Justice League + Punisher- Review (NO SPOILERS)

This past weekend two of the most anticipated releases of the year came out, Justice League and the Punisher Netflix series. I am glad to say that I saw them both in their entirety upon release. This is going to be a long post as I will review both of these entities in their entirety. That being said this will be a spoiler free review and dive mostly into the productions and characters.

Let’s Start off with the one the entire internet is talking about… The Justice League!

JUSTICE LEAGUE

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I am going to be frank with this one, I liked the movie but there were quite a few things that needed to be fixed with it. I have found from watching all the DCEU movies that they are made for comic book fans whereas Marvel movies are made for everyone. What I mean to say is that there are some sections of the Justice League movie that I, as a comic fan, were able to fill in with ease; however, someone who might not be as well versed in comic books would not be able to connect to. For example, they did a piss poor job of explaining what the mother boxes were for and who Steppenwolf is. I glossed over it, as did the people i was watching it with, because we knew who these characters were and how they functioned. For the most part the people in the theatre seemed to follow the movie fairly well, there were only a few scenes where I heard a collective “Huh?” from the audience. The overall pacing of the movie was really good, it didn’t get bogged down like Batman V. Superman did, and it didn’t jump making huge leaps like Suicide Squad. Mostly though, it was fun! I walked out of that theatre with a smile on my face and thinking that it was basically just an episode of Justice League unlimited in live action form.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

All right, it’s pretty well known that this project was experiencing a LOT of drama behind the scenes. most notably, Zack Snyder having to take some personal time to deal with the suicide of his daughter. Warner Brothers then brought in Joss Whedon (of Avengers fame), to finish the project and see it through post production. Most people are not aware that most of what was re-shot under Whedon were the character interactions and the action scenes he left largely alone. Warner Brothers actually fired Zack from the project during post production when they ordered him to cut the movie to less than a 2 hour run time and he refused.

Now with that in mind, STOP BLAMING WHEDON FOR THIS MOVIE!

Moving on… Zack Snyder has a very specific style that works very well with the darker and grittier heroes. That being said it doesn’t really flow with the tone of the Justice League. If Snyder directed a solo Batman movie (which he pretty much did with Batman V Superman) I personally, would watch the shit out of it. I loved his take on Watchmen and his style has no equal. His style is very gritty and he grey washes a lot of the colours to make them more flat and matte. He isn’t like Michael Bay who puts a blue filter on EVERYTHING and adds explosions just because; and he’s not like J.J. Abrams who likes to blind people with lens flares, but he definitely has a very unique style that nobody can mistake.

It’s obvious which scenes of the movie were filmed by Snyder and which were filmed by Whedon.  The tonal shift between scenes is very obvious in some cases and it can cause you to feel like you’re watching two very different movies. Again, not Whedon’s fault, he did what he was hired to do. He actually didn’t want to take the project away from Zack, but when WB fired Snyder, Whedon stepped up because he loves the characters and was waiting just like the rest of us for Justice League.

Whedon’s style is very… different from Snyder’s. not to say they are polar opposites, but they kind of are. Whedon loves to add colour splashes and make everything pop to add visual flair to the shots. As I said before it is very evident what was shot by Snyder and what was shot by Whedon.

HUMOUR

Okay, so this is not a dig at Zack Snyder but he really doesn’t get humour and he doesn’t really add it into his movies. He does cynicism and sarcasm like a boss, but for outward obvious humour he is kind of deaf to it. Pretty much all of the humour in Justice League came from Whedon and his re-shoots. Most of the humour in Justice League comes from the interactions between the characters and the dialogue they deliver.

Ezra Miller though! Ezra plays Barry Allen/Flash in this film and he is by far the best character in the movie, this is coming from a die hard Batman fan too. When he first meets the other members of the League and they go to the Batcave for the first time, he runs around checking everything out, just like any member of the audience would. He is basically an extension of how any member of the audience would react in the movie, he is in awe of the other Leaguers and when compared to the rest of them he is the rookie.  Batman has some great mentoring moments with Flash and it shows that this Batman views Flash like one of his Robins which is a very cool dynamic to introduce into the DCEU. I don’t want to say anymore because that could give away some of the best scenes, but let me say that Flash’s antics caused the entire theatre to laugh, every time.

COSTUMES

So the costumes in this movie are pretty much identical to the ones worn by the Trinity in Batman V Superman with the exception of Batman. For most of the movie he is wearing a very dark blue suit reminiscent of the cartoon Justice League. His suit looks black in the dark but when it’s shown in the light it has a very dark blue hue to it. Just like in the promotional poster for the movie that says “You Can’t Save The World Alone”. The rest of the League has awesome costumes as well, with the exception of Superman and Wonder Woman, the creators opted for a more armoured look for everyone during the final fight. I think this makes them look more prepared for what they encountered and made it more believable than different coloured spandex.

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One thing that was brought to my attention was by one of my movie viewing compatriots during the scene where Steppenwolf appears on Themyscira. She (my compatriot) noted that the Amazons were much more scantily clad than in the Wonder Woman movie. I will admit I didn’t notice this as I was too focused on the action, but when I went back and looked at the trailers showing the scenes with the Amazons my friend was right, they were no where near as armoured as in Wonder Woman.  While this is obviously a ploy by the creators to keep young men coming to the movie I thought it had to do with something entirely normal, maneuverability. Wonder Woman takes place during the time span of World War I, during this movie the Amazons are much more armoured and move slower compared to Justice League. It was also during Wonder Woman that the Amazons discovered their armour no longer stopped the weapons of man. I am of course referring to that scene on the beach, when several dozen Amazons including their general were cut down by rifle fire.  Now this might be my mind over thinking it but I believe that when they came to realization that their armour was ineffective they opted for a lighter material that they can still used to deflect physical attacks, but didn’t restrict their movement.  When you see the movie you will understand what I mean, I just can’t say anymore without spoiling it.

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for an oscar worthy movie then this is not it. If you’re looking for a fun superhero movie with some great one liners look no further! While it failed to capture the magic of the Avengers, Justice League made leaps and bounds compared to some of the previous DCEU continuity. It got rid of the dark and gritty tone set by the previous installments in the universe and decided to go for a more fun approach.

I will say this Steppenwolf looked absolutely terrible. When a movie costs over 300 million to make you think they could use some better CGI. For most of the movie he looked like he was cut out of PS3/Xbox360 cutscene. His reasons are very unclear in the movie and this inhibits the story telling quite a bit. I think they should’ve used him as a segue way into their big bad Darkseid, and they might eventually, but as of right now he was a very lackluster villain for the League to have gone up against. When you see the movie you’ll understand what I mean during the final fight, 2 members of the League kept him occupied while the rest did other things.

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Despite the drama behind the camera and the tonal shift this movie is a solid superhero flick. It’s not as complex as it could’ve been but it also didn’t spoon feed you everything off the hop (Marvel). It is far from the best superhero or even DC movie ever made, but it’s definitely not the worst either (Bat Nipples anyone?) I definitely give this movie a 7/10. It has some flaws and some things that I would change personally but overall like I’ve said it’s a fun movie to just kick back and enjoy for 2 hours.

 

Onto Marvel!

 

PUNISHER

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So, I’m sure myself like many others, marathoned Punisher in either a day or a day and a half. My friend and I decided to get up early on Saturday, make a coffee and a bagel each and start the marathon. the title sequence was amazing! The song and the sequence showing the various bullets and weapons that then form the Punisher skull just fit the show so perfectly! The song itself is going to be a must have for my personal playlist, it was reminiscent of the classic rock ballads with hints of country thrown in. I will admit that I dislike country music very much, (but that’s a whole other topic), but this song was awesome! The series itself is probably the most brutal of all the Netflix series to date. It follows Frank after he has finished his crusade for vengeance and he is trying to keep a low profile as Pete. Things obviously don’t go to plan and he is dragged back into his old life. Micro seeks out Frank to help him bring down a government conspiracy so that Micro can see his family again. The show doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t skimp on the violence either. The final two episodes are probably two of the most brutal episodes of a show I have ever seen and I watched Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

This show has a very Stark and gritty tone to the shots they use. When Frank is sporting his full Punisher garb they use a lot of shadows and lighting tricks to hide his face while making the skull on his armour pop. Giving the impression of the skull coming for you as opposed to the man. They also use a lot of warm colours during his memory scenes and dream sequences. They also like to frost the tiniest bit of the shots when he is recounting a memory. They especially add a very soft filter and bloom the light sources when he dreams about his family. It’s a great technique that adds a lot more to the scenes.

HUMOUR

This is a show about the Punisher, he really isn’t a funny guy. That being said the supporting characters of Billy Russo and Micro really bring the humour and so does the character of Stein. Those three bring just a little bit of light and antics to this dark brutal drama.

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COSTUMES

The costumes in this show are spot on. Most of the characters only wear regular street clothes so there isn’t much to convey. When the Punisher does suit up though he is like a mash up of the 2004 Thomas Jane and the 2008 Ray Stevenson. He sports tactical gear without looking overly tank like. He isn’t sporting light gear but he is definitely not wearing full advanced combat body armour.

The weapons! Weapons fall under costumes, it’s my blog I can put them where I want!

For most of the show he uses the tools he has at hand, sometimes a sledge hammer and sometimes a handgun. When he does get his arsenal though, look out anonymous henchmen! The main battle scene wherein Frank takes on about 30 guys by himself is nothing sort of spectacular. He weaves and kills like some sort of deadly water dancer. If the water dancer could kill you with their bare hands in 30 different ways…

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

This series is a great addition to the Netflix Universe. It currently sits as my second favourite series after Daredevil and before Iron Fist. I don’t want to dive too much into the plot for fear of spoiling something but I will say that it’s a great revenge plot. Following the Punisher’s arc in Daredevil Season 2 could’ve been rough but this production team and the actors pulled it off amazingly.  I would definitely rate this series a solid 8.5/10. I can’t explain why I gave it that rating until you watch the series. Once you watch it and the ending you will definitely understand the rating I gave it. The plot is a little convoluted at times and if you aren’t paying very close attention you can miss some key moments. Bernthal embodies the role and really gets into the grit of what makes Frank Castle tick. For those expecting a series where Frank senselessly murders hundreds of anonymous henchmen, this isn’t it. Want that kind of Punisher violence then watch Punisher:War Zone starring Ray Stevenson. I will say that Bernthal doesn’t look like the comic book version of Frank Castle but he definitely acts like him when it counts.

 

Those are my reviews of both releases. Agree or not let me know! see you next week for another edition of Underrated Hero!

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Vengeance in White – Moon Knight

Since I started this blog 37 weeks ago, I have been holding back on writing about one of my favourite heroes and that would be Moon Knight. I know that I have already put out a post about how he should be the next hero included in the Marvel Netflix universe, but for those unfamiliar with the character I will give a quick rundown of the Avatar of Khonshu.

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BACKGROUND

Marc Spector was born in Chicago, Illinois to a rabbi and his wife. He was the oldest of two boys, his younger brother being Randall Spector (Shadow Knight). From a young age both the Spector children were fascinated with guns and warfare, something that didn’t sit well with their pacifist father. After butting heads with his father for much of his childhood and teenage years over the influence he was having on his younger brother at the age of 16 Marc left his home and enlisted in the Marines. During his tenure in the Marines he became a heavy-weight boxer and competed in several competitions winning the majority of them. It is revealed in the Shadowland arc that Marc’s father confronted him while Marc was training for a fight, and suffered a fatal heart attack while reaming Marc out for him being the cause that his little brother enlisted as well. He was recruited by the CIA to become a black ops operator right from the Marine corps, and he served with the CIA for many years before leaving to become a freelance mercenary.

During his extensive career as a mercenary, Spector met and befriended Henri “Frenchie” Duchamp. Henri was a french pilot who became fast friends with Marc and aided him for many years even during his superhero career.

Spector was hired by Raoul Bushman as part of his attack force on a mission in Egypt. While on mission the mercenaries stumbled onto an archaeological dig of the temple dedicated to Khonshu, the Egyptian God of the Moon and Vengeance, headed up by Dr. Peter Alraune and his daughter Marlene. When Bushman discovered the wealth stored in the tomb he resolved to take it for himself and started his acquisition by murdering Dr. Alraune and several of the workers. Disgusted by what he saw, Spector challenged Bushman to one on one combat. Bushman defeated Spector leaving him alone to die in the desert. Some of the workers who still worshiped the old Gods found Spector dying of his wounds in the desert and carried him to the feet of the Statue of the Moon God Khonshu. It was here in the temple he had fought and died to protect that Spector’s heart stopped. The God Khonshu appeared to Spector in a vision and told Spector that he would give him another chance if Spector agreed to become his avatar on Earth. Spector agreed. When he woke up, Spector grabbed the cloak that covered the statue and wrapped himself in it declaring himself the Avatar of Khonshu. He then confronted Bushman a second time and was victorious. With Bushman defeated Spector returned to America accompanied by Frenchie and Marlene and the statue of Khonshu from the temple.

He decided to become a crime fighter and created his superhero persona in the image of Khonshu. Donning the moniker of the “Fist of Khonshu” Spector became the Moon’s Knight. He created a silver coloured suit using the cloak that was draped around the statue as his cape and hood.

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When he returned to the U.S.A. Spector invested the money he had acquired over his mercenary career and amassed himself a small fortune. In order to keep up the appearance that he had died in Egypt, Spector crafted the alias Steven Grant millionaire entrepreneur, to help him purchase some high end real estate and infiltrate the upper class. In order to maintain contact with the street level crime he also developed the alias of Jake Lockley New York city cab driver. It was using the Lockley alias that he met allies such as Betrand Crawley, Gena Lander and her two sons.

Spector first appeared in the 1975 comic Werewolf by Night as the villain hunting down the title character for an organization called the Committee. He remained as an occasional villain until in  1976 when he was given his own Marvel Spotlight. In 1978 his origin was retconned so that his first appearance was a cover he used to take down the Committee.

SKILLS + WEAPONS

Marc Spector is just a man. A man who was given a second chance at life (and many subsequent chances) but still just a man. He is a formidable close quarters fighter being a champion level heavy-weight boxer. He is proficient with most firearms and is considered an expert marksman.

There was a brief period where he was bitten by the Werewolf and affected by the Lycanthropy sickness. He was given varying strength and speed powers based on the phases of the moon.

Moon Knight uses a variety of weapons ranging from truncheons, to crescent shaped throwing knives, staves, spiked brass knuckles, and various firearms. He at one point also created an armored version of his costume made out of Adamantium. he also has multiple Moon-copters which he uses during his patrols, and in more current issues a series of autonomous gliders and vehicles.

Moon Knight has also been stated to be the one hero that Taskmaster will not replicate because he would rather take a punch and keep the momentum and offensive, than block and lose his momentum.

DEFINING TRAITS

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One of the biggest things that Moon Knight is famous for is his fractured psyche. Due to his connection to Khonshu and his already unstable mind, Spector suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). This has caused his mind to compartmentalize each of his identities in such a way that he can switch personalities and identities based on whatever the task at hand is. This has gotten him into some hot water over the years with his fellow Avengers, particularly the Pro-Registration faction during the Civil War story line. The sad thing is that Spector doesn’t see anythig as wrong and it’s only his friends and allies who are concerned for him in regards to his mental state, believing he could snap at any moment and become a major liability to the rest of the superhero community.

Apart from his MPD, Moon Knight is also known for wearing white. While his original costume was silver in colour, his more modern and most well known costume is white. Considering that he patrols at night the colour white is an odd, choice but there is a line that he delivers that explains why he wears white and it is as follows.

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Basically I think Moon Knight is a really great character who should get his time in the spotlight. I know that Marvel is planning on expanding the Netflix universe and adding a couple of new heroes and He would make the best addition!

I know this is a short post and looks unmistakably like an underrated Hero post… but i’m honestly just waiting until next week when I can do a review of Thor Ragnarok and all its glory!

Anyways that’s it for this week, see you all next week!

Defenders – The Marvel Team Up We All Needed

*This will be a spoiler free review of the Netflix series, The Defenders*

The first season of Marvel’s Netflix team up, The Defenders, released on Friday. Unlike with most of the other series I was unable to watch it all right away as I was catching up on my Game of Thrones and visiting a good friend. I started by watching the first 5 episodes on Sunday night and I can honestly say that I was blown away by how good the series is. I had a discussion with a good friend of mine, Malcolm, once we had both finished watching the season and we both agreed that Superhero media works best as a season of TV as opposed to big blockbuster films. When you strip away the massive green screen and the exorbitant CGI you are left with a story and characters that don’t really do anything. Let me explain…

 

Let’s take Avengers (2012) the first instance of massive team up for either major comic company in a live action big screen film, it was a great film but was it? I will be the first to tell you that Avengers is amazing and I love it to death but there are definitely some major problems with it. It focuses solely on 2 characters and their growth throughout the film and the rest are there to add diversity and change of pace. It’s not question about it that Loki, Iron Man, and Captain America are the focal points of that movie, even Coulson who’s murder unifies the Avengers is relegated to secondary or tertiary character and plot device. None of the characters grow as people or even as heroes, they do what they always have and that’s it. Age of Ultron is a different story altogether, but that’s for another time. The reason that this happens is not on the fault of the writers solely, it’s the fact that they only have so much time to work with. You can’t have massive character growth and everything else to keep the plot moving in a 2 hour movie. stretch that out over 10 or even 13 hour long episodes and you sure can. Marvel’s Netflix universe has used this idea and ran with it delivering amazing shows since Daredevil first aired in 2015.  Critics didn’t really like Iron Fist, but I have already talked about that in a previous post so I won’t repeat myself.  With that being said, back to the topic of this post, The Defenders.

 

Plot

The story from the season of Defenders is amazing, it works with all the characters and brings their specific traits and quirks into a perfectly melded series. The main story is a little Daredevil and Iron Fist heavy, but that’s understandable when you find out who the main villains are and what they want. Sigourney Weaver is particularly well cast as the main villain Alexandra, with Scott Glenn making an appearance as Stick. The supporting cast are amazing as well, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Claire Temple, Foggy, Karen Paige all make appearances and help to push the story forward.  One thing that I will say as a fan of comics is that I HATE when they mix and match story arcs just to fit. They did this a little bit at the end of the season but for everything else it was a small nit picky thing that really only irked me. The main story revolves around Sigourney Weaver’s character Alexandra and her crusade to bring the city of New York to it’s knees. With only the team of Defenders standing between her and the destruction of the city, the heroes must learn to trust each other before everything they know and love is destroyed.

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Camera Work/ Editing

One of the coolest things that I found when watching the series is that when all the heroes are together they use a standard shot and standard lighting, etc. When each hero ventures off onto their own side quest you get the shooting style of each individual show.  In the first episode when we are introduced to each character as they go about their lives, we are shown 4 distinct filming, editing, and musical styles. The Jessica Jones shots use a much more stark and blue hue to the shots she’s the focal point of along with the patented scene changes involving camera shutters, Luke Cage uses a much warmer and yellow filter to the shots and the trademark psychedelic/funk music played in the background grounds him with his staunch sense of right and wrong. Daredevil/ Matt Murdoch uses a very standard filter but makes sure to pop out the colour of red and black whenever possible, and Iron Fist uses a stark filter which focuses on yellow and green for their colour pops. I really liked the way they blended each individual show’s styles together and moved flawlessly between them. That aspect alone put it far above anything the MCU or even the DCEU has put out thus far.

 

Character Development

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The series starts off where all of the others have left off plus several months. Jessica is trying to blend into the background and not be made a celebrity or what happened with Killgrave. Luke is just being released from Seagate for time served and is coming back to New York. Danny and Colleen have been roaming the world trying to find the central HQ of the Hand and end them, and Matt has given up being Daredevil and focusing on doing pro-bono work. Each member of the team is fighting in their own right against their failings and sins of their past as they forge ahead together on a crusade to save the city. IN my opinion the one who does the most growth is Jessica. She goes from wanting to be a nobody in behind the scenes to accepting that she can be a hero and help people. Danny does a lot of growth himself not just as the Iron Fist but as a person in general. After his debacle of a return in his solo series he is starting to learn the corporate world and the power he wields as one of the most profitable CEOs in the world. There is one scene in particular where Danny flexes his corporate muscle and shows the viewers that he isn’t some naive kid anymore that he is learning to navigate the corporate world and play the Game of Companies (doesn’t have the same ring to it as Game of Thrones…). Most of the development that is shown in this series comes from the relatively lone heroes learning to trust each other and work together as a unit. Let me tell you, in the finale when they start working together and functioning as a singular unit they are unstoppable.

 

Costumes

There isn’t much to say about costumes for this series. The only person who gets a costume that’s different from the one in their solo series is Danny, and even then it’s more just clothing for the appropriate climate where we first find him at the start of the show. The Black Sky does get a pretty awesome suit that is a lot more comic accurate than anything else, but even then it’s not 100% accurate. Matt Murdoch, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones all wear their normal outfits and the Daredevil suit is the same one as in the finale of Season 2.

 

Choreography

The fight choreography impressed me very much. It blended all the styles from previous shows and there are several instances where puns and jokes are made by the team members based on what is going on. One particular instance is when Jessica remarks (after stopping a drone in the employ of the villain) “Am I the only one who doesn’t know karate?!”. The choreography that is displayed is very martial arts centric and focuses mostly on the fighting abilities of Daredevil and Iron Fist. It does seem to be a lot more brutal in the fact that there is less finesse to it than there was in Iron Fist, but the visceral and brutal fighting adds to the credence that these aren’t your typical superheroes that these are people of the streets. Danny also has greatly improved his fighting style and character since the end of Iron Fist. It was not done as a response to fan backlash but as general growth as a fighter and a person. Iron Fist aired roughly around the same time they were filming the final episode of Defenders so there really wasn’t time to address most of the critiques raised about the show. Danny has been fighting with Colleen against the hand for several months so it makes sense that his fighting style and character would progress naturally to the point he was at during the opening of the Defenders.

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Conclusion

The Defenders show is the culmination of the four character seasons that Netflix have released thus far and boy… does it show. They took the best parts of each show and blended them together into the perfect piece. The only gripe that I have against the show as a fan was that they combined comic arcs and made them mash together. I can’t tell you which comic arcs they mashed together without spoiling the finale so I won’t but just know it’s nothing major. The only other kind of issue I have is that it’s only 8 episodes. Every other season that marvel and Netflix have produced is 13 episodes and this one was cut to 8. I understand that the production value is higher with a show like this but come on, at least give us 10 episodes!

My feelings on the number of episodes aside I would highly recommend this show to anyone who is a fan of gritty grounded drama. The Marvel Netflix Universe has crafted itself a dark and visceral identity separate from the MCU and that is what give it the distinction it has. I would rate this series 91/100 and recommend that anyone who is a fan of the Netflix universe binge this immediately!

Moon Knight – Next Logical Step for the Marvel Netflix Universe

With the release of the next installment of the Marvel Netflix series, Defenders, due out in August, I can’t help but ask what their next step should be? Every time I think about it the next step is clear… Moon Knight.

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The Marvel Netflix universe will reach it’s culmination with the release of the Defenders, a show they’ve been building up to since Daredevil first began streaming in 2015. Since that first season we have received a second season of Daredevil as well as individual seasons for each member of the Defenders team.  Daredevil will take the role of Tony Stark in that he will be the driving force behind the team. Luke Cage the righteous street warrior of Harlem will balance him out as the surrogate Captain America. With that being said the title Defenders does have a little bit of a different roster when you look at the Marvel Comics releases.

DEFENDERS

The original Defenders team consisted of Dr. Strange, Namor the Sub Mariner and the Hulk. The team was originally formed to combat a interplanar threat from the Undying Ones. Due to the popularity of the series Marvel Comics continued publishing the series and added Valkyrie to the team to “provide extra texture to the group” as stated by Steve Engleheart (one of the original writers of the series). Throughout their publication history since their first inception in December of 1971, the team has gone through many different incarnations and variations. Most recently the team consisted of Valkyrie, Misty Knight, Danielle Moonstar, and Warrior Woman and adopted the moniker of Fearless Defenders (2013). To coincide with the release of the Netflix series of the Defenders, Marvel Comics revamped the team to consist of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist; this series is due to release in August around the same time as the series comes out on Netflix.

During the Secret Empire series it is unclear what has happened to the Defenders after they were last seen combating villains for what happened at Pleasant Hill, they disappeared after Nitro detonated himself.

Moon Knight

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Moon Knight has been in Marvel publication since he was first introduced in August of 1975 in Werewolf by Night as a villain hired by the Secret Empire (no relatio nto the current Marvel event) to kill the main character in a two issue story arc. Due to the popularity of the character Moon Knight was brought back again in a limited series under the Marvel Spotlight title. By 1978 he was recast as a hero who had masqueraded as a villain in order to infiltrate the Secret Empire and dismantle it from within. he briefly joined the Defenders when they were fighting the Zodiac Cartel but wasn’t given his own solo series until 1980. Since that first series he has gone on to have many different series’ and many different teams of which he is an active member.  As I said before he has been a member of the Defenders, Avengers, Marvel Knights, and even Captain America’s Secret Avengers. His most recent series is written by Jeff Lemire written under the All New, All Different Marvel title card.

Why Moon Knight?

The reason I think that Moon Knight would make a great addition to the Marvel Netflix universe is the tone and content of his comic. Whether you read his classic stories or his more modern tales (Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s run is the best in my opinion), his content always leans towards a more mature audience due to its graphic content.  The character of Moon Knight suffers from MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder) he has 4 distinct personalities: Steven Grant (billionaire fat cat), Marc Spector (ex mercenary and black ops soldier), Jake Lockley (New York cabby), and Khonshu (Egyptian God of the Moon and Revenge). His real personality (as in his identity) is Marc Spector, son of a Rabbi who lied about his age to enlist in the marines. After his extensive career in the marines as well as a CIA black team operative he became a Mercenary where he met his long time ally Henri Duchamp (Frenchie). In a botched raid on  an Egyptian temple Spector had a change of heart and tried to help the prisoners, he was killed by his group’s leader, Raoul Bushman. Spector ended up saving the prisoners but suffering from multiple gunshot wounds in the process. Spector crawled to the feet of the statue of Khonshu and died in the arms of one of the prisoners, Marlene Alraune. Khonshu appeared to Spector in an after death sequence and promised him life he would be his avatar on Earth. Spector agreed and was revived by the God. He donned the mantle of the Moon’s Knight and used his fortune from his years a mercenary to set up in New York City.

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The brutality and the graphic content of his comics would fit right at home in the Marvel Netflix Universe, not to mention his cross overs with the Punisher.

Moon Knight & The Punisher

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At the end of the 2006 run which saw Moon Knight as a card carrying member of the Avengers, hunted by the Thunderbolts, fake his death after killing Carson Knowles; he ran down south and hid out in Mexico. During his exile in Mexico he moonlighted as a bare knuckle boxer to make cash and kept his head down. It wasn’t until a member of the local cartel saw him fight that he was hired by the cartel leader to get his daughter back from the police. He initially agreed until he learned what the daughter was being held for, as state’s witness against her father for his crimes. He allies with the daughter but not before incurring the wrath of the cartel and their hired thugs. He runs into the Punisher who is there to take out the Cartel and they team up for the final assault.

They literally already have a story made that can introduce him into the Netflix universe! At the end of the Punisher series (which we are getting in November of this year) have him run to Mexico to hide out and run into Spector. Have Frank ask him what he’s doing there and just have Spector reply with ” It’s a long story… we’re gonna need more tequila”  BOOM! Moon knight series kicks off with him explaining why he is hiding out in Mexico and every episode is a flashback until the final episode when he decides to head back to New York.

It might just be my own bias because of my love for the character but i cannot stress enough how perfectly Moon Knight would fit into the Marvel Netflix Universe. His dark and gritty stories, not to mention his brutality would fit perfect and it would create for some interesting dynamics amongst the other characters. Daredevil would be appalled whereas Iron Fist would agree that sometimes the only way to stop someone is to kill them.  It could potentially set up their own version of a civil war, not that I’m hoping for that, that would be a stupid idea… or would it?

Marvel Knights – The Failed Productions

With the success of the MCU as a whole, it’s hard to forget that Marvel made some pretty left field choices when they were still a struggling company. From the selling of some of their most major characters ( X-Men to Fox, Spider-Man to Sony, Namor to Universal) they also tried some hit and miss productions, mostly miss.  Daredevil from 2003 was the beginning of the slump for Marvel which lasted until the release of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in 2011. Strangely enough this slump was also during some of their greatest success, which begs to ask… what caused the slump?

The slump was caused by an off shoot subsidiary production company of Marvel titled Marvel Knights. This production card appeared in only 2 marvel films to date Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Punisher: War Zone.  For obvious reasons (critical reception and failure) the Marvel Knights banner was scrapped and the darker heroes that they had focused on were moved to other forms of media. Punisher found success in the Netflix universe being a secondary character in season 2 of Daredevil and receiving his own show later this year, and Ghost Rider moved to Agents of SHIELD and was widely regarded as the best part of the series thus far.

For those unfamiliar with the Marvel Knights, it was actually the name given to the superhero team formed by Daredevil in order to take down and capture the Punisher. At the time of it’s printing the team consisted of: Daredevil, Black Widow, Dagger, Moon Knight (who acted as the Bank Roller for the team), Shang-Chi and Luke Cage. The run didn’t have it’s exclusive title (like Avengers or X-Force), rather each hero on the team had it’s own title with the sub imprint of Marvel Knights. That alone makes it very hard for collectors to get every issue as they never made it to graphic novel form with the exception of the Marvel Knights 2099.

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Let’s look at the two films produced under this banner to get a better idea of why it failed.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

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The first Ghost Rider was produced under the main Marvel studios banner and it wasn’t until they decided to give GR another shot that it was dropped under the Knights production banner. Where to start with why this movie failed… Let’s start with the obvious answer, Nic Cage. Nicholas Cage tends to be hit and miss with his movies (mostly always a miss) and this was no exception. His overacting and butchery of the character are second to only Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (in case you haven’t noticed I really don’t like that casting). The story also falls pretty flat on itself by trying to incorporate too much into the film all at once. Rather than focusing on the redemption of GR they brought in Danny Ketch (who takes over the mantle of GR when Johnny Blaze dies) as the son of “Satan” really Mephisto, but they call him Rourke in the movie? Not only that, but they brought in the whole fallen angel aspect to the Zarathos mythos as well as Blackout being a poor two bit villain that lasted all of 20 minutes. I will say this, apart from the weird idea to have him piss as a flamethrower? the CGI for Ghost Rider was pretty spot on. They did away with the horrible CGI skull and flames from the first movie and gave him a much more burned and charred look which I think works better for the character. He is supposed to be a fiery demon from hell after all. If he can melt metal with his hands it would make sense that his clothing gets a little charred when he changes. The scene where he takes control of the massive digger in the mine and turns it into a hell machine is also just badass no matter who you are. They also really brought in the fact that Ghost Rider is pretty much indestructible. He takes a javelin rocket right on and keeps coming, he swallows an entire magazine of bullets and then spits them back out and demolishes an entire crew, and those are just a couple of the badass things he can do. Regardless of how much I love the character, I can recognize that both Ghost Rider 1 & 2 are horrible movies, but I will continue to love them none the less.

Punicher: War Zone

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For anyone who saw the 2004 Punisher film starring John Travolta and Thomas Jane this movie felt like a knife to the back. In the 4 years it took between this one and the previous movie the production was plagued with problems. From script re-writes to the star (Thomas Jane) walking off the set and tearing his contract up 3 weeks into shooting, to directorial issue the movie was doomed to fail from the start. Once Jane had walked off the set the casting team scrambled to find someone who could replace him as Frank Castle, enter Ray Stevenson. Now for the record Stevenson did a great job with what he was given to work with. When the studio got a new actor to play Castle, they treated the entire production as a soft reboot and went back to the original comic roots for his origin. While I did like the updated massacre they used in the 2004 movie, the comic roots are still the best when trying to adapt any movie. The story alone was ridiculous at best and sometimes brought in outrageous elements just for shock value (Looney Bin Jim ripping out the orderly’s kidneys and eating them while he was still alive?). Dominic West was another actor who did well with what he was given. He played the main villain mob boss Billy Russo who later after a run in with Castle gets disfigured and takes on the moniker of Jigsaw. The supporting cast was great and offered some comic relief when sought. The main problem with this film was the stagnant plot until the last 20 minutes of the movie for the final assault. I will say that the final assault conducted by Castle is still one o the best action sequences I’ve seen in any comic book movie.  In addition to the stagnant plot and the gratuitous violence comes the gore. You can still make a badass movie without throwing in ridiculous amounts of gore, the 2004 movie is a prime example. The main problem for this movie’s success was all these factors combined gave it a solid R/18A rating making it impossible for most of the population to view it.

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So following the release of the Spirit of Vengeance, Marvel Studios scrapped the Knights banner and absorbed all that property to be used at a later date (see Netflix Marvel Universe). The one character from the Knights that I’m holding out on getting his own solo series is Moon Knight. As one of my all time favourite characters, his brutality and narrative would be at home in the Netflix universe and would compliment the other characters in that medium very well. I won’t hold my breathe though, Marvel doesn’t like to take risks when it comes to not so well known characters.

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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.

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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

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.