The Iron Druid series

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IronDruid

Here be spoilers.  I am reviewing the first 3 books of the series simultaneously, so there will be spoilers for them.  You are safe for later books though.

This series revolves around Atticus, a magic-weilding Druid.  He’s the last Druid, he’s able to stand toe-to-toe with gods and survive, he looks young but is thousands of years old, he’s… a male Mary-Sue (aka Gary-Stu). Seriously. It was easy to ignore at first, but the further I got into the series, the more it bugged me.

First, the age thing.  He’s thousands of years old, but somehow knows how to talk, dress, and act to fit in.  In real life, most older people are not up-to-date with modern technology and trends, and yet Atticus, who is many times their age, seems to have no such problem.  He even teases Lief the vampire about seeming antiquated, and Lief is like half of Atticus’ age.

Then the power thing.  A couple of times the book tries to describe the boundaries of Atticus’ power, and try to make him sound limited, but he killed a god.  He also managed to create a magical necklace that other gods hadn’t even thought to make.  At the point where I finally stopped reading, there was nothing Atticus had encountered that seemed like a real threat.  Not even the Bacchants; by the time they showed up, it felt like they were just an excuse to have Atticus make a promise that would lead to the next book.

The female representation isn’t the best.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s sexist, but a lot of it is shallow and/or stereotypical.  There were no female characters that I identified with or liked.  Almost all of the women were beautiful or sexy, except for a funny one, a couple of older ones, and maybe some evil ones.  Granted, this is true to some extent for the male characters too, but the main character is male, so it doesn’t feel as glaring.

Were the books all bad?  No. There were some good points.  Atticus is able to communicate with his dog, and his dog is funny.  In the first book the dog is obsessed with poodles, but overall his thoughts are amusing.  The idea of all the various gods being alive isn’t original to this book, but it is entertaining (most of the time).  There’s witty banter and quips that are funny when in the right dosage, though sometimes the author drags it out.

Overall the first one was pretty decent – maybe a 6.5 or 7 out of 10 – but the second one wasn’t as good, and obviously I didn’t finish the third one.  The books may not be very original, but they still have some fun ideas to play with.  If you like supernatural stories and don’t mind Gary-Stus, you’ll probably get further in the series than I did.

Deadpool

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[Spoiler-free]

This is a movie that understands itself, sets a reasonable goal, and achieves it.  That may seem like faint praise, but considering that many movies miss that mark, it’s actually quite an achievement.  Deadpool isn’t revolutionary, but it has all the elements necessary to meet fans’ demands and keep them thoroughly entertained.

Element #1: Humor
Deadpool is “The Merc a Mouth.”  He is supposed to be a talkative, joking wise-ass, lovable and irritating at the same time.  Ryan Reynolds nails it, and the rest of the cast/movie tone is good too.  The jokes run the gambit from dick jokes and potty humor to gallows humor and 4th-wall breaking.

Element #2: The 4th Wall
One of the traits that sets Deadpool apart from so many other humorous and/or anti-hero characters is how he breaks the 4th wall, a trait alive and well in this movie.  The 4th wall is broken frequently, and other movies by Fox and/or Ryan Reynolds are skewered in the process.

Element #3: R-Rating
Look, blood!  People get shot and stabbed and blown up, and there’s actually blood and gore to accompany it!  And there’s skin: full-on frontals of naked women, man-butts, and even a faint penis cameo.  There are sex scenes – yes, plural – and torture scenes too.  Captain America would not approve of this movie.

Element #4: Romance
In the comics Deadpool is not a complete stranger to romance, and the love story they chose for this movie works surprisingly well.  I’m not a fan of typical “chick flick” romances, but this is more realistic than sappy, striking a nice tone that actually made me care about it rather than wishing it would just end already.

I think this movie may make production companies rethink their PG-13 vs R stances.  Deadpool proves that if done right, you can have your chimichangas and eat them too.

Rating: 8.5/10

USA_Today_Podium

Debate time!  There are some debates revolving around the Deadpool movie that I feel the need to jump into.

1.) Deadpool is a poor parody.
This argument says that Deadpool is out to skewer traditional comic book movies, that it’s supposed to make fun of them and do something totally different, but then falls flat or is actually hypocritical because it falls into some of the same tropes it’s making fun of.

Yes, the character Deadpool makes fun of a lot of comic book tropes, namely because he’s aware that he’s in a comic book and therefor has more awareness of said tropes.  And yet, Deadpool is a comic book character, just one in a large, traditional comic universe.  So while he is able to make fun of it, he’s destined to have a number of similarities with traditional comic book characters/stories.  He’s just supposed to give you a wink and a nudge, acknowledge what you’re thinking, and have fun with it.

2.) Deadpool isn’t the first rated-R comic movie.
Apparently some people are mad that so many are praising Deadpool for being rated-R because there are other rated-R comic book movies that came before it.  My response: Deadpool is the first FUN rated-R comic book movie.  Of the earlier rated-R comic book movies I’ve watched, the only one I found somewhat enjoyable was V for Vendetta. 300 was nothing but a mindless testosterone-fest, and Watchmen was an overhyped, pretentious load of bulls*** that took me 2 attempts to finish.  And every older R-rated comic book movie I can think of is serious, dark, and/or depressing.

Identity Crisis

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I’ve always preferred Japanese manga to Western comics.  Something about mainstream Western comic art style and story-telling always felt lackluster to me.  There are exceptions of course, but by and large they’re not something I’d waste time or money on.  Identity Crisis may be one of those exceptions.

The first discussion point is what is most immediately obvious about any comic book: the art.  I would not say the art was as nice as 1602 Witch Hunter Angela, but it certainly seemed a step above a lot of traditional comics.  I can’t recall any one particular frame that made me think “ick,” which is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Next comes the story.  My friend raved about The Killing Joke, which ultimately ended up being a letdown in how predictable I found it.  As such, I approach comics with low expectations.  Perhaps it was because I had low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised by the actual story of Identity Crisis.  There was still predictable parts, sure, but there was enough that I didn’t guess to keep it interesting, and it’s obvious some thought was put into it.

I did borrow this book from the library, and I’m not sure how re-readable it is, so I can’t say I’d suggest paying a lot of money on it, but if you can find it for cheap or borrow a copy, it’s worth your time to read.

Rating: 7/10

SpoilerAlert

I enjoyed how this comic gave attention to the loved ones of super heroes, specifically to the danger they’re in.  Sure, you have comics when Louis Lane or whoever gets kidnapped, but often the danger feels like a simple plot device or excuse, with the main focus still being on the hero versus the bad guy.  In Identity Crisis, heroes relationships with their loved ones and the threat to the lived ones’ safety is central and felt throughout the story.  And not just heroes: a brief but surprisingly sincere reunion story between Captain Boomerang and his illegitimate son is also featured in the book.

The focus on these relationships makes it more impactful when we finally learn that the culprit behind Sue Dibny’s murder is The Atom’s on-again-off-again lover, Jean Loring. The extra whammy behind it is that Jean insists she didn’t mean to kill Sue, she just wanted to rough her up so the heroes would get worried and spend more time with their loved ones.  So the villain isn’t your classic villain, but rather someone with mental/emotiona; issues that are just coming to light.