Logan & The Future Of The X-Men

Logan is the swan song for Hugh Jackman in his seventeen-year film portrayal of the iconic Wolverine superhero. The film is resonating with filmgoers and critics and especially fans of the X-Men films and comics. For 20th Century Fox’s X-Men Cinematic Universe (XCU), Logan’s success combined with last year’s Deadpool points to a bold and fresh direction for the cinematic universe.

X Men Films Roster

Ever since its debut in 2000 with X-Men, the X-Men film franchise has seen its share of ups and downs. Creative and commercial highs like X-Men: Days of Future Past or X-Men: First Class were quickly followed or preceded with disappointments such as X-Men: The Last Stand or X-Men Origins: Wolverine. On the whole the XCU films are exciting and colorful but it seemed as if these superhero films had hit a creative wall as seen with X-Men: Apocalypse. By itself the film was fine, but it had a nagging feeling of déjà vu. We’ve seen these theatrics before; a big, bad mutant comes along and threatens the world while the superheroic mutants complain about how they’re ill treated by humanity, yet go out of their way to save it because, well, they’re the X-Men!

Along Came A Merc

As we all know that template changed with Deadpool. Funny, gross, self mocking and full of vigor and pizzazz, the film proved that something new can be created from the standard X-Men superhero formula with the Merc with the Mouth. Deadpool was a gamble for 20th Century Fox who resisted the idea of greenlighting the film in the first place. Executives worried about funding a superhero film that was vulgar, violent and comedic. After all, an R-rated superhero film is considered blasphemy to studio execs and marketing departments. They feared that the under-18 crowd wouldn’t be able to see, rather spend money to see the film. But to not allow that in a Deadpool film would betray the character.

Of course, Deadpool surprised the industry and delighted giddy fans who wanted an accurate film portrayal of this beloved character that stayed true to his violent, fourth-wall-breaking roots.

Deadpool’s success helped give Fox execs the confidence to allow Logan’s creators to take a creative gamble. This resulted in the film being an adult, hard-hitting, violent film that truly reflected the dark comic book story that inspired it, “Old Man Logan”.

Requiem For Logan

However, Logan’s creative success is not just due to its grim and violent tone. Rather this mature film is more than that, it is about facing mortality and Logan feels so poignant because of the nature of the title character. Logan aka Wolverine, played so skillfully by Hugh Jackman, is a broken, old man who realizes that the world has moved past him. Having long given up the good fight, Logan simply wants to be left alone and face his last days in peace with his mentor Charles Xavier.

Logan at his hideout

Like Logan, Xavier is grappling with the challenges of old age and both men know they are reaching their twilight. Having seen these two characters on film for nearly two decades, it is rather heartbreaking to see the indignities they face as we are reminded of our own mortality. Meanwhile, we have to admit that after seeing Jackman playing this iconic hero for 17 years, it is hard to see him go, but we must, which is why the film’s ending hits so hard.

Logan, Xavier and Laura

At the same time, Logan is looks at the issue of how an adult deals with a degenerating parent. It is a part of life that most will face and by taking care of an ailing Xavier, a man who is not his father makes Logan more heroic than he realizes. Further adding to his growth is the realization of how he has bonded with Laura, aka X-23, the young mutant he and Xavier are protecting. By the film’s end, he has come to not just feel responsible for her but to accept her as his child, which is a bittersweet conclusion to his emotional growth that Xavier urged him to explore earlier in the film.

Logan at hotelDiscovering these themes in a superhero film is actually surprising and gives Logan much more gravitas than the standard superhero film. In many ways, it seems more like a western thanks to its themes of the harsh consequences of violence and beautiful outdoor cinematography. That is why many are proclaiming it to be a film that has outgrown its genre and is now compared to The Dark Knight or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It is needless to add that this modern classic is already considered by many to be the greatest X-Men film to date.

So now that Logan has reinforced the idea that an XCU film can be unexpectedly original, where does Fox go from there? Continue reading

All Good Things Come To A Marvelous End

Today, it was announced at Midtown Comics in New York City by Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort that the Marvel Universe will come to an end this May with the new Secret Wars mini-series.

secret warsIn Secret Wars, segments of different Marvel realities, including the Marvel Universe 616 or the main universe that has been in existence for 75 years will be combined into a new planet called Battleworld. The Marvel editors claimed that from now on this Battleworld will be the new Marvel Universe. Fans of the regular Marvel Comics know that for some time the Marvel superheroes have been dealing with the “Incursion” events, that is where parallel worlds/realities have been colliding with each other. Now it’s the turn of Marvel 616 and the one from the Ultimate comic books as the two realities will smash into one another. The remains of these universes will join other universe segments on Battleworld.

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This event can best be described as Marvel’s version of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the famous DC Comics mini-series that sought to eliminate the confusing amount of alternate realities into one single universe. All fans know that the Crisis event was the springboard for DC to revamp their superheroes and titles, which included John Byrne’s updating of Superman, among others.

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We can only hope that Marvel has better luck in producing a more coherent universe than DC did. While the event was good on paper, there were many inconsistencies with many DC titles, which led to more mini-series events that tried to rectify this to no avail. Ultimately, DC was able to correct this and present a clean ending to their comics universe and start over completely with the Flashpoint mini-series and The New 52 reboot.

With the main Marvel Universe ending, this is undoubtedly a sad turn for fans of the Marvel comic books, but it’s a terrific way of starting over and clearing the plate. For some time, the Marvel Universe had become convoluted with too many characters and realities. Let’s look at the X-Men for example. There are so many different characters, many of which come from alternate futures and dimensions, that it’s daunting for non-regular readers to keep up with. How many storylines have there been in the X-Men comics where someone comes from the future? All these futures are different from one another! How can the future seen in “Days of Futures Past” be reconciled with a future seen in Wolverine: Old Man Logan? Simple, it’s impossible!

Then there is the mess Marvel made renew with Spider-Man in undoing his marriage to Mary Jane. Instead of just having the couple get a divorce, a convoluted story was made up (“One More Day”) where Spider-Man went completely out of character and made a deal with the Marvel equivalent of the Devil to save his aunt’s life. This led to a time-travel quirk where he never married Mary Jane and reality in the regular Marvel Universe was altered. The upcoming event “Renew Your Vows” is a good way to rectify this mistake as seen with the preview image of Spider-Man, Mary Jane and their daughter.

Speaking of Spider-Man, the recent Spider-Verse story illustrates how convoluted and crowded the Marvel multiverses have become with the many different versions of Spider-Man.

That is why the end of the Marvel Universe is a good way to streamline things and provide a jumping on point for new readers and lapsed fans who couldn’t keep up with the vast myriad of timelines. As with Spider-Man’s marriage, the clean slate allows for mistakes to be undone and to approach characters and stories with a new, fresh perspective. Then again, how long before alternate reality or future stories begin to come back? Let’s hope it will be a while.

For this year’s Free Comic Book Day event on May 3, Marvel will release free copies of Secret Wars #0 that will bring readers up to speed to the shattering event.

T. Rod Jones

Marvel Comics’ Greatest Moments

marvel 75 logo

Marvel Comics turned 75 this year. As we celebrate Marvel’s 75th anniversary, it’s hard to imagine how long the comic book company has been around. Even though Marvel Comics first debuted in 1939 with Marvel Comics #1 (featuring decidedly different superheroes like the Human Torch, Ka-Zar and Namor), the company truly came to its own in the 1960s when writer Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko introduced the world to new and dynamic superheroes.

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These masked marvels like Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and the X-Men quickly captured readers’ imaginations. Without exaggeration, Marvel Comics changed the comic book world and left a permanent mark in popular culture and its characters are still vibrant today. Incredibly enough, it can be said that they’re more popular today than when they were first introduced in the 1960s .

While Marvel superheroes have successfully transitioned into other media like films, toys, games and such, let’s not forget that the core of their appeal are with the comic books. Whether they’re just single stories in individual issues or epic mini-series and story arcs, the following are, based on my opinion, the best stories from Marvel’s 75-year history.

age of apAge Of Apocalypse: Spanning several different X-Men titles over several months, this massive storyline was about an altered reality where Professor X’s assassination in the past led to Apocalypse conquering North America, and Magneto leading the X-Men in a desperate attempt to stop him and correct history. Just seeing the alternate takes of our favorite mutants was a joy to read.

Avengers Disassembled: Boasting top avengers disassembledwriters and artists like Brian Michael Bendis, Paul Jenkins, Robert Kirkman, Steve Epting, Dave Finch and George Perez, this comic book crossover spawned from The Avengers #500-503 into other superhero titles and upended most of the Marvel Universe. The team is literally ripped apart from within by an insane Scarlet Witch. Many heroes are killed and the Avengers were catapulted into new popularity with this controversial story arc.

Born Again: Daredevil has never been lower or a more captivating read than in this classic story arc spanning Daredevil #227-231. That is due to the genius writing of Frank Miller and the art of Dave Mazzucchelli. Daredevil’s worst enemy discovers his secret identity and systematically destroys the blind superhero’s personal world plunging Daredevil into his own worst hell.

The Captain: This underrated Captain America tale by Mark Gruenwald, Tom Morgan and Kieron Dwyer spans Captain America #332-350 and has Steve Rogers abandoning his role as the iconic hero and going underground. Meanwhile, a super patriotic, though unstable, replacement is picked by the U.S. government to take over, but as we see, it’s not easy living up to a legend.

Civil War: Probably the last great mini-series produced by Marvel pits its most iconic heroes against each other. As Iron Man and Captain America took opposite sides against the U.S. government’s superhuman registration act, Marvel Comics was changed forever and the mini-series’ impact is still with us today.

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Deliverance: The famous “Demon in a Bottle” story arc from Iron Man #120-128 bravely introduced the notion of a superhero being truly human and becoming an alcoholic. Tony Stark’s (Iron Man) alcoholism would resurface to even greater effect several issues later after his nemesis Obadiah Stane orchestrates a series of attacks. Stark soon became unable to continue being Iron Man and hit rock bottom culminating in Iron Man #182 when a now-homeless Stark battles not only the cold elements, but his own inner demons.

wolverine kittyDays of Future Past: The greatest X-Men story ever made reflected the height of the historic collaboration of Chris Claremont and John Byrne. In this exciting two-part tale from The Uncanny X-Men #141-142, robotic Sentinels have hunted mutants nearly to extinction in the near future, so one mutant is sent back in time to alter history.

The Death of Captain America: One immediate aftermath of the Civil War mini-series was Ed Brubaker’s gut-wrenching examination of the death of an American legend. Coldly assassinated before standing trial, Captain America’s death led to another hero taking up his mantle and a serpentine plot by Cap’s greatest enemies.

The Death of Gwen Stacy: The two-part gwen stacy deathstory from The Amazing Spider-Man #121 & 122 is considered by some as the end of the Silver Age of Comics. This emotional tale about Spider-Man’s nemesis, the Green Goblin, killing his girlfriend  was a gut punch not only for Spider-Man but his many followers who were stunned by the tragedy.

The Doctor Is In: John Byrne wrote and drew some outstanding comic books during his Marvel tenure. Before Deadpool came along, Byrne’s rendition of She-Hulk had her hysterically breaking the fourth wall. In The Sensational She-Hulk #5 story titled “The Doctor Is In” she had to not only contend with Doctor Bong, but with literally walking across comic book pages (ads included). Marvel Comics was rarely funnier than with this particular issue.

The Hulk Vs. The Thing: Marvel is known for how often its superheroes fight each other. This early story from Fantastic Four #25 & #26 is one of the best since its primarily a battle royale between two of Marvel’s strongest titans. The Stan Lee-Jack Kirby classic is at the same time a story about determination and fighting against the odds, in particular with the Thing.

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If This Be My Destiny…!: The story arc from The Amazing Spider-Man #31-33 had Spider-Man run through exhausting trials to gather serum for his dying aunt. His quest culminated in issue #33 with a story titled “The Final Chapter!”.  In the issue, our hero is trapped under tons of steel and rubble and in danger of drowning with the serum just out of reach. Spider-Man has to find the fortitude to free himself and his effort was memorably inspiring.

Continue reading

Marvel Wins The Movie War…For Now, Part Two

 

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Marvel Entertainment has ruled the box office with its numerous hit films, especially those produced by Marvel Studios. Meanwhile, DC Entertainment and its parent company Warner Bros. while successful with TV and video game adaptations of the DC superheroes seemed to be asleep at the wheel in putting out film products to counter Marvel’s box office dominion.

Late Start

Around the beginning of this decade as Marvel Studios was blossoming what was DC Entertainment doing around this time? We got from them Green Lantern and The Dark Knight Rises. The former film didn’t perform to expectations and failed to resonate with fans and audiences. Green Lantern was hamstrung with weak villains, pedestrian storytelling, and for a film featuring a cosmic hero it was too Earthbound. On the other hand, the final film in Christopher Nolan’s DDark Knight trilogy was well received at the time of its release, but many grumbled that it was too ponderous, pretentious and its villain Bane (Tom Hardy) couldn’t compare to The Dark Knight’s Joker (Heath Ledger). What was noticeable was that Batman’s world seemed smaller and darker than the more light-toned Marvel Cinematic Universe. It seemed odd that Batman was the sole superhero around in Nolan’s films, although for The Dark Knight Rises’ plot of Gotham held hostage, that was a necessity. It was plain to see in the end that while the Batman films were hugely successful, they did not do anything to expand the DC Universe in film. So once that trilogy was completed there wasn’t anything to follow it.

Does all of this mean that it’s over for DC? Should they throw in the towel? Hell, no! They may be way behind Marvel at the moment, but they are gearing up for a new war that will start in March 25, 2016. The release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice is just the opening salvo. However, the failures of Green Lantern and The Dark Knight Rises in terms of creating a cinematic universe is why DC had to start over with Man Of Steel in 2013, already a few years behind Marvel Studios. That reboot of Superman and his mythos was successful, but it’s considered controversial by many fans who decried the character deviations, especially when Superman killed at the film’s end.

man of steelNevertheless, the film did begin an earnest establishment of a larger universe. Take the scene near the end when Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon) fight above Earth and tear apart a satellite belonging to Wayne Industries. It was a nifty Easter egg, but it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment and the film should’ve done more. Imagine if a post-credits scene was shown where the near destruction of Metropolis is shown on a TV screen. The camera would’ve pulled back to show that the TV was in a cave and that Batman could be seen watching the disaster on TV. Or have the TV in a non-descript apartment where a certain green Power Battery could be spotted.

Regardless, Man Of Steel was DC’s first true attempt at establishing its own cinematic universe. Its Easter eggs may pale next to Iron Man with the Avengers Initiative scene, but it’s a start.

Broad Horizons Ahead For Both Companies

From March 2016 until 2020, DC has eight films scheduled for release. At this point, the general public doesn’t know which properties will be on the big screen aside from Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, but current rumors point to Shazam, Wonder Woman, the Justice League (finally!), a new Batman, and a proper sequel to Man Of Steel. DC and Warner Bros. should be commended for not rushing things unlike some other movie studios with comic book properties (looking at you Sony). This means that when the universe is finally presented it should be cohesive and well done.

dawn of justiceRegarding the recent decision to move Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice from May 6,2016 to March 25,2016, it may seem like an admission of defeat. One way of looking at it is that DC recognizes what a juggernaut Marvel Studios and its films have become and want to avoid direct competition. But it’s really a more strategic move by DC and Warner Bros. to ensure that Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice reaches the widest possible audience. That is why they moved up the film’s release date so it doesn’t have to compete with the third Captain America film. A lot of people wwomansalivated over the prospect over these two comic book titans going at it in the box office, but in reality such direct competition would hurt both brands. In this case, DC would have suffered more. Why? It’s likely that Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice would’ve won the match against the third Captain America film, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a proven brand with devoted followers and Captain America has risen significantly in popularity thanks to his last film. There isn’t any way that the third film would flopped; it would’ve earned a respectable amount of money in the matchup, enough for Marvel to declare a pyrrhic victory and claim their film held up well against DC’s better known characters. In the meantime, if Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice didn’t have super impressive opening box office numbers or heaven forbid came in second on the opening weekend, it would’ve spelled a PR disaster for DC and stifled their burgeoning cinematic universe. DC had more to lose than Marvel, so taking a page from their competitor’s strategy book, they positioned their centerpiece film in a less competitive time period where it’s guaranteed to score high.

With DC beginning its own universe, which at this point is still in planning stages, Marvel is charging avengers ultron posterforward with more film releases. Next year will see the eagerly anticipated sequel Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man. The following year we’ll get the aforementioned third Captain America film and on July 28, 2017 the Guardians of the Galaxy will return to theaters with a new film. Additionally, Marvel recently announced several release dates through 2019 for five more films in the MCU. No details have been released but the speculation is that these films may include sequels to Thor, the Avengers, possibly Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr. recently expressed interest in continuing to play Iron Man), and new properties like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, the Inhumans, or Doctor Strange.

A film based on the last character mentioned, Doctor Strange, also means that Marvel is branching off in yet another direction. Like with Guardians Of The Galaxy, which is actually a space adventure film, a Doctor Strange film would not be a traditional superhero film, but rather one that deals in the genre of horror and fantasy. The fact that Scott Derrickson has been hired to direct the film is indicative of its horror trappings since Derrickson’s resume includes horror films.

lineupGuardians Of The Galaxy and the upcoming Doctor Strange film point to how Marvel has won the Movie War because they’ve done so well with superhero films that they are now able to branch off into other genres. DC has tried doing this in the past with poor adaptations of Constantine and Jonah Hex. If DC’s film slate includes a rumored movie based on its fantasy property Sandman, then this would prove that DC is remaining competitive and moving beyond superheroes as well. Continue reading

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Is A Great Superhero Epic

X posterX-Men: Days Of Future Past is a return to form for the X-Men film franchise and it’s more than that. It rectifies the misfires made with the franchise since the film’s director Bryan Singer left it to do Superman Returns. But more significantly, Singer has delivered the best X-Men film to date, even eclipsing favorites like X2: X-Men United and X-Men: First Class.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The fifth X-Men film (not counting the Wolverine solo efforts) is a loose adaptation of the classic Chris Claremont/John Byrne comic book story arc in The Uncanny X-Men #141-142 where mutants are facing extinction in the future and one mutant’s consciousness is sent back in time to prevent the mutant holocaust at the hands of giant Sentinel robots. The opening scenes in X-Men: Days Of Future Past take place in the grim, dark future where mutants are being mercilessly hunted down by advanced, adaptive Sentinels. In a desperate move, the consciousness of the fast-healing mutant Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to the 1970s into the mind of his younger self, which begins a wild ride.

The film switches gears and has the audacity to introduce much-needed humor as Wolverine does a fish-out-of-water routine when adopting to the new timeline. In the 1970s, Bolivar Trask ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????(Peter Dinklage) is a mutant-hating scientist who constructs the Sentinels. According to history, he is assassinated by the shape-shifting mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), which starts the chain reaction leading to the dystopian future seen in the film’s opening act.  Wolverine has to find a younger version of his mentor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and convince the two men to put aside their differences and change history.

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X-Men: Days Of Future Past is genuine epic spanning across time and places with an intricate, but fast-moving story that is never dull. It’s so perfectly paced with exciting and tense sequences interjected with pathos and wry humor. There’s a smile-inducing segment where Wolverine, Xavier and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) recruit the speedster Quicksilver (Evan Peters) to break Magneto out of prison and he just steals the show. The way Singer demonstrated Quicksilver’s super-fast powers was so incredible to behold and fresh. It would’ve been easy to just show him as a streak, but Singer went the extra mile and showed his POV where the world around him slows to a standstill as he speeds up. This shows why Quicksilver is one of the coolest mutants and it’s too bad more time isn’t spent with him. His actions erases any complaints from haters and trolls who moaned about how dumb he looked in publicity shots. Of course, what elevates Quicksilver’s presence is how Peters played him as an ADD-addled, fun-loving type. Hopefully, he’ll pop up again in a future X-Men film and one can only speculate at this point on how Joss Whedon will present him in next year’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

X and WolverineAs with Peters, the rest of the cast elevate X-Men: Days Of Future Past by giving deeply emotional and captivating performances. This goes for major cast members like Jackman, McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence to those that had minor parts  like Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Fan Bingbing, and Halle Berry. It was great to see the acting greats Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen returning to their roles as the older versions of Xavier and Magneto. Also, there are surprising and most welcome cameo appearances by other mutants, which enrich this film and shows how Singer cares about the franchise and pays attention to its details.

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On the whole, unlike the other films, X-Men: First Class aside, this one felt like a true ensemble film and not just Wolverine And The X-Men. He does have a major part in the film, but he is not the only star, that is because the other actors get their moment to shine and Jackman portrays the famous superhero differently, he’s more in control of himself, more mature.

With this film, Bryan Singer takes firm control of the film series and heads it in a new and hopeful direction. It’s clear from watching the performances, the intricate storyline and all the Easter eggs with nods to other X-Men films that Singer is invested with the franchise. X-Men: Days Of Future Past can be seen as an apology of sorts from Singer for leaving the series. Thanks to his efforts, the film is at the same time a welcome superhero blockbuster that will leave many X-Men fans overjoyed.

José Soto