Star Trek is 50 Years Old

There’s this father and son thing in pop culture, where a dad will watch baseball with his newborn baby boy on his lap. My life was like that, except me and my dad were watching Star Trek.

Captain Kirk has been with me for as long as I can remember. He’s my captain. Every trekker has a captain they latch on to, usually between Picard and Kirk, and I was easily swayed to the gold shirted captain of The Original Series. He defined masculinity for me very early on. I don’t mean Chris Pine’s rebellious bad boy version of Kirk either. William Shatner’s Kirk was a military man who followed orders and expected his to be followed. He was a man who believed in his friends and stood by them in the darkest of times. He was a man who didn’t believe in no win scenarios and always found a way to persevere.

It’s actually kind of maddening that Star Trek has made it to 50 years old. When the original series aired it only got to three seasons, and even that was just barely. Yet it stayed in the public consciousness. That bright future, where humanity comes together to become explorers once more, has never stopped being worth striving for. In fact, I would say it’s become even more of an ideal future for us. The Original Series captured that best I think. In The Next Generation the captain and crew were cerebral people, too smart and too good to relate to. But in The Original Series the crew was made up of very flawed people just trying their best.

The time period that sticks out to me strongest when I think of Star Trek is high school. Because school started so early in the morning, I would wind up eating breakfast with my dad each day around 6 AM. There were only two things on TV at that time. The weather channel, a favorite of his, and classic Star Trek, a favorite of both of us.

We went with Star Trek.

I became capable of naming any episode within the first couple of minutes. I got to see some of all of them, from the stone cold classic;  Balance of TerrorArena, The City on the Edge of Forever,  Mirror, Mirror , and The Trouble with Tribbles to the less fondly remembered; Spock’s Brain.

There are the outlandish _____ Planet episodes. The Gangster Planet, the Nazi Planet, the Cold War Planet.

Many people see Star Trek as the overly intelligent sci-fi series to Star Wars so I’ll say it again. GANGSTER. PLANET. Star Trek is dumb fun and I love it.

My favorite episode, if I have to pick one, is Where No Man Has Gone Before. It’s the second pilot, where the first one starred a different captain and crew save for Spock, and probably carries more personal stakes for Captain Kirk than any other. The Enterprise comes across a strange energy that gifts Kirk’s friend Gary Mitchell with god-like powers. Gary quickly lets his powers consume him and Kirk has to personally take on the duty of putting his friend down, when he’s at his most dangerous. It’s thrilling and epic and would’ve been a great choice to adapt into a Kelvin Timeline movie.

While the movies look back to the Original Series to rebuild the franchise, on TV Star Trek will push forward once more with Star Trek: Discovery. Abbreviated that’s DSC, which along with TOS, TNG, DS9, VGR, and ENT makes this the sixth incarnation of Star Trek, boldly going into the realm of streaming television on CBS All Access. Welcome to the future.

There have been so many think pieces on Star Trek today all over the internet, but I wanted to make my voice known among the masses. Star Trek, from the beginning, is one of the most inventive and fascinating series to ever air. No other sci-fi show can come close to it. Star Trek didn’t just bring in TV writers to write its episodes, it brought in big name science fiction authors. Every episode was a new discovery for the characters and audience. Star Trek dared to dream of a future where a crew of people as diverse as Earth itself could explore space, the final frontier, just for the joy of discovery. Who wouldn’t be into that?

Star Trek has played a big hand in making me the person I am today, and this is the best way I know to give back.

The human adventure is only just beginning…

-JP

PS, Star Trek is all on Netflix by the way so get on your butt and watch some.

Your DC Universe Already in Progress

We are three movies into the DC Extended Universe. In the first, Man of Steel, Superman was presented as the first and only metahuman on Earth. In the second, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman has been operating for at least ten years and Lex Luthor presents the “metahuman theory” that posits there may be more than Superman out there. In the third, Suicide Squad, the US government has several metahumans already in custody, one of whom is a six thousand year old demon.

What I’m saying is;

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For a studio who initially looked to produce “grounded” superhero epics, Warner Bros has gone weird. That’s not a complaint, at all, but I would like to examine how we got here. To be fair, the DCEU is already that weirdest franchise out there. All of the movies in this interconnected universe have massive problems, each one is made as a reaction to the previous film, but they are all certainly pretty to look at. I’m still having trouble working through my feelings about Suicide Squad and its tonal whiplash.

So how did we get here? Of course it begins with Christopher Nolan.

The Dark Knight premiered on July 18th, 2008. This was two months after Iron Man left an Easter egg scene after their credits that many people missed. Both of these movies lived in our world. One with normal rules and science. The Dark Knight, with its complicated morality and captivating villain, rocked that summer. It’s the kind of one of a kind success that studios can’t help but try to achieve again.

However when The Dark Knight Rises came out in July of 2012, it arrived in a post-Avengers world. Marvel had slowly taken us from a robot suit in Malibu to an otherworldly Hemsworth carrying a magic homing hammer. They created a new kind of franchise, one that nobody else has successfully replicated, and unequivocally won that summer.

In comparison The Dark Knight Rises felt a little bit like a throwback. It’s grounding even hurts it when plot holes open up upon inspection. But for WB, the film was still a financial success and drove their approach to Man of Steel and their introduction to the DCEU.

Meanwhile, the televised DC Universe was slowly preparing us for the much stranger sides of comic books. When Arrow premiered in October of 2012, it was still pre-Avengers. This shows in the first season of the show, one that attempts to capture the energy of the Batman films. Aggressively turning super villains into “realistic” versions of themselves, Arrow season one never quite hit it out of the park.

But season two changes everything.

In Arrow season two, the series introduced its own super soldiers, introduced Barry Allen, and saw him get struck by lightning created in a particle accelerator explosion. After that, The Flash premiered and explained the concept of a metahuman to audiences. The Flash could travel through time and Arrow sucessfully brought a character back from the dead. Suddenly Arrow was fighting magic, The Flash explored the multiverse and met Supergirl, and the Legends of Tomorrow were gathered to protect time itself.

Now we’ve seen a full fledged DC Universe, nobody wants to wait for the movies to get there. So the movies have retroactively decided to start there.

WB has created a DC Universe already in progress. It’s been around for a while. There’s been magic and super science. There’s already a Joker and a whole rogues gallery for Batman. The Flash is out there apprehending people like Captain Boomerang before he even gets his own movie. Wonder Woman fought in World War One.

It’s exciting, and a fascinating experiment overall to see if it will work. Now if they can just make good movies this could all come together.

-JP

PS, if you had told me years ago that part three of a DC movieverse would be Suicide Squad, before Justice League, I would have learned to scoff like never before.

“I can do this all day.”

Before we move any further:

This trailer for Captain America: Civil War is top notch. I have spoken about how the Distinguished Competition (what the old Marvel editors would call DC) have had a bit of trouble figuring out their marketing campaign for Batman v Superman. It is difficult to sell the conflict when we don’t really know either party in the fight. Ben Affleck’s Batman is a new iteration and while I thought I knew Superman, this version can be very violent and erratic. Captain America and Iron Man, on the other hand, have been with us for about eight years. We’ve seen them meet, bond, and fight before. And that’s why Civil War is going to hurt so damn much.

There are a lot of epic moments in the trailer. The underwater super prison, the Black Panther/Bucky chase, Tony Stark’s Iron Glove… thing, Black Panther totally unfazed by a barrage of bullets (because his suit is 100% Vibranium and absorbs all the impact force), Scarlet Witch vs The Vision, Ant-Man leaping off of Hawkeye’s arrow, the group shot of everyone running at each other and, of course, Spider-Man.

But what really stands out in this trailer, far more than the whiz bang explosions, is Steve Rogers.

It’s the quieter moments, like when all of the collateral damage of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is thrown in The Avengers’ faces. Steve tells General Ross to stop, not because he’s had enough, but because he sees the look on Wanda/Scarlet Witch’s face at looking at Sokovia again.

Greater still, it’s when Iron Man has Cap dead to rights and says, “Stay down.” and Cap just replies, “I can do this all day.”

Because it’s this:

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Because he’s still the scrawny kid from Brooklyn who can’t stand a bully. Even after World War II. Even after being frozen for nearly 7o years. Even after fighting aliens and gods and killer robots. Even after the enemy he thought he’d destroyed came back as strong as ever. He’s still that kid.

There’s a fairly iconic panel of Captain America from, ironically, a Spider-Man comic back in the comic series Civil War. It wasn’t the best event series in comic form, and I’m very happy the movie is only using the bare bones concept for its story. Still, I think this panel perfectly distills who Steve Rogers is, as he explains to Spider-Man what America means to him.

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This is also why this character works so well in these movies. He’s too righteous and good to find internal conflict. His powers are too mundane for the epic stories of Thor but his enemies are too great for something smaller like Ant-Man. No, you test Steve Rogers by throwing everything against him, and watch him refuse to bend from his beliefs. You put him in a traditional conspiracy movie and watch him become the moral compass for everyone involved.

And then you put him into a no win scenario. You put his best friend from childhood on one side and his best friend from the present on the other. You see what happens when there no longer is a right answer. You watch him try to save everyone even when he knows that isn’t possible. You watch in horror as the friendships and life he’s built over the past few years comes crumbling down.

This is why the Marvel movies work as well as they do. They know their characters, and they know exactly how to test them. Tony Stark’s arc has been all about learning from his mistakes and learning to accept help from his friends. After Ultron, he knows they need oversight. He knows he needs oversight. Black Widow has always been with one organization or another. This is all she knows. Hawkeye will do whatever is best for his family. Each and every one of them are willing to fight for their beliefs, because that’s what made them heroes in the first place.

Whether we knew it or not, this story was always going to happen. Now I’m just scared of what the fallout of it will be. Just like in The Winter Soldier the entire MCU is going to change following this one, and it doesn’t matter which team comes out on top. Because they will all have lost a piece of themselves.

Except for Spider-Man. He’s just happy to be here.

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Yay! Look how colorful he is!

-JP

PS – My recommended marathon before watching Civil War is: Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. You come in with Cap, meet Iron Man, find out what makes him tick in one of his solo adventures, return for Bucky’s big debut, and then see how the Avengers roster changed so drastically.

Happy Birthday Clark Kent

On February 29th, about 30 years ago (plus or minus 10), a rocket crash landed in Smallville, Kansas. That rocket was found by a kindly couple. Farmers Jonathon and Martha Kent, two of the kindest and most loving people on Earth, and very likely the only people capable of raising the most powerful being on the planet into a beacon of hope for all to see.

Now that I am working on the Warner Bros Studio Lot, a great deal of conversations are coming back around to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I have written about the film before. I will write about it again. Hell, I’ve written about Superman before, but the conversation that I keep having is that Batman is fundamentally better than Superman, and that simply is not true.

From start to finish, Superman is a better character than Batman. He is a better character not because of his strength or his enemies. No man is defined by his enemies, bat fans. Superman is great because underneath the curled hair, red cape, and underwear on the outside, Superman is Clark Kent.

Imagine finding out in your toddler years that you are strong enough to lift a car over your head. That you can jump incredible distances and melt things with your eyes when you get angry.

 

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If you wanted, you could throw a tantrum that levels your home. You could do whatever you wanted, whatever it is that toddlers want to do. But instead of being scared of you, your parents embrace you and decide to help you learn to control your capabilities.

Your father ties a line to you to teach you how to fly. Your mother knits the indestructible blankets from your spaceship into protective clothing in case anything goes wrong. They teach you how to use your powers for right instead of wrong and instill in you all the best morals of America without any of the hatred so often seen in our country.

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The world around you is made of cardboard and it is your responsibility not to break any of it. This is your planet too, and you must be grateful every day that it was here to save your life.

And yet you’re a teenager. High School is hard and you know how easy everything would be if you took off your glasses and showed the world, and the cute red headed girl, how incredible you really are. But that wouldn’t be right, because you about the darker side of humanity by now. You know how lucky you are to have the life you live, and you would much rather use your strength to spread that love and compassion wherever you go.

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All your parents ever wanted for you was to give back to the world. And you do. You save the world, but more importantly you save people. You’ve seen all sides of humanity and you still believe each and every one of us is worth saving, and each person you save is so much more important that defeating Lex Luthor, General Zod, or Brainiac.

All of your great super heroic deeds. The other god like people you spend your time with. At the end of the day you still choose to be Clark Kent. Clark Kent who wears glasses. Clark Kent with severely stooped posture. Clark Kent who can’t catch the eye of the woman he loves because she’s too busy looking at you.

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But it’s all worth it to be among us. Because what’s the point of it all if you can’t live among us. Yes, you’ve seen the darkest we are capable of, but you have also seen the light. Once more you have the burden of showing us the way. Showing us how power does not have to corrupt, because if you can be capable of so much and still use your great strength to save people, then how can all the evil on Earth justify itself?

That’s Superman. The original and still the greatest. Sometimes, if we’re all really lucky, a writer really understands him. When that happens we get some of the best comics ever written. For example:

The Curse of Superman – Action Comics (2011) #9

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This single issue story by Grant Morrison (an excellent comic book writer who knows Superman)and Gene Ha is essentially a throw down between the Supermen of two different alternate realities. One one side there’s President Superman, who is essentially Obama, who fights against another Superman that is literally a brand come to life. President Superman shows how the ideal of Superman transcends race and class, while Brand Superman shows how warped that ideal can become in the face of franchise expansion.

Superman for All Seasons

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If you know of Batman: The Long Halloween then you are familiar with the team behind this book. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale craft here an excellent story set in Superman’s first year in Metropolis. Here are two panels that prove this one understands Supes:

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Secret Identity

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Yet another Superman story that’s more about the idea of Superman than the real thing. Secret Identity, by Kurt Busiek with straight up amazing art by Stuart Immonen, is about a kid growing up in our world with the unfortunate name of Clark Kent. He is compared to Superman his whole life, hates it, and then one day starts displaying the same abilities as the comic book character. He steps up and takes on his namesake’s responsibilities, displaying how important the ideal of Superman is, even in the real world.

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

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Fun fact: Alan Moore is a genius. Yes he wrote one of the darkest Superhero stories ever with Watchmen, but he has also written some of the brightest. He has written both an incredible run on Supreme, a Superman knock-off initially created by Rob Liefeld, and what could be considered the final word on Superman with Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? A Superhero Conclusion story (so, the opposite of an origin story), This tale perfectly uses the entire Silver Age of Superman to tell a story that could expertly send the character off into the sunset, if such a thing were ever necessary.

For the Man Who Has Everything

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Hey it’s Alan Moore again! And this time he brought along Dave Gibbons, who did the art in Watchmen. For the Man Who Has Everything is the story of a fateful birthday for Superman, when the evil alien warlord Mongul drops by and plants a, uh, evil plant onto Superman. This evil plant, a Black Mercy, causes Superman to live out his perfect fantasy life, on a Krypton that never exploded. The only way to free himself is to let this world around him die, and when he comes for Mongul after that you get to see one of the scariest things in the universe. Angry Superman.

Oh! And they adapted this into episode 2 of Justice League Unlimited, which is currently streaming on Netflix!

 

All Star Superman

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This is easily the best Superman story I have ever read, and it’s another conclusion story! Hmm, maybe we should lay off origins and do some more conclusions. InĀ  this tale, Superman flies to close to the sun, high fives Icarus, and becomes stronger than ever before. The downside is that all of his cells are exploding from too much energy and he is going to die. In his final days, Superman completes the greatest feats in his entire lifetime. If you think Superman’s strength makes telling stories about him hard, this one will prove you wrong.

Also they made an animated movie about it if you don’t like reading!

 

Superman’s longevity exists because he is an icon that will never die. He is a beacon of goodness that we should all aspire to be. It can be hard to see sometimes, but he is incredible. So here’s a Happy Birthday to you Clark Kent! I’ll see you again for the next one in four years.

-JP

PS – honorable mentions go out to the first Superman Movie and Superman II, as well as all of Bruce Timm’s Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited.

Let’s Not Learn the Wrong Lesson from Deadpool

This weekend Deadpool made giant chimichanga money.

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In fact, Deadpool is now not only the highest opening weekend grossing X-Men film in the franchise, but the highest of any Fox superhero film, and it even performed better this past weekend than Man of Steel did when it debuted.

I really need to stop talking about Man of Steel for a while.

This success can be attributed to many things but I want to lay special praise out for the marketing department. This movie has been sold better than any superhero movie I have seen. Los Angeles in particular is plastered with Mr. Pool but none of it has felt particularly grating.

For those of you who stayed through the credits, which should be everyone by now ( I actually refuse to associate with people who don’t wait for the credits tags now), you know a sequel is on the way. Now that Deadpool as proved itself profitable, Fox executives are going to be looking for ways to use it as a lesson to improve their other superhero movies. I just hope they learn the right ones.

First, to get a quick review out of the way, Deadpool is simply fine. It wasn’t any kind of genre breaker and the plot was very by the numbers. In fact, I probably would have thought much higher of the film if it were made back when the script was written six years ago. Since then, Marvel Phase Two arrived and made the best superhero movies the genre has ever seen. I have read that older script and it is largely identical to what we got. I did truly enjoy the movie though. The action was well choregraphed, I laughed at enough of the jokes, and anything I didn’t love was candy for the thirteen year olds behind me. R-rating be damned they found their way in, right behind me, and kicked my seat throughout.

And that’s the first lesson I want to argue against. No, we do not need more R-rated superhero movies. I will say it, Deadpool did not have to be R. Yes, it allowed it to stand out more in our superhero saturated media landscape, but the basic story could have been told just as well in PG-13. I have been hearing rumblings online from fanboys hoping all of the different superhero movies start going darker. My response is simple and I will only say it once:

FANBOYS ARE IDIOTS

Superheroes and their movies are still ostensibly for a younger audience. Hell, even Deadpool was for that younger audience as evident by the noisy kids sitting behind me at my screening. The R-rating is not what made Deadpool a better movie, it was what the creators got from having the R-rating.

A real lesson here is that cheaper can be better. A friend recently told me that Batman v Superman needs to make a billion dollars to be profitable.

What is wrong with me? It all keeps coming back to Superman!

Meanwhile Deadpool made back its production cost and then some over the weekend, mainly because it costs so much less than those movies. Instead of going for bombast, the movie found humor in its low stakes and made for a more emotional final confrontation than what we get most of the time when the planet is in danger. On top of that, Fox remained fairly hands off for this one. Because it was R-rated and an obscure character in a movie they only really greenlighted because some test footage was leaked, they didn’t really mess around with it. Director Tim Miller got to make the exact movie he wanted and audiences loved it.

Here’s a question. If you’re a producer in Fox and you see how well Deadpool did, would you want to be involved in Deadpool 2? The answer is yes, and I worry all of this new attention will have a detrimental effect on this burgeoning series. The lesson they should take away is to be more hands off. If Fox had been more hands off with last year’s Fant4stic, maybe it could have really been something special. Fox meddled the least with X-Men: First Class and it is probably the best of the entire franchise. Just, let the creators do their thing. Let the series live and die on them.

That’s not even the most important lesson here! The thing that makes Deadpool better is how much it embraces being a comic book property. It’s not grounded or gritty in any way, it bounces off the walls with joy. The movie feels more in line with the products of Marvel Studios, and it is better for it. Take those feelings all the way. Let the X-Men got to space and pick up Lockheed and fight the Brood or whatever. You know what Wolverine can stab in a PG-13 movie? ALIENS.

The X-Men have gone on some next level crazy adventures. Colossus has a sister who is indentured to the devil. They time travel all the damn time (and props to Days of Future Past for leading the way here). The island of genosis was founded as a haven for X-Men and then wiped off the planet in a mass genocide.

GO ALL THE WAY.

And then, when you are really good at putting these lessons into action, come back to Fantastic Four and do it right. I’m talking big man Galactus in a purple suit with a G on his belt. I’m talking the Super Skrull. I’m talking Ben Grimm dies and the team goes to heaven to get him back only to discover that God is Jack Kirby. The Fantastic Four could still be amazing, but they can’t be grounded. They need to be the opposite of grounded. What’s the word? Oh yeah, liberated.

-JP

PS, the new Wolverine will apparently be rated R. That’s fine, just don’t get lost in it.

It’s About More than “Beating” the Game

Video Games bear an interesting burden as the only art form you can be bad at.

Before you raise any protest, yes, video games are most certainly art. Every time you look over a gorgeous landscape in Destiny, every time a musical swell in the Legend of Zelda urges you forward, every time you come up with an elegant stealth maneuver in Metal Gear Solid, that is art at play.

In the last decade a narrative device has been perfected in video game storytelling. The decision wheel. I thank Bioware, the studio behind mega hits Dragon Age and Mass Effect, for that. The decision wheel is a way to choose your own adventure through conversations in a game. They let you control the flow of conversation, making it easier to feel like your character is an extension of yourself. Most importantly, they can be used to make decisions in a game that will ripple out and effect the rest of the game’s story.

In my humble opinion, the perfect decision wheel is when there is no “right” choice to make. Everyone I know, including myself, is a cynic. We can all see narrative beats coming from a mile away and there is always a “right” option.

But sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes a game can put characters and moments together in a way that catches even the most logical person off guard. In those moments it stops being about “beating the game”. It starts being about making the choice you can live with.

maxresdefaultComing back to Mass Effect, specifically Mass Effect 2, there is only one perfect decision wheel in the entire game franchise. It appears when you are fighting a ship full of an enemy machine species called the Geth. You are given two options. One is to kill every Geth on the ship. The other options is to rewrite their “code” so they are no longer your enemies.

Genocide, or steal their free will away. You can tell yourself that the Geth are just machines and have only ever been acting on code. But they have religion and society. They have fought wars for the right to be called equals. In that moment, when you must make that choice. I had to stop and think about it.

There was no right answer that day, but I chose to rewrite them. Was it the right choice? Well, Mass Effect 3 removes a lot of nuance by making it clear that, yes, I made the wrong choice. All those Geth were freed from their reprogramming and turned on me. To be honest, it does detract from that decision, Bioware’s crowning achievement in my opinion, but I will never forget my first encounter with that choice.

the-walking-dead-uiThe Walking Dead video game from Telltale Games, which is better than both the shows and comic, is rife with these. You play as a man who finds himself the caretaker of a young girl, Clementine, in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. It isn’t about your survival, it’s about hers. Time after time you must make questionable decisions for her sake and by the end of the first season (as an episodic game, TWD comes in seasons) you must confront each of these choices in turn to prove that you are worthy to protect Clementine.

The game is exhausting, and you wonder if you’ve made the right choice after nearly every interaction. Instead of watching someone like Rick Grimes be concerned with doing the right thing in this world, these become your real concerns. And there’s no way to go back and make a better choice.

And then there’s Life is Strange

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Life is Strange is art from start to finish, no question about it. In the game you play as Max Caulfield who, along with her friend Chloe, try to unravel the disappearance of a girl from their high school. It’s episodic like The Walking Dead, and relies heavily on binary choices where there isn’t a right answer.

But there’s a twist. Max can rewind time.

It’s a useful skill, and game mechanic, that lets you answer questions right in class and solve all sorts of puzzles, but it also makes every decision that much harder. When Chloe is hit by her step father, the head of security at your school, you can rewind time to prevent it. Only then, he sets his sights on getting you kicked out of school. You must choose, your education or Chloe’s momentary safety.

Max and Chloe are our main protagonists, and I found something strange happening to me over the course of the game. I was, as Max, falling in love with Chloe. I wanted, needed, for them to end up together. I started manipulating events so they could be together, and happy. Which meant rewinding time, many, many times to ensure everything turned out alright.

Life is Strange throws moment after moment of this at you, to the point where you feel like you are abusing your abilities, all while increasing use of your powers throws off the natural balance of the world. Yesterday the final episode of Life is Strange came out, and when the final choice arrived I had to put down my controller and think for nearly 15 minutes about what decision I could live with myself for making.

*SPOILERS FOLLOW*

The game begins with Chloe’s death. She is shot dead right in front of you and your desire to see her live is what activates your powers in the first place. Then, in every subsequent episode, Chloe’s life is put in danger again and again.

If you’re a fan on Lost, you might recognize this as Desmond seeing Charlie die and saving him over and over. Or it’s like in Final Destination. Basically, Chloe has to die. And the town the game is set in is hit by a massive hurricane in it’s final episode, destiny coming for Chloe.

Chloe realizes this and asks you to make a sacrifice. Go back in time to that first moment and let her die, thus undoing all the changes you have made as Max. My brain immediately registered that as the “right” thing to do. The choice is made astoundingly clear. Either let Chloe die, or sacrifice the entire town.

And like I said, I was in love with Chloe and Max together.

This time I decided to be selfish. I saved Chloe one last time. I wasn’t going to go through all of this, saving her all these times, just to kill her in the end.

*SPOILERS END*

Life is Strange emotionally wrecked me, and I recommend it for everyone, regardless of video game skill and interest.

This was a game far beyond needing to “beat” it. This was a story I needed to experience. This was something that blinded me with it’s characters and emotions to the point that I didn’t see the big twist coming.

I always see the twist coming. And no, what I mentioned in the spoilers isn’t the big twist.

Life is Strange is something that will stay with me for a long time. Most video games that are objectively art should, much like Journey did in an earlier post. There were no right or wrong choices, and I feel compelled to start a new game. But the real irony is how well that would play into the developer, Dontnod’s, hands. It’ll be traveling back in time with knowledge of the future, and I’m scared of finding out what I can and cannot change.

-JP

P.S. Life is Strange also has a sublime soundtrack. Take a listen.

The Status is not Quo

Superman is almost powerless and has lost his secret identity.

Thor is a woman.

Batman is Commissioner Gordon in a mech suit.

Captain America is Sam Wilson, a Black man and the former Falcon.

Wonder Woman is the goddess of War.

Iron Man is… okay Iron Man is pretty much the same.

Among many other changes, this is the state of DC and Marvel right now. But as Marvel launches their “All New All Different” Omniverse, and DC sets about to initiate DC You, the companies are taking different approaches to their recent changes. See, Marvel is doubling down on change. It’s not just all new, it’s all different. Then on the other hand DC, after a very disappointing fiscal year, has decided to move back to “Meat and Potatoes” superhero comics.

It’s an odd position for DC to take. They appear to be blaming their riskier changes for a recent downturn in sales and I don’t believe that’s their problem at all. This summer both DC and Marvel released event miniseries which were, on the surface, identical. DC’s Covergence was about a patchwork planet made up of versions of their heroes from every reality ever written struggling to survive into a new reality. Marvel’s Secret Wars, which is still in progress, is about a patchwork planet made up of versions of their heroes from every reality ever written struggling to survive into a new reality. The general consensus is that Secret Wars is better than Convergence, and it isn’t because it’s taking less of a risk. It’s because Secret Wars is being written to show off every different angle that can be taken on your favorite heroes and villains, all depending on the reality around them.

Convergence was written to make your favorite heroes and villains fight. Outside of canon. And also to buy DC time while they moved offices.

That’s what makes the All New All Different titles compelling too. Writers and Artists are finding new angles on old ideas. The Avengers will now feature Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America training the next generation, Ms. Marvel aka Khamala Khan, Spider-Man aka Miles Morales, and Nova aka Sam Alexander. This is not only the most diverse team of Avengers ever, throwing in Vision for that key android demographic, but it’s one that arrives with a purpose beyond “we need an Avengers comic because people buy them.”

It’s finding a new angle on an old idea that keeps bringing people back to the same properties. It was taking Batman from silly and Schumaker to dark and Nolan that brought everyone out to see it. It was making The Amazing Spider-Man movies the same as the originals that kept everyone home.

To put it in terms of a metaphor no one has ever looked so deeply into, how are my meat and potatoes served? Are the potatoes baked or mashed? Can I get garlic potatoes or some gravy? What’s the meat? Chicken, steak, pork? Meat and potatoes don’t have to be a bad thing as long as you change up the formula, but I don’t think that’s what DC is planning.

I used to be the biggest DC comics fan. My favorite superhero was Green Lantern, and I would bring new issues to school and turn all of my friends into fans as well. But about a year ago I realized I was only reading two DC comics, Justice League and Multiversity. Multiversity was written much more like Secret Wars. It explored the multiverse and took new looks at old stories, characters, and tropes. It was outside of the main canon and excellent. At the same time Justice League felt like a chore. They had found a new angle, adding Lex Luthor and Captain Cold to the team, but that was their only title doing anything new and interesting. But that wasn’t even enough because the storytelling was frustrating. Every story line had an issue long prologue and epilogue, with a five issue story between. It was, as they say, written for the trades. So when Multiversity ended, I stopped reading DC.

I’ve begun reading much more third party titles and much more Marvel. Their approach to storytelling feels modern, where a single issue can contain a full story. They have found new angles on old characters that are genuinely exciting and, beyond that, intellectually stimulating. One of the friends I got into comics through Green Lantern wrote his thesis paper on Captain America being a Black man. He has a degree because of comic books (and on a day when I’m feeling particularly egotistical, me). Marvel has refused to maintain their “classic” status quo and I applaud them for it and want more. I have read the stories written from those angles, and they are preserved online forever. New stories shouldn’t feel the same as the old ones, they should feel all new… and all different.

This is all a way of saying that I desperately hope DC still takes some risks, because I want their comics to be good. I eagerly await the day I get back into reading their stuff.

Except Green Lantern. That series should have ended when Geoff Johns finished his story.

-JP

P.S. This is also why I’m hopeful for the Marvel Studios Spider-Man. I’m sure they know of a new angle to come at Peter Parker from.