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: 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: Batman movie villains

Joker comboThe Joker

You knew he was going to make the list. How could he not with at least two movie outings devoted to the clown prince of crime, both played by different actors that received rave reviews for their performances? The Joker is Batman’s arch-nemesis and thus deserves his own movies, which he gets to the delight of Batman fans. If you can posthumously win an Oscar for your performance as the Joker (Heath Ledger) or have your performance talked about for decades afterward as the standard bearer for psychotic criminal masterminds (Jack Nicholson), you’ve done something right as a character.

 Tom Hardy-Bane

Bane

Bane has so many quotable lines in “The Dark Knight Rises” that it almost makes up for the weak way he gets bumped off (spoiler alert: Bane dies). Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane was intense and satisfying, making the film a must-see just from the trailer alone. If you didn’t care about Batman after Heath Ledger stole the show from Christian Bale, you cared when Hardy uttered the infamous “Gotham’s reckoning” line. Oh, and we only count Dark Knight Rises’ version of Bane. The mockery that was in Batman and Robin is best forgotten, much like the rest of the movie.

 Two Face combo

Harvey Dent/Two Face

Another villain that gets two outings in the franchise, the first time around for Mr. D.A. was campy yet fun. You learned the crazy that was Dent in a slightly lighthearted-yet-dark way that only Tommy Lee Jones could provide in Batman Forever. Contrast that with Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal in The Dark Knight, where he’s a tragic figure caught in the crossfire of Batman and the Joker’s battle. Dent made you understand where he was coming from and sympathize greatly. You could sort of understand why he lost his mind. Oh, and that makeup job as Two Face was so well done, we can’t picture Eckhart without it now.

 Catwoman combo

Catwoman

The sly kitty lady shows up twice in the franchise as well, and boy is she awesome both times. Michelle Pfieffer and Anne Hathaway give new meaning to the term minx. And, any time a woman can look fierce in 4-inch heels while attacking people and holding her own in a fight alongside Batman, she has our vote as a credible character. She’s credible as a villain as well because, let’s face it, Catwoman is not exactly helpful to Batman any time you see her. In fact, every time you do so, it means trouble. That’s a troublesome minx for you.

 Jim Carrey-Riddler

The Riddler

OK, so the surrounding movie wasn’t all that great. But, truth be told, Jim Carrey actually kind of stole the show with his over-the-top portrayal of the man in green. Carrey is the kind of comedian that you know what you’re going to get when you go see a film he’s in: He’s going to be ridiculous and he’s going to ham it up. And the Riddler was the perfect vehicle for that. He made a complete mockery of Batman’s detective skills and somehow managed to elevate the crazy past Tommy Lee Jones’ weird Two Face (see above). Hell, he even managed to make Val Kilmer’s disappointing turn in the tights slightly watchable. You’re a good villain when you can manage that feat.

Property review: Batman Returns

Batman Returns 01

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Batman Returns

Warner Bros., 1992

Batman returns with a little fanfare, but too many enemies

Batman Returns is solid, no doubt about it. Sure, it has some stumbles and could use a little polishing in the finer points, but like most Tim Burton-directed pieces, the Batman’s second outing on the big screen is an enjoyable cinematic set piece designed to bring the malevolence, sexual tension and tortured soul platitudes that can be mustered from Batman’s arsenal.

What we love the most about Batman Returns is the comfort zone it presents. It’s directed as if it knows its Batman in the second round of the fight, and it’s OK with being Batman. There’s no fussiness with establishing who Batman is and why he does what he does; the viewer already knows that — it’s already banking on the fact that you’ve seen the first film.

Batman succeeds here with the brashness expected of a box office experienced sequel. Burton pulls no punches letting you know that Bruce Wayne is a man used to getting his way and he will work as either the Caped Crusader or Wayne to achieve his goals. And this is where Michael Keaton succeeds once again. His Wayne is more self-assured, more confident in his approach to playing the dual role required. Michelle Pfeiffer is deliciously decadent as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, though we never once bought the “Kyle is a meek woman” act at all. Whatever Pfeiffer managed to build, she wonderfully and masterfully destroys with a simple meow to a stunned Batman and Penguin. Her Catwoman is a master class in movie sexiness. And all that needs to be said about Danny DeVito as the Penguin? He was born to play the role. And along with Christopher Walken, he manages to steal the film.

And that belies the problem with the film. For all of its panache and star casting, Batman doesn’t get enough screen time to justify calling it a return. Keaton isn’t on screen nearly enough because there’s basically three villains all chewing scenery at once. Returns falls prey to — and is the progenitor of — the concept of “Too Many Villains Syndrome.” When Batman’s attention is split that many ways, the story’s focus suffers. It’s hard to wrap up Returns and it’s pretty obvious in a specific scene: Batman chases the Penguin and Catwoman after Shreck’s Department Store blows up and each fly off in a different direction. Batman winds up not catching either one because he really can’t figure out how to catch one over the other first. That is not the dilemma your hero should have.

Batman Returns still remains one of our favorite Batman tales and favorite movies, in general. It’s got the dark, gritty atmosphere that we’ve come to love from Burton, and it remains the last real, viable and serious Batman film until the Christopher Nolan trilogy of films were launched. Returns still provides a good return investment if you’re into the origin of Batman’s silver screen outings.

Like the comics?: 3

Casting: 10

Plot: 8

Overall score: 21 out of 30 or 7

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 #16: Too many villains plague some comic films

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineNearly every year that I’ve been alive and conscious enough to know what’s going on in the world, there’s been a comic book movie released. And I take great pride in having seen the majority of the offerings out there. Sure, there’s some modern stuff that I haven’t watched, but that’s mostly because I’m on a journalist’s salary and one can’t just blow into a movie theater on that kind of cash. Made of money, I ain’t. But when I do manage to watch a comic book-based property, I look for a few things. The first and foremost is the ratio of villains to heroes. Some of my least favorite films have fallen prey to the darker and over-numerical side of things.

The first film that I can recall where I fell in love with the concept of hero/villain balance is Batman Returns. I was a lad, no more than 11, dying to go with the grown folks (read: an older cousin and my older brother) to see the sequel to Batman’s big screen outing. I was a child in love with Michael Keaton, and I was especially excited because 1. Tim Burton was at the helm of everything; and 2. I was allowed to stay out extra late with older folks related to me who understood my love of movies.

Mr. Burton, whose style I still love to this day, didn’t disappoint in the aesthetics department. But where I found fault a little later after some discussion with my fellow movie-goers and genius parent was the fact that Batman played second fiddle to just about everyone and everything. Make no mistake, I loved the Penguin and Catwoman. Michelle Pfeiffer was and still is iconic in the role of one Ms. Selina Kyle. But, seriously? Did we really need that many villains? And let me point something out here: Keaton is badass and will always be Batman for me. But the man was severely shortchanged in his screen time as the Bat. Despite the immersion in the world of Gotham, I felt the pangs of longing for every moment that Batman wasn’t on screen yet dealt with three villains. Burton could have killed off Christopher Walken’s Max Schreck and we would have all been OK.

Let’s skip a few years and come upon my time as an adult moviegoer. My dollars are more precious — now on that aforementioned journalist’s salary — and my time a little more wisely spent paying attention to story and plot connectivity to the comic book the movie’s going to be based on. Spider-Man had become a major player in the comic movie world, and Tobey MacGuire’s adorable take on the friendly neighborhood wallcrawler was particularly decent at drawing in the must-see crowd. But you see, even the most adorable Peter Parker couldn’t save the particularly mundane and not-quite-up-to-par third outing for Spider-Man. Why? Because he had too many foes just waiting to make that spider sense tingle. Spider-Man 3 suffered from the same problem that Batman Returns encountered: too many villains. There was absolutely no need to have Harry Osbourne (Hobgoblin), Sandman AND Venom. And to make matters far worse than Batman Returns, Venom was poorly done. That was a blow to my heart as a Venom fan. His origin is handled correctly, but his overall look is terrible. Also, as a matter of record, Venom deserves his own movie as a major Spider-Man foe. It was obvious that Venom’s resolution was crammed in at the last moment, and the film suffered mightily for it.

I’m a purist at heart, so when I sit through your overlong film and I walk away thinking there wasn’t enough of the hero, there’s a problem. Two villains are enough for the protagonist — and the viewing audience — to handle. Movie directors should take a cue from doctors on too many villains syndrome: Physicians heal thy self.

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

 

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Marvel Character Highlight #14: Spiral

Name: Rita WaywordSpiral

Affiliation: The Sisterhood of Mutants, Mojo, Longshot

Special abilities: Spiral is a master-level magic user who is also a master of sorcery, genetic engineering and robotics. Her magic proficiency is enough that she was considered to be among candidates to succeed Doctor Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. Spiral is able to open dimensional gateways, travel between dimensions, teleport and time travel. Spiral has an immunity to possession by others, and is also superhumanly acrobatic and strong.

Background: Spiral began life as Rita Wayword, a stuntwoman on Earth. She became involved with the humanoid Longshot after she was attacked by her evil future self in a paradoxial time loop. Within the loop, she, Longshot and another companion traveled to Mojoworld to take on the villain Mojo. While there she was captured by Mojo and subjected to torturous experiments and enhancements that created her extra four arms. She went insane and became loyal to Mojo, who then sent her back in time to find Longshot, completing the loop. She later became involved in the Psylocke/Kwannon mind swap and joined forces with other evil female mutants to create the Sisterhood of Mutants.

Relationships: Mojo (employer), Longshot (lover), Red Queen (ally), Lady Deathstrike (ally), Chimera (ally), Lady Mastermind (ally), Martinique Jason (ally)

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

Appearances in other media: X-Men the Animated Series (animated), Wolverine and the X-Men (animated), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (video game), X-Men 3: Mojo World (video game)

Property review: God Loves, Man Kills

God Loves, Man Kills scan

God Loves, Man Kills

Marvel Comics, 1982

God loves, but man kills discriminatively

In the dark recesses of the human soul lies a need to persecute. Every being that can afford to call itself human has the potential and inclination to sling labels of acrimony, to breed hatred for the sake of promoting themselves in the hierarchy of life. In the Marvel universe, it’s no different and yet maybe, somehow on a deeper level it’s worse. On a different plane of persecution from the normal homo sapien banter sit mutants. Homo superior knows that minute difference in makeup means jealousy, anger and retaliation. They also know it means the difference between staying alive and using super powers for good and dying a martyr for the cause.

God Loves, Man Kills is the culmination of Marvel’s attempt at framing the differences in mutant-human relations. The chilling murder of children, racism and classism — all for the sake of someone else being different — are effectively told through the eyes of the X-Men and various mutants who come into contact with the group and the antagonist, William Stryker. If you’ve seen the excellent X2 film, this is the main arc that makes up the bulk of the story. The movie, for all of its interweaving of characters and plot elements from various other arcs, is merely the entry point to the source material. But, what’s depicted is far worse. Stryker’s violent and horrific past that led to his crusade against mutants is the backbone for the present-day acts of brutality. Where the story succeeds is showing the genesis of Stryker’s cause and his means of achieving his goal: The eradication of the mutant population.

The excellent storytelling is obvious through the purposeful exposition and writing. It may not always be clear through the prose of characters like Professor Charles Xavier or Cyclops, but the main goal of all of the characters in the arc is nicely made bare in what is relatively short work. The art has a vintage ’80s inking and coloring to it, and the level of detail is outstanding.

The X-Men arcs have always had a story to tell, and God Loves, Man Kills is no different. The quality of the storytelling, the way it deftly weaves violently opposed viewpoints and the well-paced action make a powerful combination. The most interesting part of it all, however? How it so closely parallels the ills of today’s real society. This is another notch in Marvel’s favor toward its ability to relate to the real world at hand.

 

Plot: 10

Art quality: 10

Writing: 10

Overall score: 10

 

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.

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.

Otaku Corner: Death Note Vol. 6

Light learns a few lessons while wheeling and dealing in Death Note Vol. 6

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome back for another edition of Otaku Corner! As all of you know, this is my little corner of GI where I bring you the best in manga and anime that will keep you entertained and free from having reader’s remorse in time and money spent.

I’m continuing the most epic battle of wits mixed with a splash of ethics and a good pinch of the supernatural. We’re following up with Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba and drawn by Takeshi Obata.

Death Note volume six continues the story of Light Yagami, a high school genius who obtains a Death Note, a notebook belong to the death god Ryuk. With the Death Note and Ryuk, Light vows to rid the world of crime. However, when criminals worldwide began to die in record time, the ICPO calls in L, a legendary detective to bring in the serial killer. With L closing in each day, how long will Light be able to retain his noble goal and his life?

In volume six subtitled “Give and Take,” the task force was able to determine that Death Note Vol 6 coverthe new “Kira” has been working to commit murders among the Japanese business community that not only benefit himself, but also the Yosuba Group. However, there is debate among the task force members about the methods of capture, which causes a brief rift. Light and Ryuzaki decide to use Misa to further gain information on the current Kira and the seven Yosuba members’ plans. During an interview to become a Yosuba spokesperson, Misa was briefly reunited with her Death Note’s shinigami, Rem, who tells Misa not only about Light being the real Kira, but also reveals the current Kira: Higuchi.

Upon learning that Higuchi was the third Kira, Misa pretends to go on date with Higuchi while secretly recording him stating that he was behind the recent killings of Yosuba’s rivals and regular criminals. As a result, Ryuzaki plans to use Sakura TV to trap Higuchi using Matsuda as bait. When Higuchi discovers that Matsuda is still alive, he sets off a high-speed chase throughout Tokyo, while at the same time trying to kill Mastuda. In the end, Higuchi fails miserably as the task force and a small contingent of police officers led by Aizawa and Ide trap Higuchi, which leads to major changes for all of the main characters in the next volume.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large for Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email atbrandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Otaku Corner #12: Death Note Vol. 5

Death Note heats up in Vol. 5

Brandon Beatty, editor-at-large

Hello readers, and welcome back to “Otaku Corner,” the section of GI that covers quality anime and manga series for those who deserve the best in Japanese animation. Thus, with this great expectation, our motto is “For the otaku, by the otaku!” (patent pending). I’m continuing our coverage of the worldwide smash manga series Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba, illustrated by Takeshi Obata and English adapted by Viz Media LLC.

Before I get into the review, I want to give those who have not yet read the manga a quick summary of the story plot: Death Note is the story of Light Yagami, a top student with immeasurable prospects who suffers from an extreme case of boredom. That changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook of death dropped by a shinigami (Japanese god of death) named Ryuk. Any human’s name written in said notebook dies, and after a few uses on known and would be criminals, Light vows to use the Death Note to rid humanity of evil. However, Light’s work does not go unnoticed by law enforcement authorities who, in turn, send world-renowned detective L to stop Light aka Kira.

In volume five of Death Note, Light and L (aka Ryuzaki) are playing masterful-yet-blistering mind games via TV, hidden cameras, police officers and even on a college campus! These actions ultimately led Light and his cohort (yet disposable girlfriend) Misa Amane to be confined by Ryuzaki in separate locations. After weeks in confinement, Light was able to dispose of the Death Note and his memories of using it. As a result, Ryuzaki forces Light’s father, Soichiro who is head of the Kira Task Force to perform a final test of Light’s and Misa’s innocence, which resulted in Soichiro performing a mock execution that not only clear Light and Misa, but also continued the partnership of Light and Ryuzaki. Later on Ryuzaki and company established a new base of operations ( largely bankrolled by Ryuzaki), that with new resources leads the task force to find that Kira has returned; only, this time he’s using his powers to the benefit of the Yosuba Group, an multinational business group.

However, this victorious gain is not without setbacks as Aizawa leaves to return to the NPA because of a disagreement with Ryuzaki, and Matsuda’s near death forces the task force to form a new plan. Fortunately, clear heads prevail, and at the end, readers are introduced to the Kira Eight, a group of men who work for Yosuba who are  dedicated to destroying anyone (including their own members) who would stand in their way to obtain absolute power. This is seen at the very end when one of their members is “sacked,” meaning that poor individual is another victim of Kira.

Fans of Death Note will not be disappointed in the new arc as it forces the main characters to again join forces against Kira in a new persona: Greed. As I continued reading, I realized that these eight men are after power and are determined to use Kira to achieve these goals, instead of simply joining forces to use their combined talents to be a success. Obata-san has again performed the skillful combination of plot and philosophy, this time adding in a mix of corporate corruption. The usual supporting cast of Ryuk and Rem (Misa’s shinigami) make their appearances but do not endanger the new plot, coming in only when absolutely needed. Obata-san’s drawings continue to succeed in keeping the plot fresh, especially when presenting the Kira Eight where one of the men truly has the appearance of a demon. I have, so far, in reading this series, not been disappointed as every new volume has without fail brought the elements of ethics and mystery without being silly. I also would be wrong in not giving Viz Media their lion’s share of the credit, thanks in part to the great translation and adaptation of Alexis Kirsch and the Shonen Jump graphic novel team. This again proves that Viz was the right choice in unleashing Death Note upon the U.S.

Will the Kira Eight prevail? How long will Ryuzaki and Light continue their “alliance?” Will the Death Note claim more lives? And, will Misa succeed in wrapping Light around her little finger? The answers to these burning questions and more are coming in the future of Otaku Corner.

Brandon Beatty is editor at large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com