September 3, 2008

Arrested Development

Last night we watched The Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, the new DVD feature about some hypothetical Avengers offspring who get spirited away after Ultron kills their parents to a Truman Show-esque bubble in the arctic circle where they are raised by a silver-haired Tony Stark. It was actually pretty good, if predictable at every turn, but cleverly scripted and nicely designed with an appropriate level of humor and melodrama. I apologize if the language in my review is a little rigid, there were a lot of robots. Anyway, Thor's daughter Torunn was particularly endearing, and it's kind of funny to think about Tony Stark raising all these superkids on his own. The movie did take sort of unecessary liberties with things like claiming that Tony built Ultron--there was some justification for it but not quite enough, he could have just been around Hank Pym a lot at the time or something. But otherwise it's a fun story for those of us who will inhale any animated superhero adaptation the companies bother to throw together.

It also confirmed a suspicion that has been mounting this week, which is that I am an 11 year-old boy. Or at least the comics companies think I am. If you listened to the podcast this week (episode #12, right over there in the sidebar), you know that Aaron and I are both big suckers for the Marvel Adventures line, which is frequently more satisfying on an issue-by-issue basis than the "regular" books (they're obviously not as gratifying in the "big universal picture" department, being mostly one-shots out of continuity, but you know, eh). This must also mean that Robert Kirkman things I'm an 11 year-old boy, because he's under the impression that Marvel Adventures talks down to kids. What they actually do is talk fairly head-on to the absurd side of my 31 year-old lady sense of humor. I definitely love me some "grown-up" comics too, but they're not better or more important (most of them anyway), they just serve a different chunk of my entertainment-consuming brain. And some of them, like the most recent issue of Superman Batman, alternately serve both.

Unlike Rich Johnston's tongue-in-cheek suggestion that he would buy the newly announced DCU Elementary for his daughter only, I will say without qualification that I will eat that up with a shovel. It has baby Lobo for cryin' out loud. Yes, shrinking superheroes to kiddie size is a gimmick pounded into the ground a million times over, but that's because it humanizes them to the level of "I may be an invulnerable black belt with eye beams and microwave powers, but there's a part of me that did and sometimes still does have a preoccupation with Hot Wheels and pudding pops." It can be done poorly, for sure, but there's something about the juxtaposition of ultimate power with immaturity and baby fat that tends to strike a little bit of gold for some dumb reason. And even the books like Marvel Adventures Super Heroes, where the heroes are still adults, put them in situations where they are awkward and distracted and vulnerable in ways that having super powers would not necessarily eliminate.

The irony is that calling something "all-ages" signals that it's primarily for kids, possibly driving away adult consumers, when in reality a lot of this stuff truly is all ages--great fun for grown-ups and incidentally appropriate and accessible for kids. Well, except Super Friends, which I find to be genuinely dumbed down. And yeah, if someone said I could only read X-Men: First Class or Ex Machina but not both for the rest of my life, I'd choose the latter. But I'd whine about it, and probably pull their hair, and not in the it-means-I-like-them way.

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