Miles Morales, the Death of Spider-man, and My Sad Lack of Interest

So hey! If you pay attention to comics and surrounding stuff, you’ve heard that Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) is going to be voicing Miles Morales in an upcoming episode of the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon.

A young Peter Parker is apparently going to travel to a universe to where he died and Miles Morales is the new Spidey. This is pretty exciting. Glover has mentioned wanting to play Spider-Man and fans of Miles Morales are probably excited to see the him appear in other media.

What I’m most interested in is what this should mean to Peter Parker. This is a young Spider-Man, and Miles’ existence presents him with the probably the one thing Spider-Man should fear most, but rarely considers. Dying young.

In the Ultimate comics, Peter died when he was in high school. He died before graduation and that possibility should be horrifying to him. We, the audience, seem to take Spider-Man’s survival as a given. In Marvel proper he makes it to college, graduates, becomes a photographer, a science teacher, a husband, an avenger, a think tank researcher, and since he survives that whole way we can’t help but think that if any other iteration of Spider-Man was to last long enough, we would eventually get to see that Peter go through all that. This tends to be reflected in the writing of Spider-Man himself. Whenever  he is forced to consider giving up his hero lifestyle, he always thinks of the danger he puts others in and whenever he thinks in terms of himself, he thinks of how being Spider-Man affects his school life or social life, never considering that he might not have a life if he continues his heroics or that his life isn’t worth nearly as much as Aunt May’s or Mary Jane’s. Peter rarely ever considers he won’t make it out alive or that he matters much, but when Peter meets Miles Morales he has to deal with this. He has to deal with not making it to graduation, with leaving Aunt May alone in the world, her only family dead. And probably the worst is that he has to see some new kid, probably younger than he was when he started, doing exactly what he did. He inspired that kid to jump headfirst into danger, so should he feel proud that he inspired another hero or should he feel ashamed that he unintentionally encouraged that kid to go down that dangerous path. This is one of the most interesting things a young Peter can face, something that can shake his resolve.

As big as that last paragraph was, I’m unfortunately not very interested in watching it. My reason is pretty simple.

I seriously dislike the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, and I don’t think they could handle this in a way that would be satisfactory. I have no faith in this show. I gave it a shot during the first season and every single good point was countered by a bad one. I liked the team and dynamic they had with Peter specifically, the difference in his experience and their training, but the amount of contrived ignorance that they have to give characters at various times is annoying. The worst example was probably the second “symbiote” episode. A second black suited Spider-Man suddenly appears, and absolutely no one but Peter connects the dots to the black suit that possessed ALL OF THEM in a previous episode. So not only do they rush through one of the most popular arcs in Spider-man’s history, they make the entire cast look like idiots when they do it.

No faith. None.

I hope nobody minds if I sit this one out, wait for the actual reception and then catch it online or something.

I wish this was Spectacular, then I’d be excited.

Side note: I like Donald Glover and all, but listen to that clip. He does not sound like a thirteen year old. The casting director does realize that Childish Gambino is just a stage name right? Juxtaposed to Drake Bell’s scratchy voice he actually sounds like the older Spidey.

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Spoiler Free Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

The best way to describe Guardians of the Galaxy would be to say that this is the most comic book like movie I’ve ever seen. It watches pretty much exactly like a six issue story reads, for all the good and ill that does it. What this generally means is that the action is frequent, comedy beats are either quick or visual, and character development tends to get squished. As stunted as the development is, the connection to the characters is built well enough that when they ask you to be emotional you’re capable of feeling what they need you to.

Speaking of the characters, the primary cast of characters is excellent. Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord, brings all the charm and funny of his character Andy from Parks and Rec while still coming off as a competent hero. Batista as Drax the Destroyer wasn’t bad at all considering my usual opinion of wrestlers acting. It helps that Drax is practically a wrestling character himself, with a very simple motivation and a comedy gimmick. Bradley Cooper plays the morally dubious comic relief, Rocket Raccoon, and he absolutely hilarious the whole way through. Zoe Saldana plays Gamora, whose arc is hit the worst by that whole squished character development I was talking about. Vin Diesel plays Groot. He says “I am Groot,” and he says it well.

This is a movie that keeps the action going constantly, the funny on non-stop, and has likable enough characters to keep me interested. It watches like a comic book reads, but it’s a really good comic book.

Spoiler Free Review: How to Train Your Dragon Two

So hey, I saw the new HTTYD movie the other day. And what better a movie to talk about than one that’s been out for nearly a month and is probably on the way out of theaters soon anyway.

First, a bit of a qualification: If it’s in the trailer, it isn’t a spoiler. Simply because one of the primary characters of the film was introduced in the trailer, but the movie plays it up as a really big reveal. It would be one too, if it wasn’t spoiled by the trailer.Enough coyness though: Hiccups mother, thought dead in the first movie is in this one. Even so, there are plenty of bigger events and reveals that I can not spoil for you.

Well, let’s start with the characters.

I love where hiccup has gone so far. Since the first movie when he was a clumsy gadgeteer, he’s now just short of a Steampunk (Dragonpunk?) wielding gas and fire weapons to fixing up his town to help the dragons cohabitate (the kid literally built a fire system for his town), and even while he’s much more competent, he’s still got that clumsy and awkward charm.

Astrid is another character who’s grown up a bit, but has still kept her core character. She’s still competent and competitive, but not so much that it gets in the way. She’s very much chilled down from how aggressive she was back in the first movie.

The other viking kids don’t have near as much going on. There’s a minor sub-plot around the other female viking, Ruffnut, and how the boys are vying for her attention, but other than some pretty good jokes it doesn’t go very far.

As for Hiccups mother, I think this works really well, and in the context of the movie, that she was revealed in the trailer isn’t too much of a big deal (bigger things in this movie to spoil, trust me). She does her job well though. In the film, she represents the sort of exact opposite of Hiccups father, a sort of solo free as a bird dragon rider that Hiccup wants to be contrasted to the stable authority figure his father is and wants him to be. Reminds me a bit of Homer Simpson’s mother actually. Only with dragons.

The only real complaint I have about her is that she takes up an awful lot of the story. Hiccup and his mother proceed to spend a whole day paling around and bonding, but we know that everyone else is really busy and embroiled with the actual villain of the piece, and so should Hiccup. They spend way to much time trying to hammer in how cool she is.

Villain himself is fairly one note, but projects menace the entire time, so for a family film, he’s fine, but could be better. He also manages to prove that just having a dragon isn’t nearly enough to beat him, which is important when your characters are all riding on top of giant lizards.

I had a really good time at movies, and since it’s been out for a month if yo go now you’ll be able to experience the wonders of an nearly empty theater (the only way to watch a movie). If you were a fan of the first movie I definitely think you’ll like this one, and if you haven’t seen the first movie, it stands well enough on its own. But seriously, watch the first movie, it was really good too.

Book Club: Shades of Milk and Honey Chapters 8 and 9

Let’s get started on the next chapters.

It’s the next day and Captain Livingston has come a calling. His aunt has sent him with some flowers and well wishes for Melody, who hurt her ankle at the end of the last chapter. Melody in the meanwhile has been keeping seated at the request of her mother. She’s also been given a bell to call on their maid, but that didn’t come up this chapter. Jane is watching over them as they proceed to talk about the day before in minute detail.

This is slightly interrupted when Mr. Dunkirk shows up, bearing Ann Radcliffe. He and the Captain get into something of an attention war with one another. The Captain says he doesn’t read much due to his work in the navy and Dunkirk offhandedly calls him stupid. Jane watches as the two battle one another for Melodies attention.  She is also as suspicious as I was that Melody is completely faking it. Melody seems to notice this and attempts to keep both of her callers as best as she can.

When the gentlemen eventually have to leave, Melody breaks down and confesses before Jane can call her out. She once again claims she was jealous of her sister and when she tripped she faked her injury to get Mr. Dunkirk to help her and call the next day. She begs Jane not to tell, but when Jane doesn’t promise right away she immediately attempts to turn it around and if I am correct shame her into not telling anyone. And it works.

Jane wants her sister to learn from this but won’t listen to anything Jane has to say while she is angry, so Jane feels she must earn her trust back first. This chapter, like many before it, ends with Jane feeling like crap. I am beginning to sense a pattern.

Probably the least fantasy like chapter of the book, because it contains little to no glamour, but I don’t count that against it. The two gentle men fighting over Melody is a little funny but the broad-strokes style of writing hinders us from getting much out of it.

This book very much likes to skip the actual conversations in favor of describing it like an event. This is a real shame because conversations are my favorite part of literature. Imagine a Discworld book where all the conversations were “And then Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg talked about things and mispronounced most of them.” If that’s Jane Austen’s style I don’t think I’d like Jane Austen very much.

Chapter nine is once again the day after. Dunkirk has come calling once again, this time with Beth. Melody, having taken some bit of Jane’s advice to heart has feigned a miraculous recovery, claiming that she shock made her exaggerate her pain.

While Melody distracts Dunkirk, Jane spends time with Beth in the hedge maze. Jane shares memories of an old governess who she used to avoid because she would dose them with some tonic. This sounds weird, and I think it’s one of those eighteenth century things. She also used to hide from Livingston in that maze when they were both kids. He would chase them with frogs and snakes which is much more understandable than a tonic.

Since they are speaking of teachers, Beth mentions that her lessons with Mr. Vincent have been going well, and from his reaction to Jane being brought up, she guesses he might like Jane some. Jane finds it hard to believe but doesn’t argue the point. As Mr. Dunkirk and Melody come the retell the story of the governess and her toxin. The chapter ends with the Mr. Vincent exiting the door. He has apparently come calling.

Compared to the last chapter, I think Jane might be having a bit of a good sister bad sister relationship with Melody and Beth here. Melody continues to make me not like her, and Beth seems to be what Jane wants out of Melody. As excitable, but not as annoying and mean spirited. It was a good scene between the two of them, but them actually telling stories is getting to me. I have no idea what a governess would be doing dosing a young girl with tonic and I don’t care to find out like with the tableaux vivant,  and that’s the fault of the book.

Book Club: Shades of Milk and Honey Ch 6-7

In chapter six, we go strawberry picking. Because the ball happened so quickly after the first chapter I thought the berry picking mentioned at the beginning of the book would be completely forgotten. I’m glad to be proven wrong, because I actually liked this chapter. Mostly because Lady FitzCameron has seen fit to invite Vincent along, taking advantage that saying no outright in the regency days was considered uncouth. I doubt the Ellsworths would have said no, but why ask for permission when you can ask for forgiveness.
The Dunkirks have also been invited, and Beth is eager to tell Jane that she is being taught in Glamour by Vincent. Jane is caught in an interesting little emotional dilemma. On one hand she feels upset that if she had inspired Beth so much and Mr. Dunkirk was so inspired by her work, why would he ask Mr. Vincent to teach his sister. On the other hand she’s honestly jealous that Beth is getting instruction from such an accomplished glamorist.
The picking goes well, but when the servants are nowhere to be found with their luncheon, they chat while Mr. Ellsworth goes looking. In a stunning use of Glamour, Mr. Vincent has turned them and himself invisible while he paints. Jane catches a bit of smug satisfaction from him, and works to figure it out. It takes her a moment, but she is able to replicate his invisibility fold. When she uncloaks, he looks very angry at her.
The chapter ends with Melody suggesting that they do something called a tableaux vivant, which I had to look up. And it seems to be some sort of art installation involving real people. Jane doesn’t want to, but peer pressure is a bitch in high society, and when she tries to get out of it by placing it on Vincent, he’s all for it.
Chapter seven is directly connected and fairly quick, so I’ll save my analysis for both at the end. It starts with Vincent throwing up another invisibility fold so they can discuss their tableaux vivant privately. Vincent assumes that she doesn’t like him and has some angry things to say to him, but Jane isn’t the type to drop manners just because she is alone, and is more concerned with why he seems angry with her.
Vincent’s problem with her is the way she tries to view his work. He’s an artist and thinks of his glamour as a way to transport people to other worlds, and envelop their senses. Like a stage magician, he is upset that she is constantly trying to find out how his glamour works, and that isn’t what he intends. He considers it his own failing that she does, specifically when she viewed his glamural.
Jane disagrees, believing that as much enjoyment can be found in analysis as actually being absorbed in the work. Realizing how much it means to him, she apologizes, though he does not say he accepts.
For their tableaux vivant, they do a small play of Daphne and Apollo. In an attempt at oneupsmanship, she sets up the glamour of a tree to spring up when she lets go of a fold. She releases it, and instead of being surprised, Vincent gets into the act and embraces the tree, and Jane along with it. They end it and Vincent goes back to the FitzCameron’s.
While walking back, there’s a bit of funny dialogue with Captain Livingstone, but Melody trips and twists her ankle. Dunkirk and Livingstone do their best to carry her to the house. She seems to be actually hurt, at least to Jane. The chapter ends there.
So these two chapters go hand in hand, and are read best together. Separately, six wasn’t terribly interesting. Glamour is fun, but you can’t run a whole book on it. Vincent and Jane interacting was the really interesting part of these two chapters. I’m also glad that Vincent finally got to get his issues off of his chest, though I definitely agree more with Jane than Vincent here. A slight aside but as someone currently writing analysis, I believe that analysis can be just as rewarding as being enveloped in a work, and that any work can be enjoyed on both levels. Also as much as I can sympathize with Vincent, you can’t control how people view your work when it’s out there. If people gain pleasure from looking behind the curtain, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Another aside, before the end, what does it say about how she’s been written that I immediately assume wither Melody is faking her ankle injury or did it on purpose?

Book Club: Shades of Milk and Honey Ch. 4-5

Little longer wait between posts than I’d like, but let’s get on with it.

The chapter takes place the day after the ball. Melody and her mother are talking about the night before while Jane paints away. The Dunkirks come calling and it seems that Mr. Dunkirk has brought Beth. Mr. Dunkirk is very impressed by Jane’s paintings and glamour. Beth, Dunkirk, and her mother pester Jane into performing some Glamour and music for them. She’s skilled enough to summon up impressions of fauns and nymphs. Although she can’t visually create them, she can seem to make people think about them. We get to see Glamour based exertion a little more carefully as Jane faints after too long. When she wakes up, the Dunkirks are blaming themselves, and Jane is blaming herself, and Jane’s mom blames Jane, which is just such a huge dick move. I get that in the old days, hosts never blame the guests and guests never blame the host, but it was really unnecessary for Jane’s mom to stack it on her. She already blamed herself.

It ends with Melody having wandered off sometime during the music and Jane thinking to console her, but being to tired to bother.

The next chapter is a visit to the Dunkirk’s home, an old refurbished abbey. Before Jane goes, Melody shows up and explains her absence the previous chapter. She claims to be jealous of Jane’s skill in Glamour and music and left because she had so little to add to the conversation, but I don’t really believe it because this is during the regency, so excusing yourself would have been much more polite than just going. Honestly I just think Melody hates other people in the center of attention. Jealousy might have a part to play, but that’s a small part of the problem. That’s probably how she’s grown up. Being the prettiest belle at the ball and the prettier Ellsworth sister means that she probably isn’t used to anyone else being looked at over her.

Melody asks to be taught glamour, and there seems to be a bit of foreshadowing that she intends to use it to enhance her appearance.

“But Mr. Dunkirk was right when he said that beauty fades. Except for artificial beauty.”

When Jane tries to excuse herself from starting lessons with Melody right away, she is guilt-tripped (half by Melody, half by herself) into taking her younger sister with her.

When they get there, Melody and Beth hit it off, being much closer in age than Jane is with either of them. (Those ages I was complaining about earlier by the way: Jane is twenty eight, but I was right about Melody being 18. Jane’s spinster worry is a little more founded now. It still should have been established before the book mentioned how she had resigned to being a spinster.) While listening to them talking she spots Mr. Vincent again outside the window. Jane and Beth want to leave him to his work but Melody is a social butterfly, so she opens the window and calls to him.

Beth also asks Jane to teach her glamour and she tries to rope in Melody to distract her from bother mister Vincent. They teach her a simple trick to produce light, but as they finish, Melody is actually conversing with Mr. Vincent. Jane tries to gather her and take her home, but she resists and embarrasses Jane a little bit. The chapter ends with Jane mortified and walking home.

Melody is starting to lose a bit more and more of my sympathy, so I hope she doesn’t completely make me hate her. She’s been getting a little nasty with her sister lately and that’s an issue.

I’ve finally got the meeting between Jane and Vincent, and it starts slightly more antagonistically than I expected, but that’s mostly Melody’s fault, though she’s the reason they even spoke at all. Really poor manners Melody, for shame.

Book Club: Shades of Milk and Honey Ch 2-3

We’re going to the ball! Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 are the set up and execution for a ball at the neighbor’s house.

In Chapter two, the Ellsworth family receives a letter that says a ball will be held in their neighbor’s estate. In need of new dresses, Jane goes out to get some made for them. Her father requests Jane get something with roses for herself. She goes to the dress shop, and rather than picking out fabric with roses on it, the dressmaker makes her a shawl and headwrap with the roses being made out of fabric rather than on it. While at the dress shop, Mister Dunkirk introduces her to his younger sister and asks Jane to help her with her own dress. It was definitely a slower chapter, and but maybe the significance of the roses will come up later in the book.

A problem I have though, we need some established ages. At the beginning Jane is contemplating her future and how she will never be married and have to live with Melody and whoever she would wed as the best course for her life, but I can’t imagine either sister over 25 and I certainly can’t believe Melody is over 18, so I find how Jane is so willing to resign herself to being a spinster for the rest of her life a little weird.

Much more happens in Chapter 3, when we actually get to the ball. Jane is enamored with the glamural, a combination of a mural painting and glamour effects, created by their neighbor’s glamourist Vincent. She sees Vincent, a few times, as he watches her examine the mural and more specifically it’s glamour workings, but he walks away whenever she sees him or tries to engage. Meanwhile, Melody has been dancing the night away with Captain Livingston, the man a few years younger than Jane that it was suggested Mister Ellsworth wanted to set her up with. Melody actually shows a little nastiness when she lords her beauty over her sister a little. Thus far we have seen her being flighty but never mean, and apparently Jane is the same. The party and the chapter end with Jane feeling very out of place, like her roses are a cover among the actually beautiful young girls.

I continue to like the magic in this book. Especially the glamural. I’m still amused by how glamour is being used as a sort of magical audio mixer. Here the sound of the babbling brook is a non-repeating sound which is created by having a series of looping sounds of different lengths which keeps the whole thing from sounding like it repeats. We also learn that it takes energy to keep a glamour going but none to simply tie it off and let it go on it’s own. A young girl who glamours her teeth faints in the middle of the party.

In Chapter 3 a few more points are set up. We have Captain Livingston becoming enamored with Melody, Melody seeming to shift her crush onto the Captain, the party hostess Lady FitzCameron possibly trying to trick Dunkirk and Livingston into paying attention to her daughter, and the mysterious Vincent shying away from Jane.