Category Archives: geeky stuff

“We Have to Astonish Them”: Revisiting Astonishing X-Men

The gang over at Fantastic Fangirls declared September to be Revisit Month. With so much new stuff coming out every damn day, I don’t always get a chance to go back and re-read favorite books; however, as luck would have it, I happened upon the Astonishing X-Men Omnibus and couldn’t resist giving Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s epic run another read.

I remember when I first heard that Whedon would be writing X-Men. I was pretty much on board before I finished reading the sentence. Then I found out that Whedon’s team would include Kitty Pryde–neither that fact nor my reaction to that fact should surprise anyone who’s been paying attention. All I had to do was sit back and wait.

Astonishing X-Men came along at a time when I had all but given up on the X-Men. But, as a Whedon fan, I figured I couldn’t go wrong checking out the first issue–even if it meant putting up with Emma Frost (more on that later). I wasn’t disappointed. And, even when I was disappointed, I felt Astonishing X-Men was still better than a lot of other books I was reading. Now that I’ve read the entire run again, I can say that the thing holds up. In fact, it’s possible that I enjoyed it even more the second time.

Since I already sort of knew what was going to happen–mutant cure, Breakworld, Cassandra Nova, S.W.O.R.D.–I was able to focus more on the smaller things. The character moments. Case in point: I hate Emma Frost. A lot. She was the villain in the very first X-Men story I ever read and, no matter how heroic she may or may not be these days, when I look at her I see a villain. However, when Whedon pairs Frost with Kitty Pryde (who, coincidentally, shares my feelings towards Miss Frost)–

–the resulting scenes are pure gold:

(I could easily sit here and do nothing but post images from Astonishing X-Men of Kitty being awesome…but, I won’t. I swear. Moving on…)

Whedon probably could have swept in and done whatever crazy-ass shit he wanted with this book. He’s a name. The book would probably sell solely on that. However, Whedon–a geek at his core–found time to pay homage to the history of these characters, whether it’s the return of the Fastball Special:

or a nod to a classic panel from Uncanny X-Men 132:

Of course, that isn’t to say that  Astonishing X-Men didn’t bring anything new to the table. There was Danger–the physical embodiment of the X-Men’s Danger Room–a storyline which left me somewhat cold during the book’s initial run but was slightly less annoying when it was just a small part of the larger narrative. There was the whole thing about Cyclops losing his powers and essentially becoming Wesley from the later seasons of Angel:

I’m still trying to figure out exactly why this happened. Scott’s lack of control over his incredibly destructive power has always been an important part of who he is as a character, especially when it plays off of the fact that Scott is a huge control enthusiast, so not being in control of his own power must really suck for him. But, I don’t really see that happening this time. Really, the only reason I can think for this to have happened in Astonishing was to have Scott run around with a gun for a while and then to have an awesome four-page-long optic blast:

But, I think the greatest thing that Whedon and Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men brought to the table can be summed up in two words: Abigail Brand. The agent in charge of S.W.O.R.D., another of Marvel’s Amazing Acronym Agencies, Brand’s tasked with keeping Earth safe from alien threats. Also, she apparently has a thing for furry blue guys:

I’m really amazed at how much more I enjoyed Astonishing X-Men the second time. I honestly thought I had experienced maximum enjoyment the first time around…but, I was wrong. Sure, like everyone else, I loved Wolverine’s time as Percy Dovetails (MOOSE!!) and the reunion of Kitty and Colossus choked me up more than a little bit. And, yes, the ending positively killed me. But, something just didn’t click when I was reading it in single issues–a huge chuck of which came out bimonthly. No. I wasn’t truly astonished until I was able to sit down and read the story from the first page to the last in a single (well, okay, double) sitting.

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They Are The Night: Batwoman, Batgirl, and Red Robin Swing Into Action

About two years ago, Grant Morrison did the unthinkable: he killed Bruce Wayne. Okay, okay…he sent him back in time or some weird shit. It doesn’t matter. The end result was the same. With no desire to read about a Batman who was not Bruce Wayne, I packed a suitcase and left Gotham City, vowing not to return until Bruce did. Well, the day has finally arrived, Bruce Wayne is returning to his rightful place in the here and now.

Unfortunately, a lot’s been going on in Gotham City since I left. There’s a new Batgirl. Tim Drake has abandoned the Robin identity and become Red Robin. And, who’s this mysterious new vigilante calling herself Batwoman? If I’m going to start following Bruce Wayne’s adventures again, I’d have to familiarize myself with the new status quo in the Bat-Family. With that in mind, I spent a large chunk of yesterday reading Batwoman: Elegy, as well as the first trades of Batgirl and Red Robin.

Batwoman: Elegy

by Greg Rucka (writer) and J.H. Williams, III (artist)

We first met the modern Batwoman in the pages of 52, however a lot of her backstory wasn’t revealed until she became the featured hero in Detective Comics. Elegy collects the first seven issues of Rucka/Williams run. I have to say, of the three trades I read, this one may be my least favorite. Of course, when something like this is your least favorite thing you read in a day, it’s still a pretty damn good day.

I’m just not a fan of the whole Religion of Crime thing that DC has going on these days. And, since a lot of Batwoman’s time seems to be geared towards fighting this organization, you can understand why I didn’t completely love this trade. I did enjoy the flashbacks that explored Kate Kane’s childhood, time at West Point, and eventual transformation into Batwoman. I think Kate is a great addition to the Bat-Family, the DC Universe, and the general world of comics. I love that her dad–the Colonel–is serving as Kate’s Alfred. I’d also like to think that in her new ongoing series, Batwoman will have a werewolf sidekick.

Batgirl: Batgirl Rising

by Bryan Q. Miller (writer) and Lee Garbett (artist)

That image pretty much says it all. Former Robin and Spoiler Stephanie Brown takes over the mantle of Batgirl in a new ongoing series. While I didn’t hate Cassandra Cain (the previous Batgirl), I positively love Steph. Always have. Steph’s Batgirl is a throwback to the adventures of the first Batgirl, Barbara Gordon–and it’s fitting that Babs appears in this first trade to mentor the newest Bat. Between hiding her double life from her mom and trying to juggle being a college freshman and a costumed crimefighter, Steph’s Batgirl reminds me a lot of Spider-Man, and that’s a good thing. And, as much as I hate that little shit Damian Wayne, I love the antagonistic pseudo-sibling rivalry between Steph and the new Robin.

Red Robin: The Grail

by Chris Yost (writer) and Ramon Bachs (artist)

I love Tim Drake. He was “my Robin.” But, I guess no one can be a Boy Wonder forever. So, when Dick Grayson becomes Batman, he chooses Damian Wayne as the new Robin and tells Tim that Robin is “Batman’s student” and he sees Tim as “his equal.” Convinced that Bruce Wayne is still alive, Tim becomes Red Robin and goes on a globetrotting quest to prove that his former mentor isn’t actually dead. While Tim adjusts to his new identity (“What should I call these things? They look like ammo belts. Utility straps?”), he must decide whether or not to accept a deal with Batman’s greatest enemy–Ra’s al Ghul.

Red Robin: The Grail shows Tim using his strengths–his intellect and keen detection skills–but it also shows him struggling with maturity, as both a person and as a hero. With Bruce returning, I’m not sure what role Red Robin will play in the Bat-Family, but I’m excited to find out.

Let’s Cast…EXCALIBUR

With this X-Men: First Class prequel slowly rolling forward–not to mention another (crappy, I’m going to assume) Wolverine movie–it looks like Hollywood is doing it damnedest to squeeze every last penny out of Marvel’s Merry Mutants. What I can’t figure out is why they don’t try to mine some of the dozen or so other mutant-related comics in Marvel’s catalog–like the New Mutants. Or Excalibur.

Excalibur was a great series about a team of mutants that drew its roster from both the Marvel UK Captain Britain series and the X-Men. For a very long time, Excalibur was my very favorite series…then it was canceled and replaced with numerous sub-par relaunches. For an Excalibur movie, I’d (more or less) use the roster from the later issues.

Kevin McKidd as Captain Britain/Brian Braddock

Between Rome and Journeyman, something tells me that McKidd could handle any kind of weird that a movie like this would throw at him.

Georgia Moffett as Meggan

Moffett’s got the pixie-ish look that I’d want to see in the actress cast as Braddock’s girlfriend and teammate, Meggan–the mutant elf shapeshifting elemental. (Also, the fact that just mentioning Moffett’s name sends the David Tennant fangirls into a suicidal rage fills me with glee.)

Natalia Tena as Psylocke/Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock

Although usually a member of the X-Men, I’d want to have Brian’s sister on this team…mostly because I think Natalia Tena is made of awesome.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner

I like JGL. If he can pull off a passable German accent, I think he’s got the right body type and facial features to play Nightcrawler. Also, he kind of owes me for G.I. Joe.

Mekenna Melvin as Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde

Kitty matured a lot during her time with Excalibur. As Casey’s daughter on Chuck, Melvin gave the impression that–despite her age and inexperience–she could, very easily, become a part of Team Bartowski.

Alexander Nevsky as Colossus/Piotr Rasputin

Nevsky is a huge Russian dude, I think that’s enough. (He was also in a movie called Moscow Heat…which just really tickles me.)

Lindy Booth as Marvel Girl/Rachel (Summers) Grey

Rachel was there from Day One. Booth’s got sass. Rachel’s got sass. I like sass.

Dylan Moran as Pete Wisdom

Go watch Black Books…I’ll wait…

Karen Gillan as Wolfsbane/Rahne Sinclair

Scottish? Check. Redhead? Check.

Jesse Eisenberg as Douglock

Okay…Douglock is (essentially) some strange amalgam of Warlock and Doug Ramsey (aka Cypher). Now, while I had originally cast Chris Colfer as Cypher in my New Mutants movie, I decided to go with someone different to be the fake Doug.

Gina Bellman as Dr. Moira MacTaggert

Moira had a long history with the X-Men–as friend, associate, and lover of Charles Xavier–before Excalibur started using her mutant research center on Muir Island as a base of operations. Why Bellman? Why not?

To Me, My X-Men!

Do you know what the world needs? An all-ages, continuity-free X-Men title. A title where characters don’t die horribly (over and over again), where they don’t carry on lurid telepathic affairs, and where they don’t form blood-thirsty, baby-killing death squads.

To be honest, I’m kind of shocked Marvel doesn’t already have an X-Men title in their Marvel Adventures line. Good thing I’m around.

Time to fire up Cerebro and find us some mutants…

Cyclops (Scott Summers)

I know a lot of people don’t like Cyke because he’s all about rules and strategy and that’s just not “sexy.” But, y’know, every team needs this guy. Where would the Ninja Turtles be without Leonardo?

Marvel Girl (Jean Grey)

Can’t have Scott without Jean. Besides, I like Jean. Not a fan of the whole Phoenix identity…but I’m not sure that “Marvel Girl” is an appropriate name for Ms. Grey, either.

Beast (Hank McCoy)

No cats. Ever.

Wolverine (Logan)

I’d keep Wolverine the cranky, fly-in-the-ointment character he was meant to be. The title is X-Men…not Wolverine and Some Other Folks.

Storm (Ororo Munroe)

Despite the laughably horrible performance by Halle Berry, I do like Storm and always save a spot for her on any incarnation of the X-Men.

Rogue

I’ve always liked Rogue. It could be the accent. Personally, I like the original recipe Rogue, before she went and permanently absorbed Ms. Marvel’s powers.

Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde)

Shut up!

Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner)

I refuse to live in a world where Kurt is dead. This way,  I wouldn’t have to.

Colossus (Piotr Rasputin)

I think Pete, here, has the same kind of “he’s not a bad boy so he ain’t cool” stigma that Scott has. Too bad being (or, at least, trying to be) a good person doesn’t get the same kind of respect that being a douche gets.

Iceman (Bobby Drake) and Angel (Warren Worthington, III)

This roster is kind of out of control…and, even though I like Bobby and Warren, I’m not sure they need to be on the team.  Of course, with 3/5 of the original team here, I’d feel bad leaving them out.

Professor Charles Xavier

And, behind it all, I’d have Professor Charles “Hope You Don’t Mind if I Live Vicariously Through My Teenage Students’ Hooking Up With Each Other” Xavier. 

Browncoats Assemble!

A few days ago–April 1, to be precise–I saw a story about Joss Whedon’s name being thrown around as a possible director for Marvel’s upcoming Avengers movie. Given the date, I refused to believe it. Until this morning, when I saw this story.

I like Joss Whedon. I like Buffy. I like Firefly and Astonishing X-Men and Dr. Horrible. I know there’s a lot of Joss-hating going on these days, but I still like the guy. So, I’m going to remain excited that maybe…just maybe…Joss will get a shot at directing Avengers

How the Hell Do I Get Myself Into These Things?

No, this isn’t exactly earth-shattering news, I get that. But, I’ve somehow* managed to find myself re-watching four–Count ’em. Four!–shows on DVD.

We’ve got two of my all-time favorite sci-fi shows (I’d be willing to say all-time favorite shows, period) Farscape and Babylon 5. Look! Spoilery videos!

Then, we have Veronica Mars…a show that not only has one of the best TV dads ever (it’s true…even Joss Whedon says so), but also introduced me to my future wife:

And, finally, we have the underrated sci-fi/action/comedy The Invisible Man:

*: Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s all Ashley’s fault. Even if it isn’t, I’m just gonna blame her anyway.

Assemble This, Part Two: The Major Motion Picture

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about who I’d want on the Avengers. Since then, Marvel has announced the actual rosters for two of the fifteen* new Avengers titles that are coming our way later this year. Personally, I think I’d still rather see my lineup. But, since that doesn’t seem likely to happen, the least I can do is make a movie in my brain with these characters. (We’re going to have to ignore a very old post wherein I already cast an Avengers movie. Hey, times change, deal with it.)

Ryan McPartlin as Captain America/Steve Rogers

Yeah…I’m still pulling for Chuck‘s Captain Awesome to play Captain America.

Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Sean Bean as Thor

Yeah…I know they’re making a Thor movie and they’ve already cast some guy–an actor? a football player? an underwear model? I dunno… The point is, Bean should play the Norse god of thunder.

Jensen Ackles as Hawkeye/Clint Barton

Admit it: Dean Winchester is pretty much just Hawkeye with a shotgun.

Anna Torv as Mockingbird/Bobbi Morse

TORV!

Tricia Helfer as Ms. Marvel/Carol Danvers

Personally, I never really dug Helfer on BSG. But, as the nefarious Carla on Burn Notice? Now we’re talking. I’d like to see what she can do with Ms. Marvel.

Bridget Regan as Spider-Woman/Jessica Drew

Yeah…I dunno…just because.

Alexandra Daddario as Stature/Cassie Lang

I know, I know…she’s a brunette and Cassie is a blonde. Well, calm down, there’s this new shit called hair dye that can change the color of a person’s hair. Why her? Well, someone obviously thought she was plucky enough to play Annabeth in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, so I imagine she’s plucky enough to play Stature.

Anton Yelchin as Vision/Jonas

I like this kid. I thought he was great as Chekov in Star Trek and part of me feels he could really nail this younger version of Vision.

Katharine Isabelle as Firestar/Angelica Jones

I can’t figure out if Katharine Isabelle is irrationally despised or just criminally underrated. I’m not saying she hasn’t been in some questionable productions…but, she’s also been in some pretty good shit, too.

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*: Or four. Are there four? I think there are four.