Monday, June 02, 2014

NED STARK LIVES!!!!!! (maybe (though probably not (but maybe(though, yeah, probably no (but maybe)))))

So, before I go any further, let me be clear: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!!!!!!!

I underlined, bolded, and italicized the goddamn word, so you've got not excuse.

If you only know George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series through the Game of Thrones TV series and you do not want to be spoiled with potential future plot points (I say "potential," because who knows what will be changed), don't read any further.

If you have read the books, but have not yet read A Dance with Dragons and you do not want to be spoiled, don't read any further.

Alright, now that that's out of the way, let's get something else out of the way. This a theory I've harbored for a while and, yes, it comes mostly from wishful thinking, but it may not be total BS. I am hastily typing up this theory for you because I had an impulse and ran with it. As such, I'm not going through the books to find precise facts and quotes. If I get something wrong, I get something wrong. I'm sure I'll be called out on it.

So, with the caveats all out of the way, here's the theory:

The most recently published Song of Ice and Fire book, A Dance with Dragons, opens with a scene north of the wall. We meet a wildling warg and through him we learn about the ability wargs have to throw themselves into a beast before their death. If they manage this, their human body dies and their spirit/essence/mojo/force/whateverthefuck stays inside the beast. However, eventually their spirit is absorbed by the beast and they become all animal.

The interesting thing about the scene is that, as far as has been revealed thus far, this particular character has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story. So why did Martin decide the scene was so important?

In the books, we learn a lot more about the connections between the Stark children and their dire wolves. Jon Snow and Bran, we know, are both wargs. It seems pretty damn likely that Rickon is a warg. Throughout the books, Arya Stark experiences dreams from the perspective of a wolf; in most likelihood the wolf she chased away in order to save its life, suggesting that Arya may also be a warg. Sansa's wolf died too early for us to learn about any particular connection between them (symbolically fitting because Sansa is arguably the Stark most "lost" from her family in more ways than one). Robb clearly had a strong connection with his wolf. The attack on the head of the Umbers proved that if nothing else, however we never see anything from Robb's perspective in the books, so there's no way to know for sure.

So, if all, or most, or even just a few of the Stark children are wargs, what's the chance that neither of their parents were wargs? And if one of their parents was a warg, wouldn't it probably be the one from the north?

I'm not saying Ned Stark was a warg who kept his abilities secret from his family. I'm saying he was a warg and had no idea he was a warg. Think about it. Would any of the Stark children experience any of these abilities/visions if they hadn't happened upon the dead mother dire wolf and her pups? We are told a dire wolf south of the wall is almost completely unheard of. So, assuming he was a warg or had warg-like abilities, Ned wouldn't have necessarily had the opportunity to discover it.

If he was a warg, then I think it's possible he "jumped" into an animal or possibly even another person - as Bran is able to do - just before his decapitation. I don't think he would've done this on purpose. I think it would've been kind of like when the young Magneto bends the bars of the concentration camp in X-Men: that his imminent death shocked his abilities awake and acted for him before he knew what the hell was going on.

Now even if I'm not talking out of my ass, it would raise some difficult questions. First of all, if he did jump into an animal, wouldn't his spirit have been absorbed by the beast long ago? Second, let's say he jumped into a person (which most wargs are not supposed to be able to do, but which Bran is able to do with Hodor). And let's say the rules for jumping into a person don't work the same. Maybe if he jumps into a person before death, his spirit isn't necessarily absorbed. That would beg the question, what the hell is he waiting for? Why hasn't he revealed himself and kicked some ass?

But, I think it's a possibility, and more than anything I'm intrigued by the fact that Martin bothered to open A Dance of Dragons the way he did. I'm thinking it may have more to do with what happens with Jon Snow in Book 6.

So that's it. That's my theory. Rip it to pieces.

Monday, January 20, 2014

So I figured I should mention...

I don't think this blog is in any danger of suffering a massive backlash from its millions of readers, but I figured I should let anyone who does stop by know that while I am NOT closing the doors on this blog, right now my energies are directed elsewhere.

Since the beginning of the year, I have been blogging at Mick Martin and The Hunger. It's not a comic book or geek culture blog. The blog is more like, I guess, memoir maybe? It's personal. And if you read it you will learn personal things about me. Maybe more than you'd want to know, honestly.

So that's what I'm doing right now. If you're interested, please feel free to visit the new blog. If not, cool beans. Like I said, I don't want to say I'm not writing about comics anymore so NYAH because I've done that so many times, and eventually broke my promise, that saying it just feels ridiculous. But for now at least, writing about my life feels much more fulfilling to me. So that's what I'm doing. And stuff.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Top 10 Thoughts Regarding the End of Breaking Bad


10. With the end of Breaking Bad comes the likely end of my regular viewing of any television show. These days, most of what I watch is on a disc or on Netflix Digital.

Sure there's other stuff worth watching. Not much, but it's there. But nothing that's important enough to clear my schedule. I don't let shit get in the way of Breaking Bad. My DM wanted to schedule an 8-hour Pathfinder session on Sunday September 29th (the air date of the series finale) and I told him to shorten it or else he'd be short one dwarf barbarian. Who is, in turn, short.

9. I think it's interesting how much gushing sympathy we all feel for Jesse. I don't exclude myself from that. After Walt so easily surrendered his protege to the mercies of the neo-nazis, after his "confession" regarding Jane, all I could think was how badly I wanted Jesse to kill him.

How easily we forget what a motherfucker Jesse is. Here's a guy who ordered his dealers to infiltrate Jesse's own drug recovery group. A guy who originally seduced Andrea with the intention of getting her back on the blue. Jesse's been circling the drain ever since Todd killed that kid, but his greatest accomplishment during the whole series was proving he was capable of cooking the same quality meth - which, you know, turns people into addicts, kills them, and supports murderers - as his mentor. I won't lie, I still feel bad for Jesse, but he's in a very particular circle of hell right now and he put himself there.

8. Better Call Saul? Really? This is going to be a show? Yeah, no.

7. This show has given us more entertaining, more engaging, and more frighteningly human villains than we're ever likely to see on television. Consider the notion that at the end of all things BB, the people we're left with are the people who didn't come in until the end. Lydia and the nazis. No Gus, no Mike, no Tucco. No Mexican Terminator Twins. An officious, twitchy little liar, and a bunch of guys who - with the exception of Todd - we didn't even see until the second half of this season.

How does that work? Because they're just wonderful characters. It doesn't matter that they didn't come in until the end. She may not have a gun, but Lydia is doubtless one of the most cunning and manipulative crooks the show has seen. And Todd is the creepiest.

6. I do not understand the Skyler haters. They can all suck a bag of dicks for all I care. Anna Gunn is wonderful and I think I feel more sympathy toward Skyler than just about anyone on the show.

The Skyler hate is indicative of a lot of one-dimensional thinking. A surprising number of people seem to take Walt at face value; that he's done everything he's done just for his family, and hence Skyler is cockblocking him from providing as a father should.

The cooking hasn't been about the White family's future for a very long time. Sure, the cancer is what lit the spark, but eventually Walt found a part of himself too delicious to ignore. Walt found Heisenberg and in Heisenberg he found everything Walt was afraid to be. Heisenberg is why Walt cooks. Otherwise, he would've made himself a few hundred thousand and called it a day.

Skyler is no Carmella Soprano. She didn't marry into a crime family and just live in denial for years. She married a chemist. She married a high school teacher. She didn't sign up for this shit. Once Heisenberg was too powerful, she became a captive. I won't say she's free of guilt or hypocrisy, but she was backed into a corner in a way that Carmella never knew.

5. I have some predictions, but I can't pretend to know what's coming Sunday. I don't expect to be disappointed. But I will say this. I don't want Hamlet. I don't want The Departed. I don't want it to just be, "Hey it's the end! Kill everybody! WOO!!!!" But at this point I expect a lot more out of Vince Gilligan and I'm trusting we'll get it.

4. Is it just me, or is it so sad that not only did Hank and Gomey get it, but they're just in a ditch somewhere in the desert? They should be wrapped in blankets and put in boats and sailed down a river. Then some dude shoots their boats with arrows. On fire. Yeah.


Fucking A.

2. Next episode: Walt wakes up in the back of the car. His head starts hurting, he sits up, puts the gun to Mulder, and tells him, "Keep driving, jew!"


1. So, a few actual predictions regarding the final episode. A few weeks ago, I tweeted the following:

First of all, please forgive my "one large complain."

Second of all, considering how the last episode ended, I think my "complain" is about to be made moot.

It's surprising to consider, at this late date, how little we know about Walter's life before Skyler. We know absolutely nothing about what he was doing with Gray Matter. We don't know why he left Gretchen. We don't know what innovations he was driving. All we know is that he was a part of it, he left, and he regrets it.

I think we're going to find out what was going on. I think we're going to get a flashback. I wouldn't be surprised if whatever chemical breakthrough Walt heralded at Gray Matter has something to do with how he will eventually overcome the nazis.

I also wouldn't be surprised if Walt's vengeance reaches beyond the nazis, beyond Jesse, and reaches his old friends, Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz.

We'll see. Regardless, I'm sure I'll enjoy it. I'm sure I'll be talking about it for weeks afterward, if not longer. And I'm more sure of anything that I'll miss it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Where I've Been Hiding

For those few who may be stopping by to visit the blog, I have an update. Well, not so much an update as news of potential for a future update.

First, in my last post I expressed losing the desire to write about superheroes. That didn't last. In fact, the death of that particular promise felt a bit like providence. I was at my day job, thinking very seriously about whether or not I wanted to write about superheroes again, when I got an email from a guy named Max Delgado asking if I wanted to contribute something to his website. Max has a website called The Longbox Project. People send him essays about personal memories stirred up by a particular comic book. It's an awesome site, and you should expect something from me on that site by the end of the month. More importantly, the timing of Max's email convinced me writing about comics and superheroes is something I just don't think I can quit. As I told Max in my response, I don't believe in coincidence anymore.

Second, I've registered a domain name and am at the very beginning of building my own blog. While comics and superheroes and various geek stuff will inevitably be mentioned because they're important parts of my life, I don't intend for those things to become the focus.

Once the new site goes live, I'll provide a link to redirect anyone who cares to follow it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Death of a Beautiful Impossibility

(This post contains SPOILERS regarding Man of Steel. I consider your ass informed.)

So, the irony here is that as much as the climax to Man of Steel felt like a betrayal, I have no criticisms to aim at Zack Snyder. He made a good movie. Stuff blew up. Stuff fell down. Lots of punching. People died and it made me sweaty-eyed. Good flick. And hey, as a usual hater of Zack Snyder's work, I was more grateful than you know that he spared us his trademark fast-forward-slow-mo-fast-forward-slow-mo crap. Why has no one tapped this man to direct a Flash movie?

No, what Zack Snyder did made perfect sense. When Superman broke Zod's neck it was certainly a shock. I was angry. I was stunned. Mark Waid's description of his reaction to the moment felt sickeningly familiar.

But you know what? Snyder didn't do anything wrong. He didn't do anything that the rest of the writers of the superhero genre in every medium haven't been doing for years now. And yeah, that includes Mark Waid.

What Zack Snyder did, without knowing it, was send up a flare to show us a bloodier landscape of once innocent heroes now turned ultraviolent. Zack Snyder was a messenger, one toward whom I should be genuinely thankful.

Zack Snyder drew from me the simple revelation that should have been obvious a long time ago. He punctuated it so that I finally heard it. Superheroes have changed, they're not changing back any time soon, and it's time for me to cash out.

A lot of Snyder's defenders point out that, upon killing Zod, Superman immediately reacts traumatically to the realization of what he's done. He regrets the killing. Snyder claims he meant for the killing to be the foundation upon which Superman builds his unwavering respect for life. Presumably, Zod is meant to be the first and last man to die at Superman's hands.

I don't buy this. Man of Steel screenwriter David S. Goyer, in the same article I linked in the previous paragraph, says it changed because the original plan to have Zod sucked into the Phantom Zone simply didn't feel satisfying:

"Killing Zod was a big change and Chris Nolan, originally, said there's no way you can do this...That was a change - orginally Zod got sucked into the Phantom Zone along with the others and I just felt it was unsatisfying and so did Zack...Originally Chris didn't even want to let us try to write it and I said, 'We think we can figure out a way that you'll buy it.'"

So the "This will be why Superman never kills again" explanation is not the reason Superman killed Zod; it's the justification Snyder and Goyer used to make the choice palatable.

Not to mention that I didn't read Superman's anguish at killing Zod to be about the fact that he killed just anyone, but that he killed a Kryptonian. Zod's dialogue in that final battle is all about Superman needing to choose between the new Krypton Zod envisions and Earth, and by killing Zod the choice is made clear. Superman chooses Earth and it hurts.

Regardless, at least there's a consequence to Superman killing someone.

Anyone see The Avengers?

How many aliens are killed battling the Avengers in the invasion of New York City? Hawkeye shoots them with arrows, Black Widow shoots them or hacks at them with knives, Thor electrocutes them, Hulk squashes them like bugs, and even Captain America - the guy who holds the same moral authority in Marvel that Superman holds in DC - throws guys off a helicarrier, and slices off alien's arms with his shield. And no one belts out a Vader-circa-episode-3 "Noooo!" because of that.

Sure, they're just aliens.

And so was Zod.

The changes in Marvel's heroes came by inches, and with no announcements and little controversy. It started with The Ultimates: the reimagining of the Avengers in the company's "Ultimate" line of comics, a line initially so successful there were rumors that the regular Marvel continuity would be scrapped in favor of the Ultimate one. The Hulk of the Ultimates was a cannibal, an attempted rapist, and a mass murderer. Hank Pym and The Wasp's marriage was rife with fistfights. Captain America was an action hero bully, no one knew if Thor was really a god or just a mentally disturbed male nurse, and did I mention that Hulk ate people? Like, all the time.

It took time, but eventually the brutality of The Ultimates was reflected in Marvel's other comics. It wasn't quite so bad, but if nothing else killing grew much more palatable to the heroes of Marvel's bullpen. In spite of years of stories that said the opposite, in the New Avengers: Illuminati one-shot, it was revealed that the Hulk had killed thousands of people over the years during his rampages. In the first issue of Ed Brubaker's extraordinary run on Captain America, the Avenger killed (possibly without meaning to) a couple of terrorists when they fell off a speeding train, and when the info was relayed to Cap, he didn't seem to care that much. When the Avengers were re-formed - a group that used to be the most Absolutely-NO-Killing group of Marvel - they recruited Wolverine, a guy who's killed more people than the War of 1812.

More recently, a Doc-Ock controlled Spider-Man shot a man in the head. And unlike Superman at the end of Man of Steel, Marvel's "superior" Spider-Man was not in a situation in which he had little choice. The villain, Massacre, was defeated and on his knees. Spider-Man's justification for the murder is that eventually Massacre would live up to his namesake again and again and again until someone killed him.

That Spider-Man kills Massacre is not particularly surprising. After all, Peter Parker's body is possessed by a supervillain. What's noteworthy is the reaction of The Avengers.

Weeks after the murder, the team calls him in for questioning. They are not as concerned with the murder, however, as they are with their correct suspicions that Spider-Man is being controlled by someone else. There is a brief battle between Spidey and the rest of the team. They eventually subdue him and run their tests. They can find no evidence that Spidey's will has been usurped, so they apologize and let him go.

In the past if an Avenger had killed someone, even accidentally, a court-martial-like proceeding would have convened. Expulsion from the team was a very real possibility. But for an Avenger who had shot a kneeling, defeated enemy in the head? Forget expulsion from the team. That asshole would have been frozen in ice and shot into space.

Now, killing in Marvel comics isn't even much of a big deal. Even though one recent storyline in Hawkeye was about the attempt to retrieve a video tape that contained doctored footage of Hawkeye killing a man, he has no problem piercing a few throats while saving Spider-Man from thugs in the first issue of Age of Ultron.  In an early issue of Savage Wolverine, Shanna the She-Devil accidentally kills a peaceful tribesman. The scene is meant to be funny. It's treated like slapstick. Teenage heroes are killing and dying every issue of Avengers Arena, Marvel's new Hunger Games clone. And in Indestructible Hulk #3, written by Mark Waid, Maria Hill shows someone a photo - again in a scene meant to be humorous - of the Hulk ripping a skrull soldier in half.

And of course all of the Marvel movies have given us killer heroes. Iron Man leaves one of his former captors to the mercies of an angry mob in Iron Man. In the more recent Iron Man 3 he brags "I'm gonna kill you first," to a gunman. In one of Incredible Hulk's deleted scenes, we see that most of the special ops soldiers who go after Bruce Banner in the beginning of the film are in body bags. As a friend pointed out while we debated Man of Steel's ending, one could convincingly argue that Batman, in spite of his "but I don't have to save you" line, does kill Ra's al Ghul at the end of Batman Begins. And of course, the bad guy body count of The Avengers is massive.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say here, is that, yes, Superman's killing of Zod was a betrayal. But, to use another recent pop culture shocker as metaphor, the Red Wedding was going on long before Man of Steel. Zack Snyder's knife was just one more in a crowd of knives. It's been going on for years and we're all a bunch of assholes for being surprised.

This is the direction in which superheroes are headed. It's the direction in which they have been heading for years, and I don't think there's any going back.

And that's why enough is enough. It's time for me to focus my energies on other things.

I have spent some years thinking and writing about superheroes. I made my way through college writing academic papers about them. For some time, I had hoped to eventually make a living writing about superhero comics, movies, and films. Man of Steel was a wake-up call. I don't love this genre anymore. At least, I don't love what it's become or what it will eventually become.

Understand, I have no moral problems with superheroes killing. I love violence in entertainment. My favorite superhero comic is still Watchmen, and my favorite comic regardless of genre is Lone Wolf & Cub, which features a protagonist who's hacked up more samurai and ninjas than that silly ass Logan-san ever did.

But for me, superheroes are all about one thing: life. Life is ultimately what concerns the superhero. It's why the term "crime-fighter" is so incomplete. Bruce Wayne does not become Batman because a mugger shatters his mother's pearl necklace. Peter Parker doesn't become Spider-Man because the man who shot his uncle also stole his uncle's car. Superman doesn't dole out parking tickets and Daredevil couldn't give two shits about crooked car salesman unless they start killing people.

For me, the thing that is so wonderful and heartbreaking about superheroes is that they dedicate themselves to a beautiful impossibility: that no one will ever again fall victim to violence. No one, anywhere, anywhen. And for those same guardians of life to take lives does not seem like truth to me. It is a lie. It is a betrayal.

That's why I feel nothing but absolute distaste for the works of Mark Millar; including Kick-Ass, Wanted, and the first two volumes of The Ultimates. I don't doubt his talent, but I am revolted by his vision. Judging by his body of work, Mark Millar looks at superheroes and sees nothing but sadistic bullies, and so he writes fiction that revels in the dark glee of that sadism. And that's fine. I make no moral judgments about Millar or anyone who enjoys his work. But to me it is the absolute antithesis of the superhero and I want no part of it.

Unfortunately, the writers of superhero fiction seem to feel differently.

It seems nothing but a waste for me to continue writing about superheroes, or following their stories quite as much. I don't have the enthusiasm for it. I don't care. I don't want to define myself anymore by my interest in the genre, and I have a heavy heart about it but it feels right.

That doesn't mean I won't watch superhero movies or read superhero comics. I still have graphic novels in my Amazon Wish List. The first expansion to Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is on its way to my house as we speak, as is Batman: The Gotham City Strategy Game.

But I don't think quite as much of money will go into this interest, nor as much time. I think all the little (mostly Hulk-related) comic book knick-knacks are going to get stored in a box somewhere.

I suspect it's a good thing this happened. I have wanted to focus more on literary interests and pursuits for a while now, but distraction is a hard habit to shake.

I find it regrettable that superhero fiction is becoming generic action-adventure. Fast and the Furious with a superhero overlay. Bad Boys II with tights. But I'm not going to beat my head against inevitability. Life is too short.

Enjoy the blood. I'm going to go read a book.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kill, superhero! Kill!

It's only been in the last few months that I've returned to reading superhero single issues as they're released, and my tastes proved shamefully one-sided. I dipped my toes into the new 52 and found very little to my taste, while I've been more impressed than I could have imagined with Marvel NOW!

One thing I'm not happy with is how the notion of superheroes killing criminals has clearly become more acceptable over the years particularly, it seems, in Marvel.

Now the example pictured above is a special case and, in fact, isn't entirely what I'm talking about. That's Doc Ock in Spider-Man's body about to blow away the amoral villain Massacre in Superior Spider-Man #5 (and I'm enjoying that title way more than I thought I would when I first learned of the concept). Ock/Spidey killing someone isn't particularly surprising, but what I found interesting was part of the fallout in Superior Spider-Man #6.

It wasn't all that long ago that it wouldn't have even been a question whether or not a superhero who killed someone would stay in the Avengers. An Avenger who had killed would, at the very least, be subjected to a court-martial-type deal overseen by his/her teammates. In the case of Ock/Spidey here, who shot a man after he had already been defeated and could have easily been restrained? He wouldn't stand a chance.

For my most recent Extra Medium column over at Popdose, I wrote "The Top 10 Worst and Best Things About The Avengers" (I really do need to get another one out). Under "worst" I talked about how I didn't like seeing the superheroes in the flick killing people. Of course, they're justified. They're fighting a war and for most of the movie, they're on the losing side. Or at least the side with the biggest disadvantages.

What bothers me more is that there's killing without any discussion of killing. It's casual. When I was younger if a superhero killed someone, or even seriously considered killing someone, it would consume them. It would impact them for years. When Captain America shot and killed a terrorist during Mark Gruenwald's classic run, it was one of the many events that ultimately led to Steve Rogers being temporarily stripped of his title, costume, and shield by the US government. More importantly, it was a kidney shot to Cap's soul.

Now, it doesn't seem to bother anyone much. Sometimes it's even just something mentioned in passing. Hawkeye pierces a few throats while rescuing Spider-Man in Age of Ultron #1. In a scene meant to be - at least in part - humorous, Maria Hill shows a man photos of the Hulk ripping a skrull in half in Indesructible Hulk #3. Shanna the She-Devil accidentally kills a Savage Lands tribesman who was attempting to peacefully communicate in Savage Wolverine #3, the scene is treated like slapstick, and when the justifiably enraged tribal warriors attack Shanna and Wolverine, they have no problem using more lethal force in retaliation.

I don't want to start a debate. I think the ship sailed a long time ago unfortunately. But I do want to say two things.

First, ultimately, life is what is of primary concern to the superhero. That's why the term "crime-fighter" has always been incomplete. Bruce Wayne doesn't become Batman because Joe Chill broke his mother's necklace. Peter Parker doesn't become Spider-Man because that crook he let walk got away with too much dough. Superman doesn't dole out parking tickets and Dardevil doesn't give a crap out used car salesmen unless they start killing people. Superheroes care about life, plain and simple. They don't just face death. They wrestle it. And I think to allow characters whose primary enemy is death itself to dole it out is a betrayal of the very concept of the superhero.

Second, earlier this evening I watched part 2 of the animated adaptation of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and it was this that inspired this post.

See, what impressed me the most about the adaptation of DKR is the raw power of the source material. The story is almost 30 years old, and along with Watchmen it's suffered many copycats over the years. In spite of all the dark, violent, and edgy superhero comics that came out between the release of the original DKR series decades ago and its more recent adaptation, it remains absolutely goddamn brutal. You will wince when you watch scenes like Batman's bone crushing battles with the Mutant Leader, or his final dance with the Joker.

Yet, in spite of how brutal it is, in spite of how dark and violent, in spite of how its originality and innovation radically changed the landscape of superhero comics; in one of the first scenes of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Batman saves a liquor store owner from a bunch of thugs and when he sees the shop owner about to kill one of the thugs, he turns on him and says, "Pull that trigger, and I'll be back for you."

So if you're going to tell me that superheroes need to kill in order to be believable, interesting, or modern, save your breath. Because DKR gave us a superhero darker, edgier, a million times more brutal, and certainly more interesting than anything that ever went in or out of Avengers tower, and even he wouldn't cross that line.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Avengers Arena, reviewing ethos, and hypocrisy (that would be mine)

I was surfing a little bit and found myself at Johanna Draper Carlson's blog. While scrolling through her posts, I followed a link to a column by KC Carlson in which the columnist talks about  his likes and dislikes from Marvel NOW!

What struck me the most was what he wrote about Avengers Arena, a comic in which a bunch of younger heroes from titles like Runaways and Avengers Academy are transported to an island by the X-Men villain Arcade and told to fight to the death:

I’ve already dropped Avengers Arena, after giving it five issues (four too many). I will award it Most Tasteless Title of this year, however, as it’s a comic book snuff film, with a bunch of B- and Z-level characters brought together just to be killed off issue by issue. I imagine that younger readers who like first-person-shooter games and other death-happy fare will quite like this. As an older person who’s had to deal with the consequences of real-life deaths, I find this whole genre most offensive. And sad, now that my favorite comic book franchise has succumbed to it.
Carlson's reaction didn't surprise me. I felt similarly when I first learned the concept behind the book. But as I gave it a chance, I grew to like it, and found myself feeling similarly to Robot 6's Carla Hoffman. As Hoffman says, the premise of Avengers Arena "feels cheap," but the title ends up being more than just "a comic book snuff film." It has great characterization, powerful and emotional moments that have nothing to do with violence, and on a personal note it's reinvigorated my interest in Marvel's teen hero books.

Now let's forget the fact that the issue at which Carlson apparently gave up on the title (Avengers Arena #5) doesn't actually feature any character deaths. And let's forget about the fact that if he thinks this is the most tasteless title of the year, he needs to check out the new Deadpool, or Marvel's 156th Thunderbolts reboot, or that widely publicized DC event culminating with possibly the most recognizable child superhero in the world being riddled with more bullets than Al Pacino at the end of Scarface and skewered by a giant goddamned sword.

But this: "I imagine that younger readers who like first-person-shooter games and other death-happy fare will quite like this. As an older person who's had to deal with the consequences of real-life deaths, I find this whole genre most offensive." This is not what I expect from a reviewer. This is what I expect from an angry Facebook user. This is not a valid criticism of the content of a comic or the creativity and artistry of its creators. This is taking the easy road. This is saying that something you don't like isn't good because you're superior to the people who enjoy it. This is making things personal.

And what bothers me more than anything is that I know I've done it myself a shit-ton of times. I know I'm catapulting huge boulders inside a glass castle if I trash KC Carlson for doing it. No BS, I've seriously considered going through my blog's reviews and eliminating anything I judge to be "making things personal." The only reason I haven't done it is because I don't know if I'm more of an ass leaving stuff like that up, or hiding it so no one calls me out on it.

I don't know, I think I started this wanting to thrash a reviewer over a couple of sentences that rubbed me the wrong way, and realized I clearly had nowhere to go because I was being a hypocrite. I genuinely don't think what Carlson wrote is a really fair review, but again I don't think I'm innocent of it either. I've been writing reviews of comics for over a decade, and I know without checking that there's no way I haven't crossed a similar line. Maybe it's about time I take a step back and think about whether or not I should have a more defined ethos towards my own reviewing.

P.S. For the record I have dealt with real-life consequences of death. Yeah, I like some first-person-shooters. But, you know, so does Kevin Spacey's character in House of Cards. And that guy's practically Vice President. So, yeah. Check, and mate (not really).