Top 10 Fantastic Four Villains

Top 10 Fantastic Four Villains

Did you know that, once upon a time, the Fantastic Four was actually a team with its own book? More than that, it was even the first super hero comic book title of the Marvel Age of Comics, only being preceded by Captain America, Bucky, Namor, the Torch, and a couple of other heroes in Marvel’s super hero catalogue? It even had its own rogue’s gallery of really awesome villains?

Now I’m being facetious of course. The fame of the Fantastic Four is not so easily forgettable, even if Marvel seems afraid of it for some reason. Nixing the book to avoid aiding the cinematic competition in Josh Trank’s disastrous Fantastic Four, Marvel still has yet to bring back the world’s First Family of Heroes, opting instead to make eight Deadpool titles I guess.

Now, as a Luke Cage fan, I am willing to admit five years is a relatively small amount of time to be without a comic book title, but, in regards to the Fantastic Four, I’m not sure that the world has been without a book dedicated to them since their inception back in 1961.

But we’re here to celebrate their villains instead of lamenting their absence. So without further ado, let’s count down the Top 10 Fantastic Four Villains!

  1. The Mad Thinker

Mad scientists are something of a bottomless well in comic books. They’re something of a cliché even, but they are still quite often engaging characters. Julius, the Mad Thinker, is no different. He has ambition, a vision, and the courage to follow through with that vision.

Now, it’s a shame that his vision is flawed and even cruel, but those are fungible details. One of the best parts of the Mad Thinker trademark is his loyal android companion, the Awesome Android (or Andy for short). This is a robot which can mimic powers and has immense strength. He also a head shaped like a brick; simple but elegant I’d say.

The Thinker has challenged the FF, the Avengers, and the Hulk on many occasions over the years with nothing but his intellect and ingenuity. If that is not a good mad scientist, I don’t know what is.

  1. Blastaar

A being of immense power from the Negative Zone, Blastaar has given the FF a run for its money on more than one occasion. Known as the Living Bomb-Burst, he is a large humanoid creature with the ability to put out unfathomable amounts of energy. He has been both a rival and a follower of the Negative Zone conqueror known as Annihilus.

Blastaar is one of the most powerful villains to ever threaten Earth’s heroes. He has the ability to conquer worlds, so he has made this his goal. He is a ferocious and ruthless foe who has challenged the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the Nova Corps, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and many other defenders of the universe.

In a recent Fantastic Four tale written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Mark Bagley, it was revealed that his energy will only build up over time and will eventually cause him to explode in a blast of energy so large that it would end the universe. To solve this threat, the Fantastic Four took him back to the beginning of time, where his energies could disperse amongst the explosion of the Big Bang.

  1. Kl’rt, the Super-Skrull

A member of the shape-shifting Skrull race and imbued with the powers of the Fantastic Four, the Super-Skrull can literally match the FF beat for beat. He also proves the power of teamwork and the individual skills of the Fantastic Four, as he has yet to outright best them.

Kl’rt also played a pivotal role in the Kree-Skrull War. An exile at the time, the Super-Skrull brought Captain Mar-Vell, a hated enemy of the Skrull Empire and member of the Kree race, to the Skrull Emperor in hopes that he would accept him back into the fold.

The Super-Skrull also aided in the efforts against the Annihilation Wave, brought about by Annihilus to end all life in the positive universe. He almost lost his life in service to the cause, and the majority of Skrull worlds were destroyed in the war, leaving the entire race a species of exiles.

With cool powers and a great story, Kl’rt the Super-Skrull is definitely a worthy member of the Fantastic Four rogues gallery.

  1. The Wizard

Another mad scientist type, Bentley Wittman, the Wingless Wizard challenged the Fantastic Four of nothing but honest hubris and envy. The repeated defeats only made him more avid in his attempts to destroy them.

I don’t really know why he’s called “the Wingless Wizard,” and I can’t really find any reference material to explain that. Maybe it’s because he can fly without wings thanks to his jet boots? I don’t know.

He’s taken more of a comedic role in comics in recent years, and I’m actually okay with that. There’s something kind of charming about the hapless Wizard. He tries hard still, and his giving of his clone to the Future Foundation actually shows a degree of self-awareness that he’s not the best role model in the world. I feel for the Wizard and hope he keeps trying to achieve his villainous goals for years to come.

  1. Thundra

A super-strong woman from a world where women are in charge, Thundra has challenged the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk on many occasions. She’s even been a member of the Wizard’s Frightful Four on more than one occasion.

Like many characters on this list so far, she is less nefarious these days than she once was. She’s become more of a heroic character and fostered a daughter named Lyra who is a mixture of her genes as well as the those of the Hulk himself.

She is strong-willed and has muscles that allow her to challenge the Strongest There Is, so what’s not to like about Thundra? She’s really cool and deserves to be on this list.

  1. Annihilus

The Living Death that Walks, Annihilus is a being who fears death and dispenses it in spades. He originally feared that the Fantastic Four may be a potential death to him, thus beginning a longstanding feud between he and the FF as well as the Earth itself. He has since fought the Avengers, Captain Mar-Vell, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the positive universe in its entirety.

The last of these is the most notable act of Annihilus. In a mad attempt to end all life, he used his insectoid Annihilation Wave to scour the positive universe of everything except himself. He was slain in this crusade by the Nova Prime known as Richard Rider.

He has since been reborn more than once, at one time supposedly killing the Human Torch, though Johnny Storm would later be found to have survived.

Annihilus is a threat to the universe itself on par with the likes of Thanos himself, and this makes him a very worthy opponent of the First Family of Heroes.

  1. Maximus the Mad

Like I said, I respect the mad scientist types, and they don’t get much madder than Maximus. And, yes, he’s more of a Inhumans villain. However, he and the rest of the Royal Family of the Inhumans first appeared in the Fantastic Four, and I’m not going to do an Inhumans Rogues list because, frankly, there’s just not enough interesting material there.

Anyway, Maximus is a delightfully mad schemer in the vain of Loki. Like Loki, he really hates his brother, the air to a dynasty of a powerful royal family. Okay, he’s a lot like Loki. However, there is a vicious sadism that separates him from the erstwhile brother of Thor. There’s also a coldness and cruelty to Black Bolt that helps make the relationship more interesting.

He’s evil, vicious, and conniving. This is what makes him yet another worthy villain of the Fantastic Four (and the Inhumans).

  1. Ronan the Accuser

A powerful member of the proud Kree race, Ronan is the high Accuser of the Kree Empire, making him the highest law in their society. He also has immense strength and a hammer that can bend reality to a small degree.

He almost brought the Kree-Skrull conflict to Earth, but he later joined in the coalition that challenged Annihilus during the Annihilation War. He later joined with Nova, Quasar, the Silver Surfer, and other cosmic heroes in the group known as the Annihilators, a group intended to be the strongest muscle available to defend the universe from the worst threats imaginable.

His powers have recently been augmented further by the Black Vortex, but this could not save Hala from the mad crusade of J’Son of Spartax. The Kree homeworld was destroyed, and he is a man without a home.

Like many others, he has made a turn to a more heroic side, and his intriguing character and massive strength land him a worthy place on this list.

  1. Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

          A remnant of a universe that died before ours was born, the celestial Galactus has a hunger that is insatiable and can only be stayed by the consumption of the life force of planets.

He first faced the Fantastic Four with his herald, the Silver Surfer. This battle cost the Devourer his servant and drove him back. He has made attempts on the Earth since then, but he has become warier of challenging its heroes.

Notably the group known as the Ultimates managed to send Galactus back to the pod which brought him to this realm of existence and were able to change him into the Lifebringer. He is now known as Galactus, the Seeder of Worlds.

In either iteration, he is a powerful force of nature and yet more sign of the boundless creativity of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in those early days of Marvel Comics.

  1. Doctor Doom

Again, could it have been anyone else? Victor Von Doom is a fantastic rogue and the intellectual rival of Reed Richards himself.

He believes himself to be the only one worthy of ruling this world, but he is also deftly loyal to his homeland of Latveria. He is a master of science, but he has also dabbled in sorcery. He is a force to be reckoned with and has challenged, heroes, warriors, and the gods themselves.

He is not incapable of sympathy and is not needlessly cruel. He is very deliberate in his schemes. He is also madly in love with Susan Storm Richards.

He has recently taken up the mantle of Iron Man in the absence of Tony Stark, and he has even aligned himself with the Avengers. His endgame is yet to be known; perhaps Victor von Doom has truly turned over a new leaf.

 

 

Also, let’s show Paste Pot Pete aka the Trapster a little love. He has a weaponized glue gun. He’s just great.

Advertisements

Secret Empire #2 Review

Secret Empire #2 Review

State of the Union

Nick Spencer (W), Andrea Sorrentino, Rod Reis (A), VC’s Travis Lanham (L)

Cover by Mark Brooks

Published by Marvel Comics

Price: $4.99

          We’re going to at least do one more issue of this comic on here. I don’t really want to review every issue that comes out, but there are still some things I want to say about this series and how it relates to the current Marvel situation. So here we are with Secret Empire #2.

          Also, I do apologize for not running an editorial to continue my “State of Marvel” thing last Wednesday. I hope to continue it this week. I also apologize for the lateness of this review.

Let’s go ahead and get the plot out of the way so we can move onto analysis and Marvel itself.

The issue opens up with the Underground cleaning up after the Hydra attack in Las Vegas at the end of last issue. Black Widow, in the midst of all this destruction declares, “He has to die.”

We then see Luke Cage and Iron Fist pinned down by a number of demonic creatures while on a medical supply run in New York/the Darkforce Dimension. They look like they are about to be overwhelmed until Jessica Jones makes an appearance and hauls their fat out of the fire.

They return with what they can to Claire Temple’s clinic, but they didn’t find everything. Disease and looting is running rampant across the city, and the demonic creatures are constantly on the prowl. Everything would be pitch black if it weren’t for Dagger at the top of the Empire State Building, but she is losing power and can’t keep the light on for very long.

The comic cuts to a scene of looters holding up a church for medical supplies. They are interrupted by the Kingpin, whom kills the looters and tells the occupants of the church that they are under his protections so long as they remember “it was Wilson Fisk who kept you safe.”

Back at the Underground, Black Widow is trying to convince the others that they have to find and kill Steve Rogers. The hologram AI of Tony Stark tells them that there is another way, showing them a recording that Rick Jones made while in prison. This was the one brought by Rayshawn in the last issue, and it details essentially the events of Steve Rogers: Captain America: Kobik making friends with the Red Skull, her corrupting of Steve Rogers, the apparent death of Bucky Barnes (please don’t be true), and Selvig’s scattering of Kobik’s shards to the four winds to keep her out of Hydra’s hands.

Tony argues that this is a chance to save Steve and everyone else, but Natasha is reluctant. Hawkeye tries to argue that Steve would want them to try this, but Natasha argues that he would want to be stopped by any means.

Back at Hydra, Steve is mulling over the fact that he had to get Madame Hydra to order the attack on Las Vegas. Baron Zemo tries to convince him that it’s a good thing that he is so merciful, and Steve sends him out on a mission to find the pieces of Kobik.

Clint and Natasha continue to debate how to go about ending the Secret Empire, and Hawkeye admits that he may never be able to bring himself to kill Steve Rogers. Natasha decks him after they share a kiss, and she leaves the Underground HQ.

Tony finishes a device to find the shards, and he shows Clint the retrieval team, made up of Mockingbird, Ant-Man, Hercules, and Quicksilver. They know that they have to get out of the country somehow, and Ant-Man has a suggestion for this problem.

Natasha makes it to a shack in Colorado and finds that she was followed by Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man. He tells her that he knows he has to do this because he was the one to kill Steve Rogers in a vision that Ulysses had back in Civil War II. They are joined by Viv Vision, Ironheart, Amadeus Cho (the Totally Awesome Hulk), Nadia Pym (the Unstoppable Wasp), and Joaquin Torres (the new Falcon). After they arrive, Natasha cuts her hand and leaves a blood trail on the wall of the cabin, declaring it the “Red Room” (where she was trained to be an assassin back in Soviet-era Russia).

In Montana, Stark’s Kobik retrieval team arrives at a dive bar, and Ant-Man’s contact turns out to be Sam Wilson.

There is one more section after this which has a pretty significant spoiler, and I’ll discuss that and its implications at the bottom of this article after the score. Stick around if you want to read that.

Nick Spencer has succeeded in creating an intensely bleak atmosphere in this story. It’s been a rough read because of that, but the storytelling quality is there.

Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork is sublime in this issue, and I wish he were the regular artist on this book. We’ll come back to that in a bit.

Black Widow calling the cabin “the Red Room” seems a bit interesting given what those words mean to her. I’m curious where that tie-in is going to go with that angle. Perhaps Natasha really is that far gone and without hope, but then why would she treat the Champions like she has been given how horrible she knows that was? Maybe she’s trying to “take back” that title from the Soviet trainers who used it? I guess we’ll see.

It’s also a bit weird that Doctor Strange and Daredevil are MIA given the cover including them both prominently. I also remember the plot synopsis from a Previews issue a few months back mentioning Strange. I’m also pretty sad the Thing didn’t show up at all this issue like he did in the last. *sigh* I miss the Fantastic Four…

As I said in my defense of this series last week, I think this is an expertly put-together story. It isn’t meant to make anyone feel good, and it doesn’t. I feel quite sad while reading this tale of heroes, dictators, and fascism. I’m fine with that. Comic books storytelling and super hero fiction can be more than just high-flying good times. I’ll feel all the better after watching my favorite heroes make it through this one, because that’s how conflict and resolution works in this genre (assuming the payoff works, which Marvel has a notorious problem with).

That being said, I can’t separate the text of the comic from the context of the marketing and Nick Spencer’s announcements about this book. I know that the Steve Rogers: Captain America series is going to detail the Secret Empire’s search for the shards of Kobik. I know about the Underground and Uprising tie-ins. As a result, this issue just feels like a vector to advertise for those comics.

Even if it is advancing the plot, it does feel a bit like advertising snuck into a comic story under the guise of plot points. These plots and angles do seem interesting mind, but I know they won’t be followed up on by the story itself until their conclusion.

It’s still better than Fear Itself, which was nothing but a vector for tie-in stories. However, it did weaken the impact of this issue for me.

I am not a fan of the rotating artist idea. It reinforces the idea that Marvel thinks of artists as disposable when they are what separates a comic book from a novel. Furthermore, artists are crucial to delivering atmosphere and tone. Different artistic styles deliver different feelings in a story. Brett Booth would be a weird artist to enlist for a darker book. Mike Deodato Jr. would be an unwise choice for a lighter and more fun book. Both artists are talented, but they should not be put in situations for which their style is ill-suited.

Charles Soule’s upcoming Astonishing X-Men title is a little shaky for me because of this. I was originally quite excited with the writer and the line-up, but, given that it will also have rotating artists, I’m not quite as thrilled with it.

Back to Secret Empire itself, after reading this issue, I am convinced that Andrea Sorrentino would be the perfect choice as the artist for this series. His art in this issue is grim, atmospheric, and expressive. It really sealed the deal on the kind of world we are dealing with in this story. It’s just a shame that he was put in the weakest issue of the series so far and will be shunted off for a different artist next issue.

Pick up this issue if you’re invested in the story. It’s not bad and does advance the plot in interesting directions. And, again, the Sorrentino artwork is superb.

Final Score: 6/10

 

 

 

 

Major Spoilers Ahead

          So, there’s another Steve Rogers. In the sequence of this comic, the Serpent Society is chasing after a young woman, and she is saved by a bearded, ragged-looking man calling himself Steve Rogers.

Yeah, I can kind of see where this might be going. The Steve Rogers in power is somehow a duplicate and this one will lead the resistance. It would be cool to see an out-and-out heroic Steve Rogers yet again. Nick Spencer is emphatic in saying that this won’t be the case, so maybe this will play another role in the conflict. Who knows.

I do feel that it would behoove Mr. Spencer to not argue against the significance of his plot points, between this and him saying that the Cosmic Cube won’t be the solution to the Secret Empire problem despite it being the main thrust of the Underground and Empire plots in this issue. That makes people feel like the comic they are reading is a bit of a waste of time, and that’s never a good way to make your audience feel.

That being said, may the Cube and this Steve will play a role in overthrowing the Empire and not fixing the evil Steve Rogers problem itself.

I’m not big on speculation, but I felt that all of this needed to be acknowledged in this review. Anyway, until next time, keep reading comics!

Luke Cage #1 (2017) Review

Luke Cage #1 (2017) Review

You know I gotta say it…SWEET CHRISTMAS

David F. Walker (W), Nelson Blake II (A), Marcio Menyz (CA), VC’s Joe Sabino (L)

Cover by Rahzzah

Published by Marvel Comics

Price: $3.99

          It feels like a long two months since the last issue of Power Man and Iron Fist came out, but the man himself, Luke Cage, is back in business suckers.

I was truly sad to see PM&IF go; that is my favorite dynamic duo in comics, and they have a heartwarming bromance to outdo even the likes of Green Lantern and the Flash or Thor and Hercules. Frankly, their friendship is only rivaled by Captain Marvel and Spider Woman in terms of making me happy.

I was still very excited to see a solo Luke Cage comic come back by the same brilliant scribe who wrote Power Man & Iron Fist as well as other great books such as Cyborg and Occupy Avengers, Mr. David Walker. I had high hopes for this comic, so let’s see if this creative team met my expectations.

The book starts with Luke arriving in a small club presumably somewhere in New York. He goes into the basement and beats some ass, arriving at a hostage situation which he handles with cleverness and a flick in the head.

He later receives a call letting him know that Dr. Noah Burstein, the man who gave him his super strength and unbreakable skin, has died in New Orleans. He goes down south for the funeral and is approached by a woman called Dr. Mornay. She worked with Dr. Burstein in his final days, and we learn that his death was the result of an apparent suicide.

Luke leaves the funeral with Dr. Mornay, and we learn through his thought captions that he is feeling a little lost because of Noah’s death. We also see a figure watching the two leave.

Luke accompanies Mornay to a plantation-like estate outside of the Big Easy belonging to a Morgan family. There, we learn that the son of the owner of the estate was saved by Burstein despite him having a condition which all other doctors said was incurable. This was due, apparently, to the experiments which Burstein performed on Luke Cage.

After Luke and Mornay leave the Morgans, Mornay tells Luke that she believes that Noah Burstein’s death was not due to a suicide as the evidence suggests. She also tells Luke of violent outbursts that have been experienced by Morgan’s son as well as unnamed others who have been put through what she calls “the Burstein Process.”

The two are then run off the road by a small crew of men in suits and gas masks. One fights Cage and proves to be super strong like the former-Power Man. He then pulls out a sort of chain sword which cuts into Cage’s nigh-unbreakable skin.

The rogues escape with Mornay, leaving Luke to bleed out in the road. However, the Power Man is saved by the mysterious figure from earlier in the comic who is shown to be Mitchell Tanner, the first person Burstein performed experiments on and a regular murderous foe of Luke Cage. The comic ends on this reveal.

This was a strong first step for what promises to be an interesting series. David Walker is an expert in writing interesting and fun comic books, and Luke Cage looks to be no different.

From the opening with Luke beating down the guys in the bar to the ending with Luke talking smack to the guys who ran him off the road, this feels like a true Luke Cage comic book. There’s plenty of action and intrigue, and it holds your attention throughout.

There are some continuity questions for me, though. Primarily, though I have not read nearly as much classic Luke Cage tales as I would like, I always got the impression he had a tumultuous relationship with Noah Burstein as opposed to this father-son relationship which is shown in this comic. I have nothing wrong with Luke having some negative feelings about Noah dying, but it seemed like he had far more positive emotions directed towards Burstein than I imagined, particularly in reading that Cage: Second Chances collection I reviewed on here some time ago.

The art is gorgeous. It’s a sterile look but in a good way. There are plenty of details, but there are also a lot of clean spaces on the figures and characters. It’s an appealing appearance, and the bright colors help add to that appeal too.

There is the question as to whether or not this sterile appearance fits a comic about Luke Cage, a street hero with a lot of personality who tends to get down into the dirt and grime of the underworld to clean it up. I can’t say that the art perfectly fits Luke Cage, and I do find myself missing the very stylized work of Sanford Greene from Power Man and Iron Fist, but this art still looks aesthetically pleasing and will probably grow on me and anyone else who reads this book.

This is going to come off as a weird observation, but the lettering is actually a bit off in this book. I’ve never paid too much attention to lettering before, but I have read a few articles from professional letterers who explained their art and how it should be done. Here, the letters have been shrunken down a bit and are far too small for the dialogue bubbles. It strains the eyes a bit more than I’d like, and I had to really focus on the words to read what characters were saying. The thought captions do not have this problem to the same degree.

Weird lettering complaints and continuity questions aside, I loved this book. It was a fun read, and I can’t wait to see what adventures lie ahead of Luke Cage in this series. Pick this up. Support this B-List character and his talented creative team. This is the exact kind of series which the B-List Defender stands for.

Final Score: 9/10

Top 10 X-Men Villains

Top 10 X-Men Villains

Marvel’s premier team of mutants has a rather impressive rogue’s gallery all their own. From celestial conquerors to violent freedom fighters, they have dealt with a number of rather impressive enemies. As such, today we will count down their ten best villains. Villains that have challenged individual X-Men, such as Wolverine of course, more often than the full team are not excluded from this list. Let’s begin!

  1. Avalanche

A good first step for this list, and sort of a foreshadowing of what’s to come with this list. Much of what is included on this list is here more for character and aesthetic design as opposed to deeper reasons such as personality and character arc, at least until we get closer to the top.

Avalanche is a good example of this, as, beyond being a freedom fighter of sorts and his friendship with Pyro, there’s not much to Avalanche for me beyond a sweet costume and awesome powers. His ability to create seismic waves makes him a powerful foe. His end at the hands of the Red Skull is quite a shame, and I hate that he went down that way. A new Avalanche has appeared in the new X-Men: Gold, though not much is known about this one yet.

Also, did you know he was originally Greek? Like the Rhino, I always just pictured Avalanche with something of a Bronx accent. Just like Rhino, he’s actually from Europe. Go figure.

  1. Sauron

A hypnotic, energy absorbing, pteranodon energy vampire; that is just another really cool concept from the get-go. Doctor Karl Lykos is a guy who can turn into a freaking pteranodon with a tail (not a pterodactyl or a dinosaur, those are different things), and that’s just really cool.

Beyond that, he’s always proven a deadly foe of the X-Men, and he he’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s a classic X-Men foe and quite worthy of inclusion on this list.

  1. Lady Deathstrike

The daughter of a Japanese kamikaze pilot-turned-crime lord, Yuriko was raised to hate and to fight. She has clashed with Daredevil, Captain America, and, most notably, Wolverine.

Her design is quite awesome as well, with her cybernetic augmentations, her bushido-esque armor, and her massive finger-claws. I wasn’t a big fan of her presentation as a lover-scorned of Wolverine, but she has become more than that over the years. She is a dangerous foe and a worthy rogue of the X-Men.

  1. Silver Samurai

Another Japanese Wolverine-centric foe who started off in Daredevil comics, I’ve grown to love Keniuchio in recent years. He, like many villains I love, has a weird code of honor which drives him to make his decisions. He’s a powerful mutant with the ability to channel energy into his weapons to make them even deadlier.

I don’t know what that Transformers-esque abomination in The Wolverine was, but it didn’t diminish my love of the comic book incarnation of the Silver Samurai. His costume is quite cool too, with its gleaming armor and immaculate helmet. Silver Samurai is a powerful enemy and another X-Men classic.

  1. Mister Sinister

          One of the X-Men’s most intelligent and powerful foes, Nathaniel Essex has a warped and malignant fascination with the human genome. As a result, he would naturally become obsessed with the mutant phenomenon, particularly in regards to Scott Summers and Jean Grey.

In my teenage years, I had a fascination with Apocalypse that naturally extended to his frequent ally, Mister Sinister. Though that interest has diminished over the years, it’s never disappeared completely. Sinister is a really cool foe, from his genius to his immense power that makes him a challenge even for the most potent X-Men lineup.

In my adult years I find that Sinister is probably more fleshed out than En Sabah Nur, but, well…

  1. Apocalypse

I won’t lie, this is mostly for the costume and never-ending cache of super powers. Apocalypse has been designed as this cosmic force of nature, eternally attempting to forward the wheel of evolution as mandated by the celestials what augmented his mutant superhuman abilities.

Like with Darkseid, I struggle to find foes who are destined to be evil that intriguing, but they can still be cool foes when used properly. Again like Darkseid, I still think Apocalypse is a threatening and fairly well-designed enemy that I can’t help but get excited over whenever he rears his ugly head.

  1. William Stryker and the Purifiers

Not too long ago, I read the Chris Claremont classic X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, and I was fascinated by the first appearance of the charismatic yet vicious man known as Reverend William Stryker. I was in awe of his hatred of abnormality, going so far as to kill his wife and malformed son to scourge such things from the Earth.

I love the evil bastard that is William Stryker because he and his followers are terrifyingly real. Religious zealoutry has been responsible for so many atrocities throughout history, and it shows no sign of stopping in the present day.

Stryker and the Purifiers are great foes of the X-Men because they are pure fear and hatred, but that mixture of fear and hatred is both believable and depressingly common. Recent activities by such organizations as the Westborough Baptist Church show that these organizations can still exist, and organizations like the X-Men must fight against them.

  1. Sabretooth

An unsurprising entry for anyone who saw my Top 10 Marvel Villains list, Victor Creed is a vicious monster whose bestial instincts have led to the deaths of many. He’s strong, has a healing factor as well as razor-sharp claws; Sabretooth is one of the deadliest enemies ever faced by any member of the X-Men.

He is notoriously locked in a eternal struggle with his opposite, Wolverine, and he represents an excellent foil for the restrained rage of James “Logan” Howlett.

Sabretooth is a terrifying foe who often gives in to his baser instincts which exist in us all. Though he was more recently an Avenger and an X-Man, I will always remember Sabretooth more for his exploits as a Brotherhood member and a vicious killer.

  1. The Juggernaut

I’ve always preferred the idea of Cain Marko as a hero. That’s the reason he didn’t show up on my Top 10 Marvel Villains List. He, like the Hulk and Wolverine, is a man with good intentions struggling with a monster within, in Marko’s case the demon Cyttorak who gave him his powers. He’s attempted to strike out on his own to be a hero, he has joined up with the X-Men, and he’s even been a Thunderbolt. He’s tried to make amends, but he keeps sliding back.

All this being said, the Juggernaut is a classic X-Men villain. His immense strength and unstoppability make him one of the most powerful X-Men rogues to ever challenge the team. He’s tussled with the Hulk and the Thing on many occasions, almost matching them strength for strength.

Though I still hope he is able to redeem himself, I am happy anytime the Marko shows up. Whether he be a hero or a villain, the Unstoppable Juggernaut is one of the coolest X-Men characters around.

  1. Magneto

Really, could it have been anyone else?

My love for the Master of Magnetism is well-advertised on this site. I absolutely love Eric Lensherr. He is one of the best Marvel characters ever created, and his zealousness as a freedom fighter is to be admired, even if his methods are at times ill-advised.

He will stop at nothing to defend his people. He will not stop fighting so long as there is a single mutant left on Earth to fight for, even if that mutant is simply him. He is not a villain in the generic sense; he is a man with a dream and a mission that has simply taken him down dark paths. God help any human or mutant that tries to separate him from his goal.

 

Also, he didn’t make the list, but could we all agree that the Living Monolith is really cool? I mean, look at him, plus that name…

Anyway, until next time, keep reading comics!

Another Short Hiatus and a Bunch of Hot Take Reviews

Another Short Hiatus and a Bunch of Hot Take Reviews

I’m sorry I’ve been off the grid for over a week now. What you may have guessed is true; school is dominating my time. I am in the waning weeks of the semester. As a result, a lot of work is piling up constantly. And, if I’m being honest, I’m not wanting to do a lot of writing between my massive writing assignments.

I have 2 weeks of regular classes and 1-2 weeks of finals after that. As finals weeks approaches, I’ll have a lot more essays, but I won’t be in class as much. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start posting again then.

I haven’t forgotten my designs to write more Marvel editorials discussing my perception of the ins and outs of the company and its products.

There are a some comics that came out in the recent weeks that I want to give my opinions upon, and I may discuss them further beyond these on-the-fly review scores (especially Black Panther and the Crew, because it’s quite awesome and intelligently written).

All-New Wolverine #19: Quite good, a lot of fun. I hoped for a little more though: 6/10

Royals: I’m done caring that much about the Inhumans, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a pretty good book: 6/10

Iron Fist #2: The series justifies my faith in it with incredible artwork, and it really hits its stride in its second issue. It becomes one of those classic Bruce Lee Kung Fu films that Iron Fist was always meant to be: 9/10

Weapon X: Visually stunted at times due to Greg Land’s…methods, but Greg Pak puts together a good script and an intriguing tale. It’s worth a read: 8/10

X-Men Blue: A really fun book with the original team and the Master of Magnetism. They throw down with the Juggernaut in one of the best super-powered brawls I’ve seen in recent comics. Definitely read this: 9/10

X-Men Gold: Overshadowed by the controversy with the artist’s asshat moves, this is still a solid read worthy of your time. Get the reprints though, both for the obvious reason as well as the price tag on original prints: 8/10

Black Panther and the Crew: A fantastic book that starts off with an intriguing tale both relevant to our modern times and an enthralling read in its own right. I highly recommend this, and, like Sam Wilson: Captain America #20, I think it’s an important comic book: 10/10

And that’s it for now. I’m sorry about the absence, and I hope to get back into the swing of things in two weeks. Until then, keep reading comics!!

The State of Marvel Comics Part 1: That Whole Thing About Diversity

The State of Marvel Comics Part 1: That Whole Thing About Diversity

Banner Art by Humberto Ramos

So, those of us who are interested in comic books have heard about the statement made by David Gabriel, the Marvel Vice President of Sales, in an interview with ICv2 where he said, “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” among other things that chaffed the readers a bit. He backpeddled on it the following day, but the statement was still out there. Plus, a candid, off-the-cuff response is always going to seem more genuine than a non-apology attempting to negate the original statement the following day now that you’ve had time to think about what you’ve said.

Now, there have already been plenty of think-pieces on the subject of Marvel’s very public push towards diversity in their characters. I’ve read many of them, and I will likely discuss them here as well. However, I think I can add to the conversation, so I want to have my input.

Firstly, I think Gabriel’s initial comment was a silly thing to say. The wide broadcasted love of characters like Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales, Squirrel Girl, and Moon Girl all contradict that statement. However, Marvel sales of the majority of Marvel comics have taken a hit, and their push towards diversity has been one of the most visible changes in the company in recent years. Note that I’m not saying that’s the only change, but it is the one that they have publicized the most.

Now, I am going to make some concessions in regards to my perception of the situation. Firstly, I have made it pretty clear that diversity in comic book heroes and villains is overall a good thing. I think inclusivity and not pretending that white males are the only types of people that exist in the world are good goals to strive towards. I wear these opinions on my sleeve, and I am going to link to my article about New Heroes for further expansion on my opinion on these matters.

I will also admit it’s been easy for me to exist in a bit of a bubble in regards to the reception of Marvel’s comics in recent years. I’m an at-best Z-List internet comic book critic with an as-of-yet non-vocal readership. I do talk to people about comic books, but they are few and most share my opinions on these matters for the most part. Those that I see who don’t are the screaming anons in Facebook comment sections upset that America Chavez exists.

It’s also worth admitting that I am the B-List Defender, and, for the most part, Iron Man and Thor being phased out did not affect me much. My favorite Marvel comics at the moment are Power Man and Iron Fist, the Thunderbolts, and the Ultimates. None of these are A-List teams or characters, so I haven’t had my reading habits impacted by Riri Williams taking over as Iron Heart. The “replacements” I have read are Sam Wilson: Captain America, another one of my favorite Marvel comic books currently being published, and All-New Wolverine, which I think is a solid and fun read. In other words, the Marvel collapse that some people speak of hasn’t really been visible for me.

To move onto the discussion at hand, I will admit to one drawback with Marvel’s strives towards diversifying their characters: they are often replacing a lot of their headliners. Where the introduction of Kamala Khan and Miles Morales went off fairly smoothly because no heroes were being taken out of commission for their inclusion, Steve Rogers was out of action then a Nazi when Sam was introduced, Thor Odinson was phased out of the picture when Jane Foster picked up Mjolnir, and Tony Stark is currently in a coma as Riri flies around as Iron Heart.

I’ve mentioned this before, but mainstream comic books exist in a weird space from a storytelling standpoint. They focus around characters that are often half a century old, and one of their appeals is that no matter how old you are or what is happening in the world, you can still pick up an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man and read about Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man.

For those who love Steve Rogers as Captain America, the Odinson as Thor, and Tony Stark as Iron Man, I can understand the frustration with not being able to read about these characters right now (with the exception of the Nazi).

Now, if many vocal critics of Marvel’s diversity initiative were to focus on this idea, I would be able to sympathize more with them. However, a common conversation of the aforementioned screaming comment section anons is that Marvel is “pushing a PC agenda” and is “ruining comic books with diversity.” These people also like to sight Marvel’s slump in sales as some form of justification that their complaints are backed by the comic-buying public.

I’m sorry, but I’m not going to acknowledge these as genuine complaints. Having heroes that aren’t white males is not an agenda. It’s called being cogent to the varying racial, sexual, and religious makeup of your reader base. The only “agenda” being brought to the table is the one that these kinds of people have. A woman super hero is not an agenda. A Latina super heroine is not an agenda. A lesbian super heroine is not an agenda. If these people were to just be honest and say that they miss the Odinson and Tony Stark, I could accept and sympathize. However, they are trying to make it a matter of “right and wrong,” and, well, ironically I think being afraid of a shifting cultural makeup of super heroes is just plain wrong.

This also ignores how often indie titles that star a diverse cast of characters take off and garner a relatively smaller but dedicated following.

And, to play devil’s advocate to the idea of replacing super heroes to bring in a diverse cast of characters, that is one of the only ways to really sell these new heroes. John Stewart, James Rhodes, Carol Danvers, and Jaime Reyes only rose to popularity by replacing other established heroes. It doesn’t often work when a new character is made from whole cloth. For every America Chavez, there are five Arañas, Thunderbirds, Cardiacs, Night Thrashers, Patriots, Amethysts, etc. Hell, even Luke Cage was once considered a failed and dying character before Brian Michael Bendis put him back on the map with Alias and New Avengers. It’s easy to say that you want new characters, but, when you won’t support them, it ends with them being lost to the sands of time. Again though, I discussed this in my New Heroes article, so I will leave this conversation here and suggest you go read that full editorial.

Now that we’ve talked about the discussion around what Gabriel said, let’s talk about the actual statement. Is it true? In short, no not really. There are practices adjacent to the implementation of so many minority heroes that have hurt Marvel’s comic sales, but the minority characters themselves are not the ones hurting.

According to Comic Book Resources, who looked into recent sales statistics of Marvel Comics, the first major hit to the company’s sales happened in the shadow of 2015’s Secret Wars. The story, one of many huge crossover events that was also delayed, launched the All-New, All-Different Marvel initiative. This was the first major sales drop, with many series being relaunched at a much lower selling rate, from an average of 38,521 to 22,972 (again, CBR’s research being cited here).

After Secret Wars, Marvel started throwing a lot of series out to see what would take off. That’s not actually a bad strategy when you have a catalogue of thousands of characters, any one of which could turn into a sleeper hit. However, even this strategy they got squeamish about, as a fair number of these recent books were executed at issue four or five.

That being said, we find one idea here that is perplexing to me. If you are selling more series, wouldn’t you expect the sales numbers to spread across the series to some capacity. Much of the discussion here seems to be about the sales numbers of specific series, but Marvel is printing more books at this time than they have at any one moment in their lengthy history. I’d like to see how many sales they are making across the board as opposed to specific comic books. I suspect this might still show a somewhat healthy intake of proftis.

Back to which comics are selling; The Mighty Thor is actually Marvel’s second best-selling super hero book behind the Amazing Spider-Man at an average of 40,000 copies being shipped. This contradicts the many vocal complaints about there being a woman Thor, as her book is selling more than almost every other Marvel comic book at the moment.

Also according to CBR, many of Marvel’s worst-selling comics have been series like Foolkiller, Slapstick, Hyperion, Drax, and, Solo¸ all of which don’t really fall under the category of diverse (but Drax has green skin hahaha haven’t heard that joke before you’re so funny). Starbrand and Nightmask, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat, Red Wolf, and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur all have had weak sales too, but that is less than half of the worst selling Marvel comics since 2015, contradicting what Gabriel’s statement would have you believe.

As an addendum to that statement, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur sells incongruously well in trade paperbacks due to their being stocked at Scholastic Book Fairs.

So what do I think is hurting Marvel’s comic sales the most? If I had to be honest, the back-to-back crossovers that are punctuated with major status quo shifting initiatives are probably doing the job. All-New, All-Different Marvel barely had a year before it was replaced with Divided We Stand: Marvel NOW! or whatever it’s called. That’s to say nothing of the repeating Marvel NOW! iterations that existed before Secret Wars and the Heroic Age, Dark Reign, and the Initiative shifts which all came before that.

When you feel like your comic is going to either go away or be aggressively meddled with in only a couple of months, that makes it hard to stay as engaged with the series. It’s frustrating to me, and I know it has to be frustrating to many other people too.

The aforementioned initiatives also serve to show Marvel’s skittishness in regards to the status quo. They often change everything dramatically only to change things back the following year. The Heroic Age in particular was supposed to be a return to form for the Marvel Universe, and it was upturned in the following years by the first round of Marvel NOW! titles.

The upcoming Marvel slate of stories under the umbrella of Generations threatens to upturn All-New, All-Different Marvel by bringing back all the classic heroes. While I’m not opposed to the return of said classic heroes, I think it would be a massive crime to bury characters like Jane Foster as Thor and Riri Williams as Iron Heart, and it would hurt to see Sam Wilson return to just being the Falcon and Laura Kinney return to just being X-23. I think these characters are really interesting and have filled their current positions really well. I hope that is not the intention of Generations, but I suppose we will just have to wait and see.

That being said, I’m wondering if the slumping in sales of specific titles is missing the forest for the trees. Yeah, the top sellers aren’t selling as well, but how is the whole fleet doing? I’ve been having difficulty finding the numbers on that, but, if I track anything down, I’ll write it in a supplement to this article.

Here’s the curveball I’m going to throw you though: Marvel’s lacking comic book sales do not really matter much to the company. That hurts, I know. You have to remember though, they make movies, cartoons, television series, toys, video games, clothes, stickers, cards, board games, and all sorts of branded merchandising that pulls down more money than I could ever imagine.

This encourages a sort of apathy in the higher ups in the company in regards to their comic book division, because it is one relatively small cog in a massive behemoth of a machine.

As such, Marvel has recently been weird about engaging with their audience and communicating beyond the occasional fluff piece and solicitations about the next big story and the next big initiative. They don’t engage the public much, and that helps them avoid bad PR like the storm that Gabriel’s comments have stirred.

I’m going to talk more on this in the following weeks. As the title implies, this is only the first of such editorials that I’m going to write about Marvel Comics, because they and their employees have said a lot in the past week that are worth discussing. The back-and-forth between the company and its fans over the mega events are one topic, their general PR situation is another, Axel Alonso’s oddly out-of-touch comments about artists definitely needs to be tackled, and general perception of the big two and the nature of fandom is something that has been on my mind too. So expect more editorials like this one in the coming weeks.

Below are some links to the various articles that I read and researched in formulating this one. Comic Book Resources’ and “Moviebob” Chipman’s commentaries on the situation definitely added a lot to this article and helped spur me on to write it. I recommend you view both.

One last thing: Comics Alliance went down this last week. As someone who is running their own rickety comic review and analysis website, this is very sad news. They and others like them helped inspire me to start this website. It’s a shame, and I wish their writers and contributors good luck in their next endeavors.

And with that, we bring this to a close. See you soon, and keep reading comics!

Comic Book Resource’s “No, Diversity Did Not Kill Marvel’s Comic Sales”

Moviebob Chipman’s Make Mine Marvel?

The Verge’s “Of Course Your Comics Are Political, Marvel”

My Own “New Heroes”

 

Iron Fist #1 Review

Iron Fist #1 Review

The Weapon Loses its Edge

Ed Brisson (W), Mike Perkins (A), Andy Troy (CA)

Cover by Jeff Dekal

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $3.99

          So, just to get it out of the way, I actually really like the Iron Fist Netflix series. That being said, I haven’t quite finished the season yet. It’s definitely my least favorite of the four Marvel Netflix shows so far, but that does not make it by any means bad. That bar has been set extremely high by the previous three. Plus, It’s definitely better than any of the DC/Degrassi hybrids that CW peddles.

Anyway, so it’s finally happening. The greatest dynamic duo in comics, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, are being split apart once more. It’s a shame, I love reading about their bromance, but at least both are getting their own solo titles to compensate. David Walker has worked magic with the Power Man and Iron Fist title, so I look forward to seeing what he will do with just the lone Luke Cage.

Ed Brisson’s Iron Fist #1 opens up with a fight club in Bulgaria where a hooded figure approaches while two men beat each other mercilessly inside. The hooded figure drops a bunch of money to participate, and he is revealed to be none other than Danny Rand himself, the Iron Fist. He challenges the entire arena of fighters, and, naturally, takes them all down with ease.

The host of the arena is angry with Danny for taking down his cadre, and Danny says that he was looking for something that he didn’t find there.

The next scene takes us to a plane, and Danny is lamenting the fact that he can’t find a worthy opponent and that he is losing the power of the Iron Fist. We see him fighting in another arena with a massive fighter that he takes down with ease. He then struggles to summon the Iron Fist, and he fails.

He is next in Vietnam, and he goes to a bar. While downing a bottle of whiskey, he is approached by a man who knows who he is and his current struggle. The two enter a quick brawl, but the stranger concedes that Danny would win should the fight drag on. He extends an invitation to a fighting tournament with combatants that are worthy of Danny’s skill. He also implies that this could help Danny regain the power of the Iron Fist. The comic ends with the two on a ship arriving at an island called Liu-Shi.

This is a pretty solid start for the series. It poses a new threat for the protagonist that challenges his identity and his skill. The “losing the power” motif is not uncommon for a book when someone tries to tell their version of the character. However, I’ve not seen that been used with Danny Rand before, so I am curious where Brisson goes with it.

There is plenty of action in this comic to keep the eye drawn. Mike Perkins’ artwork is phenomenal—the best I’ve seen in a comic in a long time. I didn’t actually know until I researched that he did some of the artwork for Ed Brubaker’s Captain America alongside Steve Epting. It makes sense though, because that comic was beautiful too.

The pacing is pretty swift in this book. It is a quick read, but it sets up the story well. It puts you in Danny’s current headspace, so you can get a feel for what is going on for the character right now.

There’s not much more to say. This was a solid read. I enjoyed it, and I hope this series proves to be a great one for the Living Weapon. Give it a read.

Final Score: 8/10