Comic Culture With Rafa

Comic Culture With Rafa: #014

The New 52 Justice League: A Perfect Entry Point Into Comics

An Editorial From Rafael Encinas

We live in a time where we get to see characters like Spider-Man, Batman, and Deadpool on the big screen. This is something truly special because it wasn’t always like this. In our present time where superheroes are all the craze, there is an influx of new fans that want to explore these iconic characters and delve into the pages of the comic book format. However, as many new readers will attest, finding an entry point to these larger than life superheroes can be a daunting task; especially when there are so many characters and so many years of storytelling to catch up on.

Though many did not like it, I am very happy that DC tried to create an entry point for new fans by starting the New 52 continuity in 2011. This was a hard reset of iconic DC characters, with all new #1 issues. Basically, new fans were welcomed to learn about popular characters like Superman or Wonder Woman with revamped origins. The old stories weren’t important for newcomers to dive right in. You could now start here. Unfortunetly, this did create a division in the comic fans who were reading these stories for years. Therefore, many found the New 52 as a failed experiment; something that hurt comics more than help them. However, for all its faults, the New 52 did give us some great stories (especially in the Batman and Green Lantern books), but one of the best has to be Geoff Johns’ and Jim Lee’s fun and exciting Justice League series, specifically the first six issues (collected as Justice League Vol. 1 Origin in trade paperback). 

For anyone who wants to jump into comics, but is afraid to do so because of all the rich history and running titles, then look no further because this Justice League story is the quinnessential entry point for new comic fans! It’s great for many reasons, but the main reason is because it captures the allure and passion of what makes people gravitate toward superheroes in the first place: excitement, joy, and lots of heart.

First and foremost, I personally love this book! I have reread this story on multiple occasions in the past couple years, and it continues to be just as exciting and fun as it was the first time I read it. It is an excellent reimagining of the Justice League coming together in a modern world with a darker and grittier edge. The plot is simple. Darkseid (one of the DC universe’s biggest bad guys) is coming to earth, and his legions of parademons are invading. Therefore, the world’s meta humans are the first line of defense. We get to see how Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Cyborg come together for the first time. It is absolutely fun reading Batman and Green Lantern play off of one another, like two people who are forced to get along even though they don’t like each other. It is exciting to see the Flash and Superman try to “outfast” one another. And almost every line that comes out of Wonder Woman’s mouth is so earnest but also both fun and funny. It is a serious end of the world scenario, but it still manages to be a wild action set piece with brilliant comedic moments! 

Jim Lee does some of his best work in this story with dynamic art that really energizes the pages. The redesigns of classic superhero costumes are given a youthful vitality, and it can be seen, especially well, in the fluid and stylized detail that Lee is famous for. The countless iconic moments (such as Superman breaking through Green Lantern’s chains; Aquaman summoning a horde of great white sharks, or Batman using all the weapons in his utility belt) all feel grand and important as the story progresses. Personally, the grand entrance of a massive Darkseid is definitely a highlight, and his overall character design is brutal and terrifying. The way he is drawn to tower over the heroes adds dread and excitement to a story that just keeps getting more and more intense! 

What works best however is the genius characterizations of the Justice League members themselves. Though it is a team book with plenty of action set pieces, Geoff Johns showcases exactly why he is one of the greatest writers to have ever graced comic books. He understands character dynamics and gives each character time to shine in his story. Green Lantern plays the perfect comedic show off to Batman’s brooding detective. Flash is a great mediator who is just trying to do the right thing. Both Wonder Woman and Aquaman have great energy and command the screen when they slay waves of parademons. The incorporation of Cyborg to the team is different from what we’ve seen in the past, but I believe it’s an interesting plot point that serves its purpose. Superman is utilized as muscle, and doesn’t necessarily have to be the focal point because of all the great characters around him. He gets his moment to shine, like everyone else, but he is not seeking to lead the team. All of them coming together happens randomly and unexpectedly. They don’t know one another, but through their resolve, teamwork, and hilarious jabs at one another, they seamlessly become the Justice League. It works, and it is exciting every time I read it!

I got into comic books because they provided an escape into a world where people could fly; where the good guys would look fear in the face and still move forward. These were the stories that motivated me to be a better person; to love life because these modern day gods were on full display in my hands. Superhero stories will never go out of style because they inspire us to be better, and this story does this so well. Batman’s heart-to-heart with Green Lantern; Wonder Woman taking a moment to enjoy ice-cream; Superman & Flash inspiring one another; Cyborg overcoming his personal fears and shining so brightly; these moments feel important and we see the magic on full display. In a world filled with apocalyptic destruction, the appearance of heroes creates wonder. We see hope for a better future!

Importantly, David Graves is a character introduced in the last issue of this story in where he and his family are trying to escape the literal hell on the streets. We see people being eviscerated by Darkseid and his parademons. Graves knows he is about to die with his family, and it’s an intense moment, but then he encapsulates the exact appeal and level of inspiration that these heroes can elicit in someone. David Graves represents everyone who has ever opened a comic book or watched a movie where they witnessed something so immersive and so special that it transcends understanding; it just becomes a warm feeling; a fulfilling moment. He puts it best when he says: “I thought there was going to be no tomorrow. I thought my family and I were going to die. Then I saw THEM. And I saw tomorrow.” The Justice League is just that iconic. 

Justice League (2011) is a great story for multiple reasons, but by far, it’s one of the best because it cares about its characters, and they are written to inspire. They inspire us because they are not perfect beings. We see them fight. The running joke about Batman not having any powers; Barry & Hal’s personal banter; and Green Lantern antagonizing everybody on the team feels personal and relatable. They feel like a group of people that quickly become a group of friends; your friends. And we cheer for them because of what they can represent! They might be an alien, an Amazon, a cyborg, a living lightning bolt, an aquaman, a space cop, and a dude in a batsuit, but there’s something utterly unique and special in that. It just works. And we are made to care.

Overall, it is a quick read; an easy read. It will make you chuckle and gasp at the beautiful art. It’s a well written narrative about a bunch of outcasts coming together and becoming something important. If you want to read something that elicits those emotions of wonder and excitement, to see a standard of excellence, this is the book for you; no prior reading necessary. It is a wonderful entry point into the magical world that is comic culture!

Comic Culture With Rafa #013

Clarity of Focus For A Mutant Future in X-Men #1 – Spoilers Ahead

A review by Rafael Encinas

After the magnum opus that was Jonathan Hickman’s House of X and Powers of X, we are now in the Dawn of X, where we go further down the rabbit hole of Krakoa and the new Mutant Status Quo. As Chris and I expounded on in our previous wrap-up of HOX & POX, we are beyond excited to see how the X-Men move forward in a world that still hates and fears them, but now also recognizes them as a sovereign nation.  This Dawn of X begins with today’s newest story, Hickman’s X-Men #1, and right out the gate, we have the X-Men do what they do best; they are taking on those that are threatening the X-Men’s new-found liberty.

The issue opens with a flashback of when Cyclops, aka Scott Summers, first gets his ruby quartz glasses from Xavier. It is a touching scene that reminds us why Cyclops is such an important figure in the X-Men comics. We see how he is a man with destructive power and how he needs to stay in control, and now as the captain commander for the entirety of Krakoa’s defense systems, we see him and Storm raid one of the last Orchis strongholds on earth. The X-Men are not being passive in their new world; they are being proactive and bringing the fight to all those that would want to see them destroyed. This opening sequence has good banter and excellent moments for Cyclops as he utilizes his wit and charm during a fire fight in a heavily armed compound. Some of my favorite quips are: “I’m always careful… it’s part of my charm” and “Be careful, they’re sure to be savvy—all these apes have PhDs!” We also get some great moments with the newly minted heroic Magneto and powerful Polaris (which makes me happy because Hickman is actually giving Polaris a purpose again). All on in all, they work as a team, shut down Orchis, and save a bunch of captive mutant children.

Leinil Francis Yu’s art is distinctive and feels energetic as we see all the action in each panel; it is both fluid and animated. It is further highlighted by the bold inks from Gerry Alanguilan and colored perfectly with vibrant hues from Sunny Gho. This team of artists really give this entire sequence urgency but familiarity. It feels new and exciting, but its grounded in what we always see the X-Men do, and that is kick ass.  

However, after the explosive opening, the issue does switch focus to a much slower brand of narrative storytelling. While many say it can be boring or can hurt the overall appeal of this book, I argue that it further world-builds and adds the necessary brevity to further ground and expand on these interesting and iconic characters.

The book delves into a Summers family reunion where we find the heart of the issue. We see that Scott and his family, including Wolverine, are all living on the blue area of the moon at the Summer House, which is a Krakoan biome. We get fun banter between Wolverine and long-lost Summers brother, Vulcan over the philosophical difference in meat rarity. We get a teenage Cable asking permission to trade guns with his new friend; (Jean quips, “Set the table first, dear). We also get a time displaced Rachel Summers who kind of looks like she is just done with everyone, which is very reminiscent of an older sister. And we even see estranged Starjammer father, Corsair even connect with his family by trying to bond with Cyclops over Krakoan dish washing.  It is slow; it is whacky; it is fun; it is heartwarming. Hickman is at his best when he grounds his characters in the everyday mundane but there is real heart to it. We get a greater love and respect for the characters when they are allowed to relax and be happy. 

We see that Cyclops continues to fight the good fight and will never stop because of his focus and vision (which is masterfully symbolized when Xavier first gives him the glasses at the beginning of the issue). For those that have followed Cyclops’ ups and downs over the years, we know it has never been easy, and now in Hickman’s world we see a focused and determined Scott Summers who continues to help his people not by being worried about the threats of tomorrow but instead, as he says in this issue, by focusing on the things that make him want to live today, with his family being that main focal drive. This is magical storytelling because we see a fully realized character who is on full display in a new world and who is looking forward to the future like so many are looking forward to with this new era of X-Men.

Overall, this is a fantastic start for the X-Men after Hickman’s establishment of the new status quo. The art is stunning, the writing is top class, and we get a powerful story of vision, clarity, and hope under the guise of a Summers family barbecue. It is some exciting stuff.

The Dawn of the X-men

A review/recap from Christopher Franey and Rafael Encinas

Welcome back X-fans and let us get ready to dive into the next phase of Jonathan Hickman’s X-men with ‘Dawn of X’ .  We are fresh off of ‘House of X’ and ‘Powers of X’ (Ten) so we wanted to do a recap of the two series and how they intermingled with each other.  Rafa will cover “Powers” and I will talk about “House” and then we will both put our thoughts out there along with some of the hopes and wonders about the ‘Dawn of X’ that will begin in today’s X-men #1.  (SPOILERS AHEAD)

House #1

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: It all begins here…Hickman’s vision of the X-men and Mutants and their place in the Marvel Universe.  Now be prepared with this story because you could probably read one without the other, but the layers that they add to each is so much more enriching to the overall tale.  I was just planning on ‘House of X’ only at first, but I am totally glad that I added ‘Powers of X’ as well.  The issue opens hard with Xavier in his new Cerebro helmet and us seeing the pod people; it is such a cold open that we are guessing who the pod people are and why they could be there, then finally the first words are spoken…”To me, my X-Men.”  We see various X-Men members planting these flowers, that have grown off of Krakoa, in various places that are famous to X-Men lore…and Mars and the Jerusalem Habitat.  Once they fully grow we can see how massive and lush they are.  Now we are taken to a political side of the story in which we can see that various countries are being offered a gift from the Mutants; a drug that can extend human life another five years, prevents diseases of the mind, and a powerful antibiotic.  Xavier is using the drug to get other countries to recognize Krakoa as a Mutant nation.  We are then treated to a tour of how Krakoa works and how it will be for Mutants and Humans on the land as well.  Hickman does treat us to some pages that are info-graphics…spend the time to read and enjoy them, also take notes.  The action continues with reveal of Orchis and their base near the Sun, “Evil” Mutants committing crimes of breaking and entering, murder, and data theft; to which the Fantastic Four answer and leads to an interesting showdown with Cyclops.  The issue ends with Magneto letting the Humans present that the Mutants are so much more now…they are New Gods.  Stage is set and the drama is high.  

Critique: Lots of mystery is laid out for the reader and makes for a comic that you will probably read over and over again.  Lots of questions will come to your mind…which is great, and hopefully with HoX/PoX answering them as you go along.  This is not for the mere “fanboy” this is some serious comics that will have you analyzing who the X-Men have become.  Great read and it has me hooked.   Pepe Larraz is just killing it with the art as well.  He just draws these characters and they feel iconic again…even though some of them have new costumes and looks, they just look amazing.  This is an artist to follow if you can.

Powers #1

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: This issue is an excellent introduction to the expansive and detailed world that Hickman is creating. Whereas House of X #1 creates a new and exciting position of empowerment for the mutant species through Xavier and Magneto’s new ambitions, Powers of X #1 sets up an impressive and expansive timeline of mutant events. We get Year One: The Dream in where we have Xavier’s early life as leader of the X-Men and when he first meets Moira; these are the events that occur before the events in House of X. We have Year Ten: The World which is the current timeline we saw in House of X. We have Year One Hundred: The War which showcases a dystopian future where Nimrod and the humans have almost wiped out the mutant species. We are particularly introduced to new mutants Rasputin and Cardinal who are on a mission to retrieve important information from earth. They escape by the skin of their teeth. And lastly, we have Year One Thousand: Ascension where it appears that humans have evolved to a higher level of intelligence, and all mutants have been subjugated in a preservation habitat.

Critique: Basically, this is a wild issue where we see Hickman world-building and setting in motion the events in where the X-Men will inevitably lose. R.B. Silva’s art is outstanding with vivid lines and colors! The new mutants: Rasputin and Cardinal are excellent new characters introduced with enough characteristics that make them feel like mutants we’ve loved and known in the past, but with enough differences that they come off as unique and special. Also, Nimrod is portrayed as an absolute wicked and deranged machine hell bent on destroying the mutants, so that is a plus. Overall, this issue is great storytelling because it sets up and asserts what we are going to eventually end up leaning in POX #6: The X-Men always lose. It is both a somber but effective and electrifying issue.

House #2

Marvel Comics

Synopsis:  This issue will change everything you know about Moira MacTaggert, who last time we saw here in main continuity was dead.  We will see various versions of her life and how she has been successful in them or been utterly defeated; what is great for Moira is that she will be able to retain her memories from each life.  So she has tried it all, being there for Xavier, being with people like Magneto and Apocalypse.  Spending one of her lives trying to kill off the Trask bloodline; which is really telling that the Machines/A.I. are worse to the Mutants than the Humans are.  Her third life was very interesting as she decides to use Science to help cure the Mutants and avoid their fate altogether, but she is stopped by Mystique and her Brotherhood.  We can see some big setting up with Moira’s confrontation with Destiny; which will come to play out towards the end of the tale. 

Critique: HoX 2 was just mind blowing to me…I mean Moira MacTaggert is a Mutant!  I remember reading about her first appearance and she was saying she was Xavier’s maid…then his lover…mother of Proteus and so much more to her, plus she’s dead! This just was a wild ride of an issue and has me very intrigued about Moira’s new abilities.  This also raises a big question for me…which life is Moira currently in?  Like was she always living everything out in the “Marvel-616” first experience or was she pretending it along?  Plus with the info-graphic we can see that “Life Six” is missing…so what happened there?  They mystery deepens.  At least we know something more about Moira MacTaggert.

Powers #2

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: Powers of X #2 continues to explore the events of each timeline that Hickman showcased in POX #1. It begins in Year One where Xavier and Moira recruit Magneto to their cause (we get to see the bromance develop and strengthen now with the incorporation of Moira’s vision). This is an excellent scene where we see these powerful mutants come together for a long-term plan. We then get a look into the Year Ten timeline where Magneto and Xavier recruit Cyclops to assemble a team. They must stop the activation of that timeline’s Mother Mold because it ultimately becomes the Nimrod that we see in Year One Hundred. Basically, Cyclops is given an almost impossible task, but knowing what is at stake, he cooly accepts (setting up one of House of X’s pivotal moments). During the One Hundred timeline, we get further details on Rasputin and Cardinal’s mission on earth. They have retrieved important information necessary for locating the exact time and date of Nimrod’s activation. However, they must return to Nimrod’s archive to find the specific data file. Again, this appears to be another impossible task because of Nimrod’s forces. It is revealed that Apocalypse is leading the last mutants on Asteroid K, and he tells them not to fret because he will be leading them. In Year One Thousand, we continue to see Hickman world build by giving us examples of different types of civilizations, almost as if though theoretical physicist Michio Kaku helped him with some of these ideas, and we find out that the evolved humans are seeking ascension by becoming one with the Phalanx.   

Critique:Powers of X #2 is an excellent issue because it continues to weave the story that we saw both in POX #1 but also in events from HOX #1 and #2. The art direction continues to be excellent with excellent graphic design and utilization of text. There are also definite stand out character moments for both Cyclops and Apocalypse; they just feel so cool. Hickman is a master at these huge sci-fi epics, and it is further proven through both the plot reveals (We need to stop the Master Mold from coming online) and from its insane amount of questions that keep popping up (What really is going on in Year One Thousand?).

Powers #3

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: This issue starts with a bang as we focus on the events of Year One Hundred. The last mutants of Asteroid K unleash a final assault on the Nimrod’s Machine Empire. Rasputin, Cardinal, and Xorn have some great moments as they act as a distraction for Wolverine and Apocalypse to retrieve the vital information from Nimrod’s archives. Nimrod shows up and has an awesome battle against Apocalypse. With Wolverine being the sole survivor and heading back to Asteroid K, it is revealed that Moira has been in stasis and is woken up so she can absorb Nimrod’s origin point which happens when the humans activate the Mother Mold in the Year Ten timeline (which is being attacked by Cyclops’ team in HOX #3).  Now that Moira has absorbed this knowledge, Wolverine kills her and so ends the ninth life of Moira.

Critique: This is an action-packed issue with many standout moments. Apocalypse taking on Nimrod so that Wolverine can escape with the information is not only a highlight, but a badass moment. Xorn and Rasputin’s final Hail Mary as they “Black Hole Sun” Omega and her forces is very gratifying. And the reveal that this timeline wasn’t necessarily the future of the current House of X timeline, but instead was a future for Moira during her ninth life is a crazy reveal, and it showcases exactly why Hickman is such an exciting and rewarding writer. Furthermore, what I like most about this issue is the fact that it focuses solely on the final battle between Nimrod and the mutants of Asteroid K. We get some great action sequences with beautiful moments; again, the colors and art direction in this issue is phenomenal. Hickman writes Nimrod in such an awesome way that he has quickly become one of my favorite characters (both full of character and menacingly evil and powerful). Also, Hickman’s Apocalypse is such a stand out character and is given some of the most iconic lines. The final reveal at the end with the time traveling Moira and her ten lives feels exciting and not cliché. Overall, this is a great issue that feels like it pushes the plot forward.

House #3

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: This is a huge action issue…the X-Men take the fight to Orchis to prevent the Mother Mold from going online and that will be leading to the Nimrod sentinel and nightmare that we have been seeing in Powers of X.  Cyclops gets his team of Mutants and they are some famous ones to take this suicidal trip to the Sun with him; on that team are Wolverine, Husk, Archangel, M, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, and Mystique.  We also get to see how Mutants and the Law interact at Sabretooth’s “trial” and how he has diplomatic immunity by way of Krakoa; this will be a game changer to the way Mutants can do their actions.  Sabretooth is release to Emma Frost’s care where she takes him back to Krakoa.  Then we are shifted back into space where we see the X-Men land on the Orchis installation and the battle begins.  One member of Orchis makes the ultimate sacrifice to make sure Mother Mold isn’t stopped; he causes and explosion that does take out the X-Men’s means of transportation…but what of the X-men?  To be continued…

Critique: This issue was just insane!  Seeing the X-Men in action was great and this team that Cyclops put together really just shows that every Mutant is a part of what is happening.  Hickman does a great job with the Orchis “villains” as they are people with their own hopes and struggles…plus the way the Mutants have been acting does seem scary…maybe not Sentinel/Nimrod scary, but they just don’t seem to be as peaceful as they once were.  I also love that we are not getting some of the Krakoan alphabet, so now we can see what is being said throughout issues and on the last pages.  Pepe delivered on the action sequences and made them awesome and real.

House #4

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: We begin with Xavier, Magneto, Storm, and various other Mutants at the Observation on Krakoa as they look on to the events of the X-Men vs Orchis.  Their team is in communication with Cyclops’ team out in Space and the discussions are not well at all.  This mission has quickly become a high cost to the team.  Cyclops tells the others that they have to finish this otherwise it is in waste, so the team rallies and goes at it.  The team separates in order to break off the collars that are holding the Mother Mold head to the satellite…one by one the team is successful but at great costs.  Jean Grey is the only one to make it out via escape pod, but Orchis is out for blood as this has become personal.  This is nothing new for the X-men, but this time…Xavier vows “No More.”

Critique: This issue was just amazing…huge kudos to Pepe on the art.  He drew some heart wrenching panels showing how much the X-Men are willing to give in order to prevent Mother Mold.  Cyclops is my favorite character and watching his death just hit me hard; especially Jean’s death…that’s the stuff of nightmares.  Orchis is not a group you mess with after the events of this issue.  This was a high point in both series for me…high stakes mission with the X-men!

Powers #4

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: Powers of X #4 focuses on Xavier before the events of House of X; it is a behind-the-scenes look into the foundation he lays for what inevitably flourishes in House of X. We see him and Magneto systematically recruit an extra flamboyant Mister Sinister to create a catalog of mutant DNA (this is important because it brings Sinister into Xavier’s endgame and at the same time leads to a game-changing plot point in HOX #5). We also see Xavier recruit Douglas Ramsey (the mutant Cypher) to meet Krakoa and to begin creating a Krakoan language to be utilized later, as we see in HOX #1. We get a glimpse into Krakoa’s past when it was a part of a bigger island state, but due to demons attacking, Krakoa was separated from its second half. We also learn that Apocalypse was the one that cast the demons aside and protected Krakoa from further destruction (a plot point that is further realized in HOX #5). The issue ends with the Year One Thousand timeline in where the evolved humans continue to ponder if the Phalanx will accept their request for ascension.  

Critique: I feel like Powers of X #4 is a bit of a letdown compared to the explosive events of POX #3 and HOX #3 and #4. However, it still establishes good background for how certain characters help move the plot forward such as: Cypher and his creation of a Krakoan language system and even Sinister with his role in HOX #5.  The issue does wander for a bit and does not feel as important as previous issues; however, it is still an interesting issue. Personally, I was a bit confused by Sinister’s comedic and fabulous characterization, especially at Bar Sinister when he japed about capes. However, I realized that if you read Sinister’s dialogue in Tim Curry’s enigmatic voice, it just makes everything better.  I also appreciated the lore about Krakoa’s history, something I am sure Hickman will bring up in the future.

House #5

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: Now we understand why Mister Sinister is a part of this…regrowth and rebirth.  So we meet the five:  Goldballs, Proteus, Elixir, Tempus, and Hope.  They use their powers in conjunction with each other and now we know who those pod people were from earlier; resurrected X-Men.  They help to recreate the bodies then Xavier comes in and give the mind back to the body.  Storm then addresses all Mutants on Krakoa to make sure that everyone feels that the killed in action X-Men are truly themselves.  Storm addresses all of them and they can point out why they are themselves resurrected anew.  We then shift to the U.N. and see that the Mutants have gained their nation after all and are recognized by the U.N. and various nations, but not all.  Lastly, the doors are open to ALL Mutants and we see various “evil” Mutants arrive at Krakoa…we are then reminded of Apocalypse and Krakoa’s history together.  Now there is total unity with all Mutants on Krakoa. 

Critique:  This was heavy to see Apocalypse and Xavier shaking hands and pledging to make it work for everyone.  The resurrection scene was great and what a boost for Goldballs to be a major player now.  I just wonder how things will work out for Tempus since Moira didn’t like Destiny’s precog powers, how will time travel be viewed?  The resurrection itself is very interesting as that does take the drama out of missions, but then again how real are these X-Men?  They may look like our usual Cyclops and Wolverine but is there something more going on?

Powers #5

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: This issue continues to be a behind-the-scenes look at Xavier putting into place all the pieces to establish his House of X. In this issue, we see Xavier approach the mutant Forge about updating cerebro to copy every mutant’s essence and then store that essence into different redundant cradles /storage for backup. Basically, he enlists Forge to make some upgrades to cerebro with awesome Krakoan technology (which we see used in action in HOX #5). We then see Xavier and Magneto recruit Emma Frost to utilize her Hell Fire Club Corporation to act as the East India Trading Company to deliver the new mutant drugs to other nations, making her essential to the new mutant future. We also get to see Xavier’s call to all mutants, offering them all a home at Krakoa (which is what then happens in HOX #5 when all the villains show up at Krakoa’s gates). The issue ends with the Year One Thousand timeline in where the evolved humans’ request for ascension is accepted; however, this is more ominous than celebratory because this means that the Phalanx will absorb that civilization’s lore and construct, but no living thing will be left behind.  

Critique: Like with previous Powers of X issues, this issue is good at giving us a behind the scenes look at creating the nation state of Krakoa. Hickman’s incorporation of Forge is great and the utilization and explanation of cerebro is good storytelling. Also, Hickman writes a powerful and fully realized Emma Frost who feels full of character, passion, and wit. Seeing her interact and bicker with Magneto and Xavier is fun and definitely in character. Xavier coming to Namor to ask him to join them at Krakoa was also a standout because we get an egocentric and empowered Namor who just scoffs at Xavier’s offer, which might be setting something up in the future. Lastly, I am happy that the “ascension” plot with Year One Thousand is reaching its conclusion. I really like the ominous feeling of the Phalanx accepting humanity’s request for ascension but in doing so, humanity has been doomed to a purge of all living things for a form of immortality. Hickman brings up really interesting concepts about immortality and type two and three civilizations and the philosophical implications it has for humanity. I also like the continued build on cosmic lore with continued advanced civilizations like Titan, Stronghold, and Dominion. I am especially interested in seeing how this plays out with the call out that Dominion civilizations only fear the world eater Galactus and the Phoenix. This will definitely come into play in the future, which is again in Hickman’s playhouse; he writes for the long game.

House #6

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: House of X comes to an end and we are going to have some bombshells…the issue opens at Moira’s No-Space and here we will discover this is where she is hiding from everyone except Xavier and Magneto.  We are introduced to the “Quiet Council of Krakoa” with members consisting of Xavier, Magneto, Apocalypse, Mister Sinister, Exodus, Mystique, Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, Storm, Jean Grey, Nightcrawer, yet we are still missing someone who will be the “Red King.”  There are supports as well with Cypher and Krakoa itself and “Great Captains” of Cyclops, Gorgon, Bishop, and Magik.  The council first meets to decide what to do about Sabretooth and they agree to banish him to the depths of Krakoa.  The three laws are established:  Make More Mutants, Murder No Man, Respect This Sacred Land.  Once the Council is done we see all the Mutants celebrating and just living in peace…which is great for them as they are usually “hated and feared.”  We do see Apocalypse sitting along and then Magneto and Xavier looking onward. 

Critique:  Great ending to this series, but of course this is not the end of the tale.  I found the Council to be something of intrigue as some of the members are distasteful Mutants, but this is also interesting as checks and balances.  I like the Great Captains and am happy that Cyclops is the Captain Commander.  I wonder how the seasons will play out with the Council?  What is Apocalypse planning as he sits alone?  Will this make the Mutants not the strongest after all?  Beautiful issue as always from Pepe Larraz; I’m so glad he is on X-Men and I hope to see his works later on in the Dawn of X-Men.

Powers #6

Marvel Comics

Synopsis: Powers of X #6 is significant not only because it is the final issue in Hickman’s HOX/POX magnum opus, but it further expounds on what we learn from the very first issue in POX #1; we learn that the mutants always lose.  This is told through the experience of Moira who is revealed to be living her sixth life in the Year One Thousand timeline. As the evolved humans are about to be absorbed into the Phalanx, one of the humans seeking ascension reveals this plan to Moira and Wolverine (who is still alive and with Moira in the mutant preservation habitat). Moira basically confirms that mutants always lose because humans do whatever is necessary to win every time, whether it means evolving alongside machines or becoming something even deadlier. So, she has Wolverine kill her (just like in POX #3) and her sixth life ends. This experience radicalizes her and adds so much more intrigue into what her true motivations are. We are then taken to a scene where Moira is speaking with Xavier and Magneto as they are preparing for the festivities on Krakoa (the same events during House of X #6). We see that Xavier and Magneto have taken advantage of Moira as much as she has them. They are no longer listening to her input or her worries about constant failure. They have a strong belief that what they are doing is infallible, and the issue ends with them challenging anyone who doesn’t like the mutant’s new status quo to just try and stop them.    

Critique: Powers of X #6 is definitely a stand out issue because it states what we see in all the future timelines in Powers of X #1; we see that the mutants always lose. Today’s victory is meaningless in the long scheme of things. Whether it is killer sentinels or ascension with the Phalanx, mutants don’t stay at the top for long.The art is wonderful. The characters are given additional dimensions due to their plotting. And the fact that Xavier and Magneto have stopped listening to Moira is concerning, but exciting. Like in House of X #6, we see the mutants triumphant, but this issue muddies the implication by basically asking, but at what cost and for how long?  Overall, this is a satisfying conclusion in that it brings up enough dissent and ominous plot points that we should get an exciting and riveting new status quo for the X-Men moving forward. The X-Men have successfully won the day; however, as we have seen in the Powers of X storyline, winning the day is nothing when there are multiple timelines and future events that can make the X-Men’s prosperous today a living nightmare tomorrow. Hickman truly created an exciting work of art with this series.

Reactions to HoX/PoX:  Overall, I can say that reading through both the House of X and Powers of X issues has been a cathartic and enjoyable experience. We get to participate in some of the best storytelling being told today, and Jonathan Hickman writes his characters with respect and excitement. It feels exciting to be an X-Men fan again because we get engaging and riveting narratives. I like how Powers of X serves as complementary reading alongside House of X’s main narrative. We get to see the background and motivations for the things that Xavier does in House of X. Both series really complement one another really well, and it all feels important. 

Let us talk about the new dawn…so what are you expecting from the new series that will be launching after HoX/PoX?  With X-Men, Excalibur, New Mutants, Marauders, Fallen Angels, and X-Force continuing the story of the Mutants which and how many will you be continuing on with?  Has your favorite Mutant gotten a good spotlight yet?  Hickman has let it be known that there will be more books that will talk about the resurrections and a focus on Moira as well.  Check us out on social media and let us know your thoughts and as always remember to…GEEK OUT!

Comic Culture With Rafa #012

Transcending Comics: 10 Years Of Arkham Asylum
An Editorial From Rafael Encinas

It is September 2019, and this means it is the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest videogames that has ever come out, and that is “Batman: Arkham Asylum.” I write this having just finished beating the game for the fifth time in my life, and in good timing because it is officially Batman Day on Saturday, Sept. 21st. But none of this was planned. it all happened unexpectedly. 

It all started like three weeks ago when I decided to purchase an Xbox One. PlayStation has always been my preferred platform, but I needed a new entertainment system for my living room, so I got an Xbox One, ultimately, so I can play Halo because I haven’t played the Halo series in many many years. Well, as I was setting up the Xbox One, the machine asked me if I wanted to subscribe to Xbox’s Game Pass. Being a weak-willed person, I was like: two dollars!? Hell Yeah! I’ll do that to play all of the Master Chief Collection and try out Gears of War 5. But, that didn’t happen.  I actually ended up downloading and replaying “Arkham Asylum”. It is just that good!

There are few words to describe the feelings of empowerment you feel when in control of the Dark Knight. He feels strong; there is weight to his footsteps, which can be further attributed to the fact that he does not have a jump function in the game (after all, Batman does not jump). The free flow combat style feels so cool as you cash checks and break necks in slow motion. The detective mode is optimal for solving puzzles, collecting riddler trophies, and creatively taking down bad guys! This game makes you feel like Batman, and this is very important!

What makes this game stand the test of time, besides the excellent voice acting by two titans of industry who are already so ingrained into the Batman mythos, is the artful storytelling combined with the stylistic visuals and game mechanics. Moments where Batman’s world unravels as Scarecrow’s toxins change the environment still hold up and are both cinematically and visually astounding. It is a visual movie that you are in control of. And this is why it is so loved by both gamers and comic readers alike. It is a rewarding action adventure game that is respectful of the source material and which has endless replay value. I mean there is something truly satisfying in beating up criminals as the Batman! 

Moreover, I recently read through Judd Winick’s epic, Batman: Under The Red Hood (2004) on a school trip to Arizona State University, and as I read through each issue, I forgot that I was sitting in a bus alongside my students. I was completely engrossed by Winick’s cheeky humor and thematic plot points, and I was blown away by Doug Mahnke’s visceral art! 

As I read through this story, I was able to appreciate the care and detail in the Batman mythos, and it made me think that there is a reason why there are so many fantastic Batman stories. Batman is a character that people want to write. His stories are rich in thematic narratives of justice, grit, corruption, good vs. evil, family, and hope. 

As a comic reader, you can find amazing Superman stories. You can find quintessential Wonder Woman stories; however, there is a much bigger number of amazing Batman stories and that is because he is an icon of his craft, and people connect with the character on a whole other level. Reading through the Under the Red Hood storyline made me appreciate the Bat family that much more. It reminded me about the true aspects of heroism and how Batman always ascribes to be better than the criminals he takes down. 

It is just one story in an ocean of amazing Batman writing. And this is why the videogame is so important; it is just another mode of fantastic storytelling that is pushed forward through gaming and that is special because you take command of the Dark Knight. You get the same beautiful artistic and visual storytelling, but now you are an active participant as you walk around in Batman’s suit and take on the Joker. 

Batman storytelling is a feat of greatness and is only that much better because it has transcended beyond popular shows and films. It has created a vast interactive world through the Arkham games. Visiting Joker in the visitor center in between missions is exciting and feels meaningful . Using the different gadgets to dodge Bane, escape Croc, and side-step Ivy feels immersive. Speaking with Oracle as you try to traverse the complex areas on the asylum feels like you are not alone. And finally putting on some of that explosive gel and punching Titan Joker in the face in the finale is oh so satisfying. This game feels just as fun as the first time I played it. Hell, finding bits of lore and creating a comprehensive listing of Batman villains in your archives as you go into detective mode or pick up trophies still feels fun and exciting, exactly what every great Batman story should have you feeling during the adventure! Happy anniversary to “Batman: Arkham Asylum!”

Comic Culture With Rafa: #011

Evil Machinations: Why I Love The Ultron Concept

An Editorial From Rafael Encinas

I have always liked robots. Robots are some of the coolest concepts in both science fiction and horror. Everywhere one may look, people can find a really interesting or horrific android, cyborg, or mechanical organism causing mayhem or becoming a central focal point to mainstream culture. Some examples include the Terminator, Hal 9000, Cylons, Sentinels, Johnny 5, or the Iron Giant. Therefore, because robots are so ingrained and customary to society’s ideas of collective mainstream entertainment and scientific culture, it is important to find the best and most unique robots in popular culture. Well, one of my favorite mechanized monstrosities would have to be Hank Pym’s megalomaniacal and genocidal sentient robot Ultron! Not only is Ultron a pretty sweet machine, but he is also a deadly super villain who has been more than the heroes could handle on more than one occasion in the Marvel Universe.

First of all, the origin of this villain is wild! Ultron is a criminally insane machine focused on destroying all human life. Built by Hank Pym to help the heroes and eventually replace the necessity of the Avengers, Ultron was meant to be a force for good and progress; a benevolent, sentient protector. Instead, what manifested was a self-replicating, highly intelligent artificial intelligence that created its own adamantium structured form to eradicate the human race; a race seen to be inferior, flawed, and unnecessary. He is a highly functional A.I. consciousness that can both reason and experience existential questioning. This leads to trouble for everyone!

What I like so much about Ultron is that he’s a fucking robot that is virtually unstoppable and unrelenting in his conquest. You destroy him, he’ll rebuild himself. You become too powerful; he’ll unleash an army of Ultrons on you. He is clever and practically immortal because of his adamantium shell and his insane power set (concussion blasts, radiation emitters, and the dreaded encephalo-ray), so it is very hard to physically damage him. And even if the heroes could destroy his body or fry his sentient-mainframe-consciousness, every time you destroy him, he’ll rebuild himself to be more efficient and that much more difficult to defeat. It is a matter of time; it is a game and a conflict that the heroes cannot practically win as time continues and Ultron evolves time and time again. This in itself is a horrifying thought. Imagine an immortal flying robot trying to kill you and all those you love, and not even earth’s mightiest heroes can save you. It is the dreams that science fiction entails!!

Practically, the most effective way to destroy him is to transport him to a parallel dimension to be someone else’s problem and hope he never comes back. THAT IS FUCKING CRAZY IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT! To jettison a homicidal, remorseless, computer program with an overpowered skill set into a neighboring dimensional existence is the most immoral thing I could possibly think of. You know this monster is going to kill everyone, and you can’t stop it. So you send it somewhere else, and it practically doesn’t exist to you anymore; but it does. And it is still killing. That’s fucked up on so many levels. God forbid he comes back. And this in essence is what exciting storytelling is all about.

Overall, Ultron is a fantastic super villain because he is basically unstoppable and is the manifestation of all the best parts of our collective popular-culture robots combined. Not to mention, his face is beautiful. Every time I look at my Marvel Legends: Marvel Iron Man Ultron toy, I see a nifty little robot with attitude and murderous intent. For real though, this Marvel Legends Ultron is highly posable with a sleek paint job and many practical points of articulation; seriously, it is way better than the Diamond Select version; I seriously recommend getting it; not the Diamond Select version though. That one is garbage. 

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This week we are looking for one topic from the movie “Ana and the Apocalypse ” you would like us to debate.

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Hey Mitch! Episode 93:
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@GeekEliteMedia The Mandalorian on the other hand is a product of Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau. Two names who I would trust not to ruin an IP because they have both been involved with it and created something within that universe before.

'The Griswolds', a half-hour single camera comedy based on 'National Lampoon’s Vacation' films, has been put into development with Johnny Galecki attached to produce at HBO Max.
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