Reader’s Corner: Marvel Comics vs. Penguin Classics

Next month, Penguin Classics is doing the seemingly unthinkable: collaborating with Marvel Comics for their first line of comics anthologies. It’s kind of a big deal and is likely cause discussions of the “whither Penguin?” variety.

I wrote about this unlikely collection for The Millions:

Largely devoid of the ironies, ruminations, and absurdities of less mainstream and traditionally “higher-brow” comics, the three entries in the Marvel Collection revolve around combat and struggle. Together, they comprise more than a thousand pages of exceptionally reproduced color panels whose artistry ranges from the merely competent to the spectacular. At many points, Black Panther, Captain America, and Spider-Man are not unlike Odysseus—tested by an array of villains, undone by their own arrogance, tempted by glory, unsure of their fates…

Reader’s Corner: Black Lit on ‘Luke Cage’

Those who track the ever-evolving ecosystem of Marvel series on Netflix have been generally pleased with the current season of Luke Cage, following the further exploits of the superhuman-strong fugitive just trying to build a quiet life in Harlem.

At least one watcher has noted the prevalence of call-outs to works of black literature. Some of the books noticed on screen by BlackNerdProblems:

  • Charcoal Joe – Walter Mosley
  • Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
  • The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B. Du Bois

Screening Room: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

So there’s another Thor movie out, and this one’s a blast.

Thor: Ragnarok opens tonight. My review is at PopMatters:

It says something when one of a movie’s main attractions is Cate Blanchett slinking around in a slinky black unitard and a halo of horns saying things such as “Kneel before me!” and it doesn’t quite capture your attention. That’s just the kind of ride that Thor: Ragnarok is. This is a “Damn the torpedoes!” operation. One imagines Marvel turning the keys of the studio over to director Taika Waititi, and saying to him, “There’s a couple hundred million on the kitchen counter, have fun. Oh, and make it seem like it’s the last movie we’re ever going to make”…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Captain America: Civil War’

capamerica1

Roaring into theaters in the wake of Batman vs. Superman and before the summer movie season really gets going, the latest Marvel launching pad for yet more movies and series, Captain America: Civil War opens everywhere this week. 

My review is at PopMatters:

When Shakespeare wrote about the quality of mercy in The Merchant of Venice, chances are he wasn’t thinking about perpetually quipping guys in shiny suits slamming each other into walls…

Here’s the trailer:

Now Playing: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

The Avengers, in a moment of friendly contemplation, sans outfits (Marvel Studios)
Some Avengers, in a moment of friendly contemplation, sans outfits (Marvel Studios)

The band gets back together in Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is now playing everywhere throughout the Multiverse.

My review is at PopMatters:

A sturdy piece of inessential workmanship, The Avengers: Age of Ultron begins where it ends, with Joss Whedon shooting the works. In “Sokovia,” another made-up slice of the Balkans, the Avengers are assaulting a mountain fortress controlled by Hydra. That would be the world-spanning network of bad dudes discovered at the end of the last Captain America to have infiltrated the S.H.I.E.L.D. network. It’s not entirely clear what their motivations are besides being evil. Perhaps they’re ticked off at not having quite as cool a name as Cobra Command…

Here’s the trailer, in case you haven’t already seen it two dozen times:

Now Playing: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Would Beat ‘The Avengers’ in a Dance-Off

Which of these Guardians of the Galaxy has an awesome mix-tape on their Walkman? (Marvel / Walt Disney Studios)
Which of these Guardians of the Galaxy has an awesome mix-tape on their Walkman? (Marvel / Walt Disney Studios)

It’s big, it’s everywhere, it’s somehow much better than your average Marvel output—even Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy is playing now throughout the known universe; check it out.

My article “Guardians of the Galaxy out-Whedons The Avengers” is at Short Ends & Leader:

There’s a lot to appreciate—and maybe even love—about Guardians of the Galaxy. The oozing and eager-to-please sprawl of Gen-X references, from Mom’s ‘70s pop music mixtape to hero Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, surfer-dude sly) romancing the green-skinned assassin babe Gamora (Zoe Saldana) by referencing the “legend” of Footloose. Banter threaded slyly through the action instead of airdropped in by executive committee looking for humor beats. A talking raccoon skilled in jail-breaks and bomb-making. David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”. A genocidal villain thwarted by a dance-off. The two-hour running time, practically unheard-of brevity for modern blockbusters. Howard the Duck…

You can see the trailer here: