Marvel style shared universe still in the cards for Warners: CEO

by Joshua Starnes, CMRO Editor

In a lengthy profile in the New York Times today, Warner Bros. head Kevin Tsujihara made it clear that the studio is still planning on following the Marvel Studios shared cinematic universe road map made famous by the success of AVENGERS, even if they are taking baby steps in that direction.

While much of that focus remains on television — with the article highlighting the ARROW spinoff, FLASH, and the upcoming Batman prequel GOTHAM — it also notes that Tsujihara is committed to creating a slate of interconnected comic films to mimic the success of Marvel Studios, focused around the relaunched MAN OF STEEL franchise and definitely including a JUSTICE LEAGUE film, with specifics expected to be announced soon. As Bleeding Cool notes, Comic Con is only a few months a way and some sort of major WB statement should be expected, to follow up on the announcement of SUPERMAN VS. BATMAN last year.

None of which erases the fact that Warners continues to be extremely slow and cautious about utilizing its comic assets, and with reason as the few tries they have made beyond SUPERMAN and BATMAN franchises have resulted in massive box office flops (see CATWOMAN and GREEN LANTERN for more detail).  Even with tremendous pressure following the success of AVENGERS in 2012 the studio has continued to take baby steps in the superhero arena, replacing a JUSTICE LEAGUE film planned for 2015 with the aforementioned SUPERMAN/BATMAN film which has since been moved to 2016 and currently has no release date following the studios decision not to try and release the film on the first weekend in May, concurrent with Marvel’s planned release of CAPTAIN AMERICA 3.

It’s a strange situation for a studio which, according to the article, had the highest box office gross of any other major studio in 2013 ($5.04 billion) and is willing to put 8 films out this summer, the most of any major studio.

However small the steps may be the studio does seem finally intent on taking them, at least if its CEO has anything to say about it.

Marvel Moving Right Along With Phase III Production

by Joshua Starnes, CMRO Editor

Warner Bros. may have pushed off production on BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN to honestly who knows when (along with its release date) but Marvel is moving right along on its remaining Phase II, upcoming Phase III production.

And they’re doing it in style. While AVENGERS shot mainly in New Mexico and Cleveland, the big success of the film (and larger expectations of the sequel) has opened up a larger canvas for AGE OF ULTRON. After a week of largely plate photography in Johannesburg (with no principle’s), part of the cast for ULTRON was spotted this week in Aosta, Italy where writer/director Joss Whedon is busy shooting part of a confrontation between Hawkeye and new members Quicksilver and the Scarlett Witch against Ultron. Website Just Jared has a heap of photos (http://www.justjared.com/2014/03/24/elizabeth-olsen-aaron-taylor-johnson-avengers-2-set-photos/) taken by an industrious shutterbug during the filming which give among other things clearly show Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson in their Quicksilver (who appears to dye his hair blonde, if the brown stubble is any indication) and Scarlett Witch (with no red bathing suit or strange headdress in sight) helping Hawkeye blow up an Italian street.

Also on hand for the fun is Ultron himself (at least the stunt man version of him) with the Ultron costume following along the lines of the Iron Man suit – i.e. a few shiny pieces for reference attached to some black pajamas, all of which will be digitally placed over the performer later. He’s also flanked by a couple of stuntmen in motion tracking spandex, indicating Ultron may have his own army of henchmen as well. Pictures also show Paul Bettany (in his civies) on set, suggesting some of the motion tracker wearers may be standing in for the Vision.

In non-Avengers news, Edgar Wright’s long gestating ANT-MAN is due to go before the cameras in a little less than four weeks, and continues to add supporting cast as the start date looms. This week Marvel announced HOUSE OF CARDS actor Corey Stoll had joined the film, alongside Patrick Wilson and Michael Pena in also as yet unspecified roles.

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 03/23 – 03/29

Weekly Marvel Roundup for 03/23 - 03/29   All-New Ghost Rider #1 Written by Felipe Smith and Art by Tradd Moore, Nelson Daniel and Val Staples How wrong can I be about a comic. I saw the stylised cover, the fact that he has a car, not a motorcycle and I knew I was going to hate this comic. Never judge a book by its cover and never judge a superhero by his new costume. This is not Jonny Blaze, this is Robbie Reyes, a car mechanic and carer for his younger disabled brother. They live in what can only politely be described as a ‘deprived’ area where the usual walk home at night involves dodging the dead bodies and bullets. Desperate for a way out, Robbie goes out at night to race his prize possession, a hot rod. This book has it all; a touching moment with his kid brother; a wakeup call that when you bring fists, they bring guns and just about the best origin story I have read for a character in years. 5/5 Silver Surfer #1 Written by Dan Slott and Art by Michael Allred and Laura Allred Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me. And I am definitely shamed. I looked at the cover of this book and a bit of my previous history with Allred’s artwork and I had already decided I hated this. Well I was wrong. I am still not sold on how the Surfer looks, he seems too formless and I do not like they way his eyes are done, but all the other characters are wonderful, especially the girl who we see age from a child to a woman throughout the comic. There is a great sense of humour in this comic which should not be surprising from coming from Dan Slott and this coupled with some of the most fantastically ridiculous art work makes it a comic definitely worth picking up. 4/5 Iron Patriot #1 Written by Ales Kott and Art by Garry Brown and Jim Charalampidis I am getting the distinct impression that this is another comic in the vein of Hawkeye, Black Widow and She-Hulk – it is a more character driven comic based on their home and family life (if they have one) and less focused on their action packed adventures. Of the three new series this week, this is definitely the weakest. It might still come good, but there is not a lot of help here with working out where this comic is going. Rhodey has decided that he is no longer America’s Warmachine and he is now the Iron Patriot and he will stay in the USA to help protect it and save innocent people. So the first thing he decides to do is to fly off into the Gulf of Mexico… 2.5/5 Winter Soldier – Bitter March #2 Written by Rich Remender and Art by Roland Boschi and Chris Chuckry This book is interesting from the perspective that the title character is neither the protagonist, nor does he really feature in this issue at all. It is like the Alien in his titular film, he is ever present without being seen. Agent Ran Shen has the two Nazi scientists, but he needs to get them out of the country and away from the Winter Solider. Running low on resources he boards a train with his less than happy fascists in tow and sets about chatting up the female one. Trains are a dangerous place to be when everyone who you do not want to meet are also on the train and Ran wishes he had paid more attention to the window and less to the woman. 3/5 All-New X-Factor #5 Written by Peter David and Art by Carmine Di Giandomeico and Lee Loughridge This issue was pretty much make or break for me. I was not fond of the art work and the story seemed a less important and merely a plot device to get the characters together. Well I am happy to say that this one definitely turned it around. The art is a lot less stylised than the previous issues, and while it is still very yellow it is a lot more interesting to look at. The team of four members, now including Danger, are invited to attend a business meeting by their boss in order to look heroic and impressive. Danger is however not having the best of days, she wants to understand why she is attracted to Gambit, she makes ‘wild’ accusations about Quicksilver and their boss’ PA, both of which they deny, but we know are true. So when she decides to randomly punch someone through the chest on the basis of another wild accusation we can only be grateful she did not try that earlier on. 3/5 Amazing X-Men #5 Written by Jason Aaron and Art by Ed McGuinness and Marte Gracia Thank goodness that is over. This book finally moves out of the ridiculous and into the bizarre, but at least they are out of the afterlife now. Logan proves that just because you do not have a healing factor any more does not mean that they will not stop killing you and finding ways to heal you, it really does spoil it a bit. This entire five issue run feels like a long drawn out contrivance to resurrect Kurt and now that has happened I really hope that we can move on from this. Someone else makes an appearance in this comic who should be dead and I cannot wonder if they are not putting in place a means of bringing him back as well. Issue 6 will mark the start of this series for me, because all of this so far has felt like a prologue. 2.5/5 Revolutionary War – Omega (Last issue) Written by Andy Lanning and Alan Cowsill with Art by Rich Elson and Rachelle Rosenberg What a weird way to end the series. The beginning and end of this comic are told second hand; like a story being recounted to us rather than watching it unfold before us. It is almost like they wanted to cram two or three books into one comic and this was the only way of doing it. I am not sure what this comic achieved. It put these British Superheroes back into the current Marvel universe, but unless they continue using them or move them into other series, then they might as well have stayed dormant. This comic does wrap up the story line and leave quite a few plot hooks for future series, but given the 4 digit sales numbers for previous issues, I am not certain anything of interest will come from it. 3/5 Guardians of the Galaxy #13 Written by Brian Michael Bendis and Art by Sara Pichelli, David Marquez and Justin Ponsor This issue is more about the X-Men than the Guardians, but trying to pick a hole in this issue like that is trying to find a negative when your team just won the Superbowl. So much happens in this comic of both huge importance, but also of the tiny mundane and utterly hilarious. Watching Groot chat up a tree and Rocket get embarrassed about naked racoons utterly made my week, and it has been a bad week. There is nothing I can say about this comic other than the art is extraordinary, the story completely caught me off guard and the ending took everything we knew, rewrote the script and then threw it away. 5/5 New Avengers #16 Written by Jonathan Hickman and Art by Rags Morales and Frank Martin Every time I read this series I hope for answers, but get left with ever more questions. I am starting to lose track of all the alternate Earths, this time around we seem to have a DC equivalent world with a Superman, Flash and Batman analogue. I am definitely unconvinced by the art in this issue, Namor starts to look like a World of Warcraft elf with pointy ears longer than his head. It makes me wonder if there is a big swerve coming up that will tell us that the world we think we have been watching was in fact not our world at all. This series seems to have completely ground to a halt; the plot has not moved on at all since Infinity ended, we just get deeper and deeper into confusing technobabble and voyeuristically peeking into other versions of the world as they try to avoid their own incursions. 2/5 Uncanny Avengers #18.NOW Written by Rick Remender and Art by Danieel Acuna Finally this book tells us what it is and lets us understand where we are going with this. This is effectively another Age of Apocalypse, but rather than a dark and disturbing future, we have a bright and equally disturbing one. In this world where only mutants have survived it is up to Havoc, Beast and Wasp to try to destroy the tachyon damn and allow them to return to the past to correct the mistake. To this point I have hated the series because it tried to play it off as a concurrent book with the rest of the universe, now it has finally admitted what it is the story can play out and I can begin to enjoy it. However it has now thrown up another spanner in the works, Havoc and Janet have a daughter in this future and clearly changing the past would eliminate this future. As a father of a daughter about the same age I know that I would swap the world for her, but is Havoc a better man than I? 4/5 Hawkeye #18 Written by Matt Fraction and Art by Annie Wu and Matt Hollingsworth I do find it ironic that I love this book when it contains exactly 0% Clint Barton. Kate is such a more interesting character and Matt seems to write much more entertaining stories for her. She screwed up, again, and this time she got someone killed and she got to keep his cat as part of the bargain. This book is a weird trip in the lives of the rich and possibly famous, then again also mostly dead as Kate is hired to help and old writer ‘leave LA.’ Apparently every time he tries to leave he gets beaten up and sent back again so she decides to buy him a ticket and put him on a plane herself. But this is the Hawkeye series, we know nothing can ever end up well. 4/5 Avengers Assemble #25 (Last Issue) Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Warren Ellis with Art by Matteo Buffagni, David Mekis, Neil Edwards, Raffaele Ienco and Ruth Redmond With that many artists this book can only be one thing – it is the last issue spectacular issue where they get all these artists in to give the book a big send off. For once it does not ruin the book as the colour artist brings it all together and we get the conclusion to the story from the last few issues. This book is hanging onto the Inhumanity storyline, which is a good job because it is the only title that is now that the series has been delayed by 2 months. Spider-girl finally gets her moment to shine and we have the predictable happy ending as the full Avengers team invades the AIM lab to rescue the cocoon. We never to get to see who is inside, but at least that unknown person is safe and well in the hands of the Avengers. 3/5 Deadpool #26 Written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn with Art by Scott Koblish and Val Staples I feel dirty just saying this, but the joke is starting to wear a little thin now. This whole ‘lost comic from the distant past’ is a clever idea and I cannot fault the production values of making these comics look as old as they do, the attention to detail is extraordinary. However as this is the fourth time they have done it they would be better not playing it up as much. Time travelling Hitler vs Deadpool, Cable and Nick Fury. That is a combination of words I never thought I would ever say, but this comic is all the better for them. If you ignore the set up joke then the rest of the comic is absolutely hilarious and the last shot of Hitler in his bunker is ridiculous in only a way that Deadpool can manage. 4/5 Avengers #27 Written by Jonathan Hickman and Art by Salvadore Larroca and Frank Martin This is one of those books that will read so much better in the trade than in the individual issues. The reason why I say that is there are at least 4 different storylines running through this series and some of them get perhaps a page in an issue while others get half the comic. It means that by the time the next one comes out you want to re-read the previous three just to follow through some of the storylines. Avengers punching Avengers is so much better if Larroca is drawing it and this comic certainly does not disappoint. We have a ‘Mr’ Banner; ‘General’ America; Iron ‘Monger’; and, er, Thor. All of this is fascinating; however you have to question how all these bizarre circumstances came together in one place at the same time, not to mention how an unworthy Thor can still lift his hammer. Fun, but too hard to follow in this format. 3/5 Superior Spider-Man #30 Written by Dan Slot and Christos Gage with Art by Giusepppe Camunoli and Antonio Fabela I knew it was coming, even in my intentional bubble of not reading future solicits I still came across the news that Superior Spider-Man was being replaced with Amazing Spider-Man again, but even knowing it is comic made this utterly unexpected. I was thinking that there was going to be this spectacular ‘mindscape’ battle over who was going to control the Parker body, but what they gave us was in one way a complete anticlimax, but in another way, the more important way, absolutely spectacular. Brilliant conclusion to this storyline, but not the ending to this series, it looks like there needs to be one more issue to take down the Goblin before a gigantic amount of questions come Peter’s way. 5/5

Thunderbolts #23 Review

by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer

Thunderbolts

Issue #23

Written by Charles Soule, Art by by Kim Jacinto & Israel Silva

Published: May 2014

Thunderbolts #23

I put a lot of stock in ‘something’ happening in a comic. By this I mean that at the end I need to know something, or have experienced something or seen something that left the story in a place different to when the comic started. I have been told that this is perhaps not how I should judge a book because sometimes the ride is the point, rather than the destination. I have often felt that a journey, or a comic, that ends where you left from is rather much a waste of time, but perhaps I am not driving a Ferrari, or for that matter, Ghost Rider’s motorcycle. The reason why I bring this up is that you can read page one of this comic and then skip all the way to the last page and everything in between is completely and utterly irrelevant. Therefore I should hate this? Right? Dear god no, this book is fantastic which means I might well have found the right comic to enjoy for the journey alone.

We are back with the drawing of lots to find out who gets to pick the next mission and, loopy hand writing and all, out comes Deadpool’s name. The only problem is, Flash is not happy and would like to swap with Wade. It seems he has a rather pressing matter which is that he wants to leave, but the symbiote wants to kill everyone in the room. We then get 19 pages of the Thunderbolts trying to kill one of their own, without trying to kill him and at the same time, trying not to die themselves.

Why this is not one of the .NOW titles I will never know. Apparently that means that the comic is the beginning of an arc or a jumping on point and I cannot think of a better comic to jump into Thunderbolts with. We get to see every character currently one the team, we see what they can do, how they act under pressure and most importantly how they manage to survive one of the most dangerous and unpredictable anti-heroes in the Marvel universe. You can tell that Flash holds back Venom most of the time because when he gets like this he is nearly unstoppable; you would think that would be an asset in a fight, but with it comes his insanity and lack of control. In some ways his leaving the team is less of the loss of a powerhouse combatant and more a gain in the overall sanity of the group. And while I am on that subject we are talking about a group including Deadpool, if he can still be on the team and improve its sanity levels then you can tell quite how unstable Venom is in this book.

I cannot stress how unimportant this book is, but equally I cannot stress how much I enjoyed it. The art has changed from the previous issue, but is still extremely good. The humour is place perfect with Deadpool not dominating the show with his antics, but still being able to strip naked and use his costume as a Spider-Man impersonation to attract Venom. The action is fantastic and does not rely on your usual Deus Ex-machina in order to let the good guys win, rather it falls back on tried and tested methods of defeating the Venom Symbiote. Over all this is a summer blockbuster film – it is crazy, fairly pointless and with as much plot as you can manage to fit into a story where nothing actually happens, but a lot of stuff blows up and you finish the comic feeling entertained. I am not sure I can expect any more or any less from a comic like this.