim his powers in the next issue.

But most importantly of all. Bruce Banner has returned, and as we near the issue's end he deliberately endangers himself. The final page of this issue has a very angry Hulk ready to wreck havock.

It's a bad day to be a bad guy. That's all I'm saying. Remember, these are the Ultimates, not the Avengers. Bad things are about to happen.

I can't wait.

Just a heads up: Next week I will be attending the Origins game convention in Columbus, Ohio. As such, the weekly recap may not go up on Thursday.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Weekly Comic Round-Up

It was a good week for comic books. I think I legitimately enjoyed every book on the pull list this time around, which isn't always the case. Of course, there were some big goings-on in the books this week.

You might also note that I have two issues of Superman Returns: The Prequel in the round-up this week. That would be because I didn't notice them at my local comic store last week. I didn't have much time to browse when I went in last week, so I didn't notice anything that isn't a part of my normal pull.

52 Week Six
They're going for a much more focused approach with 52 lately, and I think that's a Good Thing. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of really pressing storylines going on in the book, and I want to know about all of them. But I think I'd prefer getting six pages of three different storylines than three pages of six different storylines.

But that could just be me.

Anyhow, this week in the "missing year" focuses on Booster Gold and his continuing quest for fame and fortune, as well as showing the beginning of the Freedom of Powers Act that Hal was dealing with over in Green Lantern. Interesting to see Black Adam involving himself here. I commented before on the issue of diversity in superheroes, and this weeks' 52 ties into that; why should superheroes be focused in the United States?

Answer: They shouldn't.

Extra special bonus points for the fact that it really looks like the Tangent universe Green Lantern is a part of this international superteam.

We also get more about the disappearance of the "mad scientists", which is an intriguing little storyline. And we get to see Booster visit Rip Hunter and discover that time is broken.

-blinks- Time is what?


Civil War 2
So, I said before that Infinite Crisis worked for me, but struck me as largely being un-needed. Civil War is firing on all cylinders. We're going to watch as every single one of Marvel's superhero teams are torn apart at their seams. (Other than maybe, maybe the X-Men). The New Avengers, obviously, are the most torn apart by the Registration Act, what with Iron Man and Captain America championing the respective sides, but we can already see how the Richards/Storm family is being assaulted as well.

The Young Avengers were in the midst of being captured and taken until they were rescued by Captain America and the underground. There are some surprising faces in this group. We could predict that Daredevil and Luke Cage would side with Cap on this one, but is that Cable I see there? Really? And this is all being aided by Nick Fury?

Lots of good action going on here, with really nice artwork. I liked the suspense of the Young Avengers capture until you realized who was on the S.H.I.E.L.D. transport with them.

Oh, and finally there was a minor announcement made by a supporting cast member of the Marvel Universe.

(Yes, I'm being deliberately coy. I've got a lot of thoughts percolating in my head regarding the future of young Mr. Parker, and I don't feel like cramming them into this particular post.)

Green Arrow 63
Not quite as exciting as last issue, but then, really, how could it compare? Deathstroke turns himself in, somewhat to Ollie's disapointment. It's actually kind of disturbing to see that Ollie hoped that Slade would try to flee and be seriously injured, if not maimed. This of course pales in the disturbance of Ollie's assistant inquiring about the source of Ollie's wealth.

I find it scary to think that Ollie would've been involved in a business deal that shady.

It was also good to see Brick again. Brick, protector of the downtrodden. Bizarre, but acceptable.

And it looks like Luthor's metahuman-creating drugs are still around in the One Year later setting. Luthor may become disgraced again during 52 but it looks like his evil will linger. As it should.

Green Lantern Corps 1
I'm beginning to realize something about my love for the Green Lanterns. And that is: I don't like the Green Lantern Corps. I don't think I ever have.

I like Green Lantern as an idea. I've liked each of the Green Lanterns of Earth, in their own different ways. Hal, Alan, Kyle, Guy, John, even Jenny, they each made interesting and compelling characters. But the whole make-up of the Corps? I just don't find it that interesting.

Maybe it's the overlap of powers. Maybe it's the fact that, as a human being, I identify most with the humans, and want the humans to take center stage, but they really shouldn't. I'm not sure why, but I'm just not that into the Corps.

John Stewart seems to be going off the edge. Guy is angry. Salek is having problems making her ring work against yellow again, and Killowog is the voice of reason and understanding. But none of it is really resonating with me.

I want to keep liking Green Lantern. But I'm having trouble getting into Kyle over in Ion, I'm having problems with Hal in Green Lantern and so far, Green Lantern Corps isn't doing it for me either. Sadness.

Spider-Girl 99
It's time for an exciting new feature here on Underneath the Mask. We've had Predictions I make here which will be proven totally wrong in the future! for a little while now. But now, for the first time, we have the I was right! feature!

So, why am I not excited about it? Oh, because it means that May Parker got herself impaled. Bummer.

The other reason would be that I actually wanted to see the battle between May and the Hobgoblin. Kaine and the Scriers were a side-note I didn't really feel like exploring.

Still, this was a very solid issue. Good development of May's supporting cast, especially with the going-away party for Moose, and the continuation of Courtney's suspicion of May. Normie and Brenda will finally get married, assuming Norman survives next issue. And it's good to see that Peter is going to go back into action. I had sworn off Peter Parker Spider-Man anywhere other than the Ultimates for quite awhile, but his role in New Avengers and then seeing what JMS has done with him has made me start to really appreciate Mr. Parker. If Spider-Girl 100 is really going to be the last issue of the book, at least for awhile, then I'm glad we'll see Peter Parker in the webs one more time (and in a continuity where the world doesn't know his identity).

Superman 653
Big. Badda. Boom.

Metropolis is going to be shattered apart by Luthor and his Kryptonian ship.

I suspect that they're going to break back away from the Superman Returns storyline here, because I suspect that Luthor isn't making a battleship in the movie, but I'd be happy to be wrong.

Not a lot to say about this issue, honestly. It's good, believe me. But it's a lot of action, both physical and psychological between Luthor and Superman. And it is wonderful to watch Superman push Luthor's buttons. Absolutely wonderful.

Special notice should go to Jimmy, both for heroism and stupidity, when he tries to protect Superman from the Kryptonite beam. I applaud the heroism, but Jimmy should know by now that there is incredible heat associated with that kind of blast. He should also know that Kryptonite radiation is dangerous to anyone, not just Kryptonians. It just works faster on Kryptonians. But it is the reason that Luthor died the first time around. And Jimmy should know that.

Superman Returns Prequel 1
We've seen this story before. Several times. We've read it in any number of retellings of the Superman mythos. We've seen in it animation, on Lois & Clark and in Superman with Christopher Reeves.

Who cares? It's worth seeing it again.

Singer retells the story in a fashion that is remarkably close to the version we saw in Donner's movie, and the art is clearly based on Brando. But it's beautifully done.

It also includes key statements and elements that are an essential part of who Kal-El/Clark will become, especially his statement about the responsibility of his power, and the neccessity of restraint with his powers.

Nothing new here. But still a beautiful comic, and worth including in any collection.

Superman Returns Prequel 2
The second part of the prequel is much more moving than the first. We know the story of Jor-El and how he sends away the child, but the story of Martha and Jonathan Kent is often overlooked.

John Byrne made them a big deal with the post-Crisis Superman relaunch, and this was picked up by the creators of Lois and Clark. Obviously, Smallville has continued to include Martha and Jonathan as major story elements. But despite this, when one thinks of the Superman supporting cast, one usually thinks of Lois, Perry and Jimmy. (Or Lois, Lana and Chloe if you're a Smallville fan.)

It's nice to see the story of Superman through Martha's eyes. It's even nicer to see how this woman deals with the disappearance of Superman. Superman Returns is going to focus on how the world deals with the departure of the Man of Steel. It will also, undoubtedly, focus on how Lois deals with the departure of the man she loved. But this comic gets to deal with the loss of Martha Kent's only son.

Thunderbolts 103
Having the Thunderbolts track down the rogue supervillains while the Avengers get the resisting superheroes may make a lot of sense. After all the Thunderbolts are "reformed" supervillains, and sending them after the resistant superheroes would really send a weird message.

Doesn't change the fact that I really was looking forward to seeing it.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows, and this issue is clearly indicative of that. The tension between Zemo and Iron Man was absolutely tangible, even through the pages of a comic.

Now, the fun factor of watching the Thunderbolts take apart the old Beetle armors was quite high. That said, I'm tired of seeing Abe be the punching bag of the team. Abe is possibly my favorite member of the T-Bolts, and he doesn't deserve this abuse. The man created the first Beelte armor while he was a mechanic. No advanced degrees, no theft of Stark technology, just his own inborn ability and know-how. He deserves more credit then he gets.

And who was surprised to see that Zemo is actually up to something more devious? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?

Ultimate X-Men 71
Two different storylines at work here, so we'll tackle them separately. The first is the straightforward battle between the X-Men and the Brotherhood at the High School dance. Nothing really of note here, other than the fact that the Magician is really showing himself to be a dangerous glory-hound. Powerful. Attention-starved. Dangerous as hell.

I'm glad, though unsurprised, that the X-Men won. It'll be nice to have them be in the favorable side of public opinion again - this will be a Good Thing for the ongoing romance between Peter Parker and Kitty. And it was nice to see them follow-up with Kurt's discomfort with Piotyr's homosexuality. This is something that shouldn't be ignored, I think.

But Phoenix... hmmm. I wasn't a big fan of the "Phoenix is just an alternate personality of Jean" element in X-Men III: The Last Stand. When they pulled that out here, I was less than thrilled. But I think I can get behind the idea that the Church of the Shi'ar are willing to lie to her about really being Phoenix, and letting her think that she's crazy, while in truth she really does have the Phoenix-force within her.

Now, we just need to figure out what those frickin' goblins around her are...

One more week down. We'll talk some more about the Civil War aftermath and Peter Parker revealing to the world that he's Spider-Man later, I promise.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

With the removal of a single mask, everything changes.

There will be more about this tomorrow in the Weekly Comic Round-Up. But as I have said repeatedly, but most specifically last week, if Marvel doesn't wimp out, everything changes.


This is big. Really big. Big enough that it even made Yahoo! News.

Spider-Man. Unmasked.


When Darth Vader uttered the fateful line, "Luke, I am your father." I wasn't old enough for it to really impact me. But I can only imagine that fans of Star Wars felt then the way I feel right now.

For as long as I can remember, Spider-Man's secret identity has been sacred. Sacred. That was always my biggest single problem with the Spider-Man movies; Peter took off his mask far too easily.

But now? Spider-Man unmasked.

I'm honestly at a loss for words.

More tomorrow.

Look! Up in the Sky!

Just a brief note here. I saw the Superman documentary on A&E Monday night.

I rather enjoyed it. There wasn't anything world-shapingly changing for me about it, but it was a nice retrospective of where the Man of Steel has been, where he comes from, and where he's going.

What was funny for me was that I didn't realize how strongly Christopher Reeve resonated for me as Superman. I don't know that anyone else will ever take his place in my heart. The documentary really reminded me of that.

It also reminded me of how much I hated Doomsday. I'm not opposed to the idea of a storyline involving the death of Superman. (Ok, well, I am. But I'm willing to put that aside.) But it was dumb to have a mindless, fairly uninspired monster do it.

Braniac. Darkseid. Luthor. Zod. Maybe Mxypitlix, Metallo or Bizarro. These are the only people who should get the honor of destroying the Man of Steel. If you're going to do a Death of Superman story, then it should involve these characters.

Doomsday would've been marginally acceptable if he had been created by one of the first five names I listed. But as a random Kryptonian beastie who happened to come to Earth? Lame.

Anyhow, I digress. The documentary was good. Very watchable, lots of good interviews, including a nice one with Stan Lee. The DVD apparently has an additional thirty minutes of footage beyond what A&E showed, which makes me want to at least rent it.

Check it out. You won't be disapointed.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Weekly Comic Round-Up

Another week, another batch of comic books. Actually, a surprisingly light week. Only five comics in total. And all but one of them are limited series. Well, in theory. Ion is a 12-issue series, and as such will last a year, and so will 52. How long Civil War is going to last is anyone's guess.

Also, my apologies about the delay. Every time I tried to upload this on Wednesday or Thursday, Blogger was being a pain in my butt. Then this weekend was full of stage combat classes and driving to and from Cincinnati.

Today? Today I am back at work, and trying not to think about it being my birthday.

52 Week Five
What a week full of teasing. John Henry Irons is wearing the Steel armor again, with no real explanation of what happened last year. Alan Scott doesn't have any good explanation for why the Zeta Beam tore people apart the way it did. And there isn't any real sign of where the Zeta Beam sent Starfire, Animal Man, Adam Strange and the others.

We also don't get anything new with the Question, which is deeply disturbing to me. I really quite like the Question, and want to see more of him. In fact, I like him enough that I briefly created a homage to him in City of Heroes, a female martial-artist who wore a suit and fedora with a full face mask named Miss Teree.

Not much more in the way of Booster Gold's redemption either, and no progress on the mystery of the Superboy cult, or why Sue Dibny's grave was defaced.

Don't get me wrong, it's a decent issue. But I want more. More I tell you!

Civil War Frontline 1
Civil War has done a nice job of illustrating how the heroes have been dealing with the Registration Act. But what about the average person on the street? How do they handle it?

Frontline gives us a window into that. Focusing on the reporters of the Marvel Universe (616-variety), we get to watch as they cover Stamford, the Registration Act, and undoubtedly the fallout that will occur.

It's a personal story, managed with the same kind of style and grace that Kurt Busiek did so well in Astro City. Of particular note would be the discussion between Spider-Man and the reporter. Obviously, this must before the events of Amazing Spider-Man 532, since it is still about Peter struggling with the issue of what would happen if he were to unmask. It was a nice window into the mind of Peter Parker, and even handled with a bit of humor.

Finally, Frontline lets us know who was the sole survivor of the Stamford incident. But with everything that awaited Robby once he regained consciousness, namely the knowledge that all of his friends were dead, that they were responsible for hundreds of innocent deaths, that his Speedball powers were gone, possibly never to return, and that he was now under arrest from S.H.I.E.L.D., I suspect he's beginning to wish that he had died along with the others.

Ion 2
I was strongly opposed to the storyline where Hal Jordan went insane, killed a bunch of Green Lanterns and then destroyed Oa. Yes, we know that "Power corrupts," and no one has more power, at least in theory, than a Green Lantern. But it was still a bad story.

For that reason, the new storyline involving Ion isn't doing it for me. At all. You see, I like Kyle Rayner. He's a neat character, and a damn fine Green Lantern. He's also a Green Lantern that we can relate to. Hal Jordan was a hero before he became GL, but Kyle was a guy who went out to bars too much and couldn't keep a steady relationship or job. The ring changed his life, and he has become a hero.

So, when Hal came back, obviously they had to do something to get rid of Kyle. It actually started earlier than that, once the Justice League cartoon used John Stewart instead of Kyle, and the comics were forced to follow track. And apparently shunting Kyle off into space, letting him work directly for the Guardians who he frickin' brought back wasn't good enough.

Speaking of this, don't you think it's a little nuts for the Guardians to not allow other Lanterns to deal with Kyle? They have first-hand evidence of what happens when a Lantern goes rogue.

JSA 86
Ghost stories. The Gentleman Ghost is absolutely a character out of a campfire story. A man who is made a Highwayman by the spirits of the dead, who when he dies continues on as a spectral thief? Absolutely a campfire story.

He's also a great supervillain in his own right, especially since there are so many mysteries about him, and about which members of the JSA are able to affect him. Power Girl seems to be able to physically interact with him, which is odd if she is actually Kryptonian. But Stargirl goes right through the Ghost. And Ma Hunkel can wallop him.

Contradiction after contradiction.

I mourn for the passing of Jade. It's nice that she's able to help Allen fight the Ghost, but I miss her, and was still hoping that she might reunite with Kyle someday. Well, I was until her death anyhow.

Last Planet Standing 3
I said earlier that it looks like they're sending the MC2 Universe off with a bang, and this issue certainly agrees with that assessment. Dominas isn't fooling around here, as we see with his taking out of Uatu on the first page of the comic. His battle against the Fantastic Family is short and brutal, and the tidal wave he unleashes against Manahatten is epic.

The universe can be full of irony, which is why I'm not suprised that Reed's weapon didn't get a chance to work. Heh. In two weeks, we get to see two different versions of Reed Richards create two different cosmically powered weapons to use against two different versions of Galactus, which are both ineffective, for two different reasons.

I'm suspecting that relegating the Avengers to the sideline is going to prove to have been a mistake. Two more issues and one month. And then we get to see if Galactus can be stopped, or if the MC2 Universe has made it's last stand.

So, it's a few days late but here are last weeks comics. I'll try to get this week done on time.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Many Faces of Superheroes

Aside from being superheroes, what do Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Henry Pym, Bruce Banner, Donald Blake, Peter Parker, Scott Summers, Logan, Bobby Drake, Warren Worthington III, Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, Kyle Rayner, Wally West, Carter Hall, Arthur Curry, Eel O'Brien, Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, Jim Corrigan, Ted Knight, Wesley Dodds and Kent Nelson all have in common?

They're all white, heterosexual males.

They're also among the most prominent and well known superheroes in both the Marvel and DC Universe.

It took a long time before comic book publishers really started to make their characters more ethnically diverse, and at first the attempts to broaden the pool were little more than racial stereotypes.

There were heroines right from the beginning, of course. But the female heroes were drastically outnumbered by the male ones. In the Fantastic Four, we had one female character to counter three men.

The Avengers only had a single female member in their original line-up, and the average person on the street would be hard-pressed to name a superheroine from the DC Universe, other than Wonder Woman, who isn't simply a female counterpart to a better known male hero.

The female characters also were rarely as strong or tough or offensively capable as their male teammates. Sue Storm originally was only able to turn invisible, with her force fields coming later. The Wasp was able to shrink and fly, both useful, but hardly on power with the power of Thor, Iron Man or Giant-Man.

Marvel's X-Men were one of the first places we got to see some diversity in race. The "New X-Men" included heroes from Russia, Germany, Japan and Kenya, and brought in Japanese, Native American and African heroes, who were more than packages of stereotypical behavior. And the numbers grew from there. But for every Storm or Cyborg, we were forced to endure a Black Lightning or Afro-wearing Power Man.

Even today, there is a disproportionate number of white, heterosexual, Christian men in our superheroes. The number of characters who break this mold is slowly growing, but it's a slow process.

Following Infinite Crisis, DC has made a real strong push at diversifying their character base. In the wake of the crisis, Firestorm has become a black man (this actually occurred before Infinite Crisis, but not long before), the Blue Beetle scarab has gone to a Hispanic boy, the Spectre has merged with an African-American Gotham policeman, and the new Batwoman, Kathy Kane, has been announced to be a lesbian.

This last item has attracted an undue amount of attention and controversy in my opinion. The simple fact is that there is a sizable homosexual population in the world, and it was ridiculous that there were so few superheroes in the GLBT community. In the mainstream Marvel and DC Universe, it's difficult to think of a single well-known gay superhero. Northstar just doesn't cut it by himself. Marvel's Ultimate continuity has opened it up a bit more, by making that version of Piotyr Rasputin a homosexual man.

Now, Kathy Kane has the potential to be nothing more than an exploitative way to sell comics with the promise of "hawt lesbian grrlz doin' it". But I have faith in DC's ability to make her an interesting character, who serves as a legitimate member of the superhero community. Sadly, we're another seven weeks away from her debut in 52: Week Eleven, so I guess we'll have to wait until then to judge.

My final thought on it is that comic books are no longer solely aimed at white, heterosexual boys, and the heroes who appear in comic books should be reflective of the population of the world as it really is. I don't suddenly want to see all new heroes be "ethnically diverse", but I'd like to see more heroes cut from that cloth. I'd be annoyed to see characters created simply for the sake of "We need another Hispanic superhero," but there is always room for new superheroes, from any race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Weekly Comic Round-Up (One day later)

You know, to tie into One Year Later.

Or not. Just because of the holiday, really.

So, let's make with the superheroes, shall we?

52: Week Four
(I decided to label the comic this way, the pure numeral description was bugging me.)
The missing year continues to be filled in, and we have a couple of distinct storylines we're following here. This issue only touches on the Booster Gold story, as he has a fight with Bea (Fire) about whether or not he'll go into space to help find the other heroes. He's too busy working on his own fame and fortune, and when called on it, uses the standard defense of "I've given up enough. It's my turn now." Poor Booster, someone is going to hit him really hard with a clue-by-four soon.

John Henry Irons (Steel) is trying to give up being Steel, but something weird is going on with Steel refusing to let go. This issue just teased us with it, I suspect next week will be more informative.

Plot number three involves the Challengers of the Unknown and their attempt to find the missing heroes, the ones who were battling near the Rann-Thanagar conflict. They find a Zeta beam with the heroes, who come back at the end. Sort of. Several heroes are severely wounded, it looks like Atom Smasher and Wildcat are physically merged, and Hawkgirl is giant-sized. Yikes.

But the main plot this issue goes back to the Question and Detective Montoya. The Question has her on stakeout, and the two end up fighting a monster underneath Gotham. They really are writing the Question to be very similar to his JLU incarnation. Yay!

Finally, the mystery over the Superboy cult deepens, as Dibny goes through a strange baptism-esque ritual, and loses his wedding ring in the process. I am deeply puzzled by this sequence.

Action Comics 839
Two major things happen in this issue. The first is that we get more of an explanation of Clark's power loss. We get the recap of the end of Infinite Crisis (for those who didn't read the crossover, I presume), and the description of the year without his powers, and how that affected Clark mentally.

We also get a nice little description in his mind about what it's like to be Superman. It really touched on some of the issues of "What makes Superman the hero that he is?"

The other major event is the subtle touches that are bringing the comic to more closely resemble the movie. We discover that the Kryptonian artifact Lex has been trying to get is a Kryptonian ship, which causes crystals to sprout through Metropolis, much like we've seen in the trailers for Superman Returns.

They also do some work to change his look to more resemble the film. The colors of the costume seemed just a little darker, and they raised up the shield on his chest, giving it the same 3D look that Brandon Routh sports.

Oh, incidentally, Superman finishes defeating the villlains from last issue. Like that was ever in doubt.

Amazing Spider-Man 532
I've said it before, if they don't wimp out, Civil War will change Marvel Comics forever. Forever. This issue takes place during Civil War 1. It's after the Stamford incident, and right about the time that the Registration Act is about to pass. The issue begins with Peter talking to Aunt May and MJ about the act, and what it will mean.

After the clean-up at Stamford, Stark meets with the President, who asks him straight up: Are you Iron Man? And Stark tells him. Tony then asks Peter if Peter is really going to stand with him, and that if he is, that means unmasking. Peter, obviously, is troubled by this. And so to Aunt May and MJ he goes.

MJ raises some important points. If Peter stands by Tony, will he then have to help take down heroes who refuse to unmask? Will the heroes be forced to name names? And would Tony reveal Peter's name to the government if Peter refuses to unmask?

Then we get to a moment that just about made me cry, as Aunt May talks about why she was angry when she found out that Peter was Spider-Man. Because she was mad that the world would think bad of her nephew, like people do think of Spider-Man. MJ and Aunt May tell Peter to unmask, and that they will stand beside them.

Morning comes, and Peter is getting close to running out. He just doesn't think he can do it, not after all the work he has done hiding his identity. And then May comes into the room, with a version of his original costume which she made. She mentions the key phrase to Peter's life, "With great power comes great responsibility." And so Peter goes to the press conference with Tony.

The issue ends with Spider-Man addressing the crowd, prepared to make an announcement. It is going to be a long month waiting for this resolution.

If they don't wimp out... wow.

Incredible Hulk 95
I'm not going to make you suffer through any more rants about how much I hate Planet Hulk. I'm just not going to make you deal with it.

The Silver Surfer went through a portal to get to this planet that weakened him, and made him vulnerable to the disks that the Empire implants in everyone to enforce obedience. The Hulk and his gladiators fight the Surfer, and destroy his disk. Hulk and crew have won their freedom, but before they can be freed, they need to kill a girl who is tied to one of the gladiators.

They refuse, but before the Emperor can kill them, the Surfer destroys the disks of everyone on the planet, and then the Surfer, the Hulk and the gladiators tear down society.

The Surfer offers to take the Hulk back to Earth, but Hulk refuses, saying he finally found a world where he fits in. So the Surfer leaves, and we get more Planet Hulk to look forward to. Yay.

Lucifer 74
Have you ever imagined what it must be like to be God? I mean really thought about it? If you weren't able to be detached from it all, how could you possibly manage? How incredibly lonely it must be, and there would be no peers, no one to talk to that understood.

Lucifer has left, and Elaine is now in this position. So she handles it the only way you can, by becoming detached. By leaving her life behind.

But first, a goodbye. And so Elaine arranges a girls night out. Jill, Maziken, Mona, Spera, Rachel. All of them for one last night. A chance to say "Goodbye."

Elaine also changes her mother's memory, and brings her brother back, to give her mother a happy ending.

Incredibly moving, and incredibly touching. DC's Vertigo imprint is about this stuff. Not just monsters and breasts and violence and magic and gore. Vertigo allows these things, but that's not what it's for. The Vertigo titles, at their best, explore what the world is about.

Spectre 1
We meet the new Spectre, Crispus Allen, a cop who was killed by Jim Corrigan. No, not the original Jim Corrigan. When the Spectre approaches him to be his new host, Crispus refuses. He spends a year wandering the Earth as a ghost, and then the Spectre returns to offer again. This time, Crispus accepts.

Crispus isn't sure about the Spectre, and doesn't really approve of his method of dispensing justice. Too ironic, not swift enough is his take on it. Maybe he'll be able to affect that.

The continuity is a bit confusing, however. The story starts in the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, since Allen saw the Spectre destroying people over Gotham. But Crispus doesn't merge with the Spectre for a year. So this should be concurrent with One Year Later. But it doesn't have the logo on it, and during the year, Allen watches Bruce Wayne as Batman. But Batman was absent from Gotham during the missing year. So I'm a bit confused.

It's not a bad book, but I'm not sure if it's good either.

Ultimate Extinction 5
This would have made such a great action movie. We get to watch as the Ultimates and the X-Men fight against the Moon Dragon clones, in an incredible action sequence.

Then there is Jean and Xavier using the Vision and Cerebro to channel the human mind against Gah Lak Tus. Gah Lak Tus can't handle humanities dreams, thoughts and feelings, so Xavier and Jean make that a weapon against it. A beautiful, subtle, moment as Jean pleads to mankind. She speaks of thoughts as weapons, of using your thoughts like a bullet, like a fist, or like fire. Go Phoenix.

But most importantly, we discover the secret behind Reed Richards ultimate weapon. He opens a gate into a baby Universe, a new one, right before its Big Bang. He drops a nuke in there, and then channels the energy of that Big Bang towards Gah Lak Tus. It doesn't destroy Gah Lak Tus, but it destroys 20% of it, which between that and the mental assault, are enough to scare the Destroyer off.

But at what a cost...

Ultimate Fantastic Four 30
There is so much good here. So much good.

Apparently when they were in the N-Zone, Johnny picked up a parasite, which is slowly eating him. And if it breaks free, it'll eat the Earth. Obviously, this is a problem. Incidentally, there is a lot of Earth-eating going on in comics right now.

No one seems able to help either. Reed tries every doctor on Earth, and no one has any solutions. He even tries to get the "Frightful Four" to help, but they refuse, even when Reed tells them that he alone has argued against their extermination. He was even working on transporting them back to their planet.

Of course, there is one person Reed has not talked to yet. The monarch of Latveria. With a heavy heart, Reed and company go to meet with Doom.

Doom now has Johnny and Sue's mother working for him. This is scary. Doom is also wearing the armor and cloak that make him resemble the 616 Doom more. This is a Good Thing. I love Doom when he's handled correctly.

Professor Storm doesn't share Reed's opinions of the Frightful Four, and so with the FF in Latveria, he moves to exterminate the zombies. The last image we see is the zombies noticing the extermination squad, and zombie-Sue saying "Boys, it's time we made our move."

The good side is that the Zombie FF shouldn't be as able to destroy Earth as quickly as zombie Sentinel did. But this still spells serious trouble for the Ultimate Universe.

Ultimate Spider-Man 95
It makes me very sad each week as I post covers. Inevitably, there is one or two covers I cannot find the cover art for, and so I am forced to show the entire cover, with logo, issue number and barcode.

But I digress. Bendis once more delivers a great multi-tiered story. Peter's personal life continues to be disasterous. As a result of Genosha, everyone knows that Spider-Man is involved with Kitty Pryde, which means that Peter Parker can't be, not unless they want to reveal his identity.

It also means that MJ knows about Peter's new relationship, and that of course makes for happiness and light between Peter and MJ. MJ is obviously upset, and asks all those questions that no one wants to be asked by their ex, especially not their ex they still have feelings for.

And clearly Peter has feelings for MJ still. He broke up with her for her protection, not because he didn't want her. It's interesting that Kitty Pryde has taken on the Black-Cat role for the Ultimate version of Peter. (Not precisely, of course, since Kitty does care about the Peter Parker side to Spider-Man.)

If this wasn't enough for Spider-Man to deal with, and obviously it isn't, there are vampires in New York. Vampires. Ben Urich has interviewed a vampire's victim, and then went missing. When Peter goes to investigate, he ends up in the middle of a fight between an unrevealed vampire, the vampire's victim, who is now a vampire herself, and Morbius. Morbius isn't identified by name, but clearly it's him.

Well, we turned this week into another spooky week. Zombies, vampires, and world-eating monsters. What a week.