Movie Review: Rampage

Last weekend, I went and saw Ramage which turned out a lot more entertaining than I originally thought it would be.

“When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago.”

There really aren’t any surprises in this movie. If you want to watch this movie, you’re probably going to see some mindless action and destruction of a city, and you absolutely won’t be disappointed. There is definitely a lot of violence, destruction, and action. Oddly, the plot is more feasible and plausible than I thought it would be and this movie might wind up pretty high on my list of favorite action movies because it skipped the annoying romantic subplot. In fact, Davis Okoye could easily be seen as asexual, given how absolutely disinterested he is in flirting or hooking up with other characters in the movie. While I doubt that Davis is actually asexual because that would imply that someone who makes movies would want to include that kind of diverse and specific representation, I do think it’s very easy for him to be asexual. I know it’s very unrealistic to use Davis as some sort of wish-fulfillment representation because we all know that actually asexual characters just don’t exist in movies but I really still just want to pretend.

Just let me have my fantasies, k?

I also really appreciated Dr. Kate Caldwell’s backstory and her as a character. She was clearly running late for a job and her excuse for why she wasn’t there yet amused me greatly, especially where she was distracted and said she was in her car and said that the car in front of her exploded. She was a competent scientist and also a decent human being who wanted to make the world a better place. I feel like she reacted very reasonably to everything that happened in this movie and that she did a good job of bringing at least the illusion of science into this movie. I also like seeing smart women of color on the screen with amazing intellectual backstories and capabilities.

Overall, I think I would rate this movie a high two or maybe even a very low three on my rating scale. I can’t really fault the movie for providing me exactly the entertainment I was looking for and the only reason I wouldn’t watch it more frequently is because of the very predictability which motivated me to go see it in the first place. Kind of a hypocritical statement, I know, but I am only human after all 🙂

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Graphic Novel Review: Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 2

One of the big motivations for me reading Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 1 last weekend was because I found Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 2 at my local bookstore late last week and wanted to see how the story progressed.

“Kyle Rayner is the last Green Lantern. After Hal Jordan’s reign of terror on the Green Lantern Corps, Ganthet, the lone surviving Guardian, bequeathed Kyle the final power ring. The ring and legacy of the Corps now live on with Kyle Rayner. Defending the Earth on countless occasions and saving the universe from Hal Jordan, Kyle has earned his place among the greatest Green Lanterns. However, Hal Jordan has returned. Refusing to accept responsibility for his actions, Hal looks to reclaim his mantle as the Green Lantern. With his sights set on Kyle Rayner’s power ring, Hal will take it back by any means necessary.”

The chronological portion of this compilation covers from January 1995 through September 1995. Unlike the previous compilation Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 1, this volume didn’t have any comics or storylines I recognized, either from my youth or from my own readings in the last several years. As this was an all new series of stories for me, I think I probably had very different reactions than I tend to have for stories familiar to me. This entire storyline takes place after the Death of Superman and the Return of Superman, which I have every original comic book from both series so it’s also interesting to see some of the familiar characters from those events, such as Steel.

The moral stories included in this compilation had a lot of weight to them. When Guy Gardner/Warrior and Kyle face off against the Quorum and Major Force, the mercenary who murdered Alexandra DeWitt in Green Lantern volume 3 #54, Kyle is given the opportunity to kill Major Force and he doesn’t take it. Instead, Guy Gardner/Warrior snaps Major Force’s neck. Kyle tries to express why this was wrong and how it’s not right for them as heroes to use their powers to be judge, jury, and executioner, no matter how many painful and horrible things someone may have done. After reading everything Kyle’s been through so far, I feel as though fans of the series would have understood if Kyle had killed Major Force but I think that it’s out of character for him to have done so, which is exactly the action Kyle took in this situation.

Green Lantern vol. 3 #62 (May 1995). Writer: Ron Marz; Pencils: Darryl Banks, Joe St. Pierre; Inks: Romeo Tanghal; Colors: Steve Mattsson; Letters: Albert Deguzman.

I really like Kyle and Donna’s interaction in this compilation. I like how in Green Lantern 62, Donna is trying to help Kyle understand that he needs to be more than just his ring; that he needs to be able to function without it. So she takes him running and then she fends off potential muggers just through her hand-to-hand capability while Kyle is fully dependent upon his Green Lantern ring. This compilation also explores a lot of the budding relationship between Kyle and Donna and I think their relationship is a healthy one, for all that both Donna and Kyle are at rather inconvenient times in their relationship lives. If the comic book timeline is the same as the release dates, then Kyle only lost Alex less than nine months or so previous to dating Donna, which isn’t bad and I’m not sure how far into the dating scene Kyle and Donna are at this point. I remember Donna and Kyle starting to be interested in each other near the end of Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 01, but this is clearly the part of the relationship where both Kyle and Donna have been hurt in the past and aren’t as willing to extend their hearts again. Kyle still loves and misses Alex and that’s a feeling that will be with him for the rest of his life and Donna is working through a messy custody battle involving her son. Even through this, I think Kyle and Donna are good partners and augment each other well.

The first storyline focused a lot on Kyle’s work to incorporate himself as a Titan, Kyle’s relationship with Ganthet, and the continuous battle to either defeat Hal Jordan or convince Hal Jordan to be a little less like a major villain and a little more like a minor hero. I’m not sure how I feel about Ganthet bringing in many of Hal’s friends from the past, including Green Arrow, Flash, Hawkman, Aquaman, Martian, and eventually Superman. I feel like there was just too much melodrama for Kyle to just take a serious beating and then talk Hal down. Did the Justice League really need to show up and fight for at least one entire comic just for Kyle to talk him down and then Ganthet to trap Hal in his own mind of happy memories? This just seems like something that’s going to go badly in the long run and will only make Hal more difficult to deal with when he finally breaks free from his mental prison, which will eventually happen.

The Seige of the Zi Charram brought up a really interesting series of moral issues and it’s things like this that make me annoyed at “comic book fans” who are annoyed with how “political” comics have become in our modern times and how they don’t like “that social justice warrior crap” in their entertainment venues. These comic books came out in 1995 and had significant life-changing knowledge in the pages of entertainment. The Titans find themselves transported into the middle of a war between the Progenitors and every other alien species residing in that particular part of the universe. The Zi Charram devised a way to sterilize the entire Progenitor species, which would essentially be genocide to the entire population. The Zi Charram believe in only two courses of action: either they themselves are overrun by the Progenitors or they commit genocide via sterilization in order to stop the Progenitor invasion, occupation, and destruction of the Zi Charram. The Titans refuse to be part of this plan and instead find a way to save the Zi Charram and convince the Progenitors to leave peaceably instead of making things worse. This really struck a chord with me because of how often people are led to believe that there are only two sides to a conflict and therefore only two resolutions, which is not the case. The world is full of various shades of gray area and other times where you can do everything right and still have things fall apart.

Life’s funny that way.

The more I read of Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern, the more I enjoy both this character and the stories portrayed in this series. While there was a few times when I’m clearly missing parts of the story because I don’t have the comic books referenced in this compilation, I was still able to follow the jist of things rather well. Overall, I would rate this as a solid four on my rating scale; I’m happy that I read it, I’m happy that I own it, and I will definitely continue to buy any more of these which come out in the future.

Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Vol. 2 collects (in chronological order) for the first time ever Green Lantern 58-65, Guy Gardner: Warrior 27-28, the New Titans 124-125, the Darkstars 34 and Damage 16 from Ron Marz, Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal, comics creators who reinvented Green Lantern for a new generation! Writers: Ron Marz, Beau Smith, Marv Wolfman, Michael Jan Friedman, Tom Joyner; Pencillers: Darryl Banks, Mitch Byrd, William Rosado, Jason Armstrong, Mike Collins, Ron Lim, Bill Marimon, Andy Smith, Mark Bright, Cully Hamner, Fred Haynes, Joe St. Pierre; Inkers: Romeo Tanghal, Dan Davis, Keith Champagne, Ken Branch, Terry Austin, Mike DeCarlo, Jordi Ensign, Jason Martin, Phyllis Novin; Colorists: Steve Mattsson, Stu Chaifetz, Chris Matthys, Rob Schwager, Joshua Myers, Buzz Setzer; Letterers: Albert Deguzman, Bob Pinaha; Collection cover art by Darryl Banks, Romeo Tanghal and Wes Hartman; Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; Supergirl based on the characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family; the New Teen Titans created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez; Major Force created by Cary Bates, Greg Weisman and Pat Broderick; Kalibak created by Jack Kirby; Sldge created by Mitch Byrd and Stephen Smith; Damage created by Tom Joyner and Bill Marimon.

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Graphic Novel Review: Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 01

Several weeks ago while browsing one of my local bookstores, I came across Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 01 (graphic novel 343 pages). I’ve read several of the Kyle Rayner comic books before and was curious to read his story.

“Hal Jordan had been Earth’s Green Lantern – a proud hero in an even prouder tradition. But even heroes have their limits, and when his hometown of Coast City was destroyed by Mongul, Hal Jordan reached his. When refused the power to change the past by the Green Lantern Corps’ creators, something inside Hal snapped. He crossed the line he had sworn he never would, and stripped the Guardians of the Universe and their legendary Green Lantern Corps of every shred of power they had, killing many of them in the process. He became a man consumed with his own rage, and an era of heroism ended. The ring and legend of the Corps, however, would not be extinguished. The lone surviving Guardian has come to Earth and bequeathed the final power ring to a young man named Kyle Rayner. With it, a new chapter in the legacy of Green Lantern has begun. But this time, there’s no one to train the new bearer of the ring, and he must learn to wield it in a trial by fire against some of the DC Universe’s most powerful threats!”

This storyline started in January 1994, which was when I was in my prime comic book reading part of my younger days. I was never a fan of DC Comics because I felt as though most of their super heroes already started out as someone extraordinary. Batman was rich and had endless resources, Superman’s home planet genetics grants him powers from Earth’s yellow sun, Aquaman was the king of the seas, etc., and it never really felt to me as though DC Comics represented the same kind of “average person” hero that Marvel Comics. I never really gave DC Comics a chance.

And then there’s Kyle Rayner.

While this compilation of Kyle Rayner’s story doesn’t introduce Kyle Rayner as the new Green Lantern until Green Lantern 50 in 1994, the story builds up with Hal Jordan’s desire to find the power to bring Coast City back to life. Coast City was Hal Jordan’s home and its destruction caused him inconsolable grief. Hal Jordan destroys the Green Lantern Corps and takes all of their rings, then destroys the Guardians on OA. With the last of their power and energy, a lone Guardian finds Kyle Rayner in an alley and presents him with the last Green Lantern ring.

Green Lantern vol. 3 #50 (March 1994). Art by Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal.

I’ve read dialogue about how Kyle was told what he needed to hear in order to become a hero and I’ve also read people who thought that the Guardian really didn’t have a plan when giving the ring to Kyle. Either way, when the Guardian gave Kyle the ring, Kyle had to make the choice about what to do with it. Kyle showed up to his ex girlfriend’s apartment in the middle of the night and she was smart enough to realize what the ring meant and what he should do about it. This was the introduction of Alexandra DeWitt, and also the introduction of a very specific trope, Stuffed into the Fridge. Alex changed Kyle’s life and helped him understand what it means to be a hero. She taught him about self-sacrifice, caring about others, and responsibility. As a professional photographer, she also did a number of photo shoots with the new Green Lantern in order to get recognition for Kyle’s version of the new Green Lantern from earth. She takes pictures of Kyle defeating Ohm and teaming up with Superman to defeat Mongul and she helps give Kyle ideas on how to use the ring. She unleashes his creativity and shows him how to think bigger in order to actually make a difference. She’s a remarkable person, so naturally she’s killed in order to further the lead male protagonist’s story.

Green Lantern vol 3 #57 (December 1994). Ron Marz – story; Darryl Banks – pencils; Romeo Tanghal – inks; Steve Mattsson – color; Albert de Guzman – letters; Eddie Berganza – drunk with power; Kevin Dooley – him too.

I could say a lot about Alexandra DeWitt and I might have some ideas about how she would have made an amazing Green Lantern. So even though she was killed almost as soon as she was introduced, she has a longterm and positive impact on Kyle’s transformation into a hero, and he is by far my favorite of the Green Lanterns.

Kyle seems to have problems with women rather frequently in this first volume of Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner. In Green Lantern 56 from November 1994, Kyle is adrift in space, trying to find his way back to earth, and he hooks up with former Green Lantern, Adara. She sleeps with him, then steals his ring. When he tracks her down to get his ring back, she said it didn’t work for her, but it was such an important part of her identity that when he walks away, she kills herself.

Kyle is the first truly vulnerable hero I can recall seeing in the comic book world. He visits Alex’s grave to talk to her a little bit about how his life is going and some of the things he’s done. He tells her about how he should have done better and there were so many things that he should have told her. And then he mentions how he’s going to move to New York and follow his dreams about becoming a more established graphic artist and building a new name and face for Green Lantern. Even though she’s gone from his life, she encouraged him to follow his dreams. I think that says more about Kyle’s character than anything else. He has dreams of doing something other than tying his entire identity to being Green Lantern and when he confronts Hal Jordan in Green Lantern 0 in October 1994, when he sees Hal’s pain, he gives up his ring. Kyle saw how much Hal being in a Green Lantern meant to him and Kyle wanted to believe Hal was still that hero he’d grown up watching.

Kyle believes in people. He believes in people so much that he tries to talk to people and follow his heart. He tries his best to do better at being a super hero and earning his Green Lantern ring. When he makes mistakes, he owns those mistakes and tries to make amends. When he visits Alex’s grave, he says good-bye and he cries. This very masculine hero breaks down and cries. The first three pages of this comic, Green Lantern #57 from December 1994, were heart-breaking because of how hard saying good-bye to someone you love, who has changed so much of your life, can be, especially when you know you should have done better by them. He mentions that he always forgets her birthday but that he always remembered that roses were her favorite. I think that says a lot about how relationships really work, where you may not remember the things you’re supposed to but that you still know and love your partner.

I read several of the early Kyle Rayner comics in the last several years and I saw Kyle Rayner’s distinct Green Lantern symbol as a tattoo on the forearm of one of my coworkers and that encouraged a discussion about how Kyle Rayner is the only super hero who made the choice to become a super hero. He also had to learn to be a hero all on his own, especially after Alex was murdered. While he did have his memories of her to help him with making decisions he believed would make her proud, he had no Guardians or other Green Lanterns to provide him any guidance. He didn’t have anyone to call when he needed help and he didn’t have any friends to talk with about how he didn’t feel worthy of the Green Lantern ring, but he still made the best decisions he could and he still followed his heart.

He is the most relatable super hero I’ve read. His story resonates very heavily with me. Overall, I would rate this as a solid four on my rating scale. I am absolutely thrilled that DC Comics has compiled Kyle Rayner’s story into a convenient graphic novel, they clearly labelled them with volume numbers, and put the story in chronological order. I am happy that I own this book, I am highly likely to reread this story again, and I am definitely going to read and buy the next books in the series.

Kyle Rayner’s debut as Green Lantern. Cover of Green Lantern vol. 3 #51 (May 1994). Art by Darryl Banks.

Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 1 collects (in chronological order) for the first time ever Green Lantern 48-57,  New Titans 116-117, and R.E.B.E.L.S. 1 from Ron Marz, Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal, comics creators who reinvented Green Lantern for a new generation! Writers: Ron Marz, Marv Wolfman, Tom Peyer, Frank Pittarese; Pencillers: Darryl Banks, Bill Willingham, Fred Haynes, Steve Carr, Jamal Igle, Derec Aucoin, Arnie Jorgensen, J.B. Jones, William Rosado; Inkers: Romeo Tanghal, Robert Campanella, Dennis Cramer, Craig Hamilton, James Pascoe, Keith Champagne, Rich Rankin; Colorists: Anthony Tollin, Steve Mattsson, Stuart Chaifetz, Chi; Letterers: Albert Deguzman, Gaspar Saladino; Collection cover art by Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal; Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.

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Movie Review: Ready Player One

Yesterday, I went and saw Ready Player One with some friends on the recommendation of my brother. You see, my brother has been letting me know repeatedly that this is a movie I would very much appreciate and I definitely did.

“In the year 2045, people can escape their harsh reality in the OASIS, an immersive virtual world where you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. OASIS creator James Halliday left his immense fortune and control of the Oasis to the winner of a contest designed to find a worthy heir. When unlikely hero Wade Watts conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-known as the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world.”

Based on the novel with the same name by Ernest Cline, this book is an 80s treasure trove of pop culture references. Every song on the soundtrack was absolutely familiar, as were most of the vehicles used in the first challenge, and so many of the avatars and scenery. I laughed through most of the movie, sometimes at parts other people weren’t laughing at.

I’m not sure how old Wade is supposed to be in the movie, maybe close to 17-20 or so? I mean, the movie told us when he was born and the current year in the movie, but that would require me to do mental math during a beautifully done video game movie and that’s just not happening. Wade/Parzival is very young and naïve, for all that he’s the main character in the movie. He also falls in love with the first pretty girl who gives him the time of day, which I think is a fairly accurate depiction of video gaming men who interact with video gaming women and why so many women choose male avatars in order to avoid the (often annoying) advances or ridicule of their male counterparts. I have not read the book but I hope that Wade and Samantha’s relationship in the book is perhaps slightly less cliché. I also very much enjoyed Aech’s role in the movie, both in the OASIS and in the real world. Aech’s workshop in the OASIS was fantastic and filled with so many easter eggs that I look forward to being able to own this movie when it comes out just so I can press pause all the time and find all the tiny details. I also very much enjoyed Aech’s reaction to Parzival bringing Art3mis/Samantha to the shop and showing Art3mis everything. Aech brings up a good point that you only see online what people want you to see and you are only who you pretend to be online. People’s “real” identity is often concealed and even Parzival gets lectured when he tells Art3mis his real name.

It was enjoyable but I suspect that if I think about it longer, I’ll be more annoyed at some of the things this movie lacked, like 80s pop culture references for women. (Seriously. Where were the Care Bears? Or My Little Pony? She-Ra? Madonna? King’s Quest?) While I do recognize and acknowledge that getting the rights to put in just the references they did probably took a good chunk of their abilities, it might have been nice to see more from a not historically male-dominated part of the 80s.

Overall, this movie was a wonderful hat tip to 80s pop culture. I would probably rate this movie as a high three or even maybe a low four on my rating scale. I might watch it again in the theaters and I will definitely purchase it when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray.

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Book Review: the Sheepfarmer’s Daughter by Elizabeth Moon

This month’s Asexual reading book from my 2018 Asexual Reading Goals was the Sheepfarmer’s Daughter (fantasy 314 pages) by Elizabeth Moon.

“Paksenarrion – Paks for short – is somebody special. She knows it, even if nobody else does yet. No way will she follow her father’s orders to marry the pig farmer down the road. She’s off to join the army, even if it means she can never see her family again. And so her adventure begins … the adventure that transforms her into a hero remembered in songs, chosen by the gods to restore a lost rule to his throne. Here is her tale as she lived it.”

As an interesting point, this book has been recommended to me multiple times throughout the years and I only just now got around to reading it. Now that I’ve finished the first book in this trilogy, I can see precisely why this book was recommended repeatedly to me. The main character is unequivocably Asexual and explicitly states that she has never felt inclined to bed anyone, though she does love those around her very deeply. She is so strongly opposed to marrying the pig farmer down the road that she steals a sword and runs away from home. But as soon as she’s a foot off of her family land, she plants the sword in the soil because she doesn’t want to be accused of stealing and the sword is something they might need.

Paksenarrion spends the entire book not actually believing that she’s anyone special. She’s just a soldier who needs to learn to be faster with her sword and shield; who does her camp chores like anyone else. She wants to serve an honorable cause and is willing to pull her fair share and always work to do better. Here is a character who is genuinely worth caring about, as she just wants to do the right thing but she’s also willing to work for it. Honestly, I really liked Paks a lot and I found a lot relatable with this character. She just accepted that she didn’t ever want to bed anyone and found an occupation where she could be who she wanted to be without the pressure of trying to fit into a mold not meant for her.

The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter is very casual about the horrors and reality of war. Mind-numbing tedium partnered with life-threatening situations. Unexpected and expected losses from the violence of war. All of the unpleasant parts of war, including the torture, the stink, and the lack of life-saving medicine. War is not a glorious time with rousing speeches – it’s a time of hunger and misery, feeling every stone in your boot and every foot of every mile. You don’t magically get a beautiful horse to ride around on. Instead, you have to spend months drilling and marching everywhere to learn discipline and how to fight as a team.

This book also had some really great things that I understand a lot better now, like this passage on page 113: “You see people as good or bad, not in between; as fighters or not, and not in between. And since you’re basically a good person, you see most people as good – but most people, Paks, are in between – both as fighters, and as good or bad. And they’re different. If you don’t learn to see them straight – just as you’d look at a sword, knowing all swords aren’t alike – you’ll depend on them for what they don’t have.” One of her fellow soldiers is talking to Paks about how she doesn’t understand that people aren’t always like her, nor can they be judged solely based on the good qualities Paks sees, like whether or not someone is a good fighter. It took me a long time to learn that the world isn’t black and white at all; that most people and most things in life are somewhere on a varied scale of color. Very little in our world is truly good or evil, though those things do exist. Most of everything is just people trying to do the best they can, however they see fit. This is/was a very important lesson but for all that people have recommended this book to me for years, I don’t think I was ready to read it until now.

You can still have the best of intentions and try everything you know to make things better and have everything turn out wrong. You can care about everyone and give of yourself without question and end up the villain of the story. You can learn and grow and want another chance to be happy with someone you love and they could never speak to you again. Nothing is ever as black and white as we’d all like to believe, and that makes the world a lot harder sometimes.

There was a section on page 255 where Paks is talking to the Paladin and the Marshal about how a higher power might have had a hand in some of her actions and survivals and her ideas about higher powers and their divine influence really struck a chord with me. I would think that the higher powers who are out there would want us to do everything we can first, and only ask for minor amounts of aid when absolutely necessary. At the same time, though, sometimes horrible things happen for reasons that involve a sacrifice for a better outcome. I think a lot of people who profess their religious views very strongly these days often don’t see the balance in things. Someone gets into a car accident, for instance, and blames the other driver completely without even listening to what happened. The truth of the accident is likely a combination of factors. Perhaps the driver was speeding and the other vehicle was distracted by a bird in the distance and so the vehicles collided. Only rarely does something have an obvious and definitive problem and solution. So Paks’ ideas on what religious personnel and their followers should do really struck a chord with me because of how little responsibility people take for helping each other and themselves these days. It’s a lot like the story of the man drowning in the flood who asked the higher powers to save him but then didn’t get in the boat when someone rowed by and asked if they needed help because they were positive that divine intervention would be what really saved them when the higher powers really just wanted to enable people to save other people.

Overall, I’m glad I finally read this book and happy the I own the entire trilogy. I’d probably rate this as a solid three on my rating scale and I’m likely to reread it in the future.

Moon, Elizabeth. Omnibus edition: The Deed of Paksenarrion. Baen Books. February, 1992. (combines Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold).

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Graphic Novel Review: X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 4

I finished reading of X-Men’s Age of Apocalypse saga with X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 4 (Graphic Novel 352 pages) well over a week ago but my time slipped away from me and I am only just now getting to the review.

This is the official back of book 4: “Learn who lives and who dies in either reality as the apocalyptic arc ends in treachery and tragedy! While certain heroic humans prove their mettle without armor or magic hammers, it’s a race to see who the X-Men will destroy first: Apocalypse or themselves! But even with the crisis concluded, new allies and enemies emerge, guaranteeing that reality will still never be the same! Featuring the dawn of Gene Nation and a turning point for the Legacy Virus!”

This book represents the final chapter for each of the Age of Apocalypse X-Men teams and many of them do not go well or as expected. I think this series also did an interesting job of showing the rest of the Marvel Comics Universe, with cameos by characters such as Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Gwen Stacey, Matt Murdock, Donald Blake, Victor Von Doom, Clint Barton, Ben Grimm, Suzie Storm, and others. Some characters are heroes even without powers, special suits, government backing, and teams and I found this entire series to have a lot of hope in small actions of heroism than I often see in larger super hero franchises these days. For instance, all the “minor” players in this series, those who have no true power and very poor odds against Apocalypse and his followers, sacrifice everything to give the surviving people just a chance.

This was originally from Marvel’s Weapon X 4, but can more recently be found X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 4. Inside credits are listed as: Larry Hama – Script; Adam Kubert – Pencils; Dan Green – Inks; Pat Brosseau – Letters; Joe Rosas – Colors; Digital Chameleon – Seps; Bob Harras – Editor

They live in a hopeless world and yet they continue to fight and give everything they have to those weaker or less privileged than them, which made me start to think that maybe if we all focused more on the small heroisms in our own lives and world, how much of a difference would that have in making things in our world better? Why do the stakes always have to be so high and so clear in order for us to recognize heroes? I’m not talking about the fanatic worship of people in certain occupations in our modern society, but rather, the small acts of everyday kindness and heroism that are often overlooked by the modern media in favor of spending more media on the acts of violence and discontent. How much would our own world be transformed if people believed in hope again? If we all started doing small things to combat the growing strife amongst us?

All of those who chose heroic acts in the Age of Apocalypse did so knowing that what they did may or may not even make a dent in Apocalypse’s world of death, but they had to try anyway. The humans fighting Mikhail knew that they were all likely to die or be turned into genetic fodder but they still implemented a massive Trojan Horse plan to save those they could. They gave up everything just for a chance to make things better, for the humans to survive just a little longer.

Overall, I’d rate this graphic novel as a low three on my rating scale. It’s not my favorite of this series and a lot of characters take actions that I believe are out of character for them. At the same time, though, you see characters acknowledge their own privilege and work to rescue those without. The series ends with the mission completed, but the cost was very high. I’m glad I own this graphic novel and will likely read it again when I next reread this series.

This collection compiled in chronological order from Generation Next 4, X-Calibre 4, X-Man 4 and 53-54, Factor X 4, Gambit and the X-Ternals 4, Amazing X-Men 4, Weapon X 4, X-Universe 2, X-Men: Omega, Blink 4, and X-Men Prime.

The original comic books were published in 1995, 1999, 2001, 2006, and 2010, from Generation Next 4, X-Calibre 4, X-Man 4 and 53-54, Factor X 4, Gambit and the X-Ternals 4, Amazing X-Men 4, Weapon X 4, X-Universe 2, X-Men: Omega, Blink 4, and X-Men Prime. Writers: Fabian Nicieza, Mark Waid, John Francis Moore, Scott Lobdell, Judd Winick, Jeph Loeb, Terry Kavanagh, Larry Hama, Chris Bachalo, Warren Ellis. Pencilers: Chris Bachalo, Bryan Hitch, Jeff Matsuda,Gary Frank, Mike McKone, Ben Herrera, Paul Pelletier, Salvador Larroca, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, Roger Cruz, Trevor McCarthy, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Luke Ross, Ken Lashley, Steve Skroce. Inkers: Mark Buckingham, Al Milgrom, Cam Smith, Robin Riggs, Tim Townsend, Matt Ryan, Karl Kesel, Rod Ramos, Rick Ketchum, Tyson McAdo, Dan Green, P. Craig Russel, Mark Farmer, Scott Hanna, Mark McKenna, Tom Palmer, Hector Collazo, Tom Wegrzyn, Phillip Moy, Bud Larsoa, Harry Candelarioe. Colors: Marie Javins, Glynis Oliver, Kevin Tinsley, Mark Bernardo, Joe Rosas, Steve Buccellato, Kevin Somers, Mike Thomas, & Liquid! Color. Separations: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon, Digital Chameleon. Letters: Chris Eliopolous, Pat Brosseau, Richard Starkings & Comicraft. Cover Art: John Romita Jr. Cover Colors: Tom Smith. Editors: Bob Harras, Kelly Corvese, Pete Franco, Mark Powers, Suzanne Gaffney, Jason Liebig, Lisa Patrick.

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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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