Thursday, June 30, 2011

5 Avengers Who Could Be Great Justice Leaguers

I don’t have to essentially repeat my intro from the other day in reverse, do I? If you haven’t already, go back and read my post on Justice Leaguers who would make great Avengers—or at least the first couple paragraphs—and then come back here.

Done? Ok, let’s rock…

Yep, right out the gate with a big one, I think Tony Stark and his armored alter ego would be a tremendous asset to the Justice League of America. Iron Man is definitely your classic “feet of clay” Marvel hero rather than your idealized DC type, but if you look at his history, he’s all about rising to both the occasion and the people around him. Tony started out as military contractor, but upon experiencing the horror of war vowed to be better regardless of the personal and financial hits he would take. He may have fought a Civil War against Captain America, but he also has incredible respect for Steve Rogers and has been working overtime to be a hero worthy of standing alongside Cap since he thawed him out of the ice. Being an Avenger has always brought out the best in Iron Man and I believe being part of the Justice League would do the same. Tony Stark is both ultra-competitive and extremely—figuratively—goodhearted. He’d not only want to be on the same level as Superman, he’d want to prove he can be even better; he’d not only need to earn Batman’s respect, he’d have to beat him at being the best billionaire altruist and hero—I bet they’d actually go from a grudging respect to being good friends! He may almost irritatingly competitive, but it comes from a good place, and I believe Iron Man would utilize all his considerable resources to take both himself and the Justice League to untold levels of greatness.

Nobody ever thought teen model Patsy Walker could make it as a super hero, but she did—she became an Avenger! Ever since, Hellcat has been bucking the odds, whether that means earning her place on a team where Namor was arguably the weakest member, making a marriage with the son of the devil work—temporarily—or coming back from the freaking dead. Bottom line: If you tell Patsy Walker she can’t do something, she will do it. If Patsy lived in the DC Universe, she would march right up to the Hall of Justice or build her own spaceship to fly to the moon and you better believe she would join the Justice League. Hellcat’s just the right amount of sugar and spice to make things interesting for DC’s pantheon of champions. She’s a sweetheart who would probably be a great gal pal to Wonder Woman and Zatanna, make Superman smile and get Batman to loosen up; she’s also as fierce as her namesake and would tell Green Arrow where to stick it, let Plastic Man know to shut it and get Batman to loosen up. Hellcat would be a neat variation on Black Canary—who she’d make a great foil for/confidante to—as an underestimated little lady with the spunk and skills to hang with the big guns.

If there’s one Avenger who doesn’t understand intimidation, it’s Monica Rambeau. She named herself Captain Marvel despite the moniker previously belonging to a legendary universal champion who died surrounded by the great heroes ever and didn’t flinch in trying to live up to it. She joined an Avengers team that included Captain America and Thor and did not just earn her spot but was chosen to be their leader before she’d even really completed her rookie season. Whether as Photon or just herself, she’ll fly into any situation with poise, confidence and skill to ensure the resolution that guarantees the safety of those around her. She has incredible powers that allow her to travel across galaxies in an eye blink or put down the toughest bad guys. There is no quality Monica Rambeau possessed that does not make her an ideal candidate for the Justice League. Picture her and The Flash as two light-fast streaks racing into battle. Imagine what she could do matching energy abilities with Green Lantern. Just think what a master strategist like Batman could do if he knew he had this kind of resource at his disposal. They’d be lucky to have her.

Wendell Vaughn is tagged as a guy with tremendous potential to be a great Avenger, but his sticking point has always been that with his other duties as Protector of the Universe and need to mainly stay in outer space for cosmic adventures, he hasn’t really been able to commit as much time to the team as they’d like. The nice thing about the Justice League is they don’t really mind if you miss a meeting or ten, just so long as you deliver when it counts. Any Green Lantern who has ever been in the League can’t be there all the time because they’ve got a whole sector to patrol, but they make it work. Batman comes and goes as he pleases, but the void gets filled. The Justice League has enough powerhouses that they can afford to be without Quasar one mission and then appreciate his presence the next. Speaking of power, as a member of the recently former Annihilators, Wendell has demonstrated that just as how I described Tony Stark earlier he’s a guy who plays up to the people he’s surrounded by, so being around other super-charged heroes would only raise his game. Quasar’s also just such a nice, even-keeled guy that he’d probably fit in better with the generally harmonious League than the oft-bickering Avengers.

Jonathan Hart never really got much of a chance to find his true potential as an Avenger or a hero because his powers were so unstable he had to spend most of his time locked in an isolated room and then when he got out he exploded a lot—right up until his death. The combined brainpower of Hank Pym and Tony Stark couldn’t find a solution to Jack of Hearts’ condition, but for some reason I feel like the DC Universe could. The Justice League is a melting pot of such varied cultures as Kryptonian, Thanagarian and Martian, not to mention the New Gods of New Genesis, all of which have technology even further beyond our imagination than Iron Man’s armor. A city like Metropolis where the future is now doesn’t really exist in the Marvel Universe; the Guardians of the Galaxy don’t visit the present nearly as often as the Legion of Super-Heroes. Bottom line, while the Avengers certainly live in a world where anything is possible, I think the one that surrounds the Justice League is even a bit more far out, and my gut tells me they’d find a way to “cure” Jack of Hearts, who would be so grateful he’d be one of the most committed members their team had ever known.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Harry Potter Rant

I saw the first Harry Potter film in theaters when it first came out back in 2001. I can’t recall specifics, but don’t believe I particularly wanted to see it and further think I was dragged if not kicking and screaming than at least pouting by people with whom I no longer associate (and I think my friend Dan was there as well).

It’s tough for me to objectively judge that experience in retrospect as I was already fairly bound and determined to dislike whatever came on the screen and recalling the company I kept for those two and a half hours does the memory no favors. I decided then and there I would have nothing to do with the little wizard boy and his adventures moving forward.

This was a vow I stuck by with vigor despite the turns my life took over the past decade. New friends who want to make an evening of seeing the new Harry Potter? Have fun, nerds, I’ll stay home and read comics. Date and marry a girl who loves the books and movies? I’ll practically pay Jim McCann to drive over and see the latest with you while I go to Transformers—lesser of two evils? History will decide—darling. Kevin comes to work in full glasses, school boy and drawn-on scar costume for no reason? Well, that anecdote really doesn’t match up with the others, but it totally happened and I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring it up every chance I get.

But with time and love, I suppose we all grow a bit softer and put aside our childish wars. It was with this maturity and boundless generosity that I made the following deal with my wife: I would watch all the Harry Potter movies with her before the last one came out so I could go see it with her and her friends.

And I did it. Yes, I am that awesome a husband. There was a second part of the deal that stipulated she was to watch all the Rocky movies with me, but that seems to have fallen to the wayside…

Anyhow, what do you know, those movies aren’t too bad. Hey, I’m not saying they’re masterpieces and I don’t think I’ll be re-watching them any time soon—the last one was crazy dull—but the stories are wildly creative, the acting is pretty uniformly strong and the visual world brought to life is remarkable. I have to commend everybody from the lady who wrote the books to the cast to every crew member for entertaining me for more than a few hours and not losing my focus. I really do have tremendous respect for the folks responsible for this franchise.

However, there is no question much of my enjoyment has also come from the ability to point out huge, gaping holes in logic that my lack of emotional attachment to this material has gifted me with.

I give you now, as best I can remember it, the inspired tirade I went on directed at the aforementioned Kevin in a public New York City park across the street from Marvel as we lunched that addressed the central flaw in the world of Harry Potter and drew the attention of more than a few concerned onlookers…

Say you run a school and you’ve got a profiler—maybe a person, maybe a hat—that is able to ascertain whether a young person is innately good or evil with beyond scientific accuracy. Let’s further suppose that your profiler identifies a solid quarter of your student body as having the propensity for wrongdoing, across the board from troublemaking bullies to potential serial killers. Do you, say, expel the kids who are going to turn out bad so as to not have them reflect poorly on your institution/train them in skills that will aid them on their dark path? Barring that—maybe it’s too harsh—do you at least spread them out, apart from one another, where hopefully they can receive good influences from kinder associations? Do you have your staff pay special care to watching out and making sure they don’t tend toward the wrong side? Or do you PUT THEM ALL TOGETHER IN ONE PLACE AND LET THEM ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER TOWARDS BEING BAD GUYS WHILE DOING NOTHING TO STOP IT?

If you answered the third option, congratulations, you’re the new headmaster at Hogwarts.


Also, the school should have been shut down years ago for endangering students and the time travel sequence in the third movie has massive functional problems.

For the most part though, fun movies! We’ll see if I still feel that way after I have to go to the theme park in August…

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

5 Justice Leaguers Who Could Be Great Avengers

I believe I’ve said it before—been doing this a few years now, folks, hard not to repeat myself—but I do believe and also appreciate that the respective DC and Marvel Universes have distinctive DNAs. This is a good thing. It doesn’t make one better than the other, it just makes them different, and for fans and creators alike, this is a good thing. It also doesn’t mean anything is mutually exclusive, be it a style of storytelling or a type of character or whatever, but certainly I do believe if you’ve been around, you can tell when a comic hits perfectly on what makes either world singularly special.

Anyway, I’m getting into a whole other story—and really not one I have the patience or coherence to write, so just corner me at a con some time and buy Rickey a drink—but I do have a point.

One series that not only illustrated what gives Marvel and DC their respective shines via their apex representatives was a personal favorite of mine: JLA/Avengers by the brilliant Kurt Busiek and George Perez. The story was all about how while each Universe is awesome in its own way, the characters most ingrained in one can’t really cope with how the other does business (the examples Busiek chose to focus on were Superman feeling the Marvel heroes didn’t do enough to make their world a paradise while Captain America was uncomfortable with the level of idolization the DC champions achieved).

But it’s not a hard and fast thing. Indeed, I think some characters who have had distinguished and entertaining careers in the Justice League would perhaps thrive even further or at least show another side as Avengers.

And yes, the flipside also applies, but please, let me milk two posts out of this.

So I thought to myself about who would be the best candidates to make the World’s Greatest--Earth’s Mightiest jump, but before we get to my final five, here are a few who didn’t quite make the cut and why…

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan): He’s certainly got the swagger, but I don’t think the Avengers would be able to put up with his long absences quite as well as the League has in the past (they’ve parted ways with folks all the way up the ladder to Thor because they couldn’t put in the time).

Red Tornado: The Avengers already have The Vision.

Blue Beetle: Honestly, no good reason, he was just number six and I wanted to stick to an even five.

Guy Gardner: I think if anybody could straighten him out it would be Captain America, who possesses far more patience than Batman, but more likely he’d just quit after two issues like The Hulk.

The Flash (Wally West): Too obvious an answer from me, but also, he’s the ultimate team player and would likely work well with any group, so it’s not an interesting selection.

J’onn J’onzz is a cornerstone of just about every incarnation of the Justice League; it’s inarguable and he’s proven himself time and again. But despite how many aliens, robots, etc. may have joined the League’s ranks over the year, it’s very much a team designed to showcase the epitome of humanity—or at least folks who look human—and while beloved, The Martian Manhunter has always been something of an adopted outsider who must work to fit in. The Avengers, on the other hand, are considerably rougher around the edges, not unlike the Justice League International team on which many would say J’onn most thrived. Rather than struggling to prove himself the equal of Batman or Wonder Woman, MM would probably dig being the calming influence to wild cards from Quicksilver to Wolverine just as he was to Guy, Booster, Beetle and friends. Indeed I could see J’onn as being the glue that holds the Avengers’ menagerie of mutants, mystics and monsters together and becoming recognize as one of the Marvel Universe’s most potent and powerful heroes as he does it, no longer needing to tone down his considerable skill set just so Superman doesn’t feel insecure (c’mon, you totally know he does). On a team where former criminals and guys with bad complexions tend to be the norm rather than the exception, The Manhunter From Mars would find the home he’s long sought.

Despite the fact that Vixen has a strong power set, a fierce personality and some natural leadership skills, she’s never quite broken through to the Justice League’s A-list and a lot of that has to come down to timing. For better or for worse, she’ll always be seen as having cut her teeth in the Detroit Era League, and while there’s really no shame in that—hey, J’onn and Aquaman did time on that team—it seems to leave this lingering “not ready for prime time” feel. On the Avengers, that generally doesn’t seem to be a problem. Cap’s Kooky Quartet of him, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch was basically the Detroit League two decades early, and they all went on to be legendary Avengers. Heck, looking at today’s roster, did anybody but a young Brian Michael Bendis really ever believe Spider-Woman and Luke Cage would achieve the legitimacy they have? While the best of the best tend to shine on the Justice League, the Avengers are more about second chances and extending a hand to could-be contenders, and that sounds like Vixen all over. She’s got the ferocity of Wolverine, the fashion sense of The Wasp and the track record to date of Tigra—the girl was born to be one of Earth’s Mightiest!

We’ve seen in 52 and his solo series how great a hero Booster Gold can truly be, but the Justice League has only ever really tolerated him and his antics, not embraced him and tried to make him feel welcome. The Avengers have dealt with far worse members than an opportunistic scam-seeker and kept them around long enough for them to do some good (Quicksilver again, Moondragon, Swordsman, Doctor Druid, USAgent, Sersi, Hank freaking Pym—and I could go on). With some mentors like Captain America, Hawkeye and The Wasp who actually give him a chance and show some patience with him, Booster could really live up to his potential and feel supported while doing so rather than having to be the greatest hero you’ve never heard of (though that does remain a pretty cool angle). He’d also be a pretty natural protégé for Iron Man, who could show him both the right way to manage money as well as the potential pratfalls of wealth—there are honestly few more conscientious millionaires in comics than Tony “Won’t take defense contracts” Stark”—and probably hit it off with Spider-Man as well.

She’s led the Justice Society and has enough power—pun unintended, but there aren’t many other ways to put it—to mop the floor with just about anybody, but strangely Power Girl has never really had a seat at the big table as far as the Justice League is concerned. It could be that Superman and Wonder Woman more or less already fill the slots she’d comfortably fit into. It could also be that PG is a bit brash and headstrong for the League’s oft rigid chain of command. Over on the Avengers, they’re not only always eager to load up on heavy hitters—it wasn’t too long ago they had The Sentry, Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man and Ares all on one roster with Iron Man to boot—but spunk helps more than hurts. Hawkeye spent years mouthing off to his elders then ended up getting handed his own West Coast branch and becoming one of the team’s most celebrated chairmen. If Power Girl doesn’t fit in straight away, I’m pretty sure her combo of battle savvy, proven intelligence and willingness to stand up for what she believes in would earn the respect of her teammates real quickly. Honestly, I don’t just think PG would be a great addition to the Avengers, I could see her leading the darn team.

I can’t think of many former villains who have managed to turn their careers around as members of the Justice League; frankly, the standards the DC Universe, heroes and citizens alike, demand from their standard bearers makes it a tough road to hoe. Across the street, some of the most trusted and respected Avengers started off as bad guys: Hawkeye, Quicksilver, The Scarlet Witch, Swordsman, The Vision, The Black Widow, Wonder Man, Namor and Ares are just some of the folks who started on the wrong side of the tracks and ended up proving themselves worthy of being counted among Earth’s Mightiest. Major Disaster made a solid go at reformation, but whether it was the pressure or Batman shooting him dirty looks, he high tailed it to the black ops squad at the first opportunity and never got another shot at redemption before biting it in Infinite Crisis. With a burning need to turn his life around—his soul belonged to Neron, remember—and cool abilities like being able to create localized earthquakes, Disaster could have been a solid Avenger—or at least a decent Thunderbolt.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rasslin' Ramblings: When Hulk Hogan Was a Jerk

It was only a couple years back that the fellas over at launched their fantastic site and shined a solid spotlight on what many had already figured out but never had the heart or fortitude to say out loud: Silver Age Superman was a tremendous jerk. Indeed, whether it was torturing Jimmy Olsen, toying with Lois Lane’s emotions or raising general havoc, the purportedly virtuous Man of Steel spent the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s as more or less a complete tool.

If there’s any comparable figure to Superman in the world of pro wrestling—John Cena aside—certainly it would be Hulk Hogan, and as Marvel editor Bill Rosemann and I realized the other day, The Hulkster paralleled Kal-El not just in strength and stature, but that in his own “Silver Age” of the 80’s and early 90’s, while being promoted as the ultimate good guy, his character—I’m not casting aspersions on the man himself, that’s for others to do or not do and I’ve never met the guy—was actually a pretty terrible fellow.

Again, this isn’t a news flash—Scott Keith alone has been saying it for years—but pretty enlightening and amusing to sit down and pick apart.

To wit…

-Despite holding the World Wrestling Federation championship for three years, Hogan never gives his supposed best friend, the undefeated and dominant Andre The Giant, a title shot. When Andre gets pissed and sides with Bobby Heenan—a tiny little manager the 300+ pound Hogan liked to toss around like a rag doll—Hulk can’t understand why.

-When Hogan and Randy Savage were teaming as the Mega Powers in 1988 and 1989, The Hulkster was all over Macho Man’s lady, Miss Elizabeth, at every available opportunity. When they were wrestling the Twin Towers and Liz got accidentally knocked out, Hogan ditched the match to carry her to the back while Savage got pummeled by Akeem and The Big Bossman. When Hogan returned to try and get the glory, he was again aghast that his buddy was mad at him. Hulk ended up beating Savage to win the WWF title back at WrestleMania V, splitting the Macho Man and Elizabeth in the process. Then when Macho Man got a new chick, the Sensational Sherri, Hogan would beat her up at every opportunity!

-Hogan took WWF newcomer Sid Justice under his wing in 1991. During the 1992 Royal Rumble, with the vacant WWF title on the line, Sid eliminated Hogan fair and square. Rather than graciously applaud his student for becoming the teacher, The Hulkster threw a fit at ringside and grabbed Sid’s arm despite no longer being in the match, allowing the villainous Ric Flair to dump the big man and win the championship. Despite being the clear sore loser and jerk in this scenario, Hogan was still granted shots at Flair and portrayed as being the good guy—and of course was baffled as to why Sid stopped liking him.

-At WrestleMania IX, Hogan got himself and partner Brutus Beefcake disqualified during their World Tag Team title shot at champs Money Inc. by using a foreign object, then still spent a solid five minutes posing in the ring afterward. Following the main event where Bret Hart got gypped out of the World title by Yokozuna and his nefarious manager Mr. Fuji, Hulk came down to make sure The Hitman was ok and then promptly forgot all about him to run in and challenge the new champ, winning due to mistimed outside interference and then posing for another ten minutes while Bret Hart was in the back getting salt scrubbed out of his eyes.

-Upon debuting for World Championship Wrestling in 1994, Hogan went after Flair’s World title, and in the course of winning it, once again beat up poor Sherri, who had gone five years without having a 6’7” dude slam her and give her multiple atomic drops.

-At Halloween Havoc 1995, Hogan faced The Giant in a Monster Truck Sumo Challenge on the roof of Cobo Arena. After The Hulkster won, he celebrated by throwing his opponent off the roof of the building, presumably to his demise (fortunately, he was fine, and they wrestled like 15 minutes later).

-Hulk Hogan made me watch a 24 minute long match where he and Dennis Rodman beat Diamond Dallas Page and Karl Malone at Bash at the Beach 1998. He also made me watch him choke The Ultimate Warrior with his weightlifting belt for 15 minutes and then accidentally light his eyebrows on fire at Halloween Havoc the same year. Sure he was technically and actual villain by that point, but c’mon, that’s above and beyond.

-Mr. America.

Hey, I may not be a full blown Hulkamaniac—I was a little Tornado as a kid, cheering on Kerry Von Erich, then transitioned to whatever Shawn Michaels called his fans before there was a Clique and I realize I was the only dude chanting the name of the guy in the sequined chaps—but I recognize and appreciate all the man did for the business.

I also recognize and appreciate how there probably wouldn’t be a comic book industry without Superman.

But if those guys hung out in the 80’s, they probably would have just taken turns giving Lois Lane and Sensational Sherri atomic drops before making Jimmy Olsen marry an ape and never letting Paul Orndorff have a title match.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Linko! LXXI

* So, I'm pretty sure most comic people haven't been following this, but of late my acquaintances in the Young Adult/kid lit field have been going off on every conceivable means of social media about some pretty drastic condemnations of modern YA lit in two of America's biggest papers. First, there was a piece in the New York Times that asked the general question of "Why are all these books for teens so grim and gritty?" and then – the real kickstart to this whole ruckus – an article in the Wall Street Journal by Meghan Cox Gurdon about how truly hideously awful many YA books really are.

And hey, it's a pretty bland, pointless little article. It makes big claims about what YA literature really is and what it means for young readers without citing any kind of specific evidence. Mostly it just stirs the pot to get attention, but holy shit, what attention it's gotten. Anyone interested in following the action of YA writers, editors bloggers and the like speaking out against Gurdon's article can look into the Twitter hashtag #YASaves

Beyond that, anyone interested on seeing the kinds of broad reaction to this whole thing could do worse than to check out this blog post from writer Laura Ruby, this Publishers Weekly article on the whole kerfuffle, this Minnesota public radio piece on everything, this NPR roundtable featuring Gurdon and several folks who have publicly disagreed with her and lastly, the most recent disagreement to work its way back to the WSJ as the paper highlights why writer Sherman Alexie is taking them to task.

I'm not entirely sure that the YA writers who are up in arms about this piece aren't making a much bigger deal about this whole thing than it actually is. Then again, I do prefer this kind of discussion around books for young readers than crazy people burning Harry Potter because they think it's the Devil or some shit.

[Note: if you're wondering how I picked the above image, I went Google fishing for a YA cover that was particularly slutty and/or violent but chose this one because it had Twilight placed next to Smallville, which made me giggle for some reason. So there.]

* In much better kids book news, the School Library Journal ranked their picks for what should be the finalists for the Newbery Medal this year, and two of my professors books made the cut (they're the last two entries, FYI).

* Back on the comics front, there is a supremely great find up right now at Jacque Nodell's invaluable Sequential Crush blog: a 1974 DC romance comic that sure seems like it's about a young Lesbian girl. It is kind of hard to tell if that's the creator's intent for sure as the story swerves from openly addressing...well, anything at its end. Nodell wonders aloud whether or not a modern reading is pulling too much out of the strip, which is entirely possible, but I'll admit I have absolutely no frame of reference for what the average teenager knew/thought about their queer peers in the '70s. I've been reading a lot of hardboiled detective fiction from the '40s and '50s of late, and there's plenty of coded language (dandy or what have you) around characters meant to be gay, but I don't know when that kind of writing crossed in to pop culture to the point where I could watch "Revenge of the Nerds" in the '80s and get what the joke was about Lamar.

I think maybe I'll have to ask Lynn Phegley about this next time I go back to Michigan.

* Fantastic post by Heidi Mac at The Beat about the perceived dearth of women working in comics. I mean, I expect some of the dudes on the CBR message boards to only mean "superheroes" when they say "comics," but people who know better should really know better, and props to Ace for pointing that out.

* Hey! There's an anime show coming to Chicago. I may go for funsies.

* Folks interested in the "Parks & Recreation" book that just got announced may want to check out this article on Cricket by the show's writers who will be heading up that effort.

* Saving to listen to later: this podcast on kids comics featuring some of the dudes from Ape Entertainment's Richie Rich relaunch.

* I've never had the urge to get Showtime despite hearing some good things about its original TV shows over the past few years, but a sci-fi series headed up by Salman Rushdie could make me rethink that stance.

I've probably mentioned this before, but I love how Tom Spurgeon takes the time to go through the many blogs dedicated to classic comics and finds the really choice stuff so I don't have to. Included in this survey is:

* Al Wiseman's Punky – God, I love the kind of off brand cartoonists showcase strips that frequently pop up in more well known magazines. Also: why can't people draw like this anymore?

* Walt Kelly Fairy Tale comics - Related to the above opinions!

* Brief, but effective Irwin Hasen biography post.

* In depth post on Carmine Infantino's attempts to sue for the rights to The Flash. I knew about this only in brief detail before now, so hooray for this.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sean & Megan Watch Game of Thrones: Fire and Blood

From the blog that brought you "Lynn Phegley Watches Lost," get ready for another experience that redefines the art of recapping TV shows!

Sean T. Collins is a friend to the Cool Kids and avid devotee of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" series of books, upon which the HBO television show Game of Thrones is based; he is currently chronicling the series on two separate blogs, one with book spoilers and one without.

Megan Morse is Ben's wife who has never read the Martin books and does not typically go in for the fantasy genre but loves Game of Thrones for reasons she doesn't even fully understand.

Each week, Megan will provide her analysis of the show from a neophyte's standpoint and then Sean will interject with his informed reactions and insights, answering her questions and commenting on her observations.

Whether you're a nerd or a newcomer, if you're watching Game of Thrones this is the recap for you!

Megan: Have to be honest, feeling a little disappointed as I write this, but that's just because this was the season finale, which of course carries with it certain expectations, and for me, those were not met. It was not the worst episode, it wasn't even a bad episode, but it was not in my top three, and since it was the climax of a 10-episode season I really enjoyed, that's a let-down for me. I was hoping for a more intense conclusion to make the next nine months unbearable. I'll still miss the show until it comes back, but it didn't leave me with too many burning questions I need answered right away--some, but not many.

Sean: Here's a question for you, then: How much experience do you have with the big HBO genre-revisionist dramas?

Megan: None.

Sean: An interesting thing about The Sopranos, Deadwood, and The Wire is that they all tended to save the biggest fireworks for the penultimate episode. Unlike even really good network or basic-cable shows, where the goal with the finale is to knock you flat on your ass, those shows always took a more novelistic approach, holding the climax back for the second-to-last episode and leaving the finale for aftermath -- the tone usually a sort of "okay, what have we learned this season?" one, ruminative and reflective, while the story sort of ties things off and leaves them in the shape you'll find them next season. So the way Game of Thrones handled ending Season One didn't surprise me. I mean, it obviously wouldn't have, since I read the book and that's how it works there too.

Did you have anything particular in mind for the "more intense conclusion" you were hoping for? Were there any events you were expecting to see? Since so much of the story is about subverting reader/audience expectations, I'm really curious what your expectations were!

Megan: Y'know, when you pose it right to me like that and put me on the spot, I can't think of much specifically. I was expecting a "bigger bang," but nothing in particular really, so perhaps saying I was let down is a bit inaccurate so much as I was surprised. I guess I thought more time would be devoted to Daenerys' labor as opposed to her waking up with the baby gone, but I didn't mind how it was handled. I assumed we'd get more reaction to Ned's death, but as we'll get into, I don't mind that there wasn't. In the end I suppose it wasn't so much that my expectations weren't met, just that I don't have the experience with these types of shows you mentioned above so the idea that the season finale isn't the game changer is not one I'm used to, and my immediate reaction was disappointment. Upon reflection, it's more just something that will take some getting used to.

Quick note on the very first shot of the show: It did jump out at me that there wasn't just blood on the sword that beheaded Ned, but skin, tissue, etc. Normally when you see something like this on TV or in the movies, they just use blood, and most people don't think anything of it, but this was more accurate and attentive to detail, which I appreciated.

Sean: And what a great way to open the episode and convey the finality of what had just happened. I also like how much of that aftermath scene, with Yoren spiriting Arya away while chaos reigns on the steps of Baelor's Sept, happened in the background, out of focus, in brief snippets, inaudibly to our vantage point in the crowd. It's like shit goes on whether you want it to or not.

Megan: Refresh my memory: Do we know Yoren? He's shown up before right? I feel like I should know him and his ties to Ned and the Starks but I can't place him.

Sean: He's from the Night's Watch. We first saw him drinking and joking around with Tyrion during his visit to the Wall when he accompanied Jon. He came south with Tyrion in order to go to King's Landing for recruits, and was there at the Inn when Catelyn had Tyrion arrested. Subsequently we saw him at King's Landing, where he told Ned that out of respect for Ned's brother and his fellow Night's Watchman Benjen Stark, he rode as fast as he could to warn him about what had happened. That's when he first met Arya -- I think he mistook her for a boy. I think I may have mentioned this last week, but in the book he doesn't have that brief encounter with Ned on the way to the execution, where Ned tells him where to find Arya -- it's mostly luck that he finds her, although he did at least know where to look, if I recall correctly. The implication with both Arya and later Gendry is that Varys tipped Yoren off to help them escape, thinking that the newly powerful Queen Cersei would not be kindly disposed to Eddard Stark's daughter and Robert Baratheon's bastard.

Megan: Ok, confession time: After he hasn't been on the show for weeks, I found myself not hating Bran so much when he showed up. This is certainly a good thing since characters are dropping left and right and even though I know they'll introduce new ones, it's nice that some I had an intense dislike for are growing on me. And I forgot there was another Stark kid! Has Rickon ever even had a line to this point? Nothing really more to say about Winterfell since it was so brief and I'm not quite sure what it was meant to set up if anything.

Sean: Rickon appeared a couple episodes ago, I believe, in the episode where Ned was betrayed and captured. He showed up in Bran's bedroom, and Bran told him that the family would come home eventually, and Rickon just looked sad and said "No they won't" and left. I like how they're using him as this pessimistic but accurate oracle figure.

Bran is a much bigger deal in the book than he is in this first season, mostly because there's a lot more to his dream sequences than there is here. I won't say more than that to avoid spoiling anything, but I will say I'm kind of anxious to see if they pick up any of that slack in season two. I think right now many viewers probably are wondering why we're spending time with him.

Megan: Well didn't Joffrey develop into a nice little villain in record time? They kept him somewhat off to the side for so much of the season that his emergence in the last few episodes, obviously pushed into overdrive last time with Ned's execution, has been something of a pleasant surprise. I remember thinking he was an annoying little punk in the beginning, but didn't foresee him being able to step into the shoes of a true big bad so seamlessly. When he ordered the minstrel to have his tongue cut out, it seemed perfectly natural and like he has been doing stuff like that the whole time. However, that said, I think one of the things that makes him a good villain is he's erratic and unpredictable; when he does something awful it totally makes sense, but I'm still guessing right up until whether he'll follow through or not.

Sean: He's a terrific little sociopath, isn't he? Kudos to Jack Gleeson for selling that character as well as he has, not just with a sociopath's cruelty, but with his bafflement and rage anytime things don't go exactly his way. I love watching his face anytime Sansa defies him in even the most minor way; he's not just pissed, he's confused and scared. How could anyone not do exactly as he says? Oh yeah, Grand Maester Pycelle, he'll make a terrific king.

Megan: He's also got a face that was just made for punching.

Sean: Yes, there's that too.

Megan: I badly wanted Sansa to push him off the bridge; it would have deprived the show of a tremendous emerging bad guy, but I enjoy immediate gratification. Sansa's retort about Robb maybe bringing her Joffrey's head was a nice little bit of snark too. I'm looking forward to their developing relationship in season two.

Sean: That scene was wonderfully done. It's one of my favorites in the books -- Joffrey making Sansa stare at the severed head of her father is like George R.R. Martin's entire view of power in a nutshell -- and the interplay between Joffrey, Sansa, the odious yes-man Ser Meryn Trant, and the Hound, who is brutal but not cruel, is a bleak joy. And kudos to Sophie Turner as Sansa, too. She looked so damaged and devastated in that scene that when she made her move toward Joffrey, I found myself hoping she'd go over the edge with him and end her own misery too.

Megan: Cersei is really making it hard to justify her incest when she's sleeping with her scrawny cousin. Hot brother? Ok, you can almost brush aside the grossness and buy into her "it keeps the blood line strong" routine--but that kid? Now she's just oddly kinky.

Sean: Well, someone had to make sure Robert drank all that wine...

Megan: I didn't like how the scene with Catelyn and Robb following the news of Ned's death went down, specifically how Catelyn was played. I'm not sure if it was down to Michelle Fairley, whoever was giving her direction or some combination of the two, but I didn't feel it was clear enough for the viewer--me--how she was processing her husband's death or what her next move was. I'm going to be an acting snob here for a second: Her verbal communication and non-verbal communication were not at all congruent. With her words, she was trying to convey that she was sad and wanted revenge, but pretty much everything in her body language told me she didn't care and was pushing past the situation. Either one of these would have been an acceptable choice--she can be upset or she can be soldiering on for her children's sake--but trying to do both at once was just confusing and gave me no indication where her emotions were. If she was meant to be going for conflicted, she didn't pull it off.

Sean: I'm not nuts about Fairley either, honestly. I think the idea here was that she was devastated herself, but quickly pulled herself together to set a good example when she saw that her newly minted Lord of Winterfell son had totally fucking lost it. "You've ruined your sword" is the key line -- he needs to keep it together if he's going to lead his forces to victory in war, where swords are what matter. That said, you're right, I didn't feel like the emotional throughline in that sequence was clear, even though it was beautifully shot.

Megan: On the contrary, Catelyn's scene with Jaime was much better. She wore her anger much more blatantly, so maybe she was trying to keep it in check and put on a brave face for Robb? I get it, but again, I don't think she conveyed it properly. We've seen Jaime so sporadically that it's always a bit of a treat trying to figure him out. Small doses of him have been nice as it makes you ponder how much of his act is legitimate and how much is posturing.

Sean: He has one of the best lines in the whole series here. "There are no men like me. There is only me." In the book it comes across like braggadocio, and it is, but the way they shot this scene shows that it's also self-condemnation and self-pity. There's only one kingslaying sisterfucking would-be child murderer. He may be handsome and rich and famous and a god with a sword in his hand, but he carries a lot on his back.

Megan: As a general choice, I like that pretty much every character received the news about Ned off-camera and we didn't have to get five different variations of Robb and Catelyn vowing revenge. It would have eaten up the whole episode and you get the gist after the first time: All the good guys loved Ned and they're going to go kill the bad guys. Cool. Next.

Sean: Agreed.

Megan: Not as much Tyrion as I would have liked, but I suppose that was to be expected given how much focus he got last episode. I did like his appointment as Hand of the King and thought Peter Dinklage really handled well the bit where Tywin told him "Because you're my son"--it certainly felt like that was the first time he had ever heard that and he sold it.

Sean: Yes. I'm such a sucker for any time two characters in fiction treat one another with respect. Tywin's a shit, but I'm happy for Tyrion here nonetheless.

Megan: Put Shae down as another character I'm eager to get to know better in season two; glad she's coming along to King's Landing. Tyrion also used my absolute favorite word in the English language during his scene with Shae, but I can't repeat it, because my in-laws read this blog.

Sean: "Father"?

Megan: Moving on...Daenerys had a gross stillborn dragon baby with grey worms in the middle! Tremendous! So gross. Then she has to wake up and find out her husband is a celery stick. Poor girl. At first I was a little let down by Dany's failing to really chew Mirri Maz Duur out when she learned the witch basically set her up, but the later payoff was more than worth it as Daenerys evolved yet again, this time from kick ass warrior princess to calculating warlord who makes an example of her enemies.

Sean: Huh, I never thought of it that way, because I've read the book and knew what was coming. But yeah, you totally think she's being Ms. Nice Guy even after this woman killed her husband and son, only to discover that she's just biding her time until she can light her on fire. Yikes.

Megan: I totally screamed when Dany smothered Drogo with the pillow, 100% legit, Ben can back me up. [EDITOR'S NOTE: It's true] He grew on me more than just about any other character this season and as I've said I loved their romance, so it was very sad. She committed euthanasia in the same bed they made their dragon baby in. No more Sun and Stars...well, at least we hopefully don't need to hear that pet name again. [EDITOR'S NOTE: For the record, if this had been Smallville, Dany's speech about loving Drogo would have been enough to revive him with a single tear running down his cheek so he could go destroy Darkseid]

Sean: It's a weird love story for the ages, definitely.

Megan: I have this to say about the Wall stuff: In my disdain for Jon Snow and all scenes involving him, I have neglected far too often to say how awesome Sam is and how he is the only thing making all that tolerable. Sam is the unsung hero of Game of Thrones.

Sean: He's a strong character, totally unsuited to life in the Night's Watch yet trying to make a go of it in his own way regardless. Admirable.

Megan: The scene with Pycell rambling on lost me, but I totally picked up when he got up and was doing his stretching exercises. I immediately jumped on the fact that his feeble old man bit was an act while my husband was like "Huh?" Score one for Megan!

Sean: I also feel like that scene was kind of the show spoofing itself and its "sexposition" technique. So you've got the naked lady walking around while a guy rambles on about history, she can barely keep her eyes open pretending to be interested, the story goes nowhere like he's Rose Nylund talking about St. Olaf, and in the end it's revealed that half of his doddering old geezer routine is bullshit anyway. Funny stuff.

Megan: I was pretty confused by the stuff with Arya. I'm going to ask you a bit about that later. It's possible I just zoned out. I do love her spunk and how she threatened the bully. "I like killing fat boys" is a great line. I was not a fan of her hair which was clearly a wig. I was a fan of Chris from Skins finally showing up again as Robert's blacksmith bastard and hope we get to see much more of him in season two.

Sean: I'm hoping they'll actually cut her hair rather than stick a wig on her, yeah.

Megan: I was absolutely terrified that the season was going to end on a shot of Jon Snow riding off to the other side of the wall. That could potentially have killed every bit of goodwill I have built up over the past three months. I probably would have had to write an angry letter.

Sean: Hahahaha! Now that's an anticlimax. I wonder if Jon will grow on you more now that he's finally and firmly committed to living life as a man of the Night's Watch. What do you think? Is it just his emo/Hamlet indecision that makes you dislike him?

Megan: I wouldn't hold your breath. It was never his indecision that bothered me--at least not entirely--but more how angsty and whiny he was. I don't see that changing and don't anticipate him being any less emo just because he made up his mind, now he'll just bitch about how he could be off doing the other thing. Loser. [Megan makes an "L" with her fingers]

Needless to say I was thoroughly pleased with how the season really ended instead. If there's one way to get on my good side if you're Game of Thrones, it's making the big finish centered around the khaleesi. In fact, she got a lot of attention this episode, more than she has in awhile, so perhaps I liked it more than I thought. I knew there would be dragons! I mean, it's not a huge shock since they were pretty heavy on the foreshadowing, but it was still very very cool.

Sean: I kind of wished they hadn't included that "The dragons are dead, khaleesi" line in the "Previously on Game of Thrones" montage at the beginning. They might has well have added someone saying "DOT...DOT...DOT..." at the end of it. That said, I'm reasonably sure newcomers couldn't predict that the dragons would hatch from Drogo's funeral pyre/Mirri Maz Duur's execution, and that Dany would stride into the fire to reach them and be found buck naked with the dragons crawling on her as her people bow before her. That's tough to foreshadow.

Megan: I just did an adorable imitation of the baby dragon shrieking that unfortunately cannot translate to e-mail, but trust me.

Sean: Of course.

Megan: As I said earlier, the way she handled Mirri Maz Duur here was far more satisfying than if she had just yelled at her and pushed her off a cliff earlier.

Sean: True. She doesn't fuck around.

Megan: I said early on the thing that made Daenerys my favorite character was that she evolved and changed with each episode--even each scene--and this final transformation--for now--showed it once again. At the same time, there a somewhat neat symmetry in that when we first met her she was staring vacantly off into space practically nude and that's basically how she ended up here as well; also in that very first scene, I remember her going into that hot water and being unscathed, and lo and behold, she ends the season walking into fire and emerging unharmed and with dragon babies!

Sean: I honestly didn't pick up on this symmetry until I saw you point it out. Very smart.

Megan: I am so impressed by Emilia Clarke and particularly that she is this good at only 23--it's going to be crazy how good she'll be by the end of this show!

Sean: Oh man, she is great! And this role...for a young inexperienced actor -- this is her very first film work! -- this is like getting thrown right into the deep end in order to learn to swim. There's no filter between you and the audience, basically -- it's like "Okay, go stand here naked while people bow before your awesome power, and at the same time be a teenage girl and try to own that." It's a highwire act and she pulled it off.

Megan: Overall, it was a great first season. I absolutely did not expect to like this show and to be honest wasn't even going to give it a chance, but I'm glad I did. It's hard to pin down exactly what hooked me, but I think it's mostly that this is so different from pretty much anything else I'm into and along those lines the characters stood out to me more than most would. I'm very excited for season two--and can't believe it's not going to be on for like a year! I just made the dragon baby noise again, but this time I'm angry!

Sean: Just don't burn anyone alive, okay? Anyway, I like that the show's selling point is that it's not actually selling anything you'd usually buy, so you're more interested in taking a look at the wares. I'd be perfectly happy for this to be people's "I'm not into fantasy, except..."

[And with that, Sean and Megan will see you in Spring 2012, folks!]

Five Comics Worth Reading - June 2011

I was not a regular viewer of the Batman Beyond cartoon—caught a couple stray episodes, the Return of the Joker movie and then the Justice League Unlimited crossover stuff—but Adam Beechen and company have made sure that’s hardly a prerequisite to enjoying this comic. An elderly Bruce Wayne mentoring a snarky new Batman in the future seems like a pretty slam dunk premise, but what I dig about this book is the effort Beechen puts into not resting on the concept’s laurels and pushing himself to go further. Terry McGinnis’ is a great character—he’s Peter Parker with more swagger as Batman—but Beechen focuses on fleshing out the world around him, from his relationship issues—the classic “my girlfriend thinks I’m bailing on her because I’m a super hero” routine but done with panache—to a techno-conspiracy enveloping his best friend/sidekick. There has also been expansion to the Batman/DC Universe elements I believe the cartoon only touched on, including bringing in Dick Grayson, giving the Justice League a bigger role and starting to dig into what happened to Bruce following his Batman career. It’s all stuff that can be pulled off better in the comic book format than in episode TV aimed primarily at kids, so I applaud Beechen, Ryan Benjamin, et al. for embracing the new avenues open to them while keeping the heart of the show and what made it work intact.

There are few things tougher in this current comic book climate than creating new characters with distinct voices who can hopefully capture the attention of the audience, but with Generation Hope, Kieron Gillen faced this challenge not once but multiple times, with a cast whose most tenured star has only been around a couple years and that includes five newbies that he and Matt Fraction introduced only months ago. There may have been some growing pains early on, but the Five Lights and their leader have genuinely won me over to the point where I’m quite compelled to see what’s up with them each issue and the X-Men guest stars serve more to place them in the larger universal context than anything, thanks in large to the clever and endearing writing of Mr. Gillen. These kids stand out from the New Mutants or Young X-Men of the past in so many ways, not limited to their complete lack of preparation for this life given a world where nascent mutants have become scarce as well as the paramilitary yet arguably practical lifestyle Hope took from her mentor, Cable, and is passing on to her fellow barely adolescents. I enjoy the soap opera I’d argue is paramount for any X-Men title worth its salt, but also the more sinister touches, like exactly how much sway Hope holds over her “friends” and to what degree they realize it. There are also neat well thought out and uniquely Gillen touches like the idea of a mutant who manifests in the womb or the seemingly canine Teon delivering a compelling speech in court because his power is to adapt to situations, and the other Lights then wondering if he was being genuine or if “adapting” in this case meant keeping proximity to Hope whether he liked it or not. Salva Espin is matching the tone of the book nicely, upping his game each month both in terms of bringing fun nuance to the lighter moments and letting his experimental side run wild on a character like Kenji.

Greg Pak is finishing out a five-year run with The Hulk, and you can tell he’s enjoying every last second of his swansong. If there’s one thing Pak’s Hulk has never been, it’s understated, so when he put together a multi-part spy story that featured Bruce Banner going undercover with a tux—that Hulk promptly ripped—and cool gadgets to save his wife-turned-Red-She-Hulk who had thrown in with his old foe Tyrannus on a quest for Pandora’s Box, you better believe he was going to wring every last drop of awesome out of that description, not skimping at any second for less smashing, fighting, big set pieces or over-the-top resolutions than you’d expect. There have been no shortage of pathos over the last five years, but aside from a healthy dose of heartache peppered throughout and culminating at the conclusion, that arc was more about enjoyment than emotion. Now we come to “Heart of the Monster,” Pak’s big five-part finale, and thus far he’s already brought in every element from the previous story plus Bi-Beast—BI-BEAST!—Wendigo, the Troyjan from Peter David’s legendary run, Fin Fang friggin’ Foom, Umar, a wishing well, possibly the fountain of youth and surely more to come. Pak has also brought Amadeus Cho back to where he started out as Hulk’s alternating tech wiz/sidekick/comic relief and it’s been a beautiful fit. Also also, Tom Grummett on the last arc and Paul Pelletier here are about as delightful a one-two artistic punch as you can ask for. Everything about Pak’s Hulk run has been wonderfully well-rounded, delivering massive action alongside laughs, angst and character development, so this is proving a fitting farewell.

If there’s anything book on the market today that delivers pretty much what’s advertised on the cover in spades, I do believe it’s Wolverine: The Best There Is, and for the record I consider that a good thing. Up front in black and white you’ve got no shortage of labels letting you know this is not a comic for immature readers or the weak of heart, and it’s not; it’s Charlie Huston’s glorious ode to hyper violence and taking off the safety as you only can with a character like Wolverine—or perhaps only with Wolverine, period—as illustrated with fiendish and sickeningly beautiful visual glee by Juan Jose Ryp. The first arc saw creepy new villain Contagion attempt to unlock the secret to Logan’s healing factor by employing every nefarious trick in his arsenal, be it his own ability to produce the grisliest plagues he could imagine, mind games of the crudest nature, or his array of henchmen with regenerative abilities of their own—a mix of Marvel obscurities Huston delighted in reviving or his own creations—hacking away at our hero in manners most hideous. Best There Is serves as the comic book equivalent of a grind house horror flick in the tradition of Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider, building on brutality, turning the amps louder than they should logically go, and making an experiment in four color sadism the kind of fun you feel mildly guilty about having. Plus: “Suicide” Chris Daniels (not to be confused with Christopher Daniels aka Suicide)!

On the surface, I almost feel like Xombi is a book that should be too smart for me—a testament to the sophistication and layers John Rozum brings to it—but when I get to actually reading, I’m able to follow along without much trouble and get absorbed into a the weirdness of it all—a testament to how skillfully he and the people working with him manage and present those elements as strengths rather weaknesses. The series’ lead, David Kim, is basically immortal and resultantly a bit emotionally detached, but Rozum chooses to examine that condition, letting the narrative live in large part in Xombi’s head, challenging the merits as well as the pitfalls of being so apart from the world at once in a clinical manner but an impassioned one that can’t break free as well. Our cold point of view figure proves a perfect lens to a fantastically bizarre world that includes super-powered nuns, demons powered by their own reputation and men who get their information from loose change. Xombi delights in its weirdness but also knows how to throw in some darn good fight scenes amidst the conspiracies and mythologies, with all of it powered by Frazer Irving, an immensely talented artist whose style stands out amongst anything else in comics, appearing more like wood carvings than drawings at times, and matching up nicely with the story Rozum’s telling, both residing on a plane so separate from about anything else you’ll read. There’s nothing else on the stands anything like Xombi, and I look forward already to reading it back as a whole and enjoying it perhaps even more than I have the parts.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hank Pym: The Worst Avenger Ever (duh)

Honestly, I almost didn’t even want to do this one because it’s really kind of obvious and therefore not as much fun as Forge or Batman, but I’m a “need to complete the series” kind of guy.

I thought about if maybe this could be Doctor Druid because he broke up the team and led to Steve Rogers needing half the Fantastic Four to field a squad. I thought about Quicksilver since he’s betrayed the team plenty of times and really caused House of M and the de-powering of all this mutants. Even Iron Man killed a few second stringers during The Crossing.

But no, at the end of the day, whether it’s Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket or The Wasp, Hank Pym will always be the worst Avenger ever.

As with my previous two forays into this line of thinking, I must remind when I say “worst ever” I’m not referring to a bad character, I’m saying that in the world of fiction in which these stories take place, this person has had the least success and most failure as a member of their given team. Hank Pym is not a bad character; I rather enjoy him. Honestly though, being pretty bad at being a super hero is a big part of why Hank Pym occupies a unique place in the Marvel Universe and guys from Steve Englehart to Kurt Busiek to Mark Millar to Dan Slott to Christos Gage have been able to get mileage out of him with some good stories.

As a square-jawed Silver Age hero who didn’t even really have his own Marvel style “feet of clay” foible aside from yelling at his girlfriend a lot, Ant-Man was ok, but never really took off (hence why he switched identities so often, I figure). He started to flourish—to a degree—when writers like Roy Thomas started to explore the idea of Hank Pym being a scientist who didn’t really like being a super hero but did it to appease The Wasp. Subsequent folks like Roger Stern and Jim Shooter continued to up the ante as far as Pym not only chafing at his role as an Avenger, but being pretty bad at it; some have argued the character became damaged goods, but I think he just became more and more interesting, and gave the creators of today like Slott and Gage that much more to work with crafting his quests for redemption and frequent failures along the way.

Too many super heroes are perfect or at least win in the end despite hard luck along the way; Hank Pym frequently loses, and he’s a character with more depth for it.

However, he’s still the worst Avenger ever by far, and rather than drone on at length, I’m just gonna bullet point this one…

-First and foremost, of course, Hank created Ultron—check out recent episodes of the awesome Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! cartoon to see this story re-imagined—possibly the Avengers’ greatest foe and at the very least a genocidal killer robot who has slaughtered thousands. Intending to create a harmless robot to help him around the lab—and apparently never having read or seen any sci-fi books or movies involving artificial intelligence ever despite being a total nerd—Pym uploaded his own brain patterns into an indestructible shell, ignoring the fact that he was deeply screwed up to the point where his best friends were ants. Ultron turned on his creator—of course—and would spend the next several decades trying to kill his dad and his friends, attempting to romance his “mother” The Wasp, creating other robots to try and kill his “parents” and their friends, razing countries, trying to conquer the galaxy, and so on and so forth.

-Not quite as drastic, during another experiment—Hank Pym should never be allowed near a lab—our hero inhaled chemicals that made him go schizophrenic and become the obnoxious Yellowjacket, claiming he had killed Goliath and demanding The Wasp marry him. Jan knew the score and went along with the wedding, since she wanted one—which is pretty terrible—and then Hank reverted to normal, living in matrimonial bliss with a woman he apparently did really want to marry and who knew he’d only be her husband if he was suffering from a brain disorder.

-Another time, Ultron brainwashed Hank and he attacked the Avengers as Ant-Man. Actually, Ultron brainwashed him a lot.

-Trying to show off on a mission, Hank attacks a defeated foe from behind, making the Avengers look like total jerks in front of the world. Court-martialed by Captain America, Hank attempts to redeem himself by building a killer robot to attack the Avengers—essentially his go-to Plan B—with the idea that he’d save the day. He strikes his wife when she discovered what he’s up to, but then can’t defeat the robot he made, endangering all his teammates once more in the process, and requiring Wasp to rescue him; they booted him off the team and into jail, she divorced him.

-Hank and Jan would eventually reconcile years later, but when their relationship hit the skids again, he had a fling with a pretty young co-ed who turned out to be a Skrull and made him one of the first heroes to be kidnapped and replaced during the road to Secret Invasion—classic Pym!

-Proving that he had indeed done a pretty great job studying the guy he’d be posing as, the Skrull who acted as Yellowjacket helped create—what else—a killer robot version of Thor who killed the real Hank’s old buddy Bill Foster. He also knocks up Tigra and then implants Wasp with a Skrull weapon that takes her life during the final battle of the war with the aliens. The true Hank returns to Earth to learn that a guy who was supposed to be him—basically an alien Ultron—got his best friend and ex-wife killed all because he was thinking with his little Goliath.

-One last one: Ultron created The Vision, eventual hero and Avenger, meaning Hank at least indirectly did something good, right? Wrong. The Vision romanced and married The Scarlet Witch, they had fake magic babies, he got deprogrammed and lost his emotions, she slowly went nuts and caused the events of Avengers Disassembled, leading to the deaths of Scott Lang and Hawkeye as well as the disbanding of the team—all kinda sorta on Hank Pym’s head, y’know?

Lately, Hank has been doing a lot better as the founder of Avengers Academy—one of the best books on the market—but really it’s just a matter of time before something goes horribly wrong. Why?

Because Hank Pym is the worst Avenger ever—and I hope he never changes.