We finally have a Civil War trailer

On Wednesday morning, I walked into my history class and asked if anyone else had seen the Civil War trailer yet.

This confused my professor, who is not a superhero person, since we are actually studying the American Civil War right now, but luckily I had a nerdy classmate who helped me explain things.

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you can watch it here.

Wow.  Just wow.

It was everything I hoped it would be.

We get a couple quick glimpses of Black Panther, whose suit looks awesome, and all the action associated with a Marvel film, but we also get this huge depth of character and conflict that makes the trailer stand out.

Cap and Falcon find Bucky, just like we saw in the Ant-Man stinger.  Bucky tells Cap a few facts from his past, proving that he’s the one in control of himself, not Hydra.  We see an explosion as Cap tells Bucky he’s a wanted man.  Bucky says he doesn’t do that anymore–“that” presumably being killing people the way Hydra used him for.

That has a lot of implications.

First, Bucky uses the word “I” in reference to his actions as the Winter Soldier, indicating that he still thinks of those actions in some way as “his”.  That isn’t exactly a happy fact, but it’s hardly unexpected.  He’s going to take a long time to heal.

The second implication has more bearing on the actual events of the movie.

Why is everyone so frantic about finding Bucky now?  Cap and Falcon were the only ones looking for him during Age of Ultron and Ant-Man (except for Hydra probably), and they weren’t trying to arrest or kill him.

We see an explosion, which, if the film follows the comics, will destroy a school (or maybe an important government building) and trigger the demand for the Superhuman Registration Act.

My theory?  Someone’s setting Bucky up.  Maybe Hydra’s given up on trying to recapture or kill him; maybe he’s just a convenient scapegoat when something goes wrong.  Brainwashed assassins are so easy to throw under the bus, but unless I’m completely misreading Bucky’s character, he didn’t cause that.   Steve knows that, and will defend him with anyone else who believes in Bucky.  Those two are practically brothers–we already know they’d tear the world apart for each other.

  Of course, Bucky and his history won’t be the only issue in this film.  The disaster with Ultron in Sokovia showed everyone exactly how dangerous the Avengers could be.  Most of us like to know what’s going on when powerful people are involved in events that affect us, and with the Avengers that’s kind of hard.  There’s a former KGB assassin, a woman who used to work with Hydra whose powers include tearing things apart with her mind, a bewildering machine/person thing, a veteran who for some reason has wings, and the supersoldier icon of World War Two, somehow still alive, who just recently took down SHIELD.  War Machine is frankly the simplest to understand in the public eye from that group.  Iron Man doesn’t generally hide the fact that he’s Iron Man, and War Machine is his friend and has one of his suits.  Not nearly as complicated as the others.

No wonder the public wants these people under more regulations.  They’re terrifying, and when they mess up, deadly for everyone.

I can see both sides of this argument.  Tony Stark says, “If we can’t accept limitations, we’re no better than the bad guys.”  He’s right, but so is Cap.  We don’t hear much of his arguments against Registration in this trailer, but if they’re anything like in the comics, they’re reasonable.

That’s the heartbreaking thing about this storyline.  Both sides think they’re right, with good reason.  Both sides are simply trying to do the right thing.  They’re practically family, and they’re being torn apart by the different ideals of freedom and security.  We see War Machine briefly on the ground with a damaged suit.  He or any other character might die, as a result of direct or indirect actions of their friends.

And that’s exactly as it should be.

It’s taken superheroes a long time to stop being considered as something just meant for little kids.  The fact that they aren’t anymore doesn’t mean we should make their stories racy or more violent–personally, I prefer them not to include that stuff–it means that we can confront larger, more complicated issues through their stories without being accused of going over the target audience’s heads.  Of course, kids are smarter than most of us give them credit for, but that’s another issue.

Pushing these characters to their limits, shoving them outside the zone where everything is black or white, good or bad, serves as an analog to our own issues today.  It’s clearly good to help the people fleeing their war-torn homes, but it is also clearly good to try to make sure that our resources help our own people who need help, and  we can’t just flip a coin to decide which course of action to take.  Neither should our superheroes, because they are quickly becoming the Gilgameshes and Heracleses of our culture, and as our culture’s heroes, they need to be enlarged versions of ourselves, or they won’t remain the characters we look to for inspiration.

That said, they are the heroes of thousands of people, and it’s going to be hard to watch our heroes fight one another.

It will also be terribly exciting.

Stress and Associated Demons

I know, I know, I’ve missed some blogs.  Long story short, there was a road trip, an illness, and a large amount of homework barring my way to regular updates.  I’d like to say it won’t happen again, but finals are coming up and I can’t make any promises.

With finals comes stress, and lots of it.  Then, of course, there’s holiday preparations, so even those who have abandoned the clockwork timetable of formal education have something to worry about.

I don’t have any advice regarding stress management that hasn’t been said trillions of times, but I do have a doodle regarding what stress and its associated demons would look like if they were, in fact, demons.

Stress doesn’t come as one thing at a time, so I see it as a swarm. You don’t get stressed because your car is breaking down, you get stressed because of your car, and work, and a paper that’s due soon, and an upcoming test, and your sister’s illness. The buildup of all these problems makes them overwhelming when taken individually, they’re manageable.

Nobody’s invented bug spray for stress yet, so the only thing for it is to take all those little wasps one at a time. Out maybe you can take a closer look at some of them and realize that they’re just scribbles, not nearly as dangerous as they seem.

Mythological Mayhem: A review of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

What a long title for a book.  That might be my only complaint.

First things first:  if you like young adult fiction, snarky narrators, and Norse mythology, you will love this book.  If you haven’t read it yet, read it now.  Not because this review has spoilers (it doesn’t), but because the book is simply a pleasure to read.  Come back and finish this article later.  I promise I won’t delete it.

Read it?  Well if not, I can’t stop you from finishing the article anyways.  Onward!

In many ways, The Sword of Summer is reminiscent of Rick Riordan’s very first Percy Jackson novel.  Sarcastic young protagonist who life has beat up a bit gets into magical trouble relating to the mysterious father he’s never met, goes to a place where heroes train, and breaks all the rules to go on a quest to stop the world from burning.  They even both feature the magnificent Annabeth Chase.

That said, they are not the same book.  At all.  It’s been years since Riordan introduced the world to Percy Jackson, and his writing style has evolved accordingly.  There’s a more diverse range of characters, including a deaf elf (who uses ASL!) and a Muslim Valkyrie, among others, all of whom make the story delightful, and a set of myths that are not quite as deeply embedded in the public consciousness–despite Marvel putting the Norse gods back into popular culture–as the ones we read about in the Percy Jackson books.  More than that, Magnus is not some knockoff of Percy, and his world is far different from the world of Greek mythology.  Also, he dies.

(That bit isn’t a spoiler.  He talks about it in the first paragraph.)

If you’re familiar with Percy Jackson at all, you’ll know that Percy’s fatal flaw is loyalty.  He will go through literally anything for the people he loves, and is at his most dangerous when one of those people has been hurt.

Magnus is not like that.

Oh, he’s loyal to the handful of people he cares about, yes, and a bit self-sacrificing, but he’s far more likely to let his friends get into dangerous situations and rescue them later than to fall into Tartaurus with them.  He’s far more analytical than Percy ever was, and only willingly goes into a situation if he thinks he knows what’s going on in it.

I’m not saying Magnus is better or Percy is better.  I love them both.  They’re just different.

Rather than being motivated by someone he cares about being in trouble like Percy would be, Magnus goes on the quest of this book because he doesn’t want the Nine Realms to burn, seeing as he lives there (undeads there? Something).  There’s likely also a hint of a need to prove himself in his going off and breaking the rules.  He’s been rejected a few times too many, and every modern hero needs a bit of insecurity.

The book is perfect for a mythology nut and sarcasm lover like myself.  The ludicrous situations Magnus gets himself into helped too–they were hilarious.  It isn’t like high-end literary fiction that leaves you thinking loads of deep thoughts about the nature of the universe, but that isn’t always what I need as a reader.  I prefer books that make me laugh.  I have enough deep thoughts of my own.  If you’re like me, you’ll love it.  If you’re not like me, give it a shot anyway.

So, yeah.  Read it.  Make your little cousin who hates English classes read it.  You’ll be encouraging literacy and spreading awesomeness at the same time.

Nerd? Geek? Congratulations!

The Internet disagrees on the exact definition, by my personal definition of a geek is:  a person, often intellectual and a social outcast, who is greatly excited by things which mainstream society does not consider worth thinking much about.

Of course, right after I wrote that definition for myself, I found John Green’s version:  “Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff,”  which is much simpler.  Use whichever one you like–I like John Green’s because it uses the word “unironically,” which the computer isn’t accepting as a word but I like anyway.

There’s a whole world of debate about nerds versus geeks, but I just lump us all together because we’re treated pretty much the same.  I’ll use the term “geek” for this article, but if you’d prefer I be saying “nerd,” just pretend that’s the word I’m using.  I’ll be saying the same thing either way.  Okay?

Okay.

In recent years, geek culture has been sneaking into mainstream culture, but being a geek still often means being an outsider, especially in middle and high school.  And that hurts.  We all want to be accepted, right?

I was raised by two massive geeks who spent many free nights watching all those shows and films with the word Star in the titles, encouraged my brother and I in any intellectual pursuit we set our minds on, and otherwise made it inevitable that we would become geeks, with everything being a geek entailed.

And you know what?  I’m okay with that.  I’m happy about being a geek or nerd or whatever else people call me.

Here’s why.

Geeks like us can be massively excited about things, so excited we can’t hold still or stop talking about the thing we’re excited about at times, and it’s accepted–whether because we’re already social outcasts or because our friends like us anyways, it’s accepted.

Do you realize how liberating that is?

We live in a strange culture where it’s acceptable to express anger or sadness or joy, as long as we don’t express it too much or too little.  Don’t laugh too loud or jump up an down in public, and heaven forbid you should start crying while surrounded by strangers, these things seem to be the unspoken rules.  Being either too emotionally expressive or too emotionally reserved gets us judged.

But geeks–whether we express our excitement about things all the time or only when we’re with people we’re comfortable with–don’t have to worry about that.  We’ve allowed ourselves to be insanely, ridiculously excited about the things we love when we want to be, whether or not society will punish us for it.  They’re already saying we’re too smart or too loud or too whatever other arbitrary thing they’re complaining about anyway.

It’s not just Star Trek and computer stuff we geeks get excited about either.  I geek out over many, many of the miracles of the universe.

I geek out about dragons (obviously), but there’s also astronomy, mythology, art history (especially van Gogh), my and other religions, chess, Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere, languages, physics, the multiverse theory, secret codes (did you know the band name Imagine Dragons is an anagram of a phrase that has meaning to the band, but they’re not saying what the phrase is?  Do I know what it is?  No.  Have I been rearranging Scrabble tiles and plugging the letters into anagram generators in an attempt to find out?  Maybe), new inventions, advances in medicine, volcanoes, and especially comic books.  I feel like comics have huge potential as an art form and I want to help them reach it.  I also spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that most matter is really composed of empty space, including the hands I’m typing with right now.  I mean, how cool is that?

I spend enough time fighting my depression so I can muster up enthusiasm for anything in life.  On the good days when that enthusiasm comes easily, I’m not going to try to repress it.

Basically, by being a geek, I’m allowing myself to be excited about everything the universe has to offer.  I’m setting myself a mission to learn everything about everything and to change the world for the better with that knowledge, and even if that mission is as impossible a dream as drawing every interesting place on the planet in one lifetime, it’s something I find fulfillment in the pursuit of, and even if I can’t learn and fix everything, I can learn and fix enough to make a difference.

Sorry I missed the post on Tuesday.  I was driving home from my great-grandad’s funeral and didn’t have a post already written.  I’ll have some blog posts prepared in advance in the future.