Comic Book Review – Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 7 & 8

Ultimate Spider-Man: Irresponsible (2019)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #40-45
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man: Cats & Kings (2019)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #46-53
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man goes back into the daily struggle of Peter Parker’s life. He’s still searching for a costume replacement as his last one was shredded. It’s a great reminder that Spider-Man always works best when facing realistic challenges to balance out the fantastic villains that come his way. His relationship with Mary Jane is on the rocks, and he reacts with the sort of demeanor one would expect from a teenage boy, with a lot of immaturity and anger. Despite bearing the moniker Spider-MAN, Peter is still very much a child. That anger translates into an inability to listen to others, such as when Flash Thompson tries to make a connection with Peter, mend fences, and our protagonist blows him off. 

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Comic Book Review – Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 5 & 6

Ultimate Spider-Man: Public Scrutiny (2012)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #28-32
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man: Venom (2011)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #33-39
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

In the fifth volume of Ultimate Spider-Man, writer Brian Michael Bendis steps back to focus on Peter Parker even more. While the original Lee/Ditko Spider-Man stories spent much time on Peter’s personal life, Bendis has outdone them. He builds on the readership’s likely background knowledge of the characters to play with expectations and develop them beyond simple archetypes. The Daily Bugle becomes a key feature in this collection, and thus we get to see J. Jonah Jameson clashes with his staff, particularly Ben Urich, who challenges his boss’s view on Spider-Man. In addition, a bank robber is running around town dressed up like Spidey, which gets Jameson salivating over the tabloid possibilities. 

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Movie Review – The Departed

The Departed (2006)
Written by William Monahan
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Once again, Scorsese takes a direct-for-hire gig from a studio. Unlike the previous films, this one plays to the filmmaker’s talents much better. It’s a crime story that, while set in Boston, definitely shares DNA with Goodfellas and Casino. However, it’s also a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. I haven’t seen that original picture, so as much as I’d like to compare the two, we’ll have to discuss this one on its own terms. The Departed has been a movie maligned as a red flag picture by the myopic “anti-film bro” crowd. I always sympathize with a disdain for that type of male fan who always identifies with the characters you’re not supposed to cheer for. It’s a standard American misconception with narrative fiction that the protagonist is the “good guy” whom the audience is meant to support. Scorsese’s work continually presents evil men as his main characters, which does not endorse them. These types of bad people are often more interesting to examine in stressful situations, and they also go along with one of the director’s career-long themes: can a person this bad be redeemed?

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Movie Review – The Aviator

The Aviator (2004)
Written by John Logan
Directed Martin Scorsese

The 2000s was a decade of indulgence for Martin Scorsese’s films. This and Gangs of New York are the chief examples following an interest by the public in historical dramas told in an epic style. I don’t think this format works with Scorsese’s strengths as a filmmaker, but I applaud him for trying something different. Even a middle-of-the-road Scorsese film is better than many directors’ best work. In another director’s hands, The Aviator might play as a standard biopic, but Scorsese makes sure the story remains centered on the person at the center of it and Howard Hughes as a filmmaker, a way into the story that connects with the director. Leonardo DiCaprio is also coming into his own here, taking on a much more mature role than his previous work, no longer attempting to be a “movie heartthrob” but really coming into his own as a performer, willing to do things that push him further in the craft.

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Movie Review – Gangs of New York

Gangs of New York (2002)
Written by Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Martin Scorsese

When we last left Mr. Scorsese, he’d just released his final film of the 20th century, Bringing Out the Dead. I know that picture is experiencing a slight rediscovery & appreciation; I just did not connect with the tone or style. However, it is an excellent example of Scorsese’s fearlessness in experimenting with different techniques, a trait that has dominated his 21st-century work. I don’t think most people would be able to identify who directed The Aviator, Hugo, and Silence if they didn’t know. Those are different movies from each other, and some work while others don’t for me personally, but I always have to hand it to the director for taking risks many filmmakers would never take. Leonard DiCaprio is the one constant in almost every (but not all) Scorsese films in the 2000s and 2010s.

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Comic Book Review – Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 3 & 4

Ultimate Spider-Man: Double Trouble (2011)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #14-21
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man: Legacy (2006)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #22-26
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

It was quite an admirable feat. Stan Lee & Steve Ditko were creating a cohesive continuous narrative in comics that hadn’t really been done before. The events of one issue carried over into the next, and the circumstances of an entire year had an actual weight on the direction of Peter Parker’s life. Brian Michael Bendis was writing Ultimate Spider-Man in an era where that continuity was even more expected, and so the ties between Spider-Man and his supporting cast & villains are expected to be even more tightly knit. When villains appeared in the original run of Spider-Man, they had highly loose or no connection to Parker’s world. Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, and the rest became who they were independent of each other, but in the Ultimate Universe, they will have much tighter connections. 

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Comic Book Review – Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 1 & 2

Ultimate Spider-Man: Power and Responsibility (2000)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #1-7
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve (2003)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #8-13
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Last year, in the build-up to Spider-Man: No Way Home, I read through the entire Stan Lee/Steve Ditko run that created the character. It was a very interesting experience as I’d only experienced these stories fragmented and often not in order before. Reading them straight through did two things. The first was it opened my eyes to what a fantastic artist Ditko was. I may disagree with the guy in his completely bonkers political views, but the man was a brilliant penciller on the title and showed tremendous growth over the years. Second, I truly understood the character Spider-Man/Peter Parker was intended to be in the early days. Parker truly was a complex and sometimes unlikeable hero. His problems were relatable, and so were his mistakes. He was a teenage boy, much like the readership, so his struggles were meant to reflect theirs.

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TV Review – The West Wing Sucks Part 5

Not much has changed in the 24 hours since I posted my last review of this bullshit show. This weekend is being used by the elite to try and burn the fight out of many Americans. On Monday, they expect all the groveling cows to return to their shitty jobs for paltry wages. Congress is on their two-week break, and I can guarantee you’re going to see ramping up of anti-LGBTQ talking points among the conservative campaigns in the coming months. Hell, at this point, I suspect the Dems will join them on those talking points, appealing to an imaginary group of conservatives that would ever vote for a Dem. 

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TV Review – The West Wing Sucks Part 4

This is the end. Not of the world, probably not of humanity (yet). This is the end of the age we were born into. The world we knew is burning away. The world to come is uncertain. It could be fascist. It could be socialist. I am distraught it is the former. If you are out of the loop, reproductive rights for people with a uterus are gone in the United States. This is a reversal of a ruling predicate on a right to personal privacy. 

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TV Review – The West Wing Sucks Part 3

As I am watching and writing about these episodes of The West Wing, the January 6th hearings are going on with the U.S. Senate. For those readers in the far future, recovering these writings off of a charred hard drive discovered among the ruins of the post-nuclear wastelands: First of all, congrats on making it this far. Second, the January 6th hearings are a lukewarm response to an attack on the U.S. Capitol on the day votes were counted for the 2020 Presidential election. The President at the time, Donald Trump, and a cabal of reactionaries & fascists agitated a crowd that had gathered into trying to kill the Congressional body and Trump’s own VP, Michael Pence. You would think these hearings would be a powerful tool to take down this cadre still working to overthrow the government to establish a neo-Confederacy. 

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