Top 5 on the Strip: Comic book squads edition

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The green crew with attitude shows up on a variety of our favorite lists. We grew up in an era where the Turtles ruled everything for a good solid three years, culminating with the second live-action film. What most of the youngins didn’t know is that the Turtles got their start in comics in black-and-white incarnations in 1984. The comics are highly sought after now because of their rarity.

The X-Men: Charles Xavier’s men have always been our favorite group of superheroes. The merry mutants have always been at the forefront of societal issues (mutantism equals racism to a degree), and the group has always been relatable. We’re excited that the comic book mainstays are coming into the MCU at some point; they deserve to be done justice.

The Avengers: Given there are numerous lineups and different locations for the Avengers, we must narrow down this pick to any squad featuring Steve Rogers’ Captain America. To us, it isn’t the Avengers proper unless Rogers is involved to lead the charge. And, yes, we’re quite fond of the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the group.

Justice League: No list on squads would be complete without the current DC universe lineup. Everyone on the squad is necessary: There is no Justice League without Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman or Cyborg. Despite the most recent movie not being a cohesive flick, the squad represented there is the core experience that is the Justice League. Also, it made Aquaman cool.

The Boys: Relatively obscure until the recently fantastic Amazon Prime show, the Boys are great at one thing: stopping the diabolical supes of their universe. Billy Butcher is cool as hell, and his entire crew is messed up in some way but loyal and awesome. In the same vein, the Seven are amoral and ridiculously lead by Homelander but just as shady and more weird than the Boys.

Otaku Corner: Gundam Thunderbolt Vol. 1

Gundam side story delves deeper in the mecha ethos

“Only the dead know the end of war.” — Plato

As many of our readers know of my love for the Gundam series, I have mentioned the series’ legendary mark on anime and pop culture many times. Manga is no exception since numerous Gundam series were printed out and read by many Gundam fans and big robot lovers, alike.

On a recent trip to 2nd & Charles, I found one of a few English-translated adaptations of Gundam manga that was a side story set during the events of the original series. While the main characters were not present in this series, it nevertheless told of the widening conflict between the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation as seen through the eyes of two destined individuals, each with their own views of justice. “Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt “was my ticket to this latest chapter of the Gundam Universe.

Set in the Universal Century year 0079, the space colony Side 3 declared independence as conflict between Zeon and Earth began. One year later, both sides engaged in a battle for an area of destroyed space colonies known as the Thunderbolt sector. During this period, Daryl Lorenz, top sniper for a special unit known as the Living Dead Division, has enabled Zeon forces to control Thunderbolt sector without loss. However, his luck changes when Io Fleming, ace pilot for the Earth Federation’s Moore Brotherhood fleet, ambushes a Living Dead member, killing him and taking an enemy Zaku suit. As a result, Io is given a new mission to further disrupt Zeon control but with a new mobile suit: Gundam.

As the Living Dead discover that a Gundam is being used, the battle between Io and Daryl intensifies amid the wreckage of Io’s home colony, Side 4: More. With both sides hellbent on each other’s destruction, a new rivalry is set in the Gundam saga with various music types providing the soundtrack to a battle where there is only one victor.

Reading MSG: Thunderbolt is a new take on the battle between Earth and space. While Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino provided the original story, Yasuo Ohtagaki provided a fresh perspective via story and art. I felt invested in Daryl and Io because tragedy has taken away happier times in their lives. Both characters were born in affluent families who prospered as merchants, but war upended their lives. Daryl became a solider but was severely injured losing both legs, which gained his family the right to resettle on a Zeon colony and other benefits. He also had to adapt to using prosthetic legs to regain his ability to walk and to use a mobile suit.

Io lost his father, who was mayor of Side 4, to suicide during the Zeon assault. Fortunately, Io’s friends Claudia Peer, who is his commanding officer (and lover), and Cornelius Qaqa, the fleet’s engineer, are there with him to carry the task of avenging their lost home. Daryl also has the support of his unit, who are also dealing with the hellish results of war. Ohtagaki-san’s detail to story and art was excellent from start to finish, especially with the designs of the Gundam, Zaku and Rick Dom suits.

The in-between drama for Io and Daryl is also accurate in showing the types of problem that military servicemembers may deal with during and in between battles. At these points in the manga, I felt that pulling for both characters is justifiable as they are fighting a physical and psychological war on all fronts. Finally, the music selection closed the deal for me while reading Thunderbolt. Jazz and pop music set each chapter tone as if I was part of the battle. Viz Media did a great job on adaptation and translation of Thunderbolt with praise going to STAN! And Joe Yamazaki for carefully presenting Thunderbolt. They presented the side story carefully without compromising what Gundam is about.

MSG: Thunderbolt is one of the few Gundam manga adaptations I felt did justice to a series without sacrificing its crucial parts to tell its story. As Daryl and Io continue their battle, I plan to review their battles in the future.

Brandon Beatty is associate editor of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

We remember Kirby Morrow, 1973-2020

I’m dedicating this review to the memory of Kirby Morrow. Morrow — best known for voicing Trowa Barton from Gundam Wing, Billy Katagiri from Gundam 00, Teru Mikami from Death Note and Miroku from the Inyusha series and its recent spinoff Yashahime: Princess Half Demon — passed on Nov. 18, 2020. Rest in peace, Kirby. You are forever loved. You are forever remembered. You are forever Gundam.

Marvel character highlight #27: MODOK

Name: M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing)

Alias: George Tarleton (real name), Big Head, Chairman, Damocles Rivas, Gerlach, M.O.D.O.C. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing), M.O.D.O.F. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Fun), Mister Potato Head, Moddy, the Saint, Scientist Supreme

Affiliation: A.I.M., Intelligencia, K Sector

Special abilities: Super genius intellect, telekinetic blasts, force field projection, telepathy, mind control

Background: George Tarleton worked as a technician at A.I.M. in Pennsylvania. He was experimented on by the Scientist Supreme, which resulted in a mutation of a large head and dramatically increased intellect. Once the experimentation was complete, George was dubbed M.O.D.O.C (Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing) and placed in a weight-assisting vehicle to support his comically oversized head. Because of his vastly superior intellect, M.O.D.O.K. quickly overthrew his former boss and changed his name to reflect his murderous mindset. M.O.D.O.K. has since been depowered and returned to a normal human state by Amadeus Cho (aka Totally Awesome Hulk).

Relationships: M.O.D.O.K. Superior, clone; Sean Madigan (Head Case), son

First Versus appearance: Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Appearances in other media:

Television: Iron Man (1994 animated series), Iron Man: Armored Adventures, The Super Hero Squad Show, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble, Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy (animated short), Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, Spider-Man (2010s animated series), New Warriors (canceled show), M.O.D.O.K. (upcoming animated series)

Video games: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Marvel Super Hero Squad, Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, Marvel: Avengers Alliance, Iron Man 3: The Official Game, Marvel Heroes, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel Future Fight, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Marvel: Contest of Champions, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, Marvel’s Avengers

Anime Lounge #19: Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi Propose Hen OVA

Series: Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi Propose Hen

Episodes: 1

Premise: This is the OVA follow up to the goings on in boys’ love series Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi. In this short episode, one of the crew working at Marukawa Publishing is getting married and the entire shojo manga department, Emerald, is invited. During the proceedings, Onodera and Takano interact with guests and each other. It comes to light that Takano has a certain thing on his mind.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. If you’ve watched all other seasons of Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi — which you should have — this is a delightful treat. It’s a cute sort of wrap up showing just where everyone is now.

Breakout character: Takano Masamune. He always stands out as one of the main characters but here he is just too delicious in his hinting.

Best episode: N/A

Where it’s going?: Even though it’s not what you’d expect for Takano and Onodera after some time away, it’s obvious that their relationship has progressed. Hopefully, in the future we will see something along the lines of Onodera and Takano getting married as well.

Property Review: Iron Man

The first coming of Tony Stark is one of the best MCU origin stories

Iron Man
Marvel Studios, 2008

The one that started them all. The metaphorical start of Robert Downey Jr.’s comic book-like redemption arc. The birthplace of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The beginning of the beginning. All of these titles are appropriate for Iron Man, the 2008 origin story of veteran Avenger Tony Stark. Another title to throw in there? Magnificent.

It’s not just the tight story telling or excellent acting chops of the main cast. It’s also seeing Stark make his turn into the Avenger we all know and love. Stark starts out super hedonistic and self-serving. Through his wounding and subsequent capture by the Ten Rings organization, little by little, you see Stark have the needed epiphany that he was, in fact, War Machine, not Iron Man. Half of its fun ride comes from this need to see him come to that realization. The other half is, of course, learning that Stark can apply his genius for good and productive ways while still being the billionaire philanthropic playboy he declares himself to be to Steve Rogers in the later Avengers film.

Where Iron Man particularly succeeds, however, is the parallel Stark shares with perfect portrayer Robert Downey Jr. What most new generation Marvel fans don’t realize is, is when Iron Man was casted, Downey Jr. was not the bankable star that he is now. The man’s past is well known to older fans and caused several — including himself — to pause.

But the single most compelling thing about Downey Jr. is his will to better himself, work every day like most others to redeem himself and grow. That indomitable will shows in every second that Downey Jr. is Tony Stark/Iron Man. He is Iron Man. He is the living embodiment of the character who struggled to redeem himself and be a team player. Downey Jr. is such perfect casting that there is no one else that could ever step into the role. He became the character.

And for all that Iron Man succeeds in doing bombastically, it quietly sets up the rest of the cinematic universe perfectly. Iron Man in its stumbling glory is what we now know as the standard for a Marvel movie. It makes Stark relatable, tells his superhero origin story and sets up future films with a deftness that reminds us that there is, in fact, a plan for all of this. Now that we’ve seen that plan unfold, we can come back and praise the beginning for all that it is. The heart and soul of the MCU lives on.

Like the comics: 8

Acting: 8.5

Story: 8

Total: 24.5/30 or 8

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Strip Talk #29: We have lost our beloved king and so we mourn

We lost him. Somewhere in that unrelatable ethos of the beyond, Chadwick Boseman is forming that megawatt electric grin. He’s looking down on his legacy and seeing the millions that mourn him. He’s seeing the tributes and the outpouring of grief.

And he is smiling.

Somehow, in a moment where his star shot brightest and highest, we lost him.

Our king has been stricken and lost. He has ascended to a higher throne, a throne we cannot comprehend. But we dare to dream, that he — our erstwhile marvelous king — is in a better place. A place that we cannot imagine but one we know that he ascended to because that is what it is to know of a man so great and yet so plain in his demeanor and words. We just know that of him. We feel that of him when we mention his name.

Chadwick Boseman did not pass away because of cancer; no, he transitioned in greatness as a man prepossessed of a quiet nature and commanding presence. Opening to the world as a myriad of characters, Boseman caught the eye and the heart of many through his measured portrayal of King T’Challa in the awesome, inspiring bombastic Black Panther. He was T’Challa, in portrayal and visage. In spirit and in mercy. He invited us into Wakanda, where black people are technologically advanced and free. He made us feel as though we were his loyal subjects, at any moment just as prepared to throw up the Wakandian salute as die for his highness. That a man could inspire that in nearly three hours of screen time is a testament to his power.

But we lost him.

There will never be another T’Challa or Chadwick Boseman. As it should be. We do not deserve a star so bright, and we should not ever be so deserving of the essence of him ever again.

Lo, we lost him, but he will reign forever.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh[at]gaminginsurrection.com