Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dragonlance Reread: Dragons of Winter's Night Chapters Two and Three

Two sharply contrasted chapters that both kind of work in their own way. The omniscient POV chills for a bit and settles into the one POV per chapter that most of us have grown accustomed to in our epic fantasy. We get some interesting perspective in these chapters and LOADS of important information that sort of sets up this book. It's a little heavy handed but sometimes being heavy handed is okay AND tie in novels were in their infancy, no one was exactly sure how these things work, so I can have some patience with these parts of the book.

We get a dragon POV, but I'll get to that later, I want to talk for a second about the long infodump that looks like it was copy and pasted (would that have been a thing in 1985?) from the Dragonlance World Guide. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I have a "thing" for setting guides, so much so that one of these days I'd love to do a formal one for each of my fantasy works. I'm a terribly mediocre world builder when compared to guys like Erikson, Bakker or Lou Anders (I dream of having a real sit down with Lou about doing one because he is the master of this), so naturally I kind of enjoyed this section of the book. Now, I was going to write a long post about geography, but maybe I'll do another one later.

One of the criticisms that's come up over on is that how is it possible that people haven't heard any news concerning Tarsis for 300 years. It's actually consistent with the world building. Tanis and the other companions, almost all "experienced" adventurers knew nothing about Xak Tsaroth, a once major urban center close to them, and other things going on around them. After the Cataclysm people stopped talking, stayed very regional and didn't hear rumors from far away (think about Alexandria or even Terminus in The Walking Dead). The Knights of Solamnia were sort of the newsbringers of their day since they seemed to protect everyone so with them holed up and disgraced, news slowed to a trickle, especially in the South where the dwarves cut off the only passes and with the sea taken away from them and what water they could access was filled with shipwrecks (basing this on a Ansalon map found online from one of the RPG supplements).

And as for the temperature, using several maps I could find online of the Krynn, Ansalon is connected to the southern pole continent by a large glacier (could be directly connected but there is the glacier covering it) and Tarsis is only 100 miles from the glacier. It's a cold place. Think Patagonia in South America, where the coldest spots get to -25 degrees Celsius. There are other wobbles, but I'll address them later.

As for the Dragonlords, one of the things that Dragonlance did that I don't remember seeing in other fantasy works at the time is that we clearly get the POV of the "villains." The conversation between Skie and the Dragonlord is interesting because it's setting a big picture. It actually puts AUTUMN into perspective as a "small" story. The organization of the armies is interesting and gives some insight into the politics of the Dragonlords and that is interesting, I hope there is more (I don't remember). But this mission sounds personal on so many levels it makes you wonder who the three the Dragonlord seeks and why. (Heh)

The whole Elistan/Laurana/Tanis thing is weird, yet deserves notice only because it's the one heavy handed thing in the chapter that isn't working for me. To Laurana's eyes as an elf, Elistan is still kind of a baby. It doesn't sound like she's had a lot of experience with humans (at least pure humans) and this is kind of a novelty to her, an "old" human extolling wisdom to a "young"elf that has probably been alive as long as Elistan has been, though she hasn't probably experienced as much as he has. Elistan was never an interesting character to me. It was like they needed a wizened old man to be the "leader" because that was the trope they needed.

I want to say something quick about Sturm. He's just an idiot and a liar. Who walks around in full battle armor all the time? Even GRRM doesn't make his people do that. Seriously. He's supposedly this experienced adventurer and wanna be super soldier, but instead he acts the complete opposite.

Can we just get to the tomboy/princess/outcast hero love triangle already? Seriously, Dragonlance was SO an 80s movie. AND, maybe, just maybe a precursor to just about EVERY YA FANTASY out today?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dragonlance Reread: Dragons of Winter's Night: Prologue and Chapter One

I'm back. I didn't do a post for the end of Autumn Twilight. My basic overview of the last section was how rushed it was. So now we're moving on to the EMPIRE of the series: Dragons of Winter's Night. I am following along with again and here's my 2 cents about the book so far:

Autumn Twilight, when you think about it, was a small story. The entire story, despite the scope, really took place in a very small geographic corner of the world and, for such an epic story, really wasn’t all that epic, the elves leaving withstanding, as we know it. For the first time in the series we’re starting to get into a bigger world and it feels more epic right off the bat. We see the way two separate societies work in a short space, the human refugees and the dwarves. The politics of the Highseekers is fascinating, even after all that’s happened. It’s something I wish there was a little more of in this story. It makes me wonder if the Lost Chronicles books are worth it. (I can tell you I bought Highlord Skies because it looks like a vastly interesting story than the other LC books, but I’ll let you know.) Let me address that though….

The gap in the story bothered me as a kid and it bothers me more now. I get that they were probably under pressure to write a trilogy, but come on. Oh well, maybe I’ll read that Lost Chronicle some day. Oh, well, we all makes choices when we write.

It feels like Sturm and Tanis have become bigger dicks than they already were, but thinking about it, it’s actually not bad characterization. The cheap observation is that it’s all representative of the conflict they are both feeling inside. But there’s more going on. Sturm is desperate to be a hero, the bit with the dragonlance shows that and restore glory to his people in his family name. I get that and that’s kind of interesting, but we don’t get to see a lot of that yet. He’s also lied to his closest companions about what he is and still hasn’t come clean to them….AND STILL wants them to go north to fight in the war. That’s some stones. Sturm becomes a much more fascinating character in this book and this is the first insight into it.

I’ve also commented before on these reread posts about how fascinated I am my Solamnia and the Knights. One of my favorite parts is the kingfisher. I love that it is a symbol of the knighthood and the nation. Such a strange thing and I love it.

Tanis continues to be cool because he was emo before emo was cool. I’ll bet he listened to a lot of Smiths and Morrissey (I have a funny Morrissey story, but that’s not for here!). Anyway, he’s another one that is annoying because all of a sudden he has severe claustrophobia. Again, I know that this can be explained away, but it’s still sort of convenient for the story. He had no problem every other time they had to go underground, now all of a sudden he’d losing his shit over it. The cheap explanation is that he’s underground longer than those other times and the conditions are cramped, but as an supposedly experienced adventurer and sometimes sellsword, he’s not acting like one. This has been one of my complaints about the series reread as a whole. Now the more complex explanation might be that it isn’t the dwarven complex but the fact he is in a confined space with Laurana and he might be suffocating because of it.

The whole Tanis/Laurana relationship comes across as that couple in high school that was constantly fighting over stupid things. Actually, they remind me of some adult couples I know.

Let me also, quickly, talk about Raistlin. I get why he’s so popular. He’s the guy that all the nerds think they are/could be. (I loved me some Tanis when I read it, but good googly moogly, I’d kill to be Caramon.) Most aren’t. Raistlin’s a dick. I don’t care why, he’s just a jerk. I have no patience for it. I hated Catcher In The Rye because I always felt that Holden Caufield was just an asshole. Raistlin’s being a jackass to his FRIENDS. No wonder they thought he would betray them multiple times (and he kind of did, when you think about it, with the whole Xak Tsaroth affair).

By the end, we’re on the move again. And this time, there is something foreboding about it. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Social Network Embargo...Sort Of

It's late August and that means one thing: school is coming. Ugh, right? Anyway, if you follow me on my various social networks (and why wouldn't you?) you know that I was writing gangbusters completing THREE projects that were kind of hanging out there. I blogged about it earlier in the summer. Then what happened usually happened: I hit a wall. I had some project ideas and pitched them to the agent and he liked them all but had notes. One project didn't have a conflict (I think I remedied that), one he felt needed some development and he liked one enough to give me a nod. And that project was the one that I hit the wall with. I was struggling with the voice. I'm rambling, let me get to things here. In addition to that, we are in the middle of a move into a new house that has been...time consuming and stressful, not perfect timing for being creative. In the last few days though, as often happens, I've had a small flood of ideas pop into my head that has driven me forward and I'm starting to plan the next month.

If you know me at all, you know I love me some social networks. I've decided between this sudden small flood of creativity and the start of school, I'm going to embargo my social networks. This is a huge deal for me. BUT, I'm not going to completely shut myself out. I'm coming up with a list of "rules" I'm going to follow.

THE RULES OF MY SOCIAL NETWORK EMBARGO: I, John Zeleznik, being of sound mind and body will not check, share, retweet or post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram from 9/1/15-9/30/15 excepting the following:

  1. Football. I will tweet during football on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday nights, especially when the Cuse is playing!  Sorry, I just can't quit you.
  2. Major news stories: I tend to stay away from politics on FB, so that will continue, but if some major news related thing happens, I reserve the right to tweet or post on Facebook. 
  3. My book deal: If I get a book deal and I can talk about it, but I will post about this.
  4. Friends' book deals: Same as above.
  5. Blog posts: I will share my blog posts on all my social network. 
  6. September 27: It's my mom's birthday. I will be posting something on Facebook that day.
  7. Anything happening where I teach, good or bad, but always in support.
So those are the rules I intend to follow. If you need me, email or text work. 

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Night With the Kings In Queens

Continuing my epic theme for the summer, last Thursday I embarked on an epic quest to return to the city of my birth to see my favorite band play in the stadium of my favorite baseball team. If you follow me on social networks, you know that I am a rabid fan of the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York and my favorite band is the Foo Fighters. I've always been a Foo Fighter fan but became obsessed with their HBO series Sonic Highways. I love the story of a story and following the stories of music in the cities they chose to record the songs of their new album in was must watch television for me. Like many writers, I find music inspirational and combined with the recording process and the narrative nature of the episodes of the show, it inspired me in so many ways. When they announced the summer tour and saw that they would be playing Citi Field, I took to begging both my wife and mother. Christmas 2014, birthday 2015, Father's Day and Christmas 2015 would all be spoken for if they got the tickers for me. Well, the wife came through and we were off to see the Foos.

Now, if you've gotten to know me, you know that I firmly believe that the journey is vastly more important than the destination, but this is one of the few times that the journey was awful (missed train, extra hour in the car in northern New Jersey traffic, a mind screaming migraine and a frantic 45 minute walk across town instead of a subway trip because my brain was locked because of my head). My wife was pretty much ready to leave me. Well, several bottles of water and 4 Advil later, I was adequate enough to make our way on the 7 line to Queens. The subway trip was the first sign that things were going to be okay. We made it to our seats just in time to hear the opening chords of Everlong and I felt the headache abating enough that I could feel my shoulders and head starting to rock.

Citi Field was amazing. Truly, a cathedral for baseball and I can't wait to catch a game there. And as a concert venue, it was amazing. The concert didn't disappoint. It was two and a half hours of rock and roll epicness. It was amazing. I danced. I cried. I sang along. I had a night that I'm still smiling about five days later. Dave Grohl rolled out on his Iron Throne-esque throne of guitars to hold court in Flushing with 40,000 courtiers screaming adulation and admiration.

Dave is a natural storyteller and exudes a king-like charisma that is second to none in music right now. He makes it feel like even though my wife and I were sitting behind home plate on the second level and the band was in deep center field that we were packed into a small club of 40,000 people. They weaved through pretty much all their hits and only two songs off the new album, including a chillingly beautiful acoustic set of "My Hero" and "Times Like These" that turned two great hard rock songs into melancholy ballads. They covered a few songs, including snippets of some great classic rock songs, when Dave introduced the rest of the band. Being a teacher, I'm not going to lie, "Schools Out For Summer" was nice and I found myself singing a little louder during the chorus. They closed it out with "Best of You." I recorded it on my phone for my daughter, who loves that song.

The Foos put on an amazing show. It far exceeded every expectation I had and I am glad I went. We wound up having a great Friday in New York that capped an amazing 24 hours that I'll never forget. While in NY, the epicness continued as I ate lunch at Eataly, where I found my mothership: the Nutella Bar. Three words: Nutella banana crepes.

Oh, I also made eye contact with Bo Derek. But that's a story for another time. For now, I'm climbing back into the writing world, inspired and overjoyed at the experience of seeing my favorite band live and in person.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Dragons of Autumn Twilight Re-Read: Part Two, Chapters 1-4

So I've once again fallen behind's pace, but I've been doing other stuff, but I managed to catch up today and I'll post my thoughts here and there in relation to these chapters, so here goes. Thus begins Part 2 of Dragons of Autumn Twilight:

Chapters 1 & 2:
So the companions return home and find it destroyed. The interesting thing about the start of this chapter is that it mimics the opening of the book (a nice text structure) and that despite the madness of what happened to Solace, some of the people are trying to carry on their day-to-day lives. It plays with the trope of the inn being the center of the fantasy universe quite well.

We get some well done flashbacks in these chapters too (I'll comment more about this later), especially this one as we get Tika's POV of what happens. The dragon carrying the inn down from the trees is actually that comes across as brilliantly terrifying.

Tika is a nice point of view. It's another attempt by the authors to give us a "non-D&D" perspective as she is not a warrior or magic user (I know, I know, she's a low level fighter). She's a "normal" person coping with this almost better than our adventurers. Granted, Tika is the cliched fantasy (dare I say buxom) barmaid that exceeds our expectations immediately. What is the damage for a frying pan in an AD&D game?

Then we get the most thinly veiled Gandalf expy in the history of fantasy lit. I know that Fizban is a more significant character, but he's almost note for note Gandalf the Gray, isn't he?

And by the end of chapter two, they are captured again. Sometimes it feels like they should be called the Prisoners instead of the Companions.

The one other thing that really strikes me about this chapter is for the epicness of the story so far, it's really taken place in a very, very small area of the world. And there is a lot going on in such a small space. I'm not sure what I think of that. I get that it's sort of a hobbled together D&D world, but it comes across as kind of sloppy: the mostly human Solace near barbarian tribes near elves (we'll get to that later) near a dead city near the sea where there seems to be very little mingling between these groups. Just some pretty sloppy world building.

Chapters 3 & 4
Over on, Gilthanas seemed to catch some hell from people, but I'm going to be honest, I like some of the characterization of him in these chapters is pretty different for elves, who are usually described as these aloof super magic using warriors. In this, Gilthanas is presented for what he is: the second son to a monarch, more interested in being an academic than some kind of warrior. Kind of like a certain, wildly popular Targaryen prince we all know and love.

Tanis has finally gotten under my skin the way he has everyone else (it seems) on For a man supposedly in his early 30s (or whatever the half-elf equivalent is), he's a whining little teen isn't he? I can only imagine how emo (to use Justin and Mahvesh's expression) he was back then...I'll bet he wore skinny jeans and a Golden Girls t-shirt while trying to diddle his cousin....ewww...but to be fair, there is no blood there, so it's all I right people??

The rescue this time is another cliche and reads like another random encounter from a chart in a module. I've extolled how one of the strengths of AUTUMN so far has been the action sequences. This one falls flat. It's slow and takes to long when compared to the rest of the book. It reminds me a bit of a movie that needs to be 90 minutes and needs about 5-10 minutes of filler, so we get Sturm's depression at being caught, Caramon's hunger, Tas's boredom, Gandalf Fizban's goofiness, a flipping gully dwarf and Goldmoon needing to find the "leader of the people" (read: a MAN!).

That last bit is important and kind of annoying. She just died. She watched her man die. She brought the gods back into the world and she's not the leader. She's not good enough to be the leader of the people. I mean it's bad enough that the best she can be is the "Cheftain's Daughter" but this is overkill Jesus. (See what I did there?) Come on. There are tropes I can excuse or defend, but this isn't one of them. It's actually kind of a bummer to read it now. I wonder what my 13 year old self thought. Hell, I'd love to read the damned editor comments on this that made this decision.

The rescue finally comes and this time it's the elves as we've come to expect them. A bunch of Legolases in the woods picking off the enemy while freeing the prisoners...with no plan beyond that. Jeez, elves are obnoxious everywhere, aren't they?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Epic Summer

July 4th. For those of use here in the states, it's Independence Day. The day we celebrate by eating and drinking in excess while blowing shit up with fireworks from China. Good times. It's also pretty much the beginning of Summer for me as a teacher. Well, not exactly, but sort of. Summer has gotten off to a good start so far. In the last six weeks I managed to put the finishing touches on THREE projects. I'm very happy about finishing them. Makes me feel accomplished, so let me talk about them:

  1. THE SEVEN LABORS OF NICK JABLONSKY: YA Contemporary; 75k. Book 1 of THE JABLONSKY CHRONICLES. I described vaguely as a cross between FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and the writing of Lauren Oliver, Eric Devine and Sherman Alexis.  I first conceptualized this book way back in the summer of 2013 and started it then. For such a short book it took a long time to finish. As with all of my writing, it turned into something other than what I first imagined. I'm very happy with the end result and think that it's some of the best writing I've done so far. It's very different than my usual writing and I really liked writing it. My agent already did his first read and told me that he's going to read it a second time for notes. A lot of his initial observations were pretty spot on and I think I have some ideas how to make the next draft work even better. 
  2. THE LOST SCION: YA Fantasy. 117k. Book 1 of THE RETURN OF THE FALSE LORDS. A "boy" GRACELING crossed with THE THREE MUSKETEERS by way of THOR: THE DARK WORLD and Bollywood, this was originally called JAIMAN ZARACHEK AND THE SISTERS OF KHODA, then simply THE SISTERS OF KHODA, I decided I needed a new, better title and a slight change of concept. It was intended to be more of a "fantasy adventure" and as I wrote it and rewrote it I came to the realization that it needed to be "more epic," related to my theme of an epic 2015. The rewrite wrapped up in mid-June and it was really just the last third that needed to be ramped up. So I spent some time in my writer's notebook, trying to arc out the whole series. What started as a concept of 8 books was cut down to a trilogy with a few novellas and novelettes thrown in for good measure. I came up with a structure for the books (I have a feeling that I'm going to get to be known as "the structure guy.") and came up with the general idea for the three books. For now, though, SCION is in the trusted hands of my betas (my usuals, plus two new betas) seeing how the book works. 
  3. SPRING'S TEMPEST: YA Epic Fantasy. 131k. Book 2 of SEASONS OF DESTINY. Game of Thrones meets 90210 told from the point of view of those still learning the game of thrones in the tone and style of Tamora Pierce's SONG OF THE LIONESS. (My agent came up with that and it still gives me the chills!) This was the MS that I lost when the operating system crapped the bed on my old work rig and I didn't back it up. (Moron!) The good thing is that I think this is a better draft. I cut some crap that needed to go and made an actually tighter draft. In the HD loss, I also lost an early working draft of Book 3: SUMMER'S GLORY, but I reimagined a very detailed outline (which I'm going to have to do again since finishing the draft) and figure if we get a deal, I can just start chugging away as soon as possible. 
Now comes the hard part...what's next. I have a handful projects in mind, all YA and all smaller in scope but definitely sticking with my theme of epic. I've talked about trying Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k method, but my plan is to really attack writing to get a high volume of writing done. Here's the plan, with teases of the new projects:

  1. THE PENSIONER'S BROOCH: A novelette project I've been kicking around for a while and I'm going to try and high volume this puppy and get it done in 3-4 days while planning the next few projects.
  2. FRESH TRACKS: A YA "historical" fiction story that takes place in 1990 focusing on skiing, rivalry, young love and mix tapes. I'm going to try and mimic the epic fantasy, multiple POV style in this and set it up the way I would have set up a mix tape back in the day. 
  3. THE GREAT NORTHPOINTE-SILVER PINES WAR: Another YA "historical" about the escalation of a prank war between two neighborhoods in 1987. Might take place in the same "world" as FRESH TRACKS and will be told in a similar fashion minus the mix tape element. 
  4. THE NEXT TOWN OVER: YA something. I don't want to reveal to much, just think Steven King's THE BODY (STAND BY ME) crossed with THE GOONIES with a twist that I don't want to talk about. 
  5. LITTLE STEVIE POMEROY: YA/MG? horror? I've talked about this before and it's something I want to revisit at some point. Think ET but with more malice and from the deep sea instead of deep space. 
Readingwise, I just finished HALF THE WORLD by Joe Abercrombie and it's fantastic. I have an ARC of HALF A WAR and I'll be jumping into that along with a few others, including Lou Anders' NIGHTBORN. I'll be kicking the DRAGONLANCE re-read up again in the next day or so, plus I have a SUPER SECRET reading project I can't reveal (or I don't think I can). I was asked by a very successful writer that I admire greatly to beta read one of his books. I'm positively giddy over it and intimidated at the same time. 

So, it looks like my summer is going to be pretty epic. How about you?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Marvel Cinematic Universe

I've talked about world building before on this blog and I may do some blogs about world building in the coming weeks. In the spirit of that, I want to also do a post on shared worlds, especially the shared world that I think is maybe the best right now: The Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, I'm not going to get into nuts and bolts of shared worlds and world building right now, I'm going to talk about the quality ranking of these movies and discuss why I like them. I started this over on Facebook and got some interesting comments, so I thought I'd give it a go here. So here goes, in reverse order. (NOTE: I have not seen Age of Ultron, so I have nothing to say here about that. I will amend when I finally get to see it.)

10. IRON MAN 2: I've only caught bits and pieces of this movie because I think it's a mess. It does give us Black Widow (more on that later), but it just didn't work for me and maybe fit worse in the concept of "shared world" than any of the other movies on this list. (More on that later.)

9. THE INCREDIBLE HULK: Vastly better than the 2003 movie, I actually think this movie was a good concept but terrible execution, most notably by Edward Norton. Norton is an amazing actor, but he ruined the movie. The thing about the Hulk is that he's a lot like Batman in that it's not the Hulk/Batman that matters but their alter ego that is vastly more important. Edward Norton wasn't a believable Bruce Banner...Mark Ruffalo is vastly better, the right balance of restrained anger, rumpled genius and twitchiness. The other problem is that the Hulk is supposed to be "fun" on some level (more on that later) and there is nothing fun about this movie.

NOTE: If this were a race, 9 & 10 would be way behind.

8. THOR: If you read my blog, you know I love a well-executed genre mash up and this was the first attempt at it by Marvel because they began to recognize that's what there movies needed to be. They weren't superhero movies but genre action movies that featured superheroes. THOR isn't a bad movie. It's actually pretty good. And it has Natalie Portman. Mmmm, Natalie Portman. It's enjoyable and kind of fun that had some real "meh" parts and some real WOW parts.

7. IRON MAN 3: I caught a lot of flak for my ranking of this movie, but I thought it was the most adult of the three movies. I loved the Extremis plot line and all the suits were freaking cool as hell. Tony's PTSD over New York was well done and his ultimate decision at the end was a fitting touch. Giving Pepper something to do was a nice touch as well.

NOTE: If this were the same race as the previous note, 7 & 8 would be way ahead of 9 & 10 and a little behind the rest. 2-6 would be tightly packed.

6. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER: I believe that when io9 reviewed this movie they called it "a war movie with a super hero in it" and that was accurate. It was a great mash up of genres that began setting up the pins for the shared world Marvel was delicately building. This wasn't end of credit or mid credit scenes, this was a whole movie setting up what would happen next. Chris Evans is riveting as Cap/Steve Rogers and making it a period piece works perfectly. Plus it gave us Agent Carter....mmmm, Agent Carter.

5.THE AVENGERS: I'll probably catch some heat over this one. I loved the movie, but I think other MCU movies did what they did better than what this movie did. There are glaring flaws (just what we need a white sausagefest saving the world.) But one of the things it did really well was that it was fun despite the raised stakes of what was happening (more on this later). From the little character moments: Banner's frumpy-ness, Black Widow's blase attitude about everything, Cap's confusion over his place in the world, Tony's ego, etc to the broad sweeping action moments. But the topper for me is Cap giving orders to everyone of what to do and he looks at Hulk and says, "Hulk...smash" and Hulk grins. They did more with the Hulk in that one ensemble piece than the entire movie did.

4. IRON MAN: The movie that started it all, setting up the pieces for everything else that came after it. Smartly done, mixing just enough comic book material with their own spin on the story. And it was wildly much so my genre disliking wife enjoyed it thoroughly.

3. THOR: THE DARK WORLD: Genre mash-up at perhaps its best. Epic fantasy mixed with scifi in just the right doses. I've said in the past that I'm trying to capture that aesthetic in one of my fantasy series. It just works. And while it is a little darker in tone than say the Avengers or GOTG (more on that later) it still has an element of fun and adventure. Plus...more Natalie Portman.

2. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: Another one I'm sure I'll take some heat for, but God I loved this movie. One of my buddies on Facebook felt it didn't hold up on rewatch and I respectfully disagree. Another said it relied too much on jokes and flash to cover up plot holes. So did another movie that I loved: Star Wars. Watch it. There are plot holes you could fly the Millennium Falcon through, but that didn't make the movie any less brilliant. When I first saw GOTG I described it as "Star Wars and Spaceballs had a baby that was raised by Firefly" and I stand by that. (There's a part of me that wants to write about Spaceballs and my desire to write something like it, but that another post!) GOTG brought back space opera by bringing it to the MCU and doesn't feel much like it's part of the comic book world, but there enough call backs for us to recognize it as part of the shared world. I've said before, in my post about epic being fun that GOTG is my argument that an epic story can be fun. Because they can be.

NOTE: I think the next one is at least two lengths ahead of the pack. If this were a race.

1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER: I firmly believe that Marvel elevated their game with TWS. Forget it being a good superhero's a great movie. The directors made no secret that they were attempting to recreate the political thrillers of the 70s and they succeeded. Robert Redford (take a minute to let that sink in) took a secondary role in a superhero movie because he'd never been in a movie like this and his presence alone brings a gravitas to the project. It's a serious movie that asks serious questions, taking it's components from all kinds of places and combines them into a very satisfying gumbo. It gets Black Widow right (where I've heard AGE OF ULTRON gets her all wrong) in so many ways. It violates one of the great rules of comic books: "The only people that stay dead in comic books are Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben." (NOTE: know 2 of the 3 have been undone, but that's for another discussion.) There is little flaw I can find in this movie and it is the gold standard which all superhero movies should be compared.