Friday, October 31, 2014

What's Left for Marvel Studios?

Well, Marvel just announced their "Phase 3" in the Marvel Cinematic universe. And Phase 2 still has two more films to debut with Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. Of course, there is also Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., now featuring comic character Mockingbird, as well as the upcoming spin-off series Agent Carter. And don't forget the Netflix deal featuring Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Drew all teaming up as the Defenders.

All of this leads me to ask... what's left? Naturally, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man properties are out of reach, with each planning long-term franchise films under other studios, so what properties does Marvel Studio have left that could translate well to film or television?

10. The Eternals

If Thor's tale is truly coming to an end, as the title Thor: Ragnarok would suggest, it could be just the right time to introduce Jack Kirby's other pantheon. Although not initially written as part of the Marvel universe, The Eternals created a rich mythology of cosmic beings as only Jack Kirby could envision.

When a race of faceless titans from space known only as the Celestials visited the planet Earth, they manipulated the DNA of early hominids to create two incredible races: the Eternals and the Deviants. The Eternals were perfect immortal beings living high in the mountains while the Deviants were hideous mutated creatures living deep underground. Locked in ageless conflict, their tales gave birth to the myths of man. Greek myth, in particular, was inspired by names like Ikaris, Sersi, Thena, Ajak, and Makkar. Every few thousand years, the Celestials would return space to judge their creation either by blessing or destruction. Like the comic, a film would center around the latest (and perhaps, final) judgment of the Celestials.

Additionally, this could be an interesting way to introduce the character of Hercules to the Marvel Universe. Although not a part of these stories in the comics, Hercules debuted years earlier as part of a more traditional Greek pantheon and a counterpart for Thor. Since the Greek gods have not had the same level of development as the gods of Asgard, this could be a clever way to streamline the character.

9. Squadron Supreme

If Marvel really wants to stick it to DC, they will produce a Squadron Supreme film. Although it wouldn't be set in the same Marvel universe, this could be a way to expand into the Marvel multiverse.

The Squadron Supreme began as blatant counterparts of the Justice League from another universe as a means to have the Avengers fight their competition from another company. Years later, in the 12-issue Squadron Supreme miniseries, their story was expanded as a cautionary tail of a small group of well-intentioned people who think they can run the world. This was revamped more recently as Supreme Power by J. Michael Straczynski which focused on the alienation and manipulation suffered by the heroes of this world prior to their authoritarian take over.

As a film, it could easily be seen as a criticism of the Distinguished Competition's more grim and gritty approach to filmmaking.

8. Runaways

Runaways is a huge fan favorite Marvel series created by Brian K. Vaughn and featuring such writing talents as Joss Whedon and Terry Moore. The series focuses around a group of teenagers who discover that their parents are supervillains. They come together as a team to foil their plans before running away to live on their own.

Since the characters of Runaways have no costumes or codenames, they are very easy to adapt into other media, but perhaps they would do best as television show. As a companion to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Runaways would be an easy sell to a younger demographic, and with a cabal of villains at the heart of the premise, it would be easy to work in new characters with powers of their own.

The only thing that might give Disney pause is the fear of promoting running away from home as a solution to your problems.

7. Ghost Rider

Now that Marvel has the license back to Ghost Rider, it's just a question of where they will use it. No doubt that Doctor Strange will open the doors to the supernatural world of the Marvel universe, so will Ghost Rider be there to drive through them? Will they continue to use the character of Johnny Blaze after the last two films?

Although Blaze has the strongest origin and longest association with the character, Ghost Rider actually soared to popularity with the introduction of teenager Danny Ketch as the host of the Spirit of Vengeance... although that probably has more to do with his dramatic redesign. In those comics, Johnny Blaze returned as a drifter with a shotgun that fired hellfire. I could definitely see that approach inspiring the Marvel films, especially if they want to distance themselves from Nicholas Cage.

6. New Warriors

One popular element of superhero comics that is sorely underrepresented are teenage superheroes... and, particularly, teenage superhero teams. Since they don't have access to X-Men or Spider-Man, Marvel is likely eyeing their remaining teenage superheroes and none have a longer history than the New Warriors.

The New Warriors were an unsupervised, unsanctioned group of teenagers who took their inspiration from the Avengers. Although coming from different backgrounds and heroic origins, they came together to fight for justice, but often make mistakes along the way. Their most infamous mistake was  joining a reality TV series which led directly to a botched mission, their own deaths, and the deaths of many civilians, including children.

Although the team's roster has changed dramatically over the years, I would stick with fan favorites like Night Thrasher, Namorita, Darkhawk, Firestar, and Speedball along with the popular duo of Cloak and Dagger.

5. Blade

Like Ghost Rider, Blade was recently reacquired by the Marvel parent company, but his original film kicked off the trend of A-list superhero movies way back in 1999.
Rumor has it that Marvel is considering hiring Wesley Snipes to reprise the role. It certainly makes sense. Snipes redefined this character as much as Robert Downey Jr. redefined Iron Man. Why wouldn't they want him back?

And while my dreams of Captain America/Blade: Howl of the Cap-Wolf may have been deterred by Civil War, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if we get a cameo in Doctor Strange. Maybe they could even join Ghost Rider as a new version of the Nightstalkers.

4. Moon Knight

One of the last classic solo characters yet to be featured in film or television, Moon Knight was an attempt by Marvel to create their own Batman in the late seventies, but with a supernatural Egyptian curse as the hook.

Marc Spector was a mercenary who betrayed his own commander when they were raiding the temple of Khonshu, a lunar god of vengeance. Beaten nearly to death, Spector was reborn as Khonshu's avatar.

Fighting injustice at night, Spector dressed in the vestments of Khonshu's warriors, but he became increasingly unstable, adopting multiple identities. It is unclear if he is experiencing utter madness or if he has been possessed by spirits beyond his understanding.

3. Young Avengers

While the New Warriors were inspired by the Avengers, the Young Avengers deliberately attempts to recreate that classic dynamic but in an all new generation of young heroes.

The first incarnation of Young Avengers were formed after the dissolution of the classic Avengers. The team is gathered by Iron Lad (a time-traveler from the future) who recruits Patriot (grandson of the prototype Captain America), Wiccan, Hulkling, a new female Hawkeye, and Stature (the size changing daughter of Ant-Man, Scott Lang). Years later, after the team had disbanded, they are reformed by a child version of Loki along with the new additions of Kree warrior Noh-Varr and other dimensional powerhouse Ms. America Chavez.

The one drawback on this concept is that a lot of these characters have their origins based in events that have not yet happened in the Marvel cinematic universe. Not the least of which is that an adult Loki is currently being played by the extremely popular Tom Hiddleston.

Still, with this many characters to choose from, a clever writer could work around these issues and there are a lot of reasons why they should. This team has a history of unstable leadership and tragedy with a very fun and stylish sensibility. It could offer the best elements of Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Iron Man with the added benefit of youth appeal.

2. Thunderbolts

With all the villains piling up in the Marvel universe and the heroes fighting amongst each other, this would be the perfect time to introduce the Thunderbolts!

Originally, they were the Masters of Evil, villainous counterparts to the Avengers. Yet when the Avengers had seemingly died, they adopted new identities as a superhero team. Yet in playing the role of the hero, many of them began to question their own decisions and even became the heroes they were pretending to be. Led by the disfigured Nazi Baron Zemo disguised as Citizen V, the team included the manipulative psychologist Moonstar, the mechanical genius Techno, the supersuit-flying Mach-5, the size-changing Atlas, and the energy projecting Songbird. After being exposed, the team went fugitive and attempted to redeem themselves, eventually becoming an official government run team designed to give supercriminals the opportunity to reform.

As a film, the Thunderbolts would be an excellent fit if the Avengers were disbanded or disgraced, but the sequel Avengers versus Thunderbolts would be epic.

1. Nova

In some ways, we've already had a preview of this film as Guardians of the Galaxy featured the planet Xandar, home to the Nova Corps.

Led by Nova Prime (Glenn Close), the Nova Corp are the peace-keepers of the universe. The original comic featured Richard Rider while the more recent comics (and Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon) feature Sam Alexander, a younger Hispanic character. In either case, the story is the same: a young man is thrown into the dangerous task of keeping order in the wonderous depths of Marvel universe.

If Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel's replacement for the Fantastic Four and Inhumans is their replacement for X-Men, Nova would be an excellent choice as a replacement for Spider-Man.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Quick Guide To The 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.



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


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)


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


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)


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


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)


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.