May 30, 2016

Zenyatta Fan Art: Start to Finish

Layout and Head Detail in Pencil (Picture)
Inked with Light Value (Picture)
Inked with full Value (Scanned)
Final 5x7 Digital Art Print

May 6, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Review

Captain America: Civil War Poster
With the 13th entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel decided to tackle the 2006 comic book event Civil War. I was as excited as I was skeptical when the title was announced, as Civil War was the summer event that ushered me into modern comics. While the main series itself was a cobbled together mess, the overall themes and story telling was amazing if you read the event as a whole with all the tie ins. The reverberations of Civil War echoed through the 616 for years to come.

Thankfully, the movie strays incredibly far from the comics while keeping certain themes intact, and is better off for it. The movie is most definitely a sequel to the amazing Winter Soldier, with bits of the Civil War comic rhetoric sprinkled in. In fact there is only one real Civil War evoking scene and the rest of the movie is the Captain America show. The story picks up right where the agonizingly long Age of Ultron left off, immediately jumping into the action with Steve Rogers leading the New Avengers in the hunt for Crossbones. It is finally nice to see everyone working in tandem, and in character as well.

One of the problems with Joss Whedon's writing in Age of Ultron was that every character had the same voice and attitude, and while it worked in some cases, it didn't work well in others. This problem is largely rectified in Civil War, and the characters feel fuller and more rounded because of it. Vision doesn't make humorous asides, Captain America remains stoic and bold instead of quipping, Hawkeye remains the level headed middle man, Black Widow remains nebulous and mysterious in her meaning. The standout for character development is Scarlet Witch, and it is great to see her finally utilized as an effective member of the Avengers. This simple change sells the characters, and in turn, gives the movie more texture than most of Phase 2.

The standout performance is by far MCU newcommer Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther and king of Wakanda T'Challa. He brings a sense of gravity to the plot, and adds a very personal touch when it comes to the hunt for the Winter Soldier. Boseman also gets some of the best speeches in the film, notably the one late in third act that ties the themes of the movie together. Equally stunning was Daniel Brühl's take on the classic Captain America villain Baron Zemo. While he never don's the fluffy cape and purple mask, he is every bit the manipulator his comic book counterpart is. It is refreshing to see a villain not throw a single punch and still be a problem for our heroes. And the final twist of his maniacal plan makes perfect sense.

Oh, and Spider-Man is in the movie and he is damn near perfect. Can't wait to see more of him. He is constantly quipping throughout the battle scene he is in and really nails the tone of being in way over his head.

Overall, the movie hits every note you expect, and even a few you don't. This movie proves that comic book based films can be fun and still handle heavy themes. In true blockbuster fashion, I cannot wait for it's home release so I can devour it again and again.

Mar 18, 2016

Civil War II

I am so torn on this event. First of all, the first Civil War is one of my favorite books, but mostly because I read it in it's entirety at least once a year. The main event itself is kind of meh, but all of the tie in books really make the main book sing. What frustrates me is the issue at the center of Civil War II seems to be science fiction mumbo jumbo, instead of reflecting the present issues the world is facing.

The first Civil War was a response to the increased surveillance granted to the United States Government following September 11th. The Patriot Act had the voice of country split, so naturally, our heroes were split about the issue too. Should heroes give up their private identity in the name of national security? Or is giving up your secret identity in exchange for more government control a step over the line, meaning you might just have to jump out of a Helicarrier after going AWOL?

This iteration of Civil War focuses on a super powered being, probably an Mutant Inhuman, who can see the future with startling accuracy. This will of course cause an ideological split in the super powered community, with Captain Marvel leading the pack saying "Minority Report? Never read it!", and Tony Stark leading the "Seriously Carol?" side. It seems to me this cross over is being haphazardly thrown together just because there is a movie coming out with the same name. The reason Secret Wars 2 worked so well because it was organic story telling that made sense, not because a movie of the same name was coming out.

One of the most cited problems with the original Civil War was that the book ended up destroying any integrity Tony Stark had going in, causing him to literally be rebooted with amnesia. Hopefully that doesn't happen to Carol, who has just been recently pushed into the lime light thanks to her excellent on going series. It 

The most frustrating aspect though? It won't be considered timeless. Marvel could be putting out something that is a commentary on gun control, police violence, global warming or 100 other topics. Instead we get a generic 'fight the future' plot. I feel that this isn't going to push storylines forward for many characters. Not that anything from the original Civil War stuck, except for maybe the death of Goliath...

Jul 21, 2015

Ant-Man Thoughts

Like nearly everyone else on the internet, when I heard there was going to be an Ant Man movie I scratched my head in confusion. When it was revealed it was going to be directed by Edgar Wright, I was ecstatic. Then Wright left the project, and was replaced with a director who's biggest claim to fame was Bring It On, a mostly forgettable movie about cheerleaders. So this movie was a roller coaster from the get go, and the final film plays out like one as well. Spoilers and musings below.

I am so glad that Marvel decided to be smart and go with Scott Lang as the main character, and not Hank Pym. Hank Pym is such a tainted character, that he hadn't really done anything good in the comics for quite some time. His role as a mentor in this film works incredibly well, and gets rid of the two biggest stigma's from his backstory: the creation of Ultron and beating his wife. Instead we get Michael Douglas as a scientist-turned-spy that left SHIELD for the glamorous private sector life.

The main theme throughout the movie is fatherhood, and it shows in spades, with Hank Pym refusing to put his daughter Hope in danger, and Scott Lang trying to reconnect with his daughter after a stint in prison. Hope shows herself to be vastly more capable with the skills required to steal a new suit of armor developed by Hank's previous protege, but her father refuses constantly to put her in harms way. Later on it is explained that the powers that he created for his late wife also ended up in him losing her forever, and thus he feels responsible for it. It really brings out the strength of Hank Pym from the comics, connection to family, without relying on a robot with daddy issues.

Scott is mainly trying to get back on his feet throughout the movie, and is recruited by Hank Pym because of his Robin Hood sensibilities, in order to get back into the life of his daughter. Also: Yay first on screen appearance of a Young Avenger!! Paul Rudd does his best with the material given, but I really wish there was more time for him to dive into his improv sensibilities. It isn't that Scott isn't funny, it is just the film doesn't let the funny moments breath a lot.

The biggest surprise is the huge scope of the film. This movie is at it's most fun when there is something happening with scale, be it a Thomas the tank engine busting through a house, or a couple of ants adding sugar to a coffee. About midway through the film my mind was blown though, when Hank Pym introduced the concept of the 'quantum realm', or as comic fans know it, the micro verse. The film version of course behaves drastically differently from the comic counterpart, so don't expect any centaurs in half plate. To travel to the quantum realm a user takes the Pym Particles past their intended use, and they go sub-atomic, but without a regulator can get stuck in limbo forever.

This famously happened to Janet Van Dyne in Secret Wars, only to be brought back at the conclusion of Brian Michael Bendis' Avengers arc. I would put money on this happening in the cinematic universe too, so we will have two Wasps on screen, Hope and Janet! And because of how movies work, I bet they will be similar in age too ("Because you don't age in the quantum realm" or some crap like that).

The movie was solid fun and a great entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however the formula Marvel has made loads of money with is starting to show its flaws. The bad guy is very one note and forgettable, with crappy motivation. The soundtrack/scoring doesn't elevate the film like the original Iron Man. The macro photography was a very cool way to shoot the scale, and the ants definitely stole the show, but even with all of that it still feels very formula.

Jul 14, 2015

So many Comic Con trailers!!

Ugh. Why does everything have to be so dark and super serious? The Inception style 'BWAMS!' are getting old too. It is over powering to the dialogue. That said the action looks decent, and it is awesome to finally see more than just glimpses of the characters. Doom still looks weird, and it is still baffling that the films cannot get the best Marvel villain ever right.

This movie is just bleh to me. It is so plainly obvious that DC/Warner Brothers wants to be Marvel. They are just trying to hard. This movie is trying to be Guardians of the Galaxy but with Age of Ultron's marketing soundtrack. You know what made Guardians special? An incredibly fun tone that didn't take itself too seriously, not it's huge line up of characters. Jared Leto's Joker doesn't look interesting at all. There is also a lot of dead air in this trailer and B-Roll footage. The best parts are very few and far between. Bless Margot Robbie though, as it looks like she actually gets Harley Quinn. She looks amazing. Sad to see some of the other members of the Squad get so little time in the trailer, like Captain Boomerang or the amazing looking Katana. This movie has a lot of work to do if it wants to win me over. It could be that I absolutely hate villains though. Call me crazy, but villain's shouldn't be celebrated and worshiped.

This movie is going to make a ton of money. But damn does this trailer just depress me. The few shining moments of light in my eyes though? Wonder Woman and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. There are some really cool Batman moments, but I just don't care enough for seeing the same thing over and over again. Do we really need to see Thomas and Martha Wayne die again? Isn't that built into the American folklore that is Batman? Also, why is Martha Kent telling Superman to be a dick to people. Superman is supposed to be the 50's American ideal. Helping old ladies across the street, eating apple pie with his Mom, stopping buses full of kids from careening off a bridge. The best scene in Man of Steel was Clark Kent coming back to his Smallville farm, watching the Kansas University football game while wearing a Royals shirt and drinking a beer. And it looks like none of that is captured in this trailer. This article sums up my feelings completely.

Jul 11, 2015

What Star Wars means to me

Last night at San Diego Comic Con, Star Wars dropped the mic, whose echos will be felt for years to come. I wasn't even there, I was watching a text live stream from io9 and refreshing my twitter feed, and I still cried. And then something unprecedented happened, the Star Wars YouTube account uploaded the footage it showed a packed Hall H.

This tweet sums up everything to me. Star Wars is my constant inspiration as a struggling writer, but it is also a deep reflection on my past. It was the first movie that introduced me to sequels. I will always remember the first time I saw A New Hope. My family was moving from Colorado Springs to Atlanta, and we were stopping at every extended family members place we could. On a warm night in July in St. Louis, Missiouri I was having problems sleeping. My parents had gone out with my uncle to the store or something, I can never quite remember, and my brothers and cousin were all sound asleep. My aunt and I were the only ones awake at the house and she said "Ryan why don't we watch a movie?". It was Star Wars, and my life would never be the same. I was blown away of course. I went to bed dreaming of lightsabers and X-Wings.

Well the next morning at breakfast I couldn't shut up about it, even if I tried. My brothers were too young to understand complete sentences and complex thought, let alone the tale of the Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. I decided that it would just be easier to show them. So I badgered my aunt into watching A New Hope yet again that morning. My brothers and I loved the movie and were running around the house making lightsaber noises. Like a 5 year old addict, I wanted more, so I begged her to let us watch it one more time, to which she replied "Well why don't we watch the second one?" I was 5 and fully potty trained by then, but I still think I shit my pants. What heresy is she speaking of? A second one? Empire Strikes Back firmly began to blow my mind, and of course there is the big Vader reveal. That night we watched Return of the Jedi and I was so exhausted I fell asleep naturally for the first time in my life, no bed time story, no night light, just pure exhaustion.

The next morning my aunt started telling me about the extended universe, and by the end of my bowl of cherrios I had a firm grasping of Roman numerals. Star Wars was actually the forth story in a series of nine? Holy. Crap. My aunt also let me down that the other six films would probably not get made.

A few years later when the remastered editions hit the theaters, it was the first time my mother took my brothers and I to the movies as a family on opening day. This was my initial exposure to what is now dubbed fandom, but what was then sneered at as 'nerds'. It taught me it was okay to have a backpack that had Han Solo on it, that if you wanted to have a lightsaber outside the confines of your home it was okay to do so. These remasters showed me you can be a nerd and not be ashamed or mocked, at least by others in the geeky culture.

The prequels came out at some bleak times in my life, so they are remembered less fondly, but still part of my history and Star Wars lore. Oddly enough, The Phantom Menace marked me moving back to Colorado Springs, in which I rejoined my original Kindergarden class, only to be marked an outsider and shunned because I was the 'new kid'. I got in my first fist fight that year. Attack of the Clones was the first movie I saw alone with my Dad after he and my mother divorced (Him trying to connect with me I suspect). The first full week Revenge of the Sith was released was the first and only time I had my heart broken. My inner child had died.

And after that I was done. Lucas had announced that he would no longer be making any more movies set in the universe. Star Wars had ended. I had great memories and bad memories from it, just like real life. Then the unthinkable happened, and Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced they would be making Episodes VII, VIII, and IX. Suddenly, my inner child was alive again, jubilant and energized. This year is a huge year for me. Not only are we getting the once fabled Episode VII, but I also am now engaged to the woman of my dreams. Both the original cast, my trifecta of heroes, and myself are entering new chapters in our lives. It means everything to me to go back to these characters I love, because they taught me so much about life.

Star Wars isn't movies or books or games. Star Wars is running barefoot in the front yard of my family home, an X-Wing toy in hand and laser blasting sounds coming from my mouth. Star Wars is high fiving a random stranger in a Stormtrooper costume, because even though he is dressed as a bad guy, you admire the dedication, craftsmanship and stamina it takes to wear a full suit of armor in a packed convention hall. Star Wars is sweeping scores of hope coming from your smart phone every time your fiancee calls just to say she loves you. Star Wars is sinking that nothing-but-net shot from the free throw line because you 'turned off your targeting computer'. And above all else, Star Wars is nothing but a new hope.

Jul 6, 2015

Fallout: New Vegas Thoughts

So I am very late to this party, but I am trying my best to contain my hype for Fallout 4 in productive ways, and I am so glad I did. Thanks to Steam this game is finally getting crossed off my endlessly growing bucket list. Rather than talk about this game like I normally would, I want to prattle off some thoughts about the great changes it has made from Fallout 3, and muse on what I hope will be included in Fallout 4.

Jun 16, 2015

E3 2015 Thoughts

Sony was the worst. The bait and switch on Shenmue III sucks so much. Kickstarter is no longer for funding projects, but garnering market interest. It is nothing by risk assessment, because their is no way in hell Shenmue is going to be made on a $2 million budget. Final Fantasy VII looks stunning, but the gameplay in that game hasn't aged well at all, so lets see some actual gameplay footage that isn't just managing spreadsheets and then maybe we can start talking about it. Last Guardian will be amazing and win hundreds of awards, but it is probably not going to make any money for how long it has been in development and it didn't demo well at all. The only things Sony showed that looked remotely interesting were Dreams and Horizon. Not to mention the Uncharted Demo they had to restart because it glitched out.

Nintendo dropped the ball so bad that the president of the company issued an apology on twitter. And they are ruining Metroid yet again it looks like. Star Fox looks like a lot of fun and will be great to play in HD. I wanted to see more 3DS stuff.

Microsoft just stumbled around, but had some really cool concepts shown like ReCore and Cuphead. The removal of same system co-op in Halo 5 puts it firmly on the 'when it is on sale' list for me. Gears looks fine, but I think I hung that hat up after 3. Not interested in the remake of Gears 1. The backwards compatibility announcement is huge though! Hopefully they can get the big publishers behind them.

Fallout 4 stole the show though. Just showing off the character creator, the custom settlements, the ability to mod armor and weapons, and of course the dog, was enough to blow my mind. Plus, with both consoles getting Mod capabilities, the sky is the limit. Throw in the free mobile game to tide me over and I was sold.

Then there is Star Wars, which was a mixed bag. First Battlefront looked amazing, but I weep because there is no way my PC can handle all that. Having it come out a week after Fallout makes me cry, but hey, first world problems am I right? The announcement of yet another stupid Star Wars mobile game makes me incredibly angry. I want big sweeping galactic experiences, not micro transactions on my phone. The new expansion for The Old Republic is great, but damn, I just uninstalled that!! I don't have time for an MMO.

Oh, and a teaser for a new Mass Effect makes me happy, but they should have waited until next year for that.