Property Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

First Avenger Assembled

Around these parts, we are known Marvel enthusiasts. So, it was a big surprise that while we’d seen all the majority of the MCU offerings, we hadn’t seen Cap’s origin.

We love Cap from the end of his time in the MCU, but we were pleasantly surprised by the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan’s introduction.
Captain America’s story in the MCU starts out much like the comics: Steve Rogers, a frail sickly man who is super patriotic, wants to fight for his country in the already-in-progress World War II. Even though he has an admirable fighting spirit, he’s rejected at every turn. That is until Dr. Abraham Erskine comes along with his Super Soldier Serum. The good doctor looks at Rogers as a suitable candidate for the serum, not because he’s the perfect soldier, but because he’s a good man. The project – attended and funded by Howard Stark and observed by Peggy Carter – is a rousing success, transforming the poor orphan into the strong, able-bodied Steve Rogers that we know and love. But here’s where things go wrong for our young super soldier: Erskine is murdered by the Nazis, and with him goes the future of the project.

Steve is now a one-of-a-kind freak asset, and the U.S. government doesn’t exactly need him to go do the things the main army is already accomplishing. However, when news of his childhood bestie James “Bucky” Barnes’ capture reaches his camp, Steve steals off to the front lines to rescue him and Bucky’s unit almost singlehandedly and proves his worth. Steve then manages to change the outcome of the war effort through bravery but there’s a cost: The Nazis manage to get their hands on the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube. Steve tracks it down and engages in battle only to win but lose Bucky and be lost to history for 70 years after crashing his plane to prevent the Cube from being recovered.
Given our previous reviews of MCU films and our glowing praise for the development of Steve Rogers, it’s not a secret that we love the characterization of Captain America. You learn here that Steve has always been worthy (for the purposes of wielding Mjolnir) and why. This isn’t a platitude that bares out in Avengers: Endgame just because he did a few good things. It’s built into Steven Grant Rogers’ DNA, from the moment that you see him fight a bully with the makeshift shield to the minute that he jumps on a fake hand grenade without thinking of the danger to himself. The Man out of Time is, in fact, the best man for the job because he is that job.

And while others are excellent in their roles here, let us take a minute to appreciate the outstanding job Chris Evans does with the role. Evans is so perfect a choice for Captain Rogers that 11 years later, we cannot picture anyone else playing the role. Evans’ earnest portrayal of the character shines through and propels the movie beyond the standard origin story. And his chemistry with the also-excellent Sebastian Stan and Hayley Atwell is a notable highlight. Hugo Weaving also deserves mention as a good villain in the story. He isn’t over the top, but a subtle smoldering foil to the good captain’s plans to end World War II.

We are massive fans of Captain America from the angle of Winter Soldier but with the seeds planted here, we now have the lead up to why we claim Winter Soldier as our favorite MCU film. First Avenger isn’t the first film in the MCU, but it certainly ranks high in the pantheon of character establishment in the world of Marvel superheroes.

Like the comics: 8
Acting: 9.5
Story: 9.5
Total: 27/30 or 9

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.

Marvel character highlight #31: X-23

Name: Laura Kinney

Alias: X-23, Captain Universe, Talon, Wolverine

Affiliation: Weapon X, X-Men, New X-Men, Avengers Academy, X-Force

Special abilities: Superhuman strength, durability, senses, reflexes, agility and animal-like attributes, regeneration, Adamantium-covered retractable claws in hands and feet, expert armed and unarmed combatant

Background: Laura Kinney was born to Dr. Sarah Kinney, who was part of a top-secret program designed to recreate Weapon X. The child, the 23rd and only viable embryo in the project, was experimented upon and had her natural-born claws coated in Adamantium much like her father’s. After her handler trained her with a trigger scent, she was set loose upon her mother and killed her in a murderous frenzy. She was found and arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. but managed to track down Wolverine and explain her past and their connection. They form a relationship and after demonstrating her innocence, she returns to Wolverine and later joins the X-Men for training and work with her father.

Relationships: Wolverine, biological father; Dr. Sarah Kinney, biological mother; Daken, brother; Gabby Kinney, clone/sister; Megan Kinney, maternal cousin; Angel, lover; Gambit, close friend; Psylocke, close friend

First Versus appearance: Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds

Appearances in other media:
Television: Wolverine and the X-Men (animated), The Super Hero Squad Show (animated), Hulk vs. Wolverine (animated)

Film: Logan

Video games: X-Men the Official Game, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Marvel: Avengers Alliance, Marvel: War of Heroes, Marvel Pinball, Marvel Heroes, Marvel Contest of Champions, Marvel Future Fight, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Marvel Strike Force

Property Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Snyder Cut rights a grave wrong

Sometimes, setting a precedent is a necessary evil.

The theatrical release of Justice League in 2017 was an unmitigated disaster. The plot was all over the place, the editing was unpolished, and it generally didn’t seem ready for release. But, the rumors began of another cut by the original director Zack Snyder. Snyder, who had stepped down for personal reasons, was generally regarded as someone who knew what they were doing when it comes to comic book film adaptations (see Man of Steel, 300 and Watchmen). This cut was much longer but supposedly closer to the original vision of what Justice League should have been.

The Snyder Cut was that and much more.

Putting together a coherent feature, the Snyder Cut is infinitely more watchable than the original cut of the film. Character motivations make more sense, important details are emphasized, and subplots and sometimes even characters are restored. Snyder’s delicate touch and worldbuilding are vital with an ensemble picture such as this, and it shows in the many changes made to correct.

One of those material effects is the origin story of Cyborg. With Snyder’s vision restored and more of the important details of his transition from human to cyborg, Cyborg is more present than he ever hoped to be in the original cut. Actor Ray Fisher is a force to be reckoned with in the film, and through this re-characterization you can immediately see why. Fisher must balance the nature of humanity versus machine after Victor Stone’s accident, and he does so with stunning aplomb.

Also of note, The Flash, as portrayed by Ezra Miller, is also superb with the restoration of his character in Snyder’s version. Miller takes the character from jokester to serious world-saving hero with several amazing scenes, including one that eventually won an Academy Award. Though this is not a review of Warner Bros.’ failures, take note that the scene that won the Oscar was among quite a few that the studio and theatrical director Joss Whedon cut from the original final product.

Snyder’s final cut blows away the original theatrical cut and makes good use of the extended run time. It’s almost as if an ensemble film should be this long and this good on purpose. While we’re not fans of the precedent set in having multiple releases of the same film, the original cut of Justice League was an abomination that necessitated the Snyder version’s release. Trust us when we say the film only has room for one abomination in the form of Darkseid.

Story: 8
Acting: 10
Like the comics?: 9

Total score: 27/30 or 9.0

 

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.

Anime Lounge #22: Horimiya Episodes 1-12

Series: Horimiya

Episodes: 1-12

Premise: An outgoing girl (Kyouko Hori) notices a shy boy (Izumi Miyamura) in her class and wonders why he doesn’t have any friends. At the same time, they meet outside of class when Miyamura looks completely different. Their friendship blossoms and eventually they confess to having feelings for each other. Where their relationship and that of their friends and acquaintances takes them is the meat of the story.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. Outstanding visuals and a mature story about the feelings of young people becoming adults makes for a compelling anime. The intro theme is also fantastic.

Breakout character: Izumi Miyamura. He goes from super shy guy to outrageously cute pierced and tattooed guy every day and settles somewhere in between. His glow up is amazing once he develops confidence.

Where it’s going?: The relationship between Hori and Miyamura intensifies, and it’s obvious this will lead to marriage down the line. The fun will be in getting there. There is a second season announced, so we will see more of their relationship progress over time.

Marvel character highlight #30: Gamora

Name: Gamora Zen Whoberi Ben Titan

Alias: Requiem, The Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy

Affiliation: Guardians of the Galaxy, Infinity Watch, Phalanx, Graces, United Front, Nova Corps

Special abilities: Superhuman strength, speed, durability and agility, master assassin, master martial artist, master of conventional weapons, master thief

Background: Gamora was born as part of the Zen-Whoberis race, which was wiped out by the Badoon/Universal Church of Truth (dependent on timeline). She was then found by Thanos and enhanced and trained in the assassin arts. Once she was ready, she was assigned to protect current timeline Adam Warlock and assassinate his future evil self, Magus. Though she failed to kill Magus, she continued her assignment with Adam until Thanos revealed himself as a massive threat to existence. She then joined Warlock and the Infinity Watch to take out Thanos. She dies and finds herself within the Soul Gem for a time. Once released, she fought to stop Thanos’ reign of terror with the Infinity Gauntlet but was erased from existence. She was restored with all of the other heroes, and later left Infinity Watch and joined the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Relationships: Thanos, adoptive father; Star-Lord (Peter Quill), lover; Nova (Richard Rider), former lover; Adam Warlock, former lover; Nebula, adoptive sister

First Versus appearance: Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite

Appearances in other media:

Television: Silver Surfer (animated series), Ultimate Spider-Man (animated series), Avengers Assemble, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy (animated series), Lego Marvel Super Heroes – Guardians of the Galaxy: The Thanos Threat

Film: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Video games: Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel: Avengers Alliance, Marvel Strike Force, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, Disney Infinity 3.0, Marvel: Contest of Champions, Marvel: Future Fight, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, Marvel Powers United VR, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

Top 5 on The Strip: Superman villain edition

Darkseid
Darkseid isn’t just a Superman villain, mostly because he tends to antagonize everyone in the Justice League. But it’s something about Kal-El and his goings on that apparently sets the Lord of Apokolips off. One of the most legendary battles that took place between the Man of Steel and the Omega King occurred in the superb animated film Superman/Batman Apocalypse. Watch the ending fight scene just to get a sense for how much Superman hates Darkseid.

Lex Luthor
Lex is to Superman what the Joker is to Batman. Lex uses Superman to gauge his arching skills and probably couldn’t exist if Superman were to ever vanish from the DC Universe. Somehow, some way Lex finds a way to remain a thorn in Clark’s side, whether he’s dead or alive or imprisoned. You can always count on Lex to stay ready in his pursuit of Superman’s defeat.

Doomsday
If adapt and react were a character, it would be Doomsday. Responsible for the death of Superman in 1992, Doomsday is known solely for being the slayer of Superman. He’s a beast that Superman has always had trouble fighting and successfully stopping, and any time he shows up, you know Superman will probably die.

General Zod
Always ready to clap it up with Superman, General Zod has a superiority complex and an ego the size of Krypton before it exploded. That’s Zod’s problem: He just knew he was right and knew what was best for Krypton. Generally, that involved fighting with the House of El and it generally involves fighting Superman at some point. This is a fight that supersedes an entire planet disintegrating.

Brainiac
The know-it-all supercomputer is one of Superman’s most obnoxious foes. He’s known for two things: His “twelfth-level intellect” and shrinking cities down and stuffing them into bottles. Sometimes, depending on the version, he’s also known for causing the destruction of Krypton. In any version of Superman’s battles, Brainiac is known as one of his most destructive and dangerous foes.

Top 5 on The Strip: DC stuff we’re anticipating edition

Flash’s new movie with return of Michael Keaton

You all know how much we here at GI love Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman. And we’re practically jumping up and down for joy that it’s been confirmed we will see him again in this upcoming Flash solo film. Yes, we do love Ezra Miller as the Flash, but it’s been 30 years since we’ve seen Keaton don the cowl. That’s worth any price of admission.

Future seasons of Titans

This past season of Titans was fantastic. Vincent Kartheiser, of Mad Men brilliance, as the Scarecrow was on point with the long game the entire season, and we finally got Jason Todd as the Red Hood. We all knew it was coming, but how and why was expertly done. We’re expecting great things in the upcoming seasons now that the focus is shifting back to Dick Grayson being the leader of the Titans in San Francisco.

Black Adam coming with the Rock

Black Adam’s long development has been simmering for a while, and now it’s boiling if you smell what the Rock has been cooking. We’re more than ready for Dwayne Johnson take on the character — who, in the intervening years, has been drawn in his likeness. The movie looks to be great, and we support Johnson in anything and everything he does. We’re looking forward to Shazam going one on one with the Great One finally.

Blue Beetle film with Xolo Maridueña

We have so grown to love Xolo Maridueña, best known for his role as Miguel in the brilliant Cobra Kai. His earnest and awesome portrayal of the cute karate powerhouse means we will follow his projects, and Blue Beetle is one that’s taking shape for DC. The character is cool, and we expect that Maridueña will bring the heat when he finally gets started.

Henry Cavill returning as Superman

Given that he’s been the best choice for the Man of Steel for nearly a decade, we welcome the return of Cavill if he’ll have us. His Superman is believable and decent, and we loved his version in Justice League. We also happen to be big fans of Cavill in general — he was fantastic in The Tudors — so if he’s willing to don the cape and House of El symbol once again, we’ll take it.

Marvel character highlight #29: Blackheart

Name: Blackheart

Alias: Black King, Legion, Lord Blackheart, Mayor Winston Agnew, Prince of Hell, Son of Mephisto

Affiliation: Hell Lords, Hellfire Club, Spirits of Vengeance, Corrupt, Legions of the Night

Special abilities: Superhuman strength, durability and speed. He also has some telepathy, can levitate, is capable of interdimensional teleportation, size alteration, physical alteration, regeneration, energy generation, soul capture and mind control. He is also omniscient, immortal and immune to Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare.

Background: Son of the demon-lord Mephisto, Blackheart was created from the mystical energies found in Christ’s Crown, N.Y. The location was known for many murders over several centuries and provided the necessary evil to create a being such as Blackheart. The demon began learning under his father and clashed several times with Daredevil, Spider-Man and members of the Inhumans. After failing to corrupt any of these beings, Blackheart was taken captive by his father in Hell, and he wanted freedom. To escape, Blackheart entangled himself with Misha of the Warheads. He was successful in his attempt and got out disguised as Doctor Strange. Once free, he lured Wolverine, The Punisher and Ghost Rider to Christ’s Crown to corrupt them but failed. They then took on Blackheart in Hell, and he successfully used them to defeat Mephisto and take over his father’s portion of Hell.

Relationships: Mephisto (father); Mephista (sister); Greylight (brother); Daimon Hellstrom, Satana Hellstrom, Mikal Drakonmegas (siblings)

First Versus appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media:

Film: Ghost Rider (2007)

Video games: Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Ghost Rider, Marvel: Avengers Alliance

Anime Lounge #21: Cowboy Bebop Episodes 1 – 12

Series: Cowboy Bebop

Episodes: 1 to 12

Premise: Space bounty hunter Spike Spiegel is always in search of his next target, and he finds unlikely helpers in retired cop Jet Black, the mysterious Faye Valentine and later legendary hacker Ed and the scientific genius pupper Ein. Spike must confront his past — running around in the mafia — in order to move forward with his future. How he does it to start leads to more questions than answers, ending with his first confrontation with former friend Vicious.

Is it worth watching?: YES. This is one of the god-tier anime that every new anime enthusiast should be required to watch. Production values, voice acting, cool characters and an awesome soundtrack … this anime has it all.

Breakout character: Faye Valentine. Yes, it could be all of the characters, but Faye definitely stands out. You want to know her deal, why she can’t remember anything and how she will ever get herself together. And then you find out later in the series, and it’s like, wow. The payoff for Faye is amazing, and you still want more.

Where it’s going?: Spike has to take on Vicious once again, reclaim his honor and handle unresolved business. He’s taking the crew along for the ride, and where they end up is the mystery.

Strip Talk #31: DC finally getting back on track

Listen to me good when I tell you all something: DC has to do something. They’re getting hurt out there in the ring, and they can’t take too many more hits before it’s lights out. They need that ring bell to save them and fortunately for them, it’s coming in a few projects.
How they got here is not a mystery. Incoherent, nonsensical decisions with stars for their movies, the movies themselves being atrocious, and a lack of obvious planning and forethought. It was a lot, and it seemed like every time the company took a step, they stumbled. And their rival, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was churning out hit after hit at the box office, adding insult to injury.
But there were beacons of hope: Television and animated properties.

DC has always had strong television and animation. Their Justice League characters are so well known that almost all have had multiple shows that have done well. Their animated movies and shows are so good that decades later, they’re still producing spinoffs that are just as good if not better than the originals.
So, this is their go-to in the bleak times.
When faced with hard times, Warner Bros. does what it knows how to do best: Milk something to death and ride that cash cow until the wheels fall off. And that’s why we’re getting great television in the form of Titans. That’s why more animated Batman is here to put the DC name on his back and carry everything across the finish line. That’s why we’re getting more Batman spinoff films and a Flash spinoff bringing back the Batman version that worked – Michael Keaton for those of you still playing along at home.
DC trades on what it knows works best for them: Nostalgia. And they are smart to do it. That bell has rung finally for DC, and they can get a breather from that beating the MCU and Kevin Feige has been delivering for the past 10 years. The body shots can maybe slow down, they can regain their footing and they’re finally doing something. Something worthwhile and exciting. It’s about time they come in with gloves ready for the fight game.

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