Sunday, August 24, 2008

Paradise Lost: the First AND Second War in Heaven

Yeah, I know it's been a while since I wrote anything here, but what can you do? We all lead busy lives and I'm sure you understand. I never did let you all know how I felt after seeing Spider-Man 3. Long story short, it was too long and tried to deal with too much. There was a good movie in there somewhere but it was lost in the shuffle. Anyway, onto what I'm going to write about today. Paradise Lost is an epic poem that was written by John Milton in the 17th century. The final version of the poem was separated into 12 books and was meant to be the Christian answer to the pagan epic poems like the Odyssey and the Iliad. Christian writers of the 17th century loved the pagan epics, but were uncomfortable with the violence, sex and other "unchristian-like" behaviors that the heroes of these epics displayed. Milton wanted to create a Christian epic with a Christian epic hero.

The plot of Paradise lost deals with the first war in heaven started by Satan's rebellion; the fall of Satan and his army; the creation of earth and man; Adam, Eve, and the apple; and God's promise of man's redemption through Christ. For most of the poem, we follow the actions of Satan who reads very much like a pagan epic hero along the lines of Odysseus or Achilles. He's quick to battle and undertakes great feats against mystical forces. We begin with him crawling out of Hell through chaos so he can mess with the newly created Earth to get some revenge on God. He decides the best way to do this is to convince man (Adam and Eve) to betray God just as he did by getting them to eat the fruit God forbade them to eat. He succeeds and is punished for it just as Adam and Eve are, and we end the book with a look into the future (a brief summary of the Old Testament) and a promise of man's redemption through Christ (a brief summary of the New Testament). This is a very rough summary, of course, and I encourage everyone to try and read this epic since it's a beautiful piece of work and definitely Milton's masterpiece (get an annotated or an abridged version, though, since this poem is stuffed with serious allusions to pieces of classic literature and myth that very few people, including myself, will get right off the bat). The conceit of Paradise Lost, put simply, is that good and heroism is obedience in God and God's order. Everyone who obeys God is rewarded and praised and anyone who doesn't is punished. Though I don't necessarily agree with this message (since I'm not a Christian), I have nothing but admiration for Milton and this poem. It's one of the most beautifully complex and sometimes flawed pieces of work I've ever read.
"But Dave," you say, "this is a blog about comics. Why are you talking about a 17th century poem in a blog about comics?" I'm glad you asked. Recently I've been working at a comic store in Dover, NH called Nellie Woe's Comics 'N Such (located in downtown Dover), and while working today something caught my eye: a three issue mini-series entitled JLA:Paradise Lost. Naturally my love for both comics and Milton kicked in and forced me to immediately purchase and read this series. It was written in early '98 by Mark Millar and Ariel Olivetti shortly after Grant Morrison began his popular run on the Justice League, and was supposed to help introduce us to a new character who would soon be a member of the Justice League: Zauriel the guardian angel. Ironically enough, Morrison's original intent with Zauriel was to create a character to stand in for Hawkman who DC put off-limits following one of their crazy continuity shake-ups (Zero Hour more specifically). I feel the result of having an actual Angelic presence in the JLA and a Milton-inspired mini-series about him is far more interesting than having boring, old Hawkman on the team but that's just me.

Anyway, Zauriel's back story is that he was a Guardian angel set to protect a woman named Shannon Coyne from demonic possession. In the process of doing this, he fell in love with Shannon and asked the forces of Heaven to release him from his duty so he could live on Earth with her. Before he leaves Heaven he catches wind of a plot that fellow angel Asmodel was hatching to overthrow God. Zauriel meets the JLA and they all initially defeat Asmodel together. The Paradise Lost story picks up after these events.

In JLA: Paradise Lost, Zauriel meets up with Shannon and expresses his love for her. Before the poor girl can even respond, the demon Etrigan attacks them on Asmodel's orders and the two are forced to flee from further attacks along with Shannon's pudgy boyfriend Jerry. Zauriel is forced to battle Asmodel and his combined army of angels and demons with the help of the Martian Manhunter, a fellow fallen angel named Michael, and pudgy Jerry. In the end, God wins, Shannon surprisingly chooses Jerry over Zauriel, and Zauriel joins up with the JLA.

So what connects this three issue mini-series with the 12 book epic poem? Obedience and duty play a huge role in both. Asmodel loses the second war of Heaven in the comic because God takes away all of his power in response to his affront. In this way Asmodel loses before the battle even began. Satan lost his war in Paradise Lost in a similar fashion. Zauriel is also a wonderful character where this question is concerned. He initially disobeys God and casts off his duty so he can selfishly make a play for Shannon. This causes more damage than good as it brings Asmodel's forces to Earth and Shannon to be kidnapped by demons. Things are only set right when Zauriel decides to resume his duty and responsibility by fighting Asmodel's invasion of Heaven and attempting to rescue Shannon. This sequence of events impresses the importance of obedience and duty onto Zauriel has he accepts the post of Heaven's representative on Earth and in the Justice League.

Zauriel's dilemma is a very human one. He chose something he thought he wanted over what he knew he was. Only when he once again accepted his place in the grand order did he feel fulfilled. Satan was the same way in Paradise Lost. He went after the power he wanted in spite of his place in the universe and was punished for doing so. The only difference is that Zauriel rejoined the fold while Satan found a new place in the grand order by playing the villain. Perhaps the universal message we can take from both pieces is that in the end who we are dictates where we'll end up in the grand scheme of things. Zauriel is a guardian so he ends up a guardian even when he tries to be a lover while Satan is a villain even when he tries to be a conquering, epic hero. In the end, you can't fight who you are (or if you're a Christian like Milton, you can't fight God's Will). But, hey, who knows if that's even true. This is all just poetry and comics. Until next time, keep reading.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Thoughts Before Going to See Spider-Man 3

So, I'm finally going to see Spider-Man 3 tonight, and despite some mixed critical views I'm still hopeful for the film. Actually a little more than hopeful. This movie has to be good enough to make up for the disaster that was X-Men 3, the bore that was Superman Returns, and all the times I had to resort to the defense mechanism of denial when a commercial for Nic Cage in Ghost Rider came on (that's going to be my very first tumor!). Yet the critics are going after this one in a way they didn't the first two. Going by Rotten Tomatoes (which is a pretty good indicator) where the first two movies got a score in the mid to high 80's, Spider-Man 3 is (last time I checked) at a respectable but disheartening 63%. This means that only 63% of the critics that went to see it liked it. The common complaint of the critics that panned it was that it was too busy and rushed in how it tried to cram so many plot elements and characters into one film. I can see why they'd say that. With three villains (Green Goblin, Venom, and Sandman) and two love interests (Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy) it's easy to see how Sam Raimi might have been trying to fit in a bit too much.
I'm still optimistic, though. I don't always agree with the critics and this could be one of those happy occasions. I loved the first two movies so much that I probably couldn't live without them in my DVD collection (try to tell me Spider-Man 2 wasn't one of the best big budget films in years). And I love that Bryce Dallas Howard is Gwen Stacy.

She's great. So I'm going to put my faith in the cast, writing team, and in Sam Raimi all who have not disappointed me yet. In any event, I'll tell you what I think afterwards.
But to put things in perspective, I've decided to write about a disappointing Spider-Man limited series I picked up recently entitled Spider-Man: Friends and Enemies. I got it as part of a massive order I put in at (another moment of weakness where I forget how broke I am and spend what little money I have on back issues I don't need). I picked it up, mainly, for one reason: I'm a proud fan of the character Darkhawk and Darkhawk is in the entire series. The basic premise of this limited series is that Spider-Man along with Darkhawk, Nova, and Speedball go after and try to rescue a group of teens called the Metahumes who are being exploited by various villains for their powers. This series ends up being a train wreck.

This is mostly because of the writer Danny Fingeroth who I have mixed feelings about. Danny was a longtime group editor for Marvel Comics and the sole writer for Darkhawk's ongoing series. I respect Danny for his wonderful work as a group editor for the Spider-Man books and for the first 38 or so issues of Darkhawk which I cherish as some of my favorite work from 1990's Marvel Comics. But the last twelve issues of Darkhawk and this limited series really show off Danny's considerable weaknesses as a writer.
For instance, Danny hits you over the head with what the main theme of the series is. Every two pages a character has to point out about how the metahumes are young and impressionable and how they are being exploited (MESSAGE!). Also, the four heroes who are supposed to save the day in this act more like macho, irritable jerks than friends. Darkhawk is continually snapping at Speedball and in issue #3 Spider-Man randomly goes ape-shit and starts beating up Speedball and Nova over having lost track of the Metahumes (not the Peter Parker I know). This series also contains some of the most poorly named villains in comics history: The Hostiles led by (you've got to be kidding me) Honcho! Neither Spider-Man's presence nor the ties to the Darkhawk regular series (the crystals that gave the Metahumes power were the crystals that healed Darkhawk in issue #47) could really save this series for me. The sad part is I only have the first 3 issues of this 4 issue series, and despite my distaste for it I know I'm going to end up eBaying the fourth (my addiction is sick). What I'm trying to get at, though, is: At least Spider-Man 3 can't be as bad as Spider-Man: Friends and Enemies. So I'm going to kick back later tonight and go in there feeling like I'm about to see a good movie. I'll tell you how that goes later tonight.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

What an Obscure Reference

Here I'm moving on to something I hope will become a regular thing for my blog: "What an Obscure Reference." If you hadn't noticed already from my long, long post about young heroes from the 90's, I enjoy really obscure and small-time comic characters. I enjoy wasting valuable time by researching them. Everyone knows about Wolverine, but How many people know about Mad-Dog? That's who todays "What an Obscure Reference" is about: Mad-Dog. Now to clarify for my fellow super geeks, I'm not talking about the Mad-Dog who was married to Hellcat and became a villain. I'm also not talking about the DC character who appeared in Batgirl. I'm talking about a character who came out of a sitcom starring Bob Newhart.

This all started one rainy day that prompted me to flip through myMarvel Comics collection. eventually I stopped at an issue that had always sort of puzzled me since I was a kid. It was Mad-Dog #1 and it intrigued me for a number of reasons. First, it was a double story issue with a cover for each of its sides. The first cover showed Mad-Dog as a vicious, long-haired vigilante with claws and an overcoat. If you flipped the issue over to its back you'd get another cover (the image above) which riffed off of Batman covers from the 1950's. I thought this was interesting and could mean that Mad-Dog was a character Marvel revived from the 1950's. Another mystery was the fact that Mad-Dog had the logos of two comic companies. The first, obviously, was Marvel, but the second was an imprint that said: ACE Comics. I'd never heard of ACE Comics before and a google search for them came up with jack. Finally, two indicators from the book led me to my answer. The first was the supposed creators name: Bob McKay. The second was a claim on the back cover which stated: "Based on the character from the hit TV series BOB." With a bit more googling and some help from I solved the mystery of Mad-Dog.

"BOB" was a sitcom from 1992 starring legendary comedic actor Bob Newhart. In it Newhart played an artist named Bob McKay who created a superhero in the 1950's called Mad-Dog. McKay's Mad-Dog was a veternarian by day who would become the Batman-esque Mad-Dog to fight usually animal related crime with his faithful sidekick, dog, and receptionist. One of the show's plot points was that the comic company (ACE Comics) that picked up McKay and Mad-Dog since its fade in the '50's wanted to revamp the characterinto a Liefeld-era gritty vigilante (because if there's one thing the 90's lacked it was that). McKay, however, wanted to keep his character classic and wholesome (like the prudish 50's itself). I guess Marvel Comics made a deal with the show and agreed to do a six issue mini-series that would contain stories with both classic Mad-Dog (claiming McKay to be the artist/writer) and badass Mad-Dog. The miniseries ended and, without even having gone through two full seasons, "BOB" was canceled (despite having the acting power of future Marci X, Lisa Kudrow).

How was the comic itself? Well, the intense 90's version was your run-of-the-mill intense 90's comic. Mad-Dog with his flowing hair and seedy overcoat beat up a bunch of thugs who kind of resembled my Uncle Randy

because they were harassing the kind, innocent patrons of a Chicago gas station. Highlights of the battle include Mad-Dog hilariously closing a dude's head in a car door and sneering. The '50's Mad-Dog story was actually a little more interesting. Mad-Dog fends off an invasion of Martian cats by helping their leader pass a hairball. Yup...Anyway, with the TV studio probably owning the rights to Mad-Dog it's unlikely we'll ever see him again. Yet he will always live in our hearts as a bizzare deal between Marvel comics and failing prime time television.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Okay, I'm going to be lazy, and cheat a little. I post on the message boards under the name Jekyl. A little while ago I started a thread entitled "The Initiative and the Forgotten Generation." I'm going to post what I wrote in that thread as my blog post today. Have fun. It's long.

One thing I've really enjoyed about Civil War and what I've seen of The Initiative is that it's bringing back the characters who I always thought of as being part of Marvel's forgotten generation. To me, the forgotten generation is the group of heroes not old enough to be peers of even Spider-Man or Human Torch, but not young enough to be peers of The Runaways or Young Avengers. The forgotten generation is either college aged now or has just finished college. Most of them were created in the 90's and were set up to be important heroes, but interest in them faded and a lot of them became background characters or just faded away completely. I really like these characters because they were around when I was growing up and just getting into comics. Recently they've been popping back up in Civil War and The Initiative as well as other places. I'm starting this thread to discuss these characters, where we last saw them, and what there place might be in the 50 State Initiative (if any). I'm probably going to do a lot of writing but I hope it encourages additions, updates, arguments, and whatever else from all of you. Without further ado the heroes and villains of the forgotten generation: I consider these guys to be the major heroes of this generation:

Cloak and Dagger: I think that Cloak and Dagger really started this generation and have best represented its promise. They became heroes through the major issue that surrounded kids of that day (drugs) and they overcame it to stand shoulder to shoulder with Marvel's greatest heroes. Somehow they've managed to never completely fade off like others of the generation. They had their own title, helped out during Maximum Carnage, were members of the short-lived Marvel Knights team, and were just recently key members of Cap's Secret Avengers in Civil War. I haven't heard whether they have or will register now that the war's over or if they'll do anything in the Initiative (anyone?), but registration seems unlikely for these two. They have the independent spirits of runaways.

Darkhawk: This guy's my personal favorite. Chris Powell found an amulet that allowed him to switch bodies with a super powered android called Darkhawk. For most of his ongoing series he was the eldest son of a single mother household and this appealed to me and really the times. He was a reserve member of the New Warriors (who I'll talk about soon) and the West Coast Avengers. Hints were given that he was meant to be a great hero. An alternate future referred to him as a savior known as "The Powell." Then his ongoing series ended and the only time we ever saw 'Hawk was in books where all of the heroes would be getting together for one reason or another. "Hawk would be silently standing in the background. He's made a comeback ever since Runaways Vol. 2 with the hero support group Excelsior (now The Loners). He was also in Marvel Team-Up which was great (even if it wasn't continuity). We'll see him even more in The Loners six issue mini-series. Though he hasn't been tied to the Initiative yet, Stark made comments in Civil War Files that suggest that 'Hawk and the rest of The Loners would support registration (given their stance on young, inexperienced heroes), so my best guess is The Loners will become an Initiative team for the west.

Sleepwalker: I wish I knew more about old Sleepy. From the issues I do have he was an interesting character. Trapped in the mind of college student Rick Sheridan (which is why I consider him part of the generation), Sleepwalker had a good heart and would often take up the cause of the poor and helpless as well as fight mystical threats. He helped out during the Infinity Gauntlet crisis and all the other Infinity sagas for that matter. Then, like 'Hawk, when his series ended Sleepwalker sort if ended. Recently, though, he was part of the same Marvel Team-Up as 'Hawk and he's seen on the cover of Avengers: Initiative #1. This makes me think he registered and will be part of the Initiative in some capacity.

Alright, now on to The New Warriors. The Warriors were the essential team to this generation. They represented its independent spirit and dealt with many problems the '90's cared about: child abuse, enviornmentalism, and even the Iraqi conflict (the first one). The team obviously had a rebirth first as a reality show team and more recently with causing the Stamford Incident that sparked Civil War. I'm going to take the characters one by one and tell you what's happening.

Night Thrasher: He founded the Warriors believing his rich parents had been killed by criminals. He lead the team for most of its life but sometimes stepped back to focus on his education and financial responsibilities. He adopted the heroes Rage and Microbe and always stayed involved with the superhuman community. Unfortunately he was killed during the Stamford Incident and will probably stay dead (at least for a long time).

Nova: He's a Warrior that's always managed to stick around because he existed before the New Warriors and will probably exist long after. He's always been split on his responsibilities of being an earth and cosmic hero at once. He was always impulsive and had a long romance with Namorita. Recently he's been occupied with the Annihilation saga. Now it's over, though, he'll come back to earth as a space savior and the sole bearer of the Nova Force. Considering some of his best friends just died he probably will resist registration. Previews have suggested their will be a bit of a fight between Nova and the Initiative.

Speedball: *Possible Spoilers* He was always the heart of the New Warriors. Whenever the team was on the verge of collapsing or giving up he'd keep them together. After the Warriors completely disbanded he reformed the team with all new members. Speedball was the most enthusiastic about the reality show and took on most of the blame for the Stamford incident since he spurred the team on to attack the powerful villains. If you read Frontline and Thunderbolts you know now he's taken on new powers and is repenting for Stamford by causing himself pain. He's taken on the identity of Penance and works with the Initiative as a member of the hero-hunting Thunderbolts.

Namorita: Most of the time she was the female lead of the team. She did lead the team for a short time. She had an on and off romance with Nova and was always dealing with her aggressive Atlantean nature. She too died in the Stamford Incident and her memory will probably spark a war between the Initiative and Atlantis.

Justice: I always felt Justice was one of the most interesting of the Warriors. After he killed his own father in self-defense we got to see the issue of child abuse and super powers play out. He had a long, serious relationship with Firestar which has an ambiguious status. For awhile he was a reserve member of the Avengers. An alternate future version of him is Major Victory the leader of the intergalactic team The Guardians of the Galaxy where he took on Captain America's legacy. Justice registered and will be involved with training heroes for the Initiative along with War Machine.

Firestar: She started off her career by going to Emma Frost's Mass. Academy. She then joined the New Warriors and quickly fell in love with Justice. She later became a reserve Avenger with Vance. Because of Civil War she decided she couldn't be a hero and a student at the same time, so she decided to retire her Firestar identity. As far as I know that decision will last.

Silhouette: She was Night Thrasher's longtime girlfriend who broke his heart by taking off with his brother Bandit. She was always a dedicated hero trying to shrug off the villainous activities of her father and brother (Midnight's Fire). Recently she was part of Cap's Secret Avengers. I think I see her on the cover of Avengers: The Initiative #1 so I'm guessing she registered and will be in the Initiative.

Rage: He was a reserve Avenger before being recruited to the New Warriors. His mutation makes him seem older than he actually is (is more close to the Runaways age). He was adopted by Night Thrasher and began going to a private school. Recently we saw him being part of a lawsuit against a website that was giving out New Warriors secret identities. He's on the cover of Avengers: The Initiative #1 so he will probably register and be involved.

Turbo: There were two Turbos: Mickey and Mike. Mickey co-founded the Excelsior support group and is a member of The Loners just like Darkhawk. We can assume she'll be involved with whatever Initiative activities The Loners are. Mike tragically died at the hands of the Dire Wraith queen Volx who wanted the turbo armour.

Aegis: He was a street hero who was made practically invulnerable by the golden breast plate of Aegis. Speedball recruited him to the Warriors when he was reforming the team. Recently we saw Aegis resisting the Registration Act. Multiple Man helped him flee custody. He's on the cover of Avengers: The Initiative so I guess he will register and become an Initiative hero.

Bandit: Night Thrasher's troubled older brother. He had run off with Thrasher's ex Silhouette. The last time we saw him he was manipulating the Guild of Thieves and Assassins as well as Gambit's ex-wife Belladonna. I haven't heard anything about him returning for the Initiative but if he does I bet he'll be seducing women.

Bolt: Bolt was a mutant with electricity powers and, unfortunately, the Legacy Virus. He joined the New Warriors when Speedball reformed the team hoping to do some good. He later worked as a mutant liberator and tragically met his end at the hands of Weapon X's Agent Zero.

Debrii: I don't know too much about her, but she joined the team when it was formed for the reality show. Recently we saw her in Civil War and I think she's on the cover of Avengers: Initiative so we might see her as a registered hero.

Helix: He mutated and gained his powers after contracting Jackal's "Carrion Virus." Initially he fought the New Warriors then became a member. Last we saw of him he left the team to find out more about his past. I have heard nothing about him returning.

Hindsight Lad: Powerless and obnoxious, this kid kept applying for New Warriors membership. He eventually got it after aiding the team in their time traveling crisis. He mostly dealt with tactical advice for the team. Recently he was outing the secret identities of the New Warriors to try and get them back for the Stamford incident. Now being powerless and disliked by the superhero community it's doubtful he'll be involved in the Initiative.

Microbe: Microbe's dad had created a failed cure for cancer through Night Thrasher's company. Microbe himself was discovered to have the power to talk to bacteria and was adopted by Thrasher after his father's death. He joined the New Warrior's during the reality show and was tragically killed during the Stamford Incident.

Powerhouse: He's a member of the Power family (The Power Pack). He joined the Warriors to aid them during their time traveling crisis. The Power Pack is actually a continuity problem these days. Stark mentions in the Civil War Files that there were conflicting reports that the Power Pack either grew up like Powerhouse and Julie Power (in the Loners) or if they're still kids like in their ongoing series. Who knows what the answer is. If they did grow up though you'll probably see Powerhouse register like his sister Julie will with The Loners.

Slapstick: Slapstick was a kid that turned into a cartoon like hero to fight off alien invasion. He became a reserve member of the New Warriors. Recently he helped a bunch of other former Warriors hunt down Hindsight Lad for giving up their identities. I have no idea if we'll see him further, but he's hilarious and I hope we see him again.

Timeslip: She was a mutant who was able to transport her current conciousness into herself at any point in her past then she developed that into limited time travel. She was intrumental in the New Warriors time traveling crisis. She later seemed to be depowered by queen Volx. Recently, though, she was seen in the chaos of Civil War so maybe she still has her powers and will be seen in the Initiative. Only time will tell.

Ultra Girl: Yet another member I don't know too much about. She joined the Warriors during the time travel crisis, though, and recently she was a member of Cap's Secret Avengers in Civil War even going toe-to-toe with Iron Man. Odds are we'll see her some more but it's a toss up whether she'll register or not.

Okay, The Slingers. They were a young team of college heroes that came about when Black Marvel gave them four costumes and identities Spider-Man wore when he was accused of murder. They were active for awhile then faded into the background. Members:

Ricochet: A mutant with a malicious father, he had superhuman agility and something like spider-sense. Recently he became a member of the young hero support group Excelsior and now is a member of what that group became: The Loners. He will probably be involved with whatever Initiative activities The Loners are part of.

Hornet: A young man with a disabled right arm, he became proficient with mechanics. This made him perfect to wear and use the mechanised Hornet armor. He stayed active as a hero but was tragically killed by Wolverine when Hydra was controlling the mutant's mind.

Prodigy: A college wrestler who gained powers from the Prodigy costume which included strength, agility, limited invulnerability, and the power to glide. He was the first to openly refuse to register and was captured by Iron Man because of this. The fact that he was so openly against registration makes it unlikely he'll join the Initiative, but you never know.

Dusk: The only female member of the team. I believe she had the power of teleportation. I'm not sure what became of her so it's possible she'll be part of the Initiative. ...Maybe?

Generation X was the young mutant team of their day. Before them it was The New Mutants/ X-Force and now it's the New X-Men. It was thought that Generation X members may eventually become X-Men but suprisingly most of them didn't. Their school closed and book ended and most of them disappeared. Here are the members:

Chamber: A mutant from the UK who was pretty moody considering his psionic powers blew a big hole in his face and chest and accidently crippled his girlfriend. He joined the Mass. Academy and Generation X and had an on again off again relationship with Husk. His career highlight came when he beat Omega Red all by himself. Last we saw him he refused to join Excalibur. We did see an imposter pretending to be him to infiltrate The Loners which could mean that The Loners may meet and try to recruit the real Chamber in the near furture. Otherwise, who knows if he'll be back for the Initiative.
Jubilee: For awhile she was a young member of the X-Men and practically Wolverine's sidekick. Then she joined her fellow young mutants in Generation X. Pretty high profile since she was in the X-Men cartoon. Recently she was depowered during "M-Day" and began counseling other depowered mutants. Her work as a counselor could make her instrumental in the Initiative. Odds are she'll continue to work with the X-Men in some capacity.

Husk: As the younger sister of New Mutant turned X-Man, Cannonball, she joined the Mass. Academy and Generation X. She had the stragne power of being able to turn her body into any substance underneath her skin. She had an on-again off-again relationship with Chamber and then one with Angel when she joined the X-Men. She's still working with the X-Men and will probably be part of any Intitiative activities they are.

Skin: He was a young mutant who had the very strange power of having a lot of extra skin he could stretch out to help him in various ways. He was killed by a religious, anti-mutant group known as The Church.

M: Monet St. Croix was a rich young mutant with powers of strength, flight, invulnerability, etc. (she's like Superman). She joined Generattion X and had a relationship with Synch. After the school closed she became a model and now works with X-Factor Investigations. Since X-Factor openly came out against the Registration Act it's unlikely that she'll work with the Initiative.

Synch: He was a young mutant who could duplicate the power of other mutants by "taking on their auras." He joined Generation X and had a relationship with M. Synch died trying to disarm a bomb impanted in the school by Emma Frost's elder sister Adrienne.

Penance (not the new Speedball identity): M's twin sister who because of their brother's magic became mute and develped a monstrous red body. Later it was discovered that the twin sisters could merge. They used this form to defeat their brother. I'm not sure what happened to Penance after this or if she'll be back. Recently, I've heard she'll be appearing in The Loners book under the name Hollow, but I haven't been able to confirm this. Anybody?
There were also other minor members like Mondo who I don't know too much about.

Psionex was a group of super-powered youths bent on using their gifts for their own gain. Their criminal activities put them in direct confrontation with the New Warriors. When the New Warriors series ended the members of Psionex scattered.

Impulse: Was the leader of the group. He had enhanced strength, speed, and agility. He hasn't been seen since Psionex disbanded and it's unknown if he'll ever be back.

Mathemaniac: He was a college student who used advanced mathematics to develop psionic powers. I've heard he was part of Baron Zemo's Tunderbolts Army during Civil War and the Grandmaster conflict, but I don't remember seeing him. If he was it's likely he'll be forced into the Initiative. If not... who knows.

Pretty Persuasions: She was an exotic dancer given powers by Genetech. She could stimulate the pleasure center of a person's brain causing them to be paralyzed. After Psionex she went back to exotic dancing and was part of Baron Zemo's Thuderbolts Army during Civil War. She will most likely be forced into the Initiative as a former villian.

Coronary: Genetech gave this young man psionic powers and a crystaline body. He was a member of Baron Zemo's Thunderbolts Army during Civil War and is on the cover of Avengers: The Initiative so he's likey to be part of the program.

Asylum: This is a tragic tale. Henrique Gallante was an abused child who became a drug addict. He developed mutant powers which let him control darkforce and teleport (kind of like an evil Cloak). He'd battled the New Warriors under the name Darkling then disappeared into the darkforce to find answers. When he came back he joined up with Psionex as Asylum. Recently he was a member of Baron Zemo's Thunderbolts Army during Civil War. He's on the cover of Avengers: The Initiative so I assume he'll be part of that.

The Folding Circle is tied in with New Warriors continuity. When Night Thrasher's father was stationed in the Vietnam War, he and his platoon stumbled upon the ancient temple of the mystic well. The platoon made a deal with the evil sorcerer Tai who was guarding the well. Tai made a deal with the platoon members. They would marry women from the temple and gain success and power because of this. They will also have superpowered children who would be sacrificed to the well so Tai could gain eternal power. The Folding Circle are the super-powered children of the platoon members. Just like their fathers, the members of the folding Circle are selfish and use their powers for their own ends. They battled with the New Warriors and then fled once they realized that Tai wanted to kill them. Members:

Midnight's Fire: The brother of New Warrior Silhouette. His powers were enhanced speed, strength, agility, and sensory perception. He was also skilled in hand-to-hand combat and often acted as Night Thrasher's rival. He hasn't been seen since he and his team fled Tai. Who knows if he'll return.

Blodstrike: Huge guy with super-strength. Recently he was a member of Baron Zemo's Thuderbolts Army during Civil War and can be seen on the cover of Avengers: The Initiative.

Smiling Tiger: Had sharp claws, enhanced agility, and resembled a mutated tiger-man. Recently he was in Baron Zemo's Thunderbolts Army with Bloodstrike during Civil War and will probably follow his teammate into the Initiative.

Silk Fever: This young woman had fire powers and flight. She hasn't been seen since Folding Circle fled Tai. Who knows if she'll be back.

I'm just going to mention some of the odds and ends. Some of the loose characters from the generation.

Jack Flag: *Possible Spoilers* Jack Flag was a member of Captain America's hotline service and Jack and his brother took this duty very seriously. Eventually the crime fighting got his brother crippled and a second injury was dealt when his parents were cheated out of their life savings by the Serpent Society. Jack and his brother worked hard at creating a hero identity for Jack so he could infiltrate the Society. As Jack Flag he did so and gained some enhanced abilities from chemicals in Mr. Hyde's lab. Eventually he became one of Cap's partners and took over for Cap along with Free Spirit after it looked like Cap's abilities had faded. Eventually we lost track of good old Jack but recently he appeared in the Thunderbolts resisting registration. He battled the Thuderbolts and after initially doing way he ended up getting stabbed in the back and crippled by Bullseye. His future as a hero looks dismal.

Free Spirit: Cathy was a graduate student who participated in an experiment that was unfortunately run by Superia. Superia subliminally taught her to hate all men and gave her peak human abilities like Captain America. After breaking free from Superia, Cathy became Free Spirit and became Cap's partner along with Jack Flag. As far as I know, though, she hasn't been seen in a long time and there's no indication we'll see her again.

Portal: Portal was primarily a Darkhawk character. He was a young Native American man from the same tribe as the hero Puma. He was also a mutant born with the ability to teleport anywhere even other dimensions. When he initially discovered the power he fled from his tribe, Puma, and the Avengers into other worlds. When he came back to earth he took on the identity of Portal and started a tense friendship/rivalry with Darkhawk. The last time we saw him he helped 'Hawk fend off a Mahari invasion. He hasn't been seen since and who knows if he'll return.
Lodestone: This girl only called Andrea had vast magnetic powers. She was a slave to the Bazin crime organization and was used to fight Darkhawk. Last she was seen she was taken into custody by the military on Althea Island. It's uncertain she'll return.

Thor Girl: Thor Girl was a alien girl named Tarene who was transformed into an Asgardian goddess after becoming an ally of Thor. It was thought that she lost her powers after Odin's death, but recently she registered as a hero during Civil War. She will be part of the Initiative.

Alright, I want to wrap this up, so... lightning round!
Shard: Dead after letting Bishop absorb her energy to beat Fitzroy.

Wildchild: Missing assumed depowered on "M-Day."

Marvel Boy: Free of government control and wanting to take on the world from his new Kree capitol: The Cube.

Phantom Blonde: Hasn't been seen since the second She Hulk series.

Squirrel Girl: Member of the Great Lakes Champions and in the Initiative.

Triathlon: Said to be missing after Civil War #7 but is on the cover of Avengers: The Initiative so we'll see.

Wildstreak and Silverclaw: Fought registration but could be part of the Initiative now the war is over.

Living Lightning: Was a member of Cap's Secret Avengers but is on the cover of Avengers: The Initiative.

Bantam: Killed by Thunderclap during the Civil War.

Spider-Woman (Mattie Franklin): Is about to join The Loners and will be apart of their Initiative activities.

Steel Spider: Refusing to register and will probably be getting a visit from the Thunderbolts soon.

Shoc: Does anyone even remember this guy?

Okay, I'm done I promise. But I will update when we find out for sure what some of these guys are involved in, but until then please feel free to discuss these characters, add characters I missed, correct me, or anything. Please. It took me a long time to do this. And, upon reflection... I wonder why. Anyway, can't wait to see how the Initiative pans out.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Marvel Comics's Civil War

Hey everyone and welcome to my blog. My name is Dave Wiley (I wanted to get that out there because I think if you're going to start one of these things and give out opinions then you should own them) and I'm a 22 year old college bum. I'm starting this primarily because I'm also an eternal man-child, comic nerd and I wanted a place where I could express my opinions about my chosen passion without feeling like I'm writing too much. This isn't to say that I won't touch on issues other than comics later on, but for now it's just going to be comics. My first topic for discussion: Marvel's Civil War.Now for those of you who don't know, Civil War was a massive comic event spanning throughout the Marvel Comics Universe. It centered around the question of Superhero Registration: Should heroes need to register with and be trained by the government to protect and serve? When Superhero Registration became law after a battle between heroes and villains went awry causing a tragedy, the heroes of the Marvel Universe had to choose between registering like good citizens or defying the law in favor of their own freedom. Those who chose to register fell behind the leadership of Iron Man and those who rebelled followed Captain America's lead (yes, Captain America was defying the American government for freedom). Eventually the two sides would clash with each other and the entire issue would be explored in many directions with none-too-subtle allusions to the question of sacrificing freedom for security in today's world (I mean just imagine if the Dept. of Homeland Security had x-ray vision).



And so the heroes fought, arrested and killed each other over this new law. Other major developments happened in the course of it. First after forty plus years of having a secret identity, Spider-Man unmasked on live TV to make a statement about the benefits of registration... which he later took back as he switched to Cap's side after realizing the harsh treatment captured heroes were receiving (so good call on that unmasking Pete). Bill Foster AKA Goliath AKA Black Goliath (yeah... because he's black) was killed in the first major battle between heroes by a clone of none other than the Norse god of thunder Thor (I didn't know gods had DNA). The New Avengers after only twenty five issues of being new split into two even newer groups. Aunt May was shot and put into a coma (yup, real good call on that unmasking Pete). The formerly dead hero Captain Marvel returned from the dead (take that cancer). Eventually, Iron Man and the Registration Act won out after Captain America saw that the fighting wasn't helping him prove that the country can be both free and secure and was probably doing more harm than good so he turned himself in. This paved the way for the future of the Marvel Universe where heroes now work for the government and will be placed in every one of the 50 states as super police (looks like I've got to get rid of all my bootleg copies of The Wash). And in a tragic finale, Captain America was shot and killed (yes, really killed) while being lead to his own trial.

That's a lot of change to take from one event and considering comic book fans aren't always the most accepting lot (just ask the NFL Superpro) this didn't go down well with some people. After Civil War ended the comic book community erupted (so... posted on a lot of message boards) into complaints about how the event was taking Marvel into a poor direction, trying to incorporate too much realism, was poorly written, contained inaccurate characterizations, borrowed five bucks and never paid me back, blah, blah, blah, blah... Basically some people just didn't like it at all for many, many reasons. But there were just as many people who did like it and since I'm one of them I thought I'd defend good ole Civil War. Actually, nah strike that, I'm going to tell you what I think of Civil War piece by piece.

Spider-Man: So a lot of people have been pissed about what's been going on with Spidey ever since the clone saga (if not longer). Recently, though, things seem to be coming to a head. Longtime Amazing Spider-Man writer J. Michael Straczynski is a writer who just when fans think he couldn't piss them off anymore, he comes up with a new idea and does. Under his pen Spider-Man's powers became mystic and Gwen Stacy got down with the Green Goblin. In this time Parker also became an Avenger and got a cushy new lifestyle in Tony Stark's mansion with his supermodel wife. To many these changes went against everything the tortured, impoverished, loney, teenage Spider-Man used to represent. Peter Parker no longer seemed like the everyman people loved him to be. Then in Civil War he unmasked which caused the uproar of: "NO SECRET IDENTITY?!?! WHAT THE F***?!?!"

I think post Civil War Spider-Man has a lot of promise. I mean, now that he's gone underground to continue to fight the registration he's a misunderstood hero once more. Just like in the old days he'll save people's lives and then be chased by the cops for it. No more fine mansion living. It's back to seedy apartments for Parker. Also, Aunt May's coma is going to cause him to blame himself for unmasking and all of this will almost certainly cause further strain on his marriage to Mary Jane (huh, it's kind of sadistic that we get off on this dude's suffering). The way I see it in a couple of years he'll be in a place where we'll remember why he inspires us and we can forget all about the totem b.s.

Iron Man: Iron Man fan's were pissed because Civil War didn't exactly cast their hero in the best of lights. At best he came off as a reluctant traitor and at worst he was Tony Snow. Many fans argued that he was better than this. That Marvel was just looking for a bad guy and totally ruined Tony Stark's characterization by making it him. Well, I hate to break it to you Iron Man fans, but Stark has always been kind of a jerk. First off the guy was a war profiteer who made super things like mines that crippled and killed third world children (Iron Man Vol. 4 #1). Even after becoming Iron Man he was never the most moral of heroes. As an alcoholic he operated his advanced death armor drunk (Iron Man Vol. 1 #168) and almost killed some innocents by mistake. As an Avenger he dated his good friend Hank Pym's ex wife Wasp as Tony Stark without bothering to tell her that he was also Iron Man (Avengers Vol.1 #224, nice going sleezeball). And during the period where he didn't want anyone else to have his technology because "it was too dangerous" (said the monopoly man), he did really great things like attack a supervillain prison thereby releasing inmates and also attack fellow heroes like Stingray and Darkhawk. Now, I do believe that, at the end of the day, Stark has good intentions. But he's also a selfish, egomaniacal control freak and I have no doubt that he's the kind of person who will tur on his friends when he thinks that he's right.
Captain Marvel's Return: This was kind of ridiculous, I'll give the critics that. I mean, how many people REALLY remember Captain Marvel in the first place? He died in 1982 and most of his hero career fell in the 1970's. And when he died it was almost poetic. It was the saga of a warrior being forced to die in bed, helpless. Now they pluck him out of time and bring him back from the dead in the middle of Civil War? Why? He didn't even contribute much to the storyline of Civil War. He just came back and then showed up in one panel of Civil War #7. There seems to be no reason or context for it and yet they did it. Oh well, he's back. Let's see what they do with him.

The Death of Captain America: Alright, this also kind of made me upset. Not because it happened, though. A lot of people were outraged they'd ever kill Captain America in the first place. Me, I thought it was written well. It shocked me and he died doing what he always did: Saving lives. What mad me a little red faced was how they made it into a gimmick. First there was all the media hype surrounding it (which caused me to have to wait for my copy since, after it hit the news, yuppies from all around came to get the issue so they could reconnect with their bleak childhood). Then to make matters worse they ended up pulling the gag of giving Cap's shield to Steven Colbert of The Colbert Report. Now don't get me wrong, love the Colbert Report, but what's next are we giving Thor's hammer to Larry the Cable Guy (F*** blue collar comedy)? Basically, they took a character I cared a lot about, killed him, and made his death into a joke (and not even a very good one, more like a "that's what she said" joke). Poorly handled.

Overall: I liked Civil War because it delivered. A lot of major comic events hype up how nothing's going to be the same after, but Civil War was one of the first to make good on it. I know change can be hard to deal with but sometimes it bring about new and interesting things and so far it has. I can't remember another period of time where Marvel has had me really paying attention to everything that's going on. Also, the fact is that Civil War was both relevent to real life issues while still keeping the fantastical world of superheroes intact (there are still cyborgs and if there are still cyborgs then things haven't gotten too real). Finally, the Marvel Universe made a comeback. For the past two decades it's almost felt like the X-Men were the center of everything. Civil War was an event that had so little to do with them they were barely even in it. And characters who we hadn't seen in years came crawling out of the wood work. I'm glad their back. Trust me, good things will come from this.