Thursday, July 31, 2014

What You Need To Know: Guardians of the Galaxy

While Marvel Studios is sitting at the apex of their success, they are taking a chance with something a little different with the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film. This is a particularly unusual choice since this incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy is only a few years old, and though gaining in popularity, even die-hard comic fans know little about them. Since I knew next to nothing myself, I decided to research the Guardians of the Galaxy. So here is my guide to the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The original Guardians of the Galaxy


The original incarnation of this team was a 31st century counterpart to the Avengers, similar to DC's 30th century superhero team, the Legion of Super-Heroes. They are most well-known for their role in the Avengers' Korvac Saga. Although there were many members of their team, the only ones relevant to the current team or upcoming film are Major Victory (a 31st century counterpart to Captain America) and Yondu (a blue-skinned archer-warrior from Alpha Centuri).

Created in 1969, the Guardians finally had their own series in the mid-90s by Jim Valentino, but it did not catch on and the characters were soon forgotten.

Annihilation (2006-2007)


The inaugural event that preceded the debut of the team consisted of a prologue issue with four miniseries including Nova, Silver Surfer, Ronan, and Super-Skrull followed by the Heralds of Galactus mini-series. Beginning in Thanos and the Drax the Destroyer miniseries, this event features the invasion of bug-like entities from a sector of space called "The Crunch" where the Negative Zone meets the "Positive" universe. Led by Annihilus, the unstoppable swarm is dubbed "the Annihilation Wave."

In their first strike, the Annihilation Wave destroys an intergalactic prison known as the Kyln where a half-human superhero who called himself "Star-Lord" is being imprisoned following his destruction of a small planet to save many others. In their second strike, the Annihilation Wave destroys Xandar and the galactic peacekeepers known as the Nova Corps leaving only Centurian Richard Rider with their entire power and legacy.

The event comes to a conclusion in the Annihilation miniseries as the intergalactic powers form a united front, kill Annihilus, and force the invading army to retreat (though several planets remain occupied).

Nova (2007-2010)


Following the aftermath of Annihilation, Nova received his own series focusing on Richard Rider baring the burden of the entire power of the Nova Corps and the Xandarian Worldmind. This series ran along side Guardians of the Galaxy and was also written by Abnett and Lanning, so while it is not necessary to read one to enjoy the other, they do go well together.

This series focused on the struggles of Richard Rider following the death of the Nova Corps. With his former team, the New Warriors, now hated on Earth following Civil War, he finds he has no place on Earth, but instead struggles to be a one man Corps.




Annihilation: Conquest (2007-2008)



This event crosses with the Nova ongoing series, but is also told in the miniseries Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar, Wraith, and Star-Lord. As Star-Lord helps rebuild the Kree Empire following Annihilation, he unknowingly helps to facilitate a Trojan horse invasion led by the techno-organic Phalanx. Eager to atone for his most recent mistake, Star-Lord leads a team of elite Kree convicts into a dangerous mission in the heart of Kree space. This is the team that would soon become the basis for the Guardians of the Galaxy including Bug, Rocket Raccoon, Mantis, Groot, and Captain Universe.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2008-2010)


Following the battle in Annihilation: Conquest, Star-Lord reforms his team as a proactive group designed to prevent the next universe damaging events. As a result of the previous storyline, the fabric of space/time has been weakened and their first priority is to repair the places where reality has been stretched to the breaking point. The critical component in their plans is the all-powerful Adam Warlock, who is a human who has evolved to the point where his connection to quantum energies is indistinguishable from magic.

Although Bug and Captain Universe were not in the initial lineup, they were replaced by Adam Warlock, Quasar (Phylla Vell), Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer. After discovering the severed head of a Celestial floating in a space just outside of the universe, the Guardians are able to use the Celestial head as a teleporter with unlimited range. This place, referred to as Knowhere, is used as an intergalactic port that barely tolerates the Guardians' presence. Their security chief is a telepathic dog with a Russian accent known simply as Cosmo.

Secret Invasion (2008-2009)


Although not directly tied to these events, this Marvel event featured the invasion of Earth by alien shapeshifters. This required both the Guardians and Nova to be preoccupied on vaguely related adventures. Yet this event directly leads into the following cosmic event...

War of Kings (2009)


When the Skrull invaded Earth, they replaced (amongst many) the Inhuman king, Black Bolt. Unwilling to led this threat pass, Black Bolt converted the Inhuman capital city into the starship that it originally was and led his people to destroy the fleeing invaders. After they were destroyed, the ship turned to Hala, the home planet of the Kree Empire. The Inhumans and the Kree have been enemies since the Kree created the Inhumans with genetic experimentation designed to help fix their own genetic stagnation. Surprisingly, the Kree ruler, then Ronan the Accuser, surrendered to the Inhuman invaders with the belief that their strength would be to the benefit of the war-weary empire.

Meanwhile, the other great empire of the known universe, the Shi'ar Empire, had been taken over by a human mutant - Gabriel Summers who preferred the name Vulcan. An omega-level mutant, Vulcan possessed the ability to manipulate limitless energy as well as a sadistic desire for power. Vulcan had taken the Shi'ar throne through marriage, deceit, and power, killing both his own father and the Shi'ar Emperor D'Ken in the process.

Soon, Vulcan's expanding Shi'ar Empire meets the recently conquered Kree Empire and the two empires engage in a war that threatens the fabric of reality, forcing the Guardians and Nova to find a way to bring the war to a swift and stable conclusion.

Realm of Kings (2010)


Following the conclusion of War of Kings, both Black Bolt and Emperor Vulcan are missing and presumed dead as the Inhuman doomsday weapon caused a massive interstellar phenomenon called "The Fault." Although nearly suicidal to enter, the various universal representative each send in their explorers only to discover a universe where death has been destroyed and life has been perverted. Seeking to invade their world, they call it the "Cancer-verse."

The Thanos Imperative (2010)


Following the conclusion of both Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy, these two titles have their respective stories resolved in the dramatic conclusion to this cosmic epic of events from creators Abnett and Lanning. This series features the battle of our universe against the Cancer-verse as the Guardians use Thanos, avatar of death, to combat a universe where death doesn't exist.

This event ties up all of the cosmic events since Annihilation.

Annihilators [Earthfall] (2011)


Following The Thanos Imperative, the telepathic dog from Knowhere, Cosmo, recruits a team to replace the Guardians in order to fulfill Star-Lord's dying request. No longer a team of unpredictable rebels, Cosmo is directed to recruit the most powerful - the Annihilators. This team consists of Silver Surfer, Ronan, Gladiator, Quasar, and the unanticipated addition of Spaceknight Ikon.



The Annihilators are featured in two miniseries. The first self-titled series features the Annihilators versus the Dire Wraith as they ally themselves with the Spaceknights. The second series (subtitled "Earthfall") features an encounter with the Avengers as the Universal Church of Truth resurrect Adam Magus on Earth.

Guardians of the Galaxy - Marvel NOW! (2013-present)


The most recent incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy is written by Brian Michael Bendis. There is a significant change in the character of Star-Lord. In addition to being blonde where he was previously brunette, there is a focus on Peter's promiscuity and issues with his abandoned father, who apparently is actually ruler of Spartax. This series also includes Iron Man and recent Marvel acquisition Angela to the team.

In my estimation, the Bendis run is not nearly as good as the Abnett and Lanning run, and I would not recommend  it. The title takes a major shift in tone and story as well as stunt-casting members like Iron Man, Angela, and Venom who dominate the storyline.

---


If you want to just dive into it all (as I did), I recommend that you start with Annihilation and end with Thanos Imperative. Don't avoid the events as they are crucial to the story. You can skip Secret Invasion, but if you like Guardians, you'll probably also like Nova and they work well as companion titles.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Marvel Universe - Part 3: Terrestrial Races

Now that we've covered the cosmos with alien races and cosmic beings, let's go back to your home planet, Earth.

Aside from the obviously predominant human race, the Earth has been home to many offshoot races. Some of them are ancient and others new. Many still reside on the planet while others have colonized distant worlds. These are the terrestrial races.

PART 3: TERRESTRIAL RACES


Humans


The dominant race on Earth, humans vastly outnumbers all other sentient life forms, yet they do not possess the unique abilities of their offshoot races. Due to ancient genetic tampering by the Celestials, many humans possess latent abilities that may become activated by radiation.

Humans have a reputation for being chaotic and unpredictable. Numerous attempts have been made to control or eliminate the human race for the sake of universal stability, but all such attempts have ended in disaster.

Notable Humans: Tony Stark, Nick Fury, J. Jonah Jameson, Maria Hill, Punisher
First Appearance: Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939)
Chance of Appearing in GotG:  Duh

Mutants


On Earth, the once generic term "mutant" has been applied to a specific spontaneous generation of humans born with superior abilities and thus scientifically designated as homo sapiens superior. Usually these traits manifest during puberty, often during strenuous or anxious situations. Due to the dangerous nature of their abilities, mutants are frequently distrusted and the two races are constantly in conflict. Many experts on the mutant phenomenon believe this to be the beginning of the next stage in human evolution.

Notable Mutants: Charles Xavier, Magneto, Apocalypse, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm
First Appearance: X-Men #1 (Sept. 1963)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: Zero (Fox retains the rights to Marvel's mutants)

Mutates  (Savage Land)


In an attempt to create his own army, the mutant supremecist Magneto crafted a citadel in the middle of the hidden prehistoric jungle called the Savage Land. There he conducted genetic experiments on a tribe called the Swamp Men resulting in artificial mutants referred to as "mutates." Although they rejected Magneto as their leader, they became a major power in the Savage Land, held in check mainly by the land's jungle protector, Ka-Zar.

The word "mutate" is also used to refer to a servant class of mutant in the apartheid state of Genosha, but these mutates were mutants who were genetically altered for subservience by a mutant called the Genegineer. Therefore, they are not a distinct race.

Notable Mutates: Brainchild, Sauron, Lorelei, Gaza, Amphibius, Lupo
First Appearance: X-Men #62 (Nov. 1969)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: Zero (see above)

Atlanteans


Homo mermanus is a submarine race of water-breathing humanoids. As yet, their historical origins are unknown, but were believed to have derived their name and culture from settling the ruins of the sunken continent of Atlantis following the Great Cataclysm. They have blue skin and gills on their neck that require a breathing apparatus when above water for an extended period. Although their numbers are not fully known, there are believed to be only a few thousand, mostly populated in the city of Atlantis.

Although technologically superior to the human majority, their culture is still based in monarchy with various houses often engaging in a coup d'etat for the throne. Their government has been made (relatively) stable by the long (but not unbroken) reign of Namor, their half-human king.

The Atlanteans also have an off-shoot race/culture known as the Lemurians. Nearly identical to Atlanteans, the only difference is their prominent scales and slightly greener hue.

Notable Atlanteans: Princess Fen, Lady Dorma
First Appearance: Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/100

Ancient Atlanteans (Uhari/Chordai/Mala)


Only recently discovered in the depths of the ocean floor in caves developed by coral reef, they were hidden from the rest of the world for thousands of years. They were only spoken of in legend by the new Atlanteans and then as hostile invaders who used peace talks as a cover for invasion. This belief seems to be bigoted as all behavior shows them as no more or less hostile than any other terrestrial race.

The Ancient Atlanteans actually consist of three separate race: the Uhari (fish-like [left]), the Chordai (eel-like), and the Mala (crab-like). However, these three races are fully integrated in a single culture that identifies themselves as the Ancient Atlanteans. This calls into question how the current Atlanteans got their name and what the connection may be to the sunken continent.

Notable Ancient Atlanteans: Ul-Uhar, Vii, Wuu
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #576 (Feb. 2010)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/200

Eternals


During the First Host of the Celestials (see Part 2: Cosmic Beings), these cosmic gods experimented on proto-humans to create three distinctly different races: the constantly mutated and monstrous Deviants, the god-like Eternals, and, between them, the human race. While the Deviants made their home in the subterranean caverns developing powerful weapons, the Eternals made their home in the mountain, probing the universe with their minds, and developing fantastic powers.

Early in the development of their society, the Eternals were ideologically divided by two brothers: Kronos and Uranos. Kronos advocated living peacefully separate from the strife of humanity and the Deviants while Kronos suggested that they should master the Earth and subjugate the other races. This inevitably resulted in a civil war in which the followers of Kronos were victorious, leading to an era of peace and prosperity. Meanwhile, Uranos and his followers were banished into from the Earth itself, finding a Kree (see Part 1: Alien Races) outpost on Uranus where they were attacked by the Kree and experimented upon... leading directly to the Kree experiments that resulted in the Inhumans (see below). The surviving Eternals escaped to Titan, a moon of Saturn, where they founded an independent colony. This offshoot of the Eternals referred to themselves as Titans and produced some of the most powerful beings in the known universe, most notably the worshiper of death called Thanos.

Notable Eternals: Thanos, Zuras, Makarri, Sersi, Ikaris, Ajak, Thena, Eros
First Appearance: Eternals #1 (July 1976)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: Confirmed (Thanos)

Deviants


While humanity fought desperately with the beasts of the Earth for survival, the Deviants were able to dominate their race and build a vast capital on the island of Lemuria. When the Celestials returned for the Second Host, the Deviants brazenly attacked their creators and, in return, the entire Earth was rocked by "the Great Cataclysm," a seismic event that sunk both Lemuria and the far off nation of Atlantis.

Since then, the Deviants have remained in hiding, seeking to undermine the efforts of both humanity and the Eternals in order to seek the favor of the Celestials. However, as always, the Deviants will not hesitate to steal the Celestials power, if given the opportunity.

Notable Deviants: Brother Tode, Ghaur, Kro
First Appearance: Eternals #1 (July 1976)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/10

Inhumans


Following the Kree encounter with the Eternals, the Kree began a series of tests on the human population to unlock their potential. This created the Inhuman race. Their abilities (and often, a new appearance) emerge when they are exposed to the Terrigen Mists.

While they lived for thousands of years hidden in the Himalayas, the Inhumans eventually moved their entire city to the moon and, later still, back to the Kree homeworld as their conquers, though briefly. Recent events have caused the destruction of their city and released the Terrigen Mist into the world, transforming latent Inhumans and forcing the race to redefine themselves.

Notable Inhumans: Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, Maximus the Mad, Gorgon, Triton, Karnak
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #44 (Nov. 1965)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/15

Alpha Primitives


The Inhumans employ an artificial race of identical beings as a slave race to perform menial tasks. Since they were expressly created for this purpose, they possess limited intelligence and imagination, making them very docile. However, they have been known to be agitated, resulting in class warfare.

Notable Alpha Primitives: None
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #47 (Feb. 1966)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/100


Moloids (Molemen)


The moloids are the "mole men" of myth and legend which live in the deepest, darkest tunnels beneath the Earth. They were genetically engineered by the Deviants as a servant race following their loss of human slaves after the Great Cataclysm. Eventually, the population of moloids grew out of control to the point where the Deviants no longer attempted to control them. They even produced a minor offshoot race called the Tyrannoids and a precursor race called the Gortokians (but they quickly went extinct).

In recent years, the moloids were discovered by an explorer named Harvey Elder while investigating the caves of Monster Island. By this point, the moloids had become weak, subservient, and docile due to generations of in-breeding. They quickly accepted Elder as their leader and he rechristened himself as the Mole Man.

Even more recently, some moloids have evolved to demonstrate signs of complex intelligence. Four such moloids have joined the Fantastic Four's youth think tank known as the Future Foundation.

Notable Moloids: Mik, Korr, Turg, Tong
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #22 (Jan. 1964)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: Confirmed (Thanos)

Man-Apes


Native to the unnatural prehistoric jungle reserve known as "the Savage Land," the Man-Apes (or Ape-Men), refer to a range of proto-humanoids that have been preserved in this environment. Due to the unique nature of the preserve, there has been significant crossbreeding and some of the species of humanoids simply have no historical counterparts.

Notable Man-Apes: Maa-Gor, Grog
First Appearance: X-Men #10 (March 1965)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/50

New Men


Created by a superpowered geneticist called the High Evolutionary, the New Men were evolved from a wide variety of animals to endow them with the intelligence, size, and stature of a human being. These were both experiments and a servant race who would help the High Evolutionary achieve his goal of creating the perfect being. However, the High Evolutionary is a gentle master and has allowed the New Men to form their own society with their own roles.

The society of the New Men is located on Mount Wundagore in the Transian mountain range in Eastern Europe. The mountain is protected by New Men warriors known simply as the Knights of Wundagore.

Notable New Men: Bova, Man-Beast
First Appearance: Thor #134 (Nov. 1966)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/100

--

And that brings us to the end of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Marvel Universe! We've covered aliens, cosmic beings, and the races of Earth, but let us know what you'd like to learn about next in the comments below!

Do you want a guide to the DC universe? A guide to Marvel cosmology or multiple dimensions? Let me know!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

11 Worst Things About X-Men: Days of Future Past


Well, the critics seem to love X-Men: Days of Future Past. Even the most critical of critics I know are praising this film for returning the dignity to the X-Men films. I gotta say, I don't see it. But then, I didn't think that the original films had much dignity to begin with. I'll get into that later...

For now, I'd like to share my personal top eleven worst things about X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Why eleven? Because there were eleven things that bothered me. What, do you think these numbers are arbitrary?

[NOTE: This is, of course, a review of the film and not the comic book story it is loosely based on. There will be plenty of spoilers.]

11. The B-Team and The B-Plot


In the opening of the movie, we see the X-Men battle a group of the future Sentinels (which seem to be based on Nimrod, but they don't call them that). There are three X-Men we recognize from previous films (Kitty, Colossus, and Iceman) and four we don't (Bishop, Blink, Sunspot, and Warpath). As the Sentinels attack, we watch the X-Men fight in unison and it looks pretty good, but eventually, they are overwhelmed and killed... but it doesn't matter because they have a temporal reset button.

Unfortunately, since this is the opening of a time travel movie and set in the far future, we already know that there are no consequences to these actions, so there is no tension. Furthermore, by using so many B-characters that have not been established in this universe, we have little reason to care when they die. In the original comic, it showed the death and desperation of characters we cared about.

The new X-Men lack any distinct personality traits and are used only as props. While Blink provides a visually interesting power which (admittedly) is very well-executed (though derivative to anyone who played Portal), her face paint makes her look like a cosplayer. Bishop's inclusion makes sense (given that he is actually from the future), but why was Sunspot included if they aren't even going to use his powers correctly?

The comic book Sunspot has super-strength. He is called "Sunspot" because his powers are fueled by solar energy. If they wanted someone who shoots fire, why not use the far more recognizable Sunfire? And Warpath is a character with no obvious powers who fights with a knife. With literally hundreds of characters to choose from, I can't image why they went with him.

10. Presidential Embarrassment


When writing historical fiction, it can be tricky to weave your story into actual history. Unless you're Quentin Tarantino, you have to try to maintain some discretion so that you don't make real history collide awkwardly with fantasy thereby creating a noticeable distraction. This film does just that in two major ways.

First, it tells us that Magneto was imprisoned for involvement in the Kennedy assassination. Xavier thinks he killed JFK, but Magneto claims that he saved him, replying that he was "one of us." The idea that a real historical figure is actually a mutant is stupid enough, but especially when applied to a figure as iconic and respected as Kennedy. It would be another thing if it were Houdini or Amelia Earhart or someone with an air of mystery about them, but the only mystery around Kennedy is his death... and that's not exactly something you can play with in a fun way.


Second, the film has a major role for President Richard Nixon who approves the Sentinel and is taken hostage at the end. Nixon is just as iconic as Kennedy (although not nearly as popular) and he has a very distinct appearance/voice that is difficult to accurately replicate. Its hard to take these scenes seriously when you don't see the president, but an actor playing the president.

9. Dwarfism is oddly unremarkable in the 1970s


While I'm happy for Peter Dinklage that he can get a role that has nothing to do with his size, am I the only one who found his casting to be a distraction?

As Bolivar Trask, he is dedicated to the extinction of mutants, but dwarfism itself is a mutation. I might be able to overlook this if the film gave him any motivation to fear this specific type of mutation, but aside from an anecdote about homo sapiens wiping out homo neanderthal, he has none. It is simply the same generalized bigotry we've seen in all of these films. If Trask had a tragic history, perhaps involving Magneto or Mystique, it would have been a lot more believable.

But the real distraction for me was how his dwarfism was never mentioned or even subtly acknowledged. In comparison, I was recently watching Injustice For All, a documentary featuring economist Robert Reich. Just under five foot tall, Reich doesn't have dwarfism, but his size is clearly an issue. He carries a box with him to podiums, he makes jokes about his height, and people are, perhaps, a little nicer to him than they would be to others.

Yet in this film, set forty years in the past, during the height of women's liberation and civil rights movements, there is absolutely no reaction from the white conservative patriarchy to a genius arms dealer who is less than four and a half feet tall? Is anyone going to mention the elephant in the room? I'm not saying it needs to effect the whole film, but just small touches like a look or an amused smirk when he enters the room would acknowledge that he faced some adversity. You could have him notice the exchange and make a point of embarrassing the individual... kind of like he does on Game of Thrones all the time.

8. Speedy Maximoff




I'd like to say I don't get Quicksilver's appeal, but I do. He's an off-the-wall character whose powers allow the filmmakers to do interesting things with timing and camera speed. In fact, the film could probably use more characters like him. Between his slo-mo kitchen fight scene and Blink's portals, we get to see the action play out in a much more visually interesting way than previous X-Men films.


However, he's also one of those characters who is very poorly thought out. His powers are shown constantly and the effect is like using a laser pointer with a cat. When we first see him, he's playing a game of ping-pong with himself. Its a neat little gimmick, but later, he is playing the arcade game Pong and listening to his music on what I presume is a portable 8-track player.

The problem here is that technology (and particularly 1970s technology) does not work at an accelerated pace. We see his Pong arcade game moving faster than our eyes can track and, in the popular kitchen scene, we hear his music at a normal tempo while bullets are flying at a snail's pace. This means that, in order for the sound to be consistent with visuals, his music would have to be playing at roughly 10,000 times the normal speed.

The film's interpretation of the character is like a modern day ADHD child who can't pay attention to one thing for very long. This is a very shallow look at the character and does not reflect his own personal reality. It is a voyeuristic look at his power, not a careful examination of character. This Quicksilver is like Bart Simpson with superspeed. He is a troublemaker who does whatever he wants because he has no impulse control, so he's constantly doing things and getting bored with them. Even this isn't fully thought out as he seems entirely satisfied with this lifestyle.

The comic character is more of an angry cynic known for aggressively confronting both friends and enemies. Peter David famously explained this behavior in an issue of X-Factor by comparing his reality to being stuck behind someone who doesn't know how to use the ATM when you are in a hurry. This helps us to understand that his agitation is based in impatience thereby turning an annoying trait into a sympathetic one.

In the film, Quicksilver briefly mentions that his mother "knew a guy" who had magnetic powers, alluding to the fact that Magneto is his father, but the opportunity to have that mean something is entirely wasted. Their relationship is completely irrelevant to the film, even though he is only there to rescue Magneto. After he performs that task, he is written out of the film, even though he proved himself incredibly useful and has no reason not to join our heroes.

We only see him once more with his twin sister, Wanda, in a brief cameo, but in this universe, she is apparently ten years younger. A strangely arbitrary change.

7. Futurism of Days Past


While X-Men: First Class adhered fairly closely to the technology of their era (Cerebro aside), Days of Future Past seems to have given up on that entirely. The Sentinels just don't make sense in the 1970s and their design looks incredibly out of place. In a time when your most basic computer was the size of a room, can we really forgo logic enough to design humanoid robots with heavy artillery, flight capability, and mutant detection without an ounce of metal?


I understand that it is a comic book movie and you can take some leaps with technology, but when you are telling a story set in the past, you have greater limitations. Compare this to Captain America: The Winter Soldier when they reveal Arnim Zola's consciousness uploaded to dozens of old tape-and-reel computers. Although clearly beyond the capabilities of the time, there is an attempt made to show them using the tools available to them. These Sentinel designs would look great in a modern era X-Men film, but they seem too clean and polished during the heyday of the Chevy Cadillac.

Worst of all, we never really get any good scenes with them. When they are finally revealed at the end, they just seem to provide crowd control as the X-Men face Magneto. Wolverine briefly fights one, but they end up being about as capable and threatening as Stormtroopers.

6. Doesn't connect with The Wolverine



Looking more like Droopy the Dog every year...
Despite the fact that Bryan Singer directed the stinger sequence in The Wolverine, it does not fit with the follow up film which he also directed.

The Wolverine is set in the present day (or the "not too distant future" if you go by the caption in X-Men). As Logan walks through the airport, we see Trask Industries advertizing on the monitors implying that the Sentinel program is just beginning. Yet Days of Future Past features the Sentinel program beginning forty years ago. You might say that Trask Industries has been around all this time, but if so, why weren't they relevant until this moment? Is something about to happen? If so, we never get an explanation

Also, in the previous film, Wolverine's claws are made of bone, not metal, because his metal claws were cut off in the climax of the film. In Days of Future Past, we see a future Wolverine with metal claws. So what happened to give him his metal claws back? Did he go back to Weapon X? Did Magneto do it? You can make something up to explain what happened in the intervening years, but why should you have to when its obviously just laziness? Seeing as Wolverine doesn't even use his claws in the future (except when he accidentally cuts Kitty), there is literally no reason for this arbitrary change. It can't be to "fix" the character, because the resolution of the movie essentially reboots continuity anyway.
I need you, Logan. I'm not the box office draw that you are.

Also, in the end of The Wolverine, we see Logan accompanied by Yukio, who in these films possesses precognition. They leave together suggesting that their adventures are only beginning, yet she isn't even mentioned in Days of Future Past. Since Yukio was not a mutant in the comics, I had assumed that her new abilities in The Wolverine would be used as part of the plot in Days of Future Past. Perhaps Xavier would project Wolverine's consciousness through Yukio's mind which, existing outside of linear time, could send it into the past. Obviously, I was reading too much into it.

So why did Xavier and Magneto to put aside their differences at just this moment, and why did they need Wolverine? The new film does not answer this question because it isn't until years later that the Sentinels destroy the world and they formulate a plan requiring Wolverine. We even see the plan being formed at the beginning of the Days of Future Past, so the stinger scene in The Wolverine had absolutely nothing to do with this film.

5. X-Men: The Missing Film?


About half way into the movie, I started wondering if I somehow missed a film somewhere in this franchise.

Mystique and friends
At the end of X-Men: First Class, Xavier is paralyzed, but rather optimistically looking forward to teaching his X-Men. In Future Past, he is a broken, depressed man who has lost all hope in humanity because most of his students were killed. In First Class, Magneto had just defeated the Hellfire Club and turned it into the Brotherhood of Mutants. He was rallying his troops to fight. In Future Past, he is in prison for attempted assassination, half the Brotherhood is dead, and Mystique has come to hate him for some reason that's never fully explained.

When added to the inconsistency in The Wolverine stinger, it honestly feels like there was a whole other movie that they never made. Maybe the movie was written much longer and they cut out the first half, but honestly, it just feels like a cheap way to dismiss all of the films Bryan Singer didn't make.

4. Days of Matrix/Inception


On a completely aesthetic note, I found the future depicted in Days of Future Past to be boring and derivative. Like the first X-Men film, the influence of The Matrix is shocking blatant. The drop ships house dozens of Sentinels that look like "squiddies" when in flight. The sky appears to have been permanently blotted out by a thick cloud. We get some brief looks at concentration camps, but most of the action takes place in a secluded Buddhist temple that looks like the cheap set it is. It actually plays out a lot like the end of The Matrix when our hero is another space-time while the others must simply wait and protect him against the inevitable robotic onslaught.


In short, we don't really see the future, much less feel what its like. We are simply given exposition that informs us that this is their last stand. It would be much more interesting if they traveled through the war torn environment and through one of the concentration camps. We could see the characters reacting to the plight of others, particularly Magneto who spent his childhood in such a camp, and then, we see their plan go into effect more like a heist than a mutant Alamo.

With the projected consciousness, juxtaposition of relative time, and the hopeless slaughter of our heroes, it really feels like a rip off of the endings to The Matrix and Inception, two of the most popular sci-fi movies of the past two decades.

3. Professor X's magic walking serum



Much of this movie's plot hinges around this cheap plot device used to impede our heroes. Xavier now takes an injection which has two very convenient effects: it enables him to walk (despite having a shattered spine) and it inhibits his telepathic abilities. This allows them to shoot the character without his wheelchair, but also keeps him from having a really easy way to resolve the story.

Again, this is the kind of convenient science that breaks my suspension of disbelief. I know Hank is a genius, but he just happened to develop a drug that can restore someone's ability to walk and inhibits telepathic abilities. This is just way too convenient for the crippled telepath who wants to be rid of his telepathy.

And why does he want to be rid of his telepathy? Well, he's just sick of hearing other people's thoughts. It's too hard. There is no real precedent for this behavior in the character as we know him, but we have to believe it based on events that happened between movies that is provided in exposition (refer back to #5).

2. Kitty Pryde's unexplained power


Kitty Pryde possess the mutant ability to move through solid objects. Its called phasing. She can also phase other objects, if she is in physical contact with them. This is established in all three of the original movies and is completely consistent with the comic book character. In Days of Future Past, not only does she have that ability, but she can project someone's consciousness back in time.

It is never explained how she has this ability. She has never had this ability in the comics. There are many characters with psychic or time travel powers that would make more sense, or they could have come up with an original character. Yet, for reasons I cannot fathom, this very critical element to the plot is completely and totally unaddressed.

This is the equivalent of Superman turning back time by spinning around the world. Even at its most basic, her power has absolutely no applications that might remotely connect to projecting consciousness through time.

1. Magneto reprograms Sentinels


Near the end of the film, we see Magneto fly behind a truck carrying Sentinels. We've been told that the Sentinels are entirely made of plastic, and therefore immune to his powers. Magneto pulls a few feet of railroad from the track, strips it for wire, then proceeds to intertwine this wire into the Sentinels thereby demonstrating that they are under Magneto's control.


Now, these films have shown Magneto doing a lot of stupid things with his powers, like lifting the Golden Gate Bridge to use as a method of transporting a small group of people... or slowly pushing a bullet into a guy that doesn't have the sense (or laws of motion) to get out of the way. But we are supposed to believe that he can reprogram advanced robots by just looking at them and weaving metal into their parts?

Is it supposed to be like a puppet, where Magneto is actually exerting his force over their own? If so, they don't move or act with the sort of stilted hesitation you would expect. It seems more like Magneto somehow actually rewrote their software to follow his commands. And he did that with wire? Just by looking at them? He doesn't need to know programming or a keyboard to input new commands. He just sticks his hands up their asses and they perform for him.

Its almost as bad as when he designed a machine to turn humans into mutants, but it can only run on his own power and it would kill him. Just because its a comic movie is no reason to be blatantly stupid.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Marvel Universe - Part 2: Cosmic Beings

Continuing from Part 1: Alien Races, this is the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Marvel Universe.

Here are just the most relevant and important members of Marvel's cosmology. While there have been many "all powerful beings" in Marvel's history, these are the ones who have been around longest and continue to make an impact in the Marvel universe. Created mostly by Jack Kirby and Jim Starlin, they re-envisioned a pantheon of gods for the scientific age.



PART 2: COSMIC BEINGS


Celestials


The Celestials are arguably the most influential cosmic beings in the universe. They do not communicate in any manner that lesser beings are capable of understanding (i.e. auditory, visual, telepathic, mystic, etc.) so their motives have never been entirely clear. However, their actions have shown them to a species dedicated to the forced evolution of life forms on multiple worlds, including the Earth and the Skrull homeworld. It is theorized that the predominance of superhuman variety and the evolution of the mutant race is due their prehistoric experiments on early hominids.

The initial appearance of the Celestials on Earth is known as the First Host, which occurred roughly one million years ago. This resulted in the creation of two sub-species: the Eternals and the Deviants. The Second Host occurred around 18,000 BC when they returned to judge their creations. Displeased with the barbarous nature of the Deviants, the Celestials sank their island kingdom known as Lemuria and, incidentally, the unrelated nation of Atlantis in an event that would be known as the Great Cataclysm. The Third Host occurred in the 10th century when the Celestials were confronted by the the Council of Godheads, represented the various pantheons of gods that had adopted the Earth since the Celestials' last visit (i.e. Norse, Greek, etc.). Yet even their combined power could not defeat the Celestials and they swore a pact of non-interference. Finally, the Fourth Host arrived only a few years ago to judge the Earth and decide whether or not to spare their creations. Convinced by Thor, the gods decided to break their pact by defeningd the Earth, but still, they failed. The judgement of the Celestials may transform a planet into a paradise or destroy it entirely. The Earth was spared only due to an offering from the Earth spirit, Gaea [see below].

In the potential future of Marvel's Earth X, it is revealed that the Earth was impregnated with a gestating Celestial and the superhumans were created as anti-bodies to defend it. This means that the role of Galactus is to destroy planets to prevent the birth of more Celestials. In Abnett & Lanning's Guardians of the Galaxy, the team finds their headquarters in the severed head of a Celestial, which possesses the ability to teleport to any location in the universe.

Notable Celestials: Arishem the Judge, Ashema the Listener, Exitar the Executioner, Gammenon the Gatherer
First Appearance: Eternals #2 (Aug. 1976)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/2

Galactus


The devourer of worlds, Galactus possesses the nearly unparalleled "power cosmic," which can do nearly anything imaginable, along with an equally powerful hunger, satiated only by devouring living worlds. Although he can change size at will, he is usually depicted somewhere between the size of a skyscraper and Manhattan Island itself.


Galactus only exercises his powers when necessary and has come to rely on heralds to seek out suitable planets to devour. Galactus was repelled from devouring Earth due to the betrayal of his herald, the Silver Surfer, and the interference of the Watcher known as Uatu [see below]. Since then, Galactus has devoured many other worlds including the Skrull Throneworld, sending their galactic empire into chaos.
Galactus was originally a humanoid scientist known as Galan. He was the last survivor of the previous universe. When engulfed by the Big Crunch, he was transformed and, after billions of years in gestation, he emerged as Galactus, devourer of worlds.

Notable Heralds: Silver Surfer, Firelord, Terrax the Tamer, Nova (Frankie Raye), Stardust
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #49 (March 1966)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/5


The Watchers


The Watchers are one of the oldest races in the universe, possessing unimaginable wisdom and power, yet they are pledged not to interfere in the development of other worlds. Instead, the Watchers observe, study, and record the development of other worlds. They often appear at times of great import.

The most well-known Watcher to Earth is Uatu who maintains a hidden base in the Blue Area of the Moon. He has violated his oath in subtle yet profound ways to ensure its continued survival. Uatu has been banished from his kind for his behavior, but he has been forgiven as well. Recently, Uatu was found murdered with his eyes removed. As of this entry, the investigation is in progress.

Notable Watchers: Uatu, Aron
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #14 (April 1963)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/3


Eternity


This entity is the very embodiment of the universe itself in corporeal form. He claims to serve the "One-Above-All," suggested to be the one truly omnipotent God in the multiverse.

It is said that Eternity has a twin sister named Infinity. Both representing aspects of "necessity," Eternity represents time while Infinity represents space, however Infinity has been excluded from this entry as she has not nearly been so prominent in major events.

First Appearance of Eternity: Strange Tales #138 (Nov. 1965)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/10

Death


The embodiment of Death is typically depicted as a beautiful, yet somber woman dressed in a dark hooded robe. Yet at times, she appears only as a skeleton. She says little to nothing, conveying no joy in her actions nor motivation beyond her given purpose. She has long been courted by the Mad Titan, Thanos, who seeks her favor. To date, he has been denied his request, despite his generous tributes.

Like Eternity, Death is said to have a twin named Oblivion, representing entropy and the void. Yet like Infinity, Oblivion has not had the exposure of his counterpart. Together with Galactus, these five are said to represent the entire struggle of existence.

First Appearance of Death: Captain Marvel #27 (July 1973)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/2



The Living Tribunal


The Living Tribunal is a multidimensional entity whose job it is to oversee and maintain the balance of realities. Although its difficult to grade cosmic beings in terms of scale (since they are all beyond human comprehension), the Living Tribunal is considered to be the second most powerful being in existence (presumably second to Eternity).

First Appearance: Strange Tales #157 (June 1967)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/10

Master Order & Lord Chaos



Fairly self-explanatory, these two cosmic entities represent the forces of order and chaos themselves. These opposing yet complimentary aspects are manipulators of lesser beings for reasons they are incapable of understanding. In the past, they have manipulated the heroes of Earth into battling both Thanos and the In-Betweener [see below].

First Appearance of Master Order & Lord Chaos: Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 (1977)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/15

In-Betweener


As depicted by his form, the In-Betweener is an agent of balance and duality whose relationship with Master Order and Lord Chaos is one of both service and opposition. Like them, he seems to be part of a cosmic mechanism that we cannot comprehend...

First Appearance of the In-Betweener: Warlock #10 (Dec. 1975)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/20

Eon


Born eight billion years ago of Eternity and Infinity, Eon was charged with protecting the Celestial Axis, the pattern of life energy threading through the universe. It views our reality from another dimension it refers to as "the Mists of Time." Eon can project its power through a champion granting cosmic awareness and quantum bands which possess incredible abilities.

Notable Champions of Eon: Captain Mar-Vell, Quasar
First Appearance of Eon: Captain Marvel #28 (Sept. 1973)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/15



Ego, the Living Planet


When the planet Ego was formed, the coalescing matter was infused with a conscious bacteria (referred to as Super-Ego) which imbued the planet with sentience. Possessing nearly unparalleled psionic abilities, Ego has constructed a body out of the planet with organs the size of continents. While he has formed both a male face and gender, he speaks telepathically and can travel at interstellar speeds. However, Ego is mentally unstable and often threatens inhabited worlds for irrational reasons.

First Appearance: Thor #132 (Sept. 1966)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/10

Gaea


Unique from the other gods of Earth, Gaea is an "Elder God" and a manifestation of the spirit of the Earth itself. Created by the potential of life on Earth with her siblings, Set, Oshtur, and Chthon, Gaea was the only one to maintain her sanity and compassion while the others transformed into the Earth's first demons.

By mating with their creator, the Demiurge, Gaea gave birth to Atum, the Sun God, who destroyed the other gods except for Chthon and Set who escaped to other dimensions. Gaea then released her power into the Earth as a gift to all living things, however she has still been known to manifest her corporeal form, most notably when she mated with Odin to give birth to Thor.

First Appearance of Gaea: Doctor Strange #6 (Feb. 1975)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/30

The Stranger


Perhaps the oddest name on this odd list, the Stranger is an all-powerful alien being with a very silly mustache. He considers himself a scientist with an interest in genetic anomalies, which led him to kidnapping both Magneto and the Abomination. However, it has never been clear what his motivations and origin are. He seems to be studying for idle curiosity, yet his powers have placed him in the company of the other great cosmic beings.

The Stranger has a planet upon which he contains his test animals and performs his experiments. It is simply known as Lab-World.

First Appearance of the Stranger: X-Men #11 (May 1965)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/15

Phoenix Force


Born in the formation of the universe, the Phoenix represents life itself. It is immortal and uncaring, capable of nurturing life or suffocating it. It is a figure of worship in the Shi'ar pantheon, fabled protector of the M'Kraan Crystal (called "the Nexus of All Realities").

The Phoenix has been known to possess a human host, usually an individual gifted with significant telepathic abilities. An individual possessed by the Phoenix will have their natural abilities augmented by the nearly limitless power of the Phoenix. However, it is too powerful to be contained by a mortal host. In all cases, madness and death have been the end result for wielders of the Phoenix force.

Notable Phoenix Hosts: Jean Grey, Rachel Summers, Emma Frost, Cyclops, Colossus, Magik, Stepford Cuckoos, Hope Summers
First Appearance: The X-Men #100 (Aug. 1976)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/30


Captain Universe


The Uni-Power is an extra-dimensional cosmic energy which emanates from the Enigma Force, so named because its source it unknown. This power is often temporarily bestowed upon a single individual, transforming them into Captain Universe. The most recent host, Tamara Devoux, was identified as the embodiment of the universe itself and the guardian of Eternity.

Notable Captain Universes: Ray Coffin, Spider-Man, Juggernaut. Tamara Devoux
First Appearance: Micronauts #8 (Aug. 1978)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: 1/15




The Elders of the Universe


As the name suggests. the Elders of the Universe are some of the oldest beings in the universe, each the last of their own race. They have discovered the secret of immortality and formed a coalition, yet they only find purpose in obsessive hobbies that have subsumed their own sense of identity. Each of the Elders has amassed incredible power by various means enabling them to be classified as cosmic beings.

Notable Elders of the Universe: Collector, Grandmaster, Architect, Caregiver, Astronomer, Contemplator, Explorer, Fallen One, Gardener, Judicator, Possessor, Obliterator, Runner, Trader
First Appearance: Avengers #28 (May 1966)
Chance of Appearing in GotG: Confirmed (Collector)


Coming Soon...


Part 3: Terrestrial Races