The MCU Power Rankings, Early 2019 Edition

Me, dishing out the rankings

Me, dishing out the rankings


You know you have waited for this: for me to rank and wax poetic about the cinematic offerings of the “comic book movies.”

I divided them into three tiers: The top tier are movies that I consider to be good and enjoyable, the middle tier are good Marvel Comic Book Movies, and the bottom tier, which is just movies that exist.

Note: this has been updated since it’s original inception in June of 2018, to include the movies that have come out since then.
MOST RECENT UPDATE: March 2019 - Captain Marvel

Top Tier: Good, enjoyable movies that I might just watch any time they are on.

#1: Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok, even moreso than the other top tier offerings on this list, achieves a unique headspace: It is a Comic Book Movie, and like the namesake medium, it uses color and spectacle to create a confidently outrageous story.

It recalls artists like Simonson and Kirby, who, to become fully engaged in a medium where color and splash took precedence, turned to cosmic scenes and themes, pages of gods, aliens, and apocalypse.

Thor: Ragnarok also has a top-notch soundtrack, takes a moment to show the characters out of their elements, and even gives a little time to dabble in some side themes of colonialism, or, perhaps, the ownership of art and stories. That aside is perfect for the third movie in a series based on a fifty-year run comic book based on an ancient aliens version of a Nordic myth.

Above all, Ragnarok is absurdly confident, and more than any other movie on this list, it uses the Big Comic Book Movie budget to serve up memorable visual images from the pages of a Simonson-era psychedelic splash page, with colors that any inker and colorist would kill for. It also has a good soundtrack!

#2: Black Panther

More than most of the other films on this list, Black Panther is interesting and probably the most “serious” of all. That doesn’t stop it from being fun, and the supporting characters are top-notch, better than any of the other films - even ensemble offerings like Avengers.

Black Panther is bright, colorful, and kinetic. Wakanda is beautiful, a well-realized and rich setting, and the mid-film action sequences are a notch above the usual smash-cut and CGI blur offerings from the MCU. Like all the top-tier MCU films, it’s confident, well-designed, and artistic.

The storyline is human and compelling. The costumes are gorgeous. Killmonger simultaneously comes across as a sympathetic figure and as a brutal villain. There’s the best soundtrack of anything in the MCU. It was a cultural phenomenon leading up to the release, and honestly, watching people thrill over a real Black Panther movie was worth the line on opening day.

#3: TIE: Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2

Yes, I decided these can tie. If we’re talking about the confidence from the previous films, GotG 2 has it far more than the first - but maybe it doesn’t entirely earn it, either. Both have muddled messes of endings that would be sore spots if the rest of the flick wasn’t consistently comically and cosmically enjoyable.

The soundtracks make good use of Quill’s “Awesome Mix,” but when we’re not getting pop hits the bland orchestrals really stand out. Seriously, the MCU needs some help on that “blur-of-horns and strings” thing they’ve got going on.

#4: Spiderman: Homecoming

Spiderman would be firmly mid-tier if not for the outstanding villain, and the “reveal” of who that villain is was definitely the best “oh shit” moment in the entire MCU. Like the films before, though - it’s confident, colorful, and witty.

Plus - there’s no origin story. You’ll notice that none of the top-tier films are origin stories. There’s never a need for an origin story.

#5: Captain America: Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier is at the bottom of this tier because it is not particularly confident. Muddled stories are par for the MCU course, but the usually scintillating colors come through a bit drab, and the action scenes are more blurry than not. This is still a top-tier Marvel flick, however, because of the story. A massive spy organization turns out to be evil! It’s more serious than most, and lets a good bit of spy-thriller accoutrements come through, to save it from being boring. While still a comic book movie (and crashing a SHIELD helicarrier, which is required), it’s clear, well-paced, and never gets bogged down. Plus, there’s Batroc, the Leaper.
His whole thing is that he can jump, but he’s not that great at it. Plus, evil Sitwell!

Mid Tier: These are Marvel Movies that I enjoy.

#6 Ant Man and The Wasp

The second Ant Man movie is possibly TOP TIER content - we’ll just have to wait till I’ve seen it a few times to be sure. It solves the problem of the first by not being an origin story and by having a better class of villain.

#7: Captain Marvel

More than any mid-tier movie, CM takes some chances. It has flashbacks, a surprise “guess who the real badguy is,” a different take on Nick Fury, and a different setting (the 90s!). This elevates it out of the origin story muck. In fact, this is the only time I don’t care that it’s an origin story. But, the (actual) badguys are boring, there’s an almost entirely pointless first part, and the ending is a little bit much on the hyperkinetic CGI.

#8: Ant Man

Ant Man is amusing, and on a different scale (in a lot of ways) than the other MCU films. It’s humorous, and tightly done, with a lot of really creative uses of Ant-Man’s powers. It’s only kept out of the top tier of films by the fact that it’s an origin story - which means that it’s a not-particularly-interesting story, and it has forgettable antagonists. I mean that. I forgot who the bad guys are.

#9: Iron Man

Iron Man deserves some props for letting Marvel know they could make billions of dollars doing this, and also for one of the all-time best portrayals of Tony Stark. Thankfully, they decided to shed the whole “Iron Man is Tony Stark’s bodyguard,” one of the most ridiculous and stifling artifices of classic comics, but it would not be enough to save the subsequent films. Also it’s an origin story, which is hard to do right.

#10: Captain America: The First Avenger

I really only ranked this higher than Civil War due to the song and dance numbers. It’s a good, stock-standard superhero movie, a bit of a comic book flick, and a touch of WWII movie. In other words, it’s perfect Captain America.

#11: Captain America: Civil War

Maybe it’s an artifact of the times we live in, but it seems a waste to constantly run with the darkest MCU storylines in the Captain America flicks. Those big bright reds, whites, and blues just don’t seem to work in stories like this - though the great core conflict and the perfect badguy - keep Civil War in the middle of the pack.

I do mean “perfect badguy.” The superheroes of the world almost annihilate each other due to a scheming dork,  Helmut Zemo, who has an incredibly dorky name.

Also, let us not kid ourselves, Captain America: Civil War is really just a prequel to Black Panther, which is what moves it up the list.

#12: Avengers: Infinity War

I’m just going to say that it had a strong finish, and it was manipulative. It gets points for a supreme act of confidence of an ending, and Thanos is cooler than any dumb rationalization he has for his nihilistic urges. Also, a major bonus for the throwback to “Farmer Thanos” which I begged Marvel to include in the film, on twitter, for years. I can only assume they read my bizarre tweets and followed through.

#13: Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is one of my favorite Marvel heroes, due to his weird spells, cosmic adventures, and amazingly colorful art. His origin story is not worth repeating, but this film does it anyway, instead of making it 30 seconds in the intro credits. The ending sequence COULD have been a confusing blurry mess of CGI and half-baked ideas, but it wasn’t - it was a faithful rendition of the kind of weird things that the comics were known for, and that keeps this film out of the bottom tier just on the final act alone.

#14: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 contains a great movie about Tony Stark being an asshole. It’s got a manipulative, fun villain we can empathize with, but then it tacks on a movie that’s entirely unnecessary, the “Tony gets his mojo back” subplot, diluting what could have been a #6-9 spot down to the bottom of this tier.

Bottom Tier: These Are Marvel Movies that Exist.

#15: Thor

Look man. It’s Thor. We GET Thor. He’s got a certain cultural cache that you could have just GONE WITH. But no, we did the “Thor gets his powers back” route. That was useless. Thor demands a certain confidence and over-the-top ridiculousness this film could not commit to.

#16: Marvel’s The Avengers

The Avengers is a pretty good movie, but then there’s a very boring movie wedged in the middle of it.

#17: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Age of Ultron is a pretty good movie, then a boring movie, then a second, somehow more boring visually jumbled movie, then a confusing movie. It got it’s name from the fact that it feels like it takes an actual Ultimate Age.

#18: The Incredible Hulk

They really did make this movie. It does exist. There really is some good footage of the Hulk beating the shit out of stuff. The ending makes little sense, but at least it’s contrived. No, wait...

#19: TIE: Iron Man 3/Thor: Dark World

I swear I’ve seen these movies, but I may not have. I may have just recalled trailers. I may have just wished I only saw the trailers.

Note: More content will follow as Marvel keeps making these damn things.

Television: LOVE on Netflix

A preview





Few shows contain such pure expressions of their title's antithesis as Judd Apatow 's LOVE. Clearly, Apatow is aware that he entertained us with his hopeful glimpse of potentially escaping banal mediocre suburban Uber-whiteness in his beloved show ''Freaks and Geeks.”

Rather than returning to that endearing vision of a relatable, human world, Apatow has, in the interim, grown so estranged from the feelings of humanity that he can no longer express them. Decades of Hollywood's vapid, meaningless excess have left him only able to approach human emotional states through the metaphor of drug highs, proving that, at least, he still shares some semblance of brain chemistry with humanity.

We cannot love these characters we cannot recognize as human, and as they cannot love one another for the same reason. They are trapped in the uncanny valley. They have alien, Los Angeles jobs. They struggle mightily with simple problems, they elicit but one emotion- pity. They remind me of the characters in the obscenely overrated film American Beauty: wallowing in their self-created problems, intentionally worsening them in order to feel anything at all.

LOVE is a show about what it means to be a machine masquerading as a human being. The machine wants this thing it has only heard about through toxic media and painful emo poetry slams at pretentious coffeehouses. It tries to emulate us and it cannot, for if it had a soul to sell, it was long ago brokered away for the chance to put the travails of the machine on Netflix.


Secret Wars 2015 - The Fantastic Four No More.

"As a culture, we're not in a place where we want to listen rich New York families and old white guys - and that's Reed Richards. Science doesn't have the pull that Tony Stark's technology does. With what we've all found out about ourselves, we're not excited about exploration, discovery, and the unknown - American culture hasn't been for quite some time. But we're rounding that particular corner, I think.

Read More

Black Panther #2

For my review of Part 1 of Black Panther, look here.

Before we get to the review, there's something I would like to point out about Black Panther #1, if you saw Civil War, which I enjoyed. In Black Panther #1, there's a little talker with Brian Stelfreeze that mentions Wakandan technology.

If you can't read this, CLICK TO EMBIGGEN.

If you're watching closely, you see Black Panther use his Kimoyo band in Civil War. That's all. Anyway, onto the review.

Black Panther #2

This is a slow build. The good things that I said about the last issue are still all true - the prose is tight and spartan, the inks are strong, the colors are big. As I predicted in my last installment, the story is slowly coming together, though to be fair, some ground must be retreaded, as one must often do in comics, given the episodic nature of the medium.

The actors we saw moving against T'Challa are still in play, the rogue Dora Milaje in their Midnight Angel armor, (which looks like a cross between a beetle and a predator) the mysterious Zenzi (who gets a great technicolor mind-fight scene this issue) the bandits, all are slowly moving toward a showdown with Black Panther, who seems to be spending a lot of his time getting his groove back.

In the past, some (but not all) comics writers tended to treat Wakanda as though we, the readers, were also forbidden from setting foot in the nation. Coates isn't doing that. We're seeing Wakanda, and Wakandans, and they're not happy with their king. They've got a lot of reasons not to be - after the events of the last Black Panther run, the marriage to Storm, the fights with the Scrulls, Doctor Doom waging a war in typical sinister fashion, Thanos's Black Order - things have not been well in Wakanda.  As an aside, you should read Doomwar. It's got some great Doctor Doom scenes, which are my favorite scenes.

There's a nice, extended fight scene in the middle that's also a meditation on the actions of kings that Coates pulls off nicely. There's a poetic conversation between a professor and a shaman. These scenes, and similar ones from the first issue, are the highlights of the books so far, letting Stelfreeze show off his composition chops and excellent panel-framing, while Coates writes freely.

It's a small thing, but I do like the way Black Panther's helmet flows onto his head. The curlicue circuitry and glow seem both high-tech and uniquely "Wakandan." It has the shapes and colors and some design elements of Africa, but some of Jack Kirby - it is it's own fantastic thing. The art and writing play up the technological advancement of Wakanda in a world where our current tech is catching up to what the comics of the seventies showed on the pages.

Other highlights? The redesign of the Black Panther garb - it looks like a damn panther. Anytime Stelfreeze draws fire. The looks on the faces of the kids. The "Black Panther playing with children" statue outside the school. The letters page, which a friendly and well-informed alternative to internet comments and forum trash talk.

Since I'm just going on now, let's point out one last thing: There's only three visualized sound effects in both issues - a "boom" in a prison cell in the first, a breaking window and a ringing phone in the second. Stelfreeze's art and neat lines draw the action efficiently enough - and the Black Panther is silent enough - that we don't need the "WHACK" and "CRASH" at all. The sounds are all drawn away into vibranium, that energy is stored in our minds, and we use it like a kimoyo band, illustrating it ourselves, providing that lasting detail.

I almost never urge people to spend money, but Black Panther's worth the small investment. Go down to Offbeat, or whatever local comic book shop you can, as long as it's not the one where they treat you like dirt for buying something different.

Black Panther #1

This is the newest thing I've ever reviewed. That's because it came out today. It's a quick read, worth your time, and your five dollars. If you're in Jackson, go to Offbeat and pick it up. Tell the Black Panther of Madison County that I sent you, and you'll get a special no-prize. 

I've written about comic books before, but let's be fair - I didn't like what I was reading for a lot of reasons. But this Black Panther #1 is different. It's written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has not written comics before.

He's written poetry and beautiful books, and that shows on every page. There's no lengthy diatribes in crimped print, you get terse, tight prose, no wasted words.

This was my first encounter with Brian Stelfreeze, and I want more. Coates's lack of text balloons and boxes lets Stelfreeze use simple beautiful lines all over the page, leaving big pools of black ink, deep shadows, and THICK lines. It evokes complex and detailed illustrations with a style like the writing - nothing wasted, just enough detail, no clutter. Your mind gleefully commits to closure, brings still images to life and motion.

It's not cartoony, nor is it overburdened with unnecessary realism. The spacious lines and figures let Laura Martin's colors inhabit big, sprawling spaces, filling each page with deep rich pools of black, purple, and red. Outside, there's bright blue skies, Wakandan technology bleeds weird neon energy.

It's not just the writing that's poetic, it's the ensemble. These creators have an understanding of comics - it's a soap opera in broad strokes, evocative, emblematic, symbolic. They're doing that, all the right details are there, nothing's jammed in the works, every sparse detail seems important without being weighty and overwrought.

The first act doesn't end on a cheap cliffhanger, it doesn't weigh you down. It sets you up, though, like the Black Panther would.

I'll be in the store the day it drops.

Marvel's Civil War

There are 102 comics listed in Marvel Unlimited for the "Civil War" event. I read almost every single one of them in 36 hours. This is what I've learned. Uh, spoiler alert for some comics that came out 10 years ago, I guess.

I'd love to tell you more about why I did this and my feelings on comics in general, but fuck all that, I'll do it later. We're going to get right to the meat of the discussion here: Marvel's Civil War was dumb as hell and not good.

For those of you who don't know what Marvel's Civil War was, and may be mistaking it for the movie that's coming out this summer - why are you still reading this?

For those of you who DO know, but need a refresher - Civil War was a main-line Marvel comics crossover event where months of comics all fed the same storyline, centered around a central conflict.

The central conflict is dumb.  It is referenced in every single page. You know how the Fantastic Four have to remind us twice a year that they got their powers through cosmic rays, or Spider Man has to bring up "the bite" every third issue? Well, for about a year, in every single Marvel comic, a character would, not just on every issue, but on every page or so, remind you that the government wants superpowered people to register with S.H.I.E.L.D. because a bunch of people got blowed up real good.

In most Marvel comics, SHIELD (Stategic... uh, howitzer.. intervention.. elite... you know what, nevermind) is a cryptic worldwide superspy agency that used to be headed up by the eternally 50 year old hardass Nick Fury. Don't confuse it with that TV show "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." On TV, SHIELD is that group that accomplishes exactly one interesting thing per season and spends the rest of the time making gallows humor wisecracks. Unlike the Civil War comics, it's pretty okay!

In Civil War, SHIELD is a cross between hi-tech Nazis and the NSA. Those two are easy to confuse if you live in a world where Frank Miller wrote a few stories. The new Spiderman costume wasn't the only thing that straight-up changed without warning. In fact, all the characters in Marvel seem to have suddenly developed a bad case of not-being-themselves.

"Uh, have you looked at our caps recently? " "What? No." "Are... we we the baddies?"

"Uh, have you looked at our caps recently?" "What? No." "Are... we we the baddies?"

Look. Knowing and training and tracking a dude that can punch a hole in a battleship? That's a pretty straightforward and reasonable idea, even when done by our clusterfuck of a government - and in Civil War, the government is not only a bit clusterfucktastic, it's run by a President Bush that may or may not be a robot, who asks Deadpool for help because a dude from the future is attempting to talk to him.

Honestly, that's the most realistic part of the whole thing.

Yeah. I'm going to say a lot of ridiculous things in this article, but they are "real." Also, this is a very bad drawing of President Bush or, perhaps, grey-haired Marco Rubio. Or, is it "President Bush's  Reptoid  Hands Confirmed?!"

Yeah. I'm going to say a lot of ridiculous things in this article, but they are "real." Also, this is a very bad drawing of President Bush or, perhaps, grey-haired Marco Rubio. Or, is it "President Bush's Reptoid Hands Confirmed?!"

Over the years, the Marvel Universe has seen planets get eaten, galaxies and universes have died, and anything that can explode, has exploded. There's usually sort of a general "we evacuated just in time!" or "the Hulk miraculously didn't kill everyone in that tank when he threw it to the moon" post-destruction handwaving. It's likely a comics-code leftover, and took a dive in the Carnage and Apocalypse 90's, but it does make you feel better about things, for the most part.

However, that goes out the window in the first act, in order to provide PLOT! It's the most transparent 9/11 allegory since Cloverfield didn't show you the monster (the monster was you all along, okay?) - a terrorist (I mean supervillian) blows up a town and we instantly know exactly how many people died because it's all on TV. Reality TV, because this is 2006.

Ah, the oldest problem in government: Security vs. Safety. Fortunately, the Marvel Universe has Reed Richards and Tony Stark, ostensibly two of the smartest men on Earth, in places of political power that aren't occupied by intelligent people in the real world.

Yes, they decide to provide icing for a perfectly reasonable pie by shitting all over it. Why? I guess these mega-geniuses didn't know any better, even though everyone they knew was screaming "DON'T SHIT ON THE PIE." Pies don't even GET icing, goddamnit.

The shit on the pie? There's a lot. You're not going to salvage this pie. First off, supervillains get leniency if they sign a paper and agree to work for the government if they help hunt down superheroes who don't register. If you don't see how this could have disastrous consequences, think if your average criminal confidential informant could shoot lasers out of his ears or mind-control people.

This is Stark Tower. This is the headquarters tower of someone who is evil. Sauron would take a look at this and go "whoa, that's a bit over the top, dude."

This is Stark Tower. This is the headquarters tower of someone who is evil. Sauron would take a look at this and go "whoa, that's a bit over the top, dude."

Superheroes who've saved the multiverse on a daily basis can become a Gitmo victim, and just as easily, Mr. "I'm a literal Nazi who murders people with glue" Baron Zemo can get a sweet government gig hunting them down, with the assistance of "I make weird traps and fight Spiderman" Z-listers like Paste-Pot-Pete, who wisely changed his name to The Trapster because... no, wait, that's not any better, Pete. Look, I don't care what your equations tell you, if you're working with Nazis to hunt down Captain America, you done fucked up.

Let's talk more pie-crap topping. Failing to register is punished harder than murder. In a move that could only be a 9/11 allegory - keep in mind that 9/11 happened in the Marvel Universe - the superfolk entirely forgo trials, lawyers and Captain America's Constitution - even when She-Hulk and DareDevil are perfectly good lawyers. Instead you're just exiled forever to the Negative Zone super-prison, named Project 42, in the biggest slap to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans since the 2005 movie came out and featured "queuing" as a scene.

You know what could have avoided the entire deadly Civil War conflict? A jury. Imagine Iron Man throwing Captain America in jail after a trial where a conflicted jury decides to reduce his sentence to six months and a ten thousand dollar fine. Tony Stark tells Spiderman "You can't just put these guys in jail" while he's touring a jail he built to put them in. You don't have to make the Negative Zone trip last forever!

How long did it take me to come up with that idea? Twenty six seconds. Why haven't I invented flying tank armor or faster-than-light travel? We could have had more "nobody does anything but talk" scenes that would have worked out better, and been more interesting than the punch-discussions these characters had.

When it comes to thinking up "better ideas than the central conflict of Marvel Civil War," I'm like Reed Richards in his Delicate Mind room, scrawling equations on the walls. Sealed trusts for costumed heroes. Make everyone employees of Stark Enterprises and Damage Control. Expand Avengers membership. X Men charter schools. Listen to the Black Panther.

This is literally what Reed Richards stopped work on to devote time to his "throw my friends in space Gitmo" plan.

This is literally what Reed Richards stopped work on to devote time to his "throw my friends in space Gitmo" plan.

If "I'm not listening to Captain America and the Black Panther" is something you're saying, then stop what you're doing. Honestly, I spent thirty seconds here, Reed Richards. Did you stretch your brain out so that the synapses don't connect anymore?

I would never claim that the writers at Marvel are going to be any good at legalism. They treat law and civics the same way they treat science. The "Super Hero Registration Act" is to law what "Radioactive Spider Bite Made me a Spider" is to biogenetics.

Do you wonder why every Marvel event plays out in New York? It's because Marvel is based in New York, and their writers aren't allowed out much. They can't handle buses because they stand there for ten minutes saying things like 'the card reader senses magnetic information imprinted on this plastic wafer, so by vibrating this coin at the specific frequency, I should be able to fool it into thinking that this bus is actually a giant robot, allowing me to..." before they're thrown into the streets and forced to wander back home. The Marvel writers live in the same city as Neil deGrasse Tyson in order to keep him occupied so he doesn't build a death ray.

Even The Thing wises up. He goes to do his superhero thing in France for a while, which is really weird. I don't know if these French superheroes are real, but I kind of want them to be.

The hardest part about writing jokes about "Civil War" is that the plot itself is the joke.

The hardest part about writing jokes about "Civil War" is that the plot itself is the joke.

The poor writers even rope the X-Men into the thing. The X-Men, who have been fighting various forms of mutant registration their entire life, suddenly develop a case of extreme, out-of-character apathy for everyone who's having to do that thing they always fought against. 

Why? I have a theory. See, I don't know if you knew this, but ever since the 90s, nobody - not even the people who write X-Men comics, have had the slightest idea what the hell is going on with the X-Men. There's alternate universe brothers, robot clones, people from the future, aliens who are dead people who later turn out not to be dead, mind-wiped assassins, people brainwashed to believe that they're in alternate universes, more psychic possessions than a soap opera, and more resurrections than a Jesus convention. When Wolverine becomes the most relatable guy in your series, maybe you should dial it back a bit?

Through plotholes, wheedling, and needling, the X-Men kinda-sorta get involved, even though Cyclops is a massive tool.

Why? It involves people from the future or some alternate universe or something, I think? I read the books and I have no goddamn idea.

X-Man Wolverine (in his solo series) provides yet another metaphor for the whole Civil War. I honestly think some of the writers and artists were chaffing at being forced to write this claptrap, and kept providing clues. The only thing the characters do more than remind us of what is going on is remind us that "this is so stupid."

Wolverine goes on a killing spree to get to the bottom of the whole shebang, which is ironic since "the whole shebang" is broadcast live on National TV a few times. Since Wolverine is "...the best there is at what I do..." and what he does is "stabbing people," you'd think the writers would have tasked him with escaping a Negative Zone prison, or fighting off an alien invasion, or hunting down supervillians while the rest of Marvel is fighting itself.

But no, Wolverine is instead tasked with "making sense of all this." Yes, in a comic 'event' where there's a whole series devoted to journalists covering the news, Sir Stabsalot Fistknives is charged with getting to the bottom of something that's not a bottle, a chest cavity, or a throat. And, like the bewildered reader, he goes on a rampage, tearing through page after page of entirely extraneous nonsense - robots, conspiracies, Atlantis, shapeshifters, only to find out that a business is egging this all on because they stand to make money selling the government superhero-damage control.

In a better world, he could have picked up a newspaper. But in this world, the newspaper is entirely useless. Why? Let's go to that aforementioned series about journalists. This is a pointless excuse wrapped in a pointless exercise. Civil War is the only attempt to tie a war to a 9/11 that's more blatant than the war in Iraq. "Embedded," the 900 (or maybe it was just 11) part series embedded in the Civil War: Frontline comics is a "what it says on the tin" excuse to draw some parallels to modern journalism and war reporting. But yet all we get are reporters being grim and cynical and uncovering mind-blowing stuff they fail to report. It's significantly less exciting than finding out about J. Jonah Jameson's hair stylist. The intrepid reporters could expose the machinations of Tony Stark, and even give him a mic-drop style dressing down in his "totally not supposed to be Ayn Rand's book cover" penthouse office, then heroically... don't report it.



They even go out of their way to shit-talk Captain America for not having a MySpace account, not watching baseball (which is funny, because Captain America totally watches baseball) not watching American Idol, or going to NASCAR races. In other words, he's not their America. I don't know what the hell that's supposed to accomplish, other than making me proud of J. Jonah Jameson for firing these inconsistent, wildly ignorant reporters.

Apparently, I'm not qualified to America, either, Steve.

Apparently, I'm not qualified to America, either, Steve.

Embedded is a good look at two of the biggest sins in Civil War, other than the out-of-character actions and general stupidity of the plots.

One: It's needlessly grimdark and cynical, in that comic book edgelord way - rather than taking a single pull-back of the camera and revealing the crushing nihilism of the might-makes-right comic book world, it piles on things like gore, deaths, dripping voice balloons, and all the grit and angst you'd find in a high school D&D game, without the consequences. A great illustration? They turned Speedball, the happy-go-lucky speedster teen, into Penance, who wears spiked armor that hurts himself when he moves. That's not a joke or an overstatement. NONE OF THIS IS AN OVERSTATEMENT. If anything, I'm understating the sheer ridiculoucity of this shitfest.

Did your DM ever make the happy bard character into an armored psychotic masochist, or was that just me?

Did your DM ever make the happy bard character into an armored psychotic masochist, or was that just me?

Secondly, the comics go way out of their way to show you that Tony Stark and Reed Richards are right and Captain America and Black Panther are wrong, because that's the only way you can make them appear sympathetic. Mr. Fantastic proves he's right, mathematically. The reporters who do the Tony Stark mic-drop? They don't tell America because they know he's right, like ethics and justice and morality were all equations that the right engineer would balance out. It's like something a TEDx presenter would spout off before assigning everyone breeding licenses based on a single viewing of Idiocracy. 

Now, I'm sure you're thinking "there's no way it could be this pompous and overwrought. It's not like they took touching poems and stories of warfare, spanning everything from Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon, to the American Civil War, both World Wars, and Vietnam, just to make some point about superhero war super-sucking?

Of course they did. Each issue of Frontline ended with three page specials where the first half of the page was some conflict in which hundreds of thousands (or millions) of people died, and the second half was superheroes punching shit. This would be overlaid with some heart-wrenching poem or song or historical ballad, because at this point, the Civil War writers were like drug pushers, trying harder and harder each time to make you feel - feel anything - in the cold and dead world they'd weaved around you.

Pictured: American Civil War, World War 2, World War 1, World War 2 (again), the English Civil War, crossing of the Rubicon, and World War 2 (again). Not pictured: Dignity, Fun.

Pictured: American Civil War, World War 2, World War 1, World War 2 (again), the English Civil War, crossing of the Rubicon, and World War 2 (again). Not pictured: Dignity, Fun.

Civil War is the kind of story that a half-aware writer would write an out for - the obvious ones being "Professor X shows up and pulls the whammy" or "Doctor Strange magics the shit out of this thing," but Professor X is too busy enjoying his new magic legs, and Doctor Strange pulls the Sorcerer Supreme equivalent of saying "sending thoughts and prayers!"

Again - no, really.

Again - no, really.

I'm having trouble finishing this off, much like the writers had trouble finishing this storyline. Part of me wants to just throw my hands into the air like Captain America after being punched too many times by Iron Man (causing him to change his mind) and part of me wants to go into a grinding war of attrition to finish belittling every last detail of this story - the uneven art, the clear disdain the writers had, the muddled stories, the conflicting information, the confusing sequence of books, the repetition (repetition repetition repetition).

Comic books can be about serious matters without being fake serious. Serious comics can be over the top. Look at Preacher, before Seth Rogan burns it to the fucking ground. Comic books can be silly AND SERIOUS works of pop art, like The Invisibles. Comic books can be Zen perfection like Maus.

Hell, just look at the simple lines and overblown stories of Strange Tales, in the Marvel milieu of the 60s, with their thick inks and single-color backgrounds - they did a lot, even while not doing much at all, because they weren't trying to be groundbreaking BIG IDEA books - they weren't trying to be cool (and believe me, The Invisibles seems like it's trying to be cool at every step, but it's just an Illuminatus! level illusion) they just went out and told big dumb stories from cover to cover - but page to page, they were filled with life.

Civil War does the opposite of the old Kirby/Lee/Ditko bombast. Those old books spent ten lines on a man you could know. Civil War books spend a hundred lines on abs and biceps to draw something you can't place. An old Fantastic Four would spend a page of dialogue that brought you up to date and into a world that, as broadbrush and obvious at it was - could be figured out on that one page. Civil War spends thousands of lines of dialogue trying to drag you one screaming inch into their world.  They can't, because they want this Marvel world to be our world, and I'm not getting dragged out of this world just to be put right back in it.

Bojack Horseman

Pictured: Post Horseman party.

As some of you may have guessed, I’m not a fan of culture. I like “cultures,” especially the kind made of bacteria, and of course, moldy cheese, sour beer, and tea someone left on the countertop for too long (the only good sweet tea) - but as far as culture goes, no sir, I do not like it.


So, the staff of PRF strapped me down and made me review various aspects of this shit-show. I hope you enjoy it.



    Forget, for a moment, that nobody wants to make my shows based on unpopular loser and Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. It can be called Bojack Hosemann or Delbert Horsemann, your call, NETFLIX. If you work for Netflix, and are looking for a totally sweet addition to your amazing show, then call my agent. I represent myself.

    Bojack Horseman is not like most TV. Most television is like a fish kill. You see, TV shows are not sustained by life and vibrancy, but rather the fecundity of decay, the cultural and financial capital they create is held within their bloated bodies, and when they die they release this into the shallow waters around them.

    Can we go further with this metaphor? I’d like to.

    No? Fine. It involves a sewer of fascism. So, yeah, anyway. Bojack Horseman.

    Bojack Horseman is about things. It’s about a character that does things that continue to matter throughout the show. This is one way in which I have noticed animated series have a leg up on live-action TV lately. Shows like The Venture Brothers and Bojack Horseman are always ensuring that you’re paying attention - unlike their depressing, horrifically unfunny live action counterparts, which can only reward you for not paying attention. I know you how you met my mother. Through the dark necromantic magic of PLOT BULLSHIT.

    But - if you’re paying attention to a well written show like Bojack Horseman, you’ll see tiny things appear again and again, characters from episodes passed (or last season) will be written back in, the tiny things that you are about are your reward for watching the show, not your punishment. (Clearly, Arrested Development is NOT on that list) Tiny things are wrong in the background. T-shirts are weird. Character names are animal puns, sometimes subtle, sometimes not, Whale Olbermann.

    Bojack Horseman is about a lot of things. It’s about depression. Ennui. Nihilism. Stuff that needs a horse-headed celebrity and a wonderful voice cast, able to pontificate at length in order to convey the way in which these high minded concepts intersect with the daily grind.

    People may wonder “do you like TV at all, given the past reviews?”

    I do. I like Bojack Horseman. I do like Doctor Who, too, do not misconstrue my review. Read through it anew! But Bojack is a delight. It is a dark delight at times, bringing up quotes like "I don't think I believe in 'deep down'. I think that all you are is just the things that you do." - it comes past the cheese and sleaze of most TV. It has a philosophical bent I’ve called ‘grim optimism’ or ‘optimistic nihilism.’

    For instance, to quote Bojack:  “You know, sometimes I feel like I was born with a leak, and any goodness I started with just slowly spilled out of me, and now it's all gone. And I'll never get it back in me. It's too late. Life is a series of closing doors, isn't it?” - touching on the way that depression and cynicism can feel. The characters in this cartoon share a lot with caricature - the exaggerations and missing parts accentuate a whole that is more than a realistic character could be.

This is the same trick of weird fiction, of fantastical satire. Bojack Horseman brings that same touch that geniuses such as Terry Pratchett could bring to fantasy novels - that making things weird, out of the ordinary, comedic, lets us be more comfortable with them than we are with a more frank discussion, lets us put our cards on the table, lets them be interpreted as the episodes play across the screen.

    Like the previously reviewed Doctor Who, Bojack Horseman asks the question, “Am I a good person?” Unlike the sci-fi spectacular, there is no clear answer here. And if there was a leaning, it would be that Bojack is not. We’re charged with following his trajectory nonetheless, and it is not a cheap one nor an easy one.

    Mr. Peanutbutter sums up television in one pithy quote: “The universe is a cruel, uncaring void. The key to being happy isn’t the search for meaning, it’s to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense and eventually, you’ll be dead.”

    Keep watching TV, folks! May I suggest Bojack Horseman?

Doctor Who?


As some of you may have guessed, I’m not a fan of culture. I like “cultures,” especially the kind made of bacteria, and of course, moldy cheese, sour beer, and tea someone left on the countertop for too long (the only good sweet tea) - but as far as culture goes, no sir, I do not like it.


So, the staff of PRF strapped me down and made me review various aspects of this shit-show. I hope you enjoy it.

Doctor Who

The original adventures of white techno-Jesus! Protip: When an Englishman arrives, wanting to help, and says he’s “Just passing through, lending a hand” don’t accept his help. This always turns out poorly, especially if you’re India.

If you’re looking for a way to hear a wide variety of methods for making people ask the question “Doctor Who?” then I can recommend this show. I wasn’t going to include it in my rundown, because it’s British, but I feel like enough Americans watch the show, which is on the BBC America, to make it worth my while.

One thing I do like about Doctor Who is that, until the most recent iterations, the people on Doctor Who look realistic. I’m not talking about the special effects, which are sometimes great (people in rubber suits!) and sometimes execrable (CGI aliens) . I’m talking about the actual human beings on the show. They look like actual people you might meet in Real Life.

See, the human beings on most TV shows are more unrealistic than a regenerating thousand year old Time Lord in a magic box. They look more plastic than the replicants from the Nestene consciousness, and have more enhancements than a Cyberman. The zombie fighting beauty pageant contestants of The Walking Dead, the stunning statuesque politicians of Scandal, the CSI techs that just walked in off the beach where they spend 8 hours a day doing tanning pilates, these dubious special effects only serve to distract the viewer and hammer at the suspension of disbelief.

It really takes a show about a time traveling alien to haul across one of the more interesting facets of alien, I mean British, TV - there are people who look normal on there. People you might see in real life, who don’t always look impeccably airbrushed and artificial. I do feel that they’re getting away from that in more recent seasons, but that’s because I watch too much of the show.

There are several running themes, and none of them are particularly interesting. “Is the Doctor equal to a Dalek?” Is one. “No” is the answer.

Daleks are basically a combination of a genocidal lego set and murderous salt shaker, they kill everything around them on purpose, and have a whisk and plunger attached. They are uncharismatic, nasty, and have limited dialogue. The Doctor, no matter what form he is regenerated into, is a goofy, affable, aloof, intelligent white guy, who talks a lot, likes most people, and only sometimes gets some people killed, usually not on purpose! He does have a tool, rather more of a magic wand, so I guess, in one way, they are a bit alike.

Another running question is “Am I a good person,” asked by the titular Doctor himself. The answer always seems to be “sort of,” which is really the only answer anyone can have to that question, ever. This, at least, is a touching bit of honesty from a ridiculous show about a man in a magic box that has abducted a long stream of women and taken them to space.

The show features quite a few conflicts that always seem to be, in the end, resolved with time-travel gotchas, the power of Love, and swelling orchestral music that ensures any event takes far too long to occur.

    The actual show is set in the entirety of time and space (except parts that you can’t get to for Plot Reasons) - but really, the TARDIS only seems to go into the far, alien future, the always-advancing modern day, and Victorian England.

   There are some good bits. It’s interesting to see the various enemies change over time in how they look and act, and it's always a treat to watch something darkly whimsical that Neil Gaiman had a hand in.

- please note that we do not care one whit about the numerous inaccuracies contained within. Do not contact us regarding "what we got wrong," as we know we got it wrong, and did so only to inflame our reader's nerd-rage glands.


They drained the lake looking for all the corpses created during this show. There was nothing left.

As some of you may have guessed, I’m not a fan of culture. I like “cultures,” especially the kind made of bacteria, and of course, moldy cheese, sour beer, and tea someone left on the countertop for too long (the only good sweet tea) - but as far as culture goes, no sir, I do not like it.

So, the staff of PRF strapped me down and made me review various aspects of this shit-show. I hope you enjoy it.

NOTE: I didn’t actually watch this show. It was on behind my head while I was playing video games.


This show begs an important question: Do you think enough bad things about the people in Washington, D.C.?

    You probably don’t, unless you’re one of my visitors from the David Icke forums, here to tell me that they’re all a bunch of blood-drinking human-sacrificing pedophile shapeshifting lizardmen, come here to enslave and consume the human race as chattel and cattle. In which case, welcome! Please don’t comment.

    But for the rest of us - do you think that everyone in Washington D.C. is a murderous, lecherous, bribing, philandering, cover-up artist, torturing everyone in their path, doing a dozen nefarious deeds before breakfast? Do you think that they’re a bunch of own-team murdering morons, incapable of even the simplest of moral actions without an overwhelming personal benefit?

    If not, then maybe you should give this show a watch for an episode or two. But, to prepare you, here’s what happens:

    Act I: Someone we are lead to believe is a Good Person will do Something Bad. In some episodes the Good Person is a Good But Flawed Person. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re a Bad Person Who is Doing Good Things. Sometimes they’re the person who grabs things that you really need, even if they didn’t need them.

    Act II: Technobabble will then be followed by it’s legal equivalent, Lawblahblah. This will serve to show us how screwed our poor sap really is. The stakes will be made.

Act III: Faced with Bad Choice that changes Things and Worse Choice that changes Things, our heroine, Olivia Pope, will inspire her minions, because she’s fashionable and smart and has made Sacrifices.

Act IV: The minions and our heroine will figure out a third choice and the all-important Status Quo will be upheld, no matter the cost to democracy, freedom, or the intelligence of the viewer.

But - assigning good morals to bad behavior and painting sociopathic power-hungry monsters as normal isn’t the most appalling bit of social programming on the show. That honor would go to B-613, which is a secret government (non-drone) assassination program for American citizens. It’s like the worst parts of the CIA and NSA all lumped together. Unlike their real-world torture-murder counterparts, they never make mistakes, are always hyper-competent, and never screw up.

This is more dangerous of an idea than you might think, and it’s lazy storytelling (though incredibly handy to invoke when you want to just clean up your plot) - I can’t believe I’m having to type this, because it is something that I wish was not true, but people confuse TV with real life.

People confuse TV with reality. Let that sink in for a moment. The whole “those that would sacrifice liberty for a little security” thing is pretty true, and honestly, it wouldn’t be so bad of a deal - IF (and this is a HUGE IF) you got security by giving up liberty. IF, for instance, you were having Jack Bauer torture terrorists and B-613 assassinate the bad guys and James Bond thwart your supervillians.

But in the real world, which people confuse with entertainment (I am not kidding, look it up) - these are not hypercompetent organizations. The CIA isn’t abducting Terror Master Zero and torturing him, it’s grabbing random goat farmers and “guy who knows a guy who knows a terrorist.” They’re not pinpoint poisoning perfect suspects to prevent the next bomb, they’re drone-striking weddings. The reason that checks and balances exist (and the only check, the only balance, on this show is the miraculous Olivia Pope) isn’t for high-minded reasons of freedom and America. It’s for accountability. And people who assume that our real-life black ops assholes are secret superspy supersoliders, they operate under an assumption that these people are like the ones that they see on TV. They’re not.

The show goes out of hand all the time, with more murders and kidnappings and fake suicides and fake murders and superspy technology than a soap opera. Scandal has jumped more sharks than a surfer high on Mountain Dew and PCP. Instead of seasons, it has a series of shark-ramps, each higher and more sharktastic than the last, finally culminating in a mid-season sharkjet extravaganza that catapults us past wholesome, Katy Perry sharks, over the Jaws sharks on the backs of the super-sharks from Deep Blue Sea, and into a sort of politically-themed Sharknado, which is only slightly less impossible than an actual Sharknado.

The Walking Dead and The FEAR

IF this is your DVR you have the BEST possible TV experience.

I’m not a fan of culture. I like “cultures,” especially the kind made of bacteria. I enjoy moldy cheese, sour beer, and tea someone left on the countertop for too long (the only good sweet tea) - but as far as the stuff we're all supposed to do together, the kind of culture that involves you other filthy humans? No, I do not like it.

So of course the staff of PRF strapped me down and made me review the TELEVISED (aka, "worst") aspects of this shit-show. I hope you enjoy it.

The Walking Dead + Fear the Walking Dead


    The Walking Dead is a show where a mindless, moaning horde slowly shambles across the landscape, being easily dispatched by wandering zombies. It’s a modern take on the old “these dirty people are different, so heroic white men must kill them” genre. Our heroes stay clean, devilishly getting a cut across the nose, or bit of smudged makeup, or wrinkling their collars. That’s how you know they’re the good guys, and that violence is always a swell idea.

If you are on this show and you are black, I am sorry. You will be dead soon.

The most important aspect of the show is that it gives our protagonist archetypes a way to get the blood-and-guts visceral action of killing other human beings, without forcing the viewer to suffer any potential feelings of a conscience about it. When the show attempts to introduce human villains, they are always vaguely evil for no particular reason, and our heroic core of heroes will kill them, or, in a Shyamalan-worthy twist, let zombies kill them.

But it’s not all violence! In fact, much of most of the episodes revolve around people complaining about things that nobody would care about in a non-zombie-apocalypse situation, let alone when there’s something real to worry about.

What do they argue about? I don’t even remember. But if you want a show that’s 40 minutes of forgettable pointless argument, and 10 minutes of guilt-free violence, then may I suggest The Walking Dead?

Fear the Walking Dead is a show where emotionless robots are in charge of caring for a heroin addict and a real live teenage girl. The guy playing the heroin addict really gets across that inability to feel anything at all, or express any sort of emotion. Maybe he learned it from his robot caretakers? Anyway, it’s such a compelling performance that, by the end of the show, I too felt nothing, wanted nothing, and craved the sweet sensation of junk flooding my veins, robbing me of my pained senses.

While The Walking Dead was 40 minutes of argument and 10 minutes of zombies, this show is 30 minutes of argument, 10 minutes of talk about heroin, and 10 minutes of driving around LA, which was probably extremely easy to write for anyone living in LA.


Fear the Walking Dead has now killed 100% of the black characters on the show, something that the original show could never manage.