Top 10 Blades in History

So I was bored and doing a lot of historical military reading, and decided to put together a list of my top 10 blades in history. Why? Well, I am a blade aficionado and had some free time, so why not?

Now keep in mind: this is MY top 10. If you disagree, that's fine. Feel free to sound off about it. If someone comments and you disagree with another user, engage in respectful debate. This is all opinion based, so by all means speak yours.

Now I am rating these on a few things:

  • Effectiveness: How devastating were they for their time?
  • Longevity: How long where they in use?
  • Influence: Did they inspire descendant weapons still in use?
  • Cultural impact: How synonymous is the weapon today?

Rating them in today's context, I am not only looking at them as weapons but as general tools.

Now let's see some honorable mentions who were close, but not quite there:

  • Claymore
  • Viking Battle Axe
  • Kris Dagger
  • Saber
  • Cutlass
  • Bayonet
  • Tanto Dagger
  • Zulu Iklwa Spear
  • Katar punching dagger
  • Parrying Dagger

I'd like to touch on a few that were very close to making the top 10:

  • Iklwa Spear- The flexibility of this tool is truly astounding. The Zulu way of war was speed, mobility, and flexibility...and this spear exemplifies that. Short and light with a long, flat head and medium length handle, the Iklwa was not only capable of the thrust or overhand stab, but could be effectively used as a short sword as well. It was even used to successfully defeat the British at the Battle of Isandlwana, despite the British being technological superior. A tribute to both the Zulu tenacity and the effectiveness of the Iklwa.
  • Tanto dagger- You'll see why this didn't quite make the list in a bit...and the reality is despite it's name becoming synonymous with it's tip style (designed to reinforce the spine of the blade to allow it to effectively stab through armor) which is used in many military blades today it is often overshadowed by a more famous partner blade.
  • Parrying dagger- Made famous by the Musketeers, the parrying dagger represents the evolution of firearms negating armor and shields as effective tools of war. The parrying dagger was an answer to the rapier as well as bayoneted musket. The thick steel blade and large guard was designed to bade able to block, deflect, and snap enemy blades (especially the thin rapier). It owes some lineage to the Japanese sai, but unlike it's Japanese counterpart was not a tool for anything other than battle, which means it narrowly misses the top 10.

Now, on the the top 10;

10: Broadsword

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Used extensively by the French and English throughout the 16th century, the broadsword was a big leap in technology to dealing with the heavily armored knights that dominated battlefields. While they were all honed to a killing edge, broadswords where also large and heavy for a single-handed weapon designed to crunch through the armor and shields of enemy knights. It's shortcoming for this list is that it was purely a battlefield tool and swords in general phased out of combat with the development of black powder and long range firearms.

9) Scimitar

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The scimitar is an ancient weapon dating back to the 12th century in ancient Persia. The forerunner of the saber and cutlass, the scimitar is a light, one handed slasher used to great effect in the lightly armored wars of ancient Persia where it could cause great damage to the human body with the long draw of the blade. It would come back into fashion with mounted cavalry, where the speed of a horse could add to the power of a slash and with the rise of black powder firearms negating the effectiveness of heavy armor that would traditionally make a pure slashing blade like the scimitar moot.

8) Katana

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Ok, what hasn't been said about the katana? The weapon has become a symbol of ancient Japan in not only western popular culture but Japanese as well. This weapon is like a cross between a western bastard sword and middle eastern scimitar, although it doesn't really have ties to either. Samurai trained to use the blade single or two handed, and it is said the folded steel blades where so strong and honed to such a fine edge that they could cut through tree trunks. Now despite this weapon's popularity, my personal opinion is that the tanto, not the katana, has had a longer lasting impact on blade history. I may be in the minority there, but that's how I feel in regards to it's incredibly effective tip design. But the sheer popularity and sex appeal of the katana cannot be denied. It is one of the few blades that can be shown to just about anyone and they will be able to tell you what it is.

7) Grecian Xyphos

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While more ancient than the broadsword or katana, the Grecian Xyphos was ahead of it's time. This short sword was the 'sidearm' of choice for many and ancient Greek military force, made famous by the Spartans. It's short stature made it an excellent thrusting weapon, which would later influence the Roman Gladius, but it's leaf shaped head added weight to the end of the blade making it a highly effective slasher and chopper. However, much like the broadsword, swords have been phased out of military use limiting how high I feel like I can place it.

6) Sai

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Yes, I know it isn't TECHNICALLY a blade, as it has no edge. But it's impact is undeniable. Small, easily concealable, and effective at closing the distance against the long katana blade, the sai made it's mark as a tool and weapon. Originally a farm tool, like nunchucka, converted into killing weapon by Japanese peasants to combat oppressive Samurai, it allowed farmers to easily ambush their superior armed overseers and lords. This type of tool could be credited with the idea of weapons serving purposes outside of combat, which all knives and the like now serve within modern military's. Not to mention the popular culture recognition given to it by Raphael of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

5) MK1 Trench Knife

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I have a great personal love for this weapon, and really wanted to put it higher on the list. However it's incredibly short service life compared to the other weapons on this list really prevent me from doing so. However this does make it high on the list as it is the US military's first foray into a blade that is a battlefield tool as much as a battlefield weapon. In the up close, nose to nose combat of trench warfare, the MK1 proved itself with it's unique design of a brass-knuckle hilted blade. Effective on offense, defense, in a melee or in a grapple to the ground, opening ration cans or prying open doors, the MK1 was truly versatile. Perhaps I rate this too high due to personal bias, but I feel the blade deserves more respect than it receives.

4) Viking Seax

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The utility blade of the Viking hordes, the seax could be credited with the inspiration of the world famous Bowie Knife. As much a Viking tool as it was killing weapon, it's tip design was intended to pierce easily into a foe and it's wide, flat body was intended to maintain structural integrity during a variety of uses.

3) Kukri

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These top 3 I am all a big personal fan of. First, at number 3, is the Kukri. A Nepalese blade with a wildly different design than just about any other great blade in history, this large knife has inwardly curving blade rather than a straight or outward curve. The blade leafs towards the tip, giving it a heavy end while remaining balanced. This intends the blade to be primarily used for chopping or slashing, and the inward curve gives the edge more surface area for longer draws on a slash. Made famous by the Gurkha Regiments of Nepal. In fact, it is still the issued blade of choice to this day, giving the Kukri an incredibly long service life and is a true testament to not just it's killing potential but it's utility as well, as it serves the Regiments as a tool in the jungles of Nepal.

2) Tomahawk

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My personal favorite. The weapon made famous by the Native Americans against the Colonials. It ticks the check boxes of utility, longevity, and functionality...the only thing holding it back is the inspiration given to other weapons. Certainly it is a design that has been constantly improved upon, but hasn't inspired new tools in it's own right. It's impact is undeniable though, especially in American military service. I personally carried one in my time in Afghanistan, and whether it was a survival tool, used for breaking up hard dirt to dig a foxhole, using the flat side of the head as a hammer or for hacking and slashing, it is a great catch-all utility blade to carry in austere environments. It's biggest shortcoming is its size compared to a knife, but it's greater functionality more than makes up for it. Personally I carried a 'hawk and a knife, but there is a solid argument to be made for just carrying this small hand axe.

1) Bowie Knife

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The wilderness knife of choice for years and years. Tough, reliable, multi-functional and inspirational to the Marine Corps Ka-Bar to just about every fixed blade civilian knife on the market. Slashing, stabbing, prying, shaving...it really can do it all. With a good steel and minimal care it can hold it's edge and won't break under duress. While folding knives have garnered some popularity in units these days, for my money a solid fixed blade, bowie-inspired knife can do you no wrong. I've skinned with it and worked with it, and it has never failed. It may not have the long-lived history of the sai or kukri, but it is still going strong and is in many ways the quintessential American knife that has inspired blades around the world for military and outdoorsmen alike.

That's it for my top 10 blades of history. This is by no means all-inclusive, and once again I reiterate this is simply my opinion, and by no means correct for everyone. If you wish to add or mention your own, please sound off below. Thanks for reading.

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Luke Cage Review

Warning: There will probably be some spoilers, so read at your own risk.

So let's be blunt: Marvel has done it again. Their latest addition to the MCU, Luke Cage, is another home-run hit and an excellent addition to the 'street side' of the MCU. It is the best-paced opening season thus far, something that Marvel started out good with in Daredevil S1, improved in Jessica Jones S1, and really performed well with here. Honestly the biggest pacing issue feels off during the midpoint of the season with the transition of Cottonmouth's death and Diamondback's formal introduction to the show. It goes through an awkward point there of exposition and reshuffling of power players in the show before marching forward once again.

We got a bit of Mike Colter's Luke Cage in the episodes of Jessica Jones, but he feels like a real character for the first time here. Like nearly every other casting decision Marvel has made, Colter is exactly what you would want from a live-action Cage. He's charming and has a great screen presence, and made me interested in a character I've largely never cared about.

Marvel has had a great track record of making it's different franchises feel very different from movie to movie and show to show. Captain America is your socio-political spy stories, Thor is your fantasy action, Guardians is your space opera. Likewise Daredevil, Jones, and Cage all have very different vibes and apparent themes. Daredevil is about faith and rage, Jones was victimization and control, and Cage strongly deals with themes of race and identity. The only tying theme between them all (particularly Jones and Cage) is redemption. Luke Cage has strong undertones of race in America, and while it may seem 'inappropriate' for me (a white man) to comment on it, a large voice on respecting oneself and one another, especially withing racial and cultural similarities. With all the social issue currently plaguing black communities and police forces, it seems to have an interesting give-and-take dialogue that the way to fixing problems is a two way street.

And that is perhaps what is most interesting about Luke Cage: how he approaches his villain, Cottonmouth, vs how Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock approached Kilgrave and Fisk respectively. He could simply go after Cottonmouth and tear through his whole crew. He even says as much. He plans on bringing Cottonmouth down, he understands the man is toxic to Harlem. He also seems to walk a fine line to stop Cottonmouth without opening a power vacuum in Harlem which could lead to a much worse situation. For the interesting social commentary alone, especially when people might write it off as 'just another superhero show' is quite interesting. Cottonmouth, while on the topic of him, is one of the most interesting characters in the show and much like Fisk and Kilgrave the writing almost makes you empathize and feel for the man, and in this particular case you actually do sympathize more than you really want to.

Even the best of shows are not without their flaws, however. I mentioned the mid-season pacing issue already, so I won't dwell on that again. Some of the characters felt like stereotypes as well. Not racial stereotypes, but almost cliches. Diamondback, for being such an interesting character, felt wildly out of place compared to the setting the show had developed and really felt corny at times. They action is also more comical than actually entertaining. It is always humorous to watch Cage finger-flick KO someone or casually toss grown men around like teddy bears, but there's little to engage in this compared to the tight choreography of Daredevil or the suspense of Jones trying to carefully wade through possessed men and women without doing lasting damage when she could kill them instantly. Thankfully the show sticks to a far more level headed story line (especially since Cage 'doesn't want to be anyone's hero') and the narrative doesn't call for many physical confrontations. Even the big final fight (which features the best combat of the season) has a large vocal narrative.

All in all, Luke Cage S1 earns a 9/10 from me. It's solid, and well worth your time. There's a lot going on here, and Marvel really builds a character you've probably never heard of into a character you genuinely care for. It has the best climax thus far (more questions moving forward than answers) for an opening season and is the strongest of the Netflix-Marvel season 1's. I still rank it second to Daredevil S2, but such rankings are largely personal preference.

Watch it, you won't be disappointed.

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All-New, All-Different...Venom??

"Venom is returning for an all-new series in Marvel NOW! But which Venom? Mike Costa and Gerardo Sandoval have some big ideas, and fans are going to lose it when they learn who's wearing the symbiote..."

I know I'm a bit behind on this, so pardon my lateness to the party, but this is something I've really wanted to talk about.

Why? For the love of Flash, why?

It seems like Venom is getting caught up in Marvel's reshuffle, rebrand, re-name antics and it seems strongly that Flash Thompson is on the chopping block.

Venom: Space Knight is ending with issue 13, and all the previews of Amazing Spider-Man leads towards a death of a Spider-Man character in issue 19, so coupled with the teaser caption with the provided image (which is a direct quote of Marvel's teaser) it seems Flash may be Venom no more.

Now before I discuss this I need to address the concerns I've had with Venom Space Knight. Firstly, Flash has been a poor fit in space. Secondly, for an issue slated for 13 issues, writer Robbie Thompson gave us a very slow burn story of Flash becoming independent once again, without the need for the symbiote. Not a bad idea, but it has taken way too long and has essentially been a rehashed version of the story told by Rick Remender when Flash kicked his alcoholism issue.

Now I understand Marvel is a business and Venom: Space Knight's sales have been fairly bad, so Marvel may be over Flash as a host. However I would point them to Venom's sales as 'Agent Venom' where he sold well for a B-list character compared to other B-list character titles, such as Scarlet Spider. However ever since Flash's foray into space (ideally to boost his popularity by pairing him with Marvel's then-hottest commodity: the Guardians of the Galaxy) he's been cooling.

This is largely due, in my opinion, to writer Brian Bendis' lackluster handling of the GotG and specifically Venom himself. Robbie Thompson has a good handle on Flash's personality in the pages of Space Knight but is largely doing rehashed versions of stories we've already gotten with Thompson from earlier runs. It been very unexciting, and I say this as someone who loves Flash Thompson and who has been very open to trying out the avenues Marvel wanted to go with him.

Now, as for 'Lethal Arrival'. The image shows us a very Eddie Brock-esque Venom, but as any comic reader will tell you covers are often very misleading, and teaser captions are meant to sensationalize and grab your curiosity. So it's entirely possible Flash remains as Venom.

However, this whole 'Lethal Arrival' thing then completely seems to negate the redemption story that has been put in place for Flash and Venom since the start of Space Knight and in the pages of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Personally, unless Marvel wants to just throw away several years of works for a sensationalist boost in sales (they would I'm sure) it leads me to another path: Thompson does in fact lose the symbiote (and is potentially the teased death in the Spidey Circle).

Why that's a shame I'll address some other time...because I can go into 100 reasons why Marvel should keep him around.

So if not Thompson, then who? It'd taken some juggling to get Brock to don the black and white again, largely because he is currently Toxin. And unless Toxin and Venom, as well as Flash and Eddie, decide for some reason to switch hosts and symbiotes (like some sort of weird swinger event) then I doubt that will happen.

So then who?

Well, I know a great deal of the fanbase would want to see Peter don the symbiote once more, but it seems unlikely to me. Prowler would be a more likely option, since he has been a recurring character in the current Amazing Spider-Man run.

But again, I doubt that one as well.

No I think the Eddie-esque Venom is deliberate, and while not Brock himself I think it may be indicative of Venom's return to villainy. My personal prediction? Norman Osborne.

Osborne has been absent (to my knowledge) since his curing at Spider-Man's hands, and the removal of the Goblin Serum from his body. However, Norman left us with the warning that he could finally think clearly once again and was more dangerous than ever.

What better way to make him a greater threat than to meld Peter's two greatest foes into one threat?

It's a long shot, and we will have to wait and see, but I don't think Flash Thompson is long for this world, especially in the black and white. Here's hoping that if they are taking him down, he goes down as the hero he is and should be portrayed as.

-Granite

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Movie Review: Suicide Squad

I would have preferred a different tag line for Suicide Squad, the DCCU's Summer blockbuster action-fest featuring a team that is 90% villain. Instead of 'Worst Heroes Ever' I would have preferred 'Get Ready to Root for the Bad Guys' because that's what this film really tries to do.

Suicide Squad pretty much looked at the existing format of the DCCU: dark, overly serious, and flailing in attempts to convey psuedo-psychology messages in attempts to be deep, and snubbed it's nose at them. Much what you would expect from the misfit characters who headline the film.

I apologize in advance, because it is very hard to not draw comparisons between this movie and Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. These are in no way the same kind of movie, or similar in approach. However I'd be lying if I felt that director David Ayer didn't draw inspiration from Marvel's own Misfit Toys. From the attitude of the film to the soundtrack used, it had a very similar energy.

This movie is not big in story, but like Guardians and Fox's Deadpool it doesn't need to be. This is a character driven film, and a film about the collection of these villains coming together in team dynamics. And because of that, this movie succeeds in spades.

You have Deadshot, an assassin who is doing his dirty deeds to build a better life for his daughter, Harley Quinn, the Joker's gal pal and resident maniac, Killer Croc, a hideously deformed man who has been tormented his whole life for his appearance, El Diablo, a former gang banger who is trying to atone for accidentally murdering his wife and kids, Captain Boomerang, Slipknot, Katana, and Rick Flagg, the US Navy SEAL who is tasked with keeping these wackos in line. If it seems like I glossed over the last few, it's for a reason that I'll get to later.

The premise is that Amanda Waller, a Homeland Security Agent excellently depicted by Viola Davis, wants to covertly use a team of incarcerated metahumans or near-metahumans for tasks against alien or superpowered threats. One of the team's members goes rogue, the Enchantress, and this leads to the team being deployed to stop her from wreaking havoc on mankind.

Simple premise with a very fun and action-packed execution. We needed nothing more.

The characters are all well portrayed, perhaps none more so than Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. She nails the chaotic nature of the character with little quips here and there to remind us just how intelligent Harleen is. Will Smith nails Deadshot in feeling and personality. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (no, I will not be writing that again) is entertaining as Killer Croc, even if his character has very few lines. But Croc is a character of action, not words, and he succeeds there. Jay Hernandez plays El Diablo in a manner that you actually feel for him, despite his obvious nefarious past.

If anything this movie suffers from character bloat. Some people may disagree with me here, but I'm going to be the one to say it. I think this movie would have been better without Katana, Captain Boomerang, and even the Joker.

Yes, the Joker was not needed (or wanted it honestly felt like). Captain Boomerang is a long time Squad member from the comics, so I'm sure other comic fans would have been upset if he wasn't included, but he contributed nothing to the film. He had a few funny one-liners and cheap laughs with his pink unicorn fetish, but that's it. During the film's climax he's literally left out of a handful of big moments and often overlooked in the big fight. Katana fills a role some may think of as necessary, but I feel her role would be better used later. She says little, has a few cool fight moments, and a hastily explained backstory. Nothing major, moving on.

I understand that they need disposable bodies. It IS the Suicide Squad and I would be disappointed if people didn't die. However to have characters who mean zero to the film live when they did nothing and meant nothing and literally took up space felt like they just wanted to arbitrarily cram as many big name villains as they could on screen.

But let's address Joker. Jared Leto is a great actor, now that that is established I was unimpressed with his Joker. His performance with it was adequate, but honestly compared to Ledger's it lacked menace and unpredictability. Yes, Dark Knight and Suicide Squad are two very different films. Yes, they are both different kinds of Jokers. That doesn't de-facto mean Leto's was awesome. There's very little of what I, as a life long Batman reader, consider to be Joker. His relationship with Harley is very different than the comics, to the point where I'd say it almost changes Joker as a character.

Oh and the amount of gratuitous slow-mo action and one particular overly-dramatized slow-mo end scene were cringe and groan worthy.

Not everything needs to be like the comics, but the best CBMs tend to show great respect to their source material. Suicide Squad does this, but in some ways doesn't. Which I think prevents it from being great. Having said that, Suicide Squad is very good. The action and characters are awesome, which is exactly what we needed. This is DC's best film to date. If I had to compare it to Marvel, I'd say it isn't as good as Winter Soldier, Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers, but it is better than the 'average' Marvel film. I'd say I enjoyed this a bit more than Ant-Man. Solid B+, definitely recommend.

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A look at MCU vs DCCU, what is going on?

In light of the pre-reviews for Suicide Squad (my most anticipated movie this Summer) being less than kind, I decided I wanted to take a look at the DCCU thus far and the MCU and what each one does right and wrong and how big an impact it has overall.

Now I don't frequent the site right now (personal life/work related issues going about), so my opinion is purely my own and undiluted by the thoughts and opinions of others. I don't know how other people feel about this, but this website is the best place I can think of to have this discussion and I'd like to start by getting my own uninfluenced thoughts out there first.

This is not Marvel vs DC. This is not MCU is amazing DCCU is balls, this is a real look from a lifelong comic book reader, fan, and collector of both companies. The fact I need to include that disclaimer should be warning enough how bad the Marvel vs DC nonsense has gotten.

But let's begin:

Casting

I've said time and again that the greatest strength of the Marvel films are their casting jobs. Chris Evans looks like a real-life Captain America. Chris Hemsworth carries himself with the bravado one would expect of Thor. Even the more side characters such as Nick Fury and one-off villains like Obediah Stane are treated with respect as a character and well portrayed. It's had it's stinkers in Ed Norton as Bruce Banner (who few outside comic fans remember and whom was promptly replaced) and poorly portrayed villains (Whiplash immediately comes to mind) but those tend to be in Marvel's weaker films (looking at you Iron Man 2).

DC has done well here as well. However rather than Hollywood lesser-knowns, DC is trying to go big with box office headliners. Outside of Henry Cavill, whom I only knew from the poorly done Immortals film prior to Man of Steel, DC has opted for A-listers like Ben Affleck and Will Smith, and even Jeremy Irons as Alfred. And while Irons was superb in Dawn of Justice as Alfred and Affleck is, in my opinion, the best live-action Batman to date. So I don't really think casting is DC's issue, despite seemingly many (myself included) still having reservations on Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman who felt unnecessary and arbitrarily thrown in to Dawn of Justice with little to do beside wear the costume and swing her sword a little.

Tonality

Here we see stark differences. Marvel, despite all it's films being labeled as 'comic book movies', has done a great job make each hero's franchise tonally different. Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera, while Ant-Man is a heist film. All three Captain America films are different: the first is an alternate period piece war film, the second is a political thriller, and the third is a film on ethics and stance. Now some may argue that all Marvel films are 'the same' in that Marvel tends to add in bits of humor (some forced, like the Thor films are notorious for). However in Marvel's best works (GotG, Captain America) the humor is natural based on the characters and situations, and in the latter's case it is often toned down due to the more seriousness of the films, and at times is almost cynical.

DC is opting for the Nolan approach, being dark, serious, and morally ambiguous. Which works, for Batman. As someone who is a fan of Man of Steel I don't think it would hurt to make Superman, a character vastly different in outlook and approach than Batman, to actually feel different. I personally think this hurts DC, because instead of embracing their characters individualities they tend to feel like copies of one another. The good news is that it seems DC is learning from their mistakes. The trailer for Justice League feels like a film that knows it's a big-budget action flick and isn't trying to be more than that, as does Wonder Woman's trailer. But I'll get to what the films are in a moment.

Suicide Squad (based on previews) appears to be a film that understands the chaotic nature of it's characters and the trailers have seemed equally lighthearted in their violent nature. While the film will likely be 'dark' it doesn't 'feel dark', if that makes any sense. However only time will tell when I see it this weekend.

Nature

I didn't know what to label this section, so follow me on this. Marvel understands that certain characters you can make a little more serious than others. Captain America has decidedly different levels of seriousness than Guardians of the Galaxy. But really, could you get away with talking Raccoons and trees and be serious? Even Merry and Pipen where the comic relief in Lord of the Rings, and they were the ones of course dealing with the talking trees! Captain America (and Iron Man, Tony Stark's wise-ass personality aside but that's who he is) has Marvel's two most serious films, but they are still fun. Marvel knows how to find the right balance with certain characters (Ant-Man GotG being the others, and Iron Man 1 still being one of Marvel's best) but admittedly not all. Thor's movies are consistently bad, and despite people claiming a critical affinity for Marvel they are often harshly criticized. Thor is, in my opinion, a character with very little going on and very one-dimensional storytelling and personality (which is why it seems Thor: Ragnarok is pulling from Planet Hulk, since Thor has very little going on). Look at Marvel's other street work with Daredevil and Jessica Jones. It seems Marvel understands that it is easier to take a story more seriously when the threats and understandable and palpable (like in Winter Soldier) than something abstract and large scale (like Dark World). When the threat is so large, you need to go large. This isn't to say it can't be done more seriously, but it simply tends to feel off. Thor has often felt like Marvel understands Thor's high power is a source of amusement and bewilderment, but instead of go all in on that they try to make it a bit more serious with issues of family and responsibility. But they don't go all in on the lightheartedness either, by forcing comedy and awkward moments. Age of Ultron suffered much of the same issues. It seems like Marvel just has a better handle on certain characters.

This leads me to DC. Man of Steel did a good job of showing you can take a higher-powered hero and make his absurd level of power something still a bit more serious, however what made the Dark Knight films so taught was the didn't overkill the action. Superman's action scenes (while awesome) were very long and dragged away from the theatrical elements they went for. I've seen some praise for DC trying to make superhero flicks 'more cerebral' or 'high art', but DC isn't really doing that. Honestly, they aren't even attempting it in the DCCU. They are really more dark, slam-bang action (which is fine by the way) but they are trying to throw in pseudo-psychology and faux philosophy with very little to back it up. For example, in Dawn of Justice, we have a scene where Luthor talks about gods and men and devils, alluded to a sub-theme of the movie. However very little else in the movie builds on this. In fact it just seems to be dropped. Marvel has it's stinkers, but it's good films know what they want to be and has directors who knows what they are doing. DC seems to be floundering in trying to find an identity for it's films. Do they want to be the psychological superhero films the Nolan Batman Trilogy was? Or do they want to be blockbuster action flicks? Can they be both? I think they can, personally, but how long before people give up on DC?

While I'm at it, let me talk about Suicide Squad in this section. Let me reiterate that I have this as my most anticipated Summer flick. However, just from it's previews, there are issues I've had with it since trailer 1. First: DC is once again trying to be unnecessarily edgy. Why the random tattoos? Why the face tattoos? Why does Joker have a grill? Why does everyone look like they stole their clothes from Hot Topic? Why does Harley look nothing like Harley when Deadshot looks almost spot on? Things like this make DC feel like the goth kid trying so hard to be 'different', when it really just comes off as overcompensation.

Again, I don't want DC to be Marvel. Marvel has it's own messes in Thor, and Iron Man ended on a less than stellar note. Avengers is built to always seem to be nothing more than mindless action (which is fine) but could be much more and the lack of trying feels lazy. I like that DC is giving us a different kind of superhero film. But DC feels like they are afraid to embrace anything that isn't the Dark Knight formula, while failing to realize the Batman formula won't work with every hero.

Source Material

I've been going on for a bit here so I'll be succinct: Marvel trusts their source material and gives respect to it while DC isn't. Marvel is adapting (as in translating with some differences) their great comic stories into films, while DC wants to create entirely new stories.

I like and have issue with both companies in this. Marvel can be seen as playing it safe, however the times they have taken breaks from the source material (Iron Man 3's Mandarin) they have met criticism. However even when their stories aren't source driven (Guardians of the Galaxy) their characters are still reflective of their source material counterparts.

Superman honestly didn't feel like Superman. I'll just go out and say it. Other than the powers, he hasn't felt like Superman. Batman feels like Batman, but this goes back to what I was saying previously that not every hero is Batman and every hero needs to feel different and unique.

Shut up and wrap up

Ok, so I've been rambling. I get it. So let's just recap. Marvel and DC both have issues, and while Marvel's floor is equal to or lower than DC's right now it's ceiling is way higher. DC's ceiling is decent at best, and lacks direction and identity.

I hope the Suicide Squad reviews are just people being overly harsh due to a still-sour taste from Dawn of Justice. Despite some Squad members looking like Hot Topic clerks it still looks fun, action packed, and looks like DC is going to stick close to their character's source material.

Marvel took it's time to find it's stride, and with the Russo Brothers taking the helm of Avengers it looks like it's going to right the ship of it's big team. I can only hope the Thor films will follow suit. DC is trying to hit the ground running, skipping the crawl and walk phase to catch up to Marvel. I think think is leading to it's harsher criticisms, but if the Justice League and Wonder Woman trailers are any indication it looks like DC might be getting it's feet under it as well.

Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts.

-Granite

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Game Review: DOOM

DOOM is back. And yes, it's DOOM. Not Doom. That's little kid sh*t.

I grew up with the first DOOM game, and while it was awesome and I played it for years I never really got into is descendants in DOOM 2, 3, or DOOM 64.

So when DOOM came out this past Friday I jumped on it because nostalgia took me over, and I can't explain why.

I'm glad it did, this sh*t is awesome. There's probably a more professional way to say it but I don't care. This is a DOOM game, and it's awesome.

It's very different from the usual slow-paced shooters of today, and a throwback to fast paced, reaction-intensive shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament.

DOOM is violent, in-your-face, and bloody as hell. And the graphics are awesome. The soundtrack, like previous DOOM games, is fitting and filled with hooking tunes.

The story is pretty familiar. The United Aerotech Company (UAC) is experimenting with Hell Energy on Mars to channel it (successfully I should point out) in a clean, renewable energy source.

However, as one would expect, things go wrong.

The game opens with you, the aptly named Doom Marine, awaking in a stone sarcophagus only to be immediately attacked by recently Possessed, or humans corrupted (basically into Zombies) by Hell energy.

What follows is the Marine kicking ass all over Mars and beyond to shut the portal and save Mars and by proxy Earth.

It's generic and familiar, but the game has such style and energy that it feels all new. The weapons are fun and all feel different, and the new fatality system called 'Glory Kills' let you finish off demonic foes is some truly brutal fashions.

Granite Score: A-...super fun, violent, and full of hidden secrets. DOOM is great. My biggest grievance is actually not being able to really tell if this is a continuation, or a reboot, or somewhere in between. I need to play through again and see, but the fact it wasn't abundantly clear one way or another bothered me. Still if you like high-energy, fast paced games you can't really go wrong here.

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Game Review: Fallout 4

Fallout is one of my favorite game series. I got pulled into it with Fallout 3, went back and played the older games, and absolutely LOVED Fallout: New Vegas. So when Fallout 4 was announced some time ago I was very, very hyped.

The graphics are awesome. The cast of characters is awesome. So those are out of the way.

The shooting mechanics from Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas have been GREATLY improved, and feels much more like an actually first person shooter game. The new weapon and armor modding system is a great addition, as it lets you customize and develop your gear to suit your personal tastes and style of combat.

The new SPECIAL and talent system replaces the old skills system, which is a nice fix. Honestly the old system let you develop completely broken characters by maxing out every skill, regardless of SPECIAL level in the associated skills, and made the games way to easy towards the mid-to-late game.

The dialogue is...lacking. The speaking player character is a neat addition, but the dialogue choices are more limited that previous Fallout games and feel generic.

Likewise the endgame slides are lacking as well, where it really just tells you what happens based on the faction you side with. Compare that to Fallout: New Vegas, where every companion you meet, many side quests, and even people you talk to can have slides in the end that gives you a much more fully developed experience and a feeling of impact from your actions. Here...not so much.

Overall Fallout 4 gets a B+. A great game with many improvements on weaknesses prevalent in the previous Fallout games, but it lacks on some of the story and consequence elements that made Fallout: New Vegas so great.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Movie Review: C+

This film is an example of why taking your time is a good thing. The amount of untapped and unfinished potential is upsetting to me as a huge Batman fan, but despite some heavy flaws the movie is still enjoyable and fun to watch.

Without spoiling anything (even though I'm only now posting this months later) the movie features the Superman we met in Man of Steel and an aged, 20-year veteran Batman who views Superman as a threat that needs to be dealt with. This is not your comic book Batman. This is a man who is jaded, angry, vengeful, and has no hope in himself or mankind. Even is Superman has done nothing to warrant being viewed as a threat, the fact that he has so much power and all the corrupt spirits Bruce has seen over the years causes Bruce to view the 1% chance Superman could be a threat as an absolute.

What ensues is awesome action and the greatest live-action Batman we've seen to date in Ben Affleck. I grew up with Michael Keaton. I was lukewarm to Val Kilmer. I hated George Clooney. I really liked Christian Bale. Ben Affleck is the best live action Batman to date.

Henry Cavill is an awesome Superman. He has the charm for Clark Kent and the imposing physique for the Man of Steel. We get a lot more dialogue and chances for Cavill to show that off in this movie, and he really is a good fit for the role.

Jeremy Irons is Alfred Pennyworth, and also nails the role. He has limited screen time but is very fatherly and witty, and actively assists in Master Wayne's bat-scapades much like his comic book counterpart.

So if the action is great and the main characters are awesome, why only a C+?

Well, not all the characters are great. I'm not a huge fan of Amy Adams' Lois Lane, and she is unnecessarily thrust into every major plot point. She is even set up to be a key future plot point for future films in Dawn of Justice. She has a pointless subplot that goes no where, just to tie her in to the overall story.

Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor is campy. He feels out of place in the film. He is quite different from his comic self (which I am personally OK with) but it feels like Eisenberg dials up the ham meter in this one. He only has one scene where he feels like he grasps Luthor and feels menacing, but it is a short scene.

Gal Gadot doesn't get to do much with Wonder Woman. Honestly you could leave her out of the film and nothing changes. I don't know if she's good or bad as Diana, because of how little we see of her and how little impact she has. Certainly, she plays a large role in the fight and we get some good action out of her, but we see very little of her as a character.

The themes are muddled. Yes, I fully am aware of the biblical implications and the talking points they were looking to generate, but they are explicitly talked about for a few minutes in one scene here or there and never brought up again, even in an implied matter.

The movie does a poor job of explaining the how's and why's. Bruce Wayne's motivations are abundantly clear and well-developed, but my wife often leaned over asking why Luthor, for example, would be doing what he's doing. If you read the comics, it's easy enough to follow but for non-readers there seems to be a flaw in the writing where things aren't well explained or defined. Some may not find this to be an issue, and simply say it's 'for comic book fans'. But when 99% of the general population isn't reading the comics the writing needs to be easy to follow for any and everyone. It's a flaw in the script or presentation thereof. It also has some plodding points, breaking up the pacing of the film.

Still, I enjoyed myself and the movie. I just felt that Zack Snyder, of 300 fame, is an ill fit for the types of human story and deep meaning DC appears to want in it's comic book films. Or they need new writers, either or. But the action was great and we saw Batman as the practiced, strategic, battleground-sculpting hero that he is. His mind is as powerful as Superman's body, and that makes this all work. I will say, though, I think Man of Steel is better and enjoyed that more, despite being a huge Batfan and disliking Superman.

Granite Score: C+

Wife's Review: Eh. Batfleck was awesome, but the movie was boring a lot of the time. It was ok. I prefer Man of Steel.

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Captain America: Civil War Review: A

With the memories of Batman v Superman still fresh in our minds, I'm going to do the best I can to avoid drawing comparisons between the two films. If I do, be aware, I do it to show the differences in execution and what works vs what doesn't, not grade them comparatively to one another.

Simply put: Civil War is awesome. The Russo brothers had my confidence after Winter Soldier, and although it was entirely possible they would have been one-off wonders they hit another grand slam with the third installment of the Captain America saga.

Although First Avenger fell short of the awesomeness that was Iron Man, Captain America has gone on to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe's defining franchise.

Everything comes to a head here. Many have often criticized the MCU for the events having a 'lack of weight' or impact, that there are no lasting repercussions. It's as if the Russo's have heard those criticisms and masterfully wove a story of consequence, morality, and personal belief. No one is right, no one is wrong, but someone must win and someone must lose.

Civil War is excellently paced, much like Winter Soldier, starting once again with a James Bond-esque opening mission (again, much like Winter Soldier) to start the film to get everyone's blood pumping before jumping into the actual story. Here, however, the outcome of the mission has lasting effects on the tone of the film and on certain characters.

Spiraling out of the events of Winter Soldier, Avengers, and Age of Ultron comes the Sokovia Accords, a document agreed upon by 117 nations of the world that would keep the Avengers in the pocket of the UN that can act only when called upon by the nations of the world.

Filled with grief over the events of Iron Man 3 and both Avengers films, we see Tony Stark as a grief and guilt stricken man. A man who has set a path of reconciliation but, in typical Stark fashion, thinks he knows what's best for all and seeks to have all the Avengers side with him.

On the other side is Steve Rogers, who has been around long enough to know that people always get hurt, whether through action or in action, and believes tying the Avengers up in red tape and government politicking will hurt more people than would otherwise get hurt.

The best part of this film is, unlike it's comic counterpart of the same name, both sides have merit and solid argument as to why each side is the better choice. The comic wrote Stark out to be the villain, while in the film Tony is sympathetic and there are several points where Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of Stark is heartbreaking as he sees his brothers in arms torn apart.

And in the shadows is a villain unlike any other we've seen in the MCU is Helmut Zemo. Without giving anything away he uses events from Winter Soldier and Avengers to masterfully spin a plan to use the tension already existing between the Avengers to tear them apart.

Civil War continues the expectation of Cap movies having the best fight scenes in the MCU, and the namesake fight and skirmishes throughout the film are no different. They are smooth, believable, and excellently choreographed.

The movie is much like Winter Soldier where it largely carries a serious tone, and the material demands such. There are some relatively heavy themes here for a comic book film, themes that are developed and matured throughout the entire film, not offhandedly discussed in one scene and never further explored. There is humor, of course, but it is natural to the characters the humor is coming from or from the moment. Aside from a small number of forced jokes that felt awkward, it is a film that shifts from laughs to serious to heartbreaking all in the same scene.

Aside from Cap and Iron Man (who are both awesome) Bucky continues to be a one-man wrecking crew despite being a man who's horrified of himself and what he has become under HYDRA. The new introductions of Black Panther and Spider-Man are nothing short of spectacular. Spidey is a rookie, but he has the quick wit, awe, and spirit any Spider-fan would expect of old Webhead.

Chadwick Boseman IS T'Challa. Perhaps the MCU's greatest strength in it's movies has been it's casting, and this is no different. T'Challa is all at once respectful, dignified, intimidating, and regal. Everything the King of Wakanda should be. I honestly can't wait to see Boseman's Black Panther standalone film.

Civil War raises the 2016 CBM bar set by Deadpool back in February. It's a solid A in all respects, on the same tier as Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy. Here's hoping Suicide Squad can top it, and the CBM greatness can continue.

Granite Score: A

Wife's Review: This is Marvel's best movie. I love Chris Evans and Cap is a badass. Paul Rudd's Ant-Man is great, Falcon is great, everyone is great. No one felt pushed aside in the film even though there were so many characters to handle.

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The Comic Book Fan and the Comic Book Movie

We as comic fans live in a great age to be comic fans. Our favorite heroes are brought to life annually on the big screen or weekly on television and are done true, real justice. Comic memorabilia such as clothing and collectibles are easy to find and in many cases actually affordable these days. You can openly have discussions about Captain America or The Arrow or any of the above and people no longer look at you sideways like you are some sort of man-child who never grew up.

Yet, despite all this awesomeness I didn't have when I was a kid (and was ridiculed for enjoying) we don't bask in the greatness: we hate it.

Comic fans are the new hipsters. People who hate on something because it's popular now, or say 'X movie did/will suck' because it isn't exactly how THEY would do it.

I've spoke about this in short before in open forums or private chats, but the recent backlash over both the Civil War and Batman v Supeman trailers was just boggling to me. Here we have two of the biggest films each of the companies will be putting out over the next few years and we do nothing but complain.

Not criticize, complain. And the distinction is important.

For the record, and those that know me well and speak to me regularly can attest, I am not a fan of the recent Batman v Superman trailer. However, rather than bash the movie and write it off I've given constructive feedback as to what could be improved and where it went wrong. Will it be listened to? Probably not. However, complaining is a blatant negativity to something that is NOT THE SAME STORY AS THE COMICS.

Marvel has come out and even labeled the MCU as Earth - 190019 or some such (I don't remember offhand and don't honestly care to look it up at the moment). DC has come straight out and said they are flat out telling NEW stories with DIFFERENT versions of their characters through the DCCU. So in short for both companies: these are DIFFERENT and UNIQUE versions of the characters and stories.

Why does it matter that they are alternate universes? Well, let's take a look at Man of Steel. For the record, I am not a Superman fan. However, I really enjoyed Man of Steel. My wife outright hates Superman, and enjoyed the film as well. However, many criticized the film for things 'Superman wouldn't do'. The main point is killing Zod, usually followed by a complete lack of attempt to save any civilians in the ensuing battle. Well, this isn't comic Superman. Maybe this Superman cares less? Maybe this Superman was a rookie and didn't think he could fight Zod and save Metropolis? Maybe his 'no kill' rule will come from the grief of having killed Zod, and not something earlier in his life? Rather than see the DCCU Superman grow into the Superman we know, we want him to be the guy with 75 years worth of comics under his belt, which he is clearly not.

Let's look at the MCU. A recent common complaint was Ultron's personality. That he was snarky, quippy, and an overall wiseguy. He was 'not the comic Ultron'. You're right, he wasn't. Nor was he supposed to be. In fact, Marvel even said he wouldn't be. In the comics Ultron is created by Hank Pym, and Ultron's motives, methods, and persona tend to mimic more that of Pym. In the MCU Ultron is a by product of Tony Stark, and his language, motivations, and the like more closely resemble Tony. We even have Hank Pym in the MCU and he is drastically different than Stark. So given that Ultron was made by Stark in the MCU, why would he logically resemble comic Ultron or MCU Pym in any way?

Next is the complaints of X character being 'weak' or X being 'too powerful'. To which I again say: why does that matter? The characters are exactly where they need to be for the story being told. The point is storytelling, not power levels. Same goes for the villains. Motivations and persona is far more important than how powerful they are in combat. Ultron may not be the comic powerhouse he is in the comics, but did he need to be for his plan to work? Was he not a threat to the Earth regardless? If you say he wasn't, you didn't watch the film for the story then.

This is not an 'in defense of' manifesto for Age of Ultron or Man of Steel, because both movies could absolutely be improved and absolutely had flaws. The point is: compare it to the older attempts of live-action comic book movies and be glad that both studios are treating these characters and stories with respect and justice.

The last thing I'd like to talk about talking about comparing Marvel and DC films. In case no one has noticed, they aren't exactly competing. There was a Batman v Superman trailer during my previews to Ant-Man. They advertised Age of Ultron during Arrow and The Flash on CW. They are telling two different types of stories with two different types of universes. 99% of the people who see Civil War will go to see Batman v Superman. It's ok to compare with the hopes of the studios improving their weaknesses, but do we really need everyone to be 'dark and gritty' or more lighthearted? I think it's good they are different.

Enjoy the ride while it's here, because when the superhero bubble bursts it may be awhile again before we have the opportunity to enjoy the mainstream fandom of it all. Instead of hating on new readers because they want comics like the movies, or hating on those who are just fans of the movies, instead encourage them to get into the history of the characters and read their works in their entirety so they can get the fullest story of how the big screen character became what they were.

And lastly, remember that not everyone shares your opinion and no matter how long you've read comics you are not the be-all-end-all voice of what people should or shouldn't like or what is or isn't good. If someone differs in opinion, live and let live or have a friendly discussion on what you enjoyed and why vs the other person. If you don't like what the studio is doing: don't watch. At all. Don't pay for a ticket or dvd. Don't download it. Do not watch it. Because by talking about it you will encourage someone's curiosity and the studio you are rallying against still wins.

Long rant, maybe...but it was a lot friendlier and more constructive than me just saying "hey, get the f**k over yourselves".

-Granite

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