Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

Critique by Mat Festa

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matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

Castor and Pollux are two friends with conflicting taste in movies. Castor loves mainstream fare while Pollux prefers pretentious art films. A quirky miss matched roommates sitcom is in the works.

BATMAN BEGINS (2005)

CASTOR&POLLUX: Wow!

POLLUX: That was amazing. I had no idea what to expect when I heard Nolan was making a Batman movie but that was excellent. The level of depth and complexity in the character development, the intricate layout to the structure – going back and fourth through time to show his growth as a person and evolution into becoming Batman simultaneously, and what a cast! Neeson, Watanabe, Oldman, Murphy, and Bale was as pleasant a surprise as Nolan.

CASTOR: I know! And the Joker is going to be in the next one! I’m so excited. I mean this one wasn’t perfect-

P: Yeah, the camera was too close and shaky during some of the fight sequences, but that’s an endemic problem for action movies these days. And that scene where Batman’s holding the guy upside down and threatening him getting a little over the top. Look, we know you’re Batman and you’re hardcore. You don’t need to growl at people. Meh, I’m sure they won’t do that in the next one.

C: What? I was talking about calling him Ra’s al Ghul. It’s pronounced “Raysh.” “RAYSH!”

P: Well, “ra’s al ghul” is Arabic for “the demon’s head” and “rass,” the way they say it in the movie is the Arabic pronunciation and the character was an Arab in the comics so… hey, come to think of it why do they have a Japanese guy in Tibet with an Arabic name?

C: The animated series called him “Raysh.” Dennis O’neil created the character and he pronounces it “Raysh!”

P: Whatever, we’re nitpicking. This was a great film. I can’t wait to see what they do with the next one.

C: Oh man it’s going to be so great!

[Three years of nerdly fawning, discussion, and praise ensue, and then….]

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

C: Holy sh-

P: Yeah, that was okay.

[Castor glares daggers at Pollux.]

P: …what?

C: This was incredible! It was mind blowing! So much better than Batman Begins. It was one of the best sequels, best movies ever! What could you possibly complain about?!

P: Whoa, ease up there, fanboy. It was a good action movie. It had the same sort of atmosphere of Batman Begins that I loved but the whole movie was paced and edited like an action sequence. Any sort of emotional impact that some of the scenes could have had just get glossed over because it races from one scene to the next. Not to mention all the weird little things that just didn’t make any sense.

C: Oh come on! This was so incredibly written. What didn’t make sense?

P: Okay, how about the fact that Alfred is the prim and proper English butler who has served the Wayne family for generations except for the summer he took off to be a mercenary in Burma?

C: You’re just looking for things to complain about. You can’t deny the amazing performance Ledger gave as the Joker.

P: Oh yeah, he was the saving grace for a lot of the movie. I love how of all the people to play the Joker over the years they’ve each had such a completely unique take on the character. …huh, look Heath Ledger died. That’s a pity.

C: He died? …THIS WAS THE GREATEST MOVIE VILLAIN THAT EVER WAS OR EVER WILL BE!

P: Speaking of villains why was so much of the movie spent on how Batman won’t go all the way and kill the Joker if it comes down to that – the Joker who has murdered who knows how many people, blown up buildings, and been terrorizing the entire city – but he murders Two Face without a second thought?

C: He was pointing a gun at Gordon’s kids!

P: So he couldn’t push the boy out of the way? Or knock the gun out of his hand like he does to criminals all the time? Or just jump in front of the kid since he’s wearing body armor that already stopped a bullet when Two Face was aiming right at him? Come to think of it why was Dent only Two Face for the last 20 minutes of the movie?

C: You’re the one always harping on about the importance of character development. They had to establish who he was to show his tragic descent into becoming Two Face.

P: Yeah, they keep going on and on about how perfect and valiant he is. That he can clean up Gotham and do a better job of fighting crime than Batman without having to be a vigilante. (And we always say “face” twice when talking about him and calling him the “white knight” because Batman is the “dark knight.” Aren’t we a clever little movie.) Then his girlfriend dies so he decides to become a mass murderer?

C: But there was just so much more to this one. May the Movie Gods forgive me for uttering this horribly overused word, but it was EPIC! Batman Begins never had any jaw dropping moments like the truck flipping scene.

P: What was up with that, anyway? Batman hooks a cable onto the front of the truck, drives under it, sprays it with his trusty Bat-Anti-Physics spray and it magically flips over head first.

C: Come on, that was incredible! You can’t tell me you weren’t shocked when you saw that.

P: Yeah I was. Shocked. Surprised. Confused. He didn’t even attach the other end of the cable to anything. I thought Nolan’s whole thing with his take on Batman was “realism.”

C: It was awesome!

P: But it didn’t make any sense! So if in the next movie Batman tosses a stick at the Riddler and his head comes flying off like he whacked him with a broadsword you’ll start cheering in the theater?

C: …Yes.

P: Okay, that would actually be kind of neat, but you know what I mean. Anyway, all I’m saying is that this wasn’t as good a film as Batman Begins. It was an okay action flick with a great antagonist but that’s about it. Oh, but you want to know something else that really bothered me about this one?

C: Not really.

P: Here’s a hint.  **ahem** …WHERE ARE THEY?!!

C: Gah! Don’t do that!

[Four years of ridiculing Christian Bale’s vocal cords, and then….]

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

P: Well that was a steamy pile of-

C: THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE!

P: **Defeated sigh** You’re kidding me, right?

C: This was beyond fantastic! Genre transcending!

P: Holy plot holes, Batman. Where should I even start?

C: How about with how you insist on over analyzing everything and can’t just enjoy a movie?

P: If you want to start on a positive note then it is impressive that Nolan managed to make a movie even worse than Inception. Had to be really embarrassing for Caine, Hardy, Gordon-Levitt, Murphy, and Cotillard though. Sort of like bumping into someone you know at the VD clinic.

C: What are you talking about? The cast was remarkable! Bane was such a powerful chilling villain.

P: You mean the guy who sounded like he was doing a Prof. Farnsworth impression with a bucket on his head? “Wif no shurwivors!!” What’s so intimidating about a villain who talks like a kitten poster?

C: Bane was the apex, what all of this was leading to. RAYSH al Ghul was the beginning, the ideals which Wayne opposed, everything the lead him to becoming Batman. Then the Joker was the embodiment of chaos, all the madness that was inevitable once someone like the Batman came into being. Now Bane is Batman’s only equal, the strength, cunning, planning, everything that Batman is turned against him!

P: You know who Batman’s most dangerous enemy is? A therapist. One good session of grief counseling and his entire reason to exist will vanish.

C: Bane was the mastermind behind all of this!

P: Right, and remind me what his plan is again.

C: He was finishing what the League of Shadows started in the first movie!

P: Don’t they open the film by saying that all the crime, mob activity, and corruption that was the whole reason they wanted to destroy Gotham is gone? And seriously, what was his plan? First he isolates Gotham, which he can do because apparently Gotham is an island now.

C: They set that up in the first movie!

P: Right, “the narrows,” which they established was the small crime riddled slum that Batman was trying to clean up. Now the entire city – banks, mansions, football stadium, hospitals, everything – is all on that island. Anyway, so he cuts off the city from the rest of the world, makes Bruce Wayne go broke for some reason, releases all the criminals from prison except the Joker who apparently doesn’t exist now-

C: Are you so determined to not like a fun movie that you’re going to attack Nolan’s leaving out mention of the Joker out of respect to Ledger?

P: How is that respectful? This is a mentality that’s become more and more prevalent in recent years. It started with 9/11 after which the media started removing the twin towers from everything. It’d be like if when you were in your 40’s your parents died so you start saying you grew up an orphan. And on the subject of orphans, Robin knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman because the first time he saw Wayne – a man whom he already knew grew up without parents – he could see by looking in his eyes that he grew up without parents? Was this something like the last Harry Potter movies where the screenwriters went out, got drunk, left the script under a table in the bar and had to rewrite the entire movie at the last minute?

C: Want to get back to Bane now, Captain Tangent, or would you like to keep taunting orphans and 9/11 victims?

P: Right, so Bane releases all the criminals that the League of Shadows wanted to get rid of in the first place, arms them with assault rifles, and lets them terrorize the city so he can blow it all up (himself, the woman he loves, and all his henchmen included) with a nuke. Your master tactician hard at work.

C: It was to torture him! He wanted Batman to suffer seeing everything he worked for tear itself apart. That’s why he had him watch the TV in prison.

P: Yes, the “hell on Earth” prison in Fakeistan so mysterious it’s existence is only a legend but sits so close to a city you’d be able to see in the windows of the buildings the second Wayne climbs out of it. Considerate of Bane to put him in a prison with a personal physician and its own built in escape route by the way. At least all the prison scenes gave us another 50 chances to hear the “ketchup ketchup fish fish” chanting because the 90 times prior to that weren’t nearly enough. You know how Zimmer only used the “Batman theme” in Dark Knight twice because he said he didn’t want to have a catchy tune people would leave the theater humming? So glad he changed his mind on that because hearing “KETCHUP KETCHUP FISH FISH” every time Bane came on screen never got annoying at all.

C: THEY WERE NOT SAYING KETCHUP FISH!!

P: And where did Bane get these legions of devout adoring followers? All his brilliant plans just amount to blowing stuff up and his masterful combat skills consist of swinging his arms around like an eight-year-old throwing a dodge ball. But enough about Bane. Let’s talk Catwoman.

C: I am so glad Hathaway didn’t ruin the movie. Man was I worried when she was cast.

P: She gave what would have been the one interesting performance in the whole movie. Would have been nice if there was any point to have her in it. Another wonderful filmmaking innovation from Nolan in recent years: never show with one scene what you could say with long protracted speeches and half a dozen extra characters. It gets so needlessly convoluted that almost every scene she’s in the bulk of the time is spent with other characters rambling off justifications for her to even be there. If they’d just given her a prominent role and let her have the breathing room to act I think it would have been just as memorable performance as Ledger’s Joker. …even thought the writers thought so little of the character that she’s the only person in the whole movie dim enough to not know Wayne is Batman. Come to think of it did they ever even refer to her as “Catwoman?”

C: Get over it. What, are you going to complain that they called it “the Bat” instead of “the Batwing” too?

P: Actually-

C: Dude.

P: Fine, you want to stick to story points? How about the fact that the entire second and third acts of Dark Knight were devoted to trying to find out who Batman really was but in Dark Knight Rises everyone already knows and doesn’t seem to care.

C: Not everyone knew.

P: Gordon, Robin, Bane, Talia/Miranda, but you’re right not everyone knew. All the people who had it handed to them on a silver platter like Catwoman and the police whose job it’s been for the past eight years to figure it out would have had an easier time solving a Rubik’s Cube with oven mitts on.

C: Why do you have to pick everything apart? If you want to overanalyze every last shot of a movie go watch a von Trier film or something. It’s just a simple fun action movie. What’s so wrong with that?

P: There isn’t anything wrong with just pure entertainment flicks but Nolan’s whole intent with Batman, which he carried out so beautifully in the first film, was delving into a truly realistic depiction of a concept as operatic as a superhero, an idea which the Batman title is perfectly suited for. Now everything is goofy, implausible, ridiculously over the top as ever but it still maintains the pretention of being “realistic.” Except now in place of sincere and well-developed characters and plausibility we get Bush quotes and pseudo-political ramblings. It’s like all the 9/11 references in Transformers 3 or the abortion talk in Twilight; as if shoehorning in pathetically trivialized versions of actual social issues will somehow legitimize works that are so inherently silly.

C: What was so ridiculous about this movie?

P: Bane, someone who was so horribly beaten and poorly healed that he needs to be constantly fed painkillers through a facemask, punching through cement walls. One man dangling a string through a sewer grate providing enough food, water, shaving supplies, and laundry detergent to supply hundreds of people trapped underground for months. Gordon being bedridden and hospitalized for months because he fell in the sewer but then getting up and being perfectly fine when it’s narratively convenient. Batman harping on and on about how he won’t take anyone’s life when he’s already killed dozens of people-

C: ONE! One person. He killed Two Face to save Gordon’s kid.

P: Yeah, Two Face, Ra’s al Ghul-

C: He didn’t kill al Ghul. He just left him on the train and-

P: PASSIVE GUILT! Jigoku!

C: Stick to movies more than five people have seen, please.

P: As I was saying: he’s killed Dent, al Ghul, Watanabe, and all the people trapped in al Ghul/Watanabe’s house when he burned it down. Plus no one seems to care about the murders of the police that he took the blame for to protect Dent’s memory, which was the whole point of the finale of Dark Knight. Everyone thinks he’s just taking the blame for murdering Dent. Of course he’s taking the blame for that! He threw him out a window!

C: Look, the simple fact of the matter is that this was an action movie and provided exactly what action movies should: ACTION! It was fast, exciting, and just fun, and – brace your pretentious brain for this one – that’s what most people go to the movies for! They don’t want to spend their little free time on the weekend away from their tiring, frustrating jobs going to see some depressing drek that you need a masters in ancient literature to understand.

P: And there is nothing wrong with that. But if you want to call something “pretentious” aim it at a silly action flick with more plot holes and goofy characters than a fourteen-year-old’s fan fiction that forces in speeches about morality and politics every third scene, and still claims to be a paragon of “realism” when a billionaire who dresses like a rodent gets into screaming matches with a body builder wearing vacuum cleaner spare parts on his face.

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Mat Festa

matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

For the month of July only if you follow my work on Facebook or Twitter you will receive an ebook of Miséréri Nobis, my first graphic novel (a 238 page book) free. All you have to do is ‘like’ or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, email me at matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com, and I will send you the link to download the book.

Follow my work on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

Mat Festa

matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

Follow my work on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

Ladies and gentlemen, my dears and darlings, I have heard your cries and they shall not go unanswered. So great is your craving for comics outside of the mainstream industries superhero obsession that I can deprive you no longer. For the entire month of July every new ‘like’ of my work on Facebook or ‘follow’ on Twitter will receive Miséréri Nobis – my first book, a 238 page graphic novel – completely free. All you have to do is go to Facebook here or Twitter here, ‘like’ or ‘follow’ respectively, message me your email and I will send you the link to download the book. That’s it.

Miséréri Nobis is a dark and expressionistic story about Mary, a single mother searching for her abducted daughter and all the people whose lives end up intertwining with hers on her journey. Most similar in style and mood to the early Silent Hill video games the story gradually grows more surreal as it goes along. The world begins to reflect the fears, doubts, and insecurities of each of the characters until by the end they are virtually walking through their own dreams and nightmares.

“The darkest shadows of self-judgment and loss are explored in this extremely atmospheric blend of Kafka-esque eccentricity and psychological Lovecraftian horror.” – Dave Baxter of Brokenfrontier.com Read his entire review here. [Note: he lists the book as being 232 pages, which at the time was accurate, but what you are being given here is the second edition of the book which includes an extensive notes section. This gives you a running commentary that offers insight into the nuances of the story as well as a behind the scenes look at the production of the book.]

Again, all you have to do is:

  1. Go to FACEBOOK or TWITTER and ‘like’ or ‘follow.’ [Note: of the two Facebook is updated the most frequently and is where you will see the most new work.]
  2. Email me at matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com
  3. I’ll email you the link to download the book.

That’s it. The entire book is yours FREE, but during JULY ONLY! Take advantage of this now or live a life of regret.

Mat Festa, matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

Look for more of this nonsense on Twitter, Facebook, and Tiamat’s Garden.

The Avengers

An Honest Critique of an Awful Film and What We Can Learn From It

[Note: this is a critique, not a review of the Avengers movie. If you have not seen it and are not already familiar with the characters therein then much of this will not make sense.]

The immediate difficulty that crops up when attempting to critique a movie like The Avengers is that there is extraordinarily little which can be said of it that does not also apply to innumerable other films. This in a sense is the problem in a nutshell; because of its phenomenal and inexplicable financial success and popularity The Avengers has typified a collection of failings that have become increasingly pervasive in cinema.

The simplest place to begin is with the characters and plot, or more specifically the complete lack there of. One of the most frequent bits of praise I heard from people regarding the characters in the film is that since they all had had previous movies devoted to their origin and exposition this once could be devoted entirely to the interplay between them. In principle this is a wonderful idea, and considering the enormous cast of characters Marvel has to work with – and indeed needs for the Avengers title/franchise – it is a practical, albeit mind-bogglingly expensive approach. What made it to the screen however is a far cry from this. The banter between the characters that I was told repeatedly was hilarious and clever amounted to little more than making moderately snarky and childish jabs at one another. The character’s individuality is only costume deep. Virtually any of the lines of dialogue could be switched randomly around and said by any other character and they would make an equal amount of sense, which admittedly is little at the best of times. For a movie with a larger principle cast than most TV shows there is not depth or sense of personality to any of the characters. This is most disheartening in the case of Captain America.

While I grew up reading Marvel comics Captain America was never a character that held any interest for me. The 2011 film however was to my immense surprise and delight incredible. The protagonist and all the supporting characters were thoroughly developed with true arcs of growth, the plot was well written, paced, structured, and never broke its own internal logic, and was in all other ways a well made and thoroughly entertaining 50’s era pulp-style action adventure movie. Not without its flaws by any means – the largest of which being the jarringly abrupt ending – but I would easily place it alongside X-Men (2000), Daredevil (2003), The Punisher (2004), and Batman Begins (2005) as one of the best made superhero comic adaptations.

In Avengers on the other hand the only character to go through even a modicum of change would be Tony Stark/Ironman. That being that he imperils his own life in order to save others in the climax, which was painfully predictable the moment Captain America said that it was something he would never do roughly halfway through the movie. In essence relearning the same paper-thin lesson from his own equally abysmal 2008 film.

All the failings in character development combined don’t come close to equaling those of the plot. The story, much like the dialogue, alternates between being predictable and completely nonsensical. Listing all of the absurdities that occur throughout the movie would amount to a small novel in its own right but here are a few of my favorites:

  • The Tesseract (Cosmic Cube in the comics) is an ultimate weapon capable of anything and a source of infinite power but needs a separate item (lump of mineral) to actually be used and a separate power source to be activated.
  • The ‘secret’ Bruce Banner has for preventing his transformation into the Hulk which he alludes to numerous times throughout the movie is that he is ‘angry all the time.’ After saying which he transforms at will and joins the long tedious final action sequence. During that battle he is seemingly completely aware of his surroundings, recognizes everyone, and is in total control of himself and his abilities. Ridiculous as this reasoning may be – along the same lines of saying you avoid all infections by rubbing dirt and mold into the wound anytime you get a cut – it would be almost moderately acceptable if it was at least consistent throughout the movie. However it was already contradicted by the only other time he changed into the Hulk earlier in the movie; in which falling to the ground apparently made him uncontrollably angry, transformed into the Hulk, and behaved as the savage beast totally oblivious to his surroundings and the identities of everyone therein.
  • The emergency fail-safe plan to kill the virtually indestructible Hulk if need be (and later the God Loki) is to drop him out of a plane.
  • Loki’s first action toward taking over the world is to blow up a car and yell at everyone standing around him to kneel. No actual explanation for his trying to take over the world – nor for the Skrull/Chitauri wanting to wage war on every world – is ever given.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first plan to find the Tesseract is to tap phone and CCTV transmissions; which in all fairness would have worked had Loki called his friends to brag about having stolen it or turned it into a gaudy Flavor Flav style necklace and worn it while walking past an ATM.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second plan to find the Tesseract comes from Banner, an expert on gamma radiation whom they brought on because the Tesseract emits gamma radiation and whose brilliant advice is to check for gamma radiation.
  • Loki wants to kill the Avengers (a group which no one knows of because it did not exist before his coming to Earth) in a public spectacle because seeing this humanity would then allow him to take over the world. His first attempt at doing so is by attacking them on the top secret camouflaged airship while it floats in the middle of nowhere.
  • By far the most morally and intellectually insulting part of the entire movie is that the act which convinces all the petulant bickering heroes to finally work together as a team is the death of Phil, a single S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was virtually anonymous save for his obsequiousness. Bearing in mind that several scenes earlier they made the point of saying Loki had already slaughtered 80 innocent people, and dozens of others were presumably killed in the subsequent large action sequences including the one in which Phil died.

Picking the plot to pieces could go on endlessly – what is listed above are roughly a tenth of the notes I took while watching – but they are all only symptoms of the larger problem. The main issue from which all the other flaws stem, the problem that has been rampant among “big budget” films and has only grown worse over the years is the overwhelming superficiality of it all. Time and again when I would bring up these or any of the other problems with the movie to those praised it – more than one going so far as to call it the greatest superhero film ever made – I would be met with replies all along the lines of ‘it doesn’t matter,’ ‘the plot/characters/writing/etc aren’t important,’ and ‘I don’t care.’ What it ultimately boiled down to is fan service. In the broader sense beyond just the Avengers/superheroes this is cinema as spectacle. Other recent offenders on this scale being the Transformers trilogy and James Cameron’s Avatar. – In fact after two viewings and a good deal of time devoted to pondering the matter the only difference I could think of between Avengers and any of the three Transformers movies is that the individual characters in Avengers are visually easier to pick out in the action sequences, and that is only due to the more or less keeping with the traditional character designs from the comics (all except of course the Skrulls/Chitauri who were reduced to moderately shiny dirt colored nonsense). – If you take this argument though, that appearance without any substance is all that matters, and apply it to other media the ridiculousness of it rapidly becomes apparent. ‘What does it matter that the novel is just 300 pages of random words? This typeface is beautiful!’ ‘I don’t care that she’s singing Mien Kampf, her voice is gorgeous! Who listens to lyrics anyway?’ The only instance in which this line of though seems to hold any validity is, oddly enough, pornography. In which there is only one specific intent that comes literally to the exclusion of all else.

I have been frequently told that I take movies too seriously and that I am expecting too much from “just an action movie,” but film is an art. Simply because a movie is of a particular genre doesn’t mean it can and should be lacking all substance. Action films can be intellectual (Body of Lies, Syriana, Children of Men), poignant (Blood Diamond), philosophical (The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell, Innocence), even spiritual (Kingdom of Heaven). They can have richly developed characters and stories (Collateral, Tombstone, Fearless, Hero, The Warlords), and even those that are just silly and fun can be beautifully well written (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Kung-Fu Hustle, Brotherhood of the Wolf). If you are content with the superficial works than there is an enormous volume out there to satisfy you, but do not think that that is what defines the genre nor that it is the measure by which films are to be judged.

Please direct all hate mail to matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

Or harass me on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

As the endless dance of the seasons waltzes once more into the months of summer the first thought to return is invariably the same. …Holy flerking schiznit it’s hot! Or at least it was when it came time to do this weeks cartoon. I can’t speak for the rest of you but personally when it gets to those days where you curse the sun’s very existence with a venomous passion all I want to do is nothing. Absolute uninterrupted nothing. In the spirit of said seasonal lethargy here is yet another Rejected Sport.

If you ever find yourself overcome by your own boredom and wish to murder it in the traditional manner of piddling away time on the interweb be sure to check out my art on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

This is what happens when you cartoon while hungry.

Further comfort food available on Facebook, light snacks on Twitter, and the main course on Tiamat’s Garden.

Marvel’s The Avengers Review

I went to see this highly anticipated summer blockbuster movie on opening weekend with incredibly high expectations. I’m no comic book geek, but I’ve always favored the cast of Marvel characters (Captain America, Iron Man, Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk) over the DC brand (Batman, Aquaman and Superman). To prequel this movie, Marvel made numerous others as a lead-in over a period of a few years. They all led into The Avengers and usually, when something is this hyped and anticipated, disappointment is inevitable. Believe me, this movie actually exceeded expectations and was in no way, shape or form a let-down.

The movie opens with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), head of S.H.I.E.L.D. arriving at a secret facility that houses the Tesseract, the mysterious energy source last seen being lost at sea in “Captain America, the First Avenger”. The facility is in full evacuation mode as the Tesseract has somehow activated itself and is causing some serious concerns on-site. As it happens, demigod Loki (Tom Hiddelston in an amazing performance) opens a space portal and enters the facility, kills a shitload of people, steals the Tesseract and uses his awesomely badass scepter to put Agent Clint Barton a.k.a Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and top scientist Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) under a mind-control spell. They make a dramatic escape and leave the facility in ruins, with Fury desperate to recover the Tesseract and righteously uber-pissed.

The super-secret and defunct Avengers Initiative is dusted off and re-instated. Black Widow (the deliciously black leather-clad Scarlett Johansson) is contacted first and extracts herself from a situation that is right out of a James Bond scenario. It’s badass as all hell and very intense. It’s also a preview of the next two hours’ worth of intensity. She is sent to Calcutta to enlist the in-hiding Dr. Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Incredible Hulk (played with incredibly under-stated sarcasm and intelligence by Mark Ruffalo). Banner has not had a Hulking-out incident in over a year and seems to be able to control himself. Don’t get used to the un-Hulked Banner because he’s got some serious face time coming.

Genius billionaire playboy Tony Stark a.k.a Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr in a tour-de-force performance) and his lady squeeze Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) are in Stark Tower, located in lovely downtown Manhattan, quibbling good-naturedly like a couple of kids and are interrupted by Agent Phil Coulson who fills them in on the situation and gives Stark Selvig’s research in hopes of getting him to join up. Stark rebuffs the advance as he was initially rejected for the Avengers Initiative as his psychological profile doesn’t fit the mold. Stark realizes the seriousness of the situation and quickly agrees to help out with a push from Potts. What kind of Avengers initiative would it be without Iron Man anyway?

Fury himself recruits Captain America (Chris Evans) for the team. Cap is at loose ends after being thawed out after 70 years of being frozen in the Arctic or wherever it was. Bottom line on that….it was fucking cold. Anyway, Cap is still adjusting to life in the present and is an outsider for the most part, looking for his niche in today’s world. He quickly agrees to join The Avengers as he’s a true patriot. Captain America has always been my favorite superhero and Evans plays him exactly like I envisioned. He’s who I want to be when I grow up.

Loki has a plan to rule the Earth and needs the Tesseract to aid his cause. The Other, a super badguy from another race in outer space (hey, that rhymes!!) promises Loki an army of space assholes called the Chitauri to help him conquer the human race in exchange for the Tesseract. Talk about a dick move. Can’t do his own dirty work so he enlists a batshit crazy demigod to do it for him.

Loki is located by some sweet facial recognition software in Stuttgart, Germany by S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s simply there to cause a distraction so Barton can steal iridium, which is needed to stabilize the Tesseract’s powers. Quickly captured by Cap, Iron Man and Black Widow, Loki is abducted by his half-brother Thor (the side of beef named Chris Hemsworth). Thor attempts to figure out Loki’s plan and is quickly engaged in battle by both Cap and Iron Man. As they beat the ever-loving shit out of each other and lay waste to what was probably a protected forest area, they settle down after the testosterone levels go down and take Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s awesome flying aircraft carrier and imprison him in a cage-thing made to hold the Hulk.

As The Avengers bicker and talk shit to each other for a while (the interplay amongst The Avengers is often hilarious), they realize the Tesseract was being used as the basis for some superweapons by S.H.I.E.L.D. (I’m getting sick of typing that) and they disagree about what to do about their situation. As this is going on, the still-controlled Hawkeye and others controlled by Loki invade the carrier and blow up a big part of it, and manage to piss Banner off enough that he Hulks out and rips apart even more of the ship. Then a bunch of fun shit happens….Loki escapes but tricks Thor into the prison cell and ejects it from the ship in hopes of killing him, Hulk falls out of the ship and crashes to Earth, Black Widow knocks Hawkeye out and breaks the mind-control mastery, and Iron Man and Cap realize that Loki has a grander plan in mind.

Loki’s plan is to use the Tesseract in a device that Selvig has built on top of Stark Tower to open a giant portal in the sky (protected by the energy from the Tesseract) and unleash that army of space assholes to begin the conquering of Earth. As the Chitauri flow in, (some foot soldiers, some riding alien sleds with sweet laser weapons and these bigass monster-things that fly/glide like nothing you can believe encased in armor) the Avengers reassemble in Manhattan to engage in an epic battle for supremacy of both Earth and who can make the biggest swath of destruction while battling the invasion. I gotta think Hulk won that honor. For the record, this is where the Hulk absolutely STEALS the movie with two laugh-out-loud scenes. The Hulk subdues Loki in one of them. If I had a DVR button at the movie, I would have rewound that scene 5 or 6 times. It was that great.

As the battle rages, the jerkoffs who run S.H.I.E.L.D. ignore Fury’s confidence in The Avengers to win the battle (they have figured out a way to close the portal using Loki’s phallic scepter) and unleash a fighter jet who blasts a nuke at Manhattan to end the battle their way. This was even a bigger dick move than when The Other got Loki to grab the Tesseract for him. At least The Other is just a space alien asshole….these are humans who have to live on Earth. Iron Man leaves the battle to intercept the nuke and using the last bit of his suit’s energy, guides it through the portal where it explodes all over the alien mothership and renders the invading aliens as useless as mint-flavored suppositories. The depleted Iron Man falls back through the portal, plummeting to a certain future as scrap metal, but is saved by the Hulk. Finally, all is well. Well, except for Manhattan, what with all the dead aliens of various sizes littering the streets and the damage to all the buildings that are going to keep building contractors in NYC busy for decades. Thor takes Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard for Loki to be held accountable for his actions. Sucks for him.

The Avengers go their separate ways. Opinion is divided amongst the people of Earth as to the good The Avengers have done. The clueless jerkoff faction whine and bitch about the damage done in saving their worthless asses from being ruled by an Asgardian demigod who has a real attitude problem. Some gratitude. The other faction revel in the success of The Avengers and feel safe that they are protected by them from the inevitable problems on the horizon. These people have a damned clue about what happened.

There are two post-credit scenes to stick around for as well. These are a staple of Marvel movies these days and are worth the wait. Besides, the lines for the bathrooms thin out a bit if you wait for the lights to come up. At around 2 hours and 20 minutes, you’ll need to take a whiz when it’s done, believe me, especially if you down a 32 oz Dt. Mt. Dew on the way to see it.

Four stars aren’t enough for this flick. I give it eleventy billion stars and a cherry on top. I’m going to see it again and quite possibly will squeeze in a 3-D viewing as well. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a movie this much. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the superhero genre, the performances and computer-generated stuff (THE HULK!!) are worth the price of admission. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

What are the warning signs that you have begun crossing over from the real of ‘artist’ into ‘obsessive compulsive lunatic’ territory? The symptoms can be subtle at first. One clear indicator is that you spend hours meticulously illustrating and arranging individual specks of glitter with an end result that differs little if at all from what could have been accomplished in a few minutes with the simplest of brush techniques.

Look for further updates on my gradual descent into madness on Facebook, Twitter, and Tiamat’s Garden.

Matfesta@tiamatsgarden.com

That is right my dear friends, convention season is upon us once again. My first show appearance this summer is this weekend (Friday 8/13 – Sunday 8/15) at C2E2. Yes, my devoted and passionate followers of my work (all three of you) this weekend you and all other lovers of comics, art, anime, movies, and so forth can come out and enjoy this young but impressive comic convention. I will be in the Artist’s Alley section – table G8 – alongside professional madman Jon Michael Lennon. Jon will be showing off his newest comic anthology Product of Society #5, in which my most recent comic poem Forgiveness appears. I’ll also have all three of my previous graphic novels – Miséréri Nobis, Passage, and A Drifter Midnight – as well as a plethora of art for your eager eyes, hands, and minds to explore.

C2E2 is being held in the North Building of McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Friday 8/13 1pm – 7pm; Saturday 8/14 10am – 7pm; and Sunday 8/15 10am – 5pm.

Also, please keep in mind that any person who should read this and NOT attend C2E2 will be considered both clinically insane, a horrible person, and be labeled as a co-conspirator in the Lizard People’s plot to overthrow humanity and pillage the Earth.

Follow me on Twitter @Mat_Festa

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