Graphic Novel Review: X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 3

I continued my reading of X-Men’s Age of Apocalypse saga with X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 3 (Graphic Novel 340 pages).

This is the official back of Book 3: “The mirror gets darker and the Amazing X-Men more Astonished as the Age of Apocalypse hits its third quart! Magneto has dedicated his life to freeing humanity and mutantkind alike, but will Apocalypse now require him to destroy reality to save it? Sides are switched and secrets shown with repercussions ranging from the Savage Land to the Shi’ar Galaxy! Plus: a rare look at how Apocalypse altered the rest of Marvel’s mightiest! Doctor Doom and Reed Richards, side-by-side? Matt Murdock and the Kingpin, allies? Gwen Stacy in mourning for Peter Parker? Avengers, Exiles, and more in the original alternate X-saga!”

But I like this description better, from the first inside page: “America is dead. What sits in its place is a gangrenous wound of a nation – the American dream of the creature Apocalypse. These altered states of America have become a staging area for Apocalypse’s next, best nightmare – the corruption of the rest of the world. The troubled dissident movement within America has, until recently, been fighting a losing battle, outmatched and riven by internal dispute. Now, with the discovery of a man purporting to be from an Alternate Timeline, they move with new purpose. Kurt Darkholme, guerrilla fighter with the revolutionary band named X-Men, has been dispatched by cell leader Magneto to locate the woman named Destiny. Her talent of psychometric clairvoyance – literally, to touch someone and see their future – will validate the alternate man’s claims. To effect this, Darkholme has begun a dangerous journey along the refuge pipeline from America to Antarctica and the secret mutant refuge of Avalon … where his mother ferries the survivors to its shores …”

This collection compiled in chronological order from X-Calibre 2-3, Astonishing X-Men 2-4, Generation Next 2-3, X-Man 2-3, Factor X 3, Amazing X-Men 3, Weapon X 3, Gambit and the X-Ternals 3, and X-Universe 1.

This was originally from Marvel’s X-Calibre 2, but can more recently be found X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 3. Inside credits are listed as: Warren Ellis – Writer; Roger Cruz and Renato Arlem – pencils with help from Charles Mota and Eddie Wagner; Phil Moy, Tom Wegrzyn and Harry Candelario – Inks; Joe Rosas / Digital Chameleon – Colors; Richard Starkings and Comicraft – Letters; Suzanne Gaffney – Editor; Bob Harras – Editor-in-Chief.

This is easily the darkest of the Age of Apocalypse books. The book starts out with Nightcrawler’s journey to Avalon in search of his mother in Avalon. Like any covert transportation network, he has to proceed through a variety of checkpoints and trust his life to the good faith of those in control of the transportation through the various stages. He is one of hundreds of refugees willing to believe in hope and give up everything they have for even the dream of a better life. As with everything in this series, hope is not very often rewarded.

Every chapter in this book shows the atrocities of power and corruption. The younger generation works to infiltrate a nuclear powerplant core in a valiant attempt to rescue Colossus’s little sister, Illyana, who might have latent time travel powers. In order to do so, they face a situation where humans are slaves, barely fed and used for the amusement of the sick and powerful mutants in charge of the facility. Nathan Gray and his small group are betrayed and face the deaths of many of their friends by those they thought to be allies. The human high council is sabotaged from within and the countless masses who believed in an armistice and peace are shown death and mass murder. Heroes are captured and tortured while humans are culled and their bodies thrown into chemical vats to break them down into useable material to create mutant armies loyal to Apocalypse.

It is truly a world gone mad with darkness eating the souls of everyone left.

So why read something in a world so dark? Why read about the worst the world has to offer? I think our world right now is on the brink of exactly this type of world; a world where everything seems so broken and hopeless. Violence encompasses our schools, our religious institutions, and the places we go to feel more alive. Good people stand by while fundamental human decency is destroyed in the name of greed and selfishness.

I think this book is a mirror into a world that should never exist, but also one that shows even in the darkest of situations – even when the world is clearly so broken the average person feels heartbroken and filled with despair, heroes will sacrifice everything to make the world a better place. People from backgrounds destined for greatness and those from the most average beginnings can make a difference where every small act of goodness and generosity can repair even the most broken of worlds. Against all the considerable odds stacked against them, Nightcrawler, Sabretooth, Morph, Blink, Rogue, Cyclops, Jean Gray, Husk, Chamber, Mondo, Nathan Gray, Forge, and all the other X-Men in these books still work to free every human and captive in the genetic culling pens, the core, and the remnants of America.

The world in the Age of Apocalypse is even darker than our own world is now and yet these people fight to make things better; they fight to save each other and to believe in a better world. I just keep thinking about how when I originally read these comic books as they came out month-by-month, I didn’t have the luxury of knowing what was going to happen next or how long the story would take. For all my high school self knew, this was going to be the way things were for the rest of my comic book reading experience. I also keep thinking about how I was just a teenager in high school, reading about the worst atrocities imaginable. I didn’t have the knowledge and experience in my life that I have now when I was originally reading them and sometimes it really hits me that this kind of media shaped me into the person I am today.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that because of books like this, showing me how horrible the world could be, it made me want to work to make the world a better place. It made me want to be one of the heroes who sacrificed everything to save those who couldn’t save themselves. It made me want to stand up and fight for diversity, inclusion, representation, and justice. It made me want to save the world, no matter what world it is or how broken it gets.

Overall, I’d rate this book as a solid three on my rating scale. The story is good, though dark, and I’m definitely glad that I own the compilation and will very likely read this book again in the future.

The original comic books were published in 1995, 2006, and 2010, from X-Calibre 2-3, Astonishing X-Men 2-4, Generation Next 2-3, X-Man 2-3, Factor X 3, Amazing X-Men 3, Weapon X 3, Gambit and the X-Ternals 3, and X-Universe 1. Writers: Larry Hama, Scott Lobdell, Terry Kavanagh, Fabian Nicieza, John Francis Moore, Jeph Loeb, Warren Ellis. Pencilers: Chris Bachalo, Carlos Pacheco, Salvador Larroca, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, Steve Skroce, Joe Madureira, Roger Cruz, Renato Arlem, Charles Mota, Eddie Wagner, Ken Lashley. Inkers: Dan Green, Mike Sellers, Mark Buckingham, Cam Smith, Al Milgrom, Matt Ryan, Bud Larsoa, Kevin Conrad, Scott Hanna, Tim Townsend, Phil Moy, Tom Wegrzyn, Harry Candelarioe. Colors: Joe Rosas, Steve Buccellato, Kevin Somers, Marie Javins, Matt Webb, Mike Thomas, Glynis Oliver. Separations: Digital Chameleon, Electric Crayon. Cover Art: John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson. Letters: Pat Brosseau, Chris Eliopolous, Richard Starkings of Comicraft. Cover Colors: Tom Smith. Editors: Rob Harras, Lisa Patrick, Suzanne Gaffney.

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Graphic Novel Review: X-Men: The Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 2

I continued my reading of X-Men’s Age of Apocalypse saga with X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 2 (Graphic Novel 340 pages).

“Welcome to a world not our own, where a man named Charles Xavier never formed a team of young outcasts to protect the planet from the threat of evil mutants. Where a war between the two species of mankind has laid waste to civilization. Where a being who believes the weak should be crushed under the iron heel of the strong lords over all. Welcome to the Age of Apocalypse! Apocalypse has conquered half of humankind and is ready to destroy them all! Magneto and his amazing X-Men fight to protect humans and mutants alike, only to learn from Bishop (now on his third reality and counting) that his world might need to be unmade!”

This collection started focusing on the different characters in the different books, compiled in chronological order from X-Men: Alpha, Age of Apocalypse: the Chosen, Generation Next 1, Astonishing X-Men 1, X-Calibre 1, Gambit and the X-Ternals 1-2, Weapon X 1-2, Amazing X-Men 1-2, Factor X 1-2, and X-Man 1.

It’s interesting to see the different characterization of the familiar heroes and villains and I think the part of this entire universe that bothers me the most is the way Colossus and Shadowcat exist in this universe. Maybe it’s just harder for me because the two of them were my favorite characters while I was growing up or maybe I just view those characters with “rose-colored glasses.” Seeing Colossus and Shadowcat where they’ve given up their own hope and are the darker versions of themselves, where they “train” the younger generation under their care with violence and trickery? It didn’t sit well with me.

This was originally from Marvel’s Generation Next 1, but can more recently be found X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 2. Inside credits are listed as: created by Bachalo and Lobdell; Inker: Mark Buckingham; Colors: Steve Buccellato and Electric Crayon; Lettering: Starkings and Comicraft; Editor: Bob Harras.

Colossus and Shadowcat were downright mean to their “students” and their training tactics were uncomfortable, at best. I used to relate to Colossus when I was younger because I felt like I understood the “poet trapped in a warrior’s body” thing. It seems to me as though most true warriors are ones who dream of quieter days; who dream quiet dreams. While at war or in conflict, many soldiers dream of holidays spent with their families; of reading bed time stories to their children, laughing on the couch at ridiculous movies, playing board games by the fire, or other “normal” activities. And while I will admit that it’s possible that my favorite characters are not as fantastic as I believed, isn’t that why we read fiction? Don’t we read fiction to believe the world is a better place than it truly is? To see the best in people and in situations? Don’t we want to be a part of a better world?

The Age of Apocalypse is the opposite of all the good things you think you believe about the comic book world you grew up with. The characters whose hearts you’re so sure of have problematic flaws; flaws that you might have purposefully overlooked when you wanted to believe the best in people. So many of the characters in this story have different backstories and you wonder if they could have made as much of a difference in this altered reality as they have in the reality familiar from the comic books of my youth. Some were better and some were worse and some of the favorites continued to have their positive traits. I think there were some characters that the writers decided they wanted to use as “throw-aways”, where they did whatever they wanted while some of the favorites were ensured to still be heroes. Characters like Cyclops and Wolverine/Weapon X were given the best ability to show their heroism. Characters like Colossus and Shadowcat are shown to be less stellar than they are in the normal universe.

Overall, this book both has the hope for a better world and the darkness found in situations and people when things don’t go as well as they could. The story-telling is good and the world-building is fantastic. I think this would be a solid three on my rating scale. I’m happy I own it, I’m happy I’m rereading the story, and I’m likely to reread it again in the future.

The original comic books were published in 1995-1997, 2005, and 2010, from X-Men: Alpha, Age of Apocalypse: the Chosen, Generation Next 1, Astonishing X-Men 1, X-Calibre 1, Gambit and the X-Ternals 1-2, Weapon X 1-2, Amazing X-Men 1-2, Factor X 1-2, and X-Man 1. Writers: Fabian Nicieza, John Francis Moore, Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, Larry Hama, Chris Bachalo, Warren Ellis. Pencilers: Tony Daniel, Salvador Larroca, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, Roger Cruz, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Mark Buckingham, Ken Lashley, Renato Arlem, Ian Churchill, val Semeiks, Tom Lyle, Tim Sale, Steve Skroce. Inkers: Kevin Conrad, Al Milgrom, Tim Townsend, Dan Panosian, Matt Ryan, Karl Kesel, Dan Green, Chris Warner, Tom Wegrzyn, Phillip Moy, Bud Larsoa, Harry Candelario, Sergio Melia, Terry Austin, James Pascoe. Colors: Marie Javins, Glynis Oliver, Joe Rosas, Steve Buccellato, Kevin Somers, Mike Thomas, Ashly Underwood, Matt Webb. Separations: Electric Crayon, Digital Chameleon. Cover Art: Joe Madureira and Tim Townsend. Letters: Chris Eliopolous, Pat Brosseau, Richard Starkings and Comicraft. Cover Colors: Avalon’s Matt Milla. Editors: Rob Harras, Kelly Corvese, Jaye Gardner, Ben Raab, Suzanne Gaffney, Lisa Patrick.

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Video Game Review: Trine 2

I started playing Trine 2 when I was visiting my family over the holidays. It was one of those games that has a multiple player option, which was the whole reason we started playing it. It’s a puzzle-sovling, adventure game that I genuinely enjoyed and only just completed today.

Trine 2 is a sidescrolling game of action, puzzles and platforming where you play as one of Three Heroes who make their way through dangers untold in a fantastical fairytale world. Join Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight and Zoya the Thief in their adventure full of friendship, magic and betrayal.”

I have to admit that I spent a lot of time laughing while playing this game, and it was usually laughter at the ridiculousness of some of the situations. I would drop a box on top of one of the characters heads, feed goblins to hungry plants, die in ways that left the character’s body floating in mid-air, watch boxes with goblins in them move themselves off of cliffs and into fiery chasms, or watching goblins killing each other while trying to kill me.

Some of the puzzles in this game were very challenging and some of them I still haven’t figured out after the end of the game. There is a secret level that I have not yet unlocked and I haven’t decided if I’m going to continue playing in order to get the rest of the things I haven’t figured out yet, such as getting all the experience orbs and treasure chests. I haven’t gotten all of the collectible poems and paintings, nor all the pieces of the secret map. I do want to find the last, secret level, though, so I’ll probably keep playing long enough to find the secret map pieces and play the secret level.

The story style was different than what I was expecting or what I was familiar with. The characters were so different than normal characters. The wizard is surprisingly spry and the overweight knight is more graceful than he has a right to be. The wizard was also kind of a whiner. Each of the characters had a different set of incredibly useful skills and it required all three of their abilities to solve the puzzles and beat the game.

I have to say that it took me about two-thirds of the game to figure out how to magnetize objects and how to shoot anti-gravity arrows. It took me two-thirds of the game to figure out the full capabilities of combining the character abilities to solve the puzzles, like using anti-gravity bubbles and planks to cross impossible sections. But once I figured out some of those tricks, it was extremely helpful to the rest of the game.

Overall, I think I’d rate the game as a low three on my rating scale. While the game play was interesting, the characters didn’t really endear themselves to me and the story wasn’t as engaging as it might have been. I’m not sure if I’ll play the game again or not, but it is a fun and entertaining multi-player game.

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Movie Review: Annihilation

I needed to leave my apartment last night and just do something pseudo-social, so I decided to go to the movies. I didn’t want to go see Black Panther because I’m waiting for one of my friends to be done with a class he’s in that’s taking up all his time so I decided to see a movie I knew absolutely nothing about, Annihilation.

“A biologist’s husband disappears. She puts her name forward for an expedition into an environmental disaster zone, but does not find what she’s expecting. The expedition team is made up of the biologist, a psychologist, a physicist, a paramedic, and a geologist.”

It looked like a science fiction movie with only women and I was intrigued by the poster, featuring five women in front of some pretty lights. As the previews came on, I had a few thoughts that I might have made a terrible mistake, as most of the previews were for horror movies. Movie previews tend to be in similar genres to whatever you’re about to watch, so I wasn’t quite certain what I’d gotten myself into.

The story unfolds with Lena teaching biology at a university of some sort. She doesn’t seem particularly happy or engaged with her world and the loss of her husband, Kane, is revealed as the movie progresses. This movie has a very, very small cast, but all five of the leading women represent scientists, which I found to be refreshing. In fact, there are only about three men in the entire movie, one is an unnamed “clean up” person, one is Daniel who is a coworker of Lena’s, and the last is Lena’s husband, Kane. Lena is a biologist, Dr. Ventress is a psychologist, Anya Thorensen is a paramedic, Josie Radek is a physicist, and Cass Sheppard is both a surveyor and a geologist.

The group enters the shimmering area and has immediate issues. They lose time, their communications don’t work, and the entire area is covered in genetic mutations. I’m not sure I actually liked any of the characters in the movie, but they were all at least normal people and their motivations for participating in the expedition into the area showed an interesting depth to each of the characters and what kind of person volunteers for those types of expeditions. I also spent some time wondering what kind of reaction I would have to this movie if it had an all-male cast instead of the all-female cast it did. Would violence have solved more of the issues? Would violence have created more issues? Would I have cared what happened to the characters if they were all men? The movie as a whole is one of those movies where you’ll wind up mentally chewing on a lot of the details afterwards.

For me, there were three genuinely horrifying moments in the movie which made me think that perhaps I should have seen something else or at least gone to see the movie with someone so I could crack a joke or something to make myself less uncomfortable. I’m not going to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it and wants to experience this movie on their own terms without spoilers by telling you what parts of the movie were genuinely horrifying to me.

Overall, the visuals were stunning and the story interesting but I think it’s only going to be a two on my rating scale just because I’m not sure how keen I am to watch it again. Though, the movie is based on a trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, which makes me curious to read the books and see how much depth is added and what happens after the end of Annihilation.

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Book Review: Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron

The second book for my 2018 Asexual Reading list was Island of Exiles (Young Adult 402 pages) by Erica Cameron.

“In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle. On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else. But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen. To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run – a betrayal and a death sentence.”

So I actually finished reading this book over two weeks ago but life has been entirely too busy lately and the first thing that usually gets sacrificed is my writing. It’s not ideal, but that’s how things go when you have to pay the rent and buy food.

The representation in this book is very good and it treats sexuality as a common situation and a common acceptance. Same-sex or non-sexual partnerships were accepted and valued without any judgment or negative repercussions. While I appreciate the non-binary representation, I think that one of the things throughout the book world right now is the non-standardization of how to appropriately represent non-binary personnel. In this book, non-binary pronouns are eir/ey/em pronouns, which are probably unfamiliar to those outside the non-binary spectrum. Additionally, there hasn’t been any sort of comprehensive design on how to standardize non-binary pronoun usage, which means that the terms aren’t household usage at the current time. Some of this might be confusing if readers lack the desire to research the pronoun meanings and readers might struggle with trying to figure out which sentence structure is meant, such as they/them/their (she/her/hers or he/him/his). This book contained representation of all varieties with a very diverse cast. I do have to add that the asexual representation in this book was not the main character and the protagonist did wind up in a hetero-romantic relationship. While having diverse representation is wonderful, my reading goal is to try to find more asexual protagonists.

This was a fascinating and highly addictive book. As much as some of the terminology and names required me to pay more attention to everything in this novel than I normally do when I read, I was sucked into the story and the characters almost instantly.

I read through this book quickly and it was such an engaging read that I almost purchased the second book in the series on the same day I finished Island of Exiles. I think the only reason I haven’t ordered the sequel yet is because of the timing, such as how busy work is right now. This was one of those books where I stayed up until 3am reading it until I finished because I desperately needed to know what was going on and how things would turn out and this book left me hungry for the sequel because so many things were left in not-as-great-as-I’d-like situations.

Overall, this book is a solid three on my rating scale. I’m happy I own it and I will happily buy the next book in the sequel and reread them both in the future.

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Graphic Novel Review: X-Men: The Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 1

Over the weekend, I finished rereading X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Prelude and I continued with my reading by rereading X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 1 (Graphic Novel 352 pages).

“Welcome to a world not our own, where a man named Charles Xavier never formed a team of young outcasts to protect the planet from the threat of evil mutants. Where a war between the two species of mankind has laid waste to civilization. Where a being who believes the weak should be crushed under the iron heel of the strong lords over all. Welcome to the Age of Apocalypse!”

I think one of the main reasons I’m so drawn to rereading these stories from my youth is that I have always pictured my own novels more in graphic novel format and less as words on a page. Granted, I like both different formats for books, those with only words and those with pictures and words, but sometimes my mood dictates which I would rather read. The Age of Apocalypse remains one of my absolute favorite comic book storylines for a lot of reasons, probably at least partially because of where I was at in my own life when these originally came out, partially because of the fascinating story and characters, and mostly because of how much I relate with so many of the things the characters experience.

The main focus for characters in this book are Clarice Ferguson (Blink) and Nathan Grey (X-Man), with Magneto, Rogue, Gambit, Cyclops, Havok, Sabretooth, and Mr. Sinister also having a good portion of back story and character development. The interesting part of using Clarice and Nathan as the main characters in this book is that they are not characters with massive stories outside the Age of Apocalypse. In fact, both characters are almost strictly characters only seen in this world. Nathan Grey is the genetically created child of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, grown in a lab run and created by Nathanael Essex (Mr. Sinister). In the Marvel Comics prior to the Age of Apocalypse, Nate Grey is the child of Scott Summers and Jean Grey’s clone who is then infected with a techno-virus (by Mr. Sinister) which has no cure in this age so Nate Grey is taken to the future where he becomes Cable. Nathan Grey in the Age of Apocalypse is Cable without the techno-virus, which means the character development is completely different, as Cable and X-Man have vastly different histories. Clarice, though, only made her debut in the comic books when the Phalanx showed up in the crossover. Clarice was introduced and then sacrificed herself to remove the Phalanx. Both of these characters were born and raised in the Age of Apocalypse and while readers are passingly familiar with their genetics and their powers, these two characters are unique and readers have no preconceived notions of their character or their stories.

This was originally from Marvel’s Blink 4, but more recently can be found in X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 1. Inside credits are listed as: Plot: Scott Lobdell; Script: Judd Winick; Penciler: Trevor McCarthy; Inkers: Rod Ramos, Rick Ketchum, Tyson McAdo; Colors: Those Guys at Liquid; Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Saida; Assistant Editor: Pete Franco; Editor: Mark Powers; Blinked: Joe Quesada.

The main reason the X-Men comic books always appealed to me is that they took people who were noticeably (or not noticeably) different from the prescribed societal norms and gave all those different people a place to belong. A place they feel welcome and can call home. A place where they can make a positive difference in the world around them. For any minority population, the X-Men are a group of people who inspire hope – a hope that the world can be a better place, but that any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for. Even through all the darkness in the world, there is always hope.

There’s a part in this book where Sabretooth is talking to Blink and he says: “It’ll be all right, girl. Sometimes you have to take solace in fate. Fate brought you together, and it broke you apart. But it can never change how you feel. Nothing is ever diminished just because it ends … don’t ever forget that. Don’t ever give up on your past.” And once again, I find myself having all sorts of feels because of a comic book telling me that I am who I am for a reason. Even though I sometimes like to hope that the way my life is now is not the way my life will always be, that someday I will be able to share my life with someone I love who also loves me, it’s something I forget sometimes.

Most of the comic books collected in this compilation are actually ones I might have in storage at home but not ones I have with me now, and possibly ones I don’t recall reading. When the original Age of Apocalypse hit in the mid-1990s, I was in high school and my sources for money were severely limited, especially with college looming on the horizon. Of the comic books collected in this volume, I think I only have two of them, so most of this story was quite new to me. Even though the story was new to me, it still flowed in logical order and it only made several references to comics I had not yet read. So when I say the story still makes sense even if you didn’t read these as they all came out over 20 years ago, I mean it.

One of the things I like best about this compilation is how Marvel Comics takes all the issues from a massive event like this and puts them all in chronological order so you don’t have to jump from one graphic novel / trade paperback to a different one in order to figure out what’s going on and when it happened. This storyline is all complete and chronological, so it makes perfect sense, even if you’ve never read these comic books before. Then, they even number the books so you know what order to read them in. It’s very convenient and makes this a lot more like reading an actual book, just a book that also uses pictures to tell the story.

Overall, I’d happily rate this book as a high three on my rating scale. I’m happy I own it and I will continue to reread it periodically in the future.

These books talk about hope without being preachy about it. These comic books have real messages about making the world a better place. So to the artists and writers, to all the creators and creatives out there, thank you for what you do. The books, novels, artwork, graphic novels, fanart, and everything you create matters. Keep doing what you do and maybe we’ll all someday live in a better world, filled with more hope.

The original comic books were published in 1995-1997, 2001, and 2005, from X-Men Chronicles 1-2, Tales from the Age of Apocalypse: By the Light, X-Man 1, X-Man ’96 Annual, Tales From the Age of Apocalypse: Sinister Bloodlines, and Blink 1-4. Those original comic books which are now compiled into the sixth printing of X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 1, published in 2011. Writers: Howard Mackie, John Francis Moore, Brian K. Vaughan, Scott Lobdell, Ralph Macchio, Terry Kavanagh, and Judd Winick. Pencilers: Terry Dodson, Steve Epting, Nick Napolitano, Joe Bennett, Ian Churchill, Roger Cruz, Alan David, and Trevor McCarthy. Inkers: Klaus Janson, Al Milgrom, Joe Pimentel, Scott Hanna, Al Vey, Steve Moncuse, Bob Wiacek, Bud Larosa, Wellington Diaz, Mark Farmer, Robin Riggs, Tyson McAdoo, Rodney Ramos, Rick Ketcham, and Norm Rapmund. Colors: Matt Webb, Kevin Tinsley, Gloria Vasquez, Mike Thomas, Tom Vincent, and Liquid. Cover Art: Joe Madureira and Tim Townsend. Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft. Cover Colors: Avalon’s Matt Milla. Editors: Kelly Corvese, Matt Idelson, Mark Powers, and Jaye Gardner.

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Movie Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

I’d heard good things about Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle so I took a bit of a road trip in order to kidnap a friend and go see it and I’m absolutely happy that I did.

“Four high school kids discover an old video game console and are drawn into the game’s jungle setting, literally becoming the adult avatars they chose. What they discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji – you must survive it. To beat the game and return to the real world, they’ll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, discover what Alan Parrish left 20 years ago, and change the way they think about themselves – or they’ll be stuck in the game forever.”

This movie is hilarious. I admit to being at least partially skeptical about the reboot and using a video game console for the movie instead of the board game which has been traditionally used, but I think they did a really great job with this and the actors and actresses they picked for each role were absolutely spot on. I mean, really. Imagine Jack Black pretending to be a self-absorbed, well-off, blonde, hot chick. Bethany’s character arch is definitely one of the most significant in the movie and it’s done marvelously. Also, the women in the theater laughed more and louder than the men in the audience, which was interesting for a movie that had only two real, named, women characters. Would I have liked to see more women in the movie? Absolutely. Do I understand that the video game industry still thinks that most video gamers are men and will cater to their needs by making avatars appealing to the male gaze or worthy of the players’ envy? Unfortunately true.

But this movie was absolutely NOT a “bro movie”. The humor was well-rounded and actually funny and even poked at a lot of the modern stereotypes. I especially liked all of the character’s special skills and how those were implemented throughout the movie, at the most random of times. The use of a special skill for the distraction at the transportation shed was one of the most hilarious things I’ve seen in quite some time and I laughed for a while on that one.

Overall, this movie was a lot of fun and I’m definitely going to purchase it when it comes out on video. The characters were believable and interesting and their development about learning how to get along with and take care of each other was really touching. Obviously, this movie was about finding out who you are and what truly matters to you and working to take charge of your own life, even when things are not going nearly the way you think they should. I’d easily rate it as a high three or even a low four on my rating scale. That might change with subsequent watchings of the movie because only time will tell how well the humor holds up.

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Graphic Novel Review: The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part Two

As a reward for passing my essay exam Monday morning, and subsequently the important class I was enrolled in, I went to the bookstore and picked up the first two official graphic novel continuations of the Legend of Korra series, the Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part Two (graphic novel 76 pages) created by Bryan Koonietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. This particular book is written by Michael Dante DiMartino, layouts by Irene Koh and Paul Reinwand, art by Irene Koh, colors by Vivian NG, lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot, and the cover by Heather Campbell with Vivian NG.

“New beginnings for Korra and Asami! On a return trip to the Spirit World, Korra and the Airbenders discover that the lush, beautiful landscape is now dark and desolate – and what little flora remain want to drive humans out! Meanwhile, General Iroh establishes a military presence on the outskirts of the portal, further threatening the balance of human and spirit relations. When things seem to be at their worst, Republic City’s housing crisis reaches its peak and Zhu Li sets her sights on the biggest public figure in the city – President Raiko – in a bid for the presidency! With her friend’s success, the future of the spirit portal, and the wellbeing of Republic City’s citizens at stake, can Korra remain neutral and fulfill her duties as the Avatar?”

I am continuously fascinated by how this series in general deals with politics and the current political environment without this even being about our own modern world. For example, President Raiko is only focused on getting reelected and not on actually listening to the needs of the people. And then he goes around using everything that’s happened in Republic City during the Legend of Korra animated series to make life worse and more miserable for Korra by blaming everything on her instead of working to find a positive solution that would help the majority of his constituents.

Then you get Zhu Li who is working so hard to try to provide for the people and improve their living conditions but she’s going mostly unnoticed in her efforts. This series also shows the difficulties of people in large groups. I’m positive that individually, all the normal people in this series who are refugees and such are wonderful individuals, but when grouped together as a whole, they definitely develop an unhealthy mob-like mentality where they’ll believe whatever voice is talking to them at any given time and not think for themselves, nor attempt to work to solve their issues. They are all quite good at saying what all their problems are but none of them appear willing to go the extra mile to help get their own lives and the lives of everyone else in their situation back to a semblance of positivity.

Korra and Asami’s relationship is being shaped very well and I appreciate the writers for not making everything automatically perfect. Korra and Asami both have a bit to learn about how their relationship works and what each other’s boundaries are, which I think is a very healthy way of representing a real relationship. Korra and Asami are both very strong-willed and they are having some mild communication errors, which makes perfect sense for where they are. I was so hoping to see their date, though. Korra clearly worked to make sure she looked fantastic for Asami and she knew Asami wouldn’t have stood her up. So while I understand and appreciate the plot progress, I am hoping to get to see the date in the next issue in June. I hope we get to see all the cute and romantic things.

Overall, I’d rate this graphic novel as a solid high three on my rating scale. I’m happy I purchased the first two, I look forward to book two in June, and I’ll happily buy more as they’re produced.

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Graphic Novel Review: The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part One

As a reward for passing my essay exam this morning, and subsequently the important class I was enrolled in, I went to the bookstore tonight and picked up the first official continuation of the Legend of Korra series, the Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part One (graphic novel 76 pages) created by Bryan Koonietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. This particular book is written by Michael Dante DiMartino, art by Irene Koh, colors by Vivian NG, lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot, and the cover by Heather Campbell with Jake Bak.

“New beginnings for Korra and Asami! After a refreshing sojourn in the Spirit World, Korra and Asami return to Republic City but find nothing but political hijinks and humans vs. spirit conflict! Pompous developer Wonyong Keum plans to turn the new spirit portal into an amusement park, potentially severing an already tumultuous connection with the spirits. At the city’s edge, Zhu Li enlists everyone she can to aid the thousands of hungry and homeless evacuees who have relocated there. Meanwhile, the Triple Threats’ ruthless new leader, Tokuga, is determined to unite the other triads under his rule, no matter the cost. In order to get through it all, Korra and Asami vow to look out for each other – but first, they’ve got to get better at being a team!”

This was a really short, but good, read. One of the interesting parts to me is that this is not a “normal” graphic novel or comic book size book. Instead, it’s a bit smaller, which I liked a lot better.

I also liked that the story didn’t pull any punches. This first graphic novel is focused on Korra and Asami’s budding relationship and how hard it is sometimes to find a good balance with someone you care about. Both Korra and Asami are highly dedicated and strong-willed, which means that finding a balance for them is going to be a lot of communication and a lot of making sure they’re being good for and to each other. I think the relationship portrayed in this story is actually accurate.

Overall, I’m happy I purchased this graphic novel, I’d rate it as a high three, and I’m excited to read the next books in the series.

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Movie Review: Spider-Man Homecoming

Again, I find myself avoiding my mountains of homework and studying in favor of taking a mental break. As it turns out, mental labor can be just as exhausting as physical labor and I desperately needed a break from all the intellectual stuff I’ve been doing. I’d heard good things about Spider-Man: Homecoming and decided this would be a good night to chill for a little bit, eat some pizza, and watch a movie.

“A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man, who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May, under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark. Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.”

This movie was both funnier and more moving than I thought it would be. It was nice and refreshing to also see a Spider-Man and Peter Parker who was every bit the very young teenager Spider-Man typically portrayed. It was also refreshing to see a distinct lack of storylines focused on the romance aspect or Peter doing anything to get a girlfriend.

One of the things that really struck me about this movie is that Peter Parker really has a rough go of things. He wants to do the right thing but he doesn’t have the resources to make as big of a difference as he wants. And then when he’s faced with impossible situations, he still makes that impossible decision, no matter the cost to him and the things he wants in his life. That’s the true story of what being a hero means – it’s doing the right thing, no matter the cost, and whether or not anyone else is watching.

I also watched some of the deleted scenes, including the ads Captain America did for lice, school lunches, reading, math, and other topics. I can’t decide whether those were ridiculous or just plain sad and I wound up having a discussion with one of my friends about how Captain America: the Winter Soldier was actually one of the most heart-breaking stories in the comic book world because what happened to Bucky Barnes is exactly what would have happened to Steve Rogers if Steve hadn’t been frozen for 50 years – he would have wound up as a political pawn for people who would abuse his abilities and his position. Which is one of the reasons that Spider-Man is such an iconic character – he comes from nothing. He’s not rich and he struggles to just make ends meet. He isn’t a god from another world, he isn’t a trained espionage expert, and he doesn’t have any special magic powers. He’s just a high school kid who wants to do something bigger.

Overall, this movie is easily a high three on my rating scale. I’m glad I own it and I’m positive I will watch it again in the future.

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