Captain Marvel (PG-13)
Onto the other Captain Marvel movie! I actually had not seen Infinity War before going into this, but if I had Captain Marvel would have felt even more inconsequential.
I will give the movie the cat-that's-not-actually-a-cat, at least. And a less frumpy and jaded Nick Fury was a thing. But I'm pretty sure this is the first Marvel movie I've seen where the main character was one of if not the weakest part of it. Which is an odd choice of words, I admit, because Carol Danvers' problem is how stupidly overpowered she is. As I was watching the big climactic battle at the end of the movie, where she's zooming around space singlehandedly ripping up a fleet of battleships, I was bored out of my mind.
Not only did I see the twist that the Skrulls were the victims and the Kree were the assholes coming a mile away, something about the Skrulls being able to take the shape of others, AND rewrite their DNA, AND copy their recent memories feels like bad fanfic. And yes, I know they can shapeshift in the comics, and maybe even do the other two things... but does anybody actually like the Skrulls?
In short, it feels like a two hour backstory on how Nick Fury lost his eye.
Howard the Duck Vol. 1 (Written by Steve Gerber, Illustrated by Frank Brunner, Gene Colan et al)
Part of Steve Gerber's absurdist classic is spoofing comic tropes, particularly the nemesis-of-the-day pattern seen in many earlier comic books that built their worlds by throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. Then you sit back and wonder if an animated gingerbread man is that much more insane than a teenager being bitten by a radioactive spider and taking on a strong guy in a rhino costume. Sometimes Howard gets more blantant with the target of his mockery and cosplays as Dr. Strange or... uh, The Son of Satan. Yeah, that was somehow a thing in the 70s.
Other times Howard the Duck is story of a smartass who thinks he's the sole being on the planet who knows how things work, but is just as clueless as everyone else (although since he's been dumped into the Marvel universe with its green giants and Norse gods maybe we can cut him a little slack). Sometimes his struggles with daily life or presidential elections show how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Other things are very much a product of their time, and not just the bell-bottom pants and obsession with kung fu: I don't think Beverly and Winda riding a magic carpet to "Bagmom" would fly nowadays, if you'll pardon the pun. Heck, I don't think Winda herself would go over very well today, having what appears to be Downs Syndrome.
Either way, it can be surprisingly deep for a comic about a Donald Duck cease and desist waiting to happen (and eventually did happen). Exisential dread is a recurring theme, as is creative frustation with the issue about the repressed artist who, I dunno what you'd call it, sleepheroes? and the final issue being an illustrated essay by Gerber about the struggles of being a creator. I also got a kick out of Daimon Hellstrom's comment about human imagination always being misattributed to the devil. Bet you can't guess why!
Oh, there's an issue where Howard gets into a wrestling match to make a bunch of money, but the promoters screw him out of most of the reward on a technicality. Did that, of all things, inspire the wrestling scene in the first Spider-Man movie?
And speaking of which, Howard the Duck came out in the the mid 70s. I tried reading the first Spider-Man comics, which came out in the 60s, and it still had that awkward writing you see in a lot of Golden and Silver Age comics, where the comic would show and tell you everything at least three times. So a panel would show Spider-Man punching Vulture in the face, and Spider-Man would be saying "My only chance is to punch Vulture in the face," then there'd be a narration box declaring "Spider-Man's takes a chance and punches Vulture in the face!" People in Howard the Duck actually talk like people. When did this change happen?
Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season Two (TV DVD)
The first season of Batman: The Brave and the Bold alternated between schlocky children's fare and Batman in-jokes and piss-taking, and for a while the second season was going down the same route. The first episode is a tedious car race among several heroes and villains that's more interested in showing off the vehicles, coming soon to a toy store near you, than telling a story. Then you'll have an episode where Aquaman is taking a cross-country vacation with his wife and kid in an RV, except he's bored shitless and keeps sneaking off to do superhero work. Or Batman being split into his three core personalities which includes slacker Batman and "Batman does not each nachos!" Or Batman landing on an alien planet that draws parallels to a certain other top-tier DC hero.
The low point of the season is a two-parter that Warner Bros. felt was so epic they also gave it three other episodes' opening stingers to hype it up. The world is being taken over by mind-controlling starfish from space in the name of an evil cosmic abomination that's coming to devour the world. Then the great destroyer turns out to be a giant starfish from space, and I could barely contain my laughter. And I guess even the writers thought he was lame because he's defeated shortly after that - in a way that is fucking stupid I might add - so that the second episode can be about his top flunky. And there's one weird scene in the second episode where somebody goes to recruit the Metal Men only to find they've been reprogrammed by their mind-controlled creator, then in the next scene they're just... suddenly cooperating.
But "Chill of the Night" brings a third type of episode to the mix: actual engaging narratives. On the night Batman is destined to finally find the man who shot his parents, the avatars of Justice and Vengeance debate over whether Batman is going to stick to his no kill convictions or tear the bastard a new one, and help him in his quest. It felt more like an episode of the 90s Animated Series than anything from Brave and the Bold so far. And bonus points for the easter egg of Phantom Stranger and Spectre's voice actors.
After that awful Starro storyline, Brave and the Bold shelves the kiddy episodes to stick with the other two story types and is pretty solid for the second volume. Highlights include an abridged version of the "Emperor Joker" story that tones down Joker killing and reviving Batman over and over to be more in line with Looney Tunes than I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, and the Superman episode that basically compiles those dumb Silver Age covers into a full story and is as glorious as it sounds. Although the episode where Batman dies in front of his son, who is then raised by Nightwing got kind of weird when it turned out to be (spoiler, sort of?) Alfred's fanfic.
So it's a bit of a bummer that the season ends by going back to the childish mediocrity. Okay, props to the show for handling a reverse-aging Batman better than that one episode of Real Ghostbusters where Egon starts reverse-aging, first by not having young Batman be a total snot, and second by not ending the episode with an adult Batman in a diaper. But the partner superheroes for the episode are Captain Marvel and two Marvel siblings, fighting a telepathic caterpillar (no, really) who turns them into bickering children and a whole lot of of cringe.