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Thoughts on Marvel’s PHASE THREE Announcements

Phase 3 line up

Holy crap!

It’s been a heck of a week for us Marvel fans, hasn’t it? Just a week ago we got the release of the first “Age of Ultron” trailer (after an initial leak) and I was all set to write up a reaction to it when the good people at Marvel Studios decided to make my geeky head explode by revealing their Phase 3 slate of movies. As is often the case when Marvel Studios announces a new project, their new slate reads like a nerd fantasy that’s too good to be true, and yet this is what they’re giving us!

I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll just go ahead and write a messy and rambling post, because that’s how I role.  First, some “quick fire” reactions before I jump into what were the biggest announcement for me…

-A “Guardians” sequel was obvious, but I’m still way excited. Plus, James Gunn and the whole cast are coming back, so I expect great things. Frankly, it could be just two hours of Rocket Racoon sitting and watching “The View” and I’d still be in.

-We’ve been expecting the “Dr. Strange” announcement for a while now, so it’s nice to finally get it. Interested to hear when they finally lock in official casting. Benedict Cumberbatch has been recently rumored for the lead, but as Marvel said, if that was a given then they would have announced it.

-In the comics, “Ragnarok” was the storyline that destroyed Asgard and killed off Thor for a while (Thor was dead during “Civil War”). That being the subtitle to “Thor 3″ gives me the impression that something tragic will go down. Could it involve Thanos and the Infinity Stones? Either way, we’re getting more Loki and that alone is awesome!

-Black Panther is the other of Marvel’s worst kept secrets. Still, it’s exciting to have him finally in the cinematic universe and I expect we’ll see him in a small role during “Age of Ultron.”

-Inhumans had been rumored before, but I wasn’t sure if it would actually get made because it’s a “out of left field” property. My guess is the success of “Guardians” helped get this one greenlit. I love Blackbolt and am excited to see how this plays out.

-I am absolutely THRILLED that we’re getting a “Captain Marvel” movie!

Captain Marvel

It’s time for a female led superhero movie and frankly I’m glad we’re getting a heroine that isn’t “Wonder Woman.” I dig the cosmic nature of the book and there are many possibilities of cross overs with the “Guardians” or even the “Inhumans.” I would also hope that this paves the way for some of Marvel’s other female characters to lead their own movies or shows. I like that we’re getting an “Agent Carter” show in January and I’d personally love to see Black Widow in her own movie. It would be like “Lucy,” only good this time.

Now, let’s talk about what for me were the two BIGGEST announcements of the event…

1. CIVIL WAR! OH MY GOODNESS – CIVIL WAR IS HAPPENING!

Civil War 1

“Civil War” was one of Marvel’s biggest comic events of the last twenty years. A tragedy results in the government passing the “superhero registration act,” forcing all heroes to reveal their identities and be licensed to operate. This divides the superhero community, with Iron Man leading the pro-registration force and Captain America leading the anti-registration rebellion. Now we’re going to see this play out on the silver screen and that makes me want to cry out like a teen at a One Direction concert!

What’s intriguing is that obviously the cinematic “Civil War” will have to be significantly different than the comics. So then, what is the event that disassemble the Avengers? The Avengers 2 teaser seems to suggest that due to Ultron the team is heading towards a breaking point. Is Ultron the reason Cap and Iron Man split up? Does Ultron crack the foundation but do we not see the full schism until Cap 3? There are a lot of possibilities and I imagine we’ll be speculating until next summer when “Age of Ultron” is released.

Another intriguing question is that in the comics Spider-Man was a massive part of “Civil War.” Spidey initially sides with Iron Man and even unmasks on live television to show his support for registration before joining up with Cap. Could the “Civil War” announcement mean that there is more truth to Sony lending Spider-Man to Marvel Studios than we realize? Did Santa finally get my letter? If not, then it’ll be interesting to see what character they use instead to be the one that’s caught in the middle of both factions.

2. OH MAN – THE AVENGERS FINALE IS “THE INFINITY WAR” AND IT’S TWO MOVIES!

Infinity Gauntlet 1

Ever since Thanos was revealed during the credits of “The Avengers,” Marvel has been building towards adapting the “Infinity Guantlet” storyline. In the comics Thanos assembles the six gems that control all of time and space and becomes omnipotent. The entire Marvel Universe has to fight him off and he ends up killing half of them. It’s pretty crazy and you’ll need to read the trade for yourself to see how it all gets resolved.

In the cinematic universe, we’ve learned that the “infinity stones” are the weapons of mass destruction that the villains are trying to control, such as the Tesseract. I originally assumed that Thanos and the gauntlet would be the plot of “Avengers 2″ but in an interview Joss Whedon gave a while back he referred to Thanos as being the final boss in a video game in which you fight through everything else before you have a final showdown with him. Since “The Avengers,” reaching Thanos has been a slow burn that we now know will culminate with the Infinity Gauntlet over the course of two movies, separated by one year with a couple of movies in between.

I love that not only is Marvel going big with it’s story, but with how they’re choosing to tell it. I imagine this war will involve every cinematic character and rather than try to cram that all into two hours, I love that they’re taking their time and using multiple movies to tell the epic ending they want to. A good geek friend of mine speculates that the Avengers will still be split heading into part one and that in part two everyone will assemble to take Thanos down. It’s just a thought, but it is an awesome one, huh?

Anyways, that’s what I thought of the Phase 3 announcements. What do you think? What are you excited about? Anything you felt was left out? Are you still holding out for a new Howard the Duck movie? SOUND OFF in the comments below!

This has been a NERD ALERT!

 

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What’s The Future of the Spidey Movies?

Spidey2

The “Amazing Spider-Man 2″ was not the blockbuster Sony hoped it would be. It was met with a “meh” response from critics and fans alike and while it did make a descent amount of money at the box office, it still fell short of what its predecessor brought in.

Even before its theatrical release, Sony had revealed plans to significantly expand their Spider-Man movie universe. A third installment in the new Spider-Man trilogy was announced, which came as no surprise. What was a shock was Sony having put into production a movie staring the Sinister Six villain group as well as a separate film focused on Venom and Carnage. Interestingly enough, neither of those movies were intended to include Spider-Man himself. Seems as if Sony wanted to attempt a Marvel Studio style “universe building” with the characters they have the rights to.

Recently though, the rumor mill coming out of Sony is indicating that their plans are radically changing. Apparently, the tepid response to ASM2 was substantial enough that Sony is possibly rethinking their entire Spidey-movie strategy. Rumors have been swirling and I wanted to discuss the top three rumors about the future of the Spider-Man franchise that have caught my attention.

1. The Sinister Six Movie will now Include Spider-Man…who is not played by Andrew Garfield.

Sinister Six

For any non or new geeks (welcome!), let me bring you up to speed – The Sinister Six has been a stable of villains that has long tormented dear ol’ Spidey in the comics. “Amazing 2″ sets up the idea of encountering them in a future movie, particularly in that final scene with Harry Osborn. Again, from what Sony has announced, the Sinister Six was meant to be a stand alone movie rather than the end of the “Amazing” trilogy. While there haven’t been many details given, we had been told that it would feature six villains (no details on specifically which ones) and exist in the Amazing Spider-Man movie universe. Honestly, a movie staring a stable of Spidey villains without an appearance from web head does not excite me. The thought of Spider-Man having to fight off this team as an epic end to a trilogy is exciting, but alas, it wasn’t originally meant to be.

Now the rumors are saying that if Sony does move forward with the Sinister Six,  It’ll be with Spider-Man in a prominent role. A potential plot being that an even greater threat forces the villains to form an uneasy alliance with Spider-Man so they can save the Princess from Bowser once and for all, or something like that (the last part may be part of my fan fiction). Oh…but since Andrew Garfield isn’t contracted for this film, they would recast him. Because having multiple actors playing Spider-Man isn’t confusing or anything, right? But that leads to the next rumor…

2. Sony recasts and reboots the entire franchise…again!

Spidey1

Sony may just “burn down the house” and start all over again. New cast, new universe, etc. Now, this sounds absolutely crazy to me, but then again I’m not a studio exec. While I was pleasantly surprised as to how much I enjoyed “The Amazing Spider-Man,” what didn’t connect with me was the origin story. Mainly because I felt that I had JUST SEEN IT in the Sam Raimi trilogy. Would they really go through all this again? I don’t know, but this rumor does imply that every option is on the table over at Sony. But the giant risk with this is “reboot fatigue.” In the last 15 years we’ve had two different film approaches to Spider-Man, and we’re risking boredom. I’m of the opinion that this has been a big factor in why the “Amazing” movies haven’t made as much money as Sony’s original trilogy – people are asking, “Wait…didn’t we just see this?”

What would also be a disappointment to me in this is that I really like Andrew Garfield as Peter/Spidey. I honestly didn’t think I would, but he’s been my favorite part of the new movies. I would love this guy to be given the opportunity to star in a well-written Spidey film, but maybe Sony sees him as part of the problem? I don’t know…

Now, that leads to what I think is the most impossible rumor of all, yet the one I want to be true more than anything…

3. Sony negotiates a deal in which Spider-Man can appear in Marvel Studio movies.

Spidey Avengers

I LOVED “The Avengers.” It was the movie I had always dreamed about as a kid. And after seeing it, what bummed me out was knowing that Marvel Studios would never get to tell a Spider-Man story. Since they had absolutely nailed the heart and soul of all the Avenger characters, now all I wanted was to see them take a crack at the wall crawler. No exaggeration – I would lose my geek mind if they brought a proper Spidey to the big screen and explode from excitement. Literally. Explode. That’s scientifically possible, right?

Would this ever happen? I think this is as long a shot as “long shots” go. We do know that Sony and Marvel have talked, but I imagine that a negotiation such as this isn’t exactly easy for either side. But dream with me here Sony (I know you read this blog) – you love the Spider-Man film franchise because it makes you Scrooge McDuck amounts of money, right? Merchandising alone brings in a fortune. Let me appeal to your accountants here – by working out a deal in which Spider-Man appears alongside The Avengers (maybe even helps kick-off a cinematic “Civil War” storyline) it will make you SO MUCH MONEY, that you could finally buy those solid gold toilet seats you’ve had your eye on. You think you sell a bunch of Spider-Man toothpaste now? Just wait until he’s standing with Robert Downey Jr. and they’re both telling you to floss. Billions Sony, billions!

I do have one condition though. You can share Spider-Man and make money off that deal, but it is ESSENTIAL to let Marvel be the creative force behind how Spidey is written and portrayed. Joss Whedon has made quite a name for himself with how well he writes quippy, sarcastic heroes. Just let him do his thing and Spidey will turn out more than fine – he’ll finally be the Spider-Man we’ve always wanted to see on screen.

Like I’ve said, these are just rumors and I’m sure there are more out there. We won’t know anything for sure until Sony opens their big old corporate mouth. But in the mean time, you’ve heard my ranting, now what say you fellow nerd? Which of the rumors makes you the most excited? The least? Would you prefer the Spider-Man movies just show Aunt May playing Bingo at the community center? SOUND OFF in the comments below!

This has been a NERD ALERT!

 

 

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Ranking the Marvel Movies – From LEAST to BEST…

marvelstudios

I think we can all agree that Marvel Studios has conquered the world. All hail our new overlords!

Ten movies in and the studio is more popular than ever, showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, I remember a recent article declaring Marvel Studios the “new Pixar,” meaning that the general movie going audience (in other words, non-geeks) no longer needs to know about or be attached to a certain character before hand for a movie to succeed. Instead, like Pixar, all you need is to see that glorious “Marvel” logo and regardless of what it’s about you know you’ll get a quality movie experience. The recent success of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a movie filled with characters that only the hardcore comic fans knew of is a great example of this.

As a life-long comic book geek who loves seeing these characters conquer the silver screen, I’ve decided to weight in on their slate of movies and give my humble (yet correct) ranking of all the Marvel movies so far, from least to worst.

BEHOLD – THE OFFICIAL NERD ALERT RANKING OF ALL THE MARVEL MOVIES (cue epic music):

**Minor Spoilers for the films to follow. You’ve been warned nerds!**

10. THE INCREDIBLE HULK

The Incredible Hulk

I’ve never been a big fan of the Hulk by himself. I love him alongside other characters, but when he’s flying solo I find it hard for him to keep my attention. I thought this movie was much better than the Ang Lee “Hulk” from years back (although that movie did have “Hulk Poodles.”), and the first transformation sequence in the soda plant was pretty cool. Beyond that though, the highest praise I can give it is “meh.” I never bought into Liv Tyler as Betty Ross and while I usually like Ed Norton, this wasn’t his best performance. However, I definitely geeked out when Tony Stark walked in at the end. It was cool to see the beginning of the character crossovers/universe building that we had been promised at the end of the first Iron Man.

9. IRON MAN 2

Iron Man2

This movie  gets a lot of hate. In re-watching it, while not a perfect movie (or even close), I also don’t think it was so bad that it ruined my life, which is what I can only assumed happened to others based on their online comments. Robert Downey Jr. continue to be the best aspect of the Iron Man franchise by pretty much playing himself and it’s difficult not to enjoy his wit. Sam Rockwell was a great addition as the slimey yet super dorky industrialist Justin Hammer, which added to the humor of the film. Where I feel IM2 stumbles is in the common mistake of attempting to do far too much in a short period of time. The main plot should have just revolved around Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash character seeking revenge on Tony for his father allegedly stealing the idea for the arc reactor. But instead we got that while trying to give ample time to other subplots such as the Stark Expo, Rhodey becoming War Machine, Pepper becoming the new CEO, Tony’s sickness, a mid-life crisis, and Nick Fury showing up to chat. There was too much going on and in the end the film felt bloated and without much substance.

8. THOR

Thor1

Out of all the proposed “Phase 1″ movies, Thor was the biggest question mark. How would they bring to life Asgard and the whole mythology aspect of the character in a way that could co-exist with the techno-realism that Iron Man had given us? And for many, Thor was the least known of the Avengers trinity. How would people react to the idea of a Norse god in the Marvel universe? For the most part, I think they did a great job introducing the character and his world. Asgard looked wonderful and the explanation of it essentially being another planet or realm (making the Asgardians aliens) was creative. Casting wise, Chris Hemsworth was seemingly born to be Thor and I sincerely hope that in his everyday life he speaks with the Thor voice. And we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to “Thor” in that it was our first introduction to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. My biggest complaint is that the majority of the film takes place on earth. I wanted to spend my time exploring Asgard and be more immersed in their world, not traveling some small town on earth in Natalie Portman’s van. Regardless, it was a great introduction to Thor’s story and they did eventually give me more Asgard in the sequel.

7. IRON MAN 3

Iron Man3

Once again, this was Downey being Downey and for me, that will never get old. This was also the first “post-Avengers” movie and I enjoyed how it portrayed a world in which superheroes and alien invasions are now a very real thing. While the subplots with Pepper and Maya (the female scientist), didn’t fully connect with me, nor did I fully buy into Aldrich Killian as the villain, there was a lot in the film that I liked. I thought it was awesome that Tony was dealing with PTSD due to the events in “The Avengers.” I felt it was a creative way to inject some realism into such a fantastical world. And I know I’m in the minority here, but I liked the twist with The Mandarin. Nerds have been arguing how it ruins the character, blah blah blah, but I thought it was bold and creative. As someone who is not often surprised in movies, that caught me completely off guard – It definitely was not what I was expecting! Plus, from what I hear the follow up one-shot “All Hail the King” adds a further twist in the developing story of The Mandarin, so calm down already. For what was potentially the last stand alone Iron Man film, I felt it was a strong swan song.

6. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

Captain America1

I’ll admit it – I was skeptical of Chris Evans being cast as Cap. I’d seen him in films such as “The Fantastic Four” and “The Losers,” and I assumed that he only played wise-cracking jerk type characters. Cap is supposed to have the gravitas to lead the entire Marvel Universe, so why go with Johnny Storm? It didn’t take long for this movie to convert me into a Chris Evans believer. I loved that it was a period piece that centered on WW2, which is such an important foundation for Cap as a character. I loved Hailey Atwell as Peggy Carter (I’m excited to see her upcoming TV series), loved Tommy Lee Jones and loved The Howling Commandos. I thought the Red Skull was visually a cool villain but Hugo Weaving seemed uninterested in the material and it showed in his performance. Plus, I’m still not really sure what happened to the Skull at the end. Did he die? Was he teleported to a Tesseract based purgatory? Is he working on a new album of Beyonce cover songs? We may never know. Additionally, the Bucky “death” scene was tough to get right for all us power geeks because we know the comic book version involving Baron Zemo so well. It wasn’t bad, but for me it wasn’t as epic as it should have been either. Bottom line, I did really enjoy “First Avenger.” I know some were bothered by some of the “cheese factor” in the movie but to me that added to its charm.

5. THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Thor2

Now this is the Thor movie that I wanted the first time around! Sure, Earth was in there but it wasn’t the primary location. We got to experience more of Asgard alongside other realms and I feel “Dark World” did a great job blending together Thor’s fantasy and science fiction elements. Plus, how cool was Loki in this movie, right? At this point we’re all madly in love with Hiddleston and he didn’t disappoint. Now, Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and her friends are entertaining and by no means bad, but I find more often than not that they just get in the way. I’d love to see more of Lady Sif and the Warriors Three. But it is what it is i guess. Lastly, how about that after credit scene? INFINITY STONES?!?!?!? This was the first real confirmation that Marvel is building towards the Infinity Gauntlet. And even though 99% of the theater had no idea what that scene meant, I still audibly flipped out!

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Captain America2

I would have been fine if this film had given me “more of the same.” Instead, “The Winter Soldier” decided to completely change the Marvel cinematic universe with three simple words: “No more SHIELD.” I loved how “Winter Soldier” fell more into the espionage thriller genre. I loved that Black Widow and Nick Fury were given much more screen time and great action sequences. Maybe this will finally lead to a Black Widow solo flick? I was also so excited to see the character of The Winter Soldier come to life (and as I’ve written before) I was not disappointed. But above all, I loved how this movie reminded me that Marvel will often take bold risks that leave you in shock and awe. From destroying SHIELD, to redefining Fury’s role in the universe, to introducing us to Marvel Studios’ potential solution to getting around not being able to have “mutants” in their universe (the after credit scene), “The Winter Soldier” was an all around awesome experience.

3. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Guardians

I’d like to take a moment and give a very sincere and heartfelt message to my non-nerd friends…I TOLD YOU SO! When the movie was first announced and the world responded with a collective, “who?” I was excited. I’d read the comics and I was already in love with the Guardians. I told countless people, “Trust me. You’re going to love the raccoon with a machine gun and the talking tree,” and was always met with a polite nod as they looked at me as if I were bonkers. Just to state it again— I WAS RIGHT SUCKERS! Marvel’s biggest risk has paid off in a huge way! Chris Pratt and the whole cast was incredible, the soundtrack was spot on, Rocket and Groot are now celebrated parts of mainstream culture, and the film set up the third Avengers film in big ways. And more importantly, Guardians accomplished all of this without a cameo appearance or even a reference to an established Avenger. No door opening with Robert Downey Jr. walking saying, “Did somebody say TONY STARK?” Nothing. Guardians was a huge success and it did it on its own characters and humor. After this, you really do have to wonder what weird or out of left field franchise Marvel will attempt next. Maybe “Power Pack?”

2. THE AVENGERS

The Avengers

“The Avengers” is the movie I had dreamed about as a kid while playing with my action figures. It’s also the movie I was CONVINCED would never happen. If you stop and think about it, it makes no sense that “The Avengers.” exists. In the lightning fast world of Hollywood, the fact that a studio would slowly build a universe with characters far less known than say a Spider-Man over the course of five years through individual movies, all the while hoping that not a single one of those films bombed while leading to a big payoff, well frankly that makes the existence of “The Avengers” a miracle! We’d already been introduced to these characters, so the movie hit the ground running. What threat would unite “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?” Not the traditional cabal of super villains, but a full blown alien invasion that destroys most of New York. And how about the fact that this is the single best Hulk movie we’ve ever gotten? Plus, when all was said and done, what did they put in the middle of the credit? THANOS! They put him in as a clear message that Marvel was just getting started! “The Avengers” was proof that the Marvel strategy works! So much so, that now many other studios are trying to replicate Marvel’s “universe building.”

1. IRON MAN

M Payoff 1sht

Why is Iron Man in my top spot? Because there would be no cinematic universe if Iron Man had not succeeded. Iron Man was released at a time in which the future of superhero movies was uncertain. “Spider-Man 3″ and “X-Men: The Last Stand” were colossal failures story-wise (they made a ton of money though) that cut deep into our very geeky souls. Add to that the lukewarm at best response to “Watchmen” and you had many critics declaring that the comic movie “fad” was over. In this climate enters Marvel Studios and releases a movie about a somewhat unknown character starring an actor who was best known for his various drug arrests. On paper, IM had “train wreck” written all over it. Instead, Marvel hit a grand slam! We fell in love with Tony Stark. Iron Man all of a sudden became a more popular (and more cool) hero than Superman or The X-Men, and above all Marvel let us into their absolutely insane master plan to bring all the Avengers together in one movie. Remember that this was the very first after-credit scene. And what did we get? Sam Jackson as Nick Fury saying that he wants to talk about the “Avengers Initiative.” HOLY CRAP!

Marvel has since grown into the behemoth we have today and as I’ve written, they excel at producing quality films. Yet, there will never been another “first time” experiencing Downey as Tony Stark. There will never be another “first time” picking up little unexpected easter eggs hidden throughout. There will never be another “first time” seeing Tony suit up in the iconic red and gold. And there will never be another first time hearing the word “Avengers.” Sure, Marvel will give us many other “firsts,” but “Iron Man” will always be my favorite because without it, we surely wouldn’t have the thriving universe we have today.

Well those were my thoughts. What say you, fellow nerd? What’s your favorite Marvel movie? What would your own list look like? Are you upset that I didn’t include “Howard the Duck?” SOUND OFF in the comments!

 

This has been a NERD ALERT!

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Time Travel and Mutants – Thoughts on Marvel’s “All New X-Men” Vol. 1

All New Xmen better 1

**Spoilers ahead on a whole bunch of mutant related goodness. You’ve been warned nerds!**

The last few years have not been kind to Scott Summers, the former leader of the X-men known as Cyclops.

All new Xmen cyclops

His “fall from grace” started when the mutant population was decimated by the Scarlet Witch in the “House of M” storyline (the infamous, “No More Mutants!” finale). Cyclops went from being the leader of a band of mutants fighting for acceptance in a world that hates and fears them, to being the leader of a dwindling number of mutants fighting off the very real threat of extinction. Various writers have explored this fascinating evolution in Scott’s character which has led him to a darker and more militant personality. Gone is the wide eyed idealist fighting for Xavier’s dream of mutants and humans living in harmony, replaced with a general that will do anything, including bend or break his morals and ideals to ensure the survival of what remains of  his race.

It was this Cyclops that put together a clandestine team of mutant assassins led by Wolverine to permanently deal with specific threats to mutant-kind (The excellent Uncanny X-Force series). It was this Cyclops that eventually had a violent falling out with Wolverine because Logan was opposed to Scott training up the remaining mutant teenagers to be soldiers ready to strike against a world that hates mutants, resulting in Wolverine opening a new school, the “Jean Grey School for High Learning” (The “Schism” storyline). And it was this Cyclops that led the X-Men against The Avengers to gain possession of the returning phoenix force (In “Avengers vs. X-Men), in the hope that it’s power could save mutants.

A mutant militant leader willing to get blood on his hands to ensure the survival of the “dominant species.” You realize what he’s become don’t you? Scott Summers is the new Magneto of the Marvel Universe. In fact, a much tamer and less villainous Magneto had been a part of Scott’s team of X-Men. Crazy right?

cyclops_Magneto

Yet, despite all those developments Scott wasn’t what I’d consider a bad guy. However it was during the “Avengers vs. X-men” story where Cyclops crossed the line that did transform him into a villain to much of the Marvel universe. Five mutants, including Cyclops, were possessed by the Phoenix force. They were granted god-like power that easily rivaled that of Thor, but in return the Phoenix polluted and twisted their thoughts. Scott decided to unleash the “Phoenix Force Five” as they were now known to create a new world order – one that ensured the safety of the mutant race but through Scott and the Five ruling the world with a tyrant’s fist. When Cyclops’ mentor and father-figure Charles Xavier confronted Scott face to face in the hope of getting through to his surrogate son, Scott responded by murdering Xavier.

cyclops_xavier

Eventually, Cyclops was defeated and the Phoenix force fractures were spread out across the globe which resulted in the reboot of the mutant gene, sparking new mutants to be born for the first time since the Decimation. When looking back on his actions, Scott regretted the killing of Xavier yet said he wouldn’t change what he had done because it was for the good of mutant kind.

What a jerk, right?

Anyway, this leads us to “All New X-Men” Vol. 1. Cyclops has broken out of prison and has formed his new leadership team, consisting of Magneto, Emma Frost and Magik. They travel the world recruiting new young mutants that have surfaced and are preparing to lead a new mutant revolution. Meanwhile, as the X-Men over at Wolverine’s school try to figure out how to respond to Cyclops, The Beast makes a very bold and desperate move to stop Scott and perhaps save his old friend in the process.

Like any good (and crackpot) scientific genius making a hail mary play, the Beast turns to time travel. He travels back to when the original X-Men were teenagers, gives them his version of the “Marty, we have to go back to the future,” speech and brings them all to the present, specifically to have the young Scott confront the present one. The Beast hopes that if older Cyclops sees himself back when he had hope and belief in Xavier’s dream of co-existence, then maybe Scott will remember who he once was and attempt to restore that which he’s broken.

Allnew Xmen2

I was very intrigued by this book when I first heard the premise. I’m a sucker for time travel and mutants, so of course I was in. Plus, it gave us an inventive way to bring Jean Grey back into the current Marvel universe without opting for yet another canned resurrection. When I finally got my hands on this first collection I had an absolute blast! Brian Michael Bendis (the writer) excels at writing teenage voices (read anything he’s done in the Ultimate Spider-Man universe for further proof) and he gives the teenage X-men a great combination of child-like wonder and confusion as they step foot into a darker future. Bendis also injects a healthy dose of his snarky humor throughout and in particular he’s written very entertaining interactions between the teenagers and their adult counterparts.

I very much enjoyed this first introductory arc. Additionally Bendis introduces subplots that interest me to see how they develop as the series continues, such as: Cyclops and his team having problems with their powers due to the Phoenix, the introduction of new mutant characters, the teenage X-men discovering what their adult counterparts have grown into (particularly Jean being exposed to her death and expansion of powers), and Wolverine dealing with Jean returning as a teen.

I highly recommend that you pick this series up! If you haven’t been following the X-Men for the last few years, this book does build off of those developments and you may not fully understand what is happening at first, but it’ll start to make sense soon enough.

That’s my humble (yet correct) opinion on “All New X-Men.” What’s yours? Do you like/dislike the idea of the original teenage X-men joining the current Marvel universe? Do you think this will create the world destroying paradox that Doc Brown warned Marty about? SOUND OFF in the comments below!

This has been a NERD ALERT!

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Best of the Worst – My favorite “so bad they’re awesome” WWF Gimmicks.

WWE Hulk Hogan

Growing up, I LOVED watching the old school World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Every Saturday at noon was a huge highlight of my week as I’d gather with my siblings to watch the latest episode of “Superstars” and cheer on Hulk Hogan as the proud young “Hulkamaniac” that I was. In fact, the main reason we got cable television was so I could watch Hulk Hogan take on Sgt. Slaughter in the main event of Wrestlemania 7.

What I loved most was the over the top characters in the “federation era” of pro-wrestling. This was before the anti-heroes and everyday men such as Stone Cold and CM Punk that have since become all the rage. Back then, wrestling characters were truly that – characters! They had more in common with comic books than anything else. In wrestling lingo the character you portray is called your “gimmick.” For example, Hulk Hogan being a flag waving patriot telling kids to “say their prayers and eat their vitamins” was his gimmick. The Ultimate Warrior wearing face paint, running to the ring while growling and giving incoherant interviews was his gimmick, and so on (although the Warrior was kind of crazy for real). And while that era had some AMAZING gimmicks (Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man, etc) there were also some that were awful. We’re talking pooping on top of poop” bad.  And that leads me to this list (Segway!)

What I’ve done is thought through my favorite era of wrestling (late 80s, early to mid 90s. Long before it became the “WWE.”) and listed out my personal TOP 5 WORST gimmicks of all time. And when I say “worst,” I mean in a “so bad that it’s actually pretty awesome, much like Sharknado” way. To me these are the definitive, “Seriously…what were they thinking?” gimmicks that I absolutely ADORE. Without further adieu…

5. DUKE “THE DUMPSTER” DROSEE.

WWE Duke Drose2

In the early 90s there was a seeming obsession with wrestlers having a “real job” in addition to wrestling. There was a wrestling plummer, Nascar racer, repo man, even a clown. But for whatever reason, my favorite “working man” moonlighting as a WWF superstar was Duke “The Dumpster” Drosee. If you haven’t figured it out through the clever nickname, Duke was a garbage man who also knew how to wrestle. He’d come to the ring carrying a trash can just to hammer home the idea that he did haul garbage for a living and before hitting his “finisher” he would often yell, “It’s time to take out the trash!”

I really do wonder what that meeting was like when corporate pitched the character to this guy. “Here’s the thing…you’re not going to be JUST a wrestler. But a garbage man who ALSO wrestles. It’ll be bigger than Hogan, guaranteed!” Despite whoever in the office sincerely believed this would work, Duke didn’t last long. As he’d put it, his gimmick was taken out with the trash (Zing!).

4. PAPA SHANGO

WWE papashango

Here we’ve got a voodoo shaman/priest/wacky mystical guy, who also happend to be a trained professional wrestler. Makes perfect sense, right? I remember watching him come to the ring wearing his “evil” top hat and carrying a fake skull filled with dry ice and the announcers having to act as if they were terrified of this guy. Talk about a true test of your vocal acting ability!

I also remember a rivalry he had with the Ultimate Warrior in which he “cursed” the Warrior, causing him to spit up black goo or something like that, and the announcers freaking out as if the Warrior had contracted ebola. The WWF office must have loved the black goo curse because Papa Shango kept doing it. When he was around the Warrior or even while being interviewed, someone would be struck down with the “black goo of voodoo.” Side note: “Black Goo of Voodoo” would make a killer band name. I call it. DIBS!

Shockingly enough, Papa Shango didn’t last. I guess selling Papa Shango branded top hats and “make your own voodoo curse kits” weren’t as big of sellers as the WWF had hoped.

3. TUGBOAT

WWE tugboat

Once again, I find myself wondering what the creative department was thinking with this gimmick. They have a legitimately large and intimidating wrestler yet instead of packaging him as a character appropriate for his physicality they put him in stripes, a sailor cap and named him Tugboat. If they desperately wanted a nautical themed wrestler why didn’t they at the very least pick a much cooler boat to name the poor guy after like, “Battleship” or even “The Living Air Craft Carrier.” Nope, they went with the little boat that tows all the bigger, much cooler star athlete boats into dock. Someone got paid for this idea. Probably a lot too!

The wrestler portraying the mighty Tugboat (ha!) eventually did find some mid-card success when he was repackaged as “Typhoon” and paired up with beloved wrestler heel (lingo for villain) Earthquake as the tag team, “The Natural Disasters.” At least some good came out of this guy being forced to dress like that on national television.

2. DR. ISAAC YANKEM, DDS.

WWE Isaac Yankem

If I remember correctly, Jerry “The King” Lawler (a heel at the time) was bringing in an “enforcer” type to help him deal with whoever he was feuding with. Rather than bring in a wrestler who was also an actual bodyguard, The King opted to be protected by his evil dentist. Now I know there are some haters out there that don’t understand why any wrestler would cower in fear at the sight of a dentist. To those naysayer I say this – look, his last name is “Yankem.” Clearly he’s a sadistic dentist who likes to yank out teeth. Get it? **FACEPALM**

I can’t help but wonder what Glenn Jacobs (the man behind the dentist) thought the first time he suited up and saw himself in the mirror. Do you think he was excited at all? Or do you think he thought something along the lines of, “Well…it could be worse. I could have been a garbage man.”
Shockingly enough, Isaac Yankem did not catch on with the crowds and the dentist was soon gone from the WWF. For many, a terrible gimmick can be a career killer but fortunately for Glenn, years later he got to leave his evil dentistry career behind and was repackaged as the Undertaker’s long lost brother, Kane. A wildly successful gimmick that has been around for almost twenty years now. Not to bad for the former Dr. Yankem.

WWE Kane

1. THE ORIGINAL UNDERTAKER

WWE Undertaker 1

There may be some initial confusion with this one, so let me clarify what I mean. The Undertaker is easily one of the most successful (and profitable) gimmicks of not just the last twenty years, but of all time. So then how can he possibly be on my “best of the worst” list? If we’re honest, the modern version of the Undertaker is sort of cheesy still, yet I and countless others find his character of, “I’m the lord of darkness. Rest in piece fools“, to be pretty awesome and strongly cheer it on. Therefore I’m giving the modern Undertaker a pass and focusing on his gimmick back when he first made his debut. What often get’s forgotten in the Undertaker’s lore is that when he first entered the WWF, he was basically portrayed as being a zombie. That’s right…an actual zombie who decided to enter the world of professional wrestling!

Granted, the WWF never flat out called him that, but let’s look at the facts – he was often called an “undead phenom” that never felt pain, was insanely pale, hailed from Death Valley CA, was dressed as a mortician from the old wild west, consistently popped out of coffins, and was managed by a guy named “Paul Bearer.” With a name like Paul Bearer, I don’t think you have many career options other than managing a zombie in the wacky world of pro-wrestling.

WWE Undertaker 2

On paper, this sound like one of the dumbest gimmicks ever, right? But that’s where the undeniable talent of Mark Callaway (the man behind the ‘Taker) comes in. This SHOULD have been a stupid gimmick – an old western zombie wrestling for the world championship? Yet Mark gave far more than 100% commitment to the Undertaker character and inexplicably HE GOT OVER with the fans. Not just slightly either, but got over BIG and The Undertaker became the legendary phenom we now know. Just goes to show how true talent can take something seemingly awful and make something great out of it.

Those are a few of my old favorites, but what do you think nerds? Who were some of your favorite so bad they’re good wrestlers? Are you upset that I left the “Red Rooster” off the list? (not making this up – that was an actual gimmick!) SOUND OFF in the comments below.

This has been a NERD ALERT!

 

 

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“Dorothy Must Die” – Thoughts on a radical new entry in the Oz legend

I’ve always had a soft spot for “The Wizard of Oz.”

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Growing up, it aired on television once a year (back when a movie airing on local channels was a big deal), and it was always billed as “an event.” Something about Judy Garland, the songs, the look, the cheesiness and especially the excessive cheeriness always sucked me in. To this day, I can’t help but smile when watching it. Enjoying the film gave me an interest in additional stories told in the Oz universe. Specifically, I had often wondered what a sequel would look like. If Dorothy ever returned to Oz, what would happen? While not considered official canon, as a kid I did enjoy that Disney produced “Return to Oz” that presented a darker look at Dorothy’s potential return. I’m sure it doesn’t hold up today (sadly, most of our beloved childhood movies don’t), but it did build an excitement in me for additional stories told after “The Wizard of Oz.”

return to oz

That leads me to a new book I recently heard about and quickly purchased by author Danielle Page titled, “Dorothy Must Die.”

DorothyMustDie1

It’s a sequel (unofficial I’m sure) to Dorothy’s story with a unique premise – a down on her luck modern day Kansas teen named Amy Gumm is mysteriously brought to Oz via a tornado and discovers that Oz is now radically different from what is presented in the movie she grew up with. Turns out, Dorothy had returned many years prior and alongside her faithful trio (Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion) have actually conquered the land of Oz and are destroying it by mining all the magic to increase their own power. Did you catch that? In this story, Dorothy is the “big bad” and her companions are her evil minions. The premise is what sold me into picking up this book. I was very curious to see how this all played out.

Through the book, Amy comes face to face with the radically different versions of the classic foursome: Dorothy is now a power mad witch tyrannically ruling from the Emerald City and gleefully killing anyone in her way. The Tim Man is the law in Oz. Having retrofitted himself with weapons and armor he leads a Gestapo like police force that keeps Oz’s residents in line with Dorothy’s decrees. The Scarecrow has become a mad scientist brutally conducting bizarre experiments on living people and creatures with no concern for the blood he spills. And The Lion is no longer cowardly, but a savage, hulking monster that takes pleasure in killing and has the ability to drain the life essence from his prey via their fear. This version of Dorothy is far removed from the bright eyed one portrayed by Judy Garland, isn’t she? As Amy attempts to unravel the mystery as to why she was brought to Oz, she is recruited by a cabal of Wicked Witches who commit to train her for a single purpose – kill Dorothy.

dorothymustdie2

A power mad Dorothy. Monsterous versions of her companions. Wicked Witches as the heroes. An assassination plot. And of course, Oz as the backdrop. All of this struck me as the ingredients to an incredible read. I devoured the book in about a day or so and…

…it was okay.

Keep in mind that this was solely my experience and others will differ. In fact, based on a brief reading of Amazon reviews there are many that are downright loving this book, and I think that’s awesome! I definitely didn’t hate or even strongly dislike this book. I was eagerly sucked into the first half or so but what turned out to be a HUGE bummer for me out was how the book ended.

**MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD**

Throughout the adventure, the book raises some important questions you expect to get resolved. The most pressing being, “How did Dorothy and company end up like this?” By the time you reach the conclusion, not only is that and many other questions not answered, but there isn’t even a resolution to the main plot. The book just ends. Not in a nice neat package. Not with much of a cliffhanger (although I assume what we were left with was supposed to be treated as such). It just ends and my immediate reaction was, “wait…what?” The payoff (or lack there of) was unfortunately a significant disappointment, and I was fairly “on board” up to that point.  My assumption is that there will be another book coming that will pick up where this one left off, yet with all due respect, this ending struck me as a “cop-out.” Don’t get me wrong – I think there can be multiple books built on this premise, but for me (again, this is just my experience with it), had the book ended differently I would have had an actual excitement for another installment. I’ve since seen that there is an official prequel e-book that details Dorothy’s return and potentially chronicles her Darth Vader like turn to the dark side. But again, I didn’t want to have to hunt those plot elements down in other volumes. I wish it had been contained in “Dorothy Must Die.”

Regardless, if you’re a fan of “The Wizard of Oz,” whether through the movie, the original L. Frank Baum books, or even the delightful recent retelling of those books by Marvel Comics (Dude…Skottie Young is one of my favorite artists today), “Dorothy Must Die” could very well be an enjoyable experience for you.

So what do you say nerds? Are you a fan of Oz lore? Are you interested in reading this book? Have you been forever curious if the Wicked Witch of the West just never showered because of the whole water as a weakness thing? SOUND OFF in the comments below.

This has been a NERD ALERT!

 

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The Superior Peter Parker – Thoughts on “Goblin Nation.”

Superior Spidey1

**SPOILERS AHEAD** I’m talking about “The Superior Spider-Man” as a whole and spoiling the “Goblin Nation” arc like a boss. You’ve been warned nerds!

For the last year or so, the man behind Spider-Man’s mask has not been Peter Parker. **GASP**

Well, technically it was Peter’s face behind the mask. In fact, it was his whole body in the suit. But the man on the inside was not the lovable down on his luck Peter we all know and love.**DOUBLE GASP**

In a story twist  that can ONLY work in a comic book (which is why this medium is so awesome), a dying Doctor Octopus succeeds at achieving his greatest revenge against old Spidey – he manages to switch minds with Peter. Ock now inhabits and controls Peter’s body, Spidey powers and all while Peter was left to die in Octavius’ quickly withering body. After many “will Peter reverse this?” moments spread out over various issues, finally in The Amazing Spider-Man #700 Peter (in Ock’s body) fails to switch their minds back in time and dies trapped in Ock’s shriveled up old evil crackpot body. Yet, in his final act Peter uses what remains of their shared “mind link” (again, this is a comic so absurdity like that works) and manages to share all his life memories and emotions with Octavius. Ock experiences everything that made Peter the man and the hero he was.

Superior Spidey Ock Dies

Experiencing Peter’s heart and soul changes Otto for the better as he then decides to explore what “with great power comes great responsibility” means to him. While this experience hasn’t fully put Otto on the “side of the angels” (he did just steal a man’s entire life after all) It changes his outlook enough that he commits to continuing Peter’s legacy as Spider-Man and be a hero. But this is still Otto Octavius we’re dealing with and that means we’re now dealing with a Spider-Man that comes with a MASSIVE ego. Otto has determined to succeed where he feels Peter had failed as Spider-Man. He doesn’t intend just to be Spider-Man, but to be the SUPERIOR Spider-Man. And thus, we have the basic premise of “The Superior Spider-Man” series.

As you’d imagine, this controversial switch caused quite an uproar in the geek community. There were many pocket protectors hurled in anger and many comments left on message boards filled with strongly worded geek-speak as a result of this (beware the nerd rage!). After all, Spider-Man IS Peter Parker! How could Marvel take Spidey’s essence away? Being the HUGE Spidey fanboy that I am, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy at this development either. But at the same time, despite author Dan Slott’s insistence that Peter was gone for good, I knew that eventually Peter would be back. In the mean time, regardless of your opinion of the mind switch at the very least we got a unique addition to the Spidey mythos (besides, nothing can be worse than “The Clone Sage,” right?).  Agree or disagree, I’ve got to hand it to Marvel for again not being afraid to take a giant risk with their storytelling.

As you’d expect, Ock’s version of Spider-Man was radically different from Peter’s. He wasn’t afraid to beat criminals to a bloody pulp “Batman style.” He shot a criminal dead. He alienated former friends and allies, including The Avengers. He blackmailed the mayor. And he even achieved his ultimate goal – eradicating all crime in NYC by utilizing an army of robot spiders and human minions. Doc Ock had succeeded! Or at least that’s what he thought until The Green Goblin revealed himself…

Superior Spidey 4

Turns out the Goblin had been recruiting all the goblin themed villains in Spidey’s world and  plotting behind the scenes all along (cue diabolical laugh sound fx). By the time “Goblin Nation” starts, Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin for you new nerds. Welcome, BTW) reveals himself in a MAJOR way. He’s taken over Spider-Man’s entire network of Spider-Bots rendering them useless against any Goblin, he destroys Spidey’s HQ and lab (Ock had a very public HQ named “Spider-Island”), and he manages to release yet another army of robotic Spider-Slayer robots against the web-slinger (no joke: Spider-Man being attacked by Spider-Slyers has happen at least 1,000 times). Norman basically conquers New York City and, as the cherry on top, reveals to Spidey that he knows he’s secretly Otto Octavius. Each step of the way, the Goblin continue to prove to Ock that he’s already a few steps ahead and finally even Otto comes to the conclusion that Osborn has him beaten.

Superior Spidey 6

The story itself was good, but not great (in my humble, yet correct opinion). I did like the approach of putting Osborn in charge of an army (“The Goblin King”) and his interactions with Octavius were very well written. However, like many Spidey “events” before it, unfortunately there was a decent amount of clutter and the pacing seemed to change speeds too abruptly. Still, on its own it made for a fun read. But the Green Goblin storyline alone is not why I picked these books up. The reason I EXCITEDLY grabbed each issue in this arc was because we got the climax Spidey-Geeks had been waiting over a year for  – the long awaited return of Peter Parker!

Superior Peter Returns

Octavius comes to the realization that he has failed and that only Peter can defeat the Goblin. Knowing that a remnant of Peter remains in his mind (that remnant has acted as a “ghost conscience” trying to keep Otto on the straight and narrow) , Otto sacrifices the life he stole by erasing all of his memories, giving full control back to Peter and telling him that he really was and is the true Superior Spider-Man. Peter then puts on the classic red and blue costume and saves the day like only he can.

Overall, buying this story arc was completely worth it just for that money show of Peter’s return. I may not have loved the entire “Superior Spider-Man” experiment, but again, I’m glad Marvel is willing to try crazy things in hopes of telling an interesting story. I’m eager to see how the stories to come after “Goblin Nation” portray how Peter deals with the aftermath of Ock living in his life for a year. Bridges have been burnt, new relationships have been formed and it’s not like he can simply say, “It’s not my fault…there was an evil super villain living in my head for the last year.” All of that has some great story potential and at the very least one Avenger is surely going to punch Peter in the face for something Ock did, and that’s just good comedy!

What about you? What do you think of whole “The Superior Spider-Man” experiment? Liked it? Did you picket outside Marvel HQ for them to undo it? SOUND OFF in the comments below!

This has been a NERD ALERT!

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Thoughts on the Two BOMBSHELLS in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

winter Soldier 2

**WARNING** If the title wasn’t enough to clue you in, this post contains massive spoilers about “The Winter Soldier.” SPOILERS SPOILER SPOILERS ahead. You’ve been warned nerds!

Still with me? Alright, let’s jump in…

I got to see “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” on opening weekend and I loved it. In my humble (yet correct) opinion, it was one of the best films Marvel has done to date and it was pretty spectacular seeing The Winter Soldier himself come to life on the big screen. I was a big fan of Ed Brubaker’s arc where Bucky made his debut as the Winter Soldier, (grab it on ComiXology) and that added a lot to my enjoyment as I watched this movie. Plus, seeing Bucky’s bionic arm catch Cap’s shield in mid-air is such a cool fandom moment.

Winter Soldier Comic

Many cool things happened in this movie, but rather than give a summary of the whole film I wanted to share my geeky thoughts on the two GAME CHANGERS for the future of Marvel’s movies that took place during “The Winter Soldier.” Therefore without further adieu…

1. HAIL HYRDA

What we now know as the Marvel cinematic universe, the films that were developed by Marvel Studios (unlike the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises, which belong to Sony and Fox), began with “Iron Man.” That movie set the foundation for the eventual coming of the Avengers and introduced us to the “glue” that would hold all the Marvel films together – SHIELD. From introducing Agent Coulson to the very first “after credit scene” with Nick Fury teasing that this was the start of something big, SHIELD has made it’s presence known in every film since and has been the one constant in all the Marvel movies. Heck, SHIELD has become almost as popular as the superheroes themselves. You can buy SHIELD branded merchandise just like you can for The Avengers and SHIELD is even the premise of Marvel Studios’ first jump into television- ABC’s “Agents of Shield.” As we continued to move deeper into “Phase Two” of the cinematic universe I happily expected SHIELD to continue in its support role of the Marvel movies for years to come.

Then Marvel decided to change EVERYTHING…and it was awesome!

Turns out, Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD since it’s inception, meaning SHIELD has really been nothing more than a front for Hydra since after WWII. You know Hydra, right? That villainous organization founded by the Red Skull? That’s who Nick Fury has unknowingly been serving his whole career. To quote Fury from the “Secret Warriors” comic that dealt with this same twist, “I’ve been working for  the bad guys the whole time!”

Hydra

Hydra had operatives at all levels of SHIELD, including at the highest ranks and in “The Winter Soldier” they made their presence known. There was no saving SHIELD and Cap makes the decision to burn SHIELD to the ground. The movie ends and the only thing left of SHIELD is ashes. Nick Fury has gone underground and is completely off the grid. Agent 13 has joined the CIA and Maria Hill now works for Stark Industries. Moving forward, SHIELD is (seemingly) dead and buried in the Marvel movies.

I did not see this coming and I love this development for many reasons, but the big one is that this was a BOLD move by Marvel! Destroying SHIELD definitely wasn’t the “safe route.” Marvel could have kept doing the “same old, same old” with SHIELD and it probably would have been fine. Yet in a move like this, we clearly see that Marvel isn’t okay with just “fine.” They want to continually keep the audience on the edge of their seats and doing that means taking risks. No longer having SHIELD has massive implications for the movies going forward.  What does this mean for characters like Fury, Cap and Widow? SHIELD defended the Avengers to world governments, without them could this mean harsher legislation towards the Avengers (setting up the superhero Civil War perhaps)? Will an organization similar to SHIELD take it’s place? There are numerous questions such as these for the future slate of movies (and the TV show) to now address.

I just love that the company that staked it’s reputation on a huge risk (individual movies leading to “The Avengers”) is still very willing to take unexpected, crazy plot-twists for the sake of telling an engaging and unforgettable story. Then again, I should have expected no less from the studio that is bringing me a movie starting a gun-toting raccoon and a living tree (sincerely, I can’t wait for Guardians). Now, onto the second bombshell…

2. ARE THOSE MUTANTS?

I love Marvel’s “mid/after credit scenes!” At their best, they tease big developments that get you excited for the movies to come. What has become a great Marvel film tradition started after “Iron Man” with our first glimpse of Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury talking about the “Avengers initiative.” Peed my pants with excitement when that happened by the way. Then there was the Thanos reveal at the end of “The Avengers” (pooped my pants with excitement at that one) and most recently we had the Infinity Gauntlet teased at the end of “Thor: The Dark World.” Following suit, there was a mid credit scene in “The Winter Soldier.” And boy…it was a doozy!

We were introduced to Baron Strucker, which comic geeks knows as one of the big Hydra baddies in the Marvel world. In this mid-credit scene, Strucker walks through some sort of laboratory and we see that Hydra has Loki’s staff from “The Avengers” and are experimenting with its power. Strucker and his aid dialogue about conducting experiments on people and imply that some of these tests are resulting in “abilites.” Then we got the money shot – as they talked about “the twins,” we were given our very first look at Quiksilver and The Scarlet Witch.

Quick and Scarlet

Not only was this huge because we got a brief look at two characters we didn’t expect to see until “Age of Ultron,” but the bombshell here is that Marvel Studios may have indicated at how they’re getting around their mutant problem. If you don’t know – Marvel Studios does not have the movie rights to many of their mutant characters, which is why we haven’t seen or heard mention of the X-Men in the Marvel Studios slate, and potentially why we never will. To make matters worse, Marvel Studios doesn’t even have the right to use the word “mutant.” Crazy isn’t it that the company that popularized the idea of mutant characters sold away the right to be able to use it themselves?

That’s what made the fact that the Avengers sequel was debuting Quiksilver and The Scarlet Witch so interesting. In the comics, they’re both mutants and the twin children of Magneto. They originally joined The Avengers as a way to atone for their sins (they were originally members of Magneto’s evil brotherhood of mutants) and to help ease human/mutant relations. We’ve known that they would need a new, non-mutant origin and there was much speculation as to what it would be: super solider serum? Inhumans? Related to ALF? But if I understand this mid-credit scene correctly, then they’ve aquired their powers as a result of Hydra experimentation. Plus, Strucker indicated that there are many others being experimenting on by Hydra, which begs the question – is Hydra the origin for the cinematic universe’s equivalent of mutants? Time will tell, but regardless, this was yet another game changer featured in “The Winter Soldier.”

Alright nerds, what did you think of “The Winter Soldier?” Do you think SHIELD is gone for good? Did we just witness the dawn of mutants under a different name? Have you seen a great “Hail Hydra” meme? SOUND OFF in the comments below.

This has been a NERD ALERT!

 

11

My Top 10 Video Games of All Time

Retro NES add

Recently IGN have been running a series of great articles in which different editors list out their personal favorite games of all time. As a proud gamer who’s been playing since the original NES (I don’t like to brag, but I am a “Duck Hunt” legend. Kneel before me!), I thought I’d get in on this and write up my top ten favorite games of all time. Now, I’m not necessarily contesting that these ten are the greatest games ever made (even though they are), and while I’ve played MANY incredible games over the years, these are the games that have most impacted my gaming life.

Alright nerds, let’s jump in…

10. MEGA MAN 2 – NES

Mega Man 2

This was the first game I ever rented from the late, great Blockbuster Video and my first experience with the Blue Bomber. From the start, Mega Man 2 was radically different in that it let you choose which level you wanted to start on, and then you could play the other levels in any order you liked. That was revolutionary! Additionally, the level design ruled! Each robot master (“Wood Man” was my favorite, BTW), had a level designed around their characteristics, so even though the purpose was the same in each (fight your way to the fortress, fight the evil robot, rinse and repeat), it never felt stale. Finally, I’m fond of Megan Man 2 because it was my first “rage quit” in gaming. After defeating all eight of the robot masters and finally making it to the evil Dr. Wily’s fortress,  you’re forced to fight all eight bosses AGAIN! As a kid I never caught on that each robot is particularly weak to the weapon of one of the others, which is why I failed and my controller ended up embedded in the wall.

9. Mortal Kombat 2 – SNES

Mortal Kombat 2

These days I don’t particularly love fighting games, but growing up in the Street Fighter 2 era, they were my jam! While it was a close “fight” between this and SF 2 (get it? Because they’re both fighting ga…never mind…), MK 2 earned its place on my list. The original Mortal Kombat was popular due to the controversy around its violence and fatalities, yet it wasn’t that great of a game. But they pulled out all the stops for part two and delivered a game that devoured many hours of my junior high life. I saved up allowance FOREVER to buy this game. It was a big day when I finally got to walk into Circuit City (RIP) with a brown lunch bag full of money, plop it down on a counter and point to MK 2.

MK 2 was everything a sequel should be – bigger, better mechanics, and a fresh experience. The roster grew with fighters that were unique in both look and play style (but I only ever played as Scorpion because he’s the best). Story wise, I was hooked by the “Empire Strikes Back” turn compared to the first one, in that our heroes are one step away from being crushed by the emperor Shao Khan and the forces of Outworld. I also loved how MK 2 hid numerous secrets and easter eggs, which in a pre-internet era made solving these riddles quite the adventure. And yes, they had stepped it up with the fatalities as well. They were inventive, gory and in some cases, frustratingly hard to pull off. I bought the strategy guide that contained each character’s move list and studied that thing religiously! All in all, a great game and my favorite fighter ever.

8. Super Mario Bros. 2 – NES

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I was pretty young when this game came out, yet I remember it being my first memory of a game’s release being an event! You couldn’t escape the promotions declaring that a new Mario adventure was coming out. I loved the original Super Mario Bros and like any kid with an NES, I played the crap out of that game. What was so cool about part 2 though was how different it was from the original and how it all worked to provide a seriously entertaining game.

For the first time, you could choose one of four characters to play as including Princess Peach, and each had a slightly different ability (Luigi was always my go to). Gone were the Goombas and turtles, replaced with those weird mask wearing little guys and a giant frog king instead of Bowser as the “big bad.” Also gone were the power up mushrooms and stars. Instead, you could now pull items from the ground such as turnips. That’s right, your weapon of choice in this game was a stinkin’ turnip!  The level design was different as well, going vertical in most cases, meaning you had to climb up to finish many levels. And this was the first time on the NES that I noticed an improvement in graphics from one game to the next.

I’ve come to read articles since about how this was originally meant to be released as a different game entirely and the Mario characters were inserted in at the last minute (which probably explains the “it was all a dream” ending), but regardless of how we got it, I love that SMB 2 took a risk in being radically different. And in my humble (yet correct) opinion, it paid off.

7. WWF NO MERCY – N64

WWF No Mercy

As a huge wrestling fan growing up, I had often imagined being in the ring myself and winning the WWF championship. This is the game that let me live out that childhood dream because of its “create a character” feature. Sure, many wrestling games since have given you that option and while they’ve been entertaining, none have made me smile quite like No Mercy did during the countless hours I put into this game. It was pretty cool to see a blocky, polygon version of myself staring down a 1990s Rock. I smelled what he was cooking…then hit him with a steel chair!

And I didn’t just create myself in this game. I made all my friends! No Mercy basically let me create my own personalized WWF with everyone I knew and I lOVED that! It was so much fun giving friends a hook for a hand, tutus, and unnecessary scars as their wrestling attire. I loved working out the entrance music and moves for each character. In fact, creating the characters was much more fun to me than the actual game play (which was fun too)! Oh, and not only did I live out my dream of being the WWF champion, but my guy soon found himself the wielder of every championship belt this game had to offer. Like many games from the N64, if you look it up today No Mercy’s graphics do not hold up at all, but I’d play it again in a heart beat!

6. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – N64

Ocarina of time

This game absolutely blew my mind! As a huge fan of “A Link to the Past,” I eagerly anticipated Link’s first foray into the 3D world. I excitedly went to Target with a pocket full of birthday money, got my copy of Ocarina and then proceeded to cut off the outside world for a number of months as I got sucked into this game. Ocarina was huge and I loved exploring Hyrule while riding on a horse (you are a majestic beast Epona). This was one of the first games where I didn’t rush to get to the main quest because I enjoyed exploring my surroundings. True to form for Zelda, the dungeon crawling was incredible. The different temples were enormous, each with a different look, feel, and puzzles. And they were tough! Some more so than others – I’m not the only one who rage quit that stupid water temple right? Plus, the time travel mechanic with the Master Sword, which allowed you to play as both young and older Link was awesome! Bottom line, this game was EPIC.

This may sound odd, but something I loved about this game was the instruction manual. The first half read like a historical excavation recounting the history of the different Zeldas and Links. I had never thought of the different games/Links being separate heroes and it blew the mythology wide open for me. Any entry in the Zelda series had always been a game I looked forward to, but this was the one that made me a life long raving fan.

5. GEARS OF WAR 2 – XBOX 360

Gears 2

I really enjoyed the original. I mean, how can you NOT enjoy a game where your primary weapon is a gun WITH a giant chainsaw? The single player story hooked me in; I liked the premise and the characters. Additionally, the online multiplayer was fun, however since I was late to the Gears party there wasn’t much of an online community left to play with. Still, I was excited for another installment. Gears 2 was bigger, badder, and I absolutely loved it! The first game was all about a small group of soldier’s survival. The second expanded to be all out warfare to prevent human extinction at the hands of the Locust. The universe got much bigger, the screen was maxing out the amount of enemies it could throw at you, and bosses got bigger and creepier. At one point you get swallowed by a giant sea snake thing and have to fight your way out from the inside. That’s dumb action movie awesome!

While I did enjoy the single player, what puts Gears 2 on this list is the online component. I’m not a Call of Duty guy. I like Halo well enough, but I’m not over the top in love with it. Gears 2 is the game where I fell in love with online multiplayer. I had a squad of three other friends and there was a calendar year where we played together almost every night. Gears had your standard collection of game modes such as: deathmatch, capture the flag, last man standing, etc. And while these modes provided a lot of entertainment, one thing that set Gears 2 apart from everything else at the time was “Horde Mode.” Four players would try to survive thirty waves of enemies that got annoyingly harder to kill the farther you made it. Many games have copied that model since, but few have come close to how incredibly fun it was in Gears. One of the friends in my squad bought us all actual COG Tags off of Amazon, and I wear mine proudly to this day.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game – NES

TMNT 2

For a long time this was my favorite game to play at my local arcade. I pumped a ton of quarters into that cursed machine in hopes of finally defeating Shredder – and I did eventually accomplished that. I know I know, I’m awesome.

I was very excited when this was released on the NES (especially since the first “Turtles” games was rather lame), but for whatever reason my video store never had it in stock. Finally, late one Friday night my father surprised me by bringing it home and I lost my mind! It was the first time I had an “arcade experience” in my very own living room. Sure, the graphics were a lesser quality but I didn’t care! There it was – the actual arcade game in my living room. The burning building, the mousers in the sewers, the surfing level, Krang and the Technodrome…it was all there! You picked your favorite turtle (Donatello all the way) and fought your way through the game just like you would in an actual arcade. And without having to feed it more quarters when you died. It doesn’t get much better than that!

3. GoldenEye – N64

Goldeneye

Two summers. I spent two entire summers playing this game with my friends. Sure, we ate and used the bathroom every so often, but the bulk of those summers were spent playing the License to Kill mode and banning anyone from being Oddjob because he was too short to be chopped by an unarmed player. GoldenEye was my first “Killer App,” , meaning a game you buy a system for. I had many incredible experiences with my N64, but I bought it so I could play GoldenEye. There had been many games before that you played with your friends, but GoldenEye was the foundation of what became the First Person Shooter/Competitive Multiplayer experience. Remember, GoldenEye came out in the Stone Age, before consoles had online capabilities. Yet every shooter since then has pretty much modeled itself after GoldenEye’s multiplayer.

Back then, playing “online” meant cramming all your friends (and a few strangers) into a living room or bedroom and passing the controllers to your right controllers when you lost. I know that GoldenEye had a single player and I’m fairly sure I played it, but I can’t really tell you anything about it because my experience and love for this game is all from the multiplayer experience. GoldenEye comes from a gaming era long gone now, but without it we wouldn’t have the FPS landscape we have today. Thank you Pierce Brosnan!

2. Bioshock – Xbox 360

bioshock-360

If you have never played this game, please stop reading this post IMMEDIATELY, proceed to you local store and buy this game. You’re welcome nerds! This was the first game I bought for my 360. It had just been released and I knew nothing about it other than it was getting rave reviews. I popped it in and within the first ten minutes I knew Bioshock was going to be one of my favorite games of all time. It wasn’t because of the game play (which is great, BTW), but I ADORE Bioshock because of its story. Bioshock takes place in an alternate 1960 where an Ayn Rand acolyte named Andrew Ryan has done the impossible – built an underwater city named Rapture where “no gods or kings, only man” is the creed. As Jack, the silent protagonist, you find yourself in Rapture piecing together the mysteries and tragedies the city hides, as well as trying to discover what has caused Ryan’s utopia to spiral into decay.

Bioshock excels at environment. Rapture is the main character and exploring the city is simultaneously awe inspiring and creepy beyond belief. Rapture is a beautiful 1950s art deco vision of a technologically advanced future where human empowerment and eugenics is the law of the land, but comes with a terrible price. The citizens you meet have been driven insane by the gene-altering drug known as “Adam” and giant behemoths clad in undersea diver suits called “Big Daddys” roam the streets protecting wraith like “Little Sisters” who collect “Adam” from the blood of the corpses that litter the street. Not exactly a “sunshine and rainbows” experience, but it was great, none the less. Bioshock was a game I didn’t want to see end, mainly because I didn’t want to say goodbye to Rapture. I took my time exploring every nook and cranny because there was a story hidden in even the smallest corners.

Finally, I love this game because of Andrew Ryan. He communicates with you throughout the game via radio and is one of the most fleshed out and nuanced characters I’ve ever experienced in any game. You learn about the passions and ideals that drove him to build Rapture and as the game progresses, Ryan becomes one of the few villains that causes you to wonder, “what if he’s actually right about all this?” The story takes numerous unexpected twists and turns and had me audibly exclaiming “holy crap” multiple times. My wife doesn’t like video games in the least, but she was sucked in by Ryan and his city and enjoyed watching me play Bioshock. In short, it’s a gaming masterpiece!

1. Final Fantasy 3 – SNES

FF3

I have a deep love for the older Final Fantasy series. Many of those FF games are my favorite gaming experiences of all time. For this list however, I didn’t want a single series to dominate, so I decided to select just one. Initially, I expected FF 7 to take my top spot. It’s a legendary game that has hardly any equals in my eyes (and I’m currently replaying it on my Vita) Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that as incredible as 7 is, I wouldn’t be into the Final Fantasy series at all, or role playing games in general if it wasn’t for Final Fantasy 3. It was a game changer for me in so many ways and I wouldn’t have enjoyed 7 (or 10, or 12) in the way that I did without it. I had never played an RPG before (this was before Zelda and Chrono Trigger for me) and didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. FF 3 wasn’t simply a game, it was an immersive experience.

Never before had I played a game with so many characters, each with a distinct personality and move set. In fact, this was the first time I played a game where I could miss recruiting certain characters entirely if I didn’t actively search for them. Again, in a pre-internet world, secrets such as these were a welcome challenge! Never before had I experienced an open world game. I remember my first time on the world map. I knew what city I was supposed to travel to, but I remember thinking, “Wait…I can go anywhere if I want to? Cool!” Never before had I experienced the “game over fake out.” You hit a point in FF 3 where you’re sure you’ve just completed the game, only for the game to go, “psych” and have everything fall apart, thus opening up an entire second half that’s even cooler than the first. Never before had I fallen in love with a game’s music. SNES music was done on simple “midi” players, yet what they got out of it for FF 3 was spectacular and still one of my favorite gaming soundtracks ever. The opera house sequence and the final battle against Kefka being two of my favorite tracks. Never before had I experienced a game that made the experience personal. FF 3 offered a very simply mechanic that isn’t around anymore in most modern games due to voice acting – you could rename each of the hero characters. Meaning, I was a character in the game. My friends were characters in the game. That made me emotionally invested in how the story progressed. That simple name change made the defeats harder and the celebrations sweeter.

And finally, I had been gaming for years before FF 3, but the game’s ending was the first time I experienced an ending that was both moving and “worth it” compared to all the time I had put in. Including the last boss fight, FF 3’s ending is almost half an hour and gives you an epilogue for each character. Check it out for yourself, it’s pretty epic:

There you have it, my top ten games of all time. Now I want to hear from you – what are your favorite games of all time? Upset that I left NintenDOGS off the list? SOUND OFF in the comments below!

This has been a NERD ALERT!

3

The BEST Batman movie is the one you HAVEN’T seen…

I recently came across an article celebrating the twenty year anniversary of the animated film, “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.”

Phantasm Poster!

My first thought was, “Has it really been twenty years? Good grief! I am getting old!” Then I promptly got in my car to go enjoy a delicious early bird dinner.

That article did get me thinking about the Batman film franchise as a whole, and specifically how I would rank each film. There have been some definite stinkers in the line up (looking at you “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin”), but for the most part the Batman movies have been a very positive experience. I really like the Tim Burton films (“Batman Returns” gets a lot of hate, but I dug how disturbing it was) and I’ve often expressed a deep fanboy love for the first two Nolan movies, particularly Heath Ledger’s turn as The Joker in “The Dark Knight” (“The Dark Knight Rises” makes me sad in numerous ways, but that’s a topic for another time).

Yet, if asked which Batman movie is my ALL TIME favorite, it isn’t any of the live action ones. My answer has been and still is, “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm,” which is funny because it’s the least known on the list. When I say that title to most people the response I get is usually a polite “what’s a ‘phantasm’?” In fact, Adam West’s “Batman: The Movie” seems to better known than “Mask of the Phantasm.” ADAM WEST PEOPLE! “Holy lack of promotion Batman!” So for the sake of Batman fans everywhere that are missing out on sheer greatness, let’s talk about MOTP and more importantly, why you NEED to see it. Activate Nerd Rant…

Any good geek growing up in the early 90’s watched the INCREDIBLE “Batman: The Animated Series.” As a kid, I’d get home from school, do some homework then stop everything when Batman came on. It was my usual afternoon routine (although the actually doing homework part was hit or miss).

Batman Animated Series2

TAS was everything you could ever want from a Batman show – it had a dark tone that rarely showed Gotham City in daylight. It featured incredibly well written episodes and characters – in particular, it absolutely nailed the rouge gallery (Mr. Freeze and Clayface being two of my favorites). The show introduced Harley Quinn into the Bat-mythos (come on…who didn’t love that voice?). And of course, TAS gave us Mark Hamill (that’s right, Luke Skywalker) voicing The Joker. There is no better Joker laugh than his, PERIOD!

In my humble yet totally correct opinion, no Batman series since has even come close to how awesome TAS was. I’ve recently been re-watching the show through Amazon Prime streaming and if you’ve never experienced TAS, then YOU MUST have a binge marathon with your loved ones. Even after all this time, it’s STILL very good! Because of the show’s massive popularity, Warner Bros. put together a feature film from the series, “Mask of the Phantasm.” It opened on Christmas day 1993 and you better believe that I was there for the earliest showing my brother would take me to, wearing the brand new Star Wars t-shirt I had been given that morning. My nerd roots run deep!

Phantasm 3

The plot: A mysterious vigilante who looks an awful lot like the ghost of Christmas future begins killing off some of Gotham’s more prominent gangsters and, as these things often are, the killings are blamed on Batman. As Bruce attempts to uncover the identity of this mystery killer, his personal life is rocked by the return of the girl who got away, Andrea Beaumont. Through flashbacks MOTP also gives us a re-telling of how Bruce became Batman and to top it all off The Joker gets involved in this whole mess, complicating matters even further.

There are many reasons why I adore this movie and while it was difficult to narrow it down,  I’ve listed out my top 4 reasons why MOTP is my absolute favorite Bat-flick…

1. THE MUSICAL SCORE

Through the Tim Burton movies, composer Danny Elfman gave Batman a great musical score. TAS put much of that music to good use, which added wonderful atmosphere to each episode. In continuing to give Batman great music, Warner Bros. had Shirley Walker step in to compose the score for MOTP. And in a word, it was EPIC! Even as a kid, I was enchanted by the music in this movie. When the lights in the theater first dimmed and the opening credits rolled, the musical intro immediately grabs you emotionally in a way that tells you you’re about to experience something very special. Check out the opening for yourself, which is just a taste of the great music all throughout MOTP:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xgDpesd428

2. THE STORY

MOTP was very well written! It’s simultaneously a Batman origin movie, a love story and a mystery-thriller. And the shocking thing is that it balances all of that very well! You forget very early on that you’re watching a cartoon. The voice actors, (Kevin Conroy and Dana Delaney in particular) do an incredible job voicing a range of emotions. Futhermore, the plot itself takes numerous twists and turns that keeps you guessing up until the very end. Even after many viewings, I still find myself emotionally moved during the final scene as the music hits it’s last crescendo. A great story was something TAS was always known for, and this movie was no exception. Well done to all involved!

Phantasm birth of batman

3. THE VIOLENCE

This may seem like a strange reason to love this film, but track with me. TAS was always pretty violent for a cartoon, but this film took it to a more realistic level while not being gratuitous. MOTP was given a PG rating, which at the time wasn’t too common for animated features and it made good use it. People actually died in this movie. Batman and many others bled or suffered other injuries as a result of actions taken. Not everyone has a happy ending, and all of that combined added a gravity and immediacy to the movie. In an afternoon cartoon you know that no matter what, everyone would end up being okay. MOTP however early on establishes that no one is safe and you are kept guessing as to what a character’s final fate will be. When a character does die, you feel the weight of that loss. When Batman jumps into a fight still battered from the last one, it adds a hopelessness to his situation. It wasn’t violence for the sake of violence, but it moves the story forward and was tastefully done.

4. THE JOKER

Phantasm Joker 2

Mark Hamill was always amazing in this role and if you’ve checked out the recent “Arkham” series of video games (Arkham Asylum and City), then you know that he’s STILL amazing as the Clown Prince of Crime. But for my money, this film was his Joker masterpiece. The Joker wasn’t shoehorned into MOTP because they HAD to have The Joker in a Batman movie, but rather The Joker is an essential part of the plot. And dude…Hamill takes it to a whole new level! In TAS, The Joker is creepy, dark and does push boundaries you wouldn’t expect in an afternoon cartoon. But there was always some restraint placed on The Joker. TAS was still a kids show after all. In MOTP though, this Joker is dark, vindictive and sadistic. He’s not racking up a massive body count or anything, but this was a far more “adult” Joker. The film takes a few liberties with his origin and while anything that deals with a “definitive” Joker origin can be a risky move, they totally nailed it! The best compliment I can give is that I remember leaving the theater as a kid being haunted by his laugh. In this film, the Joker’s laugh didn’t signify goofy fun, rather it meant that Batman and the others were in serious trouble. And that’s the way I like my Joker!

You’ve heard me rant, now I want to hear from you! Have you seen MOTP? Did you see it because of this post? Wanna talk about your favorite TAS episode? Still waiting for a Wonder Twins movie? SOUND OFF in the comments below!

This has been a NERD ALERT!