MCU Copycatting #11: Who Did Marvel Copycat?

This is one of those things that I only just realized, but is so obvious.

Count the cineverses, which I define as distinct properties existing within the same cinematic continuity.

1: The Marvel Cinematic Universe.
2: The DC Extended Universe.
3: Fox’s X-Men Universe.
4: Sony’s Spider-Man Universe (pending redevelopment and release).
5: The Arrowverse on the CW network.
6: The DC Animated Original Movies.
7: The Valiant universe (pending development and release, also by Sony and their partners).
8: The Dark Universe (assuming it survives the financial failure of The Mummy)
9: The MonsterVerse.

That’s quite a few, and with more to come, no doubt. One can’t help but be impressed with how Marvel’s original concept has taken flight to inspire so much work. Surely they, the creators of the first cineverse, will go down in history for their revolutionary thinking.

…except, one little detail: they didn’t come up with the idea.

Oh, they certainly are the first big name to deliberately craft an entire story specifically with the intention of creating a cineverse, and do so on the big screen. But there is one cineverse I can think of which predates even the MCU. As I have been posting about cineverses for a couple years now, and have a full ten posts behind me for it, I thought it only right to pay tribute to it. So, without further ado, I present:

The DC Animated Universe!

(cue dramatic intro music!)

The story begins, as it always does, with one idea. DC and Warner Bros allowed the brilliant minds of Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski to create a cartoon unlike any before it. Up to this point, the industry of televised animation, especially superheroes, and basically everything targeted for children, was going a bit stagnant. When Timm and Radomski produced Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, they breathed new life into all of that.

It was a quality show, one that pushed animation forward by leaps and bounds, and one that challenged the limitation that everything “child-friendly” also had to lack anything emotionally, intellectually, or psychologically substantive. Small wonder it became so popular, it was the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves of industry. The success spurred the development of several properties which the creators chose to set all in the same continuity, the same universe. Over the course of fourteen years, through televised shows and accompanying movies, the DC Animated Universe, or DCAU for short, became a cinematic universe in its own right, long before the phrase ever existed.

Among the properties they released, the DCAU features Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, The Zeta Project, and, the crescendo of all that came before firmly tying them all together, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Over the course of these, the animation improved, the storytelling improved, the ideas dealt with became deeper and more diverse… basically, they began the saga by pushing the envelope, and they kept doing so right up to the very last conclusion.

Interestingly, DCAU’s run more than overlapped with the reinvigorating of the superhero genre on the big screen as well. Concluding in 2006, it observed the release of X-Men in 2000, Spider-Man in 2002, and Batman Begins in 2005. And it ends, still going strong, only two years before the release of Iron Man and the beginning of the MCU in 2008.

I submit that none of these, most especially the intentional creation of a cineverse, may have never occurred without the influence of the DCAU. It shaped and cultivated young minds which grew to become adult minds, preparing them not only for greater superhero cinema, but to accept and appreciate connections between a variety of distinct properties as well.

Thus, I dub the DCAU as patient zero, or Cineverse Zero, where the very idea of a shared cinematic universe gradually came into being with its ongoing development. It did not begin that way, but it became such.

“We were the very first.”

And so it seems DC and Warner did manage to do it first, and contribute something to the phenomenon, after all. 🙂

Kudos.

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Anime Review: Saga of Tanya the Evil

The English name might be a bit odd, but the Japanese title, “Yōjo Senki,” literally translates as “The Military Chronicles of a Little Girl,” or even more literally as “Little-Girl War-Record.” Even if you played with that to say, “The Little Girl’s War Chronicles,” it’s still a mouthful and still very odd.

So, Saga of Tanya the Evil it is.

The story begins with the titular Tanya von Degurechaff (I have no idea how to pronounce that), a girl who is only nine or ten years old yet already enlisted and leading a small military unit, in settings that clearly draw on World War I for inspiration, with an additional mixture of magic and technology thrown in.

In this alternate world, which has paper-thin references for which fictitious countries represent which real-world countries, we have the Empire, obviously the equivalent of Germany, currently threatened by nations on all sides, but possessing several advantages which combine to create a superior prowess in warfare. Not the least of these advantages is Tanya herself, a prodigy of destructive power and military expertise, absolutely ruthless, calculating, even unfeeling, terrifying to friend and foe alike. Well does she earn her title, “The Devil of the Rhine,” named so for the terror she unleashes on the front lines in that region.

Needless to say, Tanya is not your typical little girl. Indeed, she possesses insight which far exceeds that of most adults… as well she should, considering this is not her first life.

It turns out, quite early in the series, that Tanya is the reincarnation of a 21st century Japanese salaryman from our world. She remembers her previous life, every cutthroat action she took in the name of logic and reason and putting herself in a position above the inferior people all around her. She remembers all of it, right up to when a man, enraged at how apathetically his employment was terminated, pushed her previous incarnation in front of a train.

And then an entity calling itself God spoke to her.

“Whoa…”

She refers to it as Being X, and refuses to acknowledge it. Angry, spiteful, and perhaps possessing a sadistic sense of humor, Being X takes an unusual interest in this soul, setting the terms of challenge which Tanya is powerless to refuse. Now reincarnated in the middle of a most violent and dangerous time and place, if Tanya wishes to continue existing after she dies again, instead of being sent to Hell or simply winking out of existence or whatever, then she has to die not of violence, but of natural causes, preferably old age. Oh, and Being X is absolutely influencing the situation to mount the odds ever more against her.

In this extreme situation she finds herself in, Tanya quickly resorts to joining the military, her overall plan being to use the military to protect herself, while she sits in a safe rear-echelon position.

All of this is revealed within two episodes, so I’m not spoiling much. 😉

Let’s just say, thing do not go according to plan!

And I would *never* take fiendish glee and delight in the suffering of someone so evil!

On the one hand, Tanya is absolutely fighting an uphill battle against a supreme being of some sort. On the other hand, her amoral attitude makes it pretty hilarious, in a way, as her plans consistently backfire on her. Every single time she thinks she’s won, that she’s about to achieve her coveted rear-echelon safety, it turns around on her and she’s thrown into even greater danger than she was before. Her every victory turns against her, her very strength and power itself becoming an instrument of her undoing. It’s a lesson she is slow to learn.

Now, if that were all there was to this anime, it could get pretty stale after awhile. However, this is rectified with the introduction of a battalion under her command. Without noticing or realizing, Tanya’s position as their leader begins to change her, just a little. At the start, she simply does not care about other people, only puts up a facade of such when it’s useful. In time, however, she begins to behave differently towards her comrades, and even begins to see her foes in different light.

The story turned out to be surprisingly complex and realistic, and I felt invested in people on both sides of the war. It became a discussion of human nature, and how humans will undoubtedly react. Logic and reason are powerful forces when properly applied, and this gives Tanya and the Empire their greatest victories. However, they forget that humans are also creatures of passion, of illogical emotion, and this is their great weakness, one which invites their absolute destruction.

I really enjoyed this anime, much more than I thought I would. It was gripping and tense, occasionally tragically hilarious, the characters are great, the story is intricate, the themes are powerful, the animation is stellar, the world-building is interesting and relevant… really, Saga of Tanya the Evil is just very well done, and very unique.

Of course, with the note they leave off on, I am really wanting there to be a second season, to finish the story and show us who wins in the contest between Tanya and Being X.

Rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: Solid A.

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Book Review: Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Have a Nemesis

I was completely (and pleasantly) surprised when I happened to be browsing around Amazon the other day and found that Richard Roberts had just recently released the latest installment in his ongoing Please Don’t Tell My Parents series: Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Have a Nemesis.

I read, reviewed, and very much enjoyed all three preceding novels in the series: Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain, Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon, and Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen. No way could I pass up the latest of Penny’s adventures! Especially when the summary advertised everything previous was returning again, all the old chickens coming home to roost, which sounds a lot like what one does when ending a series. That feeling that was only enhanced by the blatant declaration that, this time, her parents would find out Penny’s secret, one way or the other.

My initial reaction was, “What? Already? But there’s so much more to tell! Nooooo!”

Yes, I like the series. 🙂

Fortunately, this is not the end of Penny’s story… it is a grand set-up for the ending!

The details about that go into a number of spoilers that I hope not to spoil. I will simply say, it sets up the final conflict perfectly. Also, Roberts assures us that, while Penny’s story may be reaching a conclusion, there are other characters in this world he has crafted, and they have stories of their own to tell.

With that out of the way, the first thing I’d like to say is how I appreciate how different each book in this series has been. I believe I mentioned before how Supervillain took these youths on an exploration of a world with heroes and villains, then Moon thrust them into a darker world that enhanced their maturity, then Henchmen was about the process of growing up. In the same vein, Nemesis is an introspection of the protagonist, examining who Penny is, what she’s done, and what she’s immediately trying to do.

This is Richard Roberts right now.

And, of course, the next, concluding novel will feature Penny facing her greatest enemy and her own inner demons, as well as the question of her power, addressing who she is with it, and who she is without it. It will certainly ask the question, is it her mad scientist superpower that makes her special, or her heart? That’s a five-part story, where each installment is distinct and unique and adds to what came before. No small accomplishment, that. But I’m getting ahead of things. 🙂

Most of what happens in this novel is, simply: life. Penny has a lot of things going on in her life. Her parents are trying to both train and protect her without pressuring or dominating her. Her dearest friends are moving forward with their respective passions, but still having fun together with her. New and old faces shows up and she has to deal with them, sometimes as friends, sometimes as enemies. She herself grows, learns that she can be her own person as well. All of this while she keeps making friends and helping people. And she ends up having some interesting conversations with herself, both literal and metaphorical.

In regards to that last, what Penny is trying to do in the middle of everything is confess the truth to her parents. She’s afraid of that, really, and can’t seem to just tell them. She also wants to retire her villain identity, at long last, and work to become a hero, or something else. That might involve giving up some fun, which no kid does very easily, and her friends, however supportive, aren’t the best influence in that direction, as they all love their time together, especially their villain time. So, she turns to the only person who can really help her: herself. And she constructs an elaborate scheme where she’ll be able to “officially” get out from under the villain title, while simultaneously backing herself into a corner where she’ll have to tell her parents the truth, and, to top it all off, she might even be able to minimize their fury!

All around, it looks like a good idea, and it seems to work flawlessly.

But, as Indiana Jones once said, when you’re one step away from the prize, that’s usually when the ground falls out from underneath you.

Just when all seems to be well, and Penny has surely won the day… there’s a twist ending. And a cliffhanger thrusting us towards the next novel.

For the life of me, I will not spoil it! 😉

But I will say, there are several contenders for who Penny’s nemesis is, but while the story involves them, it culminates in the creation and the unleashing of her most dangerous foe. It catches us by surprise, but it makes perfect sense, and her enemy couldn’t be any more personal. Just when it seems Penny has won, she loses everything.

And then, in her truly darkest hour yet, hope finds her, and gets her back on her feet, ready for the true confrontation.

In short, I really liked this book, and the three that came before it, and I look forward eagerly to the next! And then I look forward to where Roberts further takes this series! 🙂

Rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: solid A.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #135: A Father’s Job

“He saved you.”

“Yeah, and you know what he got for that? Me whining about how much he embarrassed me. Me telling him that I hated him. But then he stopped, he turned around, he looked at me, and he said, ‘Son, you don’t like me. That’s fine. It’s not my job to be liked.’”

“’It’s my job to raise you right.’”

– Castiel, Dean Winchester, & Sam Winchester, Supernatural
Season 10, Episode 9, “Things We Left Behind”

Somehow, I almost never manage to simply pay my dad a straight-up compliment, give him some undiluted gratitude, without also mentioning something about how we’ve disagreed and argued and have past issues and so on and so forth. It must be maddening for him, for almost every good thing I say about him to be sandwiched among less complimentary things.

I really do regret that.

So, in the spirit of maybe shaking that off a bit, and paying my dad a tribute like he’s actually owed, I thought I’d share this.

This is a scene where the conversation of our main protagonists has shifted towards the Winchesters’ father, John. The brothers and their father are rather famous for not really getting along. John made a number of mistakes in raising his sons to become monster hunters. There were so many times he simply wasn’t there for them, not the way a father should be. But, it wasn’t all bad. One thing he always did was protect them.

Dean is just telling a story where he disobeyed his father, sneaked out at night, and put himself into company that was likely less friendly than they appeared to be. Then comes his father, with the aura that terrifies all and commands due respect, practically grabbing his son by the scruff of his neck and dragging him out. Yeah, teenage Dean was absolutely defiant and snobby, hardly a just reward for his father at the moment.

Then his father turned to him and said these words, words his sons have remembered ever since.

It’s not a father’s job to be liked. It’s not even a father’s job to do everything right. It’s his job to raise you right, to teach you, train you, equip and protect you the best he can, the best he knows how, and then send you on your way.

Whatever my stupid, selfish, bratty qualms with my father have ever been, this must be said: he didn’t make it his job to be liked, he made it his job to raise me and my sisters right.

Thank you, Dad.

Happy Father’s Day.

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This Week on TV, June 17, 2017

Spoiler Alert!

And then there was one, the last, lone survivor on my lineup. It was… well, good, as in, not bad, but really felt a little lackluster. They can’t seem to make up their minds about whatever goes into the quality of these episodes this season. I’m actually kind of wanting the season to end already.

Doctor Who

10.08 “The Empress of Mars”

NASA. The very heart of America’s continuing exploration of space. The association that put the West into space, that put man on the moon, that pushes outwards, always outwards, to the stars, including our near neighbor, Mars. It is a very somber, powerful moment they are having right now, with the latest satellite scanning the planet’s surface, seeing straight through the ice, and transmitting images back to Mars. It is a momentous day, complete with a countdown.

…so, of course, the Doctor crashes the party, with Bill and Nardole in tow.

If the staff at NASA weren’t surprised and confused enough already by these three strange interlopers suddenly popping in, the first images from Mars contain the real bombshell of the day: a formation of rocks piled together to spell out, “God save the queen.”

No way the Doctor doesn’t investigate this!

So, the trio zoom off in the Tardis, which approximates when the stones were laid, so they can see what’s up. The venture out into caverns of red stone, and find a small fire burning. So, obviously, there’s oxygen, and off come the helmets. Just in time for Bill to fall through a hole, quickly followed by Nardole running for the Tardis for anything that could help, like rope or something, only for the Tardis to spontaneously leave as if of its own accord, whisking him back to the present, and leaving Bill and the Doctor stranded.

So, escape is quite literally not an option.

Bill meets a man in a primitive space suit.

The Doctor meets an ice warrior.

We’ve sort of seen an ice warrior once before. It was one of Clara’s first adventures, and they were on a submarine, and we didn’t see much of the intelligent lizard, but certainly saw how dangerous it was even without its armor.

This one has its armor.

The man Bill meets is a British soldier, a Captain of the Victorian age, which makes sense since they’ve gone back to the Victorian age. Victorian soldiers, on Mars, and entire company of them. It turns out, their colonel met the ice warrior, whom they dubbed Friday, in South Africa. He stumbled on Friday’s ship and woke him up from a long slumber. In exchange for helping Friday get home, they were given a futuristic laser cannon and were promised the riches of Mars.

Unfortunately, it’s all barren, useless rocks, and Friday has returned to find his home lifeless, his people gone.

The soldiers, of course, hail from a time when the Brits walked too proudly on the Earth (bonus points if you get that reference), and they’ve brought that pride to Mars with them. They blithely lay claim to an entire planet, even when it’s supposed to have people on it. And the one Martian…

…it just occurred to me: the ice warriors are upright lizards in large armor… meaning they’re little green men from mars…

…anyway, the one Martian they know, and whom they now believe to be utterly alone without his people, they do not hesitate to make him their servant. A proud and mighty ice warrior, reduced to taking men’s dishes away for them. Oh, not cool, that. Not cool.

Anyway, it looks like no one is going to get what they want out of Mars.

Until they find the tomb of the Empress.

Which is also her stasis chamber, as one soldier finds out the hard way, as she comes awake while he’s trying to loot the place. And we see that ice warrior weaponry apparently folds a person into tight knots. Not a pleasant way to go, and one can only hope that death is as swift as it looks.

So, this definitely qualifies as a most tense introduction between species.

Fortunately, while the Captain may have been far too eager to fight, and far too confident in their victory, the Colonel is more level-headed. He listens to the Doctor, and lets the Doctor do the talking.

The Doctor recognizes the Empress’ authority, and appeals to the need for survival. The ice warriors have slept for five thousand years, and in that time, the world above has become lifeless. If the ice warriors awaken, and he is wise to guess that there are more, the cannot survive long on Mars without help. For the sake of necessity, the Doctor pleads with her to cooperate.

But he’s up against the pride not only of the Brits, but also of the Empress of the Ice Warriors. That’s two peoples possessing great pride and strength, and one has given offense while the other is quick to take it.

The situation spirals ever more out of control as the two sides come to blows. The Captain, arrogant, upstart weasel that he is, takes command of the company by revealing to the soldiers that the Colonel once deserted and merely survived the ensuing hanging. With that, he takes the soldiers and locks up the Colonel, Bill, and the Doctor. And he keeps posturing about how inevitable their victory is, because there are only two ice warriors, and they’re trapped behind fallen rubble with only the one way out, which they have their guns, including their laser cannon, pointed at.

Except that the ice warriors are waking up, and they outnumber the Brits, and they can move underground to come up behind them. It quickly becomes a slaughter, one the Captain flees, hoping to escape back to Earth and leaving his men behind. He’s the real coward, not the Colonel.

Friday rescues the Doctor, Bill, and the Colonel, hoping to stop the slaughter and save his people by changing the Empress’ mind. Bill tries talking to her, distracting her long enough for the Doctor to get hold of the laser cannon, pointing it up, where one good shot could bring the ice down on them all. The Captain interrupts, thinking to take the Empress hostage so she can fly the ship back to Earth. But the Colonel block the path of his retreat and executes him, taking back his command.

It is an act which impresses the Empress, as does the Colonel’s willingness to die. Most of all, his final request: that she please not judge humanity based on the flaws of a few men, either the Captain’s cruelty or the Colonel’s past cowardice, to let his men go home, and to spare his world. In his final moments, the Colonel regains his sacred honor, and his courage, and the assurance that his death is in service to those he swore to protect.

…and then he is given more time.

The Empress holds his life, and refuses to kill him. Warriors should die in battle, and if he swears his loyalty to her, which he does, she will see he gets the opportunity.

So the crisis is ended, the soldiers go home, and the ice warriors call for help. They are answered by Alpha Centauri, who are happy to come and help them, though they recommend a land marker to help guide them in. This, the Doctor realizes, is the beginning of their golden age.

Which, considering how the Alpha Centauri ice warriors came to collect the commander we met way back with Clara, means that the future Doctor created the circumstances which saved the previous Doctor. …wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, am I right?

We know what the marker is: the pile of rocks at the beginning of the episode.

Everything turns out well, except… Nardole wasn’t able to get the Tardis working right. He needed help, went to Missy, who helped, but did so by being let out.

The Doctor says she has to got back into the Vault, and she doesn’t protest. She just asks if he’s all right.

…something very strange there. We’ve seen Missy be insane, but is this a new brand of it? Or is she becoming more sane instead? Or… I don’t know, she’s crazy and dangerous and going through something very tricky and unstable, so who knows what’s going through her head?

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MCU Copycatting #10: A New Contender

By my last count, we have at least half a dozen distinct cinematic universes out there. Marvel’s MCU, DC’s DCEU, Arrowverse, and the animated movie universe, Fox’s X-Men, Sony’s Spider-Man (which will no longer have Spider-Man in it) as well as their ongoing plans for a Valiant universe, and Universal’s Dark Universe, altogether make for seven cineverses. Two of them, both from Sony, have yet to be properly launched, but I’m still counting them for the moment. So, eight, right?

Seven of them center around comic book superheroes, and the eighth hails from a studio that doesn’t have any comic book superheroes to use.

There are other “cinematic universes” at various stages of development, but from what I can see, they don’t really count. Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, these are all just regular series, really, though Transformers seems to be gaining an unusual longevity. And the odd crossover between 21 Jump Street and Men in Black is just that: a crossover. Not a cineverse. Heck, even Star Wars is just expanding the backstories with Rogue One and the plans for Han Solo and Boba Fett.

Yet, even these pretenders are dominated by superhero adventures.

Thus, my surprise and delight at the introduction of new cineverse, one that really is a cineverse, and it’s not based on superheroes. It’s a bit more akin to the Dark Universe, based around classic, famous monsters, and humans’ experience with such.

From the partnership of Warner Bros, Legendary Pictures, and Toho, I present: the MonsterVerse!

Starring: Godzilla and King Kong!

It begins a few years ago, with the release of the newest Godzilla. After that success, of course, people immediately started talking about sequels. This opened the door for the studio to get rights to some of Godzilla’s classic foes, including Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah, from his original Japanese owners, Toho. Thus, most obviously, the next movie up for release is Godzilla: King of the Monsters, in 2019.

This year, however, audiences were pleasantly surprised to find that Kong: Skull Island is set in the same continuity (and entirely independent of the King Kong remake, thankfully). I imagine it probably takes place before the events of Godzilla, as the giant lizard is not yet famous, but they’re sort of assembling this cineverse as they go. After King of the Monsters, the aptly-titled Godzilla vs Kong comes a year later in 2020.

The last time these two titans shared the big screen was back in 1962. There was no such thing as real continuity among monster movies – or any movies, really – back then. Most additions to a franchise were just neat little things, not really connected to its predecessors or successors. The audience had not yet grown accustomed to ongoing series that had any cohesion. Heck, there were even two versions, one where the Japanese audience saw Godzilla win, and one where the American audience saw King Kong win.

Now Warner is doing much like Universal is: bringing back the classic monsters in a specific, connected cineverse. It’s no sure thing, though I hear audiences love Skull Island, but it’s an interesting idea. Unlike the monsters of the Dark Universe, the MonsterVerse monsters haven’t been duplicated by countless movies and studios, and they aren’t specifically famous for being the villains that mankind overcomes, and we can form a wordless connection with giant beasts – just ask anyone who has a pet – so there’s a solid emotional ground to build on.

However, while I can’t speak for Skull Island just yet, I did feel that Godzilla needed to be a little less about the people and a little more about the monsters, especially Godzilla himself. If they can manage that moving forward, then the sky’s the limit. If not, then they could be nice movies, but still B-level. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it could be so much more.

And then there’s the story. How are they going to bring all these monsters together, and how will they proceed in the future if they’re successful?

This image is not to scale, but even if it was, these kings would need a really big arena.

So, there’s no guarantees, but I am feeling pretty excited. If I’m honest, though, that has less to do with the MonsterVerse itself, and more to do with the shift in subject matter. This is the first cineverse we’re getting that does not feature superheroes from a studio that has superheroes galore to work with. What this tells me: the audience is growing accustomed to the format. We’re getting used to multiple properties being connected. Shifting from superheroes to monsters is just the start. Who knows what else, what other stories, could be told this way?

Action movies, spy thrillers, war movies, murder mysteries, heartfelt dramas, horror stories, romantic comedies, period pieces, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy adventures, each of these genres and more could house cineverses within them. Imagine seeing the ongoing adventures of normal action heroes who know each other. Imagine seeing couples interacting across several love stories, letting us see how previous couples are doing, or seeing supporting characters come into lead roles of their own. Imagine the epic of interconnected space sagas or fantasy adventures.

I still appreciate standalone movies and franchises, but the cineverse could well take our beloved stories to ever higher, more entertaining levels.

And it all begins with supermen and monsters. 🙂

Cool, isn’t it?

 

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I Bring the Fire Part I: Wolves

So, a little while ago, I decided to specifically try more urban fiction. That experiment, which I will elaborate on at some other time, has not gone so well. This review is about one of the better titles said experiment led me towards, and I would describe less as “urban fantasy” and more as “fantasy walks into an urban setting.”

I Bring the Fire Part I: Wolves, by C. Gockel, begins the story of Loki, Norse God of Mischief, including his time in modern-day Midgard (Earth) and his vengeful quest to destroy Asgard.

Sounds pretty epic, right?

Actually, not so much.

Looking at how that sounds, let me be clear in what I mean by that: there’s plenty that I enjoyed about Wolves, it merely happens that “epic” is not one of them.

At two hundred and fifty pages, the story feels at the same time dragged out and too short. The pace might be just a little bit too slow, and just when things really start getting interesting, it peters out and ends on a cliffhanger that is rather lacking the cliff.

As the rather obvious beginning (and nothing else) of the tale, of course the seeds are sown for the greater mysteries that will somehow help to shape the conclusion of the series. Some of them are mysteries that, really, are a bit out of our league so early on, involving the shifting of cosmic forces and such. Others are more obvious, such as the strange connection Loki feels with the Queen of the Elves, which is somehow tied to his true, secret origin. And then there’s what happened to Loki’s friends and family, the inciting incident of all of this. It’s rather obvious. Oh, and then there’s Baldur.

Speaking of, shifting to a more positive note, I do like this take on Loki as a person. I love this version of the mischief-maker, and how they manage to explain even his most nefarious deeds as being more justifiable than one generally thinks they would be. Of course, that gets very tricky when his worst and most legendary deed is killing Baldur, the God of Peace. Making something like that any less severe involves, by necessity, changing the character of Baldur as well as Loki. In the case of the former, they succeed in making him something infinitely more terrifying and vile. In the latter case, they emphasize the one thing most crucial, above all, to turning a villain into a proper protagonist: his humanity. He is driven by very human things, not the least of which is a long lifetime of loneliness and betrayal, as well as the repeated loss of people he has truly treasured.

It would seem that behind the cocky grin, and behind the cunning, there is a great deal of sorrow, anger, and pain.

Enter the female lead: Amy Lewis. She’s a normal human, with normal human concerns, like paying her bills with the contents of her rapidly diminishing bank account. At first glance, the only special thing about her is her appearance (Loki often notices how well-endowed her chest it, and Thor comments on the same). In fact, she can’t even protect herself very well, not even from a human villain, an encounter which is partially responsible for her first meeting with Loki.

However, for all her normalcy and weakness, Amy has a kind heart and a knack for keen insight. She sees past the surface, the glitter and glam, to grasp what lies beneath. It’s something that Loki seems to find quite attractive, even more so than her ample bosom.

In short, she could well prove to be just the person Loki needs in life in order for his heart to heal.

And it’s one of the rather obvious things we can expect, that they’ll hook up at some point, whenever that turns out to be.

So, I suppose my biggest qualm with this, outside the pace, is how there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of subtlety. Almost everything, most especially the true fate of Loki’s family – yeah, they’re not really dead, not remotely, I am certain – is painted out in big, bold, neon lettering.

I still enjoyed the story, and the way much of it was told, but there is room for improvement. I’m somewhat curious about the end of the story, but not urgently so, and that’s even knowing I could get the entire saga all at once and read straight through. Some things, I have to command myself to wait for. This is not one of them.

Rating: 7 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Minus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #134: You Choose Who You Are

“Who you are is a choice. It always has been, it still is.”
– Harvey Bullock, Gotham
Season 3, Episode 22, “Heaveydirtysoul”

For three seasons now, Gotham has been dealing with the question of who people are and the choices they make.

A number of the characters on Gotham have, at various times in their lives, been both good and evil, sometimes in astoundingly rapid succession. Many have fallen, but a few have made the long climb to rise again. The character of Jim Gordon is among the latter, but even after turning himself back to the right side of things, he was still consumed in darkness for a time. Eventually, there came a moment where he gave up.

The exact circumstances are long and complicated, but in his darkest hour, there was his best friend, Harvey Bullock, reaching to bring him back again. When Gordon is resigned to being the worst version of himself, because that is who he is, Bullock states, clearly, that it’s not. Who a person is, that is his choice. Always has been, always will be, and it certainly is right now.

That is the moment where Gordon was saved, not by his own righteous warrior spirit, but by the simple, stubborn love of friendship.

Even when we give up on the light, that doesn’t mean the light gives up on us.

I’m reminded of an old story I heard when I was young. By reputation, it features an old Native American man talking to his grandchildren. He tells them that he has two wolves inside him, constantly at war with one another. One is kind and virtuous and everything good. The other is savage, selfish, cruel, and everything evil. His grandchildren ask him which wolf is winning, and he answers, “Whichever one I feed.”

People generally aren’t all light or darkness inside. We have both, and we have a choice between the two. Sometimes that choice is clear, and sometimes it’s more vague. Sometimes we run to the light so hard that we miss it and veer off into darkness. Sometimes we turn from the light, convinced we can never know it again. And sometimes we just keep our eyes on it, and go towards it just one step at a time. That’s the healthiest option, I think.

Most important though, is to remember that just because we’ve failed once or twice or a hundred times before, this does not mean we have to give up.

No matter how bad it gets, we still have a choice, always.

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This Week on TV, June 10, 2017

Spoiler Alert!

And then there was one. 🙂

Gotham delivered a deep and powerful one-two punch with a two-hour season finale, rather perfect for leaving us satisfied while also making us look forward to next season.

Doctor Who didn’t exactly pull its punches either! We have five episodes left, and this episode was easily the equal of the standard season finale. And there’s still more to go! This is Capaldi’s concluding season, and they seem to finally be pulling out all the stops! 🙂

Doctor Who

10.08 “The Lie of the Land”

So, the monks took over by making everyone believe they were already in charge, and always had been. Clever indeed, because while people automatically resist new things, especially new oppression, they automatically accept things as they have always been, if only because they can’t fathom the success of the change.

Of course, even when something is legitimately old, dissension is inevitable, and the monks have a huge facade to maintain. So, they are constantly beaming their psychic propaganda directly into every human mind on Earth, and even then, there are those who remember the truth. The human authorities, acting on the monks’ false authority, are very busy rounding up dissenters. And throughout it all, the Doctor himself is the face and voice of their regime.

Bill is just going about her life. She doesn’t remember what happened right after she consented, but her life is continuing, quite normal among all her fellow humans. But she feels the monks’ intrusion and resists, quietly, every single day. It ends with herself only because she has faith in the Doctor. Even with his face everywhere, advocating for the monks, she believes he must be cooperating only temporarily, that he’s planning and waiting for the right moment. So she waits for him, and doesn’t act out. Instead, she sits down, every day, and conjures a mental image of her mother to converse with. Bill tells her everything, sharing the burden with someone who can never tell.

It seems just going through each day is such a torment for Bill that she’s going crazy just so she can keep functioning.

And then Nardole arrives with glorious news: he’s alive! And he’s found the Doctor! The monks keep him on a prison ship, which Nardole and Bill pay the captain of a cargo ship to smuggle them aboard as part of his crew. They nearly get caught, first by soldiers asking for papers, then by a monk whose timely arrival ends the request for papers prematurely. And they’re aboard.

There they find the Doctor. Who immediately calls for the guards and calls the monks to come. Yes, it seems he is working for them, truly and genuinely. He has become jaded and angry in his frustration with humanity for accepting the fascist monks, blaming Bill for opening humanity up to this takeover, and siding with the monks because, in lieu of free will, at least they bring peace.

It’s the struggle of human nature. On the one hand, authority can bring stability but at the cost of freedom, while freedom brings chaos. Humanity has been fighting to find a balance between the two for the whole of its existence. The Doctor, it seems, has elected for the peace of humanity’s enslavement.

Bill is shattered. Her guilt is heavy and her faith is broken, but her choice is freedom, and in her volatile state, she does the unthinkable: she shoots the Doctor with one of the guards’ guns. He staggers, falls, and begins to regenerate… and then it stops as he grins, congratulating Bill as the guards applause.

Bill’s faith was well-founded after all. So much so, in fact, that as the Doctor has been planning, as well as recruiting and deprogramming the guards, he couldn’t take the chance that Bill had been corrupted by the monks. They tested her reaction to the Doctor’s seeming betrayal, switching out the bullets with blanks, and she passed with flying colors. They had to put her through the wringer, but now they know they can trust her. It was Nardole’s idea, which quite nearly earns him a thrashing at Bill’s hands, quite understandably.

Now the Doctor has his guards and his friends at his side, all that’s left is their emergency ace in the hole. After six months of patience, the Doctor acts out a little bit, driving the prison ship straight through any barrier between them and the shore, laughing maniacally. Yes, after that display, the monks are waiting for him at the university, but they aren’t anywhere near the Doctor’s destination: the Vault, and within it, their trump card.

Missy.

The Doctor’s had his adventures, and Missy’s had hers. This is his first time meeting the monks, but she’s dealt with them before. In exchange for a few requests – which she justifies with a declaration that she could easily escape, but she’s here, partaking in the process of her reformation – she lends the Doctor her expertise.

It turns out, the monks take over by forging a psychic link with a human, one who asks for their help and consents to the price without any ulterior agenda. That bond is then projected out in a psychic signal, strengthened and maintained via the many monk statues, saturating every human mind on the planet. So, kill the signal, free humanity. Kill the living link, and the signal dies.

Small problem: this involves killing, and it involves killing Bill.

Unacceptable.

The Doctor refuses.

Missy keeps explaining that the link is passed on through the bloodline. Everywhere else the monks have invaded, the living link usually goes on to live a normal life, have kids, etc. Anywhere that has failed, the monks have just chalked it up to experience and left. Either way, the only way to save humanity is to sacrifice one human life, to kill the link as Missy once did.

The Doctor refuses.

He declares that Missy isn’t changing at all, and she responds with her ow recrimination. His definition of good is not the absolute measure, and even if she succeeds in becoming good, she’ll never be his definition of such.

Bill is for it. If it’s the only way to save humanity, then she, the one who brought this on them, should be the one to pay the price. The monks won’t ever hurt her, which means it has to be a friend.

Mind you, the monks made one small error in making a lesbian their living link, but Bill isn’t about to die of natural causes very soon, so the crisis remains.

Refusing to give up on Bill, the Doctor instead leads his men on a daring raid into the heart of the monks’ headquarter, right to the very seat of their power. After all, it’s not Bill but the signal that needs to die, and the signal is coming through her, but from the monks. She’s the link, not the source, and the Doctor goes for the source.

They have to record a looped message they can all listen to, to counteract the psychic propaganda signal. This leaves them unable to hear the monks coming at them from behind or from the sides, but it’s the only way to remember the what, how, and why of the mission when they’re so close to the signal. They make it, at a cost, and then the Doctor takes on the entire signal single-handed. He almost succeeds, pushing the lies out of the truth, but the monks rally and shove him out of the signal, nearly killing him as they reestablish their lies.

And then it’s Bill’s turn. She makes her case, overriding the Doctor’s protests, and goes in, ready to die. Either she shoves the monks out of everyone’s heads, or she dies, and the signal dies with them. Catch 22.

On the brink of psychic and physical collapse, Bill retreats to her sacred refuge: her mother. Which, as it happens, is a memory they were unable to corrupt. It’s pure and untainted, and the strength of it, of Bill’s love for her mother and her mother’s love for her, floods the psychic signal. The truth of that sacred relationship floods every human mind, and it breaks the lie. All around the world, all at once, all the people of the world rise against the monks, their minds clear and their hearts filled.

And the monks, highly interested in surviving, turn tail and run.

Though they do take a moment to erase themselves from human memory. Just a little something to, ah, keep the humans from uniting and coming after them.

Everything goes back to normal.

Life goes on.

Bill goes back to school.

The Doctor goes back to Missy.

Missy… who is crying. In her time and solitude and desire to live, she is remember everyone she’s killed. Every last one. And no matter how many she remembers, she’s always remembering more.

She is a mass murderer, now looking at every single face she’s murdered.

Such is the agony of learning empathy: truly limitless remorse.

Perhaps that is another reason the Doctor refused to kill Bill, to avoid adding another face.

Gotham

3.21 – 3.22 “Destiny Calling” and “Heavydirtysoul”

Whoa.

And wow.

Each of these episodes was packed, and both of them, back to back like this? Oh, there was a lot going on!

So, obviously, square in center stage is the great upheaval. Thousands of Tetch-infected victims are instantly rampaging through the streets, unleashing a scale of destruction yet unseen on the show, and likely never seem by Gotham at least since the last time the Court destroyed the city. Now the Court and the city both lie in bloody, burning, chaotic ruin.

Gordon himself stands at the very heart of the struggle. He is the walking embodiment of the city’s suffering. His darkness is his aggressive nature. He’s a killer, bull-headed, impatient, willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. He’s been wrestling with this for years now, and he’s fallen to it before and come back. Meaning, he has experience, and that’s buying him time, but he’s fighting a losing battle. He can’t sit this crisis out, but every time he fights, the darkness takes a stronger hold on him.

To make things worse: the city doesn’t have any idea how to cure the infected, a number of which are just being killed on the spot to stop their rampaging.

Fox, however, has good news: the house of the Owl leader, Bruce’s lying mentor, yielded files which indicate that Strange developed more than just the virus, the Court also had him working on an antidote. That, at least, was intelligent of them. They were rather interested in surviving, unscathed, the chaos they unleashed. They created a powerful weapon, and the first rule of such is to always include an off switch.

So, the city doesn’t need to create a cure, they need to find it, which means finding Strange. Gordon and Bullock accomplish that easy enough. Strange wants to flee, so they head for the train station, rather swamped with people who want the same thing: to run away from the danger. Unfortunately, Fish grabs him first. It’s close, Gordn and Bullock coming within spitting distance of Fish and Strange, but Fish has Freeze as backup, and quite nearly kills the two officers.

I couldn’t help remembering how Bullock once threw the gauntlet down to Penguin, when the man was “king of Gotham,” in the name of Gordon and Fish both, and now Fish really does try to kill him. It’s just Gordon’s quick thinking, ripping out an overhead pipe to intercept the ice gun, which saves their lives. Same thing slows them down long enough for Fish to escape.

Strange then finds himself in Penguin’s company. It seems Fish has forgiven him, and she has designs of taking Gotham back, in a new way. She has herself, Penguin as a loyal friend, Freeze and Firefly as bruisers, and armed men. They’re the freaks, and they intend to turn Gotham into a city of freaks. To which end, they need Strange to make that army he promised Fish once, long ago.

First thing’s first, though: having Strange means they have the means to find the cure and save the city, which they are certainly going to charge the city for. That doesn’t quite go as planned, as they are met by figures in black, with swords. (anyone else reminded of Arrow?) Ninja vs freak, the freaks have advantages, but they’re not out of the woods until Gordon and Bullock arrive and attack the ninjas from the rear. Gordon, especially, is cutting through them with the strength provided by the virus.

Unfortunately, he’s so lost in the battle fury that he doesn’t look before stabbing, and ends up running Fish straight through. She dies again, this time with Penguin crying over her as she tells him to take make the city his.

Fish Mooney, the last truly great crime lord of Gotham (making exception to how Falcone is still alive, but no longer a crime lord), is finally and permanently dead simply because she got too close to Gordon in a fight.

Oh, and the vials holding the cure all break. No instant saving of the city this time. But they do have Strange again, and he can duplicate it. He just needs one thing: the source. There is, in fact, one person who was rather obviously immune to the Tetch virus, and that would be the Mad Hatter.

Cue the entrance of Barbara on the scene, taking the Hatter in order to do what Fish intended: hold the hope of a cure for ransom.

Things are very unwell in the Keene camp, though. No house stands long when its foundation is left cracked, and the cracks in Barbara’s house are huge. Barbara has increasingly treated Tabitha and Butch like nothing more than hired muscle at her command. She’s used them, berated them, and broken her promises to them. Tabitha finds her own frustrations whispered back into her ears by Butch, and Lee herself drops by – we are overlooking how little sense it makes to throw parties in the middle of the worst crisis ever to hit the city in living memory – to threaten and possibly kill Barbara, but settles for pointing out how Tabitha is just Barbara’s minion, like she was her brother’s. True, the only one who’s always treated her as an equal, and someone to value, is Butch.

The final straw is when their plan to blackmail the city backfires.

Gordon has no limits right now, but he can still play to the human element. He calls Riddler, offering the man what he most wants, Penguin, in exchange for the Hatter. Riddler doesn’t hesitate to betray Barbara. Their relationship was ending anyway, as Barbara only convinced him to help her for one more day, in order to turn the chaos into an opportunity. Barbara relied on Riddler instead of giving him to Tabitha and Butch, and he betrayed her, and then she took it out on the two of them. They crash the exchange, and chaos erupts: Penguin manages to knock out Riddler and take him away in the cop car, while Gordon and Bullock grab the Hatter, drain his blood – they might have been less enthusiastic about that if the Hatter hadn’t made their lives Hell – and escape, leaving their pursuers with nothing but a useless hostage.

And that’s it. The bond is breaking. As Barbara flees to safe house, Butch and Tabitha decide to kill her. Barbara sees it coming, though, and gets the drop on Butch. For once, he’s actually got a moral high ground, as Barbara threw Tabitha away just to be queen for a day. Unfortunately, she’s got the gun, and shoots him in the head.

Then comes Tabitha, who is far more dangerous than Barbara in a fight. She arrives to find Butch’s metal hand in a box, asks Barbara if she killed him, and when she answers “yes,” that’s it. They fight, and Tabitha has the upper hand several times, but Barbara manages to stay alive a few times, until she happens to be standing in water when Tabitha knocks over a lamp. She’s dies from electrocution. And now Tabitha is alone without Butch, but free without Barbara.

The cure comes along at a brisk pace, but Gordon has a deadline. Lee is leaving the city, and wants Gordon to come with her. He takes the first dose of the cure and means to give it to her instead of taking it himself. It’s his darkness, that he’s willing to do anything, make any sacrifice. It’s consuming him, and it finally swallows him as he tries to save Lee. And then, at last, he falls to it when she seduces him with the promise of coming away with her, letting them be together as they both want. Don’t they deserve it? So… he falls. For her.

They could have made it, too. The could have left, been free and clear, and done whatever they liked, wherever they liked, living the rest of their lives in the dark.

But there’s still Bullock.

He catches up to them, and helps Gordon remember that this isn’t “who he is.” Who you are is a choice, and Gordon chose the badge. That’s who he is: the best Bullock has ever seen. So Gordon takes the badge, which he finds has two doses of the cure attached to the back. He gives one to Lee by surprise, then takes one himself.

I really love the poetry of this. Though Gordon was lost in darkness, and finally gave into it, he still had one friend left to help him back to the light.

And thus the city-wide crisis ends, the storm leaving behind a number of bodies.

Within and yet separate from this is Bruce Wayne. Still under the thrall of his deceased mentor, he manages to escape custody and go to the Yuyan building, as instructed. He finds the Demon’s Head, Ra’s al’Ghul, and the man is a freakish upgrade from the version of him on Arrow. Standing beside the green, glowing waters of life, he tells Bruce how he’s lived a long time, become a figure of legend, and yet never found an heir to succeed him. However, while the city may be in turmoil and the Court may be dead, there’s still the issue that Bruce hesitated twice, neither killing the Court nor unleashing the virus. The latter was only because Alfred interfered.

So, Bruce is given a final chance to prove himself, by killing Alfred.

Alfred has actually managed to put a dent in Bruce’s conditioning back at the GCPD. He talked about what was real, things that were more important than vengeance: love. He talked about the good times, the acts of love his parents did for him. Love, that’s real, and that love still lives within Bruce, so Alfred doesn’t give up on him.

Even now, with Bruce leveling a sword at his heart, Alfred expresses his own love and faith in Bruce, and he’s willing to die for Bruce. If this is what he needs to do, then he better. Bruce does. He runs the blade through Alfred, and the act, and Alfred’s words, finally break through his mentor’s conditioning. Bruce finally breaks free, and is left sobbing over Alfred’s warm corpse.

And Ra’s al’Ghul laughs. This is, in fact, the best thing that could have happened. It proves Bruce’s mind and will are strong, and though Bruce may defy him, he shall become the man’s “knight in the darkness.” His heir. And as a parting gift, he lets Bruce use the waters to save Alfred’s life.

It’s not a done thing, though, and Bruce spends the entire latter episode in the hospital, by Alfred’s side.

Selina drops by to support them, but… well, she’s made some mistakes, and Bruce is feeling the pain of that especially sharply right now. He speaks harshly to her, throwing her worst self in her face, because, I think, he can’t bear to rely on her again after she broke their trust. He doesn’t see how this is her prodigal return in his hour of need. And she is deeply hurt. So she leaves, and the bond between them is apparently severed, everything good they felt now buried beneath pain.

In time, Alfred wakes, to Bruce’s joy and delight. He’s able to give Bruce some words of wisdom, then. Bruce has lost himself in his quests for justice and revenge, forgotten who he is. Alfred advises him to do as he’s done, to find an anchor, something he truly feels strongly about, truly loves, and devote himself to it entirely. For Alfred, his anchor is Bruce.

And we all know what Bruce’s anchor will be. 🙂

Meanwhile, Selina, left alone, goes to Barbara’s club. Finding Tabitha there, alone, she shares how she’s had enough of mere survival. She wants more. She wants to move up. She wants to fill the hole left in her heart. She wants an anchor of her own.

Tabitha, also at a crossroads, sees something in Selina. She has Selina try using her whip and is duly impressed when Selina hits her target on the very first try.

It’s strange, how relationships shift and change and evolve. A number of sweet relationships have turned sour on the show, but the first time Tabitha and Selina encountered each other, the former was trying to kill the latter. Now they’re becoming teacher and student.

Oh, and then there’s Penguin and Riddler. Penguin was once obsessed with Riddler, calling it “love.” Now they’re bitter enemies. And as Riddler seems to get the upper hand on Penguin, Penguin turns the tables. He let Riddler have an advantage, one that he nullified before letting him have it. Riddler is right, Penguin is akin to a child throwing homicidal tantrums, but Riddler has his own weaknesses: he’s so precise and exacting that he can be predictable. When Riddler takes Penguin to the same spot to kill him again, he finds the gun empty, and Ivy and Freeze standing behind him. And Penguin doesn’t just kill Riddler: he turns him into an ice statue to keep around forever, to remind him of the weakness of love.

So, in ending the season…

Bullock is captain now, officially, and he and Gordon are just wanting a normal case so much that, as they go out for a drink, they go out looking for trouble to.

Lee has left Gotham again, and left a letter encouraging Gordon to save the city, and maybe be saved in return.

Penguin, with Ivy in tow, is opening a new club, the Iceberg Lounge, featuring Riddler as a trophy, as he tries to take the city back for the freaks.

Selina has found a teacher in Tabitha, both women looking to become more than they were before.

And a family out at night is mugged, in reflection of Bruce’s family, but this time there’s a figure all in black to defend them before vanishing into the night. Bruce moves atop a building, looking down on the city he will protect.

The Batman is coming.

There is always more to do, more story to tell, but this was a pretty good stopping point.

Whatever they do next season, I have no idea how they’ll top this.

Though, now that things between Bruce and Selina are ended, and Ra’s has selected Bruce as his heir, perhaps we will see a young Talia entering the scene?

…oh, and Butch isn’t quite dead. He’s in the hospital, where we learn his real name is Cyrus Gold.

…seriously? Butch is the young version of Solomon Grundy?!

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MCU Copycatting #9: Updates for Sony and Universal

I didn’t think I’d be updating my MCU Copycatting theme for quite awhile yet. I mean, we’re barely halfway through the year, it’s not even been five months since my last commentary, and the one before that was more a rag on DC’s trailer for Batman v Superman than anything else. Though I think my comment about DC’s cookie cutter approach could be a valid retroactive addition, that ship has sailed and doesn’t need to come back into port just yet. Surely there can’t be that much to comment on already, right?

Well, this is a very long-running, slow-moving thread, so at least two of my earliest posts have become very outdated. In fact, they became particularly outdated quite recently. The overall situation has changed and become much more clear in a relatively short time, just in the last several weeks.

In short: an update is required!

For the most part, things are running along pretty much as previously stated. Marvel, DC, and Fox have been the most major competitors, and things are largely unchanged. Marvel has announced plans for The Runaways and New Warriors, but I’ve yet to find a proper confirmation of whether these are or aren’t in the MCU, so I’m not including them just yet. DC is also moving forward with plans for a live action Titans show a third season for the animated Young Justice, but I doubt either of those are connected with any of their standing cineverses. And Fox has debuted trailers for an upcoming live-action show, The Gifted, also created in partnership with Marvel if I’ve heard/recall right, and connected to their film franchise, but there’s not much else new to report on that front.

No, this update isn’t about any of the three “main contenders.” This is for two of the outliers: Sony and Universal.

Sony, I think, is making a colossal mistake.

After the failure of Amazing Spider-Man 2, they shelved all further plans for the Spider-Man universe and made a deal with Marvel to share rights to Spider-Man himself. This was a good move, as it not only buried a failing cineverse, but gained Spidey some much-needed good publicity. He was a fantastic addition to Captain America: Civil War and everyone is excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming. After that, though things are a bit murky, it’s still clear that Marvel will be using Spidey in the MCU and producing sequels.

So, Spidey is getting pretty well entrenched in Marvel’s camp. Though he still belongs to Sony, Sony are letting Marvel take the lead, as Marvel actually knows what they’re doing, which means they can keep making money. Very important, that.

Which makes it nothing short of stupid, I think, for Sony to not only hog so many other properties in relation to Spider-Man, but to revive their plans for a Spider-Man universe, most especially when planning to do so without Spider-Man.

…seriously? I mean, seriously?! They do know that they don’t actually have Spider-Man for this cineverse of theirs, right? But they’re moving forward with plans to develop the universe that exists around him, but without him anywhere in it. That’s a bit like building a castle without a foundation! It’s not really reviving the Spider-Man cineverse. It’s reanimating it as a cinematic zombie! What are they thinking?

…ok, yes, they’re probably thinking, “There’s nothing quite as wonderful as money, money, money,” but you know what I mean!

And how are they planning to do this?

Well, Spidey is rather essential for anything involving the Sinister Six, so that movie, at least, is scrapped, hopefully beyond revival. But there are two other properties.

First, there’s Venom, which is kind of ridiculous. DC may have had some success with Suicide Squad, and Fox had tremendous success with Deadpool, but Venom? Venom is easily among the worst villains in the entire Marvel Comics universe, and he is Spidey’s enemy. How are they possibly going to have the villain without the hero? Deadpool and the Squad’s villainy was balanced out with the heroism of their friends, the evil of their enemies, and their own choices to do something good. Venom doesn’t have any of that. He is a villain, an enemy, plain and simple.

Just what are they going to do with him alone?

This guy? NOT a hero!

Second, there’s Black Cat and Silver Sable. While I can, as a guy, appreciate bringing two of Spidey’s most voluptuous and alluring frenemies to the big screen for the first time, I have similar concerns as with Venom. Not only do I have no idea what a the cat burglar and the secret agent will be doing or what could bring them together – wait, I amend that, they’ll probably meet as they’re both breaking in and stealing things from the same people at the same time – and why they would stay that way without Spidey bridging the gap between them.

Also, I know I’m repeating myself from earlier posts, but isn’t it a bit insulting to need to team the women up as if they can’t carry a film on their own the way all their male counterparts can?

Still, I suppose I have slightly more hope for the girls’ movie than I do for Venom.

But what is Sony thinking?

And how can they call it a cinematic universe if they don’t even bridge the gap between properties, which, as it happens, is where Spider-Man, as in the figure at the center of this universe, comes in?

Were I Sony, I would trust in the partnership with Marvel and just leave the deceased Spidey-verse where it lie. Instead, I would focus on getting the Valiant cineverse off the ground. Seriously, outside a little shuffling in the order of the films, it seems to have come to a standstill before even moving. Which is a shame. While I am unfamiliar with the material myself, my understanding is that it’s quite popular, and it could put them back on an even footing with the main trio of contenders.

But I suppose I digress.

As for the second part of this update, Universal has made great swathes of my entire introductory post about their plans obsolete now. Which, all things considered, might not be such a bad thing.

I do still believe they’re fighting an uphill battle, but there might be some reason to hope. For one thing, after the dismal failure of Dracula Untold, they seem to have gone back to the drawing board. It was clearly supposed to be the launching point of the Monster Cinematic Universe, but it would have been like launching of a landmine. Yes, there might be a millisecond of acceleration, however, you’re not exactly in prime condition for running when it’s over.

So, they went back and started over.

Three years later, we’re getting The Mummy instead of a Dracula movie to launch Univeral’s monster cineverse, officially entitled the Dark Universe, and it looks much more promising. From what they’ve been saying, there are some crucial elements to the movie and the Dark Universe as a whole, especially the genuine humanity of the monsters. The audience needs to be able to connect with the monsters, they say, so that has been a huge thing. I imagine this is part of why they settled on a female mummy, an unexpected, intriguing twist. Also, there’s action, and likely jump-scares, but with an emphasis on the more classic horror elements which create suspense and properly terrify the audience. And, of course, there’s already something set up to connect the movies in some way, namely the secret organization called Prodigem.

That’s some serious improvements over their previous plans, just at a cursory glance. They’re using the principle of a cinematic universe, but creating something unique, something that can be set apart from both the superheroes and other incarnations of these classic monsters.

For the future, there are reportedly plans for Bride of Frankenstein, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, and, most appealing to me, Van Helsing.

I am still hesitant, though. Not only is horror generally not my thing…

On the bright side, it looks like they’re getting properly updated for the modern audience!

…ok, that’s somewhat changed over the last few years, but I still try to be pretty careful with the entire genre as a whole…

…anyway, outside my personal preferences, I do have to wonder. Not only is the absence of Dracula rather telling, as he is the undisputed king of Universal’s monsters, but in what movie or movies are they going to come together? It’s apparent that Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde appear in The Mummy, but what else are they doing?

Also, the space between these movies, with Bride of Frankenstein still two years out and no mention of when the other movies will come out, how much of a cineverse will this be really? If we’re following the same character or characters from one movie to another, that feels less like a cineverse and more like your typical series.

And, at least of my original concerns remains: these are the villains of the story. How are they going to reuse them when every story involving them involves their defeat?

So, that’s pretty much it. We have Sony flailing wildly to make a Spidey-verse without Spidey and Universal’s Dark Universe beginning to take shape. It says something that I actually have more hope for the latter now.

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