, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Below find more musings from recent weeks that were originally intended as casual Facebook shares, herein together gathered for your delectation.

With the usual caveat about their rough and ready nature, allons-y, n’est pas?

It’s weird to realize just how much of today’s geek culture boils down to some 1970’s work (or work that became most celebrated and “viral” at that time) from a handful of authors (Tolkien, Moorcock)…

…and perhaps more to the point, a surprisingly small group of comic creators (Claremont, Englehart, Gerber and Starlin in particular, but also Thomas, Conway and McGregor) and artists (Byrne, Perez, Giffen, Adams and Rogers, plus a few workhorses like Sal Buscema, Gene Colan, Ditko and – while widely mocked – Kirby), across no greater than four comic companies (two of which, Charlton and Atlas, were extremely short lived, in practical terms*).

* Charlton actually produced materials for quite a number of years, but with comics as a sideline, and only with any notability to fans and collectors from the Dick Giordano-instituted “action heroes line” of 1967 and perhaps most pointedly during the Nicola Cuti-driven 1975-6, where folks like John Byrne, Mike Zeck and Bob Layton first gained notice – all of which amounts to a grand total of three years as a prominent comics company.

Seriously, the degree to which this old stuff is interconnected isn’t even partially reflected in the television and movies that under the cover of “paying homage”, quite blatantly steal (and inevitably, screw up) their ideas and storylines…ones crafted over four decades ago.  So much for “fresh new ideas!”

The closest we’ve seen to an alternate world, distorted mirror “accurate” to the original source thus far?  Season 1 (and portions of Season 2, mainly in the first half) of Iron Fist…and even the latter was totally bas-ackwards, adding pointlessly extraneous characters and elements and building to a very wrong denouement.

This has become quite noticeable of late, as inspired by our delve into the Marvel Netflix series, we’ve begun digging through a number of series that all finish and continue from each other’s stories – as in “book gets cancelled” or “change of writer/artist team”, only to be continued under the header of another title, generally handled by the same writer, at least.

At first the common link in these series was John Byrne (particularly as we wound up starting this venture with 70’s Charlton), but before long, it became obvious that the link in the many series we touched on this time around?  Was Chris Claremont.

Yeah, the guy’s known for being more soapy than “relevant”, more drama-centric than trippy or political, like so many of his peers of the day.  But that also gives him more leeway, locks him less into the category of “dated” and “of its day”…and allows his work a wider appeal crossing politicosocial boundaries.

And talk about busy…who knew the guy was working Iron Fist, Xmen, Marvel Team Up, Black Goliath, Tigra and Satana all at once…before tagging in Ms. Marvel, Spider Woman and Doctor Strange?  And this was not a deliberate delve into one specific author or title.  When digging through the collection for the Iron Fist run, we just happened to pull a lot of these titles at once…and were quite surprised to find it all stemming from the same source and authorial voice.

Good luck finding something like that these days…much less something so time testedly culturally influential!

Finally sat through the great majority of the episodes comprising the new Doctor Who season…to the point where it was mutually decided: we’d seen quite enough, thank you.

But hang in there…because this isn’t a hit piece.  Well, at least not en toto, because there is one very important saving grace at center stage.

Jodie Whitaker isn’t in any real way what I was expecting to see in a femme Doctor, something the wife and I had been tossing about as a “nice to see” option for years now (next up, he should be Lenny Henry…).  But that noted?  No issues there.

She did a fine job in and of herself, or to put it more objectively, her take is energetic, amusing and believably connected to the persona and particular tics and mannerisms of prior Doctors, to whom she bears a fairly obvious lineage if not in gender, then certainly in demeanor.  So far, so good.

But then…oy.

The less said about our three companions, the better…and what happened to that bit about the young guy having no motor skills? Did they forget immediately, or decide it was a terrible idea right after filming the first episode? The only good character they had was the grandmother, who got killed off immediately. Great work, folks…

Then came the stories.  After the first two episodes, we jumped ahead to watch two rather ham handed “meaningful” episodes about racial strife (obviously meant to parallel modern day issues), only to find that neither had much of a point or narrative drive…a particularly egregious failing in the one about Rosa Parks, which felt more like a fanboy starfucker thing than a proper story.

At least the one about the partition of India worked it out in a very personal and direct manner, as reflected in the microcosm of one family and a tragic marriage…the other was a straw man, gaudily bedecked with an obvious surface “message”, but hollow and utterly empty once you dig even a millimeter deeper.

Well intentioned, perhaps…but where’s the story?  Was there any actual motivation for our rather dispassionate, generic “villain of the piece”, who didn’t even bear the obvious mannerisms, markings or dogmatic babble of who he was supposed to represent (but let’s keep it safe and generic, please…wouldn’t want to offend that crowd, oi?)  And another, far more important point, to be addressed shortly…

Then the only time you feel any connection with them (in the final episode, where the widowed husband intends to take out the bastard that killed his wife in the first episode)?  Surprise!  The Doctor gets all mealy mouthed and SJW, with a ridiculous anti-violence speech that was not only wrongheaded and embarrassing, it was actually sickening.

Yes, the Doctor has always walked the path of understanding and compassion for the other, even when the other is an alien threat – Pertwee and the Silurians spring immediately to mind.

But this was not logic, rationality and the pursuit of a better universe through compromise and a meeting of the minds.  This was inanity, where a grieving widower is not only advised against travelling the path of vengeance on the unrepentant baddie who ruined his life (and that of his late wife’s grandson, for that matter!), but called out as being “just as much an enemy as” said malfeasant for attempting same(!)

I’m sorry, but no.  This was not a stronger man (or woman) choosing to walk away from a fight out of wisdom, or even compassion for a repentant enemy.  This was laying down and dying over a general principle that really should not be carried to or apply to such a situation.

Instead of the usual (and intended) “enlightened” stance, all it showed was weakness on The Doctor’s part.  The only possible reaction is utter disdain. The man was right, shut up, you time traveling ninny…

Finally, even beyond bad writing, questionable characters and superficial (but intended as “meaningful”) storytelling?  We come to the overarching problem with the entire season.

Namely, this: The Doctor and her companions barely involve themselves in the events of any given story, as if they were wandering through observing rather than acting to correct (or “Doctor”) said events. As my wife kept saying, “why are they even there?”  Every episode ends with their having done precious little, even nothing at all.

Producers, take note.  Keep Ms. Whitaker, definitely…but retire all three companions, and whatever you do, dump Chris Chibnall and hire a real script editor, before he sinks the series entirely.

Above find what amount to the only reasons to check out all those overly gory and grim (but strangely chaste and often cuss-free…as if ultraviolence and incessant torture sequences were more acceptable than fucking or swearing!) Nettlix series.

We finished the only season of Daredevil we’ll ever watch* and just an episode away from killing the first season of Iron Fist…tried the others and nah.

* we did eventually attempt to start Season 3, but dropped off after an episode that came off like a half assed, overly grim reworking of Rumiko Takahashi’s One Pound Gospel (or more to the point, the live action Japanese television version thereof).  Same thing we’d seen so long ago in the first two episodes of the first season, which left us mocking the series for several years for its relentless grimness and pointless grue…

But the whole Elektra storyline of Season 2 made an otherwise shitty, gruesome and depressing series (with a strangely quite odd looking cast to boot!) very watchable, even good…when she was onscreen and/or the focus of what was happening.  Perhaps more interestingly, given the buzz among certain circles, was the fact that it was the first season of Iron Fist, which apart from a rough start (hint: start with episode 3) that turned out to be our favorite overall.

Perhaps the Defenders will be better than its rep as well…we’ll see.*

* pause for a week or so, then an update follows…

Um…yeah, sure.

Just finished another of these Netflix Marvel jobs.

Now, Daredevil, we’d only tackled season 2 after a disastrous attempt at a few episodes back when the series debuted…only Elektra brought us back to see how badly that would be handled.  And much to our surprise?  That was actually very good…at least when they concentrated on her, Matt and Stick.

Of course, that was only 1/3 of the season’s storylines. The whole trial of the Punisher thing was painful, and the stubby little fat kingpin with his cueball head was laughable, particularly after the muscle bound monster of the movie version.

About the best that can be said is that their crane necked Karen Page (seriously, how long is this girl’s neck?) and her newspaper mentor was a cute build of a relationship, and the punch drunk palooka with a mug only a mother could love of a Punisher got one actual good scene, when under attack in a diner.  The rest was overly violent* and just plan bad.

* well, so was that scene, by the end… 

From there, we went to Iron Fist, whose first season started on a pair of rough episodes but built to something much better…though again, mostly for the stories of Danny and Colleen Wing.

The real heart and soul of the season is their combined story arc, from how they intersect and go from comrades in arms to the revelation that they’re both shared victims of some seriously screwed up childhoods, to becoming an actual couple by the end (something explored a bit in the likeable early episodes of the second season…before things go right down the toilet, faster than you’d ever have reason to expect.)

Beyond the aforementioned Jessica Henwick and Finn Jones, Rosario Dawson also acquits herself well as their nurse confidant (and however reluctantly, part of their fighting team) throughout.  Good stuff.

Then we went to the Defenders crossover.  Attempts at the Luke Cage series (which finds a longtime favorite character subverted into more of a cop/military type and social worker than his actual character, namely more of a streetwise blaxploitation hood trying to make his way as a PI with powers…which begs the question, who the fuck WROTE this one?) and the perpetual PMS victim/major depressive that is Jessica Jones left a sour taste, but here?  Very different story.

Instead of the depressing faux-“streetwise” nonsense of the Cage and Jones series, Defenders taps far more into continuing storylines of the far more engaging Daredevil Season 2 and Iron Fist Season 1…which was a very smart move.

As it happened, the whole Elektra/Matt/Hand and Danny and Colleen vs. the Hand storyline crossing each of the two respective series takes center stage…but with a lighter feel and a surprising degree of likeable interplay between not only the main cast of the various series, but even down to most or all members of their supporting casts.  Nice work.

No, like an Avengers film to the various series that precede and feed into same, this series can hardly be accused of being the deepest…but that’s not what it’s for or about.   A definite win…particularly given Matt’s choice at the end, which is as it should be (and psychologically speaking, would very likely turn out) for a man and relationship like that.

An excellent wrap to two series and two seasons, concluded together with gusto.

Then things got shaky again with Iron Fist season 2.

Davros the Steel Serpent taking the fist was pretty much straight out of the comics, as was his serving as de facto bodyguard/companion to Joy Meachum, until such time as he was ready to launch his assault on Danny.  But the whole Chinatown gangbanger messiah schtick, while likely intended to mirror the cultish backgrounds of Danny and Colleen as delved into during the prior season, was just screwed up and got old fast.

Joy as the new baddie?  Never felt it.  The weird schizo?  Ugh!  I worked with one, once…and the girl actually looked and acted a lot like what you see here.  Horrible addition to the series, a bad idea for a character, period, and the author(s) wasted far too much of the season’s running time on this awful, creepy ass excuse for a human being, at the expense of the leads and the dissolution of their relationship…which was also a bad choice.

But on the plus side, at least at first, we have Ward as a good guy (or trying) – absolutely loved his brother moment with Danny (who was indeed “whipped!”), and more of Danny and Colleen as a happy couple…and Misty actually starts to develop some character, even getting her bionic arm at last (just in time to hint heavily at a Daughters of the Dragon spinoff, something that runs throughout the entirety of the season, only for the series to be cancelled before that can come to fruition.)

That said…it all builds to the most ridiculous of feminist endings, where Danny goes full on milksop, Colleen becomes the Iron Fist and dumps him (oh, come on…), Ward tries to become a father for his bastard child only to be rebuffed by his screwed up “I’d rather be a single mother” girlfriend (seriously?)…and the guys wind up running off to Asia to become fucking Indiana Jones or some shit, like a pair of schoolboys trying to regain their lost manhood in a world better handled by the more savvy, self aware and capable females of the cast.

REALLY?!?!  Blow me, lady writer(s)…because it’s obvious this hit piece on an entire gender wasn’t written by a male voice…

In the end, I’m glad the second season of Daredevil got a DVD/Blu release, but where are the Iron Fist seasons…and the Defenders?

Because when you tally up all 6 of the Marvel Netflix series (yes, they eventually made a Punisher one, too…), there are really only three, arguably three and a half that really need to be available on home video.  The rest can flounder and disappear at random, as is the way with the inconstant world of streaming licensing…