Friday 27 February 2015

Comics Round-Up: February part two

A quick rundown of the rest of this month's purchases.

Ms. Marvel #12 (Marvel)

A genuinely lovely Valentine's issue, a one-off, straightforward story in which Loki crashes Kamala's school dance. It's simply very sweet, funny and beautifully, simply told by G. Willow Wilson, perfectly complimented by Elmo Bondoc's mellow art style. With all these gigantic comic events going on, in particular in Marvel, which will shortly reboot so none of it really matters anyway, it's a pleasure to read a self-contained, low stakes and intimate story like this.

Multiversity: Mastermen (DC)

On the subject of big events, this is dragging a little now. While the conceit of a different comic and a different story each month worked well to begin with, last month's Multiversity Guidebook upped the ante, so to drop back to another (mostly) self-contained story seems retrograde. In a series like this, the odd misfire doesn't matter so much, since we'll be off to another reality next time. However, the Nazi-ruled world of Earth-10 just isn't that inspiring a setting. Uncle Sam battling Overman might seem like a great idea, but there's really only so much you can do with it that isn't crashingly obvious. Mastermen starts with a full page image of Hitler taking a strenuous dump, and that's the height of its wit. Ready for the finale.

The Wicked + The Divine #8 (Image)

It's the Dionysus issue, so of course it's going to be fun. A magic-induced rave in full, glorious technicolor, with the art dream team of Wilson and McKelvie creating eye-popping sequences to a panel-by-panel beat. It's probably really evocative to people less boring than me, who actually go to raves and things. Still, this is a filler issue, dropping a couple of hints to the ongoing mystery and moving the story on by just a fraction. Style over substance - but such style.

The Amazing Spider-Man #15/ Spider-Gwen #1 (Marvel)

And so, Spider-Verse comes to an end, sort of. This issue announces that Secret Wars: Spider-Verse is coming, so it is clearly seguing the two big events together. Presumably, the incursions that Spider-UK is so concerned about are related to the reality damaging event that is set to hit the Marvel universe. Even the next issue of Spider-Man is being touted as "Caught in the Web of Spider-Verse," so the fallout from this will be running on for a while. The issue itself is effective enough, but is mostly concerned with providing a final coda to the Superior Spider-Man arc, which needs to be done and dusted now. Spider-Gwen gets off to a promising start, with an
unremarkable but enjoyable first issue that pits our heroine against the Gwenverse version of the Vulture. Gwen only has her own series because the character was such a surprise hit, and wisely this first issue sticks to her strengths. She's fun, sardonic and quippy, but in a totally different way to Peter Parker. With Silk, Spider-Girl and Spider-Woman all continuing their adventures after this, there's no shortage of female Spider-heroes going forward, but Gwen looks to be the most enjoyable right now.




Wednesday 25 February 2015

Monochrome Marvels 1

I've long been a fan of old TV and film, and one of the wonderful things about it is how much more there always is to still discover. Nosing around on the internet can reveal all sorts of gems, free to view.

A Message from Mars (1913)


The poster advertises Hawtrey's involvement but shows Clark.
The first feature length science fiction film made in the UK, A Message from Mars was released by the BFI at the end of last year, restored and returned to its original colour tints. I've only just got round to watching it, but after a hundred years I'm sure a couple of months can't hurt. A silent film, it has only a few text inserts, the story mostly being told through the acting. It's a beautiful work, largely down to its star, Charles Hawtrey (not that one). Hawtrey was born in 1858 and was the leading comic stage actor of his generation. It was towards the very end of his career that he began to perform in silent films, using his expressive physicality to put across his characters' emotions. The cast also includes Hubert Willis, who was most famous as Doctor Watson alongside Eille Norwood's Sherlock Holmes.

A little research tells me that the film was based on an earlier version released in New Zealand in 1903, now lost, and itself based on a play by Richard Ganthony. It's essentially a spacey version of A Christmas Carol, with Hawtrey's character Horace shown the error of his selfish and miserable ways not by a series of ghosts but by Remiel, a Martian sent to Earth to prove his own abilties. I love E. Holman Clark's performance as Remiel; his expression of sheer indignation when he is given his earthly assignment. The Martian setting of his origin scenes might as well be heaven or some fantasy realm, but interplanetary romances were in vogue in that era. You can stream it on the BBC website.

Next : The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)



Tuesday 24 February 2015

Paperback Writer

Iris Wildthyme of Mars is now available in paperback from Obverse Books, priced £12.99 (about $20).

Buy buy buy

Sunday 22 February 2015

WHO REVIEW: Seasons of War

Since John Hurt's one-off appearance in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, Doctor Who fans have been eager to see more of this mysterious incarnation of their hero. All we've had are the aforementioned special, a brief appearance in the preceding episode, a post-regenerative glimpse in mini-ep The Night of the Doctor, and a single novel, George Mann's Engines of War. Until now.


Declan May, in association with Chinbeard Books, has developed Seasons of War, a grand undertaking bringing together both new and established authors to create a host of new stories featuring Hurt's War Doctor. The unofficial Doctor Who anthology is something of a tradition, from such old favourites as Missing Pieces through Walking in Eternity and up to Shelf Life. Seasons of War follows this grand tradition but takes it further, crafting a multimedia experience to go along with the, frankly exemplary, short fiction anthology. A quick visit to the website will allow you to not only learn more about the background of the project, but also view a specially shot short film, starring one Tom Menary as the man once called Doctor. Plus, you can visit the site of Caudwell Children, the charity May has chosen to benefit from the sales of his book. An organisation dedicated to improving the lives of children with disabilities and life-threatening conditions, Caudwell Children is an established national charity that does remarkable work. I don't think May could have chosen a more deserving cause.


The anthology itself boasts a huge collection of stories, and is sure to be a hefty tome once the physical paperback version of the book is released (as of writing it is available in Kindle and PDF formats). Doctor Who fans will recognise many of the names attached to the project: there are stories by acclaimed novelists including Paul Magrs, Lance Parkin, Kate Orman, George Mann and Jenny Colgan, as well as Who stalwarts such as Gary Russell and John Peel. The excellent Matt Fitton takes a moment out from his Big Finish work to pen the opening story – the Epilogue, of course – while the writer of 1981's Full Circle, Andrew Smith, also provides an adventure. As a Doctor Who fan, however, the most affecting part of this publication is the preface by the great Nick Briggs, speaking about Paul Spragg, to whom this book is dedicated. For those who don't know, Spragg was a vital member of Big Finish's team who was a beloved figure in fan circles, and his sudden death last year was a shock to us all. As Declan May points out, even those of us who never really knew him well were hit by his loss. I'd scarcely even communicated with the man, but he was such a part of Big Finish that his loss is felt any time I listen to one of their regular, much-adored podcasts. One of the last projects Mr Spragg worked on was this very anthology, setting much of it in motion, and so Seasons of War stands as a lasting tribute to him.


And no finer tribute could he have had. Seasons of War is a truly excellent piece of work. As noted, it begins with an epilogue and ends with a prologue, as befits a book concerning war across time, but for the most part, the stories are arranged in chronological order from the Doctor's point of view. Between the main stories lie vignettes, uncredited but presumably written by May, which lend context to the individual tales. Taking the War Doctor's life from his first moments on Karn to his final fateful decision on the eve of the Last Day, there's a definite evolution of the character. While each author has his of her own take on the character, there is certainly a consistency across the collection. For the most part, the War Doctor begins hardened and callous, but gradually his compassion resurfaces as he grows older. Nonetheless, he grows more desperate as the War grinds on, and both suffers and commits terrible cruelties. We see him at his most ruthless, almost unidentifiable as the Doctor, in “Here Comes the Doctor” by Christopher Bryant, but his most questionable actions are always followed by regret. There are companions, from time to time, most notably the Girl with the Purple Hair, whose relationship with the Doctor is just as timey-wimey as anything in Steven Moffat's episodes and just as beautiful and tragic. While some stories take place on the front lines of the War, many of them occur on its fringes, exploring the effects on individuals and cultures that exist in the sphere of conflict.


There's a great mix of material in here. When the harder, uncompromising war stories threaten to become a bit much, a lighter interlude pops up. There's some genuinely funny material amongst all the horrors of war. Often, the quieter moments between battles allow more exploration of the War Doctor's character. It's not all prose, either. Matthew Sweet's “An Historical Curiosity” takes a twisted, Whovian look at Shakespeare and makes some fun pokes at continuity and canon while it's at it. Jenny Colgan provides a sonnet. Jim Mortimore and Simon A. Brett provide a glorious comic strip account of the War, and Paul Hanley provides excellent artwork throughout. While, as with any anthology, some stories are better than others (or simply more to my individual taste), the overall standard of the work is extremely high. I'm not reluctant to say that Seasons of War contains some of the best Who fiction I have read in a very long time. There's also, as one might expect, some exploration of the mythology of the series, including not only terms we've heard in relation to the War such as the Nightmare Child and the Horde of Travesties, but elements from other eras of the series. The Corsair makes and appearance, as does the Land of Fiction. George Mann provides a missing scene from his own War Doctor novel. Strands are connected, but it's never overbearing or to the detriment of the stories. One small quibble is that some elements can become a little repetitive in the early part when the character is still being established. The War Doctor's dislike of being called the Doctor is handled better by some authors than by others, for instance, and it becomes a little gimmicky on occasion. That is a very minor complaint, though, in a collection of such quality.


Many of the best stories are by authors who are new to me. I'm not going to go into detail on every entry in the collection, but certain stories to warrant particular praise. Christopher Bryant's aforementioned “Here Comes the Doctor” is a highlight of the early part of the book. “The Holdover” by Daniel Wealands is a powerful exploration of the lengths to which authorities will go in times of war, and shows us better than any other story how low the Time Lords have sunk. With “Making Endings” Nick Mellish weaves an affecting tale with a genuinely clever twist, while Alan Ronald's “The Ingenious Gentleman” provides a welcome respite from the War with a meeting of two improbable men. Jon Arnold's “Always Face the Curtain With a Bow” is a wickedly funny but ultimately haunting tale that affects the Doctor deeply, something that is not forgotten later in the collection. Matt Barber's story, “The Fall,” seems especially pertinent as I write this on the 22nd of February, the anniversary of the death of Doctor Who' old soldier, Nicholas Courtney.



For me, however, the strongest story in the collection is Paul Driscoll's “The Time Lord Who Came to Tea,” an incredibly moving portrait of the life of one girl in the slums of wartorn Gallifrey. While the details of the horrors she experiences are imaginative and fantastical, it reflects the hard truth of reality; that the people who suffer the most during wartime are often the ones who are not involved in the fighting at all, but ordinary people struggling to survive. A truly affecting, remarkable story. While I pick out these few stories as particular favourites, the whole collection really is excellent. Plans are already afoot for volumes two and three of Seasons of War. There's even a cliffhanger.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Comicbook Movie Release Calendar

It seems I am only permitted to watch movies based on comics these days. Really, I watched Blue is the Warmest Colour the other day (I have lesbian movie nights with lesbian friends. Don't you?) and it turns out that's based on a graphic novel. Anyway, this is the latest, most up-to-date list of the upcoming comic-based films, double-checked with Den of Geek, io9 and the like.

2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Marvel/Disney
Release: April 2015 for UK, May for US
All the Avengers plus Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and the Vision join forces to defeat the android Ultron.

Ant-Man
Marvel/Disney
Release: July 17th on both sides of the Pond.
The last installment of Phase Two of the MCU. Edgar Wright is out, who knows what this is going to be like.

The Fantastic Four
Fox
Release: 6th/7th August 2015
Reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise which is planned to revamp the other half of Fox's comicbook properties.

Bananaman
DC Thomson/Elstree Studios
Release: uncertain
The first part of the Beano Cinematic Universe (oh yes), Bananaman is clearly the most exciting movie project in development for years. Might be subtitled Man of Peel, which is brilliant. Absolutely no idea who is starring.

2016

Deadpool
Fox
Release: set for Feb 2016
Ryan Reynolds finally gets to do the Merc with a Mouth justice in what we expect to be a fourth-wall breaking slice of madness. Part of Fox's X-Men universe which may also cross over with the Fantastic Four films as they try to build up a cinematic universe akin to Marvel's.

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice
DC/Warner
Release: 25th March in both UK and US
DC are going head first into a huge superhero team-up movie to try to do what Marvel have done, but in reverse. Henry Cavill is back as Supes following on from Man of Steel. Ben Affleck makes his debut as Batman, with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and sundry other DC superheroes.

Captain America: Civil War
Marvel/Disney
Release: April 2016 in the UK, May in the US
Marvel's Phase Three kicks off one year after Age of Ultron with another barnstormer that might as well be called Captain America vs Iron Man. Chadwick Boseman is set to debut as the Black Panther and Spider-Man is expected to make his MCU debut following Marvel's deal with Sony.

X-Men: Apocalypse
Fox
Release: May 2016
The X-Men franchise completes the trilogy started with First Class and continued in Days of Future Past, coming full circle with recast Cyclops, Storm and Jean Grey. Channing Tatum debuts as Gambit, and expect Huge Ackman to return as Wolverine to face down the mighty mutant Apocalypse.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2
Paramount
Release: 3rd June on both continents, supposedly.
Hell, I haven't even seen the first one yet. More Michael Bay stuff with Megan Fox and some unsettling repto-humanoids. Apparently Krang might be in this one.

Suicide Squad
DC/Warner
Release: August 2016
Beating the ever-delayed Sinister Six movie from Sony, DC manage to make the first villain team-up movie to expand their cinematic universe. Genuinely quite interested in this one. One hell of a cast lined up, with Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jared Leto as the Joker, Will Smith (!) as Deadshot and more. Could be something quite amazing.

Gambit
Fox
Release: October 2016
Channing Tatum returns as Gambit for his own solo adventure. Not much information to go on so far.

Doctor Strange
Marvel/Disney
Release: November, most likely.
Everyone's favourite Benedict Cumberbatch joins the MCU as the Sorceror Supreme. Rumours that Chiwetel Ejiofor is also involved. This should mark an interesting development point for the MCU as magic and parallel dimensions are introduced.

2017

"Wolverine 3"
Fox
Release: Early March, 2017, but expect things to move around a bit this far ahead.
No actual title for this, but it's the third Wolverine film from Fox after the dreadful X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the rather better The Wolverine. Patrick Stewart is also expected to appear in some capacity. No real information on the storyline, although Huge Ackman has been angling for the "Old Man Logan" arc from the comics as a source.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Marvel/Disney
Release: the now-traditional April/May slot.
Guardians of the Galaxy was the film of the year for 2014, so we're all stoked to see the sequel. Not much info yet, but we can expect it to follow up on the mystery of Quill's parentage.

Wonder Woman
DC/Warner
Release: Set for 23rd June in the USA.
DC are one step ahead of Marvel with this one, creating a female-led superhero movie before their rivals. Wonder Woman is one DC's Big Three, along with Batman and Superman, so it's pretty bizarre that she's not headlined a movie before. Gal Gadot returns to the role after her debut in Dawn of Justice.

Fantastic Four 2
Fox
Release: 14th July on both sides.
If the FF reboot does well, a sequel is guaranteed. All the main cast have signed up for the sequel, which is expected to feature Mole Man as a villain, probably with a returning Doom. On the other hand, if the first film tanks, this will probably be quietly shelved.

Untitled Spider-Man movie
Sony, with Marvel/Disney
Release: July 28th 2017 is the currently scheduled date, which has bumped back some of Marvel's other films.
The first proper Spidey film to come out following the deal between Sony and Marvel, this is as yet uncast and we have little information on it beyond the fact that they're looking to cast younger and send Peter Parker back to high school again. Don't expect yet another retelling of his origin story, though. We all know he was bitten by a radioactive/genetically engineered spider.

Thor: Ragnarok
Marvel/Disney
Release: Originally slated for July 28th, this will now be released on November 3rd in the States.
Apocalyptic events could mark Chris Hemsworth's final appearance as the God of Thunder. The Fire Giant Surtr will most likely be the villain this time round, but pound to a penny Loki will be back too.

The Justice League: Part One
DC/Warner
Release: 17th November in the States.
The Justice League is DC's premier superhero team, and they want a slice of the Avengers' money pie. This huge two-part blowout should reunite most of the Dawn of Justice crowd, potentially with yet more heroes added in for good measure. Darkseid is heavily rumoured as the villain, but he's essentially identical to Marvel's Big Bad, Thanos.

The Lego Batman Movie
Warner Bros.
Release: Uncertain, some time in 2017 most likely.
Will Arnett's hilarious take on Batman was the best thing about 2014's magnificent Lego Movie, and now he gets his own spin-off. Lego seem to have free reign to use DC characters so expect cameos and villains galore. The Lego Movie 2 is currently slated for 2018.

2018

The Flash
DC/Warner
Release: Currently set for 23rd March, Stateside.
I still haven't managed to catch any of the acclaimed Flash TV series, but since this is a complete reboot and recast that's pretty irrelevant. Hopefully this Billy Whizzard will be as fun as the concept should be. Ezra Miller is playing Barry Allen, the Flash.

Avengers: Infinity War: Part One
Marvel/Disney
Release: That April/May slot.
Marvel's answer to the big double-blockbuster, wisely not going directly up against Justice League but inevitably set to be compared. This is the beginning of the climax to Phase Three, the event that all the movies of the MCU have building to. Josh Brolin is back as Thanos, battling pretty much every character thus far introduced in the MCU, potentially including the upcoming TV characters too. No Joss Whedon though.

Black Panther
Marvel/Disney
Release: 6th July 2018
Finally, a black superhero headlines a movie for the first time since Blade and that dreadful Catwoman thing. Boseman will already have appeared as the Black Panther in Civil War and probably Infinity War, and we can probably expect Andy Serkis to appear as Klaw.

Untitled X-Men movie
Fox
Release: July 2018
Another X-Men flick is scheduled for 2018, but so far we have zip on the details. Very probably keeping on the young mutants from Apocalypse along with some new faces, but no news as yet.

Aquaman
DC/Warner
Release: 27th July 2018
The King of Atlantis gets his own movie, played by Jason Momoa. Some have written this off as too silly - Aquaman has been a bit of a joke character in DC animations recently - but it looks like they'll be playing this one straight. Momoa will have already played the character in Dawn of Justice and Justice League, of course.

Captain Marvel
Marvel/Disney
Release: Currently slated for November 2018.
Marvel's premier female superhero gets a chance to shine on the big screen. No news as to who's playing Carol Danvers yet, although it's entirely possible that, like Black Panther, she'll first appear in another movie (Guardians of the Galaxy 2 seems a reasonable bet). That said, we do know this movie is currently intended to be set mostly on the Earth, rather than the good Captain's frequent forays into space.

2019(ish)

Shazam!
DC/Waner
Release: 5th April 2019
Genuinely can't wait for this one. The other Captain Marvel, as yet uncast, pits his mighty fists against the nerfarious Black Adam, played by Duane 'The Rock' Johnson, taking five minutes out from filming Fast and Furious 26 or something. Mixed messages concerning whether this will be part of the elaborate movie universe DC is constructing or completely separate, but expect something quite standalone either way.

Avengers: Infinity War: Part Two
Marvel/Disney
Release: One year after Part One
The second part of the big shebang. With Captain Marvel showing in between the two halves, expect even more characters to be included, but Inhumans being delayed until afterwards might change plans a tad. Hopefully not just wall-to-wall scraps, but expect lots of spectacle.

Justice League: Part Two
DC/Warner
Release: June 14th, 2019.
DC are leaving a longer gap between installments in their gigantic blockbuster. Again, the two comics giants aren't going directly head-to-head with this one, but there's only a month or so between the US release dates. The new Green Lantern might be appearing in preparation for his upcoming solo film.

Inhumans
Marvel/Disney
Release: 12th July 2019, at the moment.
Marvel, not having the movie rights to their own X-Men characters, are bringing this lesser known crop of superhuman beings to the big screen. The Inhumans are already being seeded in Marvel's Agents of SHIELD on TV, so this is a slow burn set-up. Rumours are already flying, with Vin Diesel cheekily putting himself forward as Black Bolt. As he's already voiced Groot, amusingly this would make him two Marvel movie characters who can barely speak. Nice easy gig for him.

Untitled Batman movie
DC/Warner
Release: sometime before 2020.
A solo Batman outing starring Ben Affleck following his Dawn of Justice and (probably) Justice League appearances. No info so far.

"Man of Steel 2"
DC/Warner
Release: again, some point between 2016 and 2020.
As with Batman, Superman will also be enjoying a further solo appearance, again, probably, post Justice League. It's hard to see how they can fit both Batman and Superman movies in the schedule though. Henry Cavill is on board, natch.

The Sinister Six
Sony
Release: unknown, but it's still on the books.
With the Sony-Marvel alliance, this has been confirmed as still in the pipeline. Undoubtedly coming after Suicide Squad, this is going for the similar villains-as-protagonists route. No cast confirmed at the moment, and with Spider-Man being recast, everything's in the air. We also don't know for certain whether Spidey himself is going to taking part, or if Marvel will have some involvement.

Other Spidey-related projects that haven't officially been cancelled yet, but which are looking less likely to see the light of day, are the long-awaited Venom movie (last heard to be titled Venom-Carnage) and a team-up movie of unspecified female superheroes from the Spider-Man franchise.

X-Force
Fox
Release: unconfirmed
The final movie currently planned for the X-Men franchise, X-Force will involve a darker, less heroic team of mutant superheroes. Jeff Wadlow, from the fairly dreadful KickAss 2, is writing the script. Ryan Reynolds is expected back as Deadpool, along with an uncast Cable. I wouldn't be surprised to see Channing Tatum back as Gambit in this, and probably Colossus, who is usually part of the comics and is also appearing in Deadpool, but is currently uncast. Wolverine is also a likely candidate, but Huge Ackman can't play him forever. Given the bigger antihero role Mystique has in the newer X-films, I wouldn't be shocked to see Jennifer Lawrence involved.

2020

Cyborg
DC/Warner
Release: April 2020
One of DC's less well known and popular characters, Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, is still a pretty major Justice League hero. Ray Fisher is signed up to play Stone in Dawn of Justice, both Justice League films and finally his own movie. Good to have another black headline star.

Green Lantern
DC/Warner
Release: June 2020
The 2011 Green Lantern film tanked, and so DC are clearly not very confident on this property, running pretty much everything on their books before trying again. Ryan Reynolds is now Deadpool, and it's unlikely DC would want him back anyway, so there'll be a new man in green.

Justice League Dark
DC/Warner
Release: unknown
Not given a definite slot on DC's release calendar, but apparently coming sometime between now and 2020. Guillermo del Toro is currently set to direct, which would be pretty much perfect (I'd still like to see a third Hellboy movie). Justice League Dark is set to feature DC's biggest horror-themed characters, including Constantine, Swamp Thing, Deadman, Zatanna and Etrigan the Demon. Whether this ties into DC's main cinematic universe is unknown.

Sandman
DC/Warner
Release: not a clue
Can they really do Sandman justice on the big screen? It remains to be seen. Author Neil Gaiman is directly involved and wanted Benedict Cumberbatch for the role of Morpheus, but he's busy being Dr. Strange. The great Joseph Gordon Levitt is involved, probably to direct and possibly to star as well.




Monday 16 February 2015

Casting Call: Fox-verse - X-Men and Fantastic Four

Miles Teller
Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic
The Fantastic Four (August 2015); Fantastic Four 2 (July 2017)



Josh Trank's FF reboot is rapidly approaching, and we've still seen very little promotional material for it. At least a teaser trailer has been released, which seems to suggest a harder science-fictional take on the source material, although the shaky, handheld-style footage expected from Trank is noticeably absent. It appears that this version will be based heavily on the Ultimate Fantastic Four series, with teenaged character who gain their powers when traversing another dimension in a scientific experiment, rather than travelling into space. Miles Teller is 28, perhaps a little old for such a role, but this isn't unusual for Hollywood. Teller has an awkward charm, which is just right for the ingenious but often unconfident Reed Richards. Richards was played in the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four movies by Ioan Gruffudd.

Kate Mara
Sue Storm/Invisible Girl
The Fantastic Four; Fantastic Four 2

The oldest of the four leads, Kate Mara is 31, so they're really stretching that young hero angle. Best known for House of Cards and American Horror Story but with a string of film credits to her name, she's also been  the most outspoken in regards to the new movie, stating that she was advised not to read the comics to cloud her interpretation of the script, and that she and all the cast are focusing on making their characters "real." Bizarrely, some internet madmen are attacking her appearance in the trailer with her natural brunette hair. Far better than casting a Hispanic actor like Jessica Alba and altering her to look Aryan, surely. Seriously, some lunatics are suggesting that the casting of Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Melissa Benoist as Supergirl as evidence of discrimination against blondes.





Michael B. Jordan

Johnny Storm/Human Torch
The Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four 2

Easily the most controversial casting decision on this list, I'd say this is also the best. Having worked with Trank already on Chronicle, and Teller on That Awkward Moment, there's already a good working relationship in place, and Jordan is easily capable of playing a charismatic yet vulnerable young man. At 28, he's perhaps getting a little old to play a teenaged character. If anything, it puts me in mind of Donald Glover's campaigning to play Spider-Man - another black American actor keen to play an iconic but caucasian character, who is fast getting too old to do so. Inevitably, some people are up in arms about this casting. Frankly, any logistical arguments are farcical. There's nothing in Johnny Storm's character that suggests he has to be white, and the only problem is that he is the brother of Sue Storm, who remains white. Even this is easily dealt with with a simple rewrite; they could be half-siblings or stepsiblings, or Johnny could be adopted. Hardly an insurmountable narrative problem. Johnny Storm was previously played by Chris Evans, who was the best thing about the 2005 Fantastic Four, but is now, of course, Captain America.


Jamie Bell

Ben Grimm/The Thing
The Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four 2

English actor Jamie Bell is best known for Billy Elliot, but has action movie background in Jumper and King Kong. He's an unusual choice for the normally beefy Ben Grimm, who was previously played by Michael Chiklis. The look of the post-transformation, rock-like Thing has been a closely guarded secret, with an early leaked image being retracted and only the briefest glimpse in the trailer. Incidentally, all four leads are contracted to appear in Fantastic Four 2 in July 2017, but the production of that film will hinge on the success of the first, so I don't think we can consider it confirmed.

Reg Cathey

Dr. Franklin Storm
The Fantastic Four

Also known best for House of Cards, Cathey plays the father of Sue and Johnny Storm. The mainstream comics version of Franklin was a surgeon, estranged from his children, but the Ultimate Universe version was a regular character who worked on the supersoldier programme with Dr. Molhevic (the Mole Man). Expect some elements of this to be worked into the script, but not the supersoldier elements, which belong to Marvel.


Toby Kebbell

Victor Domashev/Doom
The Fantastic Four

First things first: Toby Kebbell is amazing. Another English actor, Kebbell played Kobo, the damaged and eventually villainous bonobo character in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It's probably safe to call him the next Andy Serkis, and his motion capture and voice skills should come into good use as the masked Dr. Doom. He was also excellent as a disturbed character in Black Mirror. However, news of the rebooted version so encouraging. The original version is one of the big bads of the Marvel universe, of course, a despotic ruler whose real name is Victor von Doom. The Ultimate version was changed to something slightly more sensible, Victor van Damme. So Victor Domashev is fine. It's just... he's being described as an angry blogger. "Doom" is his online handle. That's just so appallingly naff I can hardly compute it.


Tim Blake Nelson

Harvey Elder/Mole Man
The Fantastic Four

Tim Blake Nelson previously appeared in the MCU as Samuel Sterns. His appearance in The Incredible Hulk ended with him beginning his transformation into super-brained mutate The Leader. Clearly he was set to appear in the next Hulk film... which never happened. Now he's hopped over to Fox's franchise to play Harvey Elder, who, in the comics, is the freakish supervillain Mole Man, ruler of the Moloids and creator of numerous monsters. The Ultimate Universe version goes by the name Arthur Molekevic, a scientist employed at the Baxter Building where the FF are based. It's likely that, despite the name change, the movie version will be more like the Ultimate version, but as both are monster-breeding biochemists, it's clear Nelson's character is being set up as a future villain for the franchise. Expect him to have a major role in the sequel should it come to pass.





Ryan Reynolds

Wade Wilson/Deadpool
Deadpool (2016), X-Force (unknown)

Hurrah! Deadpool is finally getting an actual movie, thanks to some clever sorts who leaked that test film that got huge acclaim. Reynolds, of course, played Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which completely destroyed the character by turning him into a sort of conglomerate of all the cool bits of other mutants with none of the actual appeal. Or a mouth. However, Reynolds is now back in the role, which should actually have proper Deadpool stuff, like breaking the fourth wall and being funny. I really hope Deadpool turns to the camera and apologises for Origins: Wolverine. Everyone's second favourite Canadian mutant with a healing factor is set to get his own film next year, so they'd better get a wriggle on, before hopefully appearing in an X-Force movie further down the line with other popular characters such as Cable.

Gina Camaro
Angel Dust
Deadpool 

Actress/MMA fighter Gina Camaro is set to play Angel Dust, a reasonably obscure character who is one of the Morlocks, a group of underground mutants with generally useless powers such as the ability to alter adrenaline levels, which is was Angel Dust can do. Still, with Camaro playing her, she should be good at fighting. She's also supposedly going to be starring in a movie adaptation of Rob Liefield's shit comic, Avengelyne.




Channing Tatum

Remy LeBeau/Gambit
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), Gambit (2016?)

Cajun charmer Remy LeBeau was the sexiest male cartoon character of the nineties in X-Men: The Animated Series, voiced by Chris Potter, before finally making it to the big screen played by the generally awful Taylor Kitsch in Origins: Wolverine. After rumours that he would be back for Deadpool, it was confirmed that Gambit would in fact be returning to our screens in 2016 in Apocalypse, before spinning off into his own movie. Both of which are supposedly going to be filmed in time for this extremely X-Men heavy year, which seems unlikely. Channing Tatum is set to take the role, after years of saying how much he'd love to play him. General consensus is that he should be pretty much perfect for the role. We might also expect him to appear in the proposed X-Force movie if Gambit is successful.

Sophie Turner
Jean Grey
X-Men: Apocalypse


The Game of Thrones star is set to play the young Jean Grey in the 1980s set X-Men: Apocalypse, as one of the mutants tutored/recruited by Professor Xavier. Famke Jansen previously played the older Jean in the 2000s X-Men trilogy (with dreamscape appearances in The Wolverine and a cameo in Days of Future Past). Jean was one of the original 'first class' of X-Men in the comics, in which she initially used the codename Marvel Girl. Sophie Turner is a truly excellent choice for the role.


Tye Sheridan

Scott Summers/Cyclops
X-Men: Apocalypse

Another first class recruit and eventual leader of the X-Men, Cyclops was played in the X-Men trilogy by James Marsden (also with a cameo in Days of Future Past). A teenaged version appeared briefly in Origins: Wolverine, played by Tim Pocock. Tye Sheridan is not an actor I'm familiar with, but a brief tells me her is well-regarded for his performances in The Tree of Life, Joe and Mud.


Of the other original class of X-Men, Hank McCoy/Beast is already part of the team, played by the excellent Nicholas Hoult. Warren Worthington/Angel and Bobby Drake/Iceman both featured in the initial 2000s trilogy as young characters, precluding their inclusion in these retro-set films.

Alexandra Shipp

Ororo Munroe/Storm
X-Men: Apocalypse


Sometimes leader of the X-Men, Storm doesn't date back quite as far as Cyclops and Jean Grey, but she's still a longtime member of the team, first appearing in Giant Size X-Men #1 in 1975, the first major black female hero in mainstream comics. Having been played by the dreadfully miscast Halle Berry in the X-Men trilogy and Days of Future Past, the younger Storm is now to be played by Alexandra Shipp, who is best known for playing the popstar Aaliyah. She's probably very good, but I note this another mixed race American actress. It's not like there aren't plenty of black African actresses who could play the character.


Oscar Isaac

En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse
X-Men: Apocalypse


Apocalypse is an ancient mutant in the Marvel universe, possibly even the first mutant, born over 5000 years ago. With complete psionic control over the matter of his own body, he is almost unstoppable, a monstrous monomaniac determined to rule the Earth (which he does in the timeline of the Age of Apocalypse). He was briefly played by Brendan Fredder in the post-credits scene at the end of Days of Future Past, building a pyramid psychokinetically while his four Horsemen looked on. Lauded Hispanic actor Oscar Isaac is set to play the mighty mutant in his eponymous film. Why Apocalypse did not figure in the initial timeline of the X-Men films is uncertain; perhaps the changes to history in Days of Future Past may have had more extensive repurcussions than we've seen. Maybe the slumbering Apocalypse was destroyed by Sentinels before he awoke in the initial timeline, whereas in the new timeline he is free to awaken and threaten the world.

Who the Horsemen of Apocalypse will be is as yet unknown. In the comics various mutants and mutates have taken up their roles over the years, with both Wolverine and Gambit taking on the role of Death. Seeing that they're both set to appear in Apocalypse (Gambit a definite, Wolverine a very likely), could we be seeing one of them being corrupted? 

UPDATE

Cody Smit-McFee
Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler
X-Men: Apocalypse

Long-rumoured to be appearing in this film, Nightcrawler was previously played rather brilliantly by Alan Cumming in X2. Now the sequel/prequel/whateverquel has its Nightcrawler, to be played by 18-year-old Smit-McFee, best known for voice work including Paranorman, but with live action credits for Let Me In and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Good to see they're casting young with this; Nightcrawler's age was inderterminate in X2, but he's have to very young in the eighties. Looking forward to see what the guy looks like in blue.

Thursday 12 February 2015

Comics Round-Up (February)

Look at me cutting down on my expensive habit! Not sure how long I'll keep these reviews going, we'll see if I've got enough to cover. For now, it's a deeply Marvelly month, which is apt, seeing as Marvel are all over the geek news right now. Spider-Man is coming back to Marvel on the big screen! Or, at least, Sony and Marvel have finally agreed to share the property, so that they can both make a fat load of cash out of it. Hopefully, we'll get the best of both worlds, with Spidey showing up in Captain America: Civil War before appearing in his own movie with Marvel input. Plus, apparently the Sinister Six movie is still a-go. Unfortunately, the two best things about the Amazing films, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield aren't going to be involved, because one has been killed off and the other has quit the franchise. So we'll see how it all develops from here. I'm pleased to hear that they're planning to cast younger, rather than get another guy who's pushing thirty to pretend to be a teenager. I'd love it if they took the opportunity to make Miles Morales the screen Spider-Man, but that's not going to happen in a thousand years. Nonetheless, there's no reason that Peter Parker has to be white. I doubt it will happen, but I'd love to see a non-white actor in the role. Whomever they cast, they need to hurry up about it.

The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (Marvel)

Well, I fully expected the finale of the Spider-Verse arc to be a bit of a let-down. Actually, as these things go, this was reasonably well done, although there were certain elements I feel would have been better if I'd caught all the peripheral material. Spider-Ham is amazing in this issue though. Also looks like the events here will have consequences for reality, which I suspect will tie into this big reboot event that Marvel are building up to. There's still the epilogue to come, so I'll at least be grabbing that.

Thor #5 (Marvel)

The mystery of the new Thor's identity drags on. This is a good issue for gender politics, existing mostly to show how much of a misogynist prick Odin is and how much more dangerous he makes Asgard. They need to wrap up the mystery soon though, although I love ex-Thor's gradual crossing off of his list of potential answers.

Ms. Marvel #11 (Marvel)

The last issues of serials are rarely the best, and this serves mainly to wrap up the "Generation Why" tale while setting a couple of things up for the future. Not a great issue, but perfectly enjoyable all the same.

Saga #25 (Image)

I can't see the point of buying a Star Wars comic when Saga is back. The latest phase hits the ground running, bringing any new readers rapidly up to speed with the background and characters before hitting us with a new faction. This is getting interesting. Plus, giant salamander dragons. The letters page remains the best in the business. Really, it's more entertaining than a lot of actual comics. And unofficially officially, Saga is part of the Watchmen universe!

Wild's End #6 (Boom!)

Dan Abnett's treatise on the horrors of war comes to a close as Slipaway and his unlikely comrades defeat their foe. Is the invasion over? For all its simplicity, this is a fine story. A better climax than Spider-Verse at any rate.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2 (Marvel)

Two words: Iron Squirrel. God, this comic is a joy to read. Even the footnotes. Especially the footnotes.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Casting Call: Marvel Cinematic Universe - Television

Charlie Cox
Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Daredevil; The Defenders

The Daredevil trailer is now up, and it's looking grim, gritty and dark. Seriously, it's actually hard to see what's going on in some parts. The thirteen-part series will become available on Netflix in April, and it looks exciting. Charlie Cox is an English actor best known for as the male lead in the excellent Stardust. Matt Murdock is the Daredevil, one of Marvel's most popular heroes. Blinded by a radiactive substance that also has the effect of enhancing his remaining senses, Murdock is by day a defense lawyer but by night protects the people of Hell's Kitchen from its less salubrious characters. 


Ben Affleck played Daredevil in the 2003 Fox movie, but he's off to be Batman now. Cox plays the character for this series, one of four leading up to The Defenders, which will bring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist together. It's also possible that if the series are successful, further series could be made, and Marvel have confirmed that there's the possibility of film installments.

Vincent D'Onofrio
Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin
Daredevil

The Kingpin is, as his name suggests, a crime boss, an old school supervillain who runs the criminal empire in Marvel's version of New York. Initially a Spider-Man villain, he then became the Daredevil's archnemesis. He has no superhuman abilities, but his sheer size makes him a threat; he is enormous and vastly strong. The late Michael Clark Duncan played the character in the Daredevil movie; Vincent D'Onofrio is a fine actor, but will always be Edgar from Men in Black to many of us. His Kingpin should eclipse that though, and I'd be surprised if he didn't reappear in Daredevil's sister series.



Eldon Henson
Foggie Nelson
Daredevil

Going right back to 1964's Daredevil #1, Foggy Nelson is Murdock's right hand man, his law partner and best friend. In the comics, he becomes one of the few people who know that Murdock is Daredevil. Expect him to be in the dark in the series, although he may well learn the truth over the course of the series. 

Deborah Ann Woll 
Karen Page
Daredevil

Also dating back to Daredevil #1, Karen Page is Matt and Foggy's legal secretary. A long-time love interest of Matt Murdock, expect there to be a love triangle between the three colleagues. An occasional sidekick to the Daredevil, Karen is another character who learns his identity. In the later, more uncompromisingly adult Daredevil storylines, things went very badly for Karen, who became addicted to heroin and began working in porn, eventually selling Murdock's identity to pay for a hit. Deborah Ann Woll's version appears in the trailer looking in a not particularly rosy state, so perhaps she's already fallen on ahrd times.

Rosario Dawson
Claire Temple
Daredevil

Rosario Dawson has plenty of experience with comicbook adaptations, having starred in both Sin City and the classic Josie and the Pussycats. Her turn in Daredevil will probably be more like the former than the latter. Claire Temple is a major recurring character in Marvel comics, being romantically involved with, at one time or another, Luke Cage and Bill Foster (one time Giant Man and also known as the Black Goliath). A doctor in training, it appears that the MCU version of Temple will be amalgamated with Night Nurse. In the comics, several characters have gone by the name Night Nurse, but the most significant is Linda Carter (not the one from Eastenders, nor the one who played Wonder Woman). She eventually becomes a sidekick to Dr. Strange. Expect her to make appearances throughout the Netflix stock of shows.

Bob Gunton
Leland Owlsley/The Owl
Daredevil

Better known as the Owl, Leland Owlsley (ah, comicbook names) is a crime boss with various birdlike abilities due to genetic alteration with a special serum, something that eventually leaves him in severely poor health. A major figure in the Marvel crime network, albeit not on the level of the Kingpin, it remains to be seen if the MCU version will share the original's preternatural abilities. Bob Gunton, of course, has been in everything, but is best know as the governor in The Shawshank Redemption.

Vondie Curtis Hall
Ben Urich
Daredevil

A tough, hardbitten investigative journalist, Urich is a recurring character who deduced Daredevil's identity and has a special relationship with Murdock. He also has a similar interaction with Peter Parker, who works with him on the Daily Bugle. Since both the Bugle and Spider-Man are out of bounds for the MCU, the focus will be squarely on his work with Daredevil. He was played by Joe Pantoliano in the 2003 movie, the casting of Vondie Hall displays a gratifying lack of colour-based casting for this version.


Scott Glen

Stick
Daredevil

Perhaps the most significant of Daredevil's allies, the mysterious sensei known only as Stick is a member of an ancient order known as the Chaste. Existing to battle the deadly ninja group called the Hand, the Chaste are responsible for training and recruiting some of the Marvel universe's most formidable warriors. Stick has abilities similar to Daredevil's, only even more refined, as well as mystical arts of telepathy and life-draining. Stick trained both Daredevil and the assassin Elektra, although the latter was kicked out of the Chaste for her vengeful ways. He also has links to Black Widow and Wolverine. He was played by the great Terence Stamp in the awful 2005 Elektra movie, while Scott Glen takes the role for the MCU series, in what is probably extended flashback sequences.

Kristen Ritter
Jessica Jones
AKA Jessica Jones; The Defenders

The second of Marvel's Netflix series is based on Brian Michael Bendis's acclaimed comic series Alias, although the name has been changed due to a certain popular TV series already using it. Like many of the characters above, she has links to Peter Parker, but is far better known for her friendship with Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) and relationship with Luke Cage. Jones was once a powerful super hero under the name Jewel, but after suffering a painful and humiliating defeat, she hung up her cape and became a private detective. Like with Alias, we can expect her time as a superhero to be explored in backstory in AKA.



Jones has become a major recurring character, and a popular one, in Marvel comics, having been involved in the Young Avengers and Mighty Avengers despite her decision not to use her powers, which include enhanced strength and flight. She has, on occasion, taken to the lycra again, either as Jewel, or under new names such as Power Woman and Knightress. She's faced the Owl, among others, but her long time enemy is the Purple Man (below). Jones eventually marries Cage and has his child, who they name Danielle, after their friend Daniel Rand - better known as Iron Fist. Oh, and she lived at Dr. Strange's place for a while. Links everywhere, so expect plenty of crossover between the series. Kristen Ritter is very much hot stuff since her role in Breaking Bad, and is generally considered an excellent choice for the role.

Rachael Taylor
Patricia Walker
AKA Jessica Jones

Tricia Walker is actually one of the oldest characters on the Marvel books. She first appeared way back in 1944, in Miss America Magazine published by Marvel's precursor, Timely Comics. Along with titles like Millie the Model, girlie strips like Patsy Walker and Patsy and her Pals ran right through Timely, Atlas and into Marvel in the 60s. In the 70s, she was brought back to become a superhero (with the earlier comics retconned as being comics withing the fiction of the Marvel universe). Taking on the costume of the Cat (aka Greer Grant, later Tigra), Walker became Hellcat, a hero who would see action with both the Avengers and the Defenders. 


The MCU version of the character is drawing on this backstory by making Tricia Walker a former child star and model under the name Patsy. She is a radio host and best friend to Jessica Jones. There's no news on her becoming a hero, but I'd be surprised if Marvel isn't looking ahead and potentially planning her becoming Hellcat in the future.

Mike Colter

Luke Cage
AKA Jessica Jones; Luke Cage; The Defenders

As mentioned above, Luke Cage - aka Power Man - is a romantic interest for Jessica Jones, and it seems that it is in this capacity that he will be introduced. However, Cage is a major superhero in his own right, and will be heading up his own series, the third or fourth of the Netflix clutch, before joining his fellow heroes in The Defenders. Originating in the 1972 title Luke Cage: Hero for Hire, Cage - birth name Carl Lucas - was falsely imprisoned, and volunteered for experimental treatment based on the supersoldier programme that created Captain America. The result gave him superhuman strength and impenetrable skin. The early comics were very 70s, designed to cash in on the Blaxploitation film genre, but this was eased off in time. Cage later co-starred with his best bud Danny Rand in Power Man and Iron Fist, so we can expect crossovers between the two series, although Rand has yet to be cast on time of writing. 


A screen version of Luke Cage has been a long time coming, with Colombia Pictures working on a film version for years (at one point Dwayne Johnson was the hot tip to star). Now it's reverted to Marvel we can expect Mike Colter to be a big player in future productions. After all, comics Cage is currently heading up the Avengers street level team, The Mighty Avengers. Oh, don't worry about his daughter. When he and Jessica Jones are both working, Squirrel Girl babysits.


David Tennant
Zebediah Kilgrave/Purple Man
AKA Jessica Jones

Now, this is casting that everyone's very excited about. Tennant is, of course, everyone's favourite, but be prepared to hate him with a passion. Zebediah Kilgrave is the villain who once defeated Jessica Jones, and he is properly evil. No, really, he's a mind-controlling rapist who gets off on making his victims commit cruel and humiliating acts. We don't know exactly what the details of their past is in AKA Jessica Jones, but the Alias comics visited some very dark territory. He's so monstrous that most other villains won't work with him. Having been chemically altered so that his pheromones allow him to control others' actions, he has brainwashed numerous women into sleeping with him and has a brood of illegitimate Purple Children. And yes, he is purple, although whether Tennant's version of the character will be remains to be seen. 

Carrie-Anne Moss

Harper
AKA Jessica Jones

No idea. Harper is apparently someone in authority who is a potential ally for Jessica Jones, but beyond that, we know nothing about her. She may be an established character under a new name, she may be entirely new. All we know is that big name Carrie-Anne Moss is playing her (well, she was a big name about ten years ago, anyway).


Luke Mitchell

Lincoln
Agents of SHIELD

We also don't know who Lincoln is, other than that he's a member of the Inhumans who is set to induct Skye - aka Daisy Johnson - into the world of these superpowered beings. Whether Lincoln is an established character going by another name, or someone entirely new, we don't know, so we also don't know what his powers are. The Inhumans, if you don't know, are a race of people with alien DNA that, when activated by a substance called Terrigen, endows them with a variety of amazing powers. We can expect a lot more Inhuman activity on Agents of SHIELD gearing up for 2018's Inhumans movie. This will basically allow Marvel to populate its movies and TV series with a variety of people with powers that don't require lots of explanations, without having to fall back on mutants (whose movie rights belong to Fox). 


I don't know who Luke Mitchell is either. Apparently he was in The Tomorrow People, but the only version I've watched is the nineties one.




Thursday 5 February 2015

REVIEW: BIG HERO 6

Big Hero 6 marks several firsts for Disney. It's the first time the company has produced a film based on Marvel characters, since it now owns them as parent company of Marvel Enterntainment. It also marks the use of brand new animation software created specifically for the production of the film. It also marks the first time since the advent of the MCU that I've had to wait to see a Marvel-based film longer than people in the States. Marvel, Sony and Fox movies typically arrive at the same time in the UK as in the States, if not some days before. It's one of those small things I can take smug pleasure in. Not this time though; I've been waiting to see this since November.

It's also my first real exposure to the Big Hero 6 property, and I am certainly not unusual there. The superteam is not one of Marvel's best known properties, and while I was aware of its existence, I have not once read a copy of Sunfire & Big Hero 6, or even encountered them guesting in another comic. The only members of their changing roster that I'm familiar with are Sunfire and Silver Samurai, whose film rights, as X-Men characters, now belong to Sony, not Disney/Marvel. So I came to this with fewer expectations or preconceptions than I usually do for a Marvel-based movie. I do realise that the characters and concept have been changed a good deal for the film, and it seems that this is a very loose adaptation of the source material. For one thing, for a story based on Japanese characters with Japanese names, set in a Japanese-influenced world, this is a very American and distinctly Caucasian presentation. It's understandable that Japanese fans of the original comics aren't terribly happy about this. Indeed, there seem to be fewer Asian people in San Fransokyo than in the real San Francisco.

None of this matters to 95% of the audience, who are coming to this anew expecting a big, American, family-friendly blockbuster. Which, to be fair, is exactly what they get. Big Hero 6 is a fabulous example of of what modern Disney does best, a funny and heartwarming story brought to vivid life with the latest techniques in animation. It's the funniest film I've seen in a long time, perfectly hitting the point that makes both children and so-called adults laugh. It's a Disney film, though, so it's also no surprise that the laughs and action are balanced by some genuinely upsetting scenes. Disney have never shied away from showing the harder lessons of life alongside their fantasy, and Big Hero 6 is no exception. While on the one hand it's pure wish-fulfilment – what child hasn't wanted to be a superhero? - it's also a heartfelt message on the value of friendship and how to cope with death.

Hiro Hamada is the aptly-named protagonist, a fourteen-year-old boy with a preternatural grasp of robotics that he shares with his elder brother, Tadashi. Hiro is voiced by Ryan Potter, who sounds too old for the role but makes Hiro immensely likeable, even when he's being a cocky little sod. After the tragic and suspicious death of his brother and mentor during the unveiling of his newest creation – microbots – Hiro is driven to form his own superhero team with his inventor friends. The characters are off-the-peg caricatures, but they work, easy to grasp characters that work as a fun team to keep the plot ticking along quickly. GoGo is quick-mouthed and full of attitude, so she develops super-speedy wheels; Honey Lemon is a cheerful, hippy-ish chemist who creates super-sticky and explosive gumballs; Fred is the only non-scientist, a chilled-out stoner who supplies the money and dresses up in a fire-breathing monster suit. The best of the team is T. J. Miller's character, Wasabi (I used to know an orang utan named Wasabi. True fact.) On the face of it the clichéd muscular, physical character, armed with laser knives, he's actually the most timid, sensible and cool-headed of the group.

The real hero of the film, however, is Baymax (indeed, the film is titled Baymax in most non-English-speaking markets). A tubby, inflatable robot designed for medical care, Baymax looks most like a futuristic update of Mr. Stay Puft or the Michelin Man, but he's portrayed as a simple-minded but huge-hearted companion who knows that the best medicine is often a hug. Baymax is softly voiced by Scott Adsit, whose performance, along with the excellent animation, moves the character beyond his almost featureless appearance to become the most loveable character I've seen in a long while. Other fine star turns come from genre stalwarts Alan Tudyk and James Cromwell, not to forget Maya Rudolph as Hiro's kooky aunt. (Of course he's an orphan; he's a Disney character and a comicbook hero, he didn't really have much chance of having parents.)

What's so appealing about the Big Hero 6 is that they're so utterly hopeless as superheroes until their final act. They're a kind of inverse Avengers: they're perfectly suited as a team but have no idea how to use their individual gifts. Nonetheless, they come together brilliantly in the end, against the Yokai, a truly chilling villain. The action scenes are as good as anything seen in live action comicbook movies. Big Hero 6 is a perfect kids' superhero film. Plus, it has Stan Lee's greatest cameo ever.