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I didn’t give Will a whole lot of guidance on this page; every once in a while, I give a less full-script and more, “this is what we’re going for,” kind of page, and let him run wild with it. This reminds me a lot of some of a certain kind of comic storytelling that Scott McCloud talks about, the kind that’s supposed to set a stage and give an impression more than give a linear accounting of events. I dig this page A LOT.

Now you KNOW that I went and saw Avengers: Age of Ultron over the weekend; in fact I saw it Thursday evening in a double feature with the original. I’m about to discuss it, and there will be spoilers, so…

SPOILER ALERT

SPOILER ALERT

SPOILER ALERT

If you haven’t seen Avengers 2, and you wish to remain surprised, do not read past the picture:

Avengers 2

 

Okay, you’ve been warned.

I thought it was good, but not GREAT. I am a huge fan of the first film, I think it was very much a special piece of filmmaking, and after seeing it again on the big screen, Age of Ultron had some unreasonable expectations to live up to. But it WAS good, very good, in fact.

I mean, if I had to point out a flaw with the film, it was that it was just a wee bit too short. This movie was PACKED with storylines: Iron Man’s pride and how that leads to the creation of Ultron, Ultron and his murderous motivations, the evolution of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch from “villains” to heroes, the essential tragedy of being the Incredible Hulk, Hawkeye’s dirty little secret, the shocker of a romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner, and an exploration of how heroes deal with their fears, and with each other. All of this while squeezing in Baron Strucker, Ulysses Klaw, and the Hulkbuster armor. Oh, did I mention the Vision? Because he’s in this too…along with an Infinity Stone.

The thing is, Joss Whedon is a TREMENDOUS storyteller, and he makes it all work. I would imagine it works even better in the much-rumored 3+ hour cut that they started with. This film must have been eviscerated in the editing room. Because while all of the stories work, they do so kind of clunkily, especially the stuff with the Vision. He was the one character about whom I simply did not care. The reasons for his conception, and why certain Avengers opt to midwife his birth, are told to us rather than shown, and that’s just no good. Now, the reason that the Avengers choose to trust him is shown to us in stark detail, and that was pretty cool…just not cool enough to justify him being an Avenger. (Not that I resent the Vision being an Avenger, but I think that I would have if I’d been a muggle instead of a geek.)

The action sequences are pretty great. The fight between Iron Man and the Hulk has to be seen to be believed. I was on the edge of my seat, my head echoing the phrase, “the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets!” over and over again.

This movie REALLY focused on what it means to be a hero. The Avengers were prepared to die rather than see one innocent person be lost to Ultron’s depredations, and a great deal of the movie focuses on them getting people to safety. A LOT of people seem to think that this was Marvel thumbing its collective nose at Man of Steel, and it’s hard to argue against that with any conviction…but I prefer to think that Joss Whedon understood the nature of heroism before he saw the last Superman film.

The performances were pretty great across the board, and maybe my biases are showing, but Chris Evans as Captain America was the standout for me. Cap has evolved over the course of the four films in which he’s been featured; it’s been fun seeing him acclimate to being a man out of time. He was convincingly the leader of this Avengers team, and his penchant for platitude remains convincing in its earnestness, rather than hokey.

I am REALLY looking forward to seeing a director’s cut of this film if it ever becomes available, I think that would bump it up from a solid B to a solid A.

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There have been a couple of times during the run of Hunter Black that I’ve been eager to post ALL THE PAGES, so you could see everything that was on the horizon, and this is one of those times. Will has really stepped up his game over the last few months, and I can’t wait for you to see what that means. (Of course, the downside of this is that I have to try and keep writing stuff that is worthy of the amazing effort he’s been putting forth. That’s good for you all, I guess, but a real bitch for me!)

nyssa al ghul

So, I was thinking that I was gonna talk to you guys about how The Flash and Arrow are not prepared to yield the title of “Best Superhero Show Ever” to Daredevil just yet. This week’s Arrow was pretty good, and promises more goodness to come, and this week’s Flash was arguably the best hour of superhero television I’ve ever seen. (Poor Agents of SHIELD. They’re right at the top of their game…and they don’t even get a mention here.)

But instead, I offer you a woman who has entered “My Five,” those women out in the world for whom I would ask #Squirrel for a day off from marital bliss. Katrina Law kills as Nyssa al-Ghul on Arrow (pun…accepted). She gives one of the better performances on a show that is filled with pretty good performances, especially from the female members of the cast. (Slow clap for Emily Bett Rickards and Caity Lotz in particular.) She alternatives between deadly and vulnerable with amazing ease, she’s playing one of the cooler, lesser-known characters from Batman’s rogues gallery (created by fan of the comic Greg Rucka, too!), and perhaps most importantly, she effortlessly brings just a bit of diversity to the cast.

Sigh.

(I’m trying not to be horrified by the fact that she’s married. I could be on her Five, I suppose. Also, I’m deciding to ignore the fact that her real name is Joyce Houseknecht. [She’s half-Taiwanese, one-quarter Italian, and one-quarter German.] Joyce DeWitt is the only Joyce for me…but she’s not on my Five anymore.)

Picture above courtesy of elsolitariodeprovidence.com.

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You know, I think that Will brings a little something extra to drawing Zezem the Cruel. Maybe it’s because he has such affinity for the character, but Zezem always ends up looking so DAMNED COOL. Maybe I just love the whole Ricardo Montalbano as Khan Noonien Singh thing. Also, I’ve always loved the word “revenant.” Much cooler than “wight” or “zombie” or “mummy.” (I’m rambling today.)

Why is everyone being so quiet about Orphan Black? Am I the only person on social media watching it? I mean, I think it remains every bit as good as it’s ever been. I certainly feel compelled to watch it, even though I’m two episodes behind on Game of Thrones and FIVE behind on The Americans. I think part of what makes Orphan Black so amazing is sometimes hard to notice, and that’s the performance of Tatiana Maslany. It’s so easy to forget that she’s playing multiple roles, and that each of the clones isn’t being played by a different actress. I mean, she’s making what’s she doing look completely effortless.

(I’m so pissed that she wasn’t cast in Rogue One. No hate on Felicity Jones, whose work I’m completely unfamiliar with.)

Am I the only person who’s NOT feeling Game of Thrones? Not that it’s bad or anything, and I’ve only seen the season premiere so far, but I just don’t feel the same compulsion to watch that I felt before. I wonder what that’s about?

Watch Orphan Black, so I can feel less lonely!

 

Orphan Black Poster

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This scene, which we’re really just beginning, marks a point where I truly noticed how far Will’s art has come on this comic. I’d been posting old pages on Instagram (I’m @hunterblackwriter, if you want to follow me) and the difference is striking, to me anyway. I think you’ll like some of the stuff that’s coming up; I know that I did. In the meantime, I know we’ve been doing this ever Hunter and Jasoom got to Zezem, but necromancy has to be occasioned with black fire, right?

Hunter Black hasn’t been graced with tons and tons of press over the years, but that’s to be expected, given the fact that Will and I are basically no-name creators. When it happens, I get super excited, so yeah, right now I’m thrilled that we just got a fairly kind review over on The Strip Show! I can live with an 8 out of 10, although you can bet that I’ll be clawing at the walls in order to get us up to a 10.

The thing that concerned me most in the article was the issue of navigation…does everyone have issues with the navigation? The navigation doesn’t strike me as any more difficult than that of any other webcomic, but I could definitely be wrong about that. Certainly, I don’t actually read the comic on the site as often as I ought to. If anyone is experiencing issues with the site navigation, even if the issue is only frustration, please let us know in the comments. I’ll see what we can do to get them sorted out.

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I know that I’ve mentioned it before, but just in case, the nation of Al’Dahan is named after one of my best friends’ D&D characters. This was a 2E character, mind you, so we played in this campaign something like [REDACTED] years ago. It was the same campaign wherein I played Jasoom Basrali, as a matter of fact.

Speaking of D&D, man, I have a wicked new idea for a campaign for 5E. I’ve begun developing it, because I made the mistake of mentioning the idea behind it to a couple of my would-be players, including Will, and they IMMEDIATELY had character ideas. Once we have a break in the campaign we’re currently running, I have a mission, apparently.

The opening statement is this: “The gods are dead, and their bodies dot the countryside. There are no marks on their bodies, the only clue as to the cause of their passing is the rictus of fear written on their dead faces.” There are details to sweeten the deal, like the fact that divine magic still works, although no one knows why. I’m still wrestling with certain ideas. Despite the insanity of massive dead gods scattered around the world, this is a low-magic setting, and I’ve seriously considered eliminating non-human races altogether. (I probably won’t, since one of my players desperately wants to play a dwarf.)

The tone of the campaign is supposed to be dark, and it’s as much about the upheavals in a changed world as it is about the investigations into what caused the death of the gods. I’m plucking things out of some of my favorite shows and books, as well as some of the darker parts of actual history, to inform the storylines. Once I have a better hand on the world itself, and the main details of the first few adventures, I’ll let my players make characters and I’ll start crafting the story in order to make it more personal for them.

I’m considering using some of the optional rules presented in the 5E DMG, but I really need to defamiliarize myself with them. This is gonna be a lot of work to well, and I already have a lot of work to do. I’ll keep you guys posted on my progress.

 

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