Comic Culture With Rafa
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)
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.
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.
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.
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?).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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!”
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.
Organic and Detailed Storytelling in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #40” and “Go Go Power Rangers: Forever Rangers”
A Review From Raphael Encinas
Storytelling is all around us. So much so, that stories are told and retold again and again for new audiences. Some stories are adapted from old stories, and fandoms are created to add more depth, detail, and passion to specific narratives. However, this does not mean that all stories are treated with the utmost care and affection. If the lore is not written with love and respect in mind, people can go absolutely insane. This is a double-edged sword though because on one side, it exposes an underbelly of toxic fandom entitlement, but on the other, it showcases the strong passion people have toward narration, no matter how misguided. Therefore, when a team is able to creatively care and respect source material while at the same time build upon a world that is rich with new ideas, and then works in tandem with already established lore, the final product becomes an absolute joy for fans worldwide.
I believe we have reached absolute joy this week with the release of both BOOM! Studios’ wonderful Power Rangers titles, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #40” and “Go Go Power Rangers: Forever Rangers”. The release of these two different comics this week showcases exactly how a company can release powerful, energetic, respectful, new, and exciting material that both ends the current arc of the Power Rangers mythos while simultaneously opening a new chapter in the Power Rangers franchise. Spoilers Ahead.
First and foremost, BOOM Studios! has gone to great lengths in giving us three years of awesome Power Ranger content in comic book form. We got to see the rangers updated and modernized for a present audience that both catered to old and new fans alike. Gone was the campiness of the 90’s television program in order to better fit a post “Avengers” and “CW Superhero Programming” world. Writers like Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott, Steve Orlando, Mairghread Scott, Brenden Fletcher, Kelly Thompson, and now Marguerite Bennett gave us new stories in familiar lore with familiar characters that explored the everyday and mundane to truly epic cross-dimensional adventures.
We got to see the scale of Rita and Zordon’s origins and alien universe; we got to see the rangers cope with real feelings both at the highschool and cosmic level; we were introduced to exciting new characters like Grace, Matt, and Lord Drakkon; we even got to see the rangers experience prom. Whether big or small, each narrative plot point felt fully-realized and organic. The world felt like it was fully fleshed out, especially when certain events set-up in earlier issues would be revisited or expanded upon in later issues (I will get to this in greater detail soon).
Furthermore, the fact that Power Rangers was adapted into comic format was awesome because they were now in a medium of publication among other superhero teams like The Avengers and The Justice League (whom the Power Rangers actually teamed up with in a dope crossover event).
Moreover, the fact that the Power Rangers have been illustrated and colored by true titans of industry makes the series that much more exceptional. The art is always a highlight to these stories, and talented artists like Hendry Prasetya, Dan Mora, and Daniele Di Nicuolo (to name a few) bring the characters to life. It easily makes the experience of Power Rangers that much more impactful.
So basically, BOOM! Studios decided to give the fans a product that respected and cared for the fandom’s love of the Power Rangers. And I am so thankful for this. As a fan of comics and superheroes in general, I am no stranger to editorial having their way and completely butchering or destroying characters and story plots just on a whim with no thought of the fandom. This unapologetic disregard for lore and world building happens way too often.
However, the MMPR comic series has been dealt with the utmost care, and that is something rare. Of course, I also understand that not everyone sees the story as perfect. After all, there are many who were not fans of the recently concluded “Beyond The Grid” storyline, and I myself have been adamant about not wanting a Tommy centric narrative to drive the story moving forward (don’t worry; I’ll get to that). However, at its core, the creative team have handled this franchise with just the right amount of nostalgia and creative freedom to develop awesome storytelling. And it comes full circle with this week’s new releases.
What is so special about these two comics is that they attempt to end one era of Power Rangers while making way for a new one. And it is done in a truly special and fun way that respects everything that has happened up to this point.
First, Ryan Parrott’s “Go Go Power Rangers: Forever Rangers” is an immensely satisfying conclusion to the Rangers’ first year as heroes. And it is done in such a thematic way. Not only does it include a well-paced and earned final battle with this story’s antagonist, but it also sets the stage for what’s to come, specifically a new teammate in Tommy Oliver. The final pages are a call back to the first issue where we are introduced to each character with infographics and answers to specific criteria reminiscent of graduation questions. However, in this issue, the answers to these questions have evolved and grown like the rangers themselves.
We also get closure to many plot points, and we see closure to specific character arcs and characterizations. We get resolution to Rita’s internal struggles with her mother and the creation of the Dragon Ranger Coin. We get a glimpse into the creation of “Ranger Station” (which is a staple of Higgins’ MMPR Series). We see Kimberly start to accept and cope with her parents’ divorce as well as make amends with new character Matt. Hell, we even get a cool little call back to a memory in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Series (Issue #5) where we see Zack get kidnapped by Rita, but in this issue, it happens in real time.
It is such a small moment that speaks volumes to the work that this team has done with the series. They care about the little details! And this is why it is important. The story is aware of all its finer details. Details that the writers and artists know Power Ranger fans find important. It is all connected, and it all feels special.
The issue ultimately ends with Jason, surrounded by his friends, as he gets ready for the Karate Expo. This is a wonderful homage to the original television episode where Tommy is introduced. It ends with the addition of the sixth Ranger, and it is a thematic way to close this series because fans of the show all know what happens next.
Furthermore, as this story ends, a new one begins. A new and exciting chapter for the franchise begins with the Necessary Evil storyline beginning with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #40. In this issue we have a time jump with a White Ranger Tommy taking over leadership of the Power Rangers. We get a fun opening scene of Tommy leading the rangers against Putties in London, but it feels different. The team dynamics are off. And this is due to the introduction of new red, yellow, and black ranger teammates.
This is familiar due to its source material: the infamous “Power Transfer” episode in the television program. Jason, Trini, and Zack go to Switzerland for a Peace Conference, and so they transfer their powers to three newcomers: Rocky, Aisha, and Adam. This was a turning point for me in the franchise as I was always resentful for the change in characters, especially considering that Jason was my favorite ranger. So, I was naturally wary of this new and continued storyline in comic book form.
At first glance, I was not down to read a new chapter of my beloved comic series by reexperiencing Tommy’s golden years where the team became less about team dynamics and more about how awesome and special Tommy is. I also was not looking forward to these new characters after loving the original team so much.
However, as I read the issue, I realized that Tommy also didn’t like this new change. I realized that Billy didn’t really care for the new dynamic either. And I read Kimberly as being openly hostile to the whole situation. Even the three new rangers felt misplaced and pressured. They felt like outsiders, and this felt tense; it felt real. I was pleasantly surprised to see that writer Marguerite Bennett was giving us the familiar story of the new Ranger team, but gone were the rose-tinted glasses. This was not a seamless change to the team like in the show. Instead, this change feels much more centered with deeper motivations, feelings, and consequences. And this is amazing. It adds so much weight and rich characterization for all those involved.
No longer was I seeing a charismatic and de facto leader in Tommy Oliver. One that was created from behind-the-scenes drama and favoritism as showcased in the television program. Instead, we get a more organic approach in that Tommy is put into a situation where he has no control. With these new powers come new responsibilities, and with Jason leaving to the peace conference, Tommy is left to fill that void of leadership; something that creates anger and frustration in the character. After all, he feels like his friends have left to “play peace” while he has to stay to save the world. This makes Tommy’s character arc moving forward much more interesting and human, and I am so excited to see it unfold. Bennett is able to make me feel for Tommy in the comics like I never did in the television show. She makes him relatable.
But even with these new dynamics thrown in, the comic still delivers one last punch with its shocking and exciting reveal at the end of the issue. Jason, Trini, and Zack are not gone, like they were unceremoniously written off in the show. Instead we get a scene where they are video chatting with Billy and Kimberly. The three old rangers ask how things are going, they ask how the NEW them are doing.
Kimberly and Billy do their best to feign encouragement, but they do make note that the video chat has poor signal and they can barely see anything. This leads to the crazy reveal in a one-shot panel where we have Jason, Trini, and Zack in new Power Ranger gear on a different planet, somewhere “off the grid”.
And with this one shot, we have so much set up to a whole new plethora of narrative options. Looks like these three rangers might be off on a super, secret covert mission. One that they must even keep from their closest friends. Consider me jacked, internet.
Like so many other people, I absolutely love the Power Rangers. These heroes showcase not only what happens when you taste the rainbow, but they also embody the very spirit in coordinated, family-team dynamics. What these writers continue to do after all these years is continue to add depth, maturity, brevity, and scale to a silly show about spandex wearing karate heroes. And it is all showcased with the love and detail inputted into these two new stories!
I am very much looking forward to what comes next, and I highly recommend this series. It is really good.
The Magic of Buffy: Excitement for the BOOM! Studios Reboot Comic Series
An Editorial From Rafa Encinas
As stated so often already by so many different editorials, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of those series that was just part of the cultural zeitgeist of the 21st century as soon as it manifested in the late 90s. Now with over 20 years of content and history, BTVS lives on in pop culture infamy, and for good reason. Joss Whedon created absolute magic with his quirky teenage fantasy/supernatural “coming of age” / “monster of the week” television program. It was witty. It was funny. It was passionate. And most importantly, it was important.
Growing up, Buffy and the Scooby Gang taught me the value of family, both the one you are born into and the one you make for yourself. Like for so many others, I felt this show was special because it was a show that felt inclusive. It normalized and humanized all walks of life. I have many friends who felt that identifying as “queer” became much more acceptable because the characters onscreen created a safe and fun environment where sexual orientation wasn’t just a trope. It was an everyday thing that just happened to be part of the show; its cultural significance was huge. Buffy was my hero, and this was one of the first times feminism would become a huge staple in my mindset.
Not only that, but besides its cultural significance, on a personal level, this was the first show that showcased an intense unpredictability. SPOILERS to those who have not watched the show, but I still remember the feeling of shock and awe I felt when Angelus snapped Ms. Calendar’s neck, when Joyce unexpectedly passed away, and the final episode with Anya. These moments still feel like fresh wounds that never healed. There was a formula to the show, but danger was at every turn no matter how light-hearted the humor. Anyone could die at any moment.
And this is part of the allure of the franchise; why so many avid fans continued with the comic book series long after the television series had ended. This story was wild and magical, and it still boasts some of the most relatable and hilarious moments of any television show. However, the fact that it is grounded in empathetic and realized human characters made it powerful and ambitious. We were part of the Scooby Gang, so their successes were our successes, and their losses were our losses. We were family.
This is why I am excited for BOOM! Studios to now be delivering a revamped and modernized take on the vampire slayer. With three issues already out at the point of this editorial, I cannot express just how much fun and excitement I have had reading through this new imagining of the characters of Sunnydale.
Jordie Bellaire is a perfect choice for writer because she manages to capture the charm and wit of the characters, as they monologue through their everyday lives, while still giving it a modern look and feel for 2019. Not only that, but illustrator Dan Mora is such an a amazing artist who is able to bring these real life characters to life on the pages. Buffy looks like Sarah Michelle Gellar. Willow looks like Alyson Hannigan! The art style is gorgeous with colors that pop and a fluid motion that reads smoothly.
Some may not like the pacing of the comics, but there is so much lore that needs to be established, so I am okay with it. Buffy feels like Buffy. Other characters with their slight redesigns are interesting. I like the new origins for both Anya and Spike. Giles has the whole “hot librarian” thing going on. I especially like how they are playing into Xander’s deep-seated struggles with inadequacy (I’m curious to see where this will lead). I am a little taken aback with Cordelia’s “positive” characterization, but I’m on board for something new. And then Willow feels different, but I like her new confidence and style. Overall, this feels familiar enough with some new talking points which feels exciting!
Overall, these are my general thoughts and feelings:
Things I have really enjoyed:
- the colors and art direction that move the plot forward.
- Buffy’s characterization is dead on! Sixteen-year-old Buffy is portrayed with the right amount of sarcasm and heroism seen in the television program.
- The introduction of Spike; portrays all things cool. He seems more like an antihero than a villain at this point, and his interaction with Cordy was both interesting and enjoyable.
- All the little Easter Eggs and call backs to the Buffy lore (such as Anya name dropping Wolfram & Hart, Xander’s profile name: The Xeppo, and the foundation for Spike & Giles’ inevitable banter).
- Joyce and her boyfriend dynamic is new, and I am excited to see more.
- Anya’s introduction as the keeper of ancient artifacts instead of just some revenge demon.
- The comical introduction of Camazotz, Buffy’s pegasus. I’m excited to see what they do with this!
Things I am looking forward to:
- Xander’s story and how it plays out. It’s an interesting dynamic to see how feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome can come into play when surrounded by powerful people.
- The build of the Giles/Buffy father/daughter dynamic. I lived for these moments in the show.
- The introduction of Angel! Can’t wait! It will probably be when I least expect it. Also, are we going to get Angel or Angelus!?
- If no Angelus, I am looking forward to The Master! Hopefully, he’s got some cool stuff in store for Sunnydale and the hellmouth.
- The further characterization of new characters Rose and Robin.
It feels good to see Buffy reimagined for a whole new generation of people to read and enjoy. I am excited to see new ideas and fresh takes on characters I love; I mean, I’m already digging the introspective Xander, the kind Cordelia, and the confident Willow. If you are a Buffy fan, I highly recommend you pick this series up. If not, pick it up anyway. It’s a quirky coming of age story with demons and vampires. It’s going to be awesome!