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X-Men: Origins

This graphic novel gives us the origins of six X-Men: Colossus, Jean Grey, Beast, Sabretooth, Wolverine and Gambit. Each story is told by different authors and illustrators, thus there was some inconsistency in how each story unfolds.

Colossus by Chris Yost and Trevor Hairsine

Pioter is a young Siberian teen who is devastated when his older brother Mikhail is killed in the line of duty and during his grief turns into Colossus for the first time. A friend of Mikhail witnesses it but keeps the secret, but the Russian secret police suspect something. A baby sister Illyana is born and Pioter finds it harder to hide his powers so this gentle giant leaves his home and joins the X-Men to keep her safe. This story was my favorite, for despite its short length told a cohesive story that gave you enough details on his origins. The art was well done, especially a splash page of Pioter saving Illyana’s life. 

Jean Grey by Sean McKeever and Mike Mayhew

The story introduces Jean Grey as a teen who is so overwhelmed by her psychic abilities that she has become a recluse so her parents reach out to Professor X to help her learn how to control her abilities. He gets her past her trauma of feeling a friend’s death and teachers her to harness her gifts. But as a teen, she is still unpredictable and leaves the academy alone where she needs to use her powers to help when a crisis occurs. While chastised at the end by the Professor, you see Jean is healing. The art in this story was the best of the six, with a photo-realism style similar to Alex Ross. 

Beast by Mike Carey and J.K. Woodward

We are introduced to Beast as a burly high school genius named Hank who is mocked for his appearance but then heralded as a hero when he helps the football team win State. A bit of an explanation of his origins is given when it is revealed that his Dad was exposed to a high amount of radiation before he was born, thus genetically passing it on to him. Then there is a villain who wants to use Hank as his pawn and Professor X gets involved. Without Hank’s consent, he wipes the memory of Hank from his parents and the community and enlists him to join the X-Men. I hated the Professor for doing that, how cruel to rip Hank away from his family without warning. The art was hideous in this story- the artist was aiming for a photo-realism style found in the Jean Grey story, but it was muddy and distorted. 

Sabretooth by Kieron Gillen and Dan Panosian

Long-lived Sabretooth is seen as a child in the rural late 1800s who kills his older brother over a piece of pie on his brother’s birthday. Horrified, his parents lock him away but he grows into a feral and cruel teen who eventually escapes and kills them. As an adult, he meets Logan who he befriends but then betrays and begins a tradition of finding him every year to fight on his birthday (or perhaps his brother’s birthday?). I was quite put-off when Logan’s lady love is a sexy Native American with the name of Silver Fox. It was a racist and inaccurate depiction of Native women of that era and took me out of the story.

Wolverine by Chris Yost and Mark Texeira

This story draws from the 2001 story Wolverine: Origin and how Logan’s power came to him as a child in Canada when he witnessed his parents being killed. The story then deals with later years and how Professor X tries to show him that he is more than a killing machine and that he needs to tap into his morality and become an X-Men. The art is solid with good depictions of Logan throughout the years along with his iconic yellow costume. 

Gambit by Mike Carey, David Yardin and Ibraim Roberson 

I love me some Gambit, so I was willing to overlook that the story didn’t truly show his origins. Instead, it begins with his marriage to Bella Donna. The whole idea of them marrying didn’t make sense, as they were from feuding clans – the Thieves Guild vs the Assassin’s Guild. It was supposed to have a Romeo and Juliet vibe but I think the marriage would have been stopped before the ceremony, not immediately afterward. But…the rest of the story shows while Remy briefly works for bad people, his goodness wins out at the end. The art was decent, but sometimes facial features were oddly puffy looking.

This wasn’t the strongest collection of stories, as the shift in writing and art styles kept it from being consistent. I felt the Colossus and Jean Grey stories were the strongest, both in writing and art. The X-Men were one of my first comic loves, and even though I haven’t been reading a lot about them in recent years, I noticed inconsistencies in the stories. It was an interesting early look at some X-Men heroes and villains but not what I would consider canon. 

-Nancy

Black Widow: Bad Blood

I belong to the Goodread’s group, I Read Comic Books, and entered a contest to win a free podcast about the Black Widow. I was pleased to find out I won a free subscription to the premium digital audio and reading platform Serial Box for the fourteen episode series Black Widow: Bad Blood. While I am familiar with her through the Avenger movies and am looking forward to the delayed solo movie about her, I actually have not read any graphic novels about just her.

Warning- some spoilers

Episode One: Blackout Protocol

We are introduced to Natasha Romanoff, who as a freelance spy, is wrapping up a job in Chicago in which she was tasked with catching online espionage. She fights a modified villain Viscose, contacts Fury from S.H.I.E.L.D. to report in, and then plans how to disengage from her undercover job that had lasted months. During her time as a mild-mannered IT employee, she had made friends with several other women and heads out for the last night out with them, as she has told them she is moving for another job opportunity.  But the night ends badly…

Episode Two: Something Stolen, Something Red

Waking up from her mysterious attack, Natasha is weak and unclear as to what happened. She barely remembers what happened or how she escaped, but she knows she needs answers. She makes her way to Bruce Banner aka the Hulk, a scientist who she hopes will help her discover what was done to her. There she finds out her blood was removed for some sinister reason. But why?

Episode Three: Bury Me Face Down

Natasha realizes that if she is being targeted, another enhanced human would be too- Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier. She has a history with Barnes, as he was loaned out from Hydra to trains future widows in the Red Room. She heads to Albania where Barnes is hiding out and tracks him down.

Episode Four: Sleep When I’m Dead

Natasha finds Barnes’s hideout, but not him, but clues lead her to believe he was attacked. Banner lets her know there have been other thefts of biological data, and she heads to the VECTOR Institute for more answers.

Episode Five: Flashback City

Novosibirsk, Russia, is her next location and it brings back memories of her training in the Red Room. On the outskirts of the Institute, she encounters Barnes and he attacks her. But he seems off, as he seems not to remember her and physically he isn’t in top form, which allows her to escape him. She is able to bring him back to reality and convinces him to partner with her so they find out what happened to them both.

Episode Six: A Trap with a View

Natasha relives her shared experiences with Barnes, as they both deal with the trauma of their training and the guilt they carry for their past actions when they were part of evil organizations. She decides not to let S.H.I.E.L.D. in on her plan and starts to pull together the threads of her Chicago job together with what is happened to her and Barnes now. Are they being led towards something?

Episode Seven: Of Monsters and Men

Leaving Barnes briefly to recuperate from his ongoing illness, Natasha explores the area and is disappointed with herself when she falls prey to two thugs. But she quickly turns the table on them, and during her interrogation of them is pointed to a female scientist from VECTOR who might have some answers she is looking for.

Episode Eight: Old Friends

Utilizing several costume changes to gain access to the VECTOR compound, Natasha infiltrates the government building. But she doesn’t get all the answers she is looking from, despite finding the scientist she was clued into by the thugs from the previous episode.

Episode Nine: Black Tie

This was a bit of a filler episode- Natasha and Barnes head to Geneva, Switzerland, to infiltrate a black-tie event that the philanthropist that might be behind the stolen blood will be at. They get fancy duds, look great and the chemistry between the two is obvious. That’s it.

Episode Ten: White Nights

This episode made up for the last one, with Natasha and Barnes meeting Holt, who was waiting for them despite all their precautions. Turns out he has been leaving breadcrumbs for them to follow so he could meet them, along with a certain associate that Natasha had dealt with earlier. A second wave of sickness prevents her from learning more.

Episode Eleven: The Carrot and the Stick

Scheduled to meet with Holt the next day, Natasha recovers enough for her and Barnes to head to his laboratory. Holt’s pleasant demeanor masks his ulterior methods as he leads them deep into his bunker to reveal his reason for taking these two soldier’s blood. Although they are wary, Natasha and Barnes want answers, but are they putting themselves at the mercy of Holt?

Episode Twelve: A Rock and a Hard Place

Bleh, it was the typical crap villain plot in which an evil leader wants to create a master race just minus the race and religion aspect of it. But then another villain gets into the action and chaos erupts.

Episode Thirteen: Fast and Dirty

Natasha and Barnes escape and use Holt’s state-of-the-art helicopter to chase down the parasite from being unleashed on the world. Of course, they know how to fly the helicopter- don’t all good spies and assassins know how to?  They grudgingly agree to let Nick Fury in on the details and ask for his help.

Episode Fourteen: Friends in High Places

Natasha and Barnes locate the two trucks carrying the parasite in the Alps, and fight Viscose to prevent the parasite from being released into the world. While dealing with a realistic recovery afterward, the ending hints at further adventures…

This was a highly enjoyable podcast that was wonderfully voiced by Sarah Natochenny and  I looked forward to weekly, as new episodes dropped. Natasha was fleshed out, she wasn’t just some unrealistic superhero hottie who could win any battle and had a quip for every comment. Barnes was as much an unknown character to me as Natasha, so his involvement gave me some additional insight into him too. One thing that I very much appreciated in this story was the emphasis on Natasha’s friends in Chicago. Typically a loner because of her spy status she had allowed herself to make friends during her undercover job and missed them. A problem with so many books and movies is the lack of authentic female friendships, so their inclusion in the story was indeed refreshing (although the depth of their friendship in just two months was unrealistic). That these friendships were brought up in the last minutes, make me wonder what is in store for them, if and when a second season is produced.

-Nancy

Written by Lindsay Smith, Margaret Dunlap, Mikki Kendall, L.L. McKinney, and Taylor Stevens. Edited by Taylor Stevens. Art by Jamie McKelvie. Narrated by Sarah Natochenny.

Wonder Woman² – With a Comparison to Captain Marvel

***There are spoilers for both movies ahead***

Check out Nancy’s take on Captain Marvel, which she wrote shortly after it came out in theaters.

On our quarantine weekends, Fiancé and I have been marathoning movies. We pull out the couch (it doubles as a futon), sprawl out with pillows and snacks, and go to town. So far we’ve marathoned Lord of the Rings (extended editions, obvs), Batman (pre-Nolan and Nolan directed), Christopher Reeves’ Superman saga, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, bounced around between some DC animated movies we haven’t seen yet, and now we’re working on the DC Cinematic Universe that started with Man of Steel.

I’m sure this has been done, because how could it not have been, but I couldn’t help thinking while watching Captain Marvel of the comparisons it drew to Wonder Woman. Watching Wonder Woman again only threw the differences into greater relief.

Wonder Woman is the DCU’s take on Diana’s origins. Set during World War I, Diana leaves her home, Themyscira, when she rescues a pilot named Steve Trevor. He carries important information that could end the course of the war. Believing that Ares, the god of war, is behind the rampant destruction, Diana spirits Steve off the island and pursues Ares to fulfill the Amazon’s sacred duty of protecting the world from the vengeful god.

Captain Marvel follows the story of Vers/Carol Danvers, a Kree Starforce member/human fighter pilot. After absorbing a vast amount of energy from an experimental engine, she gains incredible powers but loses the memory of her life on Earth. What she does remember comes back to her in dreams and short flashes. In 1995 she winds up back on Earth, escaping from the Skrull (with whom the Kree are at war), and instead of trying to get back to Kree, decides to team up with a man named Nick Fury to find out more about her past.

The simplest way to explain the plots of both movies is perhaps: flagship female superhero finds herself out of her element, and must find a way to save the world while simultaneously working within the confines of a setting she’s unfamiliar with.

Wonder Woman did this SO much better than Captain Marvel did, and here’s why.

The first reason is in the portrayal of the heroines by their actresses, and how they interact with their mentor of the world they are unaccustomed to. Gal Gadot’s performance of Diana suggested naive innocence and idealism. Diana is doggedly determined to rid Man’s World of Aries’ influence and stop the war, but she has very different ideas of how to do it than everyone else. She doesn’t understand all the hoops and red tape Steve knows they need to navigate, and gets frustrated with the inconveniences. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is cynical, world-weary, yet focused and determined to do something too – and he’s willing to indulge Diana’s seemingly crazy ideas if she’ll help.

Watching these two – it’s magical. There’s real chemistry between these characters. Half the fun of watching this movie is watching Steve’s exaggerated, exasperated patience with Diana asking a million questions a minute, like a petulant child. Yet, you can’t help but love them each for it. Their relationship progressed organically from mentor/student to friends to lovers, all while remaining mostly equals, making it seem more real and believable.

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Steve Trevor and Diana Prince after saving the village of Veld.

Brie Larson’s portrayal of Carol was, to put it nicely, unemotional to the point of being flat. I suppose it was to show how the Kree are generally in strict control of their emotions… but Carol is human and not Kree, right? So despite her thinking she was Kree for most of the movie, it would stand to reason that we would see some excess of emotion from her at some point, right? Even if it was on accident?? Even in moments where it’s completely warranted and expected, such as her reuniting with her best friend, Maria – right???

The vibe I got from Carol and Nick Fury’s interactions were more of almost a buddy cop dynamic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s just less of that mentor-ship that we see going on with Diana and Steve. It’s clear both Carol and Nick have been around the block, albeit in different ways and in different galaxies. However, their connection seemed a bit forced to me; yes, they teamed up out of necessity, but if I felt Carol was feeling anything at all, it was smug arrogance, solely through her interactions with Fury. More on this in a moment.

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Nick Fury and Carol Danvers infiltrating a U.S. Air Force Base.

Though both Diana and Carol are superhuman beings, and warriors to boot, Diana is shown to be more well-rounded in the emotions department. There was never any point in Captain Marvel where I felt emotionally connected to Carol. I think this is more the fault of the writing more than it is Larson’s portrayal, which leads me to my second point:

The way misogyny is handled in both movies is VASTLY different, and makes a HUGE impact on the way the titular characters interact with their environments, and the emotional weight of each story.

You ever wonder why the No Man’s Land scene in Wonder Woman is so powerful? Why you cry like a baby every time you watch it? Admit it, you know it’s not just me 😉

It’s because, for the entire movie up until that point, we see Diana being told “no.”

  • No, you can’t be a warrior
  • No, you can’t leave home
  • No, you can’t dress that way
  • No, you can’t come into this war council
  • No, you can’t go to the front

Now, no one says these things in so many words, and it’s not always that obvious. It may be only on your second or third viewing that you REALLY pick up on all the subtle ways that Diana is being restricted – which mirrors what happens in real-life with instances of misogyny. It’s not always being told “no” exactly, more often it’s being dismissed or sidebarred – which we see Diana go through. When we get to the No Man’s Land scene, and Steve tells Diana they are not going to help the village of Veld, Diana has heard her last “no.”

It’s so powerful because Diana is FINALLY standing up for herself, what she believes in, her mission, and she is going to do it no matter what anyone says. It’s so powerful because she has tried to assimilate into Man’s World and to their ways, but she finally realizes that their ways don’t work, and she carves herself a new path, her own way. It’s so powerful because she is embracing her feminine power to save the world, and her ultimate superpower: not her brute strength, but her ability to provide hope in a completely hopeless situation.

The brilliancy and beauty of this scene is in the movie’s moves up until this point to try and hem Diana in, so subtle that it’s nearly subconscious. When you see her finally break free in this scene, the movie has earned all the ugly tears you shed over it, and then some.

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Yup, it’s right about here that I always start sobbing

Captain Marvel didn’t have an equivalent scene, though it tried to. Near the end of the movie, Carol confronts the Supreme Intelligence and breaks her inhibitor chip. It also gave us a slew of flashbacks to Carol’s childhood in which we are shown in quick succession how Carol has been told “no,” and that’s what’s allows her to break free and come into her full power, which we then see in the next scene: the “I’m Just a Girl” scene, where Carol fights her former Kree squadron for the Tesseract.

The problem with this scene – and with the movie in general – is Carol is explicitly told “no,” in so many words, in those flashbacks. We are beaten over the head with scenes like this:

  • Carol and Maria getting hit on by a sleazy guy at a bar
  • Carol and Maria can’t become fighter pilots
  • Carol needs to control her emotions
  • Carol can’t play baseball
  • Carol can’t go that fast on a go-kart track
  • … All because they are girls or women.

Carol, and the audience, are explicitly told these things, instead of being shown them. The subtlety that worked so well in Wonder Woman is missing altogether from Captain Marvel. The obviousness of the misogyny in this movie strip much of the meaning away from the instances in which they occur, or their motivation for Carol.

I mentioned above that I felt Carol to be a cold, arrogant presence throughout this movie – this is why. It felt as if she was so hell-bent on proving her worth, despite her being a woman, that that’s all her character became. This crippled her relationship with Fury. Instead of Fury becoming a guide to Carol when she returns to Earth, he became the receiving end of the superiority she picked up from her time as a Kree. It felt as if he was reduced to a comic relief sidekick alongside Carol, instead of the force of nature we had previously seen and known him to be. Though this is a prequel movie for Fury, and he arguably doesn’t quite have the experience to be a mentor yet as he’s early in his career, the fact remains that as far as she knows, he is still Carol’s bridge between Kree and Earth – and to me it felt like Carol knew better than he did.

Now, I know Carol was brainwashed to believe she was really a Kree. It seemed as if all the flashbacks from Carol’s former life on Earth shown in the movie were instances like these: blatant misogyny. What it really needed was more of Carol being a badass like Maria talked about during the kitchen scene. The Carol Maria talked about sounded awesome! She was a pain in her best friend’s butt! She was an amazing pilot! She loved to go out and dance and do kareoke! She was an aunt figure to Maria’s daughter, Monica! THAT’S the Carol we needed to see – the truly human Carol!!!

In fact, the one thing Captain Marvel did better than Wonder Woman was the inclusion of Maria’s character. What little we saw of Maria and Carol’s friendship was AMAZING!!! They had such a great friendship, of two women (one of them of color!!!) LOVING AND SUPPORTING EACH OTHER UNCONDITIONALLY!!! There wasn’t enough time spent on any female characters other than Diana in Wonder Woman for us to see any friendships form between her and another woman (though I am hopeful we see this between Diana and Barbara Ann Minerva in WW84, coming out in October at time of posting).

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What Captain Marvel really needed: more Maria

The movie needed more of this truly human Carol. The pre-brainwashed Carol as seen through Maria and Monica’s eyes, to make the audience care about her, and to make us believe that she is more than a single dimension: that of being a woman with something to prove. It’s otherwise difficult for the audience to remember that she IS supposed to be human, and therefore it’s difficult for the audience to emotionally connect with her.

The heavy-handed misogyny in Captain Marvel also strips away any and all emotional impact we are supposed to feel from anything – especially the final fight scenes, after Carol finally comes into her full power. The movie tried SO HARD to show us Carol’s girl power that that’s all her character was reduced to. When we finally get to the “I’m Just a Girl” fight scene, we just roll our eyes at yet ANOTHER in-your-face instance of Carol’s femininity. Captain Marvel hamstrung itself on its’ own feminism.

The dynamic of each movie within its’ respective universe is also interesting to think about. The DCEU was okay at best until Wonder Woman (the 4th installment) finally helped them to find their stride. While no DCEU movie they create afterward will come close to being on the same level, their subsequent movies have become overall lighter and more fun in tone than their predecessors – and more like the MCU.

The DCEU tried too hard in their beginnings to become what the MCU was in their middle that they rushed into a huge crossover with no other basis than Man of Steel, and failed at it.

The MCU is a carefully-crafted, decades-long cinematic event. I may be a die-hard DC fan, but even I can admit that Marvel’s movies FAR outstrip DC’s in scope, continuity, and storytelling. Captain Marvel was the third to last installment in the Phase 3 of the MCU saga – between Ant Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Endgame (technically, but I personally consider it the second to last because I don’t count Spiderman: Far from Home as being part of Phase 3, but that’s a post for another day). My point being, this movie is smack dab between a hilarious, high-stakes heist, and the epic ending to one of the greatest cinematic sagas in all of film history, and introduces a character VITAL to that ending, just one movie before. And it unfortunately feels like a slog to get through. It feels like forced required reading just before that cinematic climax that only serves two purposes: to explain the Carol-Ex-Machina moment in Endgame (disappointing), and how Fury lost his eye (even more disappointing).

The MCU tried to recreate with Captain Marvel what the DCEU did with Wonder Woman – a first movie for a female hero in their camp – and failed at it.

– Kathleen

… Okay, now that I got my nice, objective views out of the way, I’m sorry I can’t hold it in anymore I need to say it the very biased way I said it to a friend: Captain Marvel??? More like Captain Knockoff: Superman Without Any of His Likeable Qualities Wearing a Chinese Bootleg Wonder Woman Costume

Y’all KNOW they PURPOSELY created CM’s costume to look TOO SIMILAR TO WW’S like JUST LOOK AT IT AND TRY TO TELL ME I’M WRONG

I think y’all knew which camp I was in to begin with, but I hope I explained the important differences between these two movies, and why those differences had a significant impact on each movie, sufficiently!

Avengers vs X-Men

I love both the Avengers and the X-Men- but who will come out on top in this epic battle?!

I have been meaning to read this collected edition since last year when I read Uncanny X-Men: Revolution that followed this event book. I kept picking up this series but putting it back down when other graphic novels caught my eye. But when I recently read Mr. and Mrs. X, and I had forgotten that a certain character was dead because of this storyline, I knew I needed to finally make the commitment to finish it.

This story follows House of M, when Scarlet Witch utters “No more mutants!”, thus no mutants have been born in years. When the first mutant child, Hope, is born who has the ability to psychically manipulate and mimic the powers of other mutants, current mutants divide as what to do. When it is discovered that Phoenix, the powerful being that killed Jean Grey, is headed to Earth to possibly consume Hope, the heroes are torn as what to do. What it comes down to is Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men, feels that Hope is strong enough to control the Pheonix and will use its power to reignite mutantdom vs Captain America, the Avengers leader, who feels that Hope will become a threat and destroy humanity, thus she needs to be taken down.

So begins the battles- many many of them, as this graphic novel collects twelve chapters to tell the story. When you have such a large cast not everyone can properly get featured and this book follows suit. Some heroes receive small cameos, with one bit of dialogue and then they are just part of the large fighting scenes. But I was pleasantly surprised that Iron Fist had such a large role, plus Nova got a nice part too.

As I don’t wish to spoil the narrative too much, I will limit my summary. When Pheonix arrives, five mutants- Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik- take Hope’s place and all get considerable new powers that they use for improving the world. But we all know that’s not the end of the story. The Pheonix wants Hope and it is she and Scarlet Witch that finally subdue the Pheonix’s dark powers, but not before there is a lot of death and destruction.

There are powerful moments found within the story and some insightful and sometimes snappy dialogue, but it can be a slog to find them. Just as I found Captain Marvel unsufferable in Civil War II, so I found Cyclops. He has some extremely valid points, as mutants really have been persecuted, but I was really hating on him, plus…he’s the one who ends up getting briefly consumed by the Pheonix and doing something terrible.

Overall, the art was strong despite many different artists. While there are some style shifts in the different chapters, there is enough visual consistency when the various stories were pulled together in this collected edition. Although Hope sometimes varies between looking like a teen (which she was) and an older typical female hero hottie. I always enjoyed the crowd or battle scenes as its fun to see how the artists choose to portray everyone in mid-action.

In the large collected edition, there are also some tie-ins:

A vs X: This volume showcases personal battles amidst the war and has a whole slew of authors and artists detail how two connected heroes (or villains) duke it out. There is – Iron Man vs Magneto, Things vs Namor, Captain America vs Gambit, Spider-Man vs Colossus, Black Widow vs Magik, Daredevil vs Psylocke, Thor vs Emma Frost, Hawkeye vs Angel, Black Panther vs Storm, Hope vs Scarlet Witch, Cyclops vs Captain America, AvX: Science Battle, Captain America vs Havok, Red Hulk vs Domino, Toad vs Jarvis, Spider-Woman vs (several) X-Women, Iron Fist vs and Iceman and Squirrel Girl vs Pixie.

This is a motley grouping of short stories (some are only a page long), as some of the fights tie in with the preceding narrative, while others are just for laughs. The only one that I found truly memorable was the poignant Storm vs Black Panther battle because there is no winner as their marriage sadly crumbles because of their differences.

A-Babies vs X-Babies:  Skottie Young is well known for his variant covers of Marvel heroes, so this one-off is funny and good for a single read. On the corner of Fury Dr and Xavier Way is the peaceful neighborhood of Marvelous Meadows. Being tucked into bed is little Steve (Captain America) who is surrounded by his army themed stuffed bears. Wait- Bucky Bear is missing! Peering out the window he sees his neighbor Scott (Cyclops) taunting him with his beloved bear. Steve calls out “Avengers Assemble!” and quickly his team of baby friends has joined him. Scott calls for back up but laments he has no catchy phrase to get them there. Instead, he yells that there is an ice cream truck nearby, and the X-Men babies show up. A battle ensues for the bear between the two teams. There is a cuteness overload as baby representations of all famous Avengers & X-Men duke it out.

Putting this entire book down several times should have been my clue that it wasn’t for me. While I am typically a sucker for these crossover event books, I have reached a fatigue level with the fighting among team members trope. While I found Civil War fresh, this and Civil War II were anything but.

-Nancy

Wolverine: The Lost Trail podcast

Wolverine is back in another strong podcast from Marvel! I was a huge fan of season one which proved to be more a murder mystery, while Logan was kept on the periphery of the narrative, but in this season he is front and center.

Among the Missing

After the Burns, Alaska, disaster, Logan returns to the New Orleans area looking for his ex-lover Maureen. He had made a few calls to her when up north, so when he can’t get in touch with her, he assumes the worst and searches for her. He tracks her down to a bar she sang at, and a teen employee there, tells Logan that her disappearance might be related to another case. All the people in Marcus’s mutant village disappeared after someone mysterious had convinced him to take him to the remote bayou where they were hiding. Agent Sally Pierce is back on the case, sounding different as she wants to blend in (but also a nod to what we discovered about her in season one).

The Forgotten

Marcus tracks Logan to Maureen’s apartment where he is looking for clues. Maureen was obviously onto something, as she has newspaper clippings and a map tracking a rash of disappearances of both mutants and humans in the area.  A playing card pinned to the fridge points Logan in the direction of my favorite rogue Gambit. But Gambit doesn’t truly have much information to share, and in my opinion, he didn’t sound suave enough with the delicious accent I have come to expect, in this podcast. (If you are interested in Gambit growing up and marrying Rogue, checkout Mr. And Mrs. X)

The Cold Blooded

Logan moves on to Bourbon Street where he meets up with a flamboyant former operative, to help him get the talkative Marcus to safety. A trashy biker gang is put on the case by Pierce and they are very anti-mutant, as people in Louisana are more aware of them than they were in Alaska. Things go haywire and Marcus and Logan barely escape and head into the swamp to look for the man they believe is responsible for all the missing people.

Into the Swamp

This was a bridge episode- not a lot happened but we were privy to some character development about Logan. We also get some clarification on Agent Pierce and her connection to Weapon X. The man they are after is revealed, and while it was who I thought it would be, I was abashed at how long it took me to think him up, as I am rusty on my Marvel villains. I should have guessed who Wyngarde was right off based on Marcus’s first description of him.

Riverboat Revival

Logan’s mind had been wiped clean several times by Weapon X, and while some memories occasionally bubble to the surface, Marcus realizes Logan needs help retrieving them so he can find Wyngarde and his mysterious compound Greenhaven. They meet with a fortune teller to help Logan access his memories, and her characterization is such a broad stereotype that it made me cringe to hear her talk. Marcus is scared off by Logan’s dark past and runs off just to meet up with Gambit again. The sound effects in this episode were confusing and made me lose track of what was supposed to be going on.

Blood on the Bayou

The biker gang is intent on killing Logan, although that goes against the wishes of Agent Pierce who only wishes for him to be captured alive. The hate the leader of the gang expresses towards mutants is very reminiscent of the classic X-Men story, God Loves, Man Kills.  Pierce is showing some uncharacteristic empathy these last few episodes, which is quite different from her brusque personality from last season. Gambit and Logan work together to save Marcus from the bikers, and off they go again in search of Greenhaven.

Welcome to Greenhaven

Marcus and Logan arrive in Greenhaven but they both have different experiences when reunited with their loved ones. Not surprisingly, all is not what it seems at the mutant haven, led by the cult-like leader Wyngarde. What is Wyngarde really planning?

The Proposition

Maureen and Logan are reunited, but Maureen’s demeanor seems off- how much has she been affected by Wyndgarde’s telepathic powers? Their memories are suspect, and you begin to wonder what really happened between them and Wyngarde when all three escaped together from Weapon X.  After Maureen leaves, Pierce arrives and makes a proposition to Logan that he reluctantly accepts. No one is to be trusted at this point, with conflicting motivations and intentions.

Greenhaven is Everywhere

Maureen and Pierce meet, as do Logan and Wyndgarde. Betrayals and alliances are forged, but as the Weapon X sentinels are arriving to wage war with the mutants, everything is up for grabs. Will Wyndegard be able to dominate the world with his mind tricks? Plus, the first reference about Gambit and Logan being X-Men in the past together is mentioned, which ups my confusion- why aren’t they X-Men any longer??

Deal with the Devil

All hell breaks loose at Greenhaven as the sentinels arrive. Marcus tries to escape with his mother, as Maureen and Pierce come up with a plan to stop the robots. That leaves Logan and Wyngarde to battle it out, and as not to spoil how it all ends, let’s just say there is double-cross after double-cross. I was relieved that Logan finally listened to Maureen, because a trope that annoys me is the “noble” person who sacrifices everything for their loved one, but never consults that loved one. I enjoyed the epilogue which both brings the story to a close, yet leaves enough plot threads open to continue.

These two podcasts about Logan/Wolverine have been excellent. In some ways, I enjoyed season one more, as the narrative was more atypical, and this season was the classic superhero story. I read that the Fantastic Four might get the next podcast treatment, and if so, I will check it out, as writer Benjamin Percy has shown himself to create superior stories that capture the audience’s attention and never let’s go!

-Nancy

Voice Cast:

Richard Armitage as Logan / Wolverine

Bill Irwin as Jason Wyngarde / Mastermind

Bill Heck as Remy LeBeau / Gambit

Rodney Henry as Marcus Baptiste

Christina Bennett Lind as Agent Sally Pierce

Blair Brown as Bonnie Roach

Mugga as Ruby Baptiste

Rachael Holmes as Maureen

Mr. and Mrs. X: Love and Marriage

Lately, superhero weddings have been a disappointing mess. For example, the wedding between X-Men Colossus and Kitty Pryde is called off at the last moment, so Gambit and Rogue decide on the spot to get married themselves since their friends are there and the venue is there for the taking. At least a second wedding and a spin-off series came from someone else’s pain!

So in this new series about my favorite X-Men couple, we pick up right after Gambit spontaneously proposes to his longterm lady love Rogue. They scramble to get ready and there are some lovely moments between the team members as they prepare the duo for the surprise nuptials. As you can’t have a wedding without a kiss, or what happens during a honeymoon (ahem, you know what I mean!), Beast gives Rogue a power dampening collar, so she doesn’t kill her new husband when they touch.

Gambit’s idea of a honeymoon is to take Rogue to a spaceship (what???) and they spend some quality time together thanks to the collar, but Rogue can’t leave it on indefinitely. But unfortunately, their honeymoon is cut short when there is an intergalactic emergency and they are the only superheroes nearby. What luck!

So this space emergency got a little confusing to me…the Shi’Ar Empire Imperial Guard wants Cerise’s egg which contains powers (I think). Motley space groups swoop into the battle, including the very weird Technet group and the Star Jammers. Deadpool is there too (why not?) and we have his usual inappropriate banter. There is a very cool two-page fight scene of Gambit and Deadpool working together and arguing the entire time with an alien calling Deadpool the “mean jokes man with the stomach hole”. Xandra, a shapeshifter, gets involved and Rogue makes an impulsive decision and pretends to die but it is an illusion. Rogue absorbs powers very easily here and she worries about how that will affect her and Gambit in the future.

Afterward, the story lightens up and the two return to Earth and have a party at Remy’s apartment. On a side note – he has three adorable cats! There is a bit of an issue when Bella Donna, Gambit’s ex-wife, drops in and they need to deal with an Assassins Guild vs Thieves Guild feud. But in the midst of it all, there is a fun apartment scene of many X-men talking and hanging out at the party. The story ends with them opening a box that transports them upside down above crocodiles. There is some funny commentary about marrying off leads, and what will happen in the next volume…

The art was adequate but not totally to my liking.  The people were drawn cutesy style, which makes them look too anime-like and young. Later in the series, some of the pages show an illustration style change. An issue that I have with many Marvel titles is that the cover doesn’t represent fully what is happening inside. Professor X is on the cover, when he wasn’t in the book, except for a brief memory for a certain someone. And that brings me to my next question- why exactly wasn’t he at the wedding? Perhaps it was explained in the preceding story about Colossus and Kitty Pryde.

All in all, this was a good story about Rogue and Gambit. The X-Men are known for their soap opera-type romances, that are on-again/ off-again, so I hope this newly married couple can withstand Marvel writers ripping couples apart. I truly want them to have a happily ever after! ♥

-Nancy

Wolverine: The Long Night podcast

Although I am a fan of Marvel and especially the X-Men, I have read remarkably few graphic novels about them recently. I heard about this Wolverine podcast during a commercial on the LeVar Burton Reads podcast that I listen to, so after I wrapped up season three of that podcast, I decided to give this one a try. I’m so glad I did!

The set-up of this ten chapter series: following a string of mysterious deaths in Burns, Alaska, Special Agents Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall arrive to investigate. They soon find there’s more going on than meets the eye.

A Thousand Ways To Die In Alaska

In this first episode, FBI agents Pierce and Marshall arrive in Burns, Alaska to investigate a fishing boat massacre that seems to be more than a drug run gone bad. When slash marks are found in the boat hull, we know that Logan, aka Wolverine, is tied in- because that’s what the podcast is all about, hence the title!

Goodnight Nobody

The agent’s line of questioning of the local police and townspeople point to them suspecting Logan, although they won’t admit that they are there under false pretenses. For a podcast based on Wolverine, he as a character has factored in very little yet. He is described by others and in some of these remembrances his voice is heard, but he has yet to play a significant role. The agents are also questioning the supposed bear attacks of two local women recently and the quote “Goodnight Nobody” tattooed on one of the victims leads them to a new mysterious cult.

Underground

Additional suspicions are raised about the Aurora cult, a reclusive group that has settled in the area recently, led by Nicholas Prophet. Agents Pierce and Marshall investigate, accompanied by young Deputy Bobby Reid (who sounds incredibly like Tom Holland of Spiderman fame), to see if the Prophet could shed any insight on the rash of deaths in the community. Their compound is creepy, but no big clues to connect the cult with Logan are obvious as of yet.

Hunters

More suspects are interviewed by agents Pierce and Marshall.  The rich Langrock family, who are benefactors to the town but are  (not surprisingly) not what they seem, become the newest suspects. Could they be behind the drugs that one fisherman saw on the fishing boat before the bags disappeared? Other clues point to eco-terrorists in the area, and one family with feral children have connections to Logan. Descriptions of Logan are shattering my view of him as the dreamy Hugh Jackman, as he is described as short, squat and ugly. Sigh…

Into the Woods

The Langrock family sponsors a hunt to find the bear that has supposedly killed two women and the night before attacked yet another woman. Are they doing this as a true public service to the community or are they trying to distract the agents from the real killer? Clues would point to a double-cross, as video footage viewed by the agents show the local police in the Langrock’s back pocket, and they advise young deputy Reid to not be so subservient to those in power.

Archeology of the Night

A sacred grove of old-growth trees located in a canyon with ancient petroglyphs is scheduled to be logged by the Langrock family, and this news ties in with the eco-terrorists, the cult, the woman most recently mauled and Logan. A web of clues is slowly coming together, but more clues are needed such as who is the creature that is doing the mauling, that doesn’t quite sound like Logan (of course we all know he didn’t do it). And we find out some surprising news about Reid, and that perhaps his aww-shucks persona is hiding another agenda.

You’re Next

Clues on how the Langrock family is managing to smuggle the drugs between their fishing cannery and their logging company is revealed through research at the local library (be still my heart!). The sacred grove and a recently discovered cave with mystical symbols reminds me of the Pet Semetary novel by Stephen King and is furthered by a reference to a Wendigo monster that an Inuit man brings up…yet the Wendigo monster is a mythical creature from Native American tribes on the eastern coast of the United States and Canada and not of Inuit folklore. This hallowed area is also referred to as the Tarrack—a spiritual nexus that has the power to exact revenge on those that wish to destroy the region.

The Red Sunset

When a prime suspect is found dead, the agents are thrown for a loop, especially when the cult is found worshipping in front of the dead body and Prophet speaks of another future sacrifice.  A young woman with a strong allegiance to Logan clues them in to look into another suspect that I guessed earlier would be the true culprit. References are made by the agents about mutant genes, yet they seem slow on the uptake that there could be another mutant local to the town, besides Logan.

The Changing

In this penultimate episode, we find out definitively who the killer is (it’s who I thought it would be!) and there is a deep pathos in the person’s background that twisted them into a cold-blooded killer when their mutant power kicked in. Used as a pawn for revenge against others, the killer has a break with reality and fights Logan, just to run off and disappear into the woods. As we head into the last episode, questions remain about how the cult ties into all of this, and what the agents know about Logan’s past and mutant powers. I do want to mention that the sound effects in this podcast are excellent, with the noises heard in a pivotal scene in this chapter really adding to the atmosphere.

No Escape

What an ending! Turns out there was a huge secret that brusque agent Pierce and easy-going agent Marshall were hiding, and I was completely surprised, although there had been a tiny clue in the last chapter. What I liked is that some of the plot’s threads remain open, there is no neat conclusion to what happens to all the residents of Burns, Alaska. Logan finally takes center stage in the last chapter as he meets one of the agents, and through some references he makes to his past, I remain a bit muddled on his timeline in the X-Men universe. But no matter what, Weapon X (btw, that’s not a spoiler to the big secret I mentioned earlier) won’t give up on capturing what they consider their biggest asset, and I’m sure that will play a big part in Season Two- The Lost Trail.

This podcast was beyond good! The voice actors were perfect for their roles, with Logan, Pierce and Marshall standing out. There is a graphic novel based on this story available, and I look forward to reading that to compare how the visual and the auditory versions match up. I will definitely be listening to season two, and between that and the LeVar Burton Reads podcast, I have much to enjoy listening to on my commute to work!

-Nancy

Voice Cast:

Richard Armitage as Logan / Wolverine

Celia Keenan-Bolger as Agent Sally Pierce

Ato Essandoh as Agent Tad Marshall

Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Deputy Bobby Reid

Scott Adsit as Sheriff Ridge

Brian Stokes Mitchell as Nicholas Prophet

Bob Balaban as Joseph Langrock

Avengers: Endgame question extravaganza!

Your favorite blogging duo have teamed up for this post: one mega Avengers: Endgame post! We decided it would be more fun to come up with a set of questions that we both answer about the movie and extended universe rather than writing a standard movie review. Our questions come courtesy of Michael at My Comic Relief and Jesse at The Green Onion. Please enjoy!

***There are spoilers ahead for Endgame and the extended Marvel Cinematic Universe***

1) Avengers: Endgame serves as a complete, beautiful ending for the first generation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, there are many characters to go forward and many potential stories to tell in their next generation/phase. What character/story are you most excited about seeing be developed in the future?

Nancy- I have a few. I really liked Scarlet Witch but her storyline fell off once The Vision died. I’d like to see her developed in further movies, although I have always associated her more with the X-Men (and now Disney has rights to these characters!). I was excited to see Sam get Captain America’s shield, and as he was rather bland as the Falcon, this could be his time to shine. Plus, I want to see more of Black Panther and everyone in Wakanda. Add Storm from X-Men into the mix and we have a great story!

Kathleen – I’m not a huge Marvel fan, as most of you know. I haven’t even seen all the movies! But, there is potential for further growth here. Like Nancy, I am STRONGLY of the opinion that Black Panther, et al, need more screen time. Of the Marvel movies I’ve seen, Black Panther was by far one of the better ones, and I’d love to dive deeper into the lore and Wakandan country. I would also love to see more adventures of the people of Asgard under Valkyrie’s rule.

2) Alternately, are there any characters for whom development didn’t go as you expected, or were disappointed with?

Nancy- I was not pleased at all that Black Widow died. There is only one chick in the six core Avengers and they have her die. DC got ahead of Marvel by featuring Wonder Woman in a female stand alone movie, and finally Marvel got around to it, but choose Captain Marvel as their first heroine to get the spot light. Hey Marvel- what about Natasha? While a prequel about her has potential, they will need to digitally de-age her. While Black Widow’s death scene was certainly plaintive, Iron Man gets a huge funeral while she doesn’t. Again, not fair. And while I’m complaining, I wasn’t a big fan of the Bruce Banner/Hulk merge. While there was some comedic relief in his new persona, I was kinda creeped out by it.

Kathleen – I was not at all pleased with Thor’s character development. However, I was pleasantly surprised Wonder Woman ripoff Captain Marvel was not a part of Thor’s complete developmental nosedive. I was afraid such a powerful character’s introduction into the universe so late would undermine everyone else’s carefully crafted development over the past 10 years, Thor’s especially. But it seems he did that all on his own well enough, so I had nothing to worry about! I was very glad her role was confined to the barest minimum, except for her deus ex-machina moment during the big battle.

3) This was a film with a great many emotional moments. Yes, there were big action set pieces but there were also so many quiet, intimate, emotional moments. Of them all, what scene emotionally affected you the most? Why?

Nancy- I have been very vocal about my dislike for Iron Man, as I find him an arrogant ass. But to see him happy with Pepper and their daughter Morgan and his plea for her to remain in his timeline was very touching. I wanted him to be able to raise her, so it was heartbreaking for Morgan to survive but without him. I also really enjoyed Hawkeye’s interactions with his family as his deep love for them was evident. Thus, when he lost them his deep grief shaped him into vengeance seeking Ronin. As a mother myself, it comes as no surprise I found the family moments the most poignant.

Kathleen – I answer this question and the next below, as they are very closely related for me!

4) Which character’s arc in this film did you find the most satisfying (however you wish to define that term)? Why?

Nancy-  Captain America! He has always been so pure with a good heart, but the pain of losing Peggy was always with him. So the ending where he stays back in time with her made me so happy I teared up. And I’m about to reveal something big- Chris Evans might have for just a moment eclipsed Chris Pine for me in The Great Chris Debate! The joke about him being America’s ass was spot on. I very much enjoyed Evan’s ass.

Kathleen – Well, after my conversion during our Battle of the Chris’s, Evans and Pine are at least tied for me. While I’m not sure if Chris Evans will eclipse Chris Pine for me, it came very, VERY close here. The very end got me crying, when we see Steve and Peggy slow dancing in their living room to the radio. Part of it was because (as Nancy says above), he had finally gotten her back all this time, and the guilt about missing their date had finally been lifted. Part of it was, too, that my fiancé and I do that all the time and it was like glimpsing into our married life! Elderly Steve passing the Captain America mantle on to Sam, after finally living the life he’d always dreamed of, was a touching and satisfying wrap up for his character, and the best ending for me.

5) While we did have our great A-Force team-up shot at the end as they battled Thanos, the film still committed the classic MCU fault of sidelining/not knowing how to handle their female characters, leaving Captain Marvel, Okoye, and Valkyrie out of the Time Heist. If you could chose one of those women to be included on the Time Heist, who would it be? Why? Which team would you put them on and why?

Nancy- Reminding me of A-Force triggers me to remembering the convoluted WarZones Secret Wars mess I read a few years ago! There was the obvious female empowerment moment during the ending battle (which I appreciated) but I have to admit it didn’t register with me who was on what team for the Time Heist. I’d have to watch the movie again to ascertain if I felt some women were wrongly placed on certain teams, although I agree that the female characters deserved more characterization and action.

Kathleen – OKOYE!!! Valkyrie came very close (it would have made much more sense for her to go back to Asgard instead of the hot mess Thor became), but ultimately I think Wakandans were grossly and outrageously underrepresented in this movie. It makes absolutely NO sense for Okoye to sit back and let others save the world; she would want to save Wakanda, and serve her country and her king (queen? Did the queen die? I didn’t even know Shuri died before this movie so it’s possible she did, but even so). I am, however, stuck on which team she would work best on, because I feel she would have done well on either the space team or the New York team.

6) Did you prefer Infinity War or Endgame and why?

Nancy- They were both special in their own way- with a yin and yang balance. There was such a huge cast of characters to cover, so everyone beside the original six Avengers were just cameos. Having just seen Endgame it is fresher in my mind vs Infinity War, so I’m going to go with Endgame as my (slight) favorite just because it went to such pains to give everyone a chance to shine.

Kathleen – Infinity War. While Endgame was a stunning, marvelous (pun intended), and above all, satisfying and FITTING end for a cinematic story 10 years in the making, no doubt about it – Infinity War was the better movie for me. There was more urgency in Infinity War to stop Thanos before the snap, and it felt the stakes were higher. Endgame wasn’t as urgent for me in that respect. Everyone just wanted everything to go back to the way it was instead of trying to stop an immediate threat. Though they were both gigantic in scale and magnitude, Infinity War was more ambitious in the crossover aspects, while Endgame was (understandably) more scaled-down. Ultimately, they were two halves of the same story, but Infinity War was the better half in my opinion.

Nancy- Kathleen has swayed me in her statement above that Infinity War was better!

Thank you once again to our expert Marvel consultants, Michael and Jesse, for helping us craft our questions! We would both love to hear what you thought of Endgame as well, dear readers!

– Nancy & Kathleen

Free Comic Book Day 2019

For the fifth year in a row, I have brought Free Comic Book Day to my library. I pick up a good selection of titles from my favorite comic book store, Graham Crackers, and offer them to the library patrons when they come in. I also had some Star Wars and superhero crafts available for kids to do as well. I know, I know…I’m pretty awesome to offer such epicness to my library community, and this year we had the biggest crowd yet. As an added bonus, I love getting a sneak peek of the titles, and this year I choose seven.

Hope proved to be my favorite of the seven stories I picked up. It introduced the story about Julie, a mother who is secretly an Ultra and keeping her secret hero identity even from her husband and daughter. When a car accident with her family reveals her secret, Julie’s life is upended and her daughter is taken from her. This was strong introduction with very promising story lines, in addition to the bright clean art. Perhaps because I am a mom myself, I could imagine myself in her shoes (plus who doesn’t wonder what they’d do if they unexpectedly obtained super powers).

As soon as I saw a pug on the front cover, I knew immediately that Mike Norton of Revival fame was the illustrator, so this was a must read for me. This story is mash up of two existing comics- Grumble, with a physic and wisecracking pug, plus The Goon, a muscled fighter of supernatural creatures. It was odd pairing of characters, definitely more geared for existing fans of either series vs a new reader like myself. At the end there was a reprint of the story Hillbilly.

My Favorite Things Is Monsters took the comic world by storm and for good reason: the author/illustrator Emil Ferris is crazy talented. In this comic three vignettes are offered- one that describes Ferris’s path to publication, a short about Karen and her brother Deeze talking to neighbors and a how-to-draw-a-monster segment.

In this issue we get a small, touching scene between Nancy and Steve, as Nancy is concerned her little brother Mike is not coping well after their monstrous adventures. They try to draw him out by encouraging him to return to his involvement with his role playing games. There is an additional Black Hammer story afterwards, which introduced me to Madame Dragonfly.

This issue had a few Marvel stories in them, and like I said after reading last year’s FCBD issue, it can be hard for someone who is mostly a fan through the movies to connect with these stories that vary in author voice, illustration style and time period. The first story had some heroes that I don’t usually associate with the Avengers, such as Ghost Rider and Blade, so that was amusing at one level. The second story, The Savage Avengers, had a much grittier vibe and featured Wolverine.

This issue contains two stories- one about Venom and his reemergence, and the second one is a light hearted romp between original Spider-Man Peter and the younger Miles. The first story is very dark and violent, so I found it interesting that they paired it with the next story that was all about the two Spideys arguing over pizza and could be read by a younger demographic than the first story.

Blood Shot gets yet another revamp, this time under author Tim Seeley. I read Bloodshot: Salvation for the first time last year, and was intrigued by this soldier of fortune, who would just like to be free of the shadowy agency Project Rising Spirit and the super powers he had forced on him that transform him. In this story, he saves a scientist from a dangerous cult and it serves as a prequel to the upcoming series.

All in all, I felt I picked up some strong titles. I was most intrigued with Hope, and liked the peeks into Stranger Things and My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. The others were good reading, but the free issues won’t make me pursue the series.

-Nancy

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