Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Liking "Agent Carter" - Marvel Comics TV Series (and the other comic book series)

Agent Carter is a nice addition to the TV - Comic Book universe that seems to be in play at the moment.

As the series is set in the post-WWII era, I'm not sure how long it will last.  It does get a little old having Carter sent out for coffee every time something interesting is being discussed.

I like that Tony Stark (Iron Man)'s dad (Howard Stark) is a character, and that Jarvis (originally introduced as the Avengers butler in the comics) is having a more active role (he's Stark's butler, but with Stark off hiding, he's getting to be Carter's co-spy).  Jarvis (along with Alfred in Gotham) are being portrayed in a more 3-D way - not just "butlers" in the background - both have military experience and get to do heroic things, which helps explain how they stay in their roles with their odd employers.

With "Gotham" (the early DC comics Batman series - Batman is a 12 year old, or so, Bruce Wayne) the timing is not stressed.  If you look, you don't see cell phones and computers, but otherwise it is a cop show with organized crime folks and interesting guests (much of the interest is who they will eventually become).

In Agent Carter, the timeframe seems much more pronounced and obvious.  Not sure if this will play out well, or not.  I think the initial '70's Wonder Woman started in as a 1940's (or 1920's) but ended up in current times.

If I had to rank the current comic book series I'd pick:

1) Arrow (fleshed out characters, the Green Arrow powers aren't so extreme as to make the need to create powerful villains every week).  They've done a good job with casting the support crew, and having the "same world" as Flash, the "universe" feels bigger.  All the supporting characters becoming "powered" is a trend that has to stop, as it becomes too unbelievable (Arrow, his sister, his ex-not-dead-girlfriend, his living-ex-slept-with-her-sister girlfriend, his best buddy and his dad all became powered or soon to be so).  Marvel did this with Spider-Man for a while - everyone Peter Parker had coffee with or saw on the bus become a villain or hero - linked coincidences lose power after a while. The link to Ras-al-Gaul is great as well, as that links over to the whole Batman world, and has potential power.

2) Gotham - I like the "Gordon" character (which helps as he's 90% of the series).  Good supporting characters (multiple mobsters running around, politics in their world provides sub-plots), good previews of characters, not being pushed forward too fast (Ed Nigma - the future Riddler, is an odd character on the police force, socially awkward, but not an immediate villain - primarily wants to solve problems and make friends).  They do a good job of keeping Bruce Wayne in the background as well - he doesn't even appear each episode, and when he does, he's not perfect (still learning, somewhat naive, exactly what a young orphaned child from a wealthy family would be like).

3) Flash - very optimistic, particularly compared to Gotham.  They've done a smart job of keeping most of the storylines on the non-uniformed characters.  This might suffer from the "too many threads back to the same source" problem that seemed to invade the series "Heroes" with the "white event" and Smallville "meteor storm".  Lots of characters seem to have powers derived from the accident that gave the Flash his powers.

4) Agents of Shield - really liked the first few episodes, as it has been off the air for a few months, find I don't miss it as much as I thought.  The "dissolution" of SHIELD at the end of season 1 might have been too early - it might have played off to have the "all powerful world spy agency" continue for a while longer, and perhaps more crossover ideas with the Avengers characters.  Really liked what they did with Deathlok.  It might be a nice vehicle to bring the less powerful Marvel characters forward (e.g. overseas to Wakanda to see the Black Panther; Black Widow would be an easy fit, but Johanssen might be too big for that role on the TV series; Luke Cage might be interesting, as they can overlap during some investigation, James Rhodes (Iron Man's buddy) and Sam Wilson (Falcon, Cap's buddy and a decent stand-alone character from the Cap movie) might serve to keep the main Avengers in mind without using the actual Cap and Iron Man).  Shield does have to be careful - too many guests might make the main case less interesting, and thus doom the series.

5) Agent Carter - still new, need to see how it plays out and whether there is enough going on to keep the series fresh.  I think the character is usable, but being "trapped" in the '50's limits crossover with the other series (they did mention her reverently in SHIELD, but aside from some time travel one-off, or meeting an aged present-day Carter, there's not many opportunities for Avengers or Shield crossovers).  What might be nice is to bring up some Timely folks - Cap is around (but on ice), but so is the original Human Torch (the android, not the Fantastic Four guy) and the Sub-Mariner.  Even as newspaper headlined or backstories, this might open things up a little.  They might be able to have flashback stories from WWII, with the "present" Carter dealing with the aftermath.

Finished (E-Reader): "So Anyway...The Autobiography" - John Cleese


I finished the John Cleese autobiography.  Not a particularly noteworthy read.

I was impressed, and a little jealous, of how job opportunities seemed to fall into Cleese's lap.  It seemed that he was offered opportunities whenever he neared the end of whatever thing he was currently doing - "Oh, you play is finishing up, want to do a movie script?", "got any time? we're starting a new TV series on BBC".  Even thing outside his professional scope (e.g. movie scripts).  A nice time to be around.

This book is not the definitive "Monty Python" history, though the players seem to float around in the same circles as Cleese, so they do interact throughout the book.

Cleese comes across as likable, and lucky, but there aren't any particular miracles or barriers to make any of the events "epic".

I think it might be better as an audiobook.