Thursday, 30 June 2011
And this struggle is interesting, because it reflects the way that Marvel's marketing department have been desperately trying to find new ways to promote their brands. While DC have 52 new creative teams giving interviews to anyone who'll listen, Marvel have a Daredevil relaunch. They only have two or three series which feature a major plot point they can tease out to readers - Fear Itself, Ultimate Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men and FF being perhaps the four most "important" books they have to offer right now. And for as long as Marvel have nothing new to tell people, they face a massive battle to get any of the attention. They seem to have nothing up their sleeves, here.
It's all very well and good for Marvel to reveal the ending of their stories to the media, but it annoys the fans who are already reading the books. Their attempts to sell their books to new readers comes at the expense of their current, small, readership. Thor and Captain America both make their film debuts this year, and Marvel have set things up so new readers will have a variety of friendly trades waiting for them. Creative teams have been put together to write a series of stand-alone stories which were released last year, and collected just in time for the release of the films. Thor was relaunched with Matt Fraction, and later this year Captain America will also be relaunched. New fans have a great launchpad into the world of comics.
So with that in mind, why have Marvel decided to reveal the end of Ultimate Spider-Man so early? This is an alternate-universe character whose story has occurred over the course of around 160 issues. New fans picking up 'The Death of Spider-Man' are going to be very confused by everything that's going on. Simply put, this is a comic which was designed to give comic-book fans a thrill - it's not a comic aimed at new readers. The subsequent issues, which continue the story but with a new character in the title role... that's the comic that Marvel should surely have been promoting. New readers can jump in on that - they can't jump in halfway through a storyline. And this also affects retailers quite poorly. Marvel's recent promotion of Schism has also been utterly bizarre. Clearly the poorly-performing 'Prelude to Schism' series has made retailers wary of pre-ordering this major event, because Marvel first released a hand-written note from Axel Alonso telling retailers that the series was important, before revealing the end.
Before the first issue has been released, we've also seen preview art from every single one of the five issues. An astute comic-book fan can trace the skeleton of the storyline already, and now we know how the story will end, what's the point of picking up the miniseries? Marvel's limited marketing strategy is actively alienating fans and retailers from picking up their comics. But what are they to do? What can a comic-book company do to raise their status? The music industry releases teasers to get people interested, and Marvel do the same. The film industry teases developments for months on end, making cast members and plot details available to the public on an incremental basis. Marvel do that too. Aside from previews, interviews and teasers, what more can Marvel do to promote themselves? We're talking about a medium which offers fans 22 pages a month of content. A novel takes a long time to scan and put online. 22 pages? That's barely ten minutes.
The central problem seems to be the belief that Marvel and DC are fighting each other for space. What does it really matter that DC's relaunch is making all the headlines on comic-book sites? Reading an interview with the new Hawkman creative team isn't going to dip sales of the new Daredevil book. There is really no need for Marvel to rush their promotional campaigns just because something major is happening across the road. If DC are releasing all their #1 issues in September, then Marvel's focus should be on promoting the books they're releasing that month, to match their competitors. Instead we're getting details about comics that don't see print until October and beyond -- by which time the DC relaunch will have come and gone.
What we want to see are assurances that comics are going to be good month-in, month-out, instead of assurances that every comic is going to lead to something 'big'. Event storylines are the biggest sellers for any comic-book company, but fans of Moon Knight know that he's not going to play a massive role in Fear Itself. Certain titles, like Captain America or X-Men or Iron Man, are always going to get most of the attention from fans. Promoting what Captain America will be doing in seven months time is less useful to Marvel then getting involved with the creative teams to make sure that this month's issue of Moon Knight is worth getting. Instead of focusing everywhere else, on their competitors and the future of the industry and event tie-ins, Marvel really need to start looking at their current output and exploring ways to make sure they're relevant for fans. Love them or hate them, writers like Mark Millar and Grant Morrison understand that the way to get people to read your books is to make sure that each issue feels like an event in its own right. Marvel need to take more from that approach.
To sum up: if fans know in July what will happen by December, they'll already know if they're going to pick up a book or not. If fans don't know what will happen in the next issue they read, they're not going to be able to drop it until they've found out. Too much focus on the future will mean that fans are given too much control over the comics they 'need'. Let DC have their relaunch. Focus instead of the month-in, month-out business of making comics that readers will pay for.
Monday, 27 June 2011
The modern resurgence in funny accents came to a head when Chamber was introduced. With his catchphrases “cor blimey” and “Gordon Bennett” he quickly became a fan favourite. His appeal for Americans was the way he seemed to be the prototypical Englishman, while for English people the fun was in seeing just how bizarrely American writers would write his apparent Cockney accent. The most striking thing about Chamber were his powers, however, which were first revealed during Generation X. That series revelled in the freakish ways mutation could affect the human body, and Chamber’s ability to throw fire came with a price: his powers blew off his mouth and upper torso when they first manifested, leaving him with a gaping ball of fire in his chest. To make up for a devastated body, the character developed low level telepathy which allowed him to talk to other people. It’s a great concept for a character, and was subsequently wrecked when Jono (yeah, he’s actually called Jono) was depowered as part of Decimation. One of the primary appeals of Chamber is that his power is also his disability, so attempts to give him a new set of powers, codename, etc were a complete failure. Luckily Mike Carey noticed how terrible Chamber had become and fixed him at the end of Age of X. Good work, Mike Carey! Chamber is one of the few people on Earth who can get away with wearing a scarf.
The true enemy of the X-Men has always been inefficiency. Some might claim that the sentinels, or prejudice, or any number of villains are the main problem that Cyclops and chums have to live with. But no – poor timekeeping, scheduling and administration will cripple an organisation within a week. And that’s where Holly came in. Employed as the receptionist for Charles Xavier’s ‘X-Corps’ initiative, her job was to run the international X-Men. Her primary focus was working with the Paris branch of the X-Corps, but it was also indicated that she simultaneously managed the other teams as well – in places as far away as Mumbai or Los Angeles. Her appearances were kept to either Morrison’s New X-Men series or Claremont’s X-Treme X-Men; and in both occasions she used her mutant ability – shape-changing – to make sure the team were kept safe. The first time she stalled an anti-mutant SWAT team, saving the lives of Jean Grey and Prof X in the process. The second time she worked to make sure that Archangel’s shoddy handling of a PR disaster were swept under the rug and forgotten about. She hasn’t been seen since M-Day, when terrorists blew up the Paris branch. Judging by the terrible way the X-Men have managed Utopia; she can’t return soon enough.
The father of Cyclops, Havok and Vulcan also happens to be a space pirate. Think on this for a moment, chums: he flies around space, being a pirate. Isn’t that great? If that doesn’t immediately sell you on the character, then look at the image of him one last time: this is one of the few characters willing to rock a moustache. Of course, there’s more to Corsair than just his appearance – a typical unpowered human, he took to space to try and right some wrongs done to him by villainous aliens, and eventually got his revenge. But his infrequent appearances alongside the X-Men have to take second place to his appearances alongside his sons. Having abandoned them at an early age, the X-Books have never shied away from his bad fathering, and have instead directly attacked him for them on several occasions. The most notable was an issue written by – him again – Scott Lobdell, which saw Cyclops and Corsair try a father-son camping trip. A poor idea from the start, as camping is the least enjoyable way to spend a weekend imaginable. That issue saw some really realistic arguing between father and son. And then Ed Brubaker killed Corsair off during an overlong space story which nobody really liked very much. Remember Corsair as he lived, you guys. Remember him as an appalling father who flew round space and drank rum with his girlfriend Hepzibah. Living the dream.
A surprisingly low entry into the list despite everything he’s done for the X-Men! Doop was first introduced by Peter Milligan during his run on X-Force, and was one of the only characters to get out of the series alive. He subsequently escaped death in X-Statix as well, and became so popular that he was given a miniseries of his own and later ‘spun off’ into the slightly less beloved ‘Daap’ sequel. Doop is a green blob who acts as X-Force/X-Statix’s cameraman, using his powers of ‘everything’ to keep the team going. He can block telepathy, teleport, store items within himself, and sometimes enter his own mind and freak out readers with a Lovecraftian mind apocalypse. He’s also bisexual and open to offers, which means he has a large gay fanbase. Doop can, more or less, do anything he sets his mind to. He’s been smart enough to keep away from the X-Men recently, although he’s made sure that they can contact him if things ever get too difficult. The main reason he doesn’t appear in comics at the moment isn’t because he’s a minor character given high-status by a small internet fanbase – it’s because no other writer is brave enough to follow on from Peter Milligan’s pulsating characterisation.
Another villain on the list! What kind of people are influenced so much by their enemies? Apocalypse’s role in shaping the X-Men has taken many different forms: inspiring Mr Sinister into action, giving Angel a new set of powers, giving the X-Men a target to fight when they were broken apart and fighting each other. He also saved Hope Summer from an early death, which would’ve really screwed up things a bit for the editorial staff. Born Egyptian, Apocalypse’s natural tendency towards evil was soon given purpose and drive. Gaining a giant floating Sphinx, several books of prophecy and a fawning manservant called Ozymandias, Apocalypse began to believe that the only way mutants could live on Earth was if they proved themselves worthy. Creating a Messianic myth about himself, he tried to set mutants and humans against each other – in the process helping to cement several important human/mutant alliances. Defeated time and time again despite overwhelming odds in his favour, Apocalypse’s claim to be the savour of humanity is starting to wear a little thin – especially now the X-Men have got a Messiah of their own nowadays. Still, he did once give Gambit fart powers. How apt.
Saturday, 25 June 2011
Friday, 24 June 2011
One of the most famous Aboriginals in contemporary fiction alongside that 'First Slayer' character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gateway first came into comics when the X-Men relocated to Australia. With his ability to teleport people anywhere he wanted to, this mute mutant proved himself to be a brilliant way for the team to get around - especially as Nightcrawler had buggered off. Gateway had that enigmatic air to him that the X-Books had been craving, and immediately hit it off with the ladies. Bedding the majority of the X-Ladies within the first week of their time in Australia, Gateway then moved on to the male contingent of the team. His dalliance with Storm was later hinted to have resulted in the birth of Bishop, but Chris Claremont is a notorious hater of ancestry and never outright admitted that Storm and Gateway were the parents of the soon-to-be traitorous braided future dude. Gateway was thought to have been killed, but this was during a Mike Carey comic so he's since been spotted alive and helping Nick Fury recruit his Secret Warriors team. Gateway is also related to Monet somehow, because as we all know every black person is related to each other.
Oh yeah. Speaking of Monet, she's done rather well to reach number 34 in our list. A selfish autocrat with a massive sense of entitlement, Monet hasn't really done much to help the X-Men outside of her appearances in the original Generation X team. She's certainly introduced several villains to the X-Men, resulting in deaths and trauma aplenty, but her real contributions to the team have been pretty limited. This isn't really her fault though. She's been relegated to minor team status for years now, barely scraping into the real X-Men for an arc before getting bumped over to X-Factor and obscurity once more. She does, however, have a fun personality. Although buperior and condescending to almost everyone she meets, deep down she's secretly a pretty boring person. This dichotomy makes for fascinating reading, as her pithy put-downs nearly always reflect upon her own inability to make real friends or have proper relationships. She had a fling with Madrox, for goodness' sake - this girl is really messed up. Her mutant powers are pretty broad - she has the power to be 'perfect'- and yet she never seems to get anything right. That's the joy of the character.
Probably the most popular X-Man of all time, Kurt Wagner had the mutant power of blue fur, teleportation, swordplay and a baffling idiolect. Unable to complete a sentence in English, he's taught more Americans about the existence of words like 'unglaublich" than any language teacher. Originally conceived to be a mutant who truly looked inhuman, Nightcrawler managed to somehow become the casanova of the X-Men. Despite being a Catholic who looked like a demon, he started dating wildly - getting almost as many girls as Gateway, even - before eventually getting fisted to death during the recent Second Coming storyline. Yes, the religious character was killed during a religion-mocking comicbook story. Those damn liberal writers. During his time with the X-Men, Nightcrawler appeared in many memorable stories such as...
Hey! Petra and Sway, who're they? Well they only ever appeared during one storyline, you see, which is why you may not have heard of them. Their story was called 'Deadly Genesis', written by Ed Brubaker, and was essentially a re-write of the classic X-Men stories. Brubaker decided that there was a second team of mutants formed by Xavier between the 06 and the All New, All Different Team - a team made up of Vulcan, Darwin, Petra and Sway. These four kids were recruited after the 05 were kidnapped by Krakoa, the Living Island, and were sent as a rescue. Well this rescue didn't go too well, you guys, and the team were all killed in the effort. Prof X mindwiped everyone so nobody would know he sent four kids to their deaths, and then formed the Storm/Colossus/Sunfire/etc team. But Petra and Sway shouldn't be forgotten. They were heroes - they went into battle to save people they didn't even know, against massive overwhelming odds. They didn't think twice about it - they were the real heroes, and without them we would never have had the All New, All Different Team. They may not be remembered, but their legacy subtly influences everything that the X-Men do.
We round up today's five/six characters with Jubilee! A well-worn trait of the X-Men is that the rough, growly Wolverine is always teamed up with a bubbly young girl to temper his violent streak. And after Kitty Pryde got too old for that role, in came Jubilee to sort out Logan. She first appears surprisingly early-on in the overall X-Men story, and grew into one of the most popular characters - thanks in part to a memorable role in the original X-Men cartoon series. Boosted by her appearances in the cartoon, the character adopted her trademark terrible sense in fashion and began using her borderline-pointless powers in service of the X-Men's cause. A skateboard-wielding 'mallbabe', she liked going clothes shopping and bitching out other X-Men to their faces. A proper little madam, she was actually written like a teenage girl and that appealed both to young readers and slightly older, slighty disturbed bachelors. She was eventually moved across to Generation X before the Decimation stripped her of her powers. Then she was thrown into relative obscurity for years and years before being saved by Marjorie Liu. Marjorie Liu, who built up her abilities as a writer by working on Wolverine/Jubilee/Gambit fanfiction before she eventually became famous enough to land an ongoing Marvel series - which she subsequently threw Wolverine, Jubilee, and Gambit into. Who says dreams can't come true? Oh, and Jubilee is currently a vampire. So, uh, that's something.
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
So... we didn't read the arc which introduced them because we couldn't really care less. But from what we can tell... there's Nick Fury front and centre, and either Namora or Namorita at the back. Kraven the Hunter is there, as well as a random blonde, a random fat guy, and a hairy Angel in the centre. Or is it Sabretooth? Anyone know? We're a PREMIUM NEWS SITE
Monday, 20 June 2011
Sweet Gloria Munoz! Risque may not have appeared in many comics, but the minor impact her appearances create are not swift forgotten by fans. She tends to stick to appearing in comics called X-Force, first showing up in X-Force and then showing up later in X-Force even though she was meant to be dead. Yes, Risque was another victim of Grant Morrison C-List death syndrome, in which Morrison picked several minor characters seemingly at random and killed them in off-panel sequences. But then came Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, the only two people in the world who seem to think Warpath is a viable character – their need to use him meant they HAD to bring back Risque. They were a couple once, you see, and she is the only character known to make him even slightly interesting. So during Necrosha, back she came. For a whole panel! It was the comic-book event of the year. Oh, and Risque has the mutant power to disrupt things, or some shit like that.
One of the original X-Men, Angel became famous for being the blonde one with wings. When people looked at the X-Men and thought “for an allegory about prejudice, there sure do seem to be a lot of attractive rich white guys knocking about here” they were generally looking at Angel. Yes kids! If you are white, blonde, attractive and heir to a vast fortune, you too can make it with the X-Men! It gets better, you guys. Xavier hired him to the team because he needed some money, and since that fateful day Angel has been used whenever a writer needs to explain how the X-Men are funded. Nobody really knows what Angel’s company does – last time we saw it, it appeared to be buying into the brothel industry – but they certainly make a lot of money! Angel himself was boring until he was seemingly killed and transformed into ‘death’ by the villain Apocalypse. He gained a redesign as his wings were turned into metal, and he started killing people a lot. Then he became fluffy again. Then he turned metal. Then he did both. And now he’s currently in a lengthy storyline during which he struggles between the fluffy and dark sides of himself. Y’know, a lot of fans complain that the X-Books recycle their storylines too often.
38: Angel Salvador
Now we’re talking! This list just jumped up a notch, haters. Angel Salvador is the best of the Angels, and was introduced by Grant Morrison during New X-Men. A young girl who seemed to have the mutant power of being fly-like, her attitude was the defining thing about her character. She haters Wolverine and Emma Frost, ran away from the Institute constantly, tried to get other students drunk and eventually got pregnant with Beak’s kids. After a very shot pregnancy (cos she’s a fly, y’see), she had five kids and named them after the Jackson 5. Which is amazing! After all that finished she was unceremoniously dumped into the ‘New Warriors’ series or something, and completely ruined as a character. But hey! Nobody views New Warriors as canon anyway, as they’re terrible characters and a boring franchise. Somewhere out there, there’s a writer waiting to bring back Angel Salvador and revitalise the stale student population.
37: Lila Cheney
Oh snap! Lila Cheney is an intergalactic pop star, y’all. She can teleport through planets and then perform a seven-song set in Camden without breaking a sweat. Although she has had to put up with years and years of appearing alongside flop-sweat New Mutant characters, Lila stole every scene she appeared in. Apparently she lives inside a Dyson Sphere and once got captured by a group of accountants. Of course, the moment you hear about a mutant musician you want to see how she gets on with Dazzler. They’re good friends! They bitch at each other quite a lot, but they’re friendly and Dazzler seems to harbour no jealousy that Lila has a bigger fanbase. Lila’s most recent appearances have been tempered by a relationship with Cannonball which only seems to exist when Chris Claremont is writing the characters. As soon as he moves them on to a new book, she tends to vanish while he picks up a new love interest. In X-Men: The End, they were shown to live together happily ever after. In every other X-Men story, Cannonball is dating either Dani Moonstar or Rogue or – in Mike Carey’s adjectiveless X-Men – Iceman. Now Claremont has apparently written his last X-Men storyline, it remains to be seen if Lila will ever return again. Keep your eyes on Kieron Gillen – he’s most likely.
Yes, yes. She wasn’t a member of the X-Men and she certainly tried to plot against them on several occasions. However! She’s done several important things which certainly helped the X-Men in the long run. For one thing, she was the person who stopped Mystique from being completely insane, and gave her a focus. Mystique and Destiny were lovers, and Destiny’s influence calmed down the terrorist and pushed her towards fighting in the name of mutant rights. They adopted a young Rogue together, and Destiny – after realising that this wasn’t the best environment for a daughter – sent Rogue to the X-Men. Rogue has since gone on to be, y’know, slightly popular. Destiny was killed off decades ago, but her influence stretched over the X-Men even while she was gone. A series or prophetic diaries she wrote were the catalyst for the X-Treme X-Men series by Chris Claremont, and later helped to set Messiah Complex in motion. Without her, many X-Men like Storm, Sage, and Gambit would be dead by now. She recently came back during Necrosha, and had a talk with Rogue. It was probably the best-written X-Men scene in over twenty years.
Saturday, 18 June 2011
Friday, 17 June 2011
There are two versions of Blink out there, so let’s be clear about this: we’re talking about the Blink who has barely interacted with the X-Men whatsoever. Actually that doesn’t help at all. We’re talking about Blink II. After the original Blink was killed off during her first appearance, fans were apparently so upset that Marvel decided the best way to respond was to create a second, identical-looking Blink. Only this second Blink would be sexually legal, have completely different powers, and live in a different Universe. Way to give the fans what they want, guys! And ever since, Blink II has been around, nipping in and out of storylines very very infrequently. She tends to be owned by the ‘Exiles’ line of books, meaning that she doesn’t spend much time in the ‘real’ 616 Universe at all. When she does, she’s usually written by Chris Claremont and doing unspeakable things to Nocturne – a fellow member of the Exiles. Apparently Blink is going to return again soon, in the pages of Abnett & Lanning’s New Mutant series. Will that off-putting lesbian subtext still be there? We’ll have to see.
44: The Policeman Who Shot William Stryker
We never even learned his name, but the dutiful police officer who saved the life of Kitty Pryde is one of the most important characters to ever appear in an X-Men comic. During the storyline ‘God Loves, Man Kills’, the mad preacher William Stryker had tried to rally support for his anti-mutant cause by appearing on television. However, he quickly lost it and murdered one of his supporters after she realised she was a mutant – at which point the X-Men tried to stop him. He set off a device which crippled every mutant in the room, however, leaving them helpless as he levelled a gun at Kitty… only to be shot and apparently killed by a policeman who witnessed the whole thing. But hey – it’s all in a day’s work for the hard-working, under-appreciated members of THE POLICE FORCE. They truly are the greatest heroes of all.
But the general public never really cared too much about that. They were too busy cheering on the cast of the hit reality TV show ‘X-Force’. Featuring a cast of mutants only Peter Milligan and Mike Allred could ever have thought up, the series X-Force was a withering satire on the nature of celebrity. Incredibly aware of the times it was released in, the series commented on culture and society in a way never captured since. And who was the most popular member of the team? U-GO-GIRL, also known as Edie Sawyer. A blue-skinned teleporter with an iffy past, Edie loved the spotlight and was determined from the start that she would be the most popular member of the team. Well, she got that, but soon afterwards she became a drunk paranoid floozy. Which, if this isn’t meant to be a subtle Cameron Diaz reference, we’re highly surprised. Edie was pretty useless with her powers, had disastrous taste in men, and couldn’t even win a slanging match with a bright orange doofus. Despite all that, she remains popular even to this day.
Onyxx is the best student character to ever appear in an X-Men character. Where countless writers have attempted in the past to make sense of the teenage mind, peter Milligan (him again!) effortlessly waded in to the bog and pulled back Onyxx. He might look like a generic rock-bodied mutant, but Onyxx was so much more. Oh, so much more. For one thing, he was a mighty hero. For another, he was involved in the most beloved panel in X-Men history.
After falling in love with one of Mystique’s ‘characters’, the teenage girl Foxx; Onyxx confronted Raven and demanded she turn back into Foxx. After a hefty discussion Mystique finally decided to end the conversation by thwacking him over the head with a toilet seat. AMAZING. Onyxx later went on to team up with the teenage character ‘Ink’ for a series of adventures, with their most famous being an ill-fated trip to a strip club. There are a lot of REALLY poor student characters. Onyxx shines above that deluge and is easily the most important one. Well, male one.
41: Val Cooper
She may never get anything done, but Val Cooper is still IMPORTANT. The woman who stands between the X-Men and the Government, she is the woman who has single-handedly managed to keep Madrox away from the real X-Men. Her valuable work in isolating terrible characters like Strong Guy from the important X-Men titles demands to be noted. Prone to setting up covert groups of mutants to do the Government’s dirty work, in her spare time Val enjoys playing chess with Bishop and Xavier, and buying herself fancy underwear. She may look like she’s uptight, but this woman knows how to have a good time. The X-Men would all have been sent to a death camp decades ago if it weren’t for her tireless work. Can you imagine having to explain Polaris to the FBI? Or trying to cover up the time Magik opened up a portal to Hell in the centre of New York centre? It’s time for us to re-evaluate Val Cooper. IT IS TIME!
Thursday, 16 June 2011
Following the recent tradition of giving X-Men stories a complicated title with a -genesis suffix, Marvel have revealed their plans for the X-Books after Jason Aaron's Schism event ends. Now, some sites are claiming that they have exclusively revealed the news that the books are going to be split in half. Comics Vanguard respect their readers, though. We understand that you already knew the word 'Schism' MEANS 'split in two' and were ready for this to happen. We didn't tell you that 'Prelude to Schism' occurs chronologically before 'Schism', either, because frankly you should already realise that. We're not going to nurse you, you are independant and free-willed architects of your own consciousness.
So the news is that two books will launch after Schism ends. The first will be by Kieron Gillen and - sigh - Greg Land. HOWEVER! Carlos Pacheco will also be an artist on the series, so that's a relief. This series will be Uncanny X-Men, and start with a big shiny #1 guaranteed to pull in the readers. Cyclops will be in charge of the team.
The other book will be 'Wolverine and the X-Men' by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo. You can guess who will be leading this team.
Now bear in mind that Chris Bachalo's promotional image does not represent the casts of these two titles. It's part of a larger poster which will depict all the X-Men who will be appearing in some capacity around this new 'Regenesis' branding. We don't know what the teams will be, and Xavier will almost certainly retain use of his legs. So there we are.
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Amazing, amazing image. Yes, it's the news that Cletus Kasady and the 'Carnage' symbiote are returning to Marvel for a second miniseries, after the recent "Carnage Rebirth" miniseries by Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain earlier this year. Wells and Crain remain the creative team for this new five-issue miniseries 'Carnage USA', which bodes well for a character who once exemplified the worst excesses of 1990s comic-book storytelling. Crain in particular has a gothic style which perfectly complements the evil creation, dark and stretchy and gross.
The miniseries sees the newly reunited Cletus and Carnage go on a killing spree across the USA, in tribute to Miley Cyrus. Now, what's interesting here is that Marvel have been really trying to create a Spider-Man franchise these past few months, with the Venom book launch, the Spider-Girl series, and the newly-announced 'Avenging Spider-Man' series also by Zeb Wells. While Spider-Girl struggled to hold a readership, Venom has done rather well for the company - and the recent Carnage mini did well too. Could it be that Marvel fans prefer Spider-Man's villains to his allies? If so, then we'd like to be the first to pitch a new ongoing series for THE SPOT.
Issue #1 of Carnage USA - which also features the Avengers, by the way, and more on that later - will be out in December.
Monday, 13 June 2011
Oh! A second Guthrie makes it into the list. This is almost certainly the final Guthrie to appear, however. Sam G. has been responsible for the New Mutants in virtually all their iterations, until he finally realised they were kinda boring and escaped their dark thrall. And then he got pulled back in again, but let’s not talk about that nonsense. Cannonball has the mutant power to be invulnerable while he’s blastin’ – and if that doesn’t make sense to you, then obviously you need to spend more time on Wikipedia. Basically his legs are like jet engines or something, and it’s totally stupid but you’re just going to have to go with it, you guys. Cannonball’s legs explode and he can fly around by exploding his legs. Let’s put it this way: there’s a reason why nobody’s put him in an X-Men movie. Because his powers are stupid. But anyway, Cannonball was also the only member of the New Mutants team to graduate into the X-Men proper. While his team-mates languished in unread cult stories, he appeared in popular cult stories, such as X-Treme X-Men and Mike Carey’s run on adjectiveless X-Men. During this time, Cannonball developed into a strong soldier with a maverick edge – personality traits which completely evaporated recently when he was pushed back into New Mutants and subsequently ruined.
First introduced in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run, Fantomex was designed to be a parody of ‘edgy’ characters such as Gambit or the entirety of the GI Joe cast. How fitting, then, that comic-book fans loved him unironically and didn’t realise that Morrison was making a joke at their expense. After Fantomex murdered his way into their harts, fans cheered as he shot people in the knees and had sex with Mystique. He wore bow ties long before Dr Who made them cool, and wears a ceramic pot on his head which apparently stops telepaths from reading his mind. He was eventually revealed to be another part of the ‘Weapon Plus’ programme which designed super-soldiers like Captain America, Wolverine, and, uh, Nuke. Fantomex’s real name is Charlie, and he was created in England after his mother was hideously raped by a robot. Seeking to disassociate himself from his past, Cahrlie developed a French accent and vomited out his own central nervous system: he decided to keep it as his pet and nicknamed it Eva. Eventually it developed into a sentient spaceship which he can fly around in, and he joined the cast of X-Force where he continues to murder his way into the hearts and minds of children everywhere.
Another member of the New Mutants. Karma is a Vietnamese lesbian and the legal guardian of her little brother and sister - she’s also a mutant. With one wave of a legal document she could cripple a welfare system. What’s interesting about Karma isn’t really her personality, which is more or less none-existent (that’s why she was put on the New Mutants, after all), but her powers. She’s a telepath, but not in the way that you might expect. She can’t really talk to people using her thoughts, or overhear thoughts. Instead, she can possess people for a short period of time, control their actions, and make them wander around for a bit. This has put her in contention with other characters who prefer possession – one memorable encounter with villain The Shadow King left her with 300lb added to her body. She worked it all off, thankfully, and became a socially-acceptable thin person once more. Karma is one of the seventeen characters currently in love with Kitty Pryde, and is a far better choice than Colossus. Stuck in the New Mutants team again, Karma also suffered the indignity of having her leg amputated and a replacement thrust into her by a patriarchal medical service. When will It Get Better for Karma?
One of three X-Men who are usually lumped together by fans, Marrow quickly outgrew her compatriots Maggott and Cecelia Reyes. This is mostly because she has a genuinely brilliant backstory, which sees her retconned in as a young member of the Morlocks. Taken in by them as a child, she witnesses Callisto fight Storm, and saw Storm win. She thought Storm would save her, but soon realised that Ororo Monroe had other things to concern herself with. Marrow later narrowly escaped the events of the Mutant Massacre, saved by Gambit just before she could be killed by the Marauders. She fell under the command of several ill-natured mentors before Callisto eventually sent her to the X-Men, realising that Xavier’s bunch were the only people who could help Marrow come to terms with her past. After a few days with the X-Men she became a supermodel beauty and beat up Wolverine on a regular basis, but her immense rise was followed by an even more immediate fall. When her creator Scott Lobdell left the X-Men, Chris Claremont had little interest in using characters HE HAD NOT GIVEN LIFE. So she was booted out the X-Men, depowered during M-Day, and (the worst indignity of all) exiled to Peter David’s X-Factor, where she made a cameo this one time.
46: Nurse Annie
We all know somebody just like Nurse Annie. Who among us hasn’t got a friend who works as a nurse and allowed her mind-controlling son to manipulate her into a romance with a coma victim? That’s Nurse Annie’s story, as far as it goes. The coma victim was Havok, and Annie’s son Carter then woke Havok up, forced him to love Annie back, and watched as the ensuing car crash played out. Havok was already with Polaris, and Annie was a mutant-hater, and the forty-something issues where Annie appears are probably some of the most bizarre comics ever produced. Created by Chuck Austen, Annie became the resident Nurse for the X-Men – when she wasn’t squabbling with people like Husk, that is. Immediately unlikeable as a character, Annie was disliked by just about everyone. She was shrill, judgemental, and she was being forced into a continuity which didn’t want to support her. She was also blatantly a version of Chuck Austen’s wife, roughly thrust into the X-Men universe. Annie Ghazikhanian was a piece of work, alright. But she was a damn fine nurse.
It's the news more exciting than a thousand dead Captain Americas. Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, the team behind The Wizard of Oz, The Marvellous Land of Oz, and Ozma of Oz comic book maxiseries, are returning for a fourth time. With Young once again pulling double duty on pencils and colouring, this is going to be the highlight of the comic-book year.
The first three series, collected in the most beautiful trade editions you could imagine, were some of the best comics Marvel have ever put out. Shanower's loyalty to the original novels, coupled with his eye for a catching turn of phrase and Young's unendingly lovely depictions of characters like Dorothy, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion make this new series an unmissable read. And in the fourth story, Dorothy takes some of her friends to Kansas for an exploration of the real world.
The series starts in September! Preorder now! Preorder in plentiful amounts.
Saturday, 11 June 2011
Friday, 10 June 2011
The Avril Lavigne of the X-Men has had it rough. She doesn’t know who her real father is (is it Magneto? Is it a gypsy?), she was one of the lone survivors of a mass genocide, and she’s continually getting paired off with Havok – the official worst X-Man. And for the past four years she’s been dumped out in space, ignored by writers and left in cosmic limbo. A pretty degrading fall for a character who once got jilted at the altar, melted all her cutlery into metal death weapons, and hunted down the absent groom. Yes, we’re talking about Polaris, the most reliably crazy member of the X-Men. She’s useful in battle, with her powers of magnetism, but she’s most well-known for being a fruitcake bat. After surviving the Genosha genocide during New X-Men she was picked up by Chuck Austen and turned into a manic, before Peter Milligan made her an avatar of death and gave her bubonic plague. And then she was tortured for months in a space prison to make her boyfriend feel guilty. And X-23 thinks SHE has it bad? Polaris is an amazing character, primarily because she’s never quite as crazy as you remember her being. She’s certainly had her moments, but when you consider everything that’s been hurled at the character? Startlingly sane. Strange fashion tastes, though.
54: Boom Boom
And speaking of fashion, here’s a slightly controversial entrant. Boom Boom is also known as Meltdown, or Boomer, or Tabby Smith. First a member of the Fallen Angels, she quickly joined various X-Men teams and hooked up with all the male members of the New Mutants who have any merit whatsoever. A budding fashion-designer when she first appeared, the character has transformed from a style-obsessed airhead to a high-end fashionista socialite, seized by Warren Ellis and forced into the ranks of NEXTWAVE. Whilst there she beat up a dinosaur. This characterisation of the character has been kept in place even after Nextwave ended, making her half a parody of ridiculous Marvel characters and half an awesome ridiculous Marvel character. She chews gum! She can’t spell! She blows things up for no reason! She is cooler than Duke Nukem, if that reference still has any currency with you. Tabby Smith is pure fun, unfiltered and liable to explode all over your face. Like, gross.
A low entry for Gambit? Well, he does keep turning traitor, you guys! The Cajun has been MASSIVELY popular ever since he first debuted, making female readers swoon and male readers… well, swoon. He’s got this “sexy thief” dynamic going on which predates all dark fantasy novels. Some people like Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. Some people like Gambit. This chain smoking kinetic energy slinging southern mess of a character speaks in a bizarre twang of an accent and frequently pouts on-panel. And it’s that mixture of indecipherable madness and puppy-dog eyes which drives the ladies crazy! Well, it drives Rogue crazy. His only other fan appears to be Polaris, who is crazy anyway. Gambit wears pink and does care what you think. He’s also representative of all the excesses of comics, as his powers were ramped up once he became popular until he was given near-Godhood. Since then he’s been downgraded significantly, as well as turned into a villain several times. The X-Books like Gambit to be an anti-hero. Fans won’t really allow that to happen, so for the past fifty years or so he’s been turned into Rogue’s primary love interest. It’s not a very interesting storyline, but at least it makes narrative sense! MIKE CAREY WE’RE LOOKING AT YOU HERE.
One of several Queens to have worked alongside the X-Men, Deathbird has the distinction of not being her terrible relation Lilandra. Deathbird is the rightful heir of the Shi’ar Empire, an alien race who have tangled with the X-Men on several occasions. Each time they get involved with each other, Deathbird picks a new sprightly X-Male to mate with, ranging from Nightcrawler and Bishop through to Vulcan. She was also part of the most entertaining boss fight in Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Deathbird has an air of Joan Collins about her, which suits the characters regality perfectly. Regaility is not a word, however it is the best way to describe Deathbird. A woman who refuses to surrender unless it REALLY suits her, she is a fierce fighter. She rarely sides with the X-Men, but when she does they are better for it. She may currently be wounded after a bullshit story had a character cripple her, but she’s surely got the healing factor to see her recover. The X-Universe is filled with women who pretend to be Queens (hello Storm), but Deathbird is the Queenliest of all. And according to Microsoft word, Queenliest ACTUALLY IS A WORD. Suck it.
51: Omega Sentinel
We reach the halfway point in the list with Omega Sentinel. She first appeared in Chris Claremont’s ‘Excalibur’ series set on Genosha, as she helped Magneto and Xavier rebuild the country. After that went belly-up she was kidnapped and experimented upon, before she was saved by Rogue and placed on an X-Men team. A half-robot half-Indian woman, Omega Sentinel can turn her arms into giant guns and shoot people in the face. A little reserved, she became pretty popular with fans after Mike Carey’s highly regarded ‘Supernovas’ storyline, in which she played a crucial role. Karima (for this is her name) proved herself to be a great addition to the X-Men Universe. She has been brainwashed – haven’t they all – and is currently ‘dead’. But she’s a robot, she’ll be back eventually. Once Mike Carey stops his recent killing spree, perhaps she’ll take over X-Men Legacy and become the new focus character. We’d like that.
Thursday, 9 June 2011
There's no news about whether the series will relaunch with Gillen still helming it, but frankly the only thing Uncanny X-Men's ever had going for it is the high numbering. It's a book where editors and writers have to contain themselves to such intense degrees that barely any above-average storylines ahve come from the title since the 1980s. The book has to dictate the X-Men line, reflect changes made in every single tie-in or satellite title, and showcase only the most popular X-Men characters. Frankly, it needed to die a lot sooner than it did. Matt Fraction's run was poorly-received, after Ed Brubaker's run was poorly received, after Chuck Austen's run was hated. Kieron Gillen was starting to turn things around, but alas the Uncanny Curse now claims him as well.
Schism is due to end after five issues, at which point the new layout of the X-Books will be revealed by Marvel. It's unlikely that X-Men Legacy will be cancelled too; but Astonishing and Adjectiveless X-Men are both likely going to be in trouble. And with Uncanny X-Force on a limited-issue run, things look like they're going to be drastically changing for the X-Men franchise.
So let's add a third piece of good news to the table. Daredevil: End of Days has finally been announced ready for publication. Written by Bendis and David Mack, with art by Alex Maleev, Klaus Janson and the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz; this miniseries hypothesises a 'final story' for Daredevil and brings his career to a conclusion.
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
As you can see, established Avengers like Frog Man are going to be lumbered with rank amateurs like Jessica Jones and Hawkeye during the crossover, and... wait! Did somebody say Jessica Jones? Threat level yellow! Threat level yellow!
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Monday, 6 June 2011
So you only have one eye, your home is a sewer and you don't know what a haircut is. At least you still have your tentacles. And you've managed to land a girlfriend. Callisto has only recently joined the X-Men, but has made several worthwhile contributions to the X-Men. For one thing, she has worked with both Magneto and Xavier in the pursuit of restoring the decimated mutant community of Genosha, and is presumably still doing that even as we speak. While everyone else has abandoned the place and decided to move to the cooler, more mainstream Utopia locale, she is still there doing her thing. A far way to come for a woman whose first few appearances had her kidnap Angel because she wanted a boyfriend; and get stabbed by Storm as retaliation. Storm is known to overreact in that way. However, after years of being enemies the two women have recently become friends - spurred on by Callisto growing tentacles, Storm has recently realised that she is in love with the woman and wants her forever. Sure, Storm married someone else. But her heart belongs to Callisto. It must be hard for any man to compare to a woman who has tentacles.
Part of the All-New, All Different X-Men; Colossus quickly proved himself to have a lot in common with the boring cast of the original X-Factor. A Russian with the ability to turn his skin into metal, Colossus exists for two reasons. The first is so the X-Men can throw a contender into the "who is the most powerful character?" battles that the internet thrills to. The second is so that his metal skin give colourists something fun to do during splash pages. He's literally appeared in no good stories - or at least, none of the good stories he's appeared in have been because of him. And yet these presumably amazing writers like Joss Whedon and Kieron Gillen seem to see something in the character which nobody else thinks is there. He's appeared in all the main X-Men runs apart from New X-Men - and Grant Morrison wanted him! He was dead at the time, so Morrison had to use Emma Frost instead. What do all these people see in Piotr Rasputin?
A perennially popular character, Penance is irrevocably convoluted after her storyline was taken up by two different writers who didn't have the same idea of who she is. She first appeared during Generation X, and then she appeared in Generation X. One writer created her while the second did her origin. And neither stories seem to have anything in common with each other. All they agree on is that she has hard skin and sharp fingernails. She is either a person wrapped in a cocoon or two twins merged into a single being OR she could be something else entirely. Nobody is really quite sure what's going on here. But she's popular! Boy howdy.
Two characters in one placing? What's going on here. Well, Rusty and Skids are the most overwhelming romance story in the history of fiction. Nothing comes close to these two, who first met during the original X-Factor series. Skids is a girl who wears a beret, and Rusty is a boy who can set parts of his body on fire. You'll never separate these two characters, apart from when they've countlessly been brainwashed into fighting each other. And apart from the fact that Rusty has been dead for years now, killed in some bizarre way. Skids has fought with the grief in her own special way, first losing her beret (booooo) and then joining SHIELD. She's still helping the X-Men effort, but at the moment she's busy with a desk job in the most boring environment you could possibly manage. But hey, at least she isn't a member of X-Factor.
56: Layla Miller
Unlike Layla Miller, a character who first appeared in House of M but subsequently came to represent the new face of the X-Factor team. Recreated by Peter David as a smart-alec teenager who apparently knew the future, Layla mixed helping mutantkind with indescriminately killing people and aiding in the destruction of several mutant cities. Codenamed Butterfly, she spent most of her time being shady and untrustworthy - fitting given that she was apparently in a 'noir' series. She was amazing in several ways, most notably being in her ability to dominate absolutely anyone who spoke to her. She humiliated Quicksilver and the Astonishing X-Men, turned down Nick Fury and once threw a robot into a train. She may have terrible taste in novels, but her character came to dominate the early stages of X-Factor, and when she left the series it never recovered from the loss. Now that's the sign of a good character.
Her story ended when she was sent into the future during the Messiah Complex event, AND THAT IS THE LAST WE WILL HEAR OF IT.
Friday, 3 June 2011
Leech is forever. The little green mutant boy has been with us since 1984, and shows no signs of going away anytime soon. Originally one of the Morlocks, Leech has gone on to be a part of almost every important X-Men team since, from X-Factor through to the X-Men themselves. He’s proven himself to be the most courageous and likeable of all teen characters during that time, as every storyline he’s appeared in has given him exactly the same character arc. He starts off nervous, before eventually overcoming all the odds. He’s currently helping the FF save the World, but in his spare time he hangs out with Storm, and seduces various members of the Avengers Academy. He even escaped from a concentration camp this one time.
64: Evangeline Whedon
You don’t spend years and years as public enemy number one without picking up the odd lawsuit from time to time, and the X-Men have had their fair share of legal difficulties over the years. Luckily they have a superb lawyer in their midst – the madly named Evangeline Whedon. First appearing in X-Treme X-Men by Chris Claremont, the character rapidly became the breakout star of the series because she had a bobcut. The general public love bobcuts. She also has the mutant power to turn into a dragon whenever someone bleeds on her, which is bizarre and makes no sense. However, Chris Claremont wrote it, so we should all BACK OFF AND LET THE MAN TELL STORIES THE WAY HE WANTS TO. So far all we know is that blood turns her into a dragon. We have no idea what other, ahem, fluids might do to her. Might she turn into a giant eel or griffin if exposed to the correct liquids? Does drinking gravy affect her at all? Only time will tell on this one.
Let’s get this clear: she’s never going to be Banshee. Despite being the daughter of Sean Cassidy, Teresa is never going to be good enough to inherit her father's title. He will always be Banshee, and she will always be Siryn. To try and change that would be madness and no real fan would ever support it. Siryn has had an interesting career with the X-Men, as far as things go. Essentially a female version of a much more popular character, she has nevertheless made her own marks on the X-Men universe. Mostly because she sleeps around a lot, but also because she was the first Irish character in comics to develop a drinking problem. When not advancing the stereotype of her nation, she tends to work as part of inferior X-Men teams, which makes her seem like the best of a bad bunch. She’s typically thought of as the Anna Faris of the X-Men – she should be doing a lot better than she is, but seems content enough to work with garbage. Her conquests include Jamie Madrox, Deadpool, X-Man and Warpath. Frankly, that’s what’s holding her back.
The first and probably last Guthrie to make the list, Paige first came to attention as part of the original Generation X team. She subsequently moved across to Uncanny X-Men alongside Jubilee, where she watched from the sidelines as every other character from the team was written out of comics forever. A born survivor, Husk knows that writers will never kill off the cute blonde girl, despite her frankly disgusting mutant power to shed her skin and grow a new one underneath. The new skin could be made of lead, stone, rubber – whatever she wants. Again, this is a power which doesn’t merit much investigation. Paige is the smartest person to ever come from the Deep South, just pipping Uncle Remus to the post. She wears glasses and everything, and she made sure to sleep with one of the 06 members as soon as she could, to validate her existence within the X-Men. Despite being one of only three members of Generation X to still appear in comics, Husk has been wise enough to share no panel time whatsoever with either Emma Frost or Jubilee. She’ll probably survive longer because of it.
61: Silver Fox
WOLVERINE’S TRUE LOVE 4 EVA AND EVA <3<3<3
Thursday, 2 June 2011
Let’s deal with the good bits first, because we don’t like focusing on negatives and the film only just falls apart. The casting is generally great. The new students all have a strong reading on their characters, and James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are superb in their roles as Charles Xavier and Magneto. Fassbender in particular is revelatory, stealing every scene he’s in with his, ahem, magnetic glare. If the movie had focused entirely on these characters and thrown in a random villain at the end, we’d be dealing with the best X-Men film so far. Rose Byrne is underused as Moira MacTaggert, the woman who helps form the X-Men, so her character doesn’t get the chance to develop anywhere. However, she’s such a good actress that she almost glues together a personality for her character. On the other hand, the villains are mainly awful. Kevin Bacon, as Sebastian Shaw, is great – particularly in an opening sequence which seems to mirror the opening sequence of Quentin Tarantino’s equally flawed ‘Inglorious Basterds’. But January Jones seems to be around solely as eye-candy. She gets a few good lines, but delivers them poorly. For all that Emma Frost was anticipated, this film actively weakens her, and it’s unlikely new fans will be racing to buy comics about her. Azrael and… Arclight? (we've been told this is actually Riptide) as the two minions of Shaw, are barely anything. They appear, use their powers, then wander off again. It’s a shame, but these three characters are a drag on the film.
And this is the main flaw of the film. Instead of focusing on the first class and giving us an origin story not just for them, but for the X-Men as a whole; we instead are introduced to them via montage and watch them develop their powers via montage. They are an afterthought to the setting, which eclipses everything else in the story. The film, as you will know, is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We get enough cameos from JFK to remind us of the era, but the film is also keen on giving us excessive scenes with Russians, Americans, and various other factions discussing the war. It works as a backdrop, but the decision to make it a forefront for everything else detracts from the film. The set designs look great, but the film really could’ve left the setting to speak for itself. Bacon appears too often, and too many sequences away from the first class make the film seem stretched and thin. It would’ve been great to see more of the Mystique/Xavier/Magneto relationship, because that’s the strongest work in the film. Instead we have to deal with army officers discussing wartime tactics at length.
The time period means that the inclusion of Darwin and Angel Salvador as members of the first class brings up an interesting story beat: minorities weren’t exactly well-treated at this time. Instead of anything on that, however, the two black characters in the film are taken out of the story – once more, the undercurrent of racial tension which keeps strong black characters from the comics mainstream seeps into the film. And considering the main script came from Jane Goldman, the film is surprisingly demeaning to women. Emma Frost and Mystique are both ogled at length by the camera – and even Rose Byrne is put into lingerie at one point. There’s a bizarre feeling about this film, which seems to be appealing to the worst of fans at the same time as claiming to be a grown-up, serious superhero film. Wolverine’s cameo – which happens – is spectacularly misjudged. The five minutes after he appears are drowned out as you think ‘did he really just say that?’
The special effects look lovely, and the score is fantastic. Apart from one moment when they sue a music cue from a Cee-Lo Green song, the music is rousing, stirring and of the era. It’s bang on the mark. However, the script is far too on-the-nose. When the term ‘slavery’ is mentioned the camera immediately snaps onto Darwin’s face. When the script tries to put in metaphor or allegory, the staging undermines it immediately. With a few more months of prep time, these problems could’ve been ironed out. As it is, the film betrays its rushed nature. If we’re going to get a second film, as hinted at, then here’s hoping the filmmakers stop putting so much into so little space. McAvoy and Fassbender are brilliant actors – if the film had given them more to do, and focused more on the idea of raising kids in a world which prejudices against them, then this would easily have been the best film of the franchise. What we have instead is a half-realised movie which flits between X-Men: The Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins in terms of quality.
A massive shame.