Strip Talk #18: Days of Future Past isn’t a reality fast enough

 

Photo by Brandon Beatty/Gaming Insurrection GI recently took a field trip to the movies. Editor-in-chief Lyndsey Hicks stands with the X-Men: Days of Future Past promotional poster.
Photo by Brandon Beatty/Gaming Insurrection
GI recently took a field trip to the movies. Editor-in-chief Lyndsey Hicks stands with the X-Men: Days of Future Past promotional poster.

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineIt’s no secret that I favor Marvel over DC in the grand scheme of comic book things. I always have: I began watching X-Men: The Animated Series almost as soon as the show began airing, and I’m far more knowledgeable about Marvel’s characters for several reasons. One of those reasons is because I find the writing in Marvel properties to be far more tight and logically sound, even with some of the more preposterous plots roaming around the Marvel universe. And one more reason is because the X-Men: Days of Future Past arc is my all-time favorite of any comic book series.

Partially because of the introduction of Bishop and the fact that Sentinels finally get their moment in the spotlight, Days of Future Past is pretty fun to watch and read. I’ve seen the entire Animated Series adaptation and I have to say it’s my favorite. Yes, I’m well aware that Kitty Pryde is the original person to travel back in time in the comics, but I love Bishop in that role. It was possible to believe that Bishop would find a way back and become a catalyst in the future changing, or shifting, if you believe that parallel universes replace each other.

And the best part about the entire saga? For me, the lack of Summers overexposure. I can even deal with the pushing of Wolverine here if it means that I won’t have to deal with the combined might of Jean and Scott at the forefront. Yes, we get a little bit of that “Summers magic” with Rachel Summers but it’s a small price to pay for the relative comfort of knowing that neither Jean nor Scott are hoarding the spotlight yet again. Though, my problem with the tale is who the hell is Rachel Summers exactly? If you don’t do some advanced reading and figure out who she is on your own, you might never figure it out.

Despite some loopy alternate universe travel and sketchy explanations for Summers’ involvement, the tale is solid. I liken it on the same level as Age of Apocalypse in that there’s a plot involving villains who manage to take over the world through their own nefarious means and misguided extremism. Except in this case, the plan backfires and everyone — mutant and human — suffer the consequences. You can’t get more “X-Men” than that.

With a movie adaptation coming in about two months (May 23, as a matter of fact), you can be rest assured that I will be there on opening day more than likely. I’ve been awaiting this newest installment of the X-Men movie franchise ever since the Last Stand debacle since I don’t consider X-Men: First Class a true sequel to Last Stand; it’s a reboot, albeit a good one. I’m ready to jump back into the world of the X-Men, and what better way than to leap into the arms of my favorite arc on the big screen?

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

Otaku Corner: Tokyo Tribes

Gang warfare takes over Tokyo’s streets

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome to another of Otaku Corner, GI’s own little spot of The Strip where we bring you the finest manga and anime this side of the gaming world. I’m sharing a great series that led the recent pop culture marriage of Japanese manga art and American urban hip-hop into a worldwide phenomenon, Tokyo Tribes. Tokyo Tribes has set the stage for great titles like “Samurai Champloo” and “Afro Samurai” to gain their well-deserved popularity.

Created by Santa Inoue and published by Tokyopop, Tokyo Tribes Volume one follows the exploits of four “tribes” or gangs, who dominate sections of Tokyo’s most known locales as a result of a peace truce established after riots nearly destroyed the city. The series focuses on Kai, second in charge of the Musashinokuni Saru, and Mera, head of the Bukuro Wu-Ronz. They were once friends but are now mortal enemies because of the untimely death of Mera’s girlfriend for which Kai is blamed. This hatred is reignited when three Saru Shibuya members are killed in Bukuro by the Wu-Ronz.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Hearing the news, Kai wants payback, but wisely follows the advice of Tera, Saru’s leader, to not act. Meanwhile, the Wu-Ronz head to Musashinokuni on illegal errands requested by their benefactors. Along the way, they instigate battle with the Shinjuku Hands by injuring one of their members. Not knowing that the Wu-Ronz are in town, Kai takes Tera to the local train station and while buying food at a local burger joint, Tera is attacked by Mera. Tera survives, but instead of getting medical help, Tera goes after Kai along with two other Saru members, Hashem and Steno, to stop him from chasing Mera. The manga ends with Kai and Mera facing each other before a rooftop battle.

Readers will not be disappointed with Volume one. As an original work, it’s main theme of urban life in Tokyo is a refreshing approach from the picture-perfect images presented in other manga. Inoue-san, fusing hip-hop and manga, also pays homage to R&B artists Mary J. Blige and Anthony Hamilton, who have a huge following in Japan. Tokyopop deserves credit as publisher Stuart Levy, translator Alexis Kirsch and adaptation writer David Walker stuck with the theme of Japanese edge and hip-hop charm instead of imitating other series for sales.

Tokyo Tribes is the first manga to ignite the destined mash up of hip-hop and comic art in modern media. Its storyline will hook you and leave you wanting more. Will Saru survive the flames that will erupt in Tokyo? Keep reading Otaku Corner to find out.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Anime Lounge #08: Lovely Complex Ep. 1-12

Lovely ComplexSeries: Lovely Complex

Episodes: 1 to 12

Anime-Lounge

Premise: Two high school sophomores, Risa Koizumi and Atsushi Ōtani, are friends. That’s not out of the ordinary, but their physical characteristics are: Koizumi is 5-foot-8, and Ōtani is 5-foot-1. Each are attracted to the opposite of their stature, as Koizumi has confessed to a short boy before and Ōtani has had a crush on a tall girl. They normally get along and have things in common but their previous confessions are a stumbling block that keeps them from realizing that they are perfect for each other. Koizumi manages to realize it first and so begins her struggle to get her best friend to notice that they belong together.

Is it worth watching? YES. The episodes are genuinely funny and you learn as the characters learn to accept each other as is. Neither Koizumi nor Ōtani can help their height in life, but they slowly realize that it’s not the outside that’s important; it’s the inside that counts. This is quite possibly one of the best romantic comedy anime out there.

Breakout character: Koizumi. She’s the romantic female lead of the anime, but she shines on her own almost immediately. You root for her despite her awkwardness and you want to see her succeed because she has a great heart. Also, her fashion sense is unparalleled in nearly any other anime out there. She should probably do well because of that alone.

Funniest episode: Episode 12, “Recapture Love! Improve as a Girl with Honmei Chocolate!!” It’s got a few moments of humor mixed in with drama, but the humor is subtle and makes several situations a little more bearable than one would think as you’re watching them. The outright funniest part of the episode is when Koizumi throws a box of chocolate at Ōtani, which is hilarious when you realize that she really wants him to take that chocolate.

Where it’s going: The rooting value of Koizumi and Ōtani increases a great deal. You’re going to see just how much it takes for a couple to get together and how the change in relationship between two longtime friends can make them better people. Also, their lives are coming to a critical junction and how that plays out is important, as well.

Marvel character highlight #17: Rogue

Name: Anna Marierogue

Affiliation: X-Men, Avengers Unity Division, Salvagers, Lights, Advocates Squad, X-Treme X-Men, X.S.E., Brotherhood of Evil Mutants

Special abilities: Rogue has the ability to absorb the talents, knowledge, memories, personality and abilities of a person that she comes into direct skin-to-skin contact with. The transfer of these abilities and knowledge is relative the length of time that she touches the person, though the transfer can become permanent. When she first absorbed an ability, the transfer was involuntary. As of the events of the Mutant Messiah arc, she has gained complete control over the usage of the absorption. With the absorption of Ms. Marvel’s (Carol Danvers version) powers, Rogue gained flight, near invulnerability and superhuman strength. She has since lost the Ms. Marvel powers, but retained the absorption ability.

Background: Rogue began life in Caldecott County, Miss., with her father, mother and maternal aunt. One night when she was 14 years old, she kissed a boy, Cody Robbins. At the moment that they kissed, Rogue’s latent mutant powers activated. The activation put Robbins in a permanent coma. Rogue then ran away from home and eventually ended up in the care of Mystique, who used her to further the goals of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Rogue permanently absorbed the powers of Ms. Marvel during a fight and joined her once-foes, the X-Men. Rogue later became involved with Gambit, lost her Ms. Marvel powers and fully realized the evolution and development of her powers after a trek to discover the true intent behind diaries of Destiny.

Relationships: Owen, father; Priscilla, mother; Carrie, aunt; Cody Robbins, crush/first kiss; Gambit (Remy LeBeau), lover; Mystique (Raven Darkholme), foster mother; Destiny (Irene Adler), foster mother; Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), foster brother; Graydon Creed, adoptive brother

First Versus appearance: X-Men vs. Street Fighter

Appearances in other media: Marvel vs. Capcom, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, X-Men (Sega Genesis), X-Men: Mojo World, X-Men: Mutant Academy 2; X-Men: Next Dimension, X2: Wolverine’s Revenge, Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro, X-Men Legends, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, Marvel Heroes, Deadpool, X-Men (film), X2: X-Men United (film), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), X-Men: Days of Future Past (film), X-Men: The Animated Series (television), Marvel Anime: X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men (television), X-Men: Evolution (television), Spider-Man: The Animated Series (television)

Property review: X-Men: The Last Stand

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com
Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

X-Men: The Last Stand
20th Century Fox/Marvel Entertainment, 2006

 

X-cruciatingly bad x-ecution

 

We get that the X-Men film properties reside in a different universe than the comic book version. And we have no problems suspending disbelief when asked. But we will never sit idly by and watch a film take so many liberties with source material that entire comic book arcs are destroyed in one fell swoop.

So it begins with X-Men: The Last Stand, the third in the trilogy of films centered on our favorite mutants of Marvel fame. Last Stand was riding high on the fumes of X2: X-Men United, and rightfully so since X2 did a pretty decent job telling the tale of (the previously reviewed) God Loves, Man Kills and starting the Phoenix Saga. And that’s when things take an ominous turn. We should have known something was up when Bryan Singer didn’t return to the director’s chair. We really should have known something was up when Last Stand’s synopsis came calling. While X2 did a passable job with sort of mixing arcs together, Last Stand attempted to mesh Dark Phoenix Saga and the Gifted arc with little-to-no success. The film, while technically sound and well-paced, is riddled with errors and unnecessary changes that detract from the overall viewing experience.

To explain just what we find fault with in Last Stand, let’s start from the beginning. And bear with the spoilers here; they’re integral to explaining everything wrong with the film and are a great example of why Last Stand should have never been made. If you don’t want it spoiled — though you should have seen it by now — stop reading here.

First, Cyclops was never killed by Jean Grey, either as the Phoenix or Dark Phoenix, at any point in their history together. The Phoenix entity made sure that Jean was kept alive and healed so that she could reunite with Cyclops at some point. The Phoenix understood and knew that Cyclops was important to Jean. So, killing him made no sense.

Second, Phoenix would have never and never, ever killed Professor X. Charles Xavier was a mentor to Jean and was one of the few people on Earth that the woman trusted. She wouldn’t have killed him. Also, Wolverine was angry with Xavier about erecting the psychic blocks in Jean’s mind, but Cyclops was actually the person who had that particular scripted conversation with Xavier.

Third, Beast was a member of the team for many years and didn’t just return during the Phoenix Saga. He was there the entire time.

Fourth, while we’re on the subject of team members’ appearances in the film, we should point out a long-standing issue we’ve had with the X-Men films: Rogue and Iceman were NEVER a couple. Likewise, Kitty Pride and Iceman didn’t flirt with each other. Kitty was actually interested in Colossus — which was outright ignored in the film — and Iceman was a frequent makeup/break up paramour of Lorna Dane (Polaris). The made-up romance triangle with de-aged characters is an insult.

Fifth, Juggernaut is not a mutant. If the writers had bothered to do some research, they would have come across Cain Marko’s origin story that stated in detail that Juggernaut is a mystical avatar given his powers by the Gem of Cyttorak. He was an ordinary man mystically transformed by the Gem. Thus, when Leech’s powers activated near him at the end, he should have been completely unaffected. And, Juggernaut should have immediately recognized Magneto by this point and Magneto should have known who Juggernaut is — stepbrother of Charles Xavier. No aspect of that important relationship was ever mentioned.

Sixth, Dark Phoenix never joined the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She didn’t need to. She was, however, manipulated into joining the Hellfire Club, which was also conveniently glossed over by X-Men: First Class (see the real origin for Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost).

Seventh, Rogue never took the cure. She was interested in it, but never took it. That’s something that’s touched upon in the Animated Series episode of The Cure (first airing, Feb. 20, 1993). Also, her given name is Anna Marie, not just Marie. See this quarter’s Marvel Character Highlight.

Eighth, Psylocke was present in the movie, but if you blinked, you missed her. She is killed at the end along with several other characters. She also is not a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Callisto (the leader of the Morlocks in the comics) isn’t either, and neither is Jamie Madrox aka Multiple Man.

Ninth, Jean does not have split personality as the Phoenix. She IS the Phoenix. The entity that is the Phoenix is part of her, not some different side to her. Basically, the Phoenix possesses her and bonds with her. It doesn’t just show up randomly. In the comics, the real Jean was sealed under Jamaica Bay while the Phoenix manifested her in reality.

Finally, Wolverine doesn’t kill Jean during the Dark Phoenix Saga. He was completely in love with her. Given that several of his love interests over the years have died, there was no way that he would have killed her then. He does kill her in New X-Men, but Dark Phoenix Saga that is not. Also, Sabertooth is not present, which doesn’t make any sense, either.

That’s just barely touching on what’s wrong with the film. It gets so many little things wrong with the “loose” adaptations that you have to wonder what exactly did it get right. One of the few things that does go right for the film is the casting. The lead characters are still perfectly casted, and the choice of Kelsey Grammar as Beast/Hank McCoy is one of the best castings we’ve ever seen. He was the perfect and only choice for that role. However, there’s still no fan-favorite Gambit — which would have solved the Rogue/Iceman problem — and there’s still way too much emphasis put on Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is comfortable as well he should be since he’s the perfect Wolverine. But a little less emphasis on him and little more on the story might have helped. Alas, James Marsden was wasted in the film and the character of Cyclops paid the price. That’s a shame, really, because Cyclops is supposed to be a centerpiece in the Dark Phoenix portion, not Wolverine.

Last Stand isn’t a good movie, in the sense of being an X-Men film and in the sense of being an adaptation telling a story of the X-Men. It seems Marvel has trouble whenever it gets to three (see last quarter’s review of Spider-Man 3), and that’s a problem when you’re telling two of the biggest arcs of your most famous group of not-so-ordinary folks.

 

Like the comics: 1

Casting: 7

Plot: 2

Overall score: 10 out of 30 or 3

 

How we grade

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

Top 5 on The Strip: Batman films

Dark Knight

The Dark Knight (2008): Visually, this wasn’t much to look at, but the acting is what takes center stage. Heath Ledger stole the show right from under Christian Bale, and Aaron Eckhart is no joke as Harvey Dent/Two Face. Everything about it screams serious and dark, which is fitting.

 

Batman 1989

Batman (1989): As the first in the movie franchise, Batman set the course for the first two films and showed why the Dark Knight is a force to be reckoned with. Yeah, so people complained about Michael Keaton. He more than shows that he was a more-than-competent Batman. Also, Jack Nicholson’s malevolent Joker was a scene-stealer, which shouldn’t be hard to do as the Clown Prince of Crime.

 

Dark Knight Rises

Dark Knight Rises (2012): The finale in the second Batman trilogy of films is well-worth the price of going to the movies these days. Anne Hathaway was a serviceable Catwoman and Tom Hardy was perfect as Bane. Christian Bale was still good, and we even could get with the plot despite never having read the Bane-particular parts of the comic. Engaging is the right word for the final Batman with Christopher Nolan at the helm.

 

Batman Forever

Batman Forever (1995): Sure, it’s cartoony and could use some cheesiness grated out of it, but the one turn of Val Kilmer in the tights actually isn’t that bad. It’s obvious that he didn’t really want to be Batman, but the atmosphere is interesting and the visual style is a welcome change from Tim Burton’s previous efforts. Jim Carrey was perfect for the role of the Riddler, too.

 

Batman Returns

Batman Returns (1992): We’ve thrown around the term “Too Many Villains Syndrome” a lot in The Strip, and Returns is the progenitor of that affliction. However, Burton’s dark gritty style is all over this, and it makes a great deal of difference between a marginal effort and something that shines despite its problems. And, Michelle Pfeiffer is hot as Catwoman.