Marvel character highlight #18: Jean Grey/Phoenix

Name: Jean Grey-SummersPhoenix

Affiliation: X-Men, X-Factor, The Twelve, X-Terminators, Phoenix Corps

Special abilities: Omega-level telepathy; telekinesis; Phoenix Force, which grants the ability to travel unaided through space; psionically manipulate matter and any form of energy; create powerful “cosmic” fire; resurrect from death and manipulate life energy in others; and manipulate timelines.

Background: Jean Grey had an ordinary home life with her parents and older sister in upstate New York. That changed when Jean’s friend Annie Richardson died after being hit by a car. Jean telepathically linked with her dying friend, manifesting her powers for the first time. To save Jean, her parents sought the help of Charles Xavier, who connected with Jean and brought her out of her coma. Jean then went to live with Charles at the newly formed Xavier Institute, learning to use her powers. While there, she fell in love with fellow teammate Scott Summers and continued to go on missions. During one mission in space, Jean was exposed to a mortally lethal dose of radiation poisoning. As she was dying, Jean cried out telepathically and the Phoenix Force answered her. The Phoenix Force created a duplicate body — which it resided in with Jean’s essence — and placed Jean in a healing cocoon that sunk in Jamaica Bay. The Phoenix Force posed as her for years, while a clone of Jean (Madelyne Pryor) married Scott and had a child with him. Jean was resurrected from the cocoon and rejoined her teammates. Later, Jean and Scott’s marriage fell apart and Jean was killed again. She then resurrected herself using the Phoenix Force and ascended to a higher plane of existence, the White Hot Room.

Relationships: John Grey (father), Elaine Grey (mother), Sara Grey-Bailey (sister), Scott Summers (former husband), Nathan Christopher Charles Summers (Cable; genetic son), Stryfe (clone of Cable; genetic son), Rachel Summers (genetic daughter), Hope Summers (step-granddaughter), Nathaniel Grey (X-Man, genetic son), Madelyne Pryor (Goblin Queen, genetic clone), Corsair (Christopher Summers, father-in-law), Vulcan (Gabriel Summers, brother-in-law), Havok (Alex Summers, brother-in-law and lover)

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

Appearances in other media: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (television), The Marvel Super Heroes (television), X-Men animated television series (television), X-Men: Evolution (television), Wolverine and the X-Men (television), The Super Hero Squad Show (television), X-Men (anime), Iron Man: Armored Adventures (television), Astonishing X-Men (motion comics), X-Men (film), X2: X-Men United (film), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), The Wolverine (film), X-Men: Days of Future Past (film), X-Men: Apocalypse (film), X-Men II: The Fall of the Mutants (video game), X-Men (video game), X-Men: Gamemaster’s Legacy (video game), X-Men: Mutant Academy (video game), X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (video game), X-Men: Next Dimension (video game), X-Men Legends (video game), X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (video game), X-Men: The Official Game (video game), X-Men: Destiny (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Marvel: Avengers Alliance (video game), Marvel Ultimate Alliance (video game), Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (video game), Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (video game), Marvel Heroes (video game), LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (video game), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (video game)

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.

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 #09: Cable

REAL NAME: Nathan Christopher Charles Summers

AFFILIATION: X-Men, New Mutants/X-Force, Six Pack

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Telekinesis and telepathy. Enhanced eyesight through his techno-organic eye and enhanced strength and durability in parts affected by the virus. Cable is also proficient in most weaponry created.

BACKGROUND: Cable is the son of Scott Summers (the X-Men’s Cyclops) and Madelyne Pryor, a clone of the X-Men’s Jean Grey. When Cable was born, Pryor tried to sacrifice the child who was already supposed to be a weapon for Mr. Sinister to use against Apocalypse. Sinister had created Pryor to continue his manipulation of the Summers bloodline. Shortly after Pryor committed suicide, Cable was infected with a techno-organic virus by Apocalypse. To save the child, Cyclops sent him to the future with the Clan Askani, headed by a future version of Cable’s sister, Rachel Summers or Mother Askani.

While in the future, Mother Askani did two things: First, she halted the spread of the virus so that it is just on the left side of Cable’s body; and two, she created a clone of the child. This clone, later stolen by Apocalypse, was raised to become Stryfe. Once the child was healed, and had been raised by Scott and Jean in the future, he defeated Apocalypse and Jean and Scott returned to the present time. Cable later was framed for an assassination attempt on Professor Charles Xavier by Stryfe, who lead a rebel group against him. Cable married and had a child, Tyler, but his wife was killed by Stryfe. Cable then traveled to the 20th century when Stryfe fled there. He founded Six Pack and reformed the New Mutants into X-Force. He also destroyed the present-day Apocalypse and rescued and cared for the mutant messiah infant Hope.

RELATIONSHIPS: Madelyne Pryor (Goblin Queen), mother; Scott Summers (Cyclops), father; Jean Grey (Phoenix), mother; Rachel Summers (Phoenix), sister; Alex Summers (Havok), uncle; Christopher Summers (Corsair), grandfather; Katherine Summers, grandmother; Gabriel Summers (Vulcan), uncle; Nate Grey (X-Man), genetically identical alternate reality version; Stryfe, clone; Aliya, wife; Tyler, son; Hope Summers (adult), wife; Hope Summers (infant), adopted daughter

FIRST VERSUS GAME APPEARANCE: Marvel vs. Capcom 2

APPEARANCES IN OTHER MEDIA: X-Men the Animated Series (television), X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (Sony PSP), X-Men 2: Game Master’s Legacy (Sega Game Gear), X-Men: Reign of Apocalypse (GameBoy Advance); Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (multiplatform)

Animated property review: X-Men The Animated Series

X-Men the Animated Series Vol. 1  |  Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2009

X-Men origins told correctly

If there ever was a quintessential property in the 1990s of comic book origin, it’s X-Men the Animated Series. The Fox staple in the early part of the decade was a great excuse to get up on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons. It also was a great learning tool for those who didn’t know much about the X-Men and wanted an introductory course to the famous mutants.

What we love about the series is the fact that it takes itself seriously. It told stories just as the comic book version told them 10 years before, and it’s pretty close to the origin stories with only minor changes. Our only gripe with some of the episodes in the first volume is the brevity of the story arcs. Sagas such as Days of Future Past and The Cure are told in one or two episodes, something that isn’t normally be done in the comics. However, some are revisited in later seasons of the show, so that can be forgiven.

The production values of the Animated Series, for its time, were top-notch. The writing was superb, and the coloring and drawing were extraordinary for a cartoon production. Few series, with the exception of fellow Fox production Spider-Man, could match what the Animated Series brought to the table in terms of visuals and storytelling. The first volume sets the pace with Night of the Sentinels, and it’s obvious that care is taken with characters and their backgrounds. Most characters are true to their history and those who have been re-established for the Animated Series are well done and not out of place (i.e. Morph).

The voice acting is another standout established within the first volume. The characters all sound like they should, and it is this first set of episodes that established the standard for future X-Men voice acting projects for the next 17 years. The best example: All X-Men characters used in Capcom’s versus series through Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were voiced by their Animated Series actors.

The first volume of the Animated Series hit DVD in 2009, a welcome addition to any X-Men fan’s collection. The first 16 episodes encompass the two-disc set and were only $20 at the time of purchase. That’s a bargain for well-crafted X-Men stories in a series known for its technical prowess that seemed to take forever to come to DVD.

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.

Voice acting: 10/10

Plots: 8/10

Like the comics?: 8/10

Overall rating: 26/30 or 8.6

Marvel character highlight #01: Cyclops

NAME: Scott Summers
AFFILIATION: X-Men
BACKGROUND: As a child, Scott Summers and his brother Alex were involved in a plane crash after their plane was attacked by the Shi’ar Empire. Their mother, Katherine, pushed the boys out of the plane with one parachute, hoping that it would save their lives. They survived, but Scott hit his head on the way down, thus rendering him an amnesiac and unable to control his then-hidden mutant powers.

Scott lived in an orphanage in Omaha, Neb., for the majority of his life while Alex was adopted. It was later revealed that the orphanage was run by Mr. Sinister, a mutant from the 19th century who was obsessed with Cyclopsthe Summers bloodline.

As a teenager, Scott’s mutant power of concussive force beams projected from his eyes manifested itself and nearly killed a group of people. With Professor Charles Xavier’s help, Scott escaped the crowd and joined Xavier as his first student at what would become the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. He, along with Jean Grey (Marvel Girl), Bobby Drake (Iceman), Hank McCoy (Beast) and Warren Worthington III (Angel/Archangel) would become the first set of X-Men.

While working together Scott and Jean fell in love. After Jean manifested the Phoenix Force and was thought to be killed in a radiation accident in outer space, Scott married Madelyne Pryor, a dead-ringer for Jean. He and Madelyne had a son together, Nathan Christopher, who was infected with a techno-organic virus courtesy of mutant villain Apocalypse. He was taken to the future to be cared for until the virus could be controlled. Scott abandoned Madelyne when it was revealed that Jean was still alive. He obtained a divorce and married Jean.

After mounting pressures in the school and their lives, Scott and Jean’s marriage hit the rocks. Scott turned to a reformed Emma Frost for counseling and subsequently engaged in a psychic affair with Frost. A short time later, Jean was killed. Her death prompted Scott to reconsider his path in life and his place with the X-Men. However, Jean’s future self as the Phoenix of the White Crown showed him an apocalyptic future that would occur if he left the group. Scott decided to stay and remained in a relationship with Emma. After a falling out with Xavier, who had kept many secrets from his group, Scott and Emma took over the school and are currently running the day-to-day operations of the X-Men and Mutant Academy.

RELATIONSHIPS: Alex Summers (Havok), brother; Gabriel Summers (Vulcan), brother; Jean Grey (Phoenix of the White Crown), wife; Madelyne Pryor (Goblin Queen), ex-wife; Emma Frost (ex-White Queen of the Hellfire Club), girlfriend; Rachel Grey (Phoenix, Marvel Girl), daughter from alternate timeline; Nathan Christopher Summers (Cable), son; Christopher Summers (Corsair), father; Katherine Summers, mother.

FIRST VERSUS GAME APPEARANCE: X-Men vs. Street Fighter

APPEARANCES IN OTHER MEDIA: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 & 2 (multiplatform), Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (SNES/Sega Genesis), X-Men (Arcade), X-Men (film), X-2 (film), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), X-Men the Animated Series (television), X-Men Evolution (television)