captain america

Comic Review: Rising Stars

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Brent Hopkins

The 24-issue Rising Stars is an interesting tale of a group of children that attain superpowers via an intense flash of light from a comet. These children were all yet to be born and therefore only 113 of them receive this “gift.” They grow up with their powers and become known as the “Specials.”

Story

The story behind Rising Stars is definitely where the main interest lies. There has always been human interest figuring out how life would be if people had abilities that made them a cut above a normal human. This is regularly touched on in X-Men’s Sentinel saga, also with Lex Luthor’s general hatred of Superman being a living god. Rising Stars turns this on its head in a very satisfying way by limiting the powers that are given out to a set group of people and having them deal with being the extreme minority on the planet, yet wielding all of the power.

As can be expected, the Specials have their own personalities and hopes and dreams, as normal people do. They also are not all made equally. There are some individuals who are the Superman archetype and others that fall more into the hyper-intelligent brand of superhero. This disparity in skills causes schisms among the Specials themselves since some individuals feel they are of a superior nature to others.

The main plot gets rolling when a few Specials are murdered and it is obvious that one of their own is committing the crimes. This is all narrated by the last living Special, John Simon (aka Poet). John narrates the discovery that, with the murders the energy from the dead Specials is transferred to the remaining ones (Think Jet Li’s great film The One).

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Like this, but Jet Li has the skill set of a Super Saiyan.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and the reader gets to go on a special journey in the lives of superheroes, which is watching their full lives begin and end. Specials have all the power in the world, yet they have the same limitation normal humans do: time. Another underlying tale unfolds as well, which is how humanity would try to deal with suddenly falling from the apex predator perch.

Art

The art here isn’t really impressive. It isn’t bad, by any means, but the coloring and artwork definitely feel like a typical comic book. I would say if you were playing a game of charades and had to draw comic characters, Rising Stars would be the perfect point of reference. Held up next to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or East of West it fails to have that same visual impact.

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Cap’n Muurrca

Characters and Writing

Considering there are a mere 24-issues and three mini-series to get acquainted with the Specials there is a lot of ground covered. 113 is an impossible amount of characters to introduce and give personality to and intelligently author J. Michael Straczynski doesn’t attempt to. Each of the Specials mentioned in-depth in the comics are all interesting and either have powers you need to actually see to understand or have personalities so strong that you want to know what makes them tick. The inclusion of archetypical superheroes is also done intelligently. How would a real Batman act? You get to see it here. What would someone with multiple-personality disorder do with the ability to control other? Also in here. I found myself loving and hating characters and then merely understanding them by the end of the series and I loved it.

Worth the read and time to complete?

My God, yes. This feels like a brilliant deconstruction of the fantasy of superhero living a la Watchmen (not saying it is as good or anything). There are 24 issues and it really makes you think about what life would be like if you did have amazing abilities but knew you’d die at 70. My only complaint is that it does end very neatly, but I would prefer that over feeling unfulfilled at the end.

Brent Hopkins considers himself jack-o-all-trades and a great listener. Chat with him about his articles or anything in general at brentahopkins@gmail.com.

Images: Header image from here, other images here and here

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Should You See It: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Andrew Findlay

In our rarely-running kinda-series Should You See It? we talk about movies that just came out. You can figure out the rest of the premise from the title of the series. That’s right: We talk recipes. Should you see Captain America: The Winter Soldier?

The movie opens with Captain (America) Steve Rogers jogging laps on the National Mall. His “jogging,” as a superhuman recipient of Dr. Abraham Erskine’s super-soldier serum, amounts to a full sprint for an Olympic athlete. He laps another jogger, a young, fit man, so many times that the other guy gets pissed off and tries to sprint to catch him, which progresses to two army veterans talking about war, which is ended by S.H.I.E.L.D. picking Cap up in a fast car. Solid intro.

The intro of Steve Rogers jogging says something important about the character: He actually needs to exercise and train to maintain his strength. He’s strong and great, but still pretty normal. I was amazed when Marvel took Captain America, clearly just the worst superhero ever when I was nine, and made him into one of the most appealing franchises in movies today. Nine-year-old me thought he was stupid because basically he is just in really good shape with a weird shield. Superman is invincible and Batman has an endless supply of cool toys, so what’s in it for a Steve Rogers fan? The appeal of Captain America, aside from the movies doing a great job focusing on the human side of him and helping audiences empathize with his life, is that he is the absolute, be-all end-all specimen of human perfection, but his superpowers end there. He’s the ultimate athlete, the ultimate patriot, and the ultimate gentleman, but he is still fundamentally human, unlike Superman, who has to shave with laser vision.

This is either the dumbest or the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. 

The fast car takes him to a jet which takes him to the location of the first action set piece. These set pieces are the definite high points of the movie. They are most of what the movie is, and for each and every one, I was literally leaning forward thinking, as much as I thought anything, “yes yes yes yes yes” on repeat until Captain America stopped slamming his shield into people’s faces. The combat is more complicated and varied than that, though. One scene in particular that stands out is an amazing car chase through Northwest D.C. with Nick Fury at the helm of an SUV that’s so well-equipped it’s really more of a spaceship. Samuel L. Jackson truly lives up to his laconic badass persona in this role, participating in one of the most exciting parts in a movie filled with super-soldiers. Marvel has been doing crowd-pleasing action for years now, and they have become exceedingly efficient at it.

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Pictured: Stan Lee

The plot is believable and full of suspense. It never drags or makes you roll your eyes, which is admirable when a plot is serving mostly as spackle between action scenes. The twist (SPOILER – there’s a twist) is pretty horrifying and plausible when it happens, and gives Captain America plenty of opportunity for research on the relative durability of shields versus faces (hint: in 9 out of 10 studies, the shield demonstrated higher levels of durability). There are certain things that, if you think really hard about them, seem to not quite fit together right for plausibility or continuity, but if you’re thinking that hard about it, you’re doing it wrong, anyway. They’re seriously minor things that I hate myself for noticing, and you won’t think about them. This is not the awful era of the horrendous post-Keaton late-90s Batman movie. This is not Ben Affleck in Daredevil. Superhero movies are A Thing now, and any plot holes that exist aren’t big enough to fall through unless you dig them out yourself.

Should you see it? 

You should definitely see this movie. It is one of the best vehicles for action scenes this year, and it achieves what a lot of really impressive action movies don’t: Those over-the-top scenes are actually tied together really well with a strong story. Yes, the exploding and shooting and hitting are definitely the focus of the movie, but their weight doesn’t shatter the rest of the film into kindling.

Andrew Findlay has strong opinions about things (mostly literature) and will share them with you loudly and confidently. You can email him at afindlay.recess@gmail.com.

Image: IMDB