Comic Review: X-Infernus

Published: December 3rd, 2008 – March 25th, 2009
Written by: C.B. Cebulski
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jesse Delperdang

Marvel Comics, 96 Pages

Review:

I have always loved Magik and this series has one of my two favorite covers that she’s ever been on. Just ten years ago, heroines could still look super sexy and display the ideal form. Nowadays, the ideal female form is being pushed out of comic books, even though it’s been a very important staple in art throughout history, as well as escapism entertainment. Nowadays, we aren’t supposed to look at things that attract us because that’s implied rape or something. Also, I’m going to excuse the Papyrus typeface on the cover because the art distract from it. But c’mon, Marvel… fucking Papyrus, really?!

This is one of the better stories centered around Magik and her association with Limbo. Although, it isn’t as good as the original Magik miniseries from the early ’80s, it really brought me back to that special place. C.B. Cebulski weaves a good story here but on the flipside of that, his dialogue can induce a bit of cringe sometimes. For instance, here’s an actual quote from Pixie, immediately after she thinks she stabbed Nightcrawler to death:

“Oh my god Dr. McCoy I don’t know what happened Mr. Wagner asked to see my soul dagger so I pulled it out and then it was like it had a mind of its own and the next thing I know I’m all evil and like GRRRR and then it all goes black and Mr. Wagner’s on the ground with my soul dagger plunged into his–“

Yeah, wow… is that bad or am I just crazy? It’s the world’s longest unpunctuated string of dialogue ever but I guess you’re supposed to interpret that as her being scared, nervous and in shock. But really, did she need to say “GRRRR”? Who talks like this?

Apart from that, I don’t have any gripes with this story, except that it felt a bit too short. But the original Magik miniseries was the same length. That one just felt like it had more in it though.

When this starts, Magik is a demon ruling over Limbo. She discovers that Belasco, the demon warlock that made her what she is, has a daughter named Witchfire. While this isn’t Witchfire’s first appearance, it’s the first time that she and Magik have crossed paths.

The X-Men intervene to bring Magik back to the light and to help stop Withfire, who has grown extremely powerful in her quest to rule Limbo and to be more powerful than her underworld peers: Hela, Dormammu, Mephisto, Blackheart and Satannish.

I love Magik and the world of Limbo because these tales bring something really cool to the Marvel universe. They feel like ’80s Dungeons & Dragons stories.

Now this isn’t as good as the Magik miniseries but it’s a great continuation of the things that were established by it.

I also can’t end this without giving props to the art. I loved the look of this book, the character design and the atmosphere of Limbo. Overall, this was a fun, dark read.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Magik-centric stories: the Magik miniseries, the classic New Mutants stuff and the more recent New Mutants: Dead Souls but that one was pretty weak.

Video Game: X-Men (Arcade)

Kids of the ’90s know this game. Well, assuming that they had a video arcade near them and were into the X-Men at the height of their ’90s popularity.

This game was originally presented in a double-wide arcade cabinet with two screens and room for six players at the same time. I used to love playing this and I always hoped for a version of it that I could play at home. But it wasn’t until about ten years ago that this was ported and released for the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Store.

The home version isn’t as exciting, as I don’t have six people to play this with or even six controls but playing through it on my own or with a friend or two is still quite a lot of fun.

This is a standard 2D, side scrolling, beat’em up game. Those were super popular back in the late ’80s and early ’90s with games like Double DragonFinal Fight, the arcade version of Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesStreets of Rage, the sister game to this one: Captain American and the Avengers, as well as a slew of others. I loved this genre of video games and could never get enough of them. In 2018, I wish side scrolling beat’em ups still populated the marketplace.

For the time, this had solid graphics, great sound, easy gameplay and it was addicting as hell. You didn’t care how many quarters it took, it was hard to leave the arcade without beating this on a playthrough each visit.

The game came out around the same time as the popular X-Men cartoon series. It wasn’t based on that, however. The game was actually designed after the pilot episode of a failed X-Men animated series from a few years earlier. Now that pilot was popular when it VHS, I rented it a lot, but the game sort of exists as an expansion to what probably would have been a solid cartoon series.

You have six playable X-Men characters in this: Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Dazzler. Professor X and Kitty Pryde also show up. The villains also have an impressive roster with Magneto, Mystique, Juggernaut, Emma Frost, Nimrod, Pyro, the Blob and Wendigo. It would’ve been nice to have Sabretooth though.

I still enjoy the hell out of this game and play through it on my PS3 about once a year. Nowadays, it doesn’t cost quarters and I can run through it in about a half an hour.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Captain America and the Avengers arcade game, Spider-Man for Sega Genesis and Maximum Carnage.

Comic Review: Magik: Illyana and Storm

Published: December, 1983 – March, 1984
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: John Buscema, Ron Frenz, Sal Buscema, Tom Palmer, Glynis Wein

Marvel Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik is one of my favorite Marvel characters of all-time. I loved her in The New Mutants and in her many appearances since. I never read her origin story, however.

Before getting my hands on this series, I read The Uncanny X-Men #160, which bookends this miniseries. At the start of that story, Illyana is a small child. She gets caught on the other side of a portal. When the X-Men pull her through, just seconds later, she is seven years older. This miniseries fills in that seven year gap and shows how she went from just being a young mutant with teleportation abilities to a powerful sorceress with a magic sword.

Chris Claremont did a damn fine job with the story and each of the four issues were great from cover to cover. This also got away from standard Marvel fare and tapped into a tone and style that was much more in tune with hardcore fantasy fans of the ’80s.

This looks and feels like a comic set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, which was at a peak in popularity at the time. In fact, maybe I never got my hands on this comic because my mum was pretty adamant that playing Dungeons & Dragons with my cousins was going to punch my ticket to Hell. She’s less crazy about that stuff now and weirdly, she’s a big Harry Potter fan.

Anyway, this story kind of reminded me of how I felt when I used to watch the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon on Saturday mornings when my mum wasn’t paying attention to what I had on TV.

This story is pretty damn dark. While it is a coming of age story and very much written for a teen audience, Claremont’s greatness transcends that demographic and I think that most people that love ’80s X-Men or ’80s D&D will enjoy the hell out of this.

It does some really disturbing things to some of the core X-Men characters too. Kitty Pryde is transformed into a werecat creature and then dies, Storm is a badass sorceress and then dies, Nightcrawler is a demon slave and then dies, Colossus, who is Magik’s older brother, is found with his metal shell ripped open and yes… he’s also dead.

Illyana has to figure out her predicament, battle a powerful warlock, take his power and also fight several other demonic and magical forces. Ultimately, she becomes a demon goddess of the awesomest caliber. She may also have had the most screwed up childhood of any X-Men character that wasn’t present at the Holocaust.

I f’n loved this story. It also motivated me to get back into those early New Mutants tales, as it’s been a really long time since I’ve read them.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The Uncanny X-Men #160, which bookends this story and the early New Mutants stuff featuring Magik as a member of the team.

Comic Review: House of M

Published: February 1st, 2006
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Oliver Coipel

Marvel Comics, 280 Pages

Review:

This picks up after the events that happened in Avengers: Disassembled. This story also has effects that will go on to be felt in Marvel’s Civil War event, as well as X-Men: The Messiah Complex.

So following the tragic events of Avengers: Disassembled, the Avengers and the X-Men meet to discuss the fate of the Scarlet Witch. Wolverine leads the charge pretty much calling for her death, as the potential for what she can do with her powers is too great. Other Avengers and X-Men disagree but ultimately, you get the idea that this is going to go somewhere really friggin’ dark.

After that, Wolverine wakes up in an alternate reality and is aware that he’s not where he’s supposed to be, even though all of his allies are buying into the mystical charade. Wolverine has to go against his friends, search for answers and has to convince his allies that something happened that completely changed reality.

In the end, the Scarlet Witch only leaves like ten percent of the mutants in the world with their powers intact. So Wolverine saves the day, essentially, but the Scarlet Witch with her insane powers is still a crazy bitch.

This story was a cool idea but it didn’t really move forward in a way that excited me. Granted, I wasn’t too fond of Avengers: Disassemble, which lead to this.

This is one of the big Marvel stories of the ’00s and it is certainly better than the schlock they are synonymous with now but it still pales in comparison to the great epics that came before this. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has some events that were duds in the old days too but this book just missed the mark and frankly, it could have been longer and probably needed to be, as the pace was insanely quick.

I really enjoyed Oliver Coipel’s art, though.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Avengers: DisassembledThe Messiah Complex, also it has ramifications that carry over into the Civil War event.

Film Review: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Release Date: May 9th, 2016 (London premiere)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till, Hugh Jackman (cameo), Caleb Landry Jones (archive footage)

Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Kinberg Genre, The Donners’ Company, 20th Century Fox, 144 Minutes

Review:

“[sends the world’s nuclear weapons into space] Always the same, and now all this. No more stones. No more spears. No more slings. No more swords. No more weapons! No more systems! No more! No more superpowers… So much faith in their tools, in their machines. You can fire your arrows from the Tower of Babel, but you can never strike god!” – Apocalypse

At this point, the X-Men films don’t give a crap about continuity and I don’t care that Days of Future Past was used to try and fix that. Fox still dismisses a lot of what’s happened and just does what works well for each movie as a standalone picture. Because you can’t have Angel appear as a late teen in a 2006 movie and then have him in his twenties in 1983, regardless of whatever Doctor Who timey wimey shenanigans you try to pull. But truthfully, I don’t care at this point. I sort of just see each film as its own reality where each movie just shares some similarities. Sorry, I’ve got to make it make sense for my brain or I have to just dismiss the absurdity of it.

That being said, I don’t hate this chapter in the X-Men movie franchise. In fact, I liked it quite a bit in spite of its flaws, continuity hiccups and the underwhelming way that they presented Apocalypse.

What made this film work for me was the evolution of Magneto, who is the best character in these films and who seems to be handled with great care. I don’t care so much about all the teens and the constant influx of new characters every time I blink my eyes. It’s the core characters that matter in these movies. That being said, I think McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is damn good too.

When I first saw this film in theaters, my initial reaction was worse than it is now. Having time to digest and reflect on Apocalypse, it really isn’t as bad of a movie as I thought it was at first glance. It is the weakest of the newer generation of pictures but it is certainly better than 2000’s X-Men and 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Don’t even get me started on X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as I find it less enjoyable than a piranha enema.

The plot in this is a bit rushed and shaky. Apocalypse, one of the most powerful forces in the entirety of the Marvel Universe just shows up, learns all about human history by touching a TV and starts taking over the Earth and brainwashing other mutants to be his “Four Horsemen”. It was interesting that Oscar Issac played Apocalypse because it wouldn’t have really mattered who played him, as he was just a dry, one note tyrant. Frankly, he should have been the X-Men‘s version of Thanos, at least in their movie universe.

The sequence with Wolverine is, by far, the high point of the movie. Hugh Jackman only shows up for about ten minutes but it is some of the best Wolverine action ever put to celluloid. Granted, Hollywood is allergic to celluloid now.

This is an epic film but it doesn’t feel as grandiose as its predecessor. It isn’t as good as its predecessor either and I think that is why I was disappointed with it initially. But the main players in the cast add more to their stories in a good way and ultimately, this enriched the modern X-Men movie universe.

I can’t say that I’m excited about the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix movie but I’ll still see it because these films still have more positives than negatives. But really, it’s just time for the X-Men movies to get a much needed reboot and join the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The current crop of X-Men movies since James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender took over the lead roles. Also, the last two Wolverine pictures.

Documentary Review: Chris Claremont’s X-Men (2018)

Release Date: February 6th, 2018
Directed by: Patrick Meaney

Respect Films, J2 Films, 71 Minutes

Review:

I saw this drop on Amazon Video for rent a few weeks back and added it to my queue because I loved Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men. I mean, if you like X-Men at all, it is probably because of what Claremont created. Also, this was directed by the same guy that did The Image Revolution, which I really enjoyed.

The story behind how X-Men was initially a failure and how it evolved into a mega franchise under the Marvel banner is an interesting one. This shows how all the major players involved came to work on the series and it isn’t just about Claremont’s sole contribution to X-Men.

The X-Men comics of the ’80s had some of the best comic stories of all-time. Claremont and others at Marvel gave us some of the most iconic moments that would also go on to inspire the animated series as well as the big live action motion pictures throughout the ’00s and ’10s. Claremont also gave us some of the most iconic characters to be associated with the franchise.

His storied run is pretty much unparalleled in an industry where writers, artists and other creators are swapped around like pogs in a ’90s middle school lunchroom.

I love that this documentary interviews so many of the key people who were there. We even get to see Marc Silvestri and Rob Liefeld chime in on some of the events that they were there to witness firsthand.

For fans of comics, especially from this era, you won’t be disappointed with this documentary. After seeing this and The Image Revolution, I want to check out some of the other comic industry documentaries that Patrick Meaney has done.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Another comic book documentary by Patrick Meaney, The Image Revolution. Also, flows well with Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics.