Oh No. They Died Again.

The first year that I did NanoPoblano, one thing that was a topic of a number of those posts were the comics I was reading with my Marvel Unlimited subscription. I still have my subscription, but this time I also have a complaint. Not about the service. I’ve never had a problem with the that. No, my complaint is about something they do in the stories.

Now, I’m not picking on Marvel here. They’re certainly not the only ones guilty of doing the thing I’m complaining about. I’ve seen it done in every form of storytelling: movies, television, comics, and novels. In fact, I mentioned it in a post that I wrote a few weeks ago. “What is it?” you ask without clicking on the link.

The answer is this: bringing characters back from the dead.

In the past few years of reading things with my Marvel Unlimited subscription, I’ve seen this done a number of times. The more I see it, the more it annoys me. And it seems to annoy me more when done in comics, especially when it’s done with a major character. The death of Superman? Of Wolverine? Was there anyone on Earth who thought either of those would stick when those stories came out?

The newest issue of Uncanny X-Men to upload to Marvel Unlimited had the death of a character in it. Two days later, I saw an article on Marvel’s website about the relaunch of one of their titles. The character who had died in the issue I just read was going to be resurrected and be in this relaunch.

Really?

Granted, six months had passed between the time the issue I read was published and it was uploaded to Marvel Unlimited, but still. It’s getting ridiculous. Even the characters themselves are making light of it. I’ve seen a couple of times when someone says to a resurrected character, “Weren’t you dead?” and they’d reply, “It’s not the first time I’ve died,” or “People don’t stay dead around here.”

A character dying should be a big thing. It’s not. They’ve turned it into a gimmick and it’s irritating the heck out of me. It’s hard for me to stay invested in a story when there’s no consequences. “Oh no! Villain X is about to kill Hero Y with his latest weapon! What will he do?

“Oh, yeah. It doesn’t matter. Even if Villain X kills Hero Y they’re just going to bring him back in a few months anyway…”

Maybe I did it in my pre-blog years, but I don’t remember ever bringing any of my characters back from the dead. I’ve taken a few of my dead characters and made them undead, but I don’t recall ever bringing any back to life. Not in any of my serious stories anyway. I think I did it once or twice in my nonsensical ones. Now, there have been a few times when I’ve been tempted to do it, but I have no plans for it any time soon.

On the off chance that I do decide to bring one back someday, it won’t be for a gimmick. No, the only way I’d do it is if doing so would not only make sense in the story, but would also enhance the story.

So far, none of the Marvel resurrections I’ve read recently have met those two criteria.

Hoopla

Hoopla is an app I have for my phone that works with my local library. With it, I’m able to borrow digital versions of things just like I’d be able to borrow the physical copies from the library. It has ebooks, audio books, music, movies, and TV shows. Mostly, I use it for ebooks and music.

The ebooks that I borrow are almost all of the same kind: comic books. While there are some single issue stuff, most of the comics available to borrow are collections, anywhere between 4-6 issues of a given title. I really haven’t used it on many Marvel titles, because I have Marvel Unlimited, but anything DC that I’ve read since their Rebirth event has been on Hoopla.

It’s also allowed me to read things I’ve never known about before, like Valiant Comics. Before Hoopla, the only Valiant character I’d ever heard of was X-O Manowar, and that’s only because he once had a Game Boy game where he teamed up with Iron Man. Now, I’ve read a number of their books.

There’s Bloodshot (which started off strong, but got weaker around 15-20 issues in when they put him with a team). There was ShadowMan (a mystic/voodoo story set in New Orleans). And, of course, X-O Manowar (which was probably the best of the bunch).

Hoopla also gave me access to comics from Dragon Age, Firefly/Serenity, and Dark Matter (although I think they lost the rights to the Firefly ones because I don’t see them anymore).

Out of the other things Hoopla offers, the only one that I really use is music. I don’t do audio books. The one time I tried one, it pretty much made me fall asleep. And, if I want to watch a movie or TV show, Netflix has a much better selection.

As far as their music goes, they have a decent selection. And, a lot of the time, you can get things fairly quickly after they’re released. I was able to borrow Disturbed’s newest CD the same day it was released.

While there are a couple of things that I don’t like about it (there are a limited number of titles you can borrow (12 a month) and that each episode of a TV show is considered one borrow), I really like this app. And, the best thing about it, it’s completely free with my library card. If you want to give it a shot, check out your local library and see if they offer it.

Amalgam Comics

This should probably be categorized as one of my random thoughts (because it was), but I’m going with having it on its own. It was just a random thought that made me remember these comics. And, now that I think about it, I may have already blogged about this before. Hell, I’ve been doing this blog for a long time. It’s certainly possible. So, if I have, prepare to hear this again.

Around 20 years ago (I could actually look this up, but I’m lazy), DC and Marvel got together and did a big crossover event where they pitted their heroes against each other and let the fans vote on who would win. Some of the matchups were cool: Hulk vs Superman (Superman won), Batman vs Captain America (draw), Thor vs Shazam (Thor won). Others pretty much blew: Wolverine vs Lobo (take a wild guess on who won that one), Quicksilver vs The Flash (again, you can pretty much figure out the winner), Robin vs Jubilee (who cares?).

Out of this story came the Amalgam Universe. It’s a universe that contained mashups of DC and Marvel characters and some of them were pretty badass. There was Amazon, who was a mixture of Storm and Wonder Woman. Or, Super Soldier, who was a mix of Captain America and Superman.

My favorite, however, was Dark Claw. If you don’t know already, can you guess which two characters they combined to make him? No Google either, you cheaters!

Think you got it?

The correct answer is: Batman and Wolverine.

Now, I want you to stop and think about that for a second. Here’s a character that not only has Batman’s resources, fighting abilities, and smarts, but also Wolverine’s adamantium claws and healing factor. Do you know how much ass Dark Claw could kick with that particular set of skills? (You just read the phrase “particular set of skills” in Liam Neeson’s voice, didn’t you?)

A lot. He could kick a lot of ass

A while back, I did a post with my ultimate comic book team, five characters from any comic book company that would be my crime fighting team. I chose the five I did based on how much I liked the characters, not on their abilities. If I was to make one based solely on ability, Dark Claw would certainly be on my list.

Unfortunately, the Amalgam Universe was something that DC and Marvel had no intention of maintaining. They did a #1 issue for around 12 different characters or teams to coincide with the launch of the main DC vs Marvel storyline. Then a year or two later, they did the same for around 12 new titles, with nothing else ever since.

Sadly, we may never know how Dark Claw’s struggle against his villainous foe, Hyena (Joker and Sabertooth combined), concluded. Maybe the companies will get together on an anniversary of the original story and release something new from the Amalgam Universe.

I seriously doubt it will ever happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

Daredevil: Born Again

I started reading comics in the 90s. Most of what I know about stories that were written before that time come from either speaking with someone who had read them, or previous stories being mentioned on the books that I actually read. Sure, over the years, I tried a few times to go back and read some of the older stuff, but it usually felt incredibly dated. To me, they generally weren’t that exciting.

In short, most of the ones I tried to read weren’t fun for me.

Then, I read Born Again.

Most of you out there have probably heard of Frank Miller. If not, you’re probably familiar with his work: The Dark Knight Returns, 300, and Sin City. They were all written by Frank Miller. With all of that under his belt, in my opinion, his greatest comic achievement was his work on Daredevil.

He created Stick. He created The Chaste. He created Elektra and he created The Hand. Miller was also responsible for making the Kingpin the villain that he is today. Before Frank took over the reigns on Daredevil, the Kingpin was just another mob boss that battled Spider-Man from time to time. With Born Again, Frank Miller turned him into the plotting, scheming criminal mastermind that we know now.

I don’t want to give away too much, so here is the synopsis of the story as it appears on marvel.com:

Karen Page, Matt Murdock’s former lover, has traded away the Man Without Fear’s secret identity for a drug fix. Now, Daredevil must find strength as the Kingpin of Crime wastes no time taking him down as low as a human can get.

Originally published in 1986, this story was one of the few comics I’ve read from the 80s, or before, that didn’t seem dated. A few of the details within the story were dated, such as a hotel room only costing $8 a night, but the story itself held up really well.

And, if the rumors are to be believed, the Born Again story is going to be the basis for season 3 of Daredevil’s Netflix series.

I can see that. There was enough done in season 2 that could lead up to the events of Born Again. It’d be a little bit different, but the main plot would stay the same. Hell, Daredevil’s last scene in The Defenders came straight from the pages of Born Again. It was identical.

If you’re a fan of Daredevil, you need to read this book. It is one of the best Daredevil stories out there.

Marvel’s Runaways

Anyone who has Hulu has access to Marvel’s newest TV show, which is based on their series entitled, you guessed it, Runaways.
I was a little unsure about this show when I first heard about it because I knew next to nothing about them. In fact, the only time I had ever seen them was a brief appearance they made in one of Marvel’s big crossover events, and I didn’t even remember much about that. I think it was the original Civil War story and Captain America was trying to recruit them for his side. But, anyways….

Before I gave the show a chance, I decided to check out the comics first on Marvel Unlimited to see if it would be something I’d be interested in. Now, I don’t think anything further I have to say would be considered a spoiler, but, just in case, I’ll go ahead and issue a warning here. Possible spoilers ahead.

The basic premise of the book is that a group of teenagers find out their parents are bad guys and they try to get away from them (makes the name Runaways seem clever now, doesn’t it?). The original comic run was 18 issues long. It was supposed to be a limited series, but it was so popular that they brought it back in a second volume not long after the first run ended.

I read it. I liked it. There were some flaws, but not enough to make it a bad reading experience. So, I started watching the show. I don’t say this very often, but I actually like the TV show better than the comic book.

Because it’s a TV show, and they have an entire season to fill, they slowed the pace of the story down. That was great in my opinion because the first 5 or 6 issues of the comic felt really crammed to me. They probably should’ve stretched those 5 or 6 issues out into at least 8. Since it was a limited series, however, they probably didn’t have the space to do that in the comic.

While they kept the core characteristics of the teenagers the same in both the comic and show, the parents, and the story itself, are markedly different so far. Since, as of this writing, they have only released the first 9 episodes of the season (unlike Netflix, which releases their seasons all at once, Hulu releases their original show episodes once a week like normal TV stations do), that may change moving forward. 

Personally, I like the changes the show has made. They make the story more character driven and somehow more relatable. 

I recommend giving both of these a try if you get the chance. Though, I recommend the show more than the comic, which again sounds weird to say.

D.C. Universe Online

My wife and I finally got an Xbox One about two months ago. One of the first games I tried to play for it was one you could download for free called Marvel Heroes Omega. It is a MMORPG. They give you a list of characters to choose from, you pick one, and then you play the game as that character. I chose Blade.

The first hour or so was cool. It played a lot like the Ultimate Alliance games, except you only had a one character party, instead of four. Then, I read up on it a little bit. Now, maybe I just read it wrong, but the way it sounded to me was that the game was free to play, but if you wanted to level your character past level 10, you had to pay for it (if anyone out there plays it, please tell me if I got it wrong).

It wasn’t worth the hassle, nor the amount of space it took up on my hard drive, so I deleted it and moved on. Then, my nephew told me abiut DCUO. I was hesitant about it after the Marvel game was so disappointing, but he assured me that while you would have to pay if you wanted to get the best equipment in the game, there were no pay restrictions on leveling your character up. Plus, you are able to make up your own character on the D.C. game instead of using one of theirs.

I tried to create my character DICO. It didn’t go well. His power is…. unique, so I didn’t think I’d be able to get close to it (although, in retrospect, I probably should have looked to see if you could specialize in throwing Batarangs, which would be pretty close). Instead, I gave him hand blasters, kind of like Iron Man. I also tried to name him DICO, but, surprisingly, the name was already taken. After a couple more failed attempts, I was forced to settle for Detective DICO. 

I like it so far. 

The combat is smoother than I was expecting. The story, while not great, isn’t bad. I’ve been able to level up fairly quickly. So far, the only thing I don’t like about it is the PvP (player vs. player mode). There doesn’t seem to be a system in place to ensure that the two people fighting are at similar levels. The one time I tried it, I wailed on this guy with everything I had and barely made a dent while he could kill me in three hits. Fortunately, PvP is optional, so I don’t have to do it again if I don’t want to.

For now, I’m going to keep playing it.

What about you? Have you played either of them? What are your thoughts on them?

Ghoul Fan Fiction Finale

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With five guns now swinging my way, I didn’t have time to check on the Punisher’s condition just yet. I hoped that I could get all five men with one long burst from the automatic pistol. After I mowed down the first two men, the gun began clicking. Damn. I was out of ammo. I dropped the empty gun and drew the two pistols I had in my shoulder holsters.

By that time, the remaining three men had trained their guns on me and opened fire. I was hit by a barrage of bullets. None of them really did any major damage to me. Most of my coat and shirt were gone. My left pinky finger and my right middle finger had been shot off. Although I wasn’t a hundred percent sure, I was pretty sure my hat was now gone too.

Their shots did nothing to slow my own attacks. My trigger fingers worked furiously, sending speeding metal at the jackasses who were doing their best to kill me. Two of them fell with new holes in their bodies. The third man had taken cover before I could get him in my sights. A metallic ring sounded off to my left and I remembered that he was the grenade thrower.

While the grenade wouldn’t kill me, being blown up would severely hamper my ability to do….anything, really.

I dove to my right and hoped that it’d be enough. The explosion came as I hit the floor. Looking back to where it had gone off, I saw that I was now missing my left foot. It wasn’t ideal, but it could’ve been a lot worse. My guns had miraculously managed to stay in my hands, so I made ready for when the grenade thrower moved from cover to check on his handiwork.

Sure enough, he peeked around the corner to look in my direction. I shot the second I saw his head. From the other side of the room, someone else shot at the same time I did. Grenade thrower’s head literally exploded as two bullets tore through it. The Punisher stepped out of the doorway he had been using for cover, the barrel of his assault rifle smoking.

There were some dents in his body armor, and some small cuts on his arms and legs, but the grenade didn’t do him any major damage. I assume he found something to hide behind before it went off. “What’re you doing here,” he gruffly asked.

“Saving your life,” I replied while rolling my eyes. “Now, could you stop being an ungrateful ass and hand me my foot?”

Grunting slightly in response, he did as I asked. Once I had my foot back in place, I picked my two fingers off the ground and reattached them. To test them out, I held up my right middle finger up to the Punisher. “It works,” I said.

He ignored my awesome joke and moved further into the mansion. We made our way through the rest of it with ease. I would go into a room first and draw all of the fire. That left the Punisher free to take them out without having to worry about being under fire himself. It was the most efficient fight I had ever had in my “superhero” career. Well, when working with someone without powers, anyway.

The last room we got to was the master bedroom. When I busted down the door, Dallos stood alone. He was unarmed and holding his hands in the air. “I give up,” he pleaded. “I surrender.”

I thought of the sadness I saw on Amanda’s face when her spirit talked to me. “He’s all yours,” I told the Punisher as I turned and walked out of the room.

I wasn’t sure what he was going to do to Dallos, but I was sure that I didn’t want to be there when he did it. Besides, the sounds of the gunfight had been noticed. Police sirens played outside the house. Flashing red and blue lights could be seen in the windows in the front of the house. I needed to get the hell out of there.

I took off my shirt and trenchcoat, since they were nothing more than tatters now, and grabbed replacements from one of the other bedrooms. The shirt was fine, but there wasn’t a coat as good as my trenchoat at obscuring my face. Grabbing the best thing available, I threw it on and vowed to put my ring back on as soon as I possibly could. I also tucked a change of clothes under the jacket for when I found a place without any cameras.

The police were only at the front of the mansion at that point, so I was able to slip out the back undetected. I took a random route for a while, just in case someone was behind me. After finding a suitable place, I put on my  ring and changed my clothes. Once that was done, I hailed a cab and took it back to my office. Just like last time, I walked in to find the Punisher sitting behind my desk.

“Did you honestly think I wouldn’t figure out that you had taken the file,” he asked.

“I honestly don’t care that you know I took it,” I responded.

“I’ve seen firsthand that bullets don’t do much against you,” he grinned as he pulled something out of his pocket. “I also saw you run from a grenade. You made my work tonight far easier than it normally is, so it would be a shame if I had to use this on you. Give me the file, and we’ll part ways as friends.”

If I had lips, I would’ve smiled. Instead, I said, “Crop dust.”

He began to frantically look around, but didn’t see anything. I could tell he was debating using the grenade, but there was no guarantee that he’d be able to escape the blast when I was this close to him. Within seconds, his arms began to droop. Not long after he slumped over completely.

“Paralyzing gas,” I told him. “A friend of mine got it for me from S.H.I.E.L.D. It works really fast once it gets into the bloodstream. Another benefit of being dead is that I no longer have blood, so it doesn’t affect me at all. I wasn’t sure that I’d ever need this setup, but I like to be prepared.

“I could easily kill you right now, and I bet that I’d be the best friend of many spirits roaming the city tonight if I did, but I won’t be doing that. What I am going to do is drop this off at the police station. I’m pretty sure that a lot of the people in this file probably have enough people paid off that this won’t hurt them too much, but I think some of them will face some time because of this.

“All I’m really sure of right now is what will happen if you get your hands on this: My city will gain a lot of new spirits. You may not care, because you’re done with them once they’re dead, but I do. I don’t want to have to deal with a lot of disgruntled mobsters that you set your crosshairs on.”

I walked over to stand in front of him and put my face right in front of his. “I know you can hear me, so listen up. You’re going to stay right where you are until the gas wears off and then you’re going to disappear from my life forever. I’ve heard you’re not to big about letting things go, so if you ever get the urge to come after me, I want you to remember something. I want you to remember how many people you’ve killed. How many of those spirits would help me against you?

“Sure, you could hurt me with that grenade, but you still wouldn’t kill me. And, once I recovered, I would use every one of those spirits to find out every single thing about you. With help like that, I’d be able to take you out before you even knew I was coming after you. Or, maybe I’d use them to warn every person you’re targeting that you’re coming after them. I suppose I could always scare away anyone who supplies your gear, too. There’s really no end to the things I could do to disrupt your crusade.”

I walked to the door, put my hand on the knob, and turned my head towards him. “No matter which option you choose, I will always be ok in the end. All you’re really doing is choosing how hard your life will be from now on. It’s up to you, Frank.”

With that, I walked out the door, hopefully to never see the Punisher again.