Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BLIND SHADOWS available for pre-order



Oh, look, a nice, pretty cover for a nice, pretty signed, limited edition novel.

Get 'em while they're hot.

You can pre-order right here: BLIND SHADOWS

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Wild Hunt goes Digital

After much hemming, hawing and a a few garumphs, I've realized that perhaps it's time to embrace the digital age. oh, a few of my publishers have, to be sure, but I haven't really managed it on my own yet. So now, without much preamble--I simply could not afford the marching band or the dancing girls--here comes THE WILD HUNT.

I did, however come up with some back cover text. Well, okay, I wrote it a while back for the limited edition copy of the book, but you get the idea.



How well do you know your friends?
They’ve been chums since high school. Every year, they go hunting together to reminisce about old times and relive their glory days as they try to bag their limit.
Would you die for them?
Now, something has gone terribly wrong. Someone has grabbed their loved ones, leaving strict instructions about where they must go and when they must meet if they want their families back alive.
Would they kill for you?
One of them is hiding a secret–a secret linked to a past hunt. He has offended the wrong people and unless he comes clean, every last one of them will die…or lose his loved ones in his stead.
Do they deserve to live?
They have only one other option–a test of skill against the very creatures they offended, blood for blood in the middle of a wintry nowhere. Fight and kill and win your freedom, or hesitate and die for your foolishness.
The Wild Hunt has begun and before it’s over, somebody dies.

You can find out where to get the book right about here: THE WILD HUNT

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Storytellers Unplugged Revisited: The Fast and The Curious


The Fast and the Curious


There are a lot of tricky parts to writing a tale and one that is by far the trickiest is pacing. It’s the sort of thing that can make or break a short story or a novel with the greatest of ease.


How does one go about getting the right speed for a story? I haven’t the foggiest notion. But what the heck, we’ll look the idea over, and see what pops up, shall we?


First, and most obviously, a slowly paced story can be disastrous. As a reader, you better give me something to read about within the first few pages, or we’re not going to have a long association. I don’t mean you have to hit me in the face with an epic explosion of action, blood and gore, I mean you have to catch my attention. And if anyone here thinks for half a second that I’m hard on that sort of thing, they haven’t tried slipping a slow moving novel past a New York editor.


According to most of the publishers I’ve dealt with, the number one way to get a story rejected is to bore them to tears. (Well, actually that would be the number two method. The real number one method is not following professional standards when delivering a manuscript. So, remember, double spaced, on one side of the paper, don’t get all tricky and try putting it on oddly shaped paper or on colored paper, because you may rest assured it’s been done before and any unique tricks will bore most of the editors to tears.) Now, where were we? Oh, yeah, Pacing.


Every serious writer has their own voice. It might sound like someone else’s from time to time, but in the long run, it’s the writer’s. Pacing and voice have remarkably little to do with each other. One is the way you say it and the other is the way you lay it out. Am I confusing you? Probably, so I’ll explain. The voice you use to narrate a story is developed over time, and changes gradually in most cases. It’s instinctive. The pacing you decided on is a deliberate act that can completely alter the flow of the story.


In one of my earlier novels, FIREWORKS, I knew in advance that a LOT of the story I told would be slow moving, a gradual build up of tensions. With that in mind, I decided to open the book with a massive event that shaped the rest of the story: I dropped a UFO in the center of a lake and wiped out several hundred people. After something on that scale, I felt a little better about taking my time getting anywhere. It was necessary, in my opinion, to start with a bang and have the whimper follow it up.


I also decided early on that there would only be three or four lead characters whose perspectives would be shown to the readers. That was a bit of a change off for me, because normally I have at least a dozen different characters through whom the readers get to experience everything. So, again, I knew the pacing would be an issue as would the revelations that were set forth in the course of the novel. (And depending on who you talk to, I either did a stellar job or made a boring piece of fluff. But that’s not what we’re here to discuss.)
Pacing changes from story to story, novel to novel, out of necessity. If you’re writing the same story again and again, that won’t happen but if you’re genuinely trying to do something different each time, one of the biggest changes will probably be the speed at which the story moves along.


So how do you determine that? Well, that’s where pacing can get tricky. I tend to look at the speed of a story as an indicator of what the writer is trying to accomplish. Some writers prefer a slow build up to an ending that sends shivers. Others prefer to start off at high speed and never let off of the throttle. Both can be very effective, but as with all things have to be handled with care.


A slow build up is a fine thing, if you can sustain it and never lose the interest of your readers. In that sort of case you don’t really have to worry too much about the action, but you do have to worry about keeping the characters interesting and you better make good and damned sure they’re actually doing something worth noticing. In that sort of case subplots and interaction with other characters can make all of the difference. It’s just fine if the main point of the story takes a while, provided you can juggle the proper blend of events, people and introspection. Last month I did an essay on how much detail is too much. That was primarily with this sort of story in mind. Once again, and with feeling, if all I’m getting during the slow building storyline is a lot of descriptions of the wall paper, the ceiling, the interesting stains that have formed on the ceiling from the hole in the roof, and the smell of mildew, you’re not going to keep my interest until you finally reveal that the old house our under appreciated writer main character has inherited is haunted. I need a little something more. Is he having troubles with the missus? Are his kids being rebellious little shits? Does his imaginary lover make life interesting? I not only want to know these things, but I can pretty much guarantee I’ll find them one hell of a lot more interesting than the aforementioned wall paper designs.


You need to have details, granted, but I prefer the details about the people and what they are doing and how they are interacting, to the constant reminders that the house needs a good paint job. I suspect most people would agree with me on that (I’m probably wrong, but leave me my delusions.).


Using another analogy, if you’re going to go slowly and reveal the tapestry of a carefully woven novel or story, make sure you show me the interesting aspects of the pattern. Make me give a damn.


Now, there are varying degrees of speed involved here, but we’re mostly going to stick with the extremes. I could write volumes about the trials and tribulations of every possible pace, but a lot of it would just repeat the same things again and again. No point to that, so we’ll skip it.


I will pause here, however to add that a book with a leisurely pace doesn’t necessarily have to speed up. It can stay nice and casual as long as something is going on. The best example of that I’ve run across recently was Erik Tomblin’s RIVERSIDE BLUES, which remains a truly haunting and powerful story. At no point in the story does the pace suddenly shift into overdrive and leave you breathless. It manages to mess with your breathing and heart rate while staying at a comfortable speed. That, friends and neighbors, is a sign of excellence that I envy deeply. Mark my words: If Tomblin keeps managing that sort of feat, he’ll be considered a master in short order.


A nearly flawless example of a gradual build up, by the way, can be found in Jeff Strand’s GRAVEROBBERS WANTED (NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.) Read it and you’ll understand.


So on now, to the full burn, full throttle story line. It’s damned hard to maintain that sort of attitude and pacing in a book. It works best in cases where the writer has decided to just pull out all the stops and damn the consequences. If that’s the trail you want to travel, have a blast, but expect every possible obstacle to get in your way.


In a nutshell, there are very few tricks that can be taught for this sort of thing, but there are a few. Short sentences help. We are, as readers, trained to notice things like commas and semicolons and even the occasional period. The more you use, the more your readers will pause in their reading. It’s an automatic thing. So, if you go crazy with the punctuation, you’re going to slow down the pace automatically. Therefore, short sentences, with less punctuation, will actually speed up the pacing on a subconscious level.


Ironically, there are a few authors out there who have chosen to go in the opposite way and will deliberately write longer sentences and descriptions without any unnecessary punctuation because the lack of punctuation will also increase the speed of a longer sentence. The end result is the same but the initial cause is different the change brought about can also cause the reader’s trained eye to unconsciously speed up the tempo for reading and cause a sort of mental breathlessness.


But short sentences can do it to. The shorter the better. A little sample of a description. Then you move on to the next sentence. And you do it all over again. Do it right and you have the desired effect. See what I mean?
Short paragraphs can have the exact same effect.


Problems can arise in that sort of writing. It can add to the desired effect, but is hardly enough to make handle the pacing alone. The story should be first and foremost. Smoke and mirrors can wait on the sidelines where they belong otherwise.


I really do tend to think that pacing is instinctive in most cases. What you need to say will be reflected in the way you write naturally, but it can’t hurt to be aware of a few of the parlor tricks used in generating the proper suspense.


Just make sure you are aware of the pacing when you write. It takes time and practice, just like damned near every part of writing. There are things I would definitely change about FIREWORKS if I were to write it today instead of ten years ago. That’s part of being a writer. If you aren’t changing, as I have said before, you’re probably doing something wrong.
James A. Moore

Sunday, May 20, 2012

V Wars

So, Jonathan Maberry, one of those writer types I know, decided to come out with an anthology called V Wars. It's a neat premise: A virus sneaks out of the polar ice caps and ignites a uniques problem within the human race. The problem? Vampires. These are most decidedly not the sort that sparkle in sunlight. Because Jonathan is one of the good guys he was even nice enough to invite me to play in his new anthology. Being me, I was delighted.

Herre are a couple of reviews for the forthcoming collection from IDW Publishing.

http://bit.ly/IGcKSs

http://bit.ly/Je1HAh

The anthology is available in June, by the way.


Friday, May 18, 2012

On BLIND SHADOWS

Sick of hearing about this yet?

I'm not! So, the latest. According to publisher Larry Roberts the novel will come out from the Arcane Wisdom imprint with, again, awesome cover art by Alex Mcvey. It is slated for release in late September or early October, which is perfect, really as time wise it's set up in the weeks preceding Halloween. Sometimes timing is everything.

Because I haven't shown it here, I'll offer up the back cover text for your perusal.

It goes something like this:  

When private investigator Wade Griffin moved away from his home town of Wellman Georgia he didn't think he would be back. Too many memories and too many bridges burned. But when an old friend is found brutally murdered and mutilated, nothing can keep Griffin from going home.
Teamed with another childhood friend, Sheriff Carl Price, Griffin begins an investigation that will lead down darker paths than he could ever have imagined.
Soon Griffin and Price find that there are secrets both dark and ancient lurking in the back woods of Crawford's Hollow. As Halloween approaches, something evil is growing near the roots of the Georgia mountains, and the keys to the mystery seem to be a woman of almost indescribable beauty and a dead man who won't stay dead.
As the body count mounts and the horrors pile up, Griffin and Price come to realize that the menace they face extends far beyond the boundaries of Wellman and that their opponents seem to hold all the cards. But the two lawmen have a few secrets of their own, and one way or another there will be hell to pay.
         Blind Shadows is a fast moving synthesis of high octane crime fiction and horror. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen meet Spillane and Elmore Leonard. A Southern Gothic full of guns and monsters and hardboiled action.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Alex McVey

I have now seen the preliminary sketches for BLIND SHADOWS.  I have to say, Alex is something else. I am eagerly looking forward to what he comes up with.

Maybe NOT politically correct...

So Alex McVey is doing the cover art for my new novel (with co-author Charles R. Rutledge) called BLIND SHADOWS. For lack of a better way to describe this particular beast, it is a pulp-noir-crime-horror-action fusion. Charles likes to refer to it as "Rednecks from the Outer-Dark" and he's not completely wrong with that description either. 


At any rate, Charles and me discussed the cover concepts and then talked with Alex about the notions and Alex in turn went about other projects first because that's how you do things if you want to make a living in this sort of business. And then Alex had a computer meltdown and lost a lot of his notes.


So while on Facebook he sent me an instant message asking if the woman on the cover was a brunette. 


My response:
"The woman on the cover is indeed a brunette

dark hair,

blue eyes

full body.

Wet dream

You know the type."


Not really my most politically  correct moment. And yet, absolutely accurate. 
I'm really looking forward to seeing what Alex comes up with.  He's one of the best artists out there. 



(This is one of Alex's other pieces for my books called LITTLE BOY BLUE. ) 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Writers Beware!

I'm just going to let this one speak for itself:  http://kellidunlap.com/?p=3345

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sometimes a little bloodshed is just the thing

There comes a point in any story where I get to pause, contemplate the fates of the characters I'm dealing with and, if I'm particularly lucky, I get to rub my hands together and offer a properly evil chortle of glee. I reached that point today in THE SEVEN FORGES.

One of my intrepid heroes (There's more than one, of course, because I do so love a large cast of characters) finally has a chance to get his revenge against a couple of fellows who done him wrong. I've been building to this moment, preparing for it, going over it in my mind and finally, I get to cut loose!

Just in time to go to work. Yep. Halfway through the great carnage I had to come to a halt and head off to the day job. Now I could let a thing like that get me down if I gave it too much thought, or I could simply choose to take advantage of the situation and contemplate the precise nature of the beast for a bit longer at work when it gets a bit quieter.

I suppose it's a good thing my coworkers know what I do for a living or a few of them might have been worried about the far away look in my eyes, or the occasional chuckle, or the look I get on my face while I'm contemplating the possible trajectory of blood splatters.

and as I prepare to delve back into the fray I find myself contemplating something new: Exactly how much damage does a blacksmith's hammer do when it strikes a man across the knee? How about the temple? How many bones get broken before a man begs for mercy?

I suppose it's time to go find out.

I'll be back later.

For now, let the violence begin....heh heh heh.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Storytellers Unplugged Revisited: Now with Extra Warts!


Want to know why no one ever writes about a perfect day? Because it’s boring. Want to know why no one cares about a perfect person having a perfect day? Same answer.
It’s simple, really. Your characters have to be human enough in one form or another for people to read about them and to care about them. If they don’t have any flaws, no one will be able to empathize.
I recently had one of my regular readers explain to me that he didn’t much care for one of my characters, Jonathan Crowley. When I asked why he said, “because nothing ever hurts him.” Well, having done several books with the character and having seen the character bloodied a dozen times I could have argued the point, but it would have been a waste of my time. He’s right to a certain extent. The character regenerates a good amount of the damage inflicted on him. That’s a side effect of dealing with fantasy, science fiction and horror characters. They aren’t exactly normal in a lot of cases. They aren’t even human from time to time. That one reader is the only person I’ve known to run across Crowley and have that problem, but that doesn’t make his point any less valid. On the other hand, the knowledge that he doesn’t dig the character isn’t going to change the way I handle the character, either. As I’ve said before, I write first and foremost for myself. If I’m not having fun with it, no one else is either.
Crowley has plenty of flaws. He’s borderline sociopathic, has all the social skills of Dr. Gregory House M.D., is arrogant to a fault and quick to lose his temper. He just happens to be hard to kill.
Like every character, he has flaws. He should, too. Listen, if you want to write stories about characters who are perfect, I can’t stop you. But I can almost guarantee you that no one aside from you will give the least bit of a damn about them, with the possible exception of your mother. Mind you, she’ll probably just tell you she likes the characters you’re creating for fear of hurting your feelings.
In DC Comics, Superman is nearly indestructible, but he has flaws. He has the allergy to Kryptonite and there’s the fact that his powers come from hanging around a yellow sun and basking in the radiations released by that particular color of star. Over at Marvel, Spiderman has all sorts of awesome powers and he can be taken out of commission by the common cold. There have to be limits to the abilities of these characters because without them, there is no conflict. Seriously, with all of the power that Superman holds he could rule the world if he wasn’t mentally stable. So to make sure that sooner or later there’s something that can pose a threat to him, so that there’s a struggle he has to overcome, they gave him weaknesses aside from merely having a fondness for Lois Lane and a few other people. I’ll do you one better: the fine folks at DC have even managed to use his status against him a couple of times by having him distance himself from humanity too much, to the point where he not only felt a bit alienated, but to the point where his alien heritage came back to bite him in his invulnerable rear end.
It is the flaws that shape your characters as surely as their physical appearance or their particular way of looking at the world. Going to a different media and a name I already mentioned, let’s look at Greg House from the show House (We can also look at his literary inspiration, Sherlock Holmes). House is a genius. It’s that simple. He can diagnose most medical cases without ever talking to the patients. He can observe them in action and normally tell you what their problem is. He’s that good. In fact it’s that very ability that makes him the best damned medical diagnostician around. That said, he also has a medical issue of his own, involving atrophied muscles in his leg and chronic pain. Pain so bad that he started taking heavier and heavier doses of serious narcotics in order to function. Through the course of the show he has evolved beautifully. He’s gone from a rude bastard with a bum leg to an addicted rude bastard with a bum leg, to a seriously delusional and addicted rude bastard with a bum leg. Through the course of multiple seasons the character has evolved and along the way the writers and creators of the character never forgot that he has a serious medical condition or that he’s an addict. This season, just to change things up, the show’s creative force have Gregory House dealing with the fact that he is now clean and sober and wants desperately to stay that way.
Want to know what’s even more amazing about that show? Every single major player on the series is just as flawed as House in their own ways. Those personal neurosis and the complicated relationships the characters get into are what make people come back to the show every week. Sure, there are cool medical cases with (mostly) good medical research, but in the long run, the characters and their flaws and the interactions they have with other flawed characters are what bring the viewers back.
Whether you love or hate soap operas, the same is true of the stories that interweave within the scripts of the regular daytime dramas. The characters and their flaws are the draw that keeps viewers coming back. The same is true in most ongoing book series, too.
Just a little food for thought. You want people to care about your creations? Remember that they can’t be perfect. If they are, no one will be able to understand them or care for them except for you and maybe your mom.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sword & Sorcery: Culture Shock

My friend Charles Rutledge, who currently knows more about my work in progress than anyone else because we tend to talk shop when we get together for dinner once a week, has also been gracious enough to work as my first reader in Seven Forges (or whatever I end up calling it).  While we were doing that dinner thing--and between discussions of several different movies, comic titles and the occasional mutual acquaintances who have turned their lives into train wrecks--he pointed out that a lot of what Seven Forges deals with is culture shock, at least so far. That's true to a certain extent. Actually, to a very substantial extent if I have to be honest.

That's because I have dealt with that to some extent, I suppose. When I was younger my family moved around a lot. A lot. To the tune of seventeen different schools in my 12 years of schooling, said schools being spread out from Georgia to Colorado, California, Louisiana and Maryland. Not surprisingly, I dealt with a little culture shock along the way.

I bring this up solely because I am often fascinated by how much our lives impact our writing, even on an unconscious level. It's almost never something that I'm conscious of at the time of the writing, but is instead something I notice months or years later when I'm thinking back on the various novels and stories I've written. Back in my earliest days as a writer I had several subplots that dealt with father versus son in different conflicts. Now I could look at that and say I was dealing with issues that have swept back to ancient mythologies, where one band of powerful beings usurped power from their predecessors as was the case with the Greek pantheon of gods taking the place of the Titans as an example. I probably would;t be wring, either. I could also acknowledge that when I was younger I was still dealing with the fact that my father left before I was born and that one of the main reasons I went to seventeen different schools was because the man never paid penny one of child support or even sent a Christmas card during my formative years.

I don't think either would be wrong. At the end of the day does that matter very much? I honestly don't know. Listen I know plenty of writers who work in the same genres as me who were raised by both parents and had a nice, stable childhood. I know others who make my colorful childhood look like I was raised on a steady diet of Disney movies and apple pie. I tend to think that some people are just wired the way they are. I also acknowledge that some people are very heavily impacted by the life they are planted in when they are born. Genetics and environment both play their part I suspect.

At any rate, Charles is right. Seven Forges has a lot to do with culture shock.

Of course it also has to do with brutal conflicts, beasties the size of rabid polar bears (but with less cheery dispositions) and several individuals who are really very proficient with a large variety of bladed weapons. So far I'm enjoying the heck out of learning more about the rather large cast and I am currently right at 45,000 words into their story. One of our intrepid heroes is traveling with ten strangers. He's there to observe. They're there to meet with several very large groups of armed solders and to whittle the numbers down. If this goes half as well as it's playing out in my mind, it'll be a blast.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Storytellers Unplugged Revisited.

A while back I used to do articles for a site called Storytellers Unplugged. I recommend the site for a good source of information regarding the writing process. From time to time I'm likely going to repost the articles I did over there.

This would be one of those times.

On writing about combat.


Once upon a time I was reading a manuscript for a fellow writer who will remain unnamed. I was having a fine time, until I got to the first combat scene. During the middle of a knock down, drag out magical battle where flesh is burning and brick walls are being turned into so much stone powder, the main antagonist of the scene stops what he’s doing and says “Ah, trying to use the (insert lame spell name here) on me, I see.”

Yeah. I circled the paragraph and when I saw my fellow writer a few days later, I asked him if he’d ever in his life been in any sort of serious fight. He responded, as I suspected he would, with a negative on that particular aspect of his life. Excellent as far as I’m concerned. He’s a nice guy and I personally believe that violence belongs in movies and books and not in our personal lives, excluding only certain types of sports.  But it also explained something. As I have been in a few fights in my time, including multiple sparring sessions, I can pretty much state as a fact that neither I nor any of the folks I was sparring with or having a serious fight with, ever stopped to comment on what an opponent was trying to use as a combat maneuver. The closest I’ve ever come was “good one” mumbled by one of my opponents past his mouth guard after I finally managed to get one decent jab past his defenses. The first of the fight as I recall.

Hand to hand combat requires a great deal of energy and concentration. So does armed combat for that matter. Normally you’re going to be far too busy avoiding getting parts of  your anatomy turned into hamburger to even consider carefully phrasing a compliment, especially if the fight you’re engaged in is life or death.  It might work occasionally for Hollywood, but the odds are good that, as with my friend above, the comment will show an appalling lack of experience.

Fiction writers work in the realm of the fantastic, even if they are writing a romantic comedy. We are in the business of selling lies. Those lies might be close to reality or they might be radically removed from anything close to what the author has ever experienced, but either way they are lies. That means we are liars. And that means if we want to sell our lies, we have to learn to lie convincingly.

In other words we have to know when to engage the realism.  I tend to write a lot of violent sequences in my works. It’s part of what I enjoy about writing as well as as tool I use to move my stories forward. I don’t care how excessive the combat is, and it is often far larger than would ever be possible in reality, I want to make the trappings of the scene at least a little believable.

I can only go from my own experiences, but as a rule, going back to the first comments made in the article, I’m pretty darned sure I’ve never commented on what someone was trying to do to me in combat while they were trying to do it. I saved it for later, after it was done and I’d had time to consider the situation.

Most of the fights and sparring sessions I’ve had were over too fast for me to have time to chat up my opponent, or I was far too busy concentrating on not getting my face knocked off my skull.

On DEEPER, my publisher complimented me for understanding that firing a handgun takes effort. He was especially pleased with the fact that I understood how firing several hundred rounds from multiple weapons would be like absolute torture to the person doing it. Not only are handguns and automatic assault rifles deceptively heavy, they also have recoil. In order to keep the barrel aimed in the right direction, you have to constantly aim and adjust for that recoil. Get into a situation where you are firing at a small army of monsters, and by the time it’s done your arms are going to feel like you’ve been working out extra hard on the weights to impress that cute girl (Or guy) over in the corner who’s been flirting with you for the last half hour.

Even in light contact sparring sessions, you’re likely to get a few bruises before the fighting is done, because from time to time you’re going to block or be blocked by a part of the body that isn’t covered by pads and doesn’t have much meat to protect the bones. Let me tell you, your shin crashing into somebody else’s shin might stop you from getting kicked in the stomach, but it’s not going to make your leg feel any better about what you just put it through. Or, as one person in the know put it to me: The boxing gloves are designed to protect your hands more than they are designed to protect your opponent’s face. Getting hit by those pads hurts like a mother.

Fighting of any kind is a matter of survival, and if you want your readers to believe that someone is in a fight for their lives, the characters should act in believable ways. It’s likely going to be easier for someone who’s been in several fights to swallow a bad guy who can throw cars than a bad guy who makes casual conversation with the hero who’s trying to separate his head from his shoulders.

I mean, really, there’s insane and then there’s just plain crazy.

James A. Moore

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thank You, Joss Whedon




Yep. You heard me. I need to offer the man a round of applause. Why? Because The Avengers (Marvel’s The Avengers, technically) was pretty much awesome. I’ve already read a few of the reviews, some agree, some disagree and that’s half the fun. But I had a darned good time with the movie.
I wasn't actually planning on seeing the movie, mind you. I’d planned on staying at home on my day off and writing like a demon and maybe seeing the movie sometime next week, but my brother was talking anbout seeing it, and the ticket prices were right and I really, really liked the idea of seeing The Avenegrs early enough in the day that the theatre would not be overwhelmed with patrons. How early? 9 AM. Seriously. Seems if you go early enough to some theatres the prices are lower and the crowds are nonexistent. That’s two of my favorite things together. So despite my original intentions me and my sister and my brother all got our geek on together and went to see The Avengers.
Now I have to be honest here and say I anticipated having a good time. I expected it because Marvel has been doing a really good job with their movies since they decided to link them. Yes, I even include The Incredible Hulk, which a lot of people didn’t like and I thought was genuinely fun. Was it art? Maybe not, but I still had a good time with it.
Joss Whedon gets it. That’s what I loved about this flick. Not only did Whedon direct, he co-plotted and scripted the movie and he actually knows the characters as well as he should in order to be making a movie of this scope. I suppose that as a standalone movie it might be considered weak, but not for me. I understand the characters, their histories and motivations and I appreciate the interplay between them. And I was pleased with the pacing of the entire affair. One reviewer who panned the movie accused Whedon of making big scenes with very little plot. While I disagree, I can understand where said reviewer is coming from. There’s some major action going on here, and it’s often breathtaking. There aren’t very many quiet moments, but as this is a movie based on a comic book, frankly, there shouldn’t be a lot of quiet moments. The quiet moments and the exposition are saved for the individual films for each character. In the Avengers comics, the same is true. Oh, sure, you get a little hint here and there, but if each issue dealt with the lives of each major player, you’d have one page of combat and little else per monthly installment. And you know what? Whedon didn’t get a monthly installment here, or even a weekly episode. He had to play with a little over two hours to tell an entire story of fairly epic scope and he had to do it with characters that needed a quick introduction each. In that  time the characters had to meet, find a common threat, unite and then open a monumental can of whoop ass. All of which was accomplished with typical Whedon style, which is to say with action, moments of pure terror, sequences of spectacular visual combat and, of course, a great set of witty one-liners that are carried off flawlessly by the talented cast.
Robert Downey Jr is perfect as Tony Stark/Iron Man. He’s not just a cocky so and so, he’s also a super genius who is normally ahead of the curve by leaps and bounds. He knows it, he’s comfortable with it and he carries the part off as I seriously think only he could. Chris Hemsworth reprises Thor just as well, with that same slight arrogance and the sure knowledge that he’s the baddest of the bad (The Hulk, portrayed very nicely by Mark Ruffalo who had some mighty big shoes to fill on that front) disagrees a few times and does so with style. It says a lot for Ruffalo that he conveys so much despite being hampered by limited lines as the Hulk (voiced by Lou Ferrigno) and his portrayal of Bruce Banner is as good as I’ve seen. Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye/Clint Barton is better than I had hoped for and I had high expectations from the man who has yet to disappoint me on the acting front and best of all, Scarlett Johansson carries off the part of Natasha Romanoff/ the Black Widow brilliantly. Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers shows exactly why a guy with far less punch than Thor or Iron Man can successfully command Thor and Iron Man and Samuel Jackson is, as almost always, a delight. His Nick Fury works very well. Really, there wasn't a weak member of the cast. I mean that. It’s rare that I can say that for a movie.
Thor’s half-brother Loki is back as the heavy in this one and Tom Hiddelston plays him perfectly. Before the Thor movie I’d never heard of Hiddelston. As it stands now, I’ll be seeking out other things he’s worked in because he stands out that well in what is, frankly, one hell of a strong cast.
And back to Joss Whedon for a moment: I thought he’d be an excellent choice for The Avengers because he’s so very good with a large ensemble cast and he proved me right. I must assume he knows that everyone will have a favorite character and for that reason he made sure that all of the players got screen time. There isn’t a single character who didn’t fit in when necessary and who didn’t progress the story in a beneficial way. Whedon is known for strong female characters and he surely doesn’t disappoint in this one with either Johansson’s Black Widow or Cobie Smulder’s unexpectedly fine portrayal of SHIELD agent Maria Hill. I’ve only ever seen Smulder on the TV show How I Met Your Mother, and seldom seen her in a dramatic or action sequence. Wow. The Widow’s only moments of emotional weakness are when she is playing against a person she’s manipulating  (She IS a spy after all and very good at her job) and shortly after having a half ton green monster ripping walls aside to get to her. As for Maria Hill, damn, I think I like her better now than I ever did in the comic.
Marvel’s The Avengers has it all, as far as I am concerned. It ties to the other movies well, it runs with the mythologies that Marvel has created and it also examines additional threats for somewhere down the line. Foreshadowing and character development and of course, massive doses of serious comic book action. Marvel got it right this time.
So I’ll say it again: Thank you, Joss Whedon. You did not disappoint this particular fan on any level.