Thursday, December 20, 2012

Making Marvel Mine: That One Time A Time Traveling Overlord Tried To Destroy The Avengers With A Spider-Man Robot (Avengers # 11)

Okay, there are about 15 things I should probably be writing about instead of this (Mice, Madison, Dinosaur Tattoos, Star Trek, et cetera).  And I know, I really should be saving this for my full Essential Avengers vol. 1 review when I finish the book.  But talking about crazy comics with friends is at least half the fun of reading crazy comics, and OH MAN is this a crazy comic.  Seriously, there's time travel, robots, Aztec tombs, hang gliding, and a general level of rampant stupidity.  Also, it's like the first issue so far where Cap doesn't cry, which, seriously, about friggin' time for him to man up.  This comic is awesome, is what I'm saying.  Stan Lee on script!  Don Heck on pencils!  Chic Stone (seriously, that dude has the best name) on inks!  And the always reliable Sam Rosen on letters!

Iron Man's missing, due to some stuff that happened over in his solo book, which I only mention because he's not in this story, and Thor wants to talk about it. Meanwhile, in the year 3,000, Kang the Conqueror thinks Iron Man's departure makes this the perfect time to strike at the Avengers.  For a notorious time traveler, he really does not understand his profession very well.  It's only Kang’s second appearance, but you may remember him from back when he went by the name Rama-Tut, when he conquered ancient Egypt and tied up theFantastic Four.  Nowadays, he's traded in his pharaoh outfit for purple thigh-high boots, a green blouse, and purple scuba mask.  I've been reading comics for nearly 2 decades, and even I've never gotten a proper explanation for this thing.
So anyway, time traveling master of bad decisions as he is, Kang is way into destroying the Avengers, and he knows how to do it, too:  Robot duplicates!  He can make a robot version of all the greatest villains in the Marvel Universe!  He even says as much!  But he won't, because that would make too much sense.   No, instead, he decides to duplicate the Amazing Spider-Man!  It's... a complicated plan?  I guess? 

Robot Spider-Man is sent back to the 20th Century, to infiltrate the Avengers.  After finding Captain American and helping him take out a bunch of thugs (who are secretly also robots sent by Kang, because of course they are), Robo-Spidey convinces Cap to let him meet the team.  Wasp is still distrusting of Spider-Man (for reasons that are silly), but Robo-Spidey says he's cool, but acts like a dick anyway.  To prove he's on the up and up (even though he isn't) he lies and says he saw Iron Man get taken out by the Masters of Evil, and overheard that they were taking him to the Temple of Tirod, in Mexico.  A 10 second Google search reveals that this is not a place that actually exists in real life.

Thor gets all pissed off, and wants to know why Spidey didn't try to help old Shellhead, But Giant-Man tells him to shut it.  Thor is totally right, you guys, this is clearly bullshit.  But whatever, the future wife-beating super scientist doesn't have time for petty things like logic!   We've got to get to the Aztec temple part of the comic!  The Avengers race off, as Robo-Spidey admires Thor's chiseled ass and plots the Avengers’ downfall.

Why an Aztec Temple, you ask?  Because Kang booby-trapped it, of course.  The traps are never even seen aren't all that effective, and frankly, this explanation doesn't really make sense, but just go with it.  It’s what Don Heck drew.  The first to arrive at the temple are Giant-Man and Wasp, which doesn't make a lot of sense either, considering the literal God of Thunder is on the team, but whatever.  They're ambushed by Robo-Spidey, who teleported in with Kang's future powers.  A two and a half page fight ensues, and in a surprise I never saw coming, GIANT-MAN IS ACTUALLY PRETTY GREAT IN IT.  I know I've mocked him a lot, but if the Ant-Man movie is like this, it'll be great.  He uses his powers in cleaver ways, getting larger or smaller seemingly in an instant, getting in some pretty good hits on Robo-Spidey. 

Still, it's only Ant/Giant-Man and the Wasp, and eventually they need to be rescued by Thor.  Thor fights like an idiot, which usually works fine for him, because he has an awesome magic hammer to smash you with.  But when he throws said hammer, Robo-Spidey does the most amazing thing ever: He catches Thor's hammer in his web and starts spinning it around!  Holy crap!  The friggin' Hulk can lift Thor's hammer*!  But Spidey can catch it in his web?!?!?!?!  Crazy!!  And awesome.  Anyway, without his hammer, Robo-Spidey manages to web Thor up so much that he's out of the game.

Captain America parachutes in late, because he is a dude who hates punctuality and loves parachuting.  He's surprised to see Robo-Spidey, and even more surprised to see Robo-Spidey try to drop a giant boulder on his head.  Cap dodges, and hurl his shield at Spidey-Bot, because that is his signature move.  But Robo-Spidey webs up Cap's face and pushes him off the top of the temple, to his ultimate doom-

- Until he's caught in a web hammock.  Because in a baffling move that shouldn't surprise anyone (except Kang, of course), THE REAL SPIDER-MAN IS HERE TO SAVE THE DAY!  Apparently, off camera, real Spider-Man noticed Robo-Spidey when he was taking out the robot thugs and has been silently following him everywhere, watching his every move, only just now deciding to actually do something about all this. 

Two quick things here.  First, as silly as it sounds, I'm coming to Spidey's defense on playing it cool with the robot duplicate stiff.  Between villains like Mysterio and the Chameleon posing as him, and a future that I assure you is just lousy with clones, playing it chill with the evil robot clone is a smart move until he knows more.  Second, how the hell Spidey followed Robo-Spidey to bum-fuck Mexico when Kang future-ported him there is NEVER addressed.  So, you know... deal with it.  Shit's about to get real.

Robo-Spidey and Spidey are evenly matched in terms of powers.  In order to make things interesting, they decide do something crazy: competitive hang-gliding!  Seriously, they form glider wings on each arm with their web-shooters, and have an aerial flying fight.  I'm about to say something I haven't said in at least a decade:  I have never seen Spider-Man do something like this before.  It's crazy!  And then Spidey get's even more crazy, and abandons his wings, leaping on to Robo-Spidey, ready to crash them both into the ground!

It's the last page of the comic, so Spidey conveniently finds the future-bot's off switch, and leaps off, just in time for the robot to crash into the Mexican hillside.  The Avengers suddenly remember that this is their comic book, not Spider-Man's, and escape Robo-Spidey's web traps just in time to see Spidey parachuting off into the sunset (I have no idea how he gets back to New York, either).  They realize that the Spidey they fought was a robot, (whose remains are apparently laying around somewhere for the Mexican government to find) and somehow realize that Kang was behind this all along.  Dude, I don't even know.

And meanwhile, in the future, Kang pouts about his broken Spider-Bot.  The end!

...No, really.  The end.  This comic is completely crazy.  And awesome.  And now you know all about it.  Cheers!


*= Remember that scene in the movie? Which was based on a scene in Avengers #3?  Which I totally knew and started geeking out about in the theater?  Because of course I did?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Stories Matter. But So Does Science.

Religion is inherently a little ridiculous.

I don’t mean that in a bad way, believe it or not.  It’s just that, when observed under even a cursory amount of critical thought, all of these stories become ludicrous.  It’s not any one religion, it’s all of them.  They’re all silly.  Again, I don’t mean that in a bad way, I’m GLAD that they’re silly.  Mythology is supposed to be stories that you live your life around, stories that explain how one should act and behave.  It’s a good thing.

Believe me, I’m a storyteller.  Stories MATTER, far more than most people realize.  A people’s stories can tell you things about their culture you might never imagine.  And just because a story is silly doesn’t diminish it in any way, in my opinion.  Whether it’s Buddha sitting under a tree, Paul on the road to Damascus, Heracles slaying the Hydra, Kali dancing on the supposed (but totally faking!) corpse of Shiva, Odin building the world out of the corpse of a giant, Inanna being stripped as she walks through the underworld, Noah getting buggered by his son, Batman punching the living hell out of the Joker- stories fucking matter, and in religious mythology even more so.  “Why is this story being told” is the first thing you should ask yourself when critically evaluating a story, and religion brings that question even more to the forefront.  We tell these stories to teach each other how to live.  To teach each other what matters to us, as a people. TO TEACH.

But then again, a storyteller must know their place.  And more importantly, they must realize that there are other things that are important, too.  Like actual, legitimate knowledge.  Science.  FACTS.  A good and wise storyteller never takes themselves too seriously, and values the intelligence of others.  Specifically, scientists.  The people who are figuring out shit that no other creature in three and a half billion years has worked out on this planet. 

Really let that number sink in.  Because the men and women who are figuring out how all of this, all of existence, came into place?  Fucking unsung heroes, who each and every one of us take for granted.  They’re so integral to our modern, first world lifestyle that we don’t ever think of them, and they don’t usually even ask us too.  They’ve got to figure out how fucking gravity works  (magnets?), they’ve got better things to do that have us shower them with praise.  Even though we ALWAYS should be showering them with it.

… Which is why bullshit like this pisses me off so much.

Maybe I’m just too tired- after the usual Thanksgiving weekend mess- and my resolve is down.  This is hardly different than Senator Rubio’s “I don’t know how old theEarth is” nonsense from a week earlier.  But for whatever reason, this story infuriated me this morning.  The notion that this is what is being taught in schools around this country is hardly new information to me.  For many people, ridiculous dogma trumps actual science in the arena of “who has the right to be right”.  But that doesn’t change the fact that these people are wrong.

Best estimates put the universe beginning roughly 13.7 billion years ago, but new data may end up adjusting that number quite a bit.  Regardless, 4.568 billion years ago, our own solar system formed,  with the Earth forming roughly 100,000 years after the sun.  A proto-planet, roughly the size of Mars soon (cosmologically speaking) struck the Earth, the collision resulted in the moon.  About a billion years after it was formed, chemical molecule chains formed the earliest single celled organisms.  Plants, animals, bacteria, fungi- all of descend from these earliest cells.  Evolution (as a concept) is not a matter actual scientists debate, and while yes, it is a theory, so is gravity.  When a scientist says he has a theory, that doesn’t mean it’s some shit he just pulled out of his ass.  Know your terminology.

The Bible is not a textbook.  Hell it’s not even a book, it’s a compilation of somewhat related books.  The Earth was not created in six days, nor does the sun revolve around it, regardless of what is said in the Bible.  People and non-avian dinosaurs have never interacted directly, because they were extinct for 65 million years before our monkey ancestors started having sex facing each other. 

As They Might Be Giants put it, science is real.  And creationism isn’t.  They are not competing theories, because creationism isn’t a theory, it’s a religious belief that in no way is based on actual, repeatable evidence.  Plenty of people can reconcile their religious beliefs with actual science, because they recognize that mythic storytelling is not meant to be literal, but allegorical.  If you feel that your religious faith is threatened by evolution, then perhaps you need to reexamine why you believe in whatever it is that you claim to believe in.  Stop letting your self-doubt breed other people’s ignorance.

And I’m sorry to be bitchy about this, but when 46% ofAmericans say they believe in creationism- despite all evidence- what’s a guy to do?  You can only feel sorry for offending willingly ignorant people for so long.  If you live in a first world country and you really insist that the Earth is six thousand years old, despite the fact that you could Google that shit from your friggin’ cellphone?  Too bad.  I’m not going to apologize for offending such idiocy.

What I find most ironic about this is a purely personal: This coming weekend I was planning on getting a new tattoo with a few friends.  I haven’t gotten one in a few years, and it’s a birthday party thing, and I decided weeks ago that this was a good time to get a new one.  I’m still finishing up the design, but it’s going to be an Apatosaurus in the classic dinosaur death pose, which I’m sort of framing around an infinity symbol.  When I started working on it I mostly just thought it would be a neat trick and look kind of cool; I’m already on the record as saying that Apatosaurus is thegreatest dinosaur ever.  Now, though, I see it as more of an emboldened statement.  Dinosaurs were real, science is real, and it always has been.  This is how the universe came together in all its breath-taking wonders and horrors.  Math and chemistry and an incredible amount of time shaped everything around us.  A jerk with a beard is not “God”, and if “God” is real or not depends entirely upon how you define the term.  It’s also irrelevant, because maybe “God” really just means “SCIENCE”.  I doubt the people who made these “science” books ever considered that.