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.

Top 5 on the Strip: Comic book games edition

1. Marvel vs. Capcom series

If there were ever a polarizing yet fun fighting game, it’s probably Marvel vs. Capcom. The first few Versus games are fun yet broken, but you don’t know broken until you get to Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Spending 18 hours at a tournament to watch the same 10 characters fight in teams of three makes you dislike and love a game at the same time.

2. Batman Arkham series

Batman’s run of action-adventure games has quite a few standouts. Rocksteady outdid themselves in letting you become the Dark Knight and immerse yourself in the world of Gotham and the insane asylum that is Arkham. Any entries are classics that shouldn’t be missed.

3. X-Men arcade game

“Welcome to die!” is a pleasant yet infamous greeting waiting for you at the end of the X-Men quarter muncher. Gold and Blue ’90s-era X-Men join and fight in a team of four to take on the Brotherhood of Mutants. It’s a fun romp that reminds you of how powerful the original animated series was in terms of impact on gamers and comic book nerds alike.

4. TMNT 2: The Arcade Game

If there is ever a game on this list that personifies GI and its life in the ’90s, it’s this sequel. Easily one of the best quarter stealers of all time, TMNT2 took everything from the comics, the original animated TV show and the movies and turned it into an ultra-fun excursion in the world of the lean mean green fighting machine.

5. Marvel Ultimate Alliance

An insanely fun brawler that’s chock full of Marvel awesomeness, the first Ultimate Alliance game is fun and full of depth. It’s also co-op and introduced you to the then-obscure Marvel characters that are now household names. I didn’t know the Winter Soldier then or Fing Fang Foom but I bet I do now. This is the Marvel encyclopedia.

Marvel character highlight #23: Pyslocke

Name: Elizabeth Braddock

Alias: Betsy, Betts, Kwannon, Lady Mandarin, Captain Britain, Lady Briton, Death

Affiliation: X-Men, Captain Britain Corps, X-Force, S.T.R.I.K.E., Extinction Team, the Mandarin, Sisterhood of Mutants, Exiles, Hand, Hellfire Club, Horsemen of the Apocalypse, X.S.E.

Special abilities: Psylocke is an Omega-level mutant who has the ability to generate psionic weapons with her mind. She is a near-Omega-level telepath who can use telekinesis, telepathy precognition and teleportation. She is capable of generating shields and flight.

Background: Psylocke started life as the daughter of Otherworld resident Dr. James Braddock, who fathered three children on Earth. She grew up with latent mutant powers as a telepath, which were unlocked after a battle at Braddock Manor with Dr. Synne. After this, Psylocke became a model and encountered S.T.R.I.K.E, the British version of S.H.I.E.L.D. Through them, she learned to harness her powers and strengthen herself. She later became a version of her brother’s superpowered identity, Captain Britain. While using this identity, the villain known as Slaymaster beat and blinded her. She regained her eyesight when villains Mojo and Spiral abducted her and gave her cybernetic eyes. With these eyes, she was used to spy on the X-Men for Mojo. After the defeat of Mojo, the Morlocks were massacred by the Marauders and she helped those who survived. After the battle to avenge the Morlocks, Psylocke was invited to join the X-Men in a full-time capacity and she accepted. In her later adventures with the X-Men, she was forcibly switched from her body to assassin Kwannon’s body by Kwannon’s lover, crime lord Mats’uo Tsurayaba. Kwannon, in Psylocke’s original body calling herself Revanche, then developed the Legacy Virus and died. Psylocke has remained in Kwannon’s body. She has battled the Crimson Dawn and gained new powers, such as the ability to fuse with the shadows and travel with them. Through contact with Jean Grey, her powers were magnified on a cosmic level to reach Omega status.

Relationships: Brian Braddock (Captain Britain), brother; James Braddock Jr., brother; Warren Worthington III (Angel/Archangel), lover; Nathan Christopher Summers (Cable), lover; Tom Lennox, lover; Agent Michael (alias), lover; Neal Shaara (Thunderbird), lover; Victor Creed (Sabretooth), lover; Fantomex, lover; Cluster, lover.

First Versus appearance: Marvel vs. Capcom (character assist)

Appearances in other media: X-Men II: The Fall of the Mutants (video game), X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (video game), X-Men 2: Clone Wars (video game), X-Men: Children of the Atom (video game), Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (video game), X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (video game), X-Men: Next Dimension (video game), X-Men Legends (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Marvel: Avengers Alliance (video game), Lego Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel Heroes (video game), Marvel: War of Heroes (video game), Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign (video game), X-Men: Battle of the Atom (video game), X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse (video game), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), X-Men: Apocalypse (film), X-Men: The Animated Series (television), Wolverine and the X-Men (television)

Top 5 on The Strip: Animated superhero cartoons

Batman animated series

1. Batman: The Animated Series

The standard bearer for modern superhero cartoons, Batman: The Animated Series was gritty, dark and fresh off the success of Batman Returns. It’s well-drawn with a neat art deco style and the voice acting set the standard for future series. If you weren’t watching this every day after school, you missed out. Immediately go back and watch this from beginning to end.

Teen Titans

2. Teen Titans

Teen Titans took a different tack when talking about Robin’s squad of heroes. It’s a great look at the younger superheroes of the DC universe in a group that still stands today. Featuring Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beast Boy, the show focuses on the group being young superheroes while also being teenagers with typical teenager problems. The voice work is fantastic and the animation is top-notch as well.

tmnt 1987 series

3. TMNT (1987 series)

We’re well-known TMNT fans here at GI and that love stems from the old black-and-white comics as well as the original animated series. That series, with its ’80s attitude and charm, managed to get us into the Turtles to start and paved the way for the juggernaut that was and still is the Turtles franchise. Outstanding voicework — featuring the likes of Jim Cummings and the late James Avery — make it one of the best ’80s animated series and a good introduction to the TMNT universe at large.

X-men fox animated

4. X-Men: The Animated Series

Aside from the classic theme, X-Men: The Animated Series featured a stellar voice cast and stories that mostly stayed faithful to the comics. At the time of its 1992 inception, this was unheard of in comic properties translated to TV. X-Men established several characters as favorites: Storm, Wolverine, Professor X, Jean Grey, Cable, Bishop, Gambit and Jubilee. It was so great that incarnations of the characters featured in the show have been used in multiple video game properties since.

spiderman-1994

5.  Spider-Man (Fox)

Another great Fox animated series, Spider-Man was a fantastic showcase of the web-crawler’s style and storylines. It featured quite a few of Peter Parker’s rogues gallery and touched on a lot of his story arcs with accuracy and maturity not usually seen in comic book shows. As with X-Men: The Animated Series, Spider-Man had great voice acting that carried over into video games produced thereafter, such as the Marvel Versus series.

Marvel character highlight #22: Iceman

Name: Robert Louis DrakeIceman - fix

Alias: Iceman, Bobby Drake, Frozen One, Frosty, Drake Roberts, Iceface, Iceheart

Affiliation: X-Men, X-Factor, Murder Circus, Excelsiors, The Twelve, Chosen, Defenders, Secret Defenders, Champions

Special abilities: Iceman is classified as an “omega-level mutant.” Iceman can lower his body temperature and generate intense cold from the atmosphere around him. With his body temperature lowered, he can produce ice structures, generate and fully control ice, and freeze  and unfreeze anything. He can manipulate ice on a cellular level, use thermal vision as well as generate clones and freeze the Earth and spread his consciousness throughout the ice on a global scale.

Background: Robert Drake lived a normal life until one day, as a teenager, he was on a date with a young woman when a bully from school attacked. He pointed his hand at the bully and the attacking boy was encased in a block of ice. A local mob heard of the incident and gathered to lynch Bobby. After being placed in jail to keep away from the mob, fellow founding X-Men member Scott Summers came to rescue him. He and Summers fought until Charles Xavier arrived to save both teens. He joined the team with other founding members Jean Grey, Warren Worthington III and Hank McCoy and battled early X-Men foes Magneto and Juggernaut. While on the team he further developed his powers and gained control of them. As a founding member of the X-Men, he was captured by the sentient island of Krakoa and was rescued by the next generation of the team. He later quit the X-Men and founded X-Factor with the other original members of the X-Men.

Relationships: Opal Tanaka (girlfriend); Annie Ghazikhanian (girlfriend); Lorna Dane (Polaris), girlfriend; Raven Darkholme (Mystique), girlfriend. Note: Robert Drake’s sexuality has been confirmed as gay.

First Versus appearance: X-Men: Children of the Atom

Appearances in other media: The Marvel Super Heroes (animated), Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (animated), X-Men: The Animated Series (animated), X-Men: Evolution (animated), Wolverine and the X-Men (animated), The Super Hero Squad Show (animated), X-Men (film), X2: X-Men United (film), X3: The Last Stand (film), X-Men: Days of Future Past (film), Fantastic Four (1997, video game), X-Men: Children of the Atom (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (video game), X-Men Legends (video game), X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (video game), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (video game), X-Men: Destiny (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (video game), Lego Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel Heroes (video game)

Top 5 on The Strip: Best X-Men arcs

God Loves Man Kills

1. God Loves, Man Kills

The mutant struggle against one of the X-Men’s most human protagonists is a tragic tale of self hate and bigotry. It’s easily one of the most sorrowful tales of the lengths homosapiens will go to in their efforts to eradicate mutantkind. William Stryker is the leader of the anti-mutant movement and stops at nothing to punish mutants in the eyes of other humans and the media.

Days of Future Past

2. Days of Future Past

One of the more recent X-Men movies, Days of Future Past shows what would happen if the Sentinels, mutant-hunting robots, took over North America and eventually the world. It’s a good look at the effects of a singular event affecting multiple realities.

Onslaught

3. Onslaught

If Professor Charles Xavier were to lose himself in the cause of fighting mutant hate and believed in the goals of his nemesis Magneto, Onslaught would be the result. The merged consciousness of two of the greatest minds in mutancy does not equal a good being and what becomes the genesis of Xavier giving up the fight even temporarily.

Messiah Complex

4. Messiah Complex

A child born with the possibility to save mutants in their darkest hour makes up the Messiah Complex storyline. Although it’s centered on a child with the name Summers, it’s interesting to see what happens when Cable – a known battle-hardened warrior – becomes slightly more human when he’s tasked with protecting a child.

Age of Apocalypse

5. Age of Apocalypse

One of the largest stories ever to come to the X-Men fold, the Age of Apocalypse is the focal point for a lot of changes in the X-Men universe, and, Marvel at large. Apocalypse manages to take over North America and kill numerous important mutants in the process. The fallout continues to rankle some storylines today.

Top 5 on The Strip: Villainesses

Selene - Marvel

1. Selene (Black Queen – Hellfire Club) – Marvel

Selene – better known as the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club – is at least 17,000 years old and continuously wreaks havoc on the Marvel Universe, mostly by terrorizing the X-Men. She’s featured as the boss of one of Gambit’s stages in Spider-Man & the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge, so you know she’s obnoxious.

Mutant power: Life-draining psychic vampire, flame manipulation

 Star Sapphire-Carol Ferris

2. Star Sapphire – DC

The original Star Sapphire had several remarkable powers that included the use of a violet Power Ring (like the Green Lantern Corps). The main thing to know about Star Sapphire is that she is a group, a corps just like the Green Lantern. The group is possessed by the Star Sapphire gem, which is attracted to worthy females who are in love with Hal Jordan. Remember folks, stalking and harrassment are crimes, no matter if you are a gem or not.

Super power: Violet Power Ring possession, force blasts, protective shield, flight

 Lady Deathstrike

3. Lady Deathstrike – Marvel

Yeah, so Yuriko Oyama has an adamantium-bonded skeleton similar to Wolverine’s. The reason for this? Because she wanted to have it. It wasn’t that she had it forced on her; no, she asked Spiral to do the process because she wanted to be able to kill Wolverine, who she thought stole the theories and ideas on the adamantium process. Receiving cybernetic implants as well, Yuriko has hunted Wolverine for decades.

Mutant power: Superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability and agility; unbreakable skeleton laced with adamantium and 10 claws made of adamantium; and a cybernetic healing factor.

 Talia al Ghul

4. Talia ah Gul – DC

The daughter of Ra’s ah Gul, Talia has carried on her father’s life of crime and destruction. She’s covertly worked to take over Gotham City, injured or killed numerous people and lead the notorious League of Assassins. Her saving grace is the fact that she married Bruce Wayne and produced an heir, Damien Wayne. Eventually, she disowns Damien after realizing that he would always oppose her after taking up his father’s cause. Motherly love this is not.

Super power: Enhanced longevity, genius-level intelligence, superior marksmanship and swordsmanship

 Mystique

5. Mystique – Marvel

There isn’t much that Mystique hasn’t done. In several realities, she has been the cause of assassinations of key figures that leads to the downfall of that reality (see: Days of Future Past) and has betrayed quite a few people in her path. Given that she’s able to shapeshift at will into whomever she wants, Mystique has used that power to further her own agenda and goals. Usually, those goals are in line with the Brotherhood of Evil.

Mutant power: Shapeshifting

Property review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

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

 X-Men: Days of Future Past

20th Century Fox, 2014

 

 X-cellent return to form

Set aside any preconceived notions you may have had at the announcement of a new X-Men film. We’ll wait because we know just how hard that may be to do. Now that it’s out of the way, let’s get down to business.

X-Men Days of Future Past is phenomenal.

Everything that went wrong with The Last Stand (editor’s note: See 2Q2014’s property review) has been corrected. See, the acting wasn’t the problem; it was the storyline and the execution. Days of Future Past manages to take the bleak problems of its predecessor and turn them into bright spots, ironically, because Days of Future Past is a bleak and dark turn of events for the merry band of mutants.

Days of Future Past, while different from the Animated Series and the comic book original, is a solid adventure for the X-Men. The story posits that a single assassination is the linchpin that leads to the extinction of mutants by the Sentinels, aggressive mutant-hunting robots of the future. By stopping the assassination of Dr. Boliviar Trask, the X-Men will prevent the genocidal Sentinels from ever coming into being and, more importantly, prevent the slaughter of millions of humans and mutants, alike. To do this, they send Wolverine back into time to the point of divergence and hope that he can convince estranged friends Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr to work together for the common good once more.

The story takes some twists and turns, but by the end, you realize that this is a story of redemption and broken dreams healed. That’s not just for the characters, but also for the movie franchise. Let’s face it: Last Stand was horrible and a desecration of all that stands in the X-Men universe. Days of Future Past gets everything right and then some, starting with the re-emergence of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Next comes the healing of story butchering. Events that take place in Last Stand (no spoilers!) are erased throughout the film, but in particular the last five minutes of Days of Future Past quickly place a stake through the heart of Last Stand. Finally, comes the attention to detail, which is a major component of any comic book adaptation. Sure, Days of Future Past takes some liberties with the source material, but we’ll allow it if it means the story will flow better. Here, it does and the changes make sense. There’s no half-baked change for the sake of change.

Something else that Days of Future Past manages to accomplish is a sense of clarity. A time-traveling tale can be confusing with the lack of the right amount of distinguishing features to differentiate between eras. However, the film has a stunning amount of clarity, which makes everything obvious as to which time period is at the forefront. We had no trouble understanding the chain of events of the film — despite a lot of jumping between 1973 and 2023 — and additionally, the powers of all mutants involved were correct and instantly clear. That’s what happens when there is an obvious and immense level of detail paid to the source material, something Last Stand sorely lacked. And, unlike its predecessor, we had few gripes. We would have liked to have seen more Quicksilver and more of the newer mutants who joined the cause. Also, a little elaboration on the answer to the question of how the Sentinels evolved to the future state would have been nice, considering that original version’s answer of Mastermold was left out of the film entirely. However, those are small quibbles and a small price to pay for such a large love letter/apologetic note to fans.

Days of Future Past serves a multipronged purpose: pacify the veteran X-Men film fans; fix the problems of Last Stand; continue the story of the uncanny mutants through the First Class cast; continue the reboot of the film franchise; and serve as the swan song of the original trilogy’s cast. Days of Future Past manages to complete its tasks and usher in a new era of prosperity and promise for one of the most recognizable comic book franchises ever. Days of Future Past is an x-cellent return to form.

 

Like the comics: 7

Casting: 10

Plot: 10

Overall score: 27 out of 30 or 9

 

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.

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

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)