A Death in the Family – The Impact

Sadness, loss & failure. My partner. My Soldier. My Fault. Any Batman fan is familiar with the story of A Death in the Family, it represents one of the Dark Knight’s greatest failures, when the Joker won. This story marks one of the most important parts in Batman’s history, the moment he realized he was wrong. For those unfamiliar with the story here’s a brief summary:

A Death in the Family starts with Batman and Robin (Jason Todd) staking out some bad guys. When Robin jumps our from behind cover prematurely and begins attacking the criminals. Jason says “Life is a game” when Bruce asks him if he thinks this (Batman & Robin) is a game. Bruce then removes Jason of all Robin duties before Jason storms off. While walking through his old neighbourhood Jason receives a box from an old neighbour containing, among other things, his birth certificate. The name for his mother is not the woman he grew up calling mom, and resolves to find his birth mother. Also in the box is his father’s old address book containing 3 women with the first name beginning in “S”. He uses the Batcomputer to trace their current whereabouts and runs away to find them. Joker had broken out of Arkham and stolen a nuclear weapon which he intended to sell to terrorists. Batman tracks him to Lebanon where he and Jason are reunited. They stop the terrorists and Jason tracks down a Mossad agent and Lady Shiva who both deny being his mother. The third woman is tracked to Ethiopia and turns out to be Jason’s mother. Joker was blackmailing her for her involvement in illegal experimentation and the death of a young girl in Gotham. As part of the deal she hands Jason over to the Joker. Joker proceeds to beat Jason bloody with a crowbar and then ties up him and his mother in a warehouse with a bomb. Jason throws himself on the bomb to shield his mother from the blast but they both end up dying from their injuries with Batman arriving too late to save them.  Joker ends up as a member of the Iranian government before Batman (with some help from Superman) stops him.

This story arc stands as the most defining moment from the Batman mythos pre Hush. Up until that point Batman was used to winning everything. One could argue that his origin was his most important story but that would be false. His origin is a crucial element to his persona and character but he couldn’t have stopped it. He was an 8 year old boy and was powerless against Joe Chill.

My partner

A Death in the Family is the moment where writer’s took Batman and began to make him more human and more prone to screw ups. The whole incident stems from the belief that Batman had concerning Jason, that he could take this young boy so full of rage and potential and turn him into a force for good. He trained him and tested him every chance he could, Jason continued to pass every single test with flying colours. As he grew older and into the teenage years, his violence and cruelty began to take shape. He became increasingly brutal with the criminals he was taking down and injuring them more severely than was necessary, this is also when he developed his affinity with firearms. The interesting fact behind this whole story was that  it was the fans who voted to kill Jason off. DC comics opened a voting poll by telephone where fans could call in and cast their vote on whether or not the Joker would kill Jason. The readers spoke and Jason was killed. Obviously because of comics Jason wouldn’t stay dead, but he did for many years until the Under the Red Hood story arc. In this story Ra’s Al Ghul had stolen Jason’s body and used a Lazarus pit to resurrect him. The pit drove Jason mad and he fled from the League’s clutches before disappearing for many years. He resurfaced in Gotham as the Red Hood and began a war that would set the stage for his final confrontation with the Batman. The DC animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood explores this story arc extensively (and is one of the best DC animated films ever made in my opinion).

Jason’s death shook Bruce to his core. It caused Bruce to call into question his insistence on allowing the Joker to live. This event also caused Bruce to swear off taking on more sidekicks. I know he has had several Robins since, but it was a long time before he reluctantly allowed Tim Drake to be his partner. This story also further fueled Batman’s obsession with the Joker and stopping him. In the Hush story arc when it is believed that Joker killed Tommy Elliot, Batman flies into a deep rage and begins to beat the Joker mercilessly citing all the horrible acts the Joker committed: Killing Jason, crippling Barbara, the thousands of innocents he has killed, almost killing Jim Gordon, and finally killing Tommy Elliot as his reason for doing it. In the end, it was Jim Gordon himself who stopped Batman from killing the Joker stating that he knew Batman was better than this and if he did kill him, there would be no turning back.

Jason’s uniform is forever immortalized in the Batcave, it’s suspended in a glass display case with an epitaph that reads “A Good Soldier”. In the Young Justice cartoon there is a monument to Jason in the cave under their headquarters for all of their fallen friends/teammates.

Perhaps one of the most heart wrenching aspects of this whole story comes again from the Under the Red Hood movie. In the final confrontation with Batman, Jason had abducted the Joker and stored him in an apartment. During the exchange between Jason and Bruce (where Jason reveals he had the Joker stored in  a closet), Jason says the one line that could give Bruce peace ” Bruce… I forgive you for not saving me”. This line hits Bruce hard as it was the one thing he could never do, forgive himself for what he had inadvertently put Jason through by making him Robin. Jason then goes on to tell Bruce that while he forgives him he doesn’t understand how Bruce could let the Joker live. knowing the things he has done. It’s a very heart wrenching scene and is one of the best parts of the movie (again, I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t already).

Post Final Crisis and Batman’s “death” there is a scene in which Batman’s will is read out to his proteges. Each one is sent into a soundproof room in the Batcave where their portion of the will is read to them by Bruce via a hologram recording. When Jason goes into the reading he expects Bruce to tell him he was not given anything or given a motorcycle. Instead, Bruce tells Jason that he was his one and greatest failure and that nothing he could ever do would make up for it. He leaves Jason a large sum of money and instructs him to get the help he desperately needs, the help that Bruce could never provide.

Bruce and Jason’s relationship has always been a strained one, from the start the signs were there that this new Robin was going to meet a bad end. As far as failures go this is one of the biggest ones that Batman has ever experienced. Regardless of how it plays out in the comics, losing a family member whether adopted or not, will always affect you, even if you’re Batman.

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Moon Knight: Lunatic

Just recently I acquired the first volume of the new Moon Knight run aptly titled Lunatic. It was amazing run and brought everything I loved from the classic tales as well as the modern interpretations of the Fist of Khonshu.

This article will contain spoilers for Moon Knight vol. 1 – Lunatic

For those not familiar with his story, I will give you a quick bit of background on the protector of the night travelers. Marc Spector was born to a Jewish family in Chicago Illinois. He was the oldest of 2 sons to Rabbi Spector and showed an aptitude for violence at war at a very early age. Before his 18th birthday he left home and lied about his age to enlist in the marines, where he became a heavyweight boxer. after his stint in the marines he was recruited by the CIA for a blacklist team for covert missions. When he finished with the CIA he became a freelance mercenary where he met his longtime ally Jean-Paul Duchamp “Frenchie”. Together they sold their services for many years before being recruited by Raoul Bushman. During his final mission with Bushman, they raided an Egyptian temple of the buried gold, while imprisoning the people working on the dig. Spector allied with the diggers against Bushman and was gunned down because of it. He crawled into the temple and died on the altar of the Egyptian God of the Moon and Vengeance, Khonshu. Khonshu appeared to Spector and asked him to be his avatar on Earth and that if he agreed he would restore his life. Spector agreed and when he was revived he quickly grabbed the cloak that was draped around the statue of Khonshu and claimed himself as the Moon Knight. He returned to New York in order to complete his mission and protect the night travelers, he used his massive fortune acquired with being a Mercenary to establish himself as Steven Grant, a millionaire playboy. This identity helped him to intermingle with the high society but in order to get street level intel he adopted the identity of Jake Lockley, a New York City cab driver. Eventually all of these different personas caused him to have a mental breakdown and as a result he developed multiple personality disorder.

Interestingly though, in the Marvel Now! run by Ellis, Wood & Bunn, Marc’s mind will actually choose the personality that is best suited for the task at hand.  This theme was first shown in the Bendis run from 2011-2012; wherein his personalities took on the personas of Captain America, Spider-Man and Wolverine. It is also widely known in the Marvel universe that Moon Knight is the only person who’s fighting style Taskmaster won’t copy; stating that “… he would rather take a hit and counterattack than block”. In a one off comic Marc saves someone from a gang of attackers in an alley because that saw him standing up on top of the building. The gang members run and Marc jumps down to make sure the victim is okay. When asked why he wears white Marc states ” I wear white so they can see me coming… So that they know that vengeance is not afraid of them… and neither am I”.

Despite his questionable mental state, Marc has remained as a member of the Avengers and even the Secret Avengers hand picked by Captain America himself. In Midnight Sun from 2006 (before Secret Avengers) Marc was visited by Cap and warned not to get up to his “old ways” or Cap would put a stop to it.  (The old ways being referred to was Moon Knight killing Bushman and carving his face off) Marc says that he is a changed man and that was a one time thing, but Cap isn’t sure and delivers him the ultimatum of “… don’t go over the line and we don’t have a problem”. This run takes place right in the middle of the first Civil War arc, and is one of the best runs I’ve read. I highly recommend giving it a read if you ever get the chance.

In the newest run by Jeff Lemire, Marc wakes up in a mental hospital as a patient of Dr. Emmett, being told that his entire previous life as Moon Knight has been a figment of his imagination. As he plans out his escape he even sees Moon Knight on the news and begins to question if everything Dr. Emmett was saying is true. Kohonshu still talks to Marc and tells him that what he sees is not real and that it’s the work of am Egyptian Demon by the name of Ammit. Marc makes and early breakout attempt which leads him to the roof. He emerges onto the roof to see the city is dissolving away and there is sand overtaking the streets. At the center of the city is a massive pyramid. Marc refuses to accept that what he remembers is all a lie, a resolve firmly backed by Khonshu telling him that he is right and everything Ammit is telling him is false. Khonshu explains that Set has attempted to steal the world away into the “God realm” in order to become it’s new ruler. Marc believes his God and sets about getting out of the hospital. As he spends more time in the facility he begins seeing people from his past that are patients there like himself. His resolve wavers until his allies show up one night and deliver him his Mr. Knight outfit.

They break out and fight off mummies as well as Jackal headed cronies of Set. Anubis shows up to offer them safe passage out of the realm and back to earth but he demands a soul as payment. Crawley volunteers stating that he is old and his usefulness is wearing thin but that he can make this sacrifice to save his friends. Marc vows to find a way to get him back before they head out into the city. As they get onto the street they are set upon by more Jackal headed goons of Set and Frenchie is mortally wounded, dying not long after. Gina, Marlene and Marc take shelter in Gina’s diner and Gina makes them pancakes to help them get some energy back. Marc and Marlene continue to trek through the city towards a massive pyramid at the center while Gina stays behind at the diner to wait for her sons. As they near the pyramid Marlene’s head becomes clearer and she tells Marc that whatever that have to do is at the center of the pyramid. As they climb the pyramid they are set upon by Moon Knight, Marc and he battle which ends with the other Moon Knight getting stabbed in the stomach by Marc with a crescent. The impostor takes Marlene into the center of the pyramid with Marc in hot pursuit. As Marc enters the central chamber of the pyramid he sees the other Moon Knight standing there waiting for him. The impostor removes his hood and mask revealing that it is the Egyptian God Khonshu. Khonshu tells Marc that it was all a ruse to get him there so that Khonshu could possess Marc’s body and come to the mortal plane once more. Marc resolutely tell Khonshu he would rather die than let him become a pawn of the God and runs and jumps off the pyramid, falling to his death on the sand below.

Marc wakes up in a penthouse with Marlene in his bed calling him Steven and tells him that they need to get to the set early for make-up.

This run truly shows just how unhinged Moon Knight can be. In one of the panels he sees undead mummies coming out of subway cars at an abandoned subway station. When he asks if they (his companions) see the mummies too, some of them say yes but Gina says ” All I see are a bunch of orderlies here to take us back upstairs”. Doubt is a theme that constantly shows up in Moon Knight comics. Whether it’s people’s faith him Marc or Marc’s faith in himself; you can’t have a Moon Knight comic without doubt. This most recent run brought buckets of doubt from Marc himself. When he sees Moon Knight on the tv stopping criminals, he actively believes that he is crazy until Khonshu tells him that it’s all a lie and that he needs to believe in himself and his God.  Despite all of his shortcomings and issues, Marc is the hero that some people need. He protects people who travel by night and brings vengeance down on those who deserve it.

Is the Punisher Right?

By now, everyone has had a chance to watch Season 2 of Daredevil on Netflix. If not, I strongly urge that you do, because it is awesome! Also, this article will contain spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet, so, you have been warned!

The season kicks off with a bang (literally), when an Irish mob gathering is ambushed by an unknown assailant, who proceeds to massacre the entire squad with the exception of one lowly member named Grotto. Now it isn’t revealed until the second episode, but the unknown assailant is none other than Frank Castle aka the Punisher. The Punisher is a famous anti-hero from Marvel comics who uses his extensive military training to wage a one man war on organized crime. To date he has received several live action adaptations, being portrayed by the likes of: Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane, Ray Stevenson and now John Bernthal. He is a very complex character with a staunch moral code that some might consider fairly askew. Moral code and ethics aside, one has to wonder if he actually has a good point.

In episode 3, the Punisher has captured Daredevil and chained him to a chimney on a rooftop overlooking the Dogs of Hell club house. While he prepares to draw the club members into an ambush and slaughter them all, he has a moral debate with the staunchly catholic Daredevil. The debate begins with Daredevil asking Frank why he is doing what he’s doing (killing gangs) and Frank calmly replies  with ” Because someone has to” while preparing for his ambush. Back and forth they continue to debate on how frank is able to sleep at night knowing what he has done.  Frank asks Daredevil what he thinks the difference is between them, Daredevil staunchly replies with “I don’t kill people”. The debate continues back and forth for a few minutes as tempers become elevated. The hard hitting line comes from Frank when he tells Daredevil that he (Daredevil) will never win. ” You wanna know what I think? I think you’re a half measure… You hit them and they get back up, I hit them and they stay down! … You know you’re one bad day away from being me.”

This final line actually draws a very interesting parallel with the Joker mythos in Batman: The Killing Joke. In that story, Joker tries to prove that anyone can become as crazy as he is with just one bad day. He targets Commissioner Gordon in an attempt to bring (arguably) Batman’s strongest ally down into Insanity. He kidnaps him after shooting his daughter through the spine paralyzing her, strips her naked and photographs her while she bleeds on the ground, then uses these images to torture the commissioner over and over again in an effort to make him crack.  One could argue that every superhero story begins with one bad day, and that the worth of the person dictates how they go about the rest of their life after that day. Bruce Wayne became Batman, Peter Parker became Spider-Man and Tony Stark became Iron Man; these heroes took what happened to them and used it as a driving force to make a change.

The question you have to ask yourself is, Do you think the Punisher is right?

Does his stance represent the only true way to deal with crime?

The character of Frank Castle experienced a trauma so horrific it changed him from inside out. He was picnicking with his family in central park when they stumbled onto a mob hit (in Season 2 of Daredevil they change it to a STING operation gone bad), which resulted in his 2 kids and wife being brutally murdered in front of his eyes. He survived the ordeal, and used his extensive career in the military to wage a one man war on crime.  His brutal methods have often put him at odds with the Avengers and other classic heroes because they view his methods as extreme and criminal. There are certain heroes who understand that Punisher does what needs to be done. An example of this would be in the Marvel Now! story line of Punisher: Warzone.

Image result for MArvel Now! Punisher War Zone

In this run, Spider-Man convinces the Avengers that they need to deal with Punisher after Frank accosted and incapacitated Spider-Man to steal one of his web shooters, in order to use it in a hit he had planned . Knowing the relationship with Frank and tendencies fellow Avenger Wolverine has, Captain America visits him personally to tell him to sit this one out. When he confronts Logan about it Logan tells him “… the difference between you and me Captain… is that I understand sometimes… people have to die”. The run is amazing, and is frankly one of the better Punisher stories that I’ve ever read, I would highly recommend you read it.

Another Example of this would be from the DCAU movie Batman: Under the Red Hood. This is the story of how Joker murdered the second Robin, Jason Todd; and Jason’s subsequent resurrection and donning of his new persona the Red Hood. This movie concludes with a heart wrenching confrontation between Bruce and Jason (who had abducted the Joker) during which Jason says “Bruce, I forgive you for not saving me. But why on God’s good earth.. is he still alive?! Blatantly ignoring the graveyards he’s filled, the friends he’s crippled, if he had taken you I would’ve hunted him down and sent him off to hell! I would’ve thought… I would’ve thought I would be the last person you would let him hurt…”. Bruce admits to wanting to kill Joker, but he says ” If I do that, if I go down into that dark place… I’ll never come out”. This line is what firmly defines what the difference between superhero and anti-hero is.

Anti-heroes like: Red Hood, Punisher, Grifter, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, Deadpool and even Green Arrow (on some occasions*), toe the line between hero and villain every chance they get. While their methods often revolve around maiming/killing, they only do it to criminals and those few people who deserve it.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, but regardless of what they look like they are heroes because they work for the greater good. Because you don’t agree with how someone carries about their heroing, doesn’t make them wrong. It could be argued that anti-heroes see a larger impact on criminality than clean cut superheroes do. With that in mind..which side do you fall on, is the Punisher right?

*See Arrow Season 1 and Justice League: Cry for Justice

Life Lessons to be Learned from Superheroes

I want to start this off by saying I love superheroes. I think that is a little obvious given my topic choice for the blog, but the main reason I care so much for superheroes and their stories, are the lessons they can teach. Whether it’s about standing by your friends, standing up for the weak, taking responsibility for your actions, or even just admitting when you’re wrong; superheroes can deliver these lessons time and time again.  Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man, Vision, Superman, Aquaman, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, they all can demonstrate important values that should be emulated in everyday life. Take for example Steve Rogers aka Captain America, the scrawny kid from Brooklyn who became a household name around the world.

When Steve Rogers decided to enlist all he wanted to do was serve his country. He was rejected. Time and time again he would try and he got rejected every time based on his size and medical conditions. He persevered, until one last try when he met Dr. Erskine; and his whole world changed. In Captain America: The Fist Avenger, Dr. Erskine takes an interest in Rogers for the super soldier project due to his commitment. He asks him if he wants to enlist to kill Nazis, Steve responds with ” I don’t want to kill anybody, I don’t like bullies, I don’t care where they’re from”. Dr. Erskine gave Rogers a chance and beyond everyone else’s wildest dreams he was chosen for the project. The reasoning, ” A strong man who has always known power will lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength and knows compassion”, this quote was delivered by Dr. Erskine when he was asked by Steve why he had chosen him. Captain America has carried this with him his entire life and it continues to be a large part of his character (up until he is revealed to be a secret hydra agent?) we’ll just forget about that part. Another great lesson that Captain America has taught us is to never give up. You could argue that every hero embodies this trait but hear me out first. During Infinity War, Thanos got the infinity gauntlet. Thanos is powerful enough as is, but give him the gauntlet with all the infinity stones and he become unstoppable. This is shown when all the heroes across the universe band together to stop him… and he mops the floor with them in 30 seconds flat. With the heroes strewn across the ground Thanos triumphantly declares himself the victor, and then something happened. Despite the loss of his shield, his team mates laid out on the ground before him, defeat staring him in the face, Captain America stood up. He stood in front of Thanos and declared that “as long as one man stands against you, you’ll never claim victory”.  Thanos mocks him by saying “Noble sentiments from one who is about to die”. Captain America stands, resolute, staring Thanos in the eyes and replies with ” I’ve lived my life by those words. They’re well worth dying for”. Bottom line is that Captain America stands for the impact one good man can have on history regardless of the odds stacked against him. Captain America is just one of many that stand as an inspiration for many, Peter Parker aka Spider-Man is another great example.

Peter Parker, brilliant, determined, courageous, nerd. Peter grew up in Queens and lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben due to the death of his parents at a very young age. He was very gifted in science but not so much in the athletic department. One day while on a trip to a science lab he was bitten by a radioactive spider. This spider bite re-wrote sections of his DNA giving him amazing spider like powers.  His origin is tragic and remains as one of the best backstories in comics today. Once bitten by the spider he was performing in a circus as an act to earn some extra cash (some relaunches change this to fighting in a wrestling ring to earn money). One night after performing, a criminal was racing towards the elevator located behind Peter and a security officer shouted for Peter to stop the criminal. Peter side stepped allowing the criminal to pass and told the security that it wasn’t his problem. The criminal then went on to shoot Peter’s uncle Ben, the closest thing he had to a father after his natural father’s death. Peter arrived just in time to witness his uncle’s death. He vowed to hunt down the man responsible for Ben’s death and to make him pay. One of the last things his uncle had said to him was “With great power, comes great responsibility”, this mantra is known by every Spider-Man fan and is uttered by the character many times over his run in comics and mass media. When Peter hunts down the man responsible for killing his uncle Ben he hesitates and ends up letting the criminal go because he knew vengeance was not the answer. He decided at that moment to don the Spider-Man persona and fight crime so that what happened to his uncle would never happen to anyone else. One of the worst tragedies to befall Peter was during Amazing Spider-man #121, when Green Goblin had kidnapped Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy. In an effort to force Spider-Man to make a difficult decision, to stop Goblin or save Gwen, Goblin throws Gwen off of a bridge. Peter quickly shoots a web line catching Gwen around her middle and pulls to stop her fall. When Peter pulls Gwen up he realizes that the force from him pulling her to stop her fall had snapped her neck. Peter is distraught over the whole ordeal and it stands as his single greatest failure. Peter blames himself for what happened to Gwen, which further cements what his uncle Ben told him, with great power comes great responsibility. Peter is a shining example that if you have the ability to do something you have the responsibility to do it and to own it if it doesn’t work out. Moving over to the DC comics side of things, a hero who stands as a symbol for many, Batman.

Bruce Wayne was born into one of the richest families in the world, the Waynes. Their fortune was made primarily on various technological innovations along with some weapon and medical advancement. When he was 8 years old he and his parents had gone to see the Mark of Zorro at the Monarch Theater in Park Row, also known as Crime Alley. It started to rain so the family decided to cut through an alley and everything changed. A man (later revealed to be Joe Chill) was waiting in the alley and shot Thomas and Martha Wayne over a wallet and a pearl necklace. Young Bruce watched his parents die in front of him forever scarring him and changing him into the boy who would eventually become Batman. Bruce travels the world for many years learning every form of martial arts and detective skills. He returns to Gotham taking up the mantle of Batman and beginning his crusade against the criminals of the city. One of the coolest aspects of Batman is that he stands as an ideal rather than a physical person. Yes, he is a physical person in the sense of someone has to be out there in the skin tight armour fighting the good fight, but it doesn’t always have to be Bruce. In both, Battle for the Cowl and Knightfall, Bruce was incapacitated in one form or another. This opened the gates for other worthy successors to become Batman. Azrael took the mantle up in Knightfall while Bruce healed, and while he fought his way back through time after Final Crisis, Dick had taken up the cowl because there always has to be a Batman in Gotham.  One of the reasons Batman is so relatable is that while he is considered a superhero, he has no actual powers to speak of. For all intents and purposes Batman is just a man, a man with billions of dollars of gadgets and gear, and trained to peak human perfection, but just a man none the less. He stands as a testament to what you can become if you set your mind to something and are determined to see it through.

Batman
Never Give Up

These heroes remain as some of the greatest teaching utensils of core values and consequences. Whether it’s being a good person, taking responsibility for your abilities or becoming who you want to be through determination, I (and many others) have learned plenty from our heroes. I would wager that for most people aged 18 -30, we learned more about being a good person from fictional characters than we ever did in a classroom.

Ethically/Morally Difficult Choices In Comics

Comic books, whether they be DC or Marvel or any imprint in between, have been utilizing their ability to discuss hot button topics to the greater population. From DC comics tackling drug habits with the Green Lantern/Green Arrow story arc of Snowbirds Don’t Fly, to Iron Man’s Demon In A Bottle story arc from Marvel which tackles alcoholism  and its effects, to the most recent Marvel event Civil War 2; comics have brought everyday struggles to the forefront.  Probably the most recurring theme in comics, besides the struggle between good and evil, is the making of ethically and morally grey choices. Each company has made characters that toe this line as a profession: Red Hood, Punisher, Rorschach, Deadpool, Moon Knight, and Wolverine to just name a few.

One of the most prevalent examples of this kind of choice comes from the Remender run on Uncanny X-Force. In this run the X-Force is tasked with killing the reincarnated version of Apocalypse, one of their big bads. The problem with this mission, the reincarnated Apocalypse is just a small boy named Evan. When the team finally learns all of the facts surrounding their mission it divides them down the middle. Half of them believe that the child has done nothing wrong and therefore doesn’t deserve death, the other half believe that the mere fact he is capable of such evil is enough to warrant the hit. An argument breaks out between Deadpool and Wolverine on what should be done. During the argument, team member Fantomex, “takes care of the problem” as he puts it so nobody else would have to deal with that on their conscience. Deadpool is understandably upset and admits that he is a soulless, money hungry, good for nothing mercenary but he also adds ” I’ve never killed a kid”.

The guilt weighs on Fantomex so much that without the team knowing he clones Evan and raises him on a secret farm. When Fantomex dies on  a mission the team finds the farm and the reincarnated Evan.  While Evan did have some close calls with the darkness within him he ultimately held on to the teachings of his “father”, enough so to earn him an acceptance to the School for Gifted Mutants.  Deadpool visits Evan in his dorm room and they have a very heart to heart chat. Deadpool tells Evan to stop referring to himself as Apocalypse because that’s not who is. Evan thanks Deadpool and tells him that ” at my lowest point.. you were the hero that showed up to save me”, this comment leaves Deadpool at a loss for words because nobody has ever called him a hero before. Deadpool ends the encounter in a fashion that only he could, by stealing the meditation book recommended by Wolverine and leaving porno mags as he shouts ” I left you something you’ll get more use out of!”

This type of dilemma is becoming more and more mainstream in comics as more and more laws are being questioned in our own societies. The arc from Civil War 2 by Marvel deals with preemptive strikes as well as their consequences. A brief rundown of the Bendis run is as follows: A new Inhuman named Ulysses is given the power of foresight. Nobody knows how accurate his visions are but Ms. Marvel and a group of fellow Avengers don’t want to take that chance, so they use the visions to launch a counter attack. Their first strike puts them against Thanos, the big bad that the MCU has been alluding to for the past 5 years, and it does not go the way they want it to. It ends with She-Hulk taking a rocket to the chest and ending up in a coma and War Machine getting punched full force by Thanos and severing his spine. Despite the casualties the team prevails and defeats Thanos. This doesn’t bode well with Iron Man as his best friend has been murdered on an unsanctioned mission. The entire event comes out of the statement Steve Rogers made when shown project Insight in the Winter Soldier movie “I thought the punishment came after the crime”. Iron Man and his side believe that Ulysses powers are too untested to use as a preemptive strike tool and Ms. Marvel and her side don’t want to risk innocent lives if something can be stopped before it starts.

An example of a dilemma experienced by a singular character would be the instance where Daredevil had the choice to shoot Punisher in the head or let the Punisher kill a gang of criminals. This hit hard for Daredevil because, as one of the most religious and conflicted characters in comics, he has a strict policy of no killing. To say he is a little messed up is an understatement, he is devoutly catholic but runs around in a red devil themed suit beating on criminals… Putting that aside, this stands as one of the biggest moments for the character of Daredevil. He has the chance to stop the Punisher with one pull of a trigger, but it would compromise everything he has come to know and believe in his entire life. Netflix’s Daredevil show did a great job of illustrating this interaction in Season 2. The interaction from the show comes with a line that will echo with Daredevil for the rest of his career through his numerous moments of doubting whether he is making a difference and if he should give in like the Punisher has. The line is delivered by the Punisher as he is preparing for an assault on the Dogs of Hell, he says ” …the difference between you and me is that when you hit them they get back up; when I hit them they stay down!”; to add insult to injury he then sits down and stares at Daredevil saying ” You’re one bad day away from being me”.  This alone causes Daredevil to questions his methods and his impact on the city he so much loves and is willing to die to protect.

There are so many examples of ethically ambiguous choices in comics that I can’t hope to mention them all, but rest assured that most of them causing some sort of title wide event that will change their respective universes at its conclusion.

DCEU – Too Big Too Fast?

As many eager fans finally got their Justice League fix (myself included) when the new trailer dropped a couple weeks ago, one question came to my mind, is DC trying to do too much right away to catch up to Marvel?

Most die hard DC fans will argue vehemently that DC is going to do everything better than Marvel ever could despite their recent critical setbacks. Those setbacks being Man of Steel, Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman, which garnered very poor reviews from critics and fans alike. While Man of Steel fared better with critics than the other 2 entries into the DCEU ( DC Extended Universe), it still did not garner the reception that was hoped for one of DC comics’ flagship characters. Many criticize Snyder’s portrayal as far too dark and gritty for a character that is supposed to rather cheerful and lighthearted. The main controversy surrounding Man of Steel was the finale when Clark, despite his best efforts to stop him, ended up having to kill Zod to save a family. This stray from the core of the character is what really set back the modern retelling of Superman from the classic view as depicted by Christopher Reeves. While there is no doubt that Henry Cavill looks like Clark Kent, he so far, has failed to capture the essence of the character.

Batman V Superman performed much better with fans than it did with critics. Using the classic Frank Miller story of The Dark Knight Returns as its main inspiration;  it brought what many believe to be one of, if not the, best clash between the two titans of DC comics to the silver screen. Using a suit of armour specially designed to fight beings more powerful than himself, Batman took the fight to Superman on the rooftop of an abandoned warehouse in Gotham. With Wonder Woman joining the fray after Lex Luthor releases Doomsday, the two fighters put their differences aside in a very poorly executed reconciliation scene involving a Kryptonite spear and the word “Martha” .  With the Trinity formed, it finally took the fight to evil and delivered a beat down in the name of justice. With Wonder Woman leading the charge it was a great spectacle to finally see the three pillars of DC comics working together on the big screen at last. That feeling was short lived as Superman sacrificed himself in a pointless scene to stop Doomsday. At the end of the film Bruce and Diana make a vow to find the “others like him” and unite them for a war that Brice believes is coming.  Queue up every fan’s desire for a Justice League film.

The next installment of the DCEU was the critical bomb Suicide Squad. The movie, while fun to watch, was poorly put together and barely gave any back story on great characters such as Katana or Killer Croc, instead opting for the origin story of Harley Quinn and providing a lot of exposition into the reason why Deadshot does what he does. This script went through several re-writes before finally getting a good draft the director (David Ayer) was comfortable with. After finishing shooting, the final cut of the movie went through 7 re-cuts before the studio finally agreed to it. The re-cuts added more humour and made the movie less dark and gritty.  The big problem besides the incoherent story and the incomprehensible villain, was the Joker. Jared Leto was cast as the Joker in the DCEU and his first appearance was to be in Suicide Squad. The make-up and characterization were different from anything previously done but it was pretty well executed for what it was. The main issue was that Leto was billed as one of the top cast members and all advertising had him as a central part of the film. The reality was that he clocked less than 20 minutes of screen time in the final cut and most of his scenes were little more than filler for the main story. The highlight of the movie was Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Jay Hernandez as El Diablo. They both stole every scene they were in with most of the movie focusing on Harley and her relationship with the Joker.  The after credit scene for the movie shows Bruce Wayne meeting the leader of Task Force X ( The Suicide Squad) and receiving a folder on other known meta-humans. The folder opens to show profiles of some of the members of the Suicide Squad as well as Flash and Aquaman.

The teaser for the Justice League that we got shortly before Christmas was definitely a great tease, and got enough people interested that the wait for the actual first trailer was excruciating. The trailer finally dropped and the internet exploded with overwhelming positive feedback. It’s worth noting that after the critical failures of their first 2 outings, DC comics recruited chief creative mind Geoff Johns to help re-write the Justice League script and to co-write all future DCEU scripts. The trailer offered enough exposition to get fans interested in the story with enough tiny Easter eggs to get die hard comics fans like myself, keys to future movies as well as potential plot points. The main criticism that most fans are worried about is that putting all these awesome characters together without establishing each of them could lead to a very convoluted plot.

Everyone is familiar with the MCU ( Marvel Cinematic Universe), whether they are a fan of Marvel comics or not. The massive success that the MCU has received is in no small part to their meticulous planning. Beginning with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Marvel teased nods to various heroes that would eventually make up their Avengers roster. Marvel also established each of their characters in their own solo film before bringing them together for the first Avengers movie in 2012. This method of teasing a little bit of information every time a new movie comes out helps to ensure that fans will keep coming back for more. The main criticism Marvel has received in relation to their movies is that they are all cookie cutter copies of one another. Which can be understandable when dealing with origin stories, but that is a topic for another time… back to the Justice League.

The Justice League will bring together Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, Superman, and another mystery hero (presumably Green Lantern). The problem is that with all these heroes their supporting characters there is going to be way too many moving parts to keep the plot going forward. Already eagle eyed fans have spotted what could be a teaser to Hawkman and Hawkgirl as well as references to a greater Bat family and the introduction of the Green Lantern; and all this was done with one teaser trailer and one four minute official trailer. Call me skeptical but I think this movie is going to make or break the entire franchise. If this movies bombs, DC is likely to pull it’s future movies and try to salvage what they can with the rest of the films already in production. I want this movie to succeed but given the track record of what DC comics has released so far… I’m not holding my breath.

Iron Man a Villain?

With the release of the new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer this week a new dynamic has been introduced to the MCU, Iron Man has become an antagonist.

Now, before you disagree with me, hear me out. It all started in Avengers 1, during the altercation in Banner’s lab. With the scepter influencing everyone’s minds, words were shared. Mostly the words shared were along the lines of how each one was better than the rest. The real altercation came between Steve and Tony, when Steve asked Tony “… Take away that suit of armour.. what are you?”. Tony responds with the ever famous “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist”, which thereby establishes his ego-centrism and narcissism as well as pointing him on the path that he is now on.

Later in the movie a nuke is launched by the World Security council in an attempt to stop the invasion and close the portal. Tony intercepts the missile and angles it through the portal to the Chitauri invasion force. Tony saves the world and saves billions causing the narcissism to grow.

Skip ahead to Avengers: Age of Ultron, where unlike the comic book source material, Tony creates Ultron. This deviation was a necessity because Hank Pym wasn’t established in the MCU until the Ant-Man movie which was released after Age of Ultron.  In Age of Ultron, despite the objections of Bruce Banner, Tony decides to take it upon himself to create the Ultron program; a program he says will “end the team”. Obviously it doesn’t go to plan and the shit hits the fan, causing the Avengers to unite again to combat the new threat. This movie began sewing the seeds for the eventual conflict that would be Captain America: Civil War, the distrust has begun to grow and the antagonistic behaviour had begun to show itself.

The culmination of this is during the moments when the team is hiding out at the Barton farm as they lick their wounds. Steve and Tony are both chopping wood and begin with a philosophical discussion.

T- You know Ultron is trying to tear us apart, right?

S – Well I guess you’d know… whether you would tell us is a bit of a question…

T –  Banner and I were doing research…

S – That would affect the team!

T – That would end the team! Isn’t that the mission? Isn’t that the why we fight? So we can end the fight, so we get to go home?

S – Every time someone tries to win a war before it starts, innocent people die. Every time.

This banter is coupled with the incident in the lab in Avengers 1, and the creation of Ultron to  set the stakes for Civil War. Already in the second Avengers movie, Tony is being painted as a rogue element to the team and given antagonistic characteristics.  The movie concludes with no other altercations amongst the members of the team, save Hawkeye giving a very inspiring speech to Scarlet Witch amidst the war zone of Sokovia.

In comes Captain America: Civil War; one of, if not THE best MCU movie to date. This movie introduces the Sokovia Accords, aptly named for incident in the previous Avengers movie. This legislation that is being passed comes in response to an attack by Crossbones in Lagos Africa, which kills dozens of people.  The Accords is a mirror to the Superhuman Registration Act from the comics, which does exactly as its name entails. The Sokovia Accords would cause the Avengers to come under the direction of a governing council from the United Nations.

The friction starts when Tony along with several other avengers, believe they should be held accountable for their actions; and that if they don’t willingly sign now, they will be forced to later. Steve and several other avengers believe that they need to be able to discern where they need to go based on need. The argument Steve uses is that “the safest hands are still their own” and “what if there is somewhere we need to go and they won’t let us”? This scene coupled with Steve’s unwavering loyalty to Bucky is what sets the two opposing sides on the warpath. The movie ends with Steve siding with longtime friend and ally Bucky over Tony and his quest for revenge against the Winter Soldier for murdering his mom. One of the most gut wrenching lines is delivered during this final fight when Steve stands between Tony and Bucky and says ” Sorry Tony. You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice. But he’s my friend”.  The scene switches to show Tony’s heartbroken face as he mutters the words “So was I”.

The end of Civil War saw Tony losing the fight to Steve and in retaliation telling Steve he didn’t deserve the shield his father had made. In a very definitive statement, Steve drops the shield as he picks Bucky up and helps him to their Quinjet. The movie ends with Steve sending Tony a letter and a burner phone saying that he can’t support the Accords, but if Tony ever needs him he will be there.

Flash forward to the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer, Tony is back at being Iron Man full time and has taken Peter under his wing to mentor him. Peter is doing his best to stop the vulture but in one of the most adrenaline filled scenes of the trailer he ends up having to hold a sinking ferry together to stop it from sinking. Tony comes to the rescue with his Iron Man armour and what appears to be a swarm of mini jet engines that attach themselves to both sides of the sinking ferry pushing it back together. The trailer next shows a scene where Tony and Peter are talking on a building top as tony steps out of his hovering armour (so cool!). He tells Peter that he doesn’t respect the suit and that he doesn’t deserve it, eerily echoing the same thing he said to Steve at the end of Civil War.

All of these actions are showing Tony to be an increasingly antagonistic character in the MCU. The argument could be made he is just making sure the people out there fighting are the best they can be; however, that doesn’t excuse his actions from Age of Ultron and the final act of Civil War. While the MCU has been teasing Thanos as the big bad for the next 2 Avengers movies; but mark my words, with his narcissism and ego-centrism coupled with the increasingly antagonistic behaviours, Tony could very well be the real villain they face.