Top 5 on the Strip: Avengers Edition part 1

Steve Rogers/Captain America: If you ever needed a leader and wanted to make sure your every directive was followed, you employ Steve Rogers to get the job done. Rogers was the first Avenger and the last Avenger and the team’s heart and soul (and mom), no matter the roster.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk: Bruce Banner brings not only his vast genius intellect to the fight, but also his green angry alter ego Hulk, who is equal parts mad as he is cunning and destructive. The madder Hulk gets, the better the outcome for the Avengers.

Tony Stark/Iron Man: Much like Banner, Tony Stark brings his intellect to the fight and usually other toys to ensure that the Avengers will win. Beyond that, Stark provides a place for the Avengers to stay and upgrades for every team member. Think of him as the dad of the team as well as the brains of the organization.

Luke Cage: Now that Netflix has brought some of the more background Marvel characters to the forefront with excellent (but canceled) TV shows, Luke Cage has a spotlight on him that showcases his invaluable contributions. Cage is virtually indestructible with super strength to match. The Hero for Hire hasn’t joined the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe just yet, but know that when he does, it will be worth the wait.

John Walker/U.S. Agent: An alternate version of Captain America, U.S. Agent is a bad dude. Receiving his super strength from the Power Broker, John Walker has gone against Captain America and won as well as joined the Avengers and its derivatives such as Norman Osborne’s Dark Avengers. Walker once worked for the Commission on Super Human Activities and has taken up the Captain America mantle in the past.

Marvel character highlight #24: Iron Man

Name: Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark

Alias: Iron Man, Golden Gladiator, Bullet-Head, Golden Avenger, Armored Avenger, Spare Parts Man, Crimson Dynamo, Tetsujin, Hogan Potts, Anthony of York, Randall Pierce, Cobalt Man, Man of Iron, Tin Man, “Irene,” Electro, T, Master of Machines, Space-Knight, Richard Franco, Martini, “Iron Pig” (Source: Marvel Database)

Affiliation: The Avengers, Stark Industries, S.H.I.E.L.D., Stark Unlimited, Red Team, Avengers (Heroes Reborn), Illuminati, Axis, Stark Resilient, Guardians of the Galaxy, Initiative (leader), Pro-Registration Superhero Unit (leader), New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Hellfire Club, Stark Solutions, Force Works, Avengers West Coast, United States Department of Defense, the Mighty, Knights of the Atomic Round Table, Alcoholics Anonymous, Damage Control, Imperio Techworks (Source: Marvel Database)

Special abilities: Super genius-level intellect, which has allowed Stark to amass multiple PhDs in physics and engineering. Stark is a master engineer, an expert at tactical analysis and business decision-making, and is skilled in hand-to-hand combat.

Background: Adopted by industrialist Howard Stark and wife Maria, Tony Stark started life as the child of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who gave him up as an infant. Tony lived life as a loner, going to boarding school and then on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he easily topped his class and graduated valedictorian at 17. With the death of his parents at 21, Stark took over family business and pushed the company to new heights.

While demonstrating armaments on a trip abroad to Afghanistan, Stark was captured and critically injured by a terrorist. Taking advantage of his captivity, Stark and another scientist held at the same time designed an armored suit and pacemaker for Stark to use to escape. Stark was successful, meeting Air Force pilot James Rhodes during this time. Stark made it back to the United States and showed off the technology for the suit to the public without also revealing his identity in the suit. Stark later joined the Avengers initiative after making the decision to use the suit for the forces of good and was part of the effort to locate Steve Rogers, who was still frozen in ice after World War II.

Relationships: Howard Anthony Stark (adoptive father), Maria Stark (adoptive mother), Pepper Potts (love interest, secretary), “Happy” Hogan (friend), James Rhodes (War Machine, friend), Amanda Armstrong (biological mother), Jude (biological father)

First Versus appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media:

Television: The Marvel Super Heroes, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man (1990s animated), The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers: United They Stand, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes, The Super Hero Squad Show, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Marvel Anime: X-Men, Marvel Anime: Iron Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, Avengers Assemble, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Avengers Reassembled, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s Spider-Man

Live-action film: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, The Incredible Hulk, The Consultant

Animation: Ultimate Avengers, Ultimate Avengers 2, The Invincible Iron Man, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, Planet Hulk, Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United, Iron Man & Captain America: Heroes United, Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher, Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight, Lego Marvel Super Heroes – Black Panther: Trouble in Wakanda, Ralph Breaks the Internet

Video games: Captain America and the Avengers, Marvel Super Heroes in War of the Gems, Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, Avengers in Galactic Storm, Iron Man and X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal, The Invincible Iron Man, Tony Hawk’s Underground, Punisher, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, Marvel Super Hero Squad, Marvel Super Hero Squad 2, Iron Man 2, Iron Man pinball, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, LittleBigPlanet, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat, Marvel: Avengers Alliance, Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth, Marvel Heroes, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Lego Marvel’s Avengers, Marvel Avengers Alliance Tactics, Marvel: Contest of Champions, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel: Future Fight, Marvel Avengers Academy, Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite

Property review: Black Panther

Marvel Studios, 2018

Black, powerful,beautiful

Seeing your people represented on the silver screen when you are a person of color means quite a bit. Seeing them do important things and be decent human beings means quite a bit more. Seeing them as royalty and enjoying prosperity means everything.

Written well and superbly acted, Black Panther has the difficult job of being a lot of things to a lot of people and it succeeds. Even with the heavy topics of race and what it means to be black in the world, there are light moments. Black Panther isn’t without humor and it’s deftly mixed in with the right balance. How it achieved this balance is important because it has quite a few stories to tell in a short amount of time.

When Black Panther was announced, the most we knew about T’Challa was from the comics: He was the ruler of Wakanda — a prosperous black nation in Africa that was hidden from the rest of the world — and that he was married to Storm of the X-Men. Also, he was on a quest of revenge for the death of his father T’Chaka, which occurred in Captain America: Civil War. That’s about it. But then something wonderous happened: Marvel started talking about T’Challa’s origin story and why it was important to get it out there. And that push began one of the greatest runs ever for a comic book property.

Black Panther is so layered with different concepts that it’s hard to not go down the rabbit hole too deep. Black Panther starts out with the re-introduction of T’Challa some months after the death of T’Chaka and T’Challa’s ascent to the throne of Wakanda. In swift order we are introduced to Okoye, Shuri and the advanced nature of Wakanda, thanks to the infinite supply of vibranium. T’Challa’s day-to-day struggle to rule Wakanda alongside its other clans, keep the nation safe from the outside world and get involved in the world’s affairs is just one of the layers and that’s swiftly peeled back to show that everything on the surface is just that: Surface material for the more pressing concept of just what it means to be black and free.

The introduction of Erik Killmonger is one of the next layers down. Killmonger represents the rest of the black experience: hurt, angry, bitter and wanting something more in life than to be stereotyped and abandoned by the world at large. Killmonger’s story is the result of what happens when we as black people are not uplifted and left at the mercy of an unforgiving system of oppression and what happens when we don’t help our own who are downtrodden and hurting. And though that struggle is simplified here for the general masses, it still speaks to the heart of America’s past and present in terms of race.

On a deeper level, there is the concept of what it means to be a leader and a man. T’Challa’s development from Civil War to Black Panther is so detailed that it feels like we knew nothing about him before Black Panther. And this is the same with the rest of the characters: No one is left out of the development process and every character’s motivations are addressed in painstaking detail. And with that development comes a wealth of standout characters. Shuri, Okoye, W’Kabi and Nakia are wonderful characters that add depth to T’Challa’s life and story. And the true scene-stealing addition is M’Baku, leader of the Jabari tribe. Making a memorable entrance early in the film, M’Baku manages to strike a defiant yet relatable chord in his quest to have his part of the Wakandian pie recognized for its might and resiliency.

And what a pie Wakanda is. From the opening sequence of T’Challa returning home from an important mission to the ending sequence showing the Wakandian sunset, the nation of free and prosperous black folk is a beauty. Everything that we imagine the motherland to be in its natural beauty and wonderment was and is a sight to behold in the fictional nation’s depiction. Wakanda is beautiful, lush and vibrant with an Afropunk futuristic vibe that we have only seen glimpses of in the real world through the pages of magazines.

Black Panther meant a lot of things to a lot of people when it hit the screen. Its sequel is poised to bring the same type of magic as well. With the show put on by director Ryan Coogler in Black Panther, we can only wish that our return to Wakanda is just as fun and important as our first go around. Wakanda forever.

How we grade

Acting: 10

Story: 10

Like the comics?: 9.5

Overall grade: 9.8

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 #26: The DC universe could learn some lessons from Marvel

The DC Universe is at a crossroads I guess you could say. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed unparalleled success, the DCU has all but died an ignominious death. Suicide Squad: flop. Batman vs. Superman: flop. Superman: flop. Justice League: flop. Aside from Wonder Woman, the Dark Knight trilogy and Aquaman, the DCU hasn’t been able to touch the prosperity of the MCU. There are reasons for this, but to keep this short, I’ll name just a few.

  1. The director carousel is too much. There are too many names involved in projects and there are too many of the same names popping up that shouldn’t. Brett Ratner. Seriously? Zak Penn? Joss Whedon? With the exception of Penn, all of these directors are problematic in their own right, and Ratner is an absolute joke who managed to somehow screw up X-Men: The Last Stand so terribly a whole new movie was done to counteract it.
  2. Despite having recognizable characters, DC doesn’t know what to do with them. Superman is the most obvious out of them all, mostly because they don’t seem to know how to write Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Batman is second given the number of different actors to play him. The Green Lantern should have been easy to write, but that flopped a decade ago and they haven’t returned to him since.
  3. Consistency isn’t in DC’s wheelhouse. All of their movies suffer from some type of inconsistency, whether it’s writing the overall plot or character motivation. DCU cannot seem to get it together when it comes to establishing and staying with a character over the course of more than one movie.

With the myriad issues surrounding the DC Universe, it’s a wonder there are films in the pipeline, but there are. Shazam is shaping up, there will be a sequel to Wonder Woman and Aquaman performed reasonably well to probably warrant a sequel as well. However, there have been other downturns: Henry Cavill is out as Superman as is Ben Affleck as Batman. Jared Leto’s Joker was panned but Joaquin Phoenix may be able to rescue the character.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but I’m imploring the DC Universe loreholders to take notes on Marvel’s Phase Three and pay attention to how a comic book film should be done. It’s made Marvel buckets of money over the past 10 years. Obviously, someone over there has created the Super Soldier Serum of Movie Success and succeeded in perfecting it.

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

Anime Lounge #16: Kaichou wa Maid Sama Ep. 13-26

Kaicho wa Maid Sama wraps up love saga

Series: Kaichou wa Maid Sama

Episodes: 13 to 26

Premise: Misaki Ayuzawa is the student council president at a formerly all-boys high school. She also works at a maid cafe on the side to earn money to support her family. Misaki has problems relating to the male members of her class so she comes off a little more than brusque and overbearing. One of her classmates, Usui Takumi, happens upon her by chance as she’s being intimidated by a group of men. It just so happens that he comes to her rescue as she’s working so he learns her secret. Thus, begins the saga of Misaki and Usui, she trying to keep her secret and he trying to get her to open up to him. It’s obvious from the beginning that Usui is in love with Misaki but she’s about the only person in the cast that doesn’t realize it.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. The humor makes up for the slow pace of the story, but the payoff at the end of the series is worth waiting for over 26 episodes.

Breakout character: Misaki Ayuzawa. She’s the lead in this romantic comedy so she should be standing out at some point. Ayuzawa comes into her own by the end of the series, and you see her development as the main character come along nicely.

Funniest episode: Episode 26, “Too Cruel Ayuzawa & Usui the Idiot!” Not so much funny as it is a great way to wrap up the story in the anime adaptation, Episode 26 is one of the best payoff scenes in a recent anime. The way the story comes together to the inevitable finale — which you knew was coming after the first episode — is well done and satisfying.

Where it’s going?: This is the finale for the series but the story continues on in the manga with a nice epilogue.