Secret Avengers: Save the Empire (2014) Review

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STORY BY Ales Kot

ART BY Michael Walsh

Those goofy and out of this world Avengers gotten themselves into a sticky mess this time. Hawkguy is being chased by the evil A.I.M. before he runs in and like totally ruins Black Widow and Spider Woman’s girl day at the day spa. Meanwhile, Fury and Colson are uncharacteristically bromancing all over S.H.I.E.L.D’s damaged Satellite. Only to be attacked by The Fury. Wait there’s two Fury’s sharing the same scene? Moving on. To make matters worse, creepy M.O.D.O.K’ is trying to get his war game on with Director Hill before her lovely S.H.I.E.L.D HQ gets infiltrated. Really, the plot is just something to carry the reader from one tongue and cheek joke to the next slapstick hijinks.

It’s Ales Kot’s uncanny characterization skills which highlight the funniest moments. In addition, it’s fantastic one of Marvel’s series have finally adopted Fraction’s incarnation of Hawkeye. One of Marvel’s draw backs is writers will portray the same character an infinite amount of different ways.

Therefore, within one month Hawkeye’s personality will run the gamut with his 16 point personality profile. However, with Fraction’s Hawkeye getting nods from various awards, it’s clear which one incarnation is coming out on top. Hopefully, this means Hawkguy will no longer suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Yet, the same can’t be said for the other characters. Black Widow is less femme fatale and more valley girl. Nick Fury is less Sam L and more creepy sex predator. Agent Colson is less Agent Colson and more Maxwell Smart, and so on. Ales Kot’s characters are inconsistent with the rest of the rest of the MU series. One can’t help but wonder if they are parodies of themselves. The story spirals off in several directions and begins to have larger holes than the one bumbling Colson blasts through S.H.I.E.L.D’s satellite. Maybe this too is self referential. If it is, the story lacks focus or clear parallels to other story arcs. Because of the exaggerated situations with popular Marvel players, it’s hard not to read this as some sort of Mad Magazine parody, which is completely fine. Self referential humor and irony is always trendy, but Kot’s delivery isn’t punching through.

Furthermore, Marvel is starting to diminish the novelty of their other lines such as Superior Foes and Hawkeye. Marvel is creating a formula by taking a comic book writer known for their postmodernist and nonlinear style of storytelling and wrapping it up with minimalist artwork. When they first announced Ales Kot taking over Secret Avenger’s it should have been safe to assume this was going to be something similar to what he did with Suicide Squad or Wild Children. A thematic and cerebral plot which had fourth wall breaking characters who kept it fun and sexy the whole ride through. Instead, Kot somehow delivered a functional parody which at best is derivative and at worst a mad house.

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Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014) Review

Avengers-ConfidentialCreators:

Director Kenichi Shimizu

Writer Mitsutaka Hirota

Players:

Black Widow Jennifer Carpenter

Punisher Brian Bloom

Punisher is tracking down an arms dealer who happens to also be in SHIELD’s cross-hairs. After we see Punisher take down a warehouse full of armed thugs, Black Widow intervenes while Punisher is brutally interrogating the arms dealer. Punisher and Black Widow begin a confrontation full of CQC gunplay, scissor kicks, reversals and any other anime fighting style that may come to mind. This first scene sets the tone and style of this animated movie. Those who follow recent anime by the production company Madhouse will feel comfortably at home. What is impressive is how the gun fights are brutal and violent but never once show blood or gore. Despite it being a Marvel production, the action never feels less intense.

After the initial scene, what follows is more or less a paint by numbers action flick with a whopping amount of terrorist cliche’s ripped from testosterone fueled 80s action movies complete with a screaming guitar solo soundtrack. This isn’t a bad thing. After all, this movie focuses on Marvel’s leather tight femme fatale Black Widow and the take no prisoners Punisher. What should the audience expect? To top it off they are hunting down a techno terrorist organization called Leviathan who have committed, “every known evil deed”. Although this might sound a little cheesy, the action and animation is slick. Remember, this is also aimed at the little kiddies.

In fact, what this movie suffers from is too much character development for Black Widow. They throw a love story into the middle of the big confrontation and it bogs down the pacing and cohesion of the action. For a character named Black Widow, this was a really odd choice for the story. Honestly, if this side story was cut, it would have left the rest of the plot completely intact. Black Widow is voiced by Jennifer “Dexter” Carpenter. Although I loved her portrayal of Debra Morgan and her colorful uses of the F bomb, her voice acting needs some work. It was monotone and lacked much needed inflection. Brian Bloom, on the other hand, did a great job of portraying the gravel and grumble of the Punisher. Once again, this proves that voice actors will always perform better than live actors. It’s a different style of performance and few are able to successfully make the transition.

Overall, this was an entertaining movie that fathers could easily enjoy with their sons. This movie didn’t break any new ground for animated movies, but it did raise the bar for Marvel Animation’s hit or miss quality of direct to video releases. I am very excited to see what they will release next.