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.

Property review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Marvel Studios, 2014

 

Winter Soldier strikes cool balance

There is no such thing as not believing in the magic of superhero films. Marvel has proven that a ridiculous number of times over by this point, and you can’t deny the impact that a good action flick about beautiful people with super powers has over the general buying public. But then there comes along a solid title that takes things a step further in terms of technical details, action, acting and writing. That film manages to open a new path in terms of presentation and overall packaging that makes you, the viewer, believe that anything is possible in terms of the improvement in quality for all comic book-based properties. That film is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Let’s stop for a minute and take stock of the storyline, because this sets up just how well the movie makes its point about being a comic book property. Captain America is living life in the S.H.I.E.L.D way two years after the events of the Avengers. Things are good, he’s doing his job and all seems right in the world though he’s chafing a bit under the S.H.I.E.L.D rule. And then all hell breaks loose. In short order, Nick Fury is shot — apparently fatally — in Steve Rogers’ living room by an unknown assassin, S.H.I.E.L.D seems like it’s out to kill Rogers and he’s on the run while trying to figure out who and what can he trust. That assassin? It turns out this assassin isn’t really unknown but is the Winter Solider, someone that Rogers has encountered many a time before who’s fundamentally opposed to Rogers’ mission to stop the chaos.

There’s so much tight writing and story exposition jam-packed into two hours of Winter Soldier that it’s impossible to accurately describe the synopsis without giving away major plot points. Everything is a major plot point and the pacing at which it’s revealed is perfect. At no point did Winter Soldier give away the fact that it’s a two-hour film centered on political intrigue. At no point did it drag so much that details were lost. It’s the kind of movie that requires multiple viewings just to catch the little things that will be lost on the average moviegoer.

It’s a bad thing that the film doesn’t drag, though, because it’s the movie of the ridiculously good-looking (and great acting) people. Like every movie released in the Marvel cinematic universe, Winter Soldier seems to be casted with and directed by people who were secretly born to play their roles. Even the newcomer — Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon — fits this role so well that it’s as if he were always there, just waiting in the wings to be introduced. The acting is superb and it’s done in such a way that you really get behind the motivation of each individual, forgetting for just a moment that this, indeed, is a comic book come to the big screen.

Winter Soldier probably suffers from only one flaw and that’s the obviousness of the formula. It’s a great formula, and a great problem to have, but it’s pretty obvious by now that Marvel has its ducks in a row and they know how to put together a good crew and storyline for their movies. Winter Soldier slightly seems to fall into that complacency, but it quickly recovers and doesn’t stand for resting on its laurels for long. Just when you think there’s not enough action going on, there’s a distraction in the form of a great set piece or storyline push that remedies the problem. That’s the mark of a good movie.

Even if it is based on a comic book property.

Like the comics: 9

Acting: 9

Plot: 8.5

Overall score: 26.5/30 or 8.8

 

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.

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)

Marvel Character Highlight #15: Storm

Name: Ororo MunroeStorm

Affiliation: X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four, Lady Liberators, Morlocks, Hellfire Club, The Twelve

Special abilities: Weather-natured sorcery. Storm is capable of complete control over the weather and all aspects dealing with the environment within the atmosphere over a large area. Considered an Omega-level mutant by Sentinels, Storm also has control over atmospheric pressure, has excellent control over all forms of moisture at the molecular level, can generate electromagnetic blasts and can bend light to appear invisible. Storm also has a strong affinity for magic and is a master thief.

Background: Storm was born in New York City to David Munroe, a photojournalist, and N’Dare, a Kenyan tribal princess. Ororo’s parents were killed in a terrorist attack in Cairo when she was 5 years old and after being trapped under rubble, Ororo developed intense claustrophobia. She was orphaned and survived on the street as a pickpocket and thief. She is later taken in by an African priestess and recruited into the X-Men by Professor Charles Xavier. She becomes romantically involved with Forge and T’Challa, better known as the Black Panther.

Relationships: Charles Xavier (mentor), Wolverine (lover in an alternate timeline), T’Challa (Black Panther – former husband), Forge (ex-boyfriend)

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

Appearances in other media: X-Men the Arcade Game, Spider-Man & The X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge, Marvel vs. Capcom, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse, X-Men: Mutant Academy, X-Men: Next Dimension, X-Men Legends, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects, X-Men: The Official Game, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (video game), Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Marvel Super Hero Squad, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, 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), X-Men Evolution (television)

Top 5 on The Strip: The Super family

 Superman

Superman — The Man of Steel himself is probably the best incarnation of the super family. He was the originator of the series and thus carries the name on when other incarnations drop in and out of the DC continuity, like Supergirl. The others in the lineup are literally just watching the throne.

Superboy Superboy — There have been several versions of Superboy but the most prominent is the little boy who would become Superman. DC has since stated that Superman didn’t have adventures until he became an adult but that hasn’t stopped the multitude of other versions, such as the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths being.

Supergirl - Kara Zor-El Supergirl — Supposedly, the story goes that the daughter of Zor-El — Superman’s uncle — survived the explosion of Krypton since she was living in Argo City, which was cast off into space when the planet exploded. Kara Zor-El was the last survivor, giving Superman one of his only living clansmen known to have survived the catastrophic event that created the lore. Her existence is removed during and restored after the 1985 arc Crisis on Infinite Earths.

KryptoKrypto the Superdog — Superman might have godlike powers on Earth, but on Krypton he had decidedly human emotions and that extended to having a pet. Krypto was used as a test subject to experiment with rocket flight. Jor-El — Superman’s father — realized Krypton was going to explode and wanted to test a way to get himself and his family off the doomed planet. Krypto was sent out into space, but the rocket was knocked off course. Drifting through space for years, the dog was found and rejoined Superman during his Superboy years.

BizarroBizarro  — The ultimate in “the evil clone/twin did it” storyline, Bizarro exists only because Lex Luthor, as usual, was messing around with things he didn’t understand. Luthor recreated the duplicating ray that was used previously on Krypton by Gen. Dru-Zod and on Earth to accidentally create a duplicate version of Superboy. Luthor also creates a version of Bizarro after the Crisis on Infinite Earths arc while trying to create a clone of Superman.

Strip Talk #13: Let’s talk a minute about comic book movie reboots

Lyndsey Hicks, editor in chief

I am by no means someone who doesn’t love movies. I do, especially those of the comic book variety. I just have this thing where I can’t stand seeing a story done a million times with different people and different takes on the subject.

Let’s start with exhibit A, “Spider-Man.” Now, I sat through “Spider-Man,” “Spider-Man 2” and “Spider-Man 3” because I can look at Tobey Maguire all day long and twice on Sunday. He was perfect as Peter Parker, though the abomination that was “Spider-Man 3” is a whole other topic. But did Spider-Man really need to be remade? No, it didn’t, and I’ll tell you why: The movies were fine the way they were. We didn’t need a fourth movie, and we certainly didn’t need a new franchise because someone at Sony couldn’t come up off some money for Maguire and Sam Raimi.

In exhibit B, I’m looking directly at you, Mr. Frank Castle. Seriously, there have been more Punisher reboots than there have been actual people who saw the Punisher movies combined. The crazy thing is, I loved Punisher: War Zone and I thought Ray Stevenson did an excellent job in the lead role. But I’m of the mind that if Marvel had actually bothered to cast him the first time around or waited to do that Punisher film, there wouldn’t have been three attempts. Let’s face it, the Punisher isn’t that hard to do. You get someone to be sufficiently tortured because of the loss of his family and you make it work well. Mark Harmon manages to accomplish this every week as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on “NCIS,” so I’m not understanding how this can’t be made to work in a motion picture of this caliber.

In exhibit C, the X-Men find themselves raising their hands to answer the question of which group of people need not apply for more reboots. Like “Spider-Man,” I’ve seen all of the films in question except for “X-Men: First Class,” and I’m not exactly dying to see it. Why should I? What was the point of redoing “X-Men”? And, who thought it was cute to replace Patrick Stewart? Whoever made that call should be ashamed of themselves. I don’t care how good folks supposedly were in First Class; do not take away my beloved Patrick Stewart. I will not go see your movie.

In the final exhibit, we have Superman. Now, why someone thought ruining the Man of Steel’s legacy as singlehandedly wrought by Christopher Reeve with his bare hands molded from clay of the earth was a good idea, I’ll never know. But ruining Superman’s legacy as wrought by Christopher Reeve with his bare hands was a bad idea, a really bad idea. I have nothing against Brandon Routh who tried and miserably failed to fill Reeve’s shoes, but there will never, ever be another Superman as long as I live and breathe other than the late Mr. Reeve. And I will go on the record now: I realize that Henry Cavill’s fine self has been tapped to play Clark Kent in yet another reboot, but he will fail and fail completely to this child of the ’80s.

My major problem with all of these reboots ― and I’m blaming Marvel for this because they seem to be the worst at this ― is that if it doesn’t work, I have to ask why the companies don’t realize it just isn’t going to work. Rhetorically speaking, if it doesn’t work, why keep banging your head against the proverbial wall trying to force it? It doesn’t make sense to keep trying to find that “right fit” because you’re never going to find it for some projects. In some of these cases, the right fit was found and then torn up because of money, which is usually the root cause of the problem. Because believe me, none of these reboots would have happened without an unlimited supply of money.

Folks, if you’re on your third reboot, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for that source of comic book gold. Obviously, the ink isn’t subjective to the Midas Touch.

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

Strip Talk #10: Just where did Charles Xavier go wrong?

Lyndsey Mosley, editor in chief

Charles Xavier: Former leader of the X-Men, founder of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Morally ambiguous leader who mind wipes foes. Yes, Xavier is capable of great things and then there’s that tendency for him to get into the dark side of his humanity and kill people.

Just where did Xavier go wrong?

First, let’s examine the good that came from Xavier’s actions. In creating the X-Men, his strikeforce for perpetuating the good of mutantkind, Xavier gave a home to and helped many a mutant with a tragic background. These people may not have had any other place to go, killed themselves or others if not for the benevolence of the professor. However, there’s two sides to every story and Xavier didn’t always practice what he preached in taking in wayward mutants.

The list of questionable actions arising from the creation of the X-Men didn’t come to light until much later, and when it did, Xavier had to pay. I mean, who does things such as: tamper with a mutant’s mind to prevent their assassination (Wolverine); let a sentient being remain enslaved while knowing they are capable of advanced thought and feelings (Danger Room); tell a mutant for years that he can help them when he really can’t (Rogue); and erase the memory of fallen comrades that he sent unprepared into the field and who subsequently died solely to cover his tracks (Vulcan, Petra, Sway)? That would be Xavier in a number of story arcs. When even Cyclops and Wolverine are disgusted with you, you have a problem.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love the early character of Xavier. He was modeled after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a personal hero, so there’s much to love about him. However, his problems with lying and secret-keeping are an immediate dealbreaker in terms of character likability. The more recent story arcs seem to be rehabilitating Xavier into a broken-but-honest man. Let’s hope they continue down that path.

Lyndsey Mosley is editor in chief of Gaming Insurrection. She ponders the humanity of the X-Men at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

PlayPlay

Marvel character highlight #06: Rogue

Name: Anna Marie

Affiliation: X-Men, Brotherhood of Evil Mutants

Special abilities: Absorbs — sometimes permanently — the life force and psyche of an individual that she touches with skin-to-skin contact. With absorption from mutants, Rogue can temporarily or permanently use the powers of the individual, depending on the length of time that she maintains contact.

Background: Rogue began life in the Mississippi bayou. At the age of 14, she began seeing a young man named Cody Robbins. When she kissed him for the first time, her mutant powers manifested and caused him to fall into a permanent coma. After she ran away from home, Rogue was taken in and raised by adoptive mother Mystique, leader of the Evil Brotherhood of Mutants. Within this home, Rogue committed crimes under the guise of Mystique and her brood. It was then that she encountered Carol Danvers, better known as the mutant Ms. Marvel. During a fight with Danvers, she permanently absorbed Marvel’s powers and gained super strength and flight. She also gained her psyche, which slowly took over Rogue’s body.

After several battles with the X-Men, allies of Ms. Marvel, Rogue joined the group to learn to better control her powers. She also had begun wearing a protective suit to avoid accidentally hurting others. Her admission to the group was rocky at first, but she soon was trusted enough to lead as a field commander and her own team. Rogue has been at times depowered and maintained a relationship with fellow X-Man Gambit. This relationship has proved to be a popular and frequent partnership among the group of mutants.

Relationships: Remy LeBeau (Gambit), lover; Erik Lesherr (Magneto), lover; Raven Darkholme et al (Mystique), adoptive mother; Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler), adoptive brother; Graydon Creed, adoptive brother.

First versus game appearance: X-Men vs. Street Fighter

Appearances in other media: Marvel vs. Capcom (arcade), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (arcade), X-Men vs. Street Fighter (arcade), X-Men (Genesis), X-Men: Mojo World (Game Gear), X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (PlayStation), X-Men: Next Dimension (PlayStation 2, Gamecube), X2: Wolverine’s Revenge (multiplatform), Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (PlayStation),  X-Men Legends (multiplatform), X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (multiplatform), X-Men (film), X2: X-Men United (film), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), X-Men the Animated Series (television), X-Men Evolution (television), Wolverine and the X-Men (television).

Comic property review: “The Spirit”

Photo courtesy of ComicBookMovie.com

‘The Spirit’ lacking in focus, execution

“The Spirit”
Lionsgate, 2008

Despite reviews to the contrary, “The Spirit” isn’t a bad movie. It is a mess in some spots and it requires multiple viewings to fully understand what’s going on but, overall, it’s not bad; it’s just that its attention span is all over the place and could benefit from a pacing specialist’s undivided time.

Visually, it’s gorgeous. If you fell in love with the look of “Sin City,” you will love “The Spirit.” It sings for its supper in its lush graphics, and the mix of comic style and computer generated work does it a world of good. The costume direction is also a winner, and most of the characters look awesome with a softened glow about them against a gritty backdrop of crime, death and resurrection. Of particular note are the costume changes of Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, both who steal the show with their chemistry and impeccable timing. Gabriel Macht and Eva Mendes do a fine job in their lead roles and inspire feelings of sympathy and understanding for their predicaments.

“The Spirit” isn’t without its flaws, however. First of all, it’s not particularly true to the comics. The Octopus never shows his face in the original property. However, we can let it slide because it’s Samuel L. Jackson. He’s allowed to ham it up, and he’s a marquee name. Another change is the fact that the Spirit didn’t originally have the healing factor power he’s given. Again, the addition is jarring but it’s needed to pull the movie closer to the sensational to lure audiences in. However, it didn’t work as the film has only grossed nearly $39 million.

Thirdly, the story jumps around quite a bit. It’s not told nearly as well as “Sin City” and it’s not paced particularly well, either. In some parts — mostly those featuring Jackson — it’s hilarious and dark. In others, it’s slow and tedious, and you wish it’d pick up the pace and stop dragging its heels toward the inevitable Octopus-Spirit showdown climax. And finally, the climax, while it seems to take forever to get to, isn’t all that great. It’s really anticlimactic. What we really wanted was more of an emotional payoff for the Spirit’s romantic entanglements. Otherwise, it’s got a twitch factor that either you’ll get or you won’t. Despite its weirdness, we got a decent comic book movie fleshed out with interesting characters. Color us happy.

How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in case 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.

Casting: 9.5/10
Plot: 6/10
Like the comics?: 4/10
Overall rating: 19.5/30 or 6.5


Marvel character highlight #05: Colossus

Name: Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasputin

Affiliation: X-Men, Excalibur, Acolytes

Special abilities: Covers his entire body in an organic metal outer shell that renders him impervious to most damage. While in his transformed state, he has superhuman strength and endurance.

Background: Piotr was born and raised in Communist Russia. He manifested his mutant powers during adolescence while saving his sister Ilyana from a runaway tractor. He used these powers to help his people on their collective farm. He was brought to the attention of Professor Charles Xavier during the attempt by the second genColossuseration of X-Men to rescue the first generation from the sentient island of Krakoa.

He remained with the team after the rescue and has been a member off and on ever since. Colossus briefly joined with the start-up British team of superheroes, Excalibur, and has even been a part of Magneto’s Acolytes. Rasputin was instrumental in the research and creation of the Legacy Virus cure that ravaged the mutant population. His “death,” along with the death of Ilyana, was the catalyst for the elimination of the mutant plague.

Relationships: Ilyana Rasputin (Magik/Darkchylde), sister; Mikhail Rasputin, brother; Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat), lover; Callisto, lover

First versus game appearance: X-Men: Children of the Atom

Appearances in other media: The Uncanny X-Men (NES), X-Men: Madness in the Murderworld (PC), X-Men (arcade), X-Men II: Fall of the Mutants (PC), X-Men: Children of the Atom (arcade), Marvel vs. Capcom (arcade), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (arcade), X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse (GameBoy Advance), X2: Wolverine’s Revenge (multiplatform), X-Men Legends (multiplatform), X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (multiplatform), X-Men: The Official Game (multiplatform), Marvel Ultimate Alliance (multiplatform), Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (multiplatform), X-Men the Animated Series (television), X-Men: Evolution (television), Wolverine and the X-Men animated series (television), Pryde of the X-Men (television), Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (television), X-Men (film), X-2 (film), X-Men: The Last Stand (film)