Tor.com content by

Keith R.A. DeCandido

Fiction and Excerpts [3]
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Fiction and Excerpts [3]

Half-Assed in a Half-Shell — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

While 1993’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III didn’t do well enough to warrant a fourth film, the heroes in a half-shell continued unabated in various forms throughout the rest of the 1990s and the 2000s, both in comic books and on screen. The most successful was the animated series, which ran from 1987-1996. That was followed by a live-action series called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation in 1997, which only lasted a season; a 2007 animated sequel to the three live-action films called TMNT; and two new animated series, one from 2003-2009 and another from 2012-2017 (another would debut in 2018). Plus the Turtles continued to be published in comics from Mirage, as well as Image and more recently IDW.

And then in 2014, a new film was made.

[“Remember that thing you used to say when we were kids?” “You made me promise never to say it again.” “Forget about that! Still got one in the tank?” “I’ve been holding it in for years!”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

The Monster at the End of This Episode — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Saints of Imperfection”

One of the themes of the second season of Discovery is fixing what was broken—or at least off-kilter—in the first season. Some of these are carried a bit too far. Honestly, I don’t need Pike not liking holographic communicators to “justify” why they didn’t have them in “The Cage” in 1964. (I also don’t need them to explain why the Enterprise used printouts in that failed pilot episode.)

But with this episode, they address one of the biggest fuckups of season one, the death of Hugh Culber in “Despite Yourself.”

[“Mr. Stamets, are you ready to execute this very bold, deeply insane plan of yours?”]

“I ruined the moment, didn’t I?” — Ant-Man

When Avengers was released in 2012, it contained most of the original founding Avengers from 1963: Thor, the Hulk, and Iron Man. Missing, however, were Ant-Man and the Wasp, who were part of that original team, but had been conspicuously absent from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This gap was finally addressed in a movie that didn’t come out until after the second Avengers movie.

[“My days of breaking into places and stealing shit are over! What do you need me to do?” “I want you to break into a place and steal some shit.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Space Oddity — Star Trek: Discovery’s “An Obol for Charon”

Three takeaways from the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery:

1. The hell with the Picard series and the Section 31 series, I want the adventures of Number One starring Rebecca Romijn. She’s due for her own command anyhow. Get on that, CBS!
2. There are few things more conducive to making a subplot sing than to put Tig Notaro, Mary Wiseman, and Anthony Rapp in a locked room.
3. Doug Jones remains the rock star of Discovery.

[“Tell my wife I love her very much.” “She knows!”]

“I am Groot” — Guardians of the Galaxy

The Guardians of the Galaxy were never really major players in the Marvel Universe. Originally created as superheroes of the future in order to do more science fictiony stories in 1969, they showed up as guest stars in various comics over the years, including Thor, The Defenders, and most notably Avengers during the Korvac Saga, one of the three or four greatest Avengers stories of all time in 1978 (issues #167-177).

Even the reboot of the Guardians in 2008 by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning wasn’t a huge success, only lasting 25 issues. But then this movie came out in 2014…

[I am Groot?]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Meanwhile, Back in the Klingon Empire… — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Point of Light”

One of the difficulties with creating serialized dramatic fiction in a large universe is that you’ve got a lot of different hands in the pot over the years. Star Trek has been produced for more than five decades, with writing staffs far and varied and wide. Hell, all four show-runners of the original series (Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon, John Meredyth Lucas, and Fred Freiberger) are now deceased, as is the one person who served as show-runner for each of the first three live-action spinoffs (Michael Piller). We’re talking about seven television series and thirteen movies produced by six different studios (Desilu, Filmation, Paramount’s movie division, Paramount’s TV division, Bad Robot, and Secret Hideout).

Given that, Star Trek has remained remarkably consistent. And their track record for addressing the inconsistencies has actually been pretty good.

[“Was she this bossy as a kid?” “On Vulcan, we call it ‘persistent,’ and yes, she was.”]

A Huge Mess—Marvel’s The Punisher Season Two

If Netflix releases a Marvel series and it has no buzz whatsoever, did they actually release it?

After taking the world by storm with a superb first season of Daredevil, followed by Jessica Jones and Luke Cage doing likewise, Marvel’s street-level Netflix series seemed poised to do for TV what the Marvel Cinematic Universe had done for movies.

But Netflix seems to want out of the Marvel business. They cancelled Iron Fist, which surprised no one given the lukewarm reception to same, but then they cancelled two of their bona fide hits, Luke Cage (whose first season was so popular it briefly broke Netflix) and Daredevil (the thing that started it all). Worse, none of the shows’ second seasons created the same buzz and anticipation of their first, and the crossover series was flawed.

The unplanned part of the whole thing, The Punisher, taking advantage of Jon Bernthal’s breakout performance in Daredevil season two, just released its second season, and it may be Marvel’s swan song, pending whether Jessica Jones season three happens or not.

If so, it ended with quite a whimper.

[SPOILERS for The Punisher season 2 and the rest of the Netflix MCU]

A Few Too Many Strings — Avengers: Age of Ultron

Throughout their comics history, the Avengers have had several recurring villains. While Loki brought them together in 1963, he was more Thor’s specific problem. Over the years, they kept coming back to fighting against the various incarnations of the Masters of Evil, the time-traveling tyrant Kang the Conqueror, alien invasions from Kree and Skrull both, and the sentient indestructible robot Ultron.

Therefore, having the second Avengers movie have the team face off against Ultron probably seemed completely natural.

[“You’re unbelievably naïve.” “Well, I was born yesterday.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Simple Pleasures Are the Best — Star Trek: Discovery’s “New Eden”

Back in the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander William Riker, expressed an interest in directing an episode of the show. The producers decided to go ahead and give him a go. Star Trek had very little track record in that regard, and only on the movie side: Leonard Nimoy directed the third and fourth Trek films, with William Shatner directing the fifth. (“Captain Kirk is climbing the mountain, why is he climbing the mountain?“) But they gave Frakes “The Offspring” to direct, a script in which Riker’s role was fairly small.

He was not only the first Trek actor to direct a TV episode, he became one of the best, and now is one of the most in-demand TV directors around. More followed in his footsteps, and some became just as in-demand (Roxann Dawson, Robert Duncan McNeill, LeVar Burton), others not so much, but Frakes’s instincts for camera work and getting strong performances out of his actors remain superb almost thirty years later, as we just got to see again in Star Trek: Discovery‘s “New Eden.”

[“Are you ready, Lieutenant?” “Had my pilot’s license since I was twelve, sir.”]

“This isn’t freedom, this is fear” — Captain America: The Winter Soldier

For a very long time, there was a feeling among a certain segment of hardcore comics fans. When Jean Grey was resurrected in the lead-up to the launch of the X-Factor comic book, it started a flood of character resurrections in Marvel (and DC for that matter). Heck, even Aunt May was revived! (Thus ruining a most powerful character death in Amazing Spider-Man #400.)

To many comics fans, though, there were two people who were likely to stay all dead, rather than be mostly dead: Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben and Captain America’s sidekick Bucky Barnes. Those two deaths were too important, too formative to ever be reversed.

And then in 2005, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting did the “Winter Soldier” storyline in Captain America Volume 5 and blew that idea all to hell.

[“There are no prisoners with Hydra, just order. And order only comes with pain. You ready for yours?” “Man, shut the hell up!”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

“Where’s my damn red thing?” — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Brother”

The very first Star Trek character that Gene Roddenberry ever wrote was Captain Christopher Pike. As played by Jeffrey Hunter, Pike was a solid, stolid leader in the Hornblower mode, one who was world-weary and thinking about retiring in the flashbacks of “The Menagerie,” using footage from the unaired pilot “The Cage.” As played by Bruce Greenwood in the alternate timeline of the Bad Robot movies, Pike was a wise mentor, an understanding authority figure.

Anson Mount debuted his interpretation of Pike on the second season premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, and it’s a fascinating mix of Hunter and Greenwood, and a role that’s written with the knowledge that it takes place several years after “The Cage.” It’s also a delight, a welcome shot in the arm to the show which delivers its best episode yet.

[This is the power of math, people!]

“I’d rather be a good man than a great king” — Thor: The Dark World

Throughout the run of Avengers in comic-book form, there’s been a perception that the “big three” members of the team are founding members Iron Man and Thor and almost-founding member Captain America. In addition to being cornerstones of the team, the three of them have also consistently had long-running titles of their own. (The Hulk has, also, but he was gone after issue #2, and neither the Wasp nor any of Henry Pym’s various identities ever sustained a title long-term.)

So it’s not a surprise that the first three movies after Avengers starred those three. Last week we covered Iron Man 3, and next up were the two characters who were not only titans in the Avengers comics, but who also firmly established the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a thing in 2011 with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, two movies that also established the general release-two-movies-a-year pattern (which was upped to three in 2017). First up: Thor: The Dark World.

[“I’ve got this completely under control!” “Is that why everything’s on fire?”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Here’s Mudd in Your Eye — Star Trek’s “The Escape Artist”

Having spent the previous Short Treks spotlighting newer characters—the established Tilly in “Runaway” and Saru in “The Brightest Star,” the brand-new Craft in “Calypso“—the fourth and final one has as its spotlight a character who’s been around almost as long as Star Trek itself. Harcourt Fenton Mudd first appeared in 1966 played by the late Roger C. Carmel, and the role has been taken over in two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery by Rainn Wilson, who also directed this short.

[Your enemies will be positively green with envy! Greener—er, so to speak…]

“I’m just a man in a can” — Iron Man 3

The big challenge for Marvel Studios in 2013 was to do the next thing. They’d done a series of films that all culminated in Avengers, which was a hugely successful movie, having made flipping great wodges of cash and being well-liked and adored by most who saw it. Everything came together in that 2012 film, fulfilling the promise of the five films that came before it, and the question on everyone’s lips after that was, “Will they be able to keep it up?”

They started the second phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the same way they started the first one: with Robert Downey Jr. headlining his third and what has so far been his final solo Iron Man film.

[“Is that all you got? A cheap trick and a cheesy one-liner?” “Sweetheart, that could be the name of my autobiography.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

“I make this look good” — The Men in Black Trilogy

As we close out 2018, “4-Color to 35-Millimeter” is firmly ensconced in the 21st-century renaissance of superhero movies. However, your humble rewatcher did miss a few 20th-century flicks that fit the bill, so in this final week of the year, we’ll take a look at those forgotten films. We started with 1985’s Red Sonja and 1990’s Dick Tracy, and we conclude with the three films starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the Men in Black.

The Men in Black was a three-issue comic book miniseries written by Lowell Cunningham and published by Aircel in 1990. In 1991, Cunningham did a second miniseries about this government conspiracy to cover up the existence of aliens, monsters, etc., but by then Aircel had been bought up by Malibu Comics, and they published the comic.

The comic was also optioned for a feature film by Amblin Entertainment, and by the time they got the film to theatres in 1997, Malibu had been purchased by Marvel Comics (mostly because Marvel wanted their state-of-the-art coloring process; the 1990s was a big revolution in coloring comics), so on a technicality, you can say that Men in Black was Marvel’s first successful movie (beating Blade by a year).

[“So this is how you see things? This is amazing!” “It’s a gigantic pain in the ass, but it has its moments.”]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

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