The Road to Infinity War

With the biggest comic movie event in History just two weeks away. I thought it would be good to give a rundown of the road to Infinity and where we find each of our heroes as this event begins to take shape. Black Panther was the final piece of the puzzle prior to release of Infinity War and helped to bring the major battleground of Infinity War into the spotlight. From most of the trailers we can see that a large battle takes place on Wakandan soil. Several of the Secret Avengers and the regular Avengers fight together backed by the Wakandan army against Thanos and his Outrider army. I have already provided a run down of the Infinity Stone locations which can be found here:

https://comicfan9812.wordpress.com/2017/10/05/infinity-stone-rundown-locations-and-powers/

With the stone locations and powers out of the way, let’s dive into the actual characters…

*WARNING! This post will contain spoilers for Black Panther and all other MCU movies*

CAPTAIN AMERICA/NOMAD

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The biggest change for a character from the OG lineup is that Cap, has dropped the Star Spangled hero name. At the conclusion of Civil War he chose to side with Bucky and the truth over Tony and his quest for revenge. As he limped off after incapacitating Tony, he dropped his shield. This was a huge moment for Cap, as through his entire arc with his own trilogy and the Avengers films, he has become more and more disenfranchised with the way the governments of the world are handling things. He finally sheds that last bit of identity that has anchored him to his legacy for the last 80 years and is now embracing his own path. At least at the beginning of the film he has taken the identity of Nomad, which is a nod to several comics where Cap lost faith in the government he swore to defend. I’m betting that by the end of the film he will once again be the Captain America the world looks up to. Also at the conclusion of Civil War we also saw Cap/Nomad/Steve Rogers, breaking his team out of the Raft prison to then become the Secret Avengers. I am really hoping they incorporate Cap’s final stand from the Infinity War comic against Thanos, I just think it will have such a huge impact on the rest of the Avengers fighting and spur them on.

IRON MAN

Tony is in a difficult place. At the end of Civil War, we saw him trying to help a now paralyzed Rhodey to walk again while heading a broken team of Avengers. After his rampage in the Siberian bunker, he was defeated by Captain America, who up until that moment had been one of his closest friends. The betrayal he felt when Cap sided with the man who had murdered his parents overwhelmed his reasoning, and in turn, he lost his greatest ally. While Captain America still has faith that he and Tony can work together in the future (as evidenced by the burner phone he sent Tony), he knows that until something happens that requires them all together, their relationship will never be the same. In Spider-Man: Homecoming we find out that he and Pepper are actually back together after being on a break during Civil War, not only are they together, they’re engaged! In the trailers we see that Tony has perfected his bleeding Edge armour and has lost an arm? or a hand at least. I think that while Tony tries to bring the team back together he knows that the only one who can do that is Cap, and he is okay with that (deep down). I’m also guessing that if it doesn’t happen in this film it will definitely happen in the next, Rhodey is going to get killed by Thanos, a la Civil War II.

SPIDER-MAN

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Spider-Man is one of the newest additions to the team dynamic, much like Doctor Strange. Peter partook in the events of Civil War as the “secret weapon” of the pro-registration forces. While he did fight for the registration forces he did not officially sign the Accords. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, he nearly joined the Avengers as a full time member before declining at the last minute. This was also when we saw the Iron Spider suit for the first time. In the trailer Peter appears to be on a field trip or some sort of excursion with his school when Thanos’ scout ship appears in New York. We don’t know how exactly but we do know that he will be given the Iron Spider Suit at some point in the film and that he will have some memorable dialogue with Dr. Strange.  At his core, Peter just wants to impress. Knowing that he is the youngest human member of the Avengers by at least a decade, he desperately wants to prove that he can roll with the big league and will do whatever he can to make that happen.

BLACK PANTHER

T’Challa was the most recent hero to be given his own film on the road to the Infinity War. At the end of the movie we see T’Challa finally bringing the nation of Wakanda with all their technology into the international spotlight. At the end of Civil War, he realized that his quest for vengeance had led him down the dark path that was now consuming Tony, and he refused to be a party to it any longer. Following the final battle, he took Cap and Bucky into Wakanda; with the latter agreeing to be put on ice, until Wakandan science could figure out a way to scrub all the Hydra influence from Bucky’s brain. He fought his cousin, a usurper during his solo movie, and after a brief time of near death he reclaimed his throne.  T’Challa has been a conflicted character from his first introduction and continues to be so. While he is resolute in his decisions, he is unsure of the type of king he should be. In the post credit scene for Black Panther, we see a newly awakened Bucky being called “White Wolf” by Shuri before being led off screen. With his nation being one of the battlegrounds in the upcoming Infinity War, T’Challa is going to have to make some hard choice between doing what is best for his people and what is best for the world as a whole.

BLACK WIDOW

Natasha has constantly been a side player in the MCU, which is a crime. As one of the best fighters in the MCU having trained with the likes of Wolverine and the Winter Soldier, she is criminally underused. That being said, she brings her A game every time she is on screen and Infinity War will be no different. At the end of Civil War she went into hiding with Tony offering her a chance to run because of what she did at the airport (stopped Black Panther from stopping Bucky and Cap). It’s not very clear what she has been doing during her seclusion but we do know that she dyed her hair blonde. She is seen in the battle for Wakanda making it seem that she and Cap have kept in contact with each other since they both went underground. Having fought for both the Soviets and SHIELD Widow is conflicted between her duty to the government she questions and what she knows is right. Originally having sided with Iron Man and the pro-registration faction in Civil War, she was very much the voice of reason concerning some of their tactics. Whether she will continue to be this voice of reason or resort to the brutality she was trained for, is something only Infinity War can show.

SCARLET WITCH

Scarlet Witch

Wanda Maximoff quickly went from being the villain in Age of Ultron to reluctant hero, to full on badass in the span of a few scenes. When Hawkeye delivers his speech of choosing who she is, she takes it to heart and emerges as the hero the people of Sokovia needed. During Civil War she originally sided with the registration forces until it was revealed they were keeping her locked at the compound as a safety precaution. Hawkeye breaks her out and gets her to tap into her real power and take Vision down a peg. She fought with Captain America at the airport battle but was captured in order to allow Cap and Bucky time to escape. The last time we saw her she was being broken out of the Raft by Steve Rogers at the end of Civil War. Wanda is unsure of herself and the powers she possesses. She knows that she could become a destructive force if she wanted to, but has taken steps to stay on the side of good to honour her brother and the hero she knows she can be. It’s revealed through the trailers that she is having a relationship with Vision, though with the mind stone firmly ensconced in his forehead; one has to ask, how she will handle his eventual death.

DR. STRANGE

Dr. Stephen Strange is the only person on earth who knows what the infinity stones are, and is in possession of one. When he finished his solo adventure he had used the Eye of Agamotto to trap Dormammu in and endless time loop until he agreed to end his assault on earth. Since then, Dr. Strange has been named the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth and has even helped Thor on his quest to find Odin at the beginning of Thor: Ragnarok. In the trailer it shows what can be assumed as the first battle in New York outside of the Sanctum Sanctorum, and Banner crash landing in the Sanctum. Strange is going to team up with a bunch of heroes he’s never seen before, to battle and enemy he doesn’t know, to save a world that doesn’t know magic exists… while using magic. While he is familiar with extra dimensional beings that could pose a threat to earth (as he stated in Thor: Ragnarok) Even he isn’t ready for this. Strange is an arrogant perfectionist, nobody can dispute that. While he was a surgeon he didn’t trust anyone else to do anything right, but now that he must rely on other forces to do his work, he has become more accepting of other people. This is movie going to test his resolve, he is used to using magic to fight magical beings, but even all his training and mystic arts are not going to prepare him for an unending alien horde led by a fanatical madman.

THOR

Thor is now King of Asgard. His father is dead, his mother is dead… his hammer destroyed. His home is dead, and he is missing his eye; but, he has his people and a few strong allies with him to help bring Asgard back from extinction. He battled Hela in Ragnarok and  would’ve lost everything if it wasn’t for the quick action by himself and Loki. He is now leading the entire population of Asgard through the cosmos on a ship stolen from Sakaar, with no destination in mind. In the first post-credit scene from Ragnarok, their little ship is seen being confronted by Thanos’ warship, the Sanctuary. In the trailers were are shown bits and pieces of Loki stepping over dozens of dead bodies and handing the Tesseract (which he stole from the Asgardian vault before the end of Ragnarok) to presumably Thanos. We are also then shown a clip of him with the other “children” of Thanos (his generals) as he watches on while Thanos presumably tortures Thor. Thor is then picked up by the Guardians of the Galaxy before he leaves on a quest to forge his new hammer, Stormbreaker. With his people either dead or captured, the new king of Asgard is going to do everything in his power to bring down the tyrant who attacked them.

HULK

Hulk is with Thor and will presumably be beaten and cast out of the ship to crash to the earth in the Sanctum Sanctorm. He has been battling on Sakaar for several months and then helped Thor to bring down his evil sister Hela and her giant wolf Fenris. During Ragnarok, Banner was concerned that if he changed back into Hulk that he could never change back to Banner. The trailer shows a bewildered Banner at the bottom of a Hulk sized hole in the Sanctum Sanctorum, so that would appear to be a false assumption on Banner’s part. We aren’t shown much of the Hulk in either trailer except for the epic charge of the heroes in Wakanda being led by Nomad with Hulk close behind. While Banner may be the analytical mind in reconstructing the Hulk buster armour and reconciling with Widow, Hulk is out for revenge. He got beat by someone stronger than him and that makes him angry.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

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The Guardians of the Galaxy are fresh off their second foray into galaxy wide heroics. They’ve done the schtick twice and are looking for something else. At the culmination of GotG vol. 2, Star Lord killed his father, Yondu died, Groot is growing into adolescence, and Rocket has realized that he can’t push his friends away. Gamora and Nebula have somewhat reconciled, while Drax is still burning for a confrontation with Thanos to avenge his wife and daughter. The Guardians stumble onto the wreckage of the Asgardian transport ship in the trailer and literally crash into a floating Thor. They have Mantis revive him and presumably assist him in defending the Earth and forging Stormbreaker. The trailer shows us that Rocket and Groot assist Thor to forge the new hammer while the rest of them head to earth to help the Avengers. The stakes have never been higher in this film. The Guardians are going to learn very soon that Thanos is not one to be underestimated, but they’ve gone up against literal Gods and come out okay, so they should be fine, right?

WAR MACHINE

Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, is the one person who has remained a friend of Tony since he was first introduced way back in 2008 during the first Iron Man film. He has gone from consultant/PR manager, to hero, to symbol of Freedom, to member of the pro-registration forces to a paraplegic. At the end of Civil War, he was hit by a blast of friendly fire from Vision. This knocked out his armour and cause him to plummet several thousand feet to the ground below. Vision had become distracted by Scarlet Witch and while Tony and Sam tried to save him, they were unable to stop Rhodey’s fall. Col. James Rhodes lost the use of his legs. At the end of the film we are shown Tony having constructed some miniaturized exo-skeletal legs to assist Rhodey in walking. Tony asks Rhodey if he regrets it, to which Rhodey replies he doesn’t. Despite the fact that he may never walk unassisted ever again, Rhodes believes that what they were doing was right and he is okay with the consequences.  In the trailer we see him walking behind a group of heroes as they arrive in Wakanda so clearly, Tony has MacGyvered something together to allow him to walk normally and fight in his armour. Rhodey belives that the things the Avengers do, needs to be done. He doesn’t always agree with how they do it, but that’s why he signed the Accords to be kept in check.

VISION

Vision is one of the most complex and frankly OP members of the Avengers. Not only that, but he is the youngest by about a decade. That being said, at the conclusion of Civil War we saw his romance with Scarlet Witch beginning to blossom to the point that they will both act on it in the upcoming film. In the trailer we are shown a non Scarlet and green Paul Bettany leaning us to believe that Wanda has begun to master her powers. We are also shown a shot of Vision screaming on the ground while Corvus Glaive stabs into his forehead in an attempt to remove the Mind stone ensconced there. Curiously, we are also not shown any footage of Vision in the final battle or the charge scene with the other heroes. This leads me to believe that Vision may be the first casualty the Avengers suffer in Infinity War. Vision was one of the driving forces behind the accords with his famous line “…our very existence incites challenge”. Now with the other heroes on the run and his feelings for Wanda finally being reciprocated, he may not want to risk everything he has in a fight they might not be able to win.

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WINTER SOLDIER/BUCKY BARNES

Bucky is a curious case for the Avengers. He was never a member but his status as one of the original Howling Commandos can’t be ignored. Steve will vouch for his lifelong friend until the day he dies and this can cause issues for other members of the team… Exhibit A… Civil War! Bucky wants to forget the things he’s done and focus on his new life and build a new reputation for himself. The only issue is, his old life doesn’t seem to want to stay buried. At the end of Civil War, he voluntarily enters into cryo sleep again, in order to give the Wakandan scientists time to try and scrub all traces of Hydra indoctrination from his brain. As previously stated, the last time we saw him was in the post-credit scene from Black Panther where Shuri has awoken him. It’s not clear if this happens prior to the commencement of Infinity War or during the opening moments of the film. He is shown to be minus an arm which he will obviously get back and he has a new code name ” White Wolf”.

FALCON

Sam Wilson has been a stalwart compatriot to Captain America ever since his introduction in the MCU during Captain America: Winter Soldier. He was absent from Age of Ultron due to him running down leads on the location of Bucky for Steve, which finally pays off at the start of Civil War. He sides with Cap during the conflict and is one of the heroes that allows himself to be captured to give Bucky and Cap time to escape. Last we see of him he along with the other “fugitive heroes” are being liberated from the Raft by Steve Rogers. Sam is a soldier. He is more comfortable on the battlefield than he is in his own home, he says as much in Winter Soldier. While he has acclimated to civilian life he still longs for the thrill of the fight. He will follow Cap to the ends of the earth because he likes having someone to look to in times of trouble, and who better than Captain America? Sam can be seen in the trailers during the fight in Wakanda so we know that he will make several appearances in the film. With Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan only halfway through their Marvel contracts, the main question is who will don the red, white and blue when Steve Rogers bites the dust?

ANT-MAN

Scott Lang is probably the most outrageous member of the anti-registration forces. At the end of his solo film he was given everything he wanted, access to his daughter, but he threw that all away because Hawkeye told him to? The argument could be made that Cap asked him and as put by Lang himself ” When Captain America calls, you answer”. Ant-Man’s probably biggest contribution (see what I did there?) was when he surprised everyone by going big and becoming Giant-Man. This only lasted briefly but it served as a big enough distraction (I did it again!) to give Cap and Bucky the time to escape. He was last seen being broken out of the Raft to begin his life as a fugitive once again. We know that Ant-Man and the Wasp is due out this summer after Infinity War makes its run through the theatres, but we aren’t exactly sure how big (heh) of a role he will play in the conflict. Ant-Man is concerned with being able to see his daughter, after spending so much time away from her. He wants nothing more than to resume his old life, but with receiving the Ant-Man suit and being called to help Cap, one has to wonder if he will ever get to it.

 

There you have it, those are all the major players in Infinity War and what drives them. I am super excited for the film and have already pre-ordered my VIP tickets for opening day. If you have any input on the upcoming film please feel free to drop a comment. See you next week!

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SPARTAN IIs – The Heroes Humanity Needed

This month for my Halo themed post, I will be breaking down the SPARTAN-II program which is the backbone of the Halo universe.  For anyone that’s a fan of the series, Halo is centered around John-117 “the Master Chief”. John was believed to have been the sole surviving member of the SPARTAN-II program, until the novel Halo: First Strike and the newest game Halo 5 : Guardians when the rest of Blue team was brought back. As I stated in my last Halo post concerning Project ORION, Dr. Catherine Halsey was the brilliant and frankly insane mind behind the SPARTAN-IIs and their success in turning the tide of the Human-Covenant War.

CONCEPTION

As I stated before in the Project: ORION post, Dr. Catherine Halsey was the driving force behind the development of the SPARTAN-II program. After the shuttering of the SPARTAN-Is (Project:ORION), Halsey met with ONI and Section III Special Projects Division, to discuss a new program to pick up where ORION left off. Halsey surmised that children would be better suited as candidates due to their relatively malleable minds and impressionable nature. The candidates were all 6 years of age, having been previously screened using an outer colony vaccination program. In 2511, the SPARTAN-II program was officially green lit, and the candidates were retrieved. The candidates were abducted in the dead of night by ONI operatives and replaced with flash clones. The clones were grown from the DNA retrieved during the vaccination program and placed with their families so that nobody would know about the missing children and in turn, the project. Due to the complication of growing a full human in the span of months, the clones suffered from degenerative defects that caused them all to die out within a year.

The candidates were sedated and whisked away across the galaxy to Reach (the main human military training world) where they would be trained under Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Mendez and Dr. Halsey with the assistance of various UNSC divisions and the AI, Déjà.

TRAINING

As the candidates arrived at Reach they were brought out of cryo-sleep and rushed into the main meeting hall where Dr. Halsey was waiting. She informed the children that in accordance with Naval Code 45812 they were hereby conscripted into the UNSC to help defend Earth and her colonies. She also told them they would no longer be allowed to return to their parents and that they would endure many hardships in the coming years; the children were then taken to the barracks for a meal, then sent to bed.

On September 24, 2517, the recruits were awoken by CPO Mendez and his training staff at 0530 hours. The recruits were instructed to go to the showers and prepare for the day, those that refused were hit with a stun baton. When they finished their morning ablutions, they were escorted outside where CPO Mendez ran them through a vigorous exercise routine consisting of 100 reps of jumping jacks, squats, sit ups, deep knee bends, and leg lifts. They were then run a mile to the Reach Naval Academy, where Déjà was waiting for them to instruct them in Mathematics, Science, and History. The first history lesson they were taught was the battle of Thermopylae between the Spartans and the Persian Empire. After their lessons they were run two more miles to the “playground” (a suspended obstacle course with a bell at the top). The recruits were divided into teams of three and told that their objective was to ring the bell, the last team to do so would go without supper. John (Master Chief SPARTAN 117) was teamed with Kelly (SPARTAN 087) and Samuel (SPARTAN 034) for the course. While John was first to reach the bell the rest of his team were last and thus they all went without supper.

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On September 25, 2517, the recruits were awoken and did their morning calisthenics routine before jogging to the classroom for another lesson from Déjà. The lesson Déjà taught them that day was based on hunting in packs; specifically, they were shown how wolves hunted a moose by corralling the animal until they could overwhelm it. Following their lesson they were run to the playground which had been modified to be more difficult. John and his team worked together and while they weren’t the first to ring the bell they were not last, John, Sam and Kelly became fast friends after that.

For the next two years Mendez taught them various military lessons ranging from weapons control and marksmanship, to setting and disarming traps, basic field medical procedures and  squad tactics. CPO Mendez always incorporated various obstacles into his lessons (snipers with paint guns, stun grenades, stun batons, etc) forcing the recruits to constantly be on guard and ready for anything. On June 12, 2519, the recruits were dropped individually in the Reach wilderness and each given a piece of a map that would be used to get to the dropship that would take themback to the base. The last recruit to get to the dropship, would be left behind to walk home. John took on a leadership role and coordinated all the recruits to commandeer the dropship from the marines guarding it and pilot it back to base themselves. Following the task, John was brought before CPO Mendez and Dr. Halsey. John thought he was getting kicked out of the program, to his surprise, he was given the rank of Team leader for his planning, reaction to the training operation, and obvious leadership skills.

On July 14, 2523, the SPARTAN recruits were paired against Tango Company (the best marines on Reach) for future training scenario war games. Despite only being 12 years old, the Spartans continuously won against Tango Company. With the men of Tango company growing increasingly brutal with their treatment of the recruits. After a brutal defeat by the SPARTANS, the CO of Tango Company, ordered his men to use live rounds instead of stun rounds. The SPARTANS were still victorious.

Spartans 3

In 2525 at the onset of puberty for the SPARTAN recruits, they underwent the augmentation procedures. These procedures were very dangerous and resulted in 30 of the 75 SPARTAN candidates being killed on the operating table, with a further 12 being considered “washed out” after being physically deformed from the procedures or paralyzed. The augmentations performed are as follows:

  • Carbide Ceramic Ossification – Advanced material grafted to skeleton to make it virtually unbreakable
  • Muscular Enhancement Injections – Protein complex injected intramuscularly to increase tissue density and decrease lactase recovery time
  • Catalytic Thyroid Implant – Platinum coated pellet containing Human Growth Hormone implanted into the Thyroid gland to boost growth of skeletal and muscle tissues
  • Occipital Capillary Reversal – Submergence and boosted blood vessel flow beneath the rods and cones of the subject’s retina to produce marked visual perception increase
  • Superconducting Fibrification of Neural Dendrites – Alteration of bioeletrical nerve transduction to shielded electronic transduction. Providing a 300% increase in subject reflexes with a marked side increase in intelligence, memory, and creativity

In September of 2525, following the successful augmentation, the SPARTANS were forced to relocated to an abandoned mine on Reach to enhance the secrecy of the program and reduce risk to other training personnel. The training personnel were forced to don Mark I power armour to keep up with the augmented SPARTANS. Victory for the SPARTANS was inevitable with the security cameras used to watch the training exercises even being neutralized.

MJOLNIR POWER ARMOUR

The MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armour System was developed in conjunction with the SPARTAN-II recruits themselves. The program went though various iterations before finally being able to function in the way envisioned by Dr. Halsey. When the SPARTAN-II program first began, the Special Projects group had already been working on a powered exoskeleton for roughly 11 years, with some success. The Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III exo-suits were able to function but due to their immense power requirements needed to be tethered to a power source, severely limiting their range. When Halsey joined the project, they abandoned the exo-skeleton research to focus on the MJOLNIR armour.

MJOLNIR

The first iteration of the assault armour was dubbed the Mark IV in accordance with the previous exo-suit designs. This was the first mass produced armour to be given to the SPARTAN-IIs. This is the armour that the SPARTANS wore while assaulting the frigate that resulted in Samuel 034’s death.

The Mark V armour included the upgraded reverse engineered energy shield from the captured jackal tech; as well as, the ability to incorporate an AI into the armour system. This is the armour worn during Halo:Combat Evolved.  A special modified version of this armour dubbed the Mark IV Black, was developed in secret and deployed with SPARTAN Team Black in 2552.

The Mark VI incorporated a faster shield recharge time to help reduce the amount of time a SPARTAN was forced to remain in cover. It also included improved synchronization between suit and the SPARTAN allowing for faster movement harder hitting and higher jumps. This is the armour given to the Master Chief at the beginning of the Halo 2 game campaign.

The Mark VII was never widely produced due to the incredible cost associated with its production. It bolstered a lighter weight making the SPARTAN faster, limited energy shield shaping, and a nano technology repair suite.

HUMAN COVENANT WAR

Immediately following the SPARTANS being outfitted with their MJOLNIR armour, they were engaged by a Covenant frigate. The frigate and the UNSC Commonwealth, engaged in a ship to ship battle with the Spartans deploying via dropship mid fight to disable or destroy the frigateWhile exploring the ship, John 117, Samuel 034, and Kelly 087, came into contact with covenant forces. During the firefight a Kig-Yar (Jackal as referred to by the UNSC) had flanked the SPARTANS and loosed a charged a plasma pistol shot aimed at John. Samuel jumped in front of John taking the hit from the plasma pistol directly into his armour, burning through the layers and losing his vacuum seal. As the squad moved through the frigate they eventually found the engine room. John, Sam, and Kelly planted several ANVIL-II ASMs (Air to Surface Missile) around the fusion reactor to blow the ship. Due to his compromised armour, Sam volunteered to stay behind and hold off the Covenant forces to give John and Kelly time to escape via an EVA maneuver. Sam held off waves of Covenant troops until John gave him the all clear signal, at which point Sam, badly injured, detonated the missiles blowing the frigate. During this mission John and Kelly captured a functioning Jackal shield modulator which they took back to Halsey to incorporate into the armour systems of the SPARTANS.

Due to the morale effect the SPARTANS and their feats had on the entire human population, SPARTANS were not allowed to be listed as KIA (Killed in Action), they were to be marked as MIA (Missing in Action) or WIA (Wounded in Action). Sam was the first SPARTAN to be killed and listed as MIA during the Human Covenant War.

Due to the young age at which they were taken, the SPARTAN-IIs became each other’s surrogate family. The death of Samuel was mourned by all the SPARTANS and was remembered years after his death by Kurt (SPARTAN 051) who made a similar sacrifice during Onyx event.

*Kurt 051 was secretly recruited to train a new generation of SPARTANS dubbed SPARTAN-IIIs. This new generation relied more heavily on teamwork and an active camouflage module incorporated into their armour instead of shields. They were largely utilized for suicide missions on Covenant strong points. This new generation were trained on the planet Onyx.*

Spartans 1

Following the death of Samuel, Frederick (SPARTAN 104) was transferred to Blue Team, along with Linda (SPARTAN 058), to form the most well known version of the team. Throughout the beginning of the war, the SPARTANS were deployed against the Covenant and met with large success in ground combat. While the UNSC tactics and training surpassed the Covenant in ground conflicts, most of the engagements were lost in ship battles, in which the Covenant technology was vastly superior. On August 27, 2552, all active SPARTAN-IIs with the exception of Grey Team, were recalled to Reach for Operation: RED FLAG. Operation: RED FLAG was a multi-phase plan which entailed the capture of a Covenant carrier, the discovery of the Covenant home world “High Charity”, and the piloting of the carrier to the home world to extract a Prophet Hierarch to be used for negotiations to force a cease fire. Before the UNSC could enact this plan, the Covenant found Reach and began their assault.

THE FALL OF REACH

The Fall of Reach saw almost all of the active SPARTAN-IIs recalled to the planet in defense of the military stronghold. Red Team was deployed to the surface and believed to have died when it was thought the Covenant had “glassed the planet” (plasma bombardment from space to destroy the landscape). Linda 058, was killed when she along with several SPARTAN-IIs and the Master Chief were defending an orbital defense platform. She was later resuscitated following the battle of Installation 04.

The rest of the SPARTAN-IIs that were not tasked with defending the orbital platform, were tasked with defending various crucial points on the surface. Frederick 104, commanded the SPARTAN-IIs in their defense of Orbital Defense Generator Facility A-331. While en route to the station, Bravo 001 was shot down, killing four SPARTAN-IIs and wounding several others.  Upon their arrival at the facility, they discovered the shell shocked remains of Charlie Company, the marines assigned to its defense.  Frederick split the remaining SPARTAN-IIs into 4 teams with objectives for each.

Team Alpha (Frederick, Kelly and Joshua) was tasked with eliminating an encampment of 10,000 Covenant soldiers and their hovering cruiser.

Team Beta (11 unnamed SPARTAN-IIs) was tasked with defense of the Orbital Defense Generators.

Team Gamma (Li, Anton and Grace) was tasked with the retrieval of Admiral Whitcomb.

Team Delta (composed of the injured SPARTAN-IIs along with William, Isaac, Vinh and the remains of Charlie company) were tasked with securing their fallback point at CASTLE Base.

While Alpha team was successful in destroying the cruiser, they lost Joshua (SPARTAN 029) from concentrated fire from the 10,000 Covenant ground forces. Team Beta was presumably killed when under the threat of the Covenant overrunning their position, the UNSC Majestic fired 6 MAC (Magnetic Acceleration Canon) rounds into the base and the surrounding area; all 11 SPARTAN-IIs are presumed KIA. Team Gamma was successful but did not make it to CASTLE base and was forced to take shelter at Camp Independence. Team Delta was successful but lost all members except for Vinh, Isaac and William.

With the Orbital power facility destroyed the Covenant ships overwhelmed the defense platforms and began glassing Reach.

*Originally it was thought the Covenant had glassed the whole planet and any survivors fighting on its surface. It is later revealed the Covenant merely glassed the poles leaving the majority of the planet and all surviving SPARTAN-IIs intact.*

POST FALL OF REACH

While many ships retreated to Earth, one cruiser, The Pillar of Autumn, broke through the Covenant lines and made a blind jump through slip space. This is where the entire franchise kicked off with the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved.  Following the events of the game, John 117, and several other human survivors would go on to meet up with the other survivors of Reach in First Strike. During this novel the Master Chief would team with other surviving UNSC personnel to attack a Covenant Fleet Anchorage to stall their attack on Earth.

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Eventually societal rifts in the Covenant along with the death of two of their Hierarchs, and revelation of what the Halo rings actually are, resulted in a civil war among the races of the Covenant. This civil war ended with the Elites siding with humanity against the other races. John 117, along with the Arbiter, Thel ‘Vadam, helped to put an end to the Human-Covenant war and bring an uneasy peace to the galaxy. After the fall of the Covenant and the peace brought on between the Sangheili (Elites) and humanity, several Covenant members refused to believe the Arbiter and created splinter factions, most notably the faction led by Jul ‘Mdama which took the title, the New Covenant.

At the culmination of Halo 3, after the battle of Installation 00, the Master Chief is believed to have been lost along with the remains of the Forward Unto Dawn.

Upon his return to Earth, following the Events of Halo 2, 3 &4, the Master Chief (John 117) is finally reunited with the SPARTAN-IIs he believed to have been killed in the Fall of Reach.

The lore and history behind the Human-Covenant war is quite extensive and deserves a post highlighting the various victories and defeats on both sides.  This is just a streamlined version of the involvement of the SPARTAN-II program. Many of the members of this program would become heroes to humanity and eventually the Sangheili. John 117 (forever known by his title as Master Chief) is fondly remembered by both humanity and the Elites that he fought beside near the end of the war.

That concludes the brief history of the SPARTAN-II program along with its various victories and defeats. I know I personally love the franchise and with so many games, comics, shows, and novels… it’s only going to continue to grow!

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“Our duty, as soldiers, is to protect humanity. Whatever the cost.”

“You say that like soldiers and humanity are two different things. Soldiers aren’t machines. We’re just people.”

“She asked me that once, about which one of us was the machine…”

Most Underrated Heroes Vol. 8 – Martian Manhunter

This month, for the inclusion of underrated hero I decided to include the Manhunter himself, J’onn J’onzz of Mars. Martian Manhunter was originally created as a DC analogue to Superman that could be substituted if the Man of Steel was being used too much. That being said, over the years he has grown into hero status in his own right and became known as “the heart and soul of the Justice League”. Manhunter has grown to be one of my more favourite classic superheroes. I say classic because most of my favourites are anti-heroes or heroes so close to anti-hero status, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. Martian Manhunter had a brief stint in the DC drama Smallville where he was portrayed by Phil Morris as well as his current stint on Supergirl where he is portrayed by David Harewood.

Martian Manhunter was first introduced in Detective Comics #225 from November 1955, he was created by Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa.

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HISTORY

Martian Manhunter was born to two green skinned Martians on Mars (go figure!). He was one of twins that were born to his parents, he was named J’onn J’onzz which in the Martian language means “Light of Light”; his brother, who was born without Martian telepathic ability was named Ma’alefa’ak which literally translates to “Darkness of Heart”.  It’s honestly a wonder as to why the brother turned out to be an evil twin given a name like that by the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally… So J’onn grew up to become a Manhunter ( Martian Police Officer) while his brother grew to hate and resent Martian culture.

Ma’alefa’ak eventually developed a virus, the virus was called H’ronmeers Curse. This virus was transferred by Martian psychic link; which would cause each Martian affected to suffer such a psychosomatic trauma that their minds and bodies would burst into flames. J’onn attempted to stop his wife and daughter from using their psychic abilities but he was unsuccessful and he was forced to watched as his family burned in front of his eyes. The virus was responsible for the mass genocide of the green Martian population and left J’onn to be the “sole survivor” of Mars.

This all happened centuries before his arrival on Earth.

On Earth, centuries after the Martian genocide, a scientist named Saul Erdel had discovered some ancient Martian technology buried on Earth, and was attempting to reverse engineer it to communicate with alien life. He activated his contraption and aimed it at the surface of Mars. The beam traveled through both space and time grabbing J’onn shortly after the genocide and bringing him to the surface of the Earth centuries later. Erdel discovered J’onn outside of his laboratory and brought him inside. J’onn was near insanity after having just witnessed his entire species burn themselves to death and because of the trauma forged a psychic link between himself and Dr. Erdel, the only living being within several miles. When they linked their minds, Dr. Erdel saw what had happened to J’onn and attempted to help him my mentally fabricating a different history of the tragedy of Mars. Erdel took inspiration from various science fiction writers and was eventually able to put J’onn at ease. Erdel also instilled in J’onn the belief that he should be a champion of the people and thus, J’onn took on the persona of Martian Manhunter.

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Martians have several powers along with their psychic abilities which I will get into later, but one of their most prominent abilities is shape shifting. Before venturing out of the lab, J’onn adopted a more humanoid appearance while still maintaining his green skin. Dr. Erdel was so surprised by this ability that he suffered a fatal heart attack. As he was dying, Dr. Erdel asked J’onn for forgiveness, due to him inadvertently trapping J’onn on Earth. J’onn provided the closure the doctor needed before passing away. J’onn used his shape shifting powers to take on an African American appearance and joined the local police department (Middletown U.S.A) under the identity of John Jones.

J’onn fought crime under many aliases before he helped to form the Justice League of America. He fought as Marcus Xavier to take down the international criminal syndicate VULTURE, he fought with Justice Experience as the Bronze Wraith, as well as with the League under his Martian Manhunter title and his alternate identity of Bloodwynd.

He briefly becomes the evil Fernus when he attempted to conquer his own fear of fire. It took the combined might of the entire League as well as several new recruits and a couple of Lanterns to stop him.

J’onn was thought to have perished during the explosion of the Watchtower prior to Infinite Crisis, but that was false. During Infinite Crisis, he was discovered to be attached Alexander Luthor’s tower along with several other heroes and villains. It took the combined effort of the Titans to separate him and the others from the tower. Upon being released from the tower, he telepathically coordinated the defense of Metropolis against the evil, Superboy Prime.

Following Infinite Crisis, he took on the identity of William Dyer to infiltrate Checkmate. Checkmate apparently had been holding several green Martians who had crash landed on the Earth. He rescued them with only one of the new Martians, Roh’kar dying in the process.

DEATH

During an undercover assignment wherein he pretended to be Blockbuster to spy on a Supervillain prison. Catwoman outed J’onn after deducing who he really was ; J’onn was left in his cell after being tortured when the rest of the villains broke out. Libra, a new member of the Society of Supervillains, “rescues” J’onn and brings him back to Earth via a Boom Tube. Using the staff of the Human Flame, Libra stabs J’onn through the chest and lights him on fire. As he is burning he telepathically sends a message to several League members in their sleep requesting they record a portion of his life’s story. Upon discovery of his body, the heroes all said his name and recorded their portion of his history.

J’onn was interred on Mars at the base of a pyramid that had been moved to red planet to serve as his headstone. Many heroes both Leaguers and not attended his funeral where Superman delivered a eulogy in his honour.

BLACKEST NIGHT & RESURRECTION

Black Lantern Martian Manhunter

During the crossover even Blackest Night, J’onn, along with several other deceased heroes and villains, was resurrected into the Black Lantern Corps. While Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) were standing over Batman’s grave site which appeared to have been pillaged, J’onn attacked them saying “You should be dead”. J’onn is soon joined by the Black Lantern resurrected versions of Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, and Firestorm. The Atom arrives to help but the heroes are unable to defeat the advancing zombified versions of their friends. With their backs literally against a wall, the heroes are eventually saved by two Indigo Lanterns that drive the black lanterns off. Following the final battle and the defeat of Nekron, the Entity resurrected several heroes and villains, J’onn being one of them.

BRIGHTEST DAY

Following his resurrection, J’onn noticed that something was off. Whenever he was around plant life, it would mysteriously die. He went to visit his niece M’gann M’orzz (Miss Martian) who was doing a meditation quest in the outback of Australia. When he arrived to her hut he discovered her badly beaten and tied up. When he asked her who did this to her she replied saying an unknown Green Martian had attacked her. As he is helping M’gann, J’onn receives a telepathic communication from the Entity (the being that defeated Nekron and resurrected him) telling him to burn down the newly formed forest. Knowing the devastation that had befallen Star City and the new forest that had mysteriously grown in its place, J’onn believed the forest he needed to burn was in Star City. after coming into conflict with Green Arrow and attempting to start the blaze, J’onn is again contacted by the Entity, and told the forest he needed to burn was on Mars. J’onn takes off for his home planet leaving the new Star City alone.

On Mars, J’onn confronts the rogue green Martian that had attacked M’gann. She reveals her name to be D’kay D’razz and wishes to take J’onn as her mate. When J’onn refuses she telepathically attacks him and forces him to see visions of the Mars that could be with the power of the Entity to resurrect everything. J’onn sees through the ruse and wrings her neck, and throws her into the sun, killing her. Upon completion of his task the Entity asks J’onn to choose between Earth and Mars, when J’onn chooses Earth he is absorbed by the Entity.  When the “Dark Avatar” (Black Lantern Swamp Thing) attacks, J’onn who has been deemed to be an Elemental along with several other heroes (Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Aquaman,Firestorm); combine with the body of Alex Holland (Swamp Thing) to fight the Dark Avatar. Upon defeat of the Dark Avatar, the Entity with the help of Swamp Thing restores the Elementals to normal.

NEW 52

During the DC Comics re-launch under the New 52 banner, Martian Manhunter was removed as a member of the League and placed in the covert team called Stormwatch. It is teased that he tried to join the League but came to blows with the other members and was cast out, it’s unclear what caused the rift between the heroes. J’onn is recruited by Amanda Waller into the Justice League of America as the counter agent to Superman. The Justice League of America was recruited to specifically counteract individual members of the Justice League should they ever go rogue.

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During the Trinity War crossover J’onn was investigating the Secret Society of Supervillains and their new leader, the Outsider. When they discovered the Outsider was Alfred Pennyworth of Earth-3, it was too late and the Crime Syndicate arrived on Earth-1. The heroes were soundly defeated and imprisoned inside the Firestorm matrix until Forever Evil, when Batman freed them with the help of Luthor and several villains. Following the release from the Matrix, J’onn along with fellow JLA members Green Arrow and Stargirl went on to form the Justice League United Team based out of Canada.

REBIRTH

J’onn arrived in the Dark Metal event stating he had been on Thanagar looking for answers.

POWERS & ABILITIES

All Martians share the same powers as Martian Manhunter to a degree. While they all have the genetic ability to utilize these powers, they may not have mastered the techniques and thus don’t use it. The powers of the Martian people are as follows:

  • Shapeshifting
  • Corporeal Form Manipulation – Malleability, Elasticity, Plasticity and Elongation of his form and extremities.
  • Invisibility
  • Phasing
  • Superhuman Durability
  • Superhuman Strength
  • Superhuman Stamina
  • Regeneration
  • Flight
  • Superhuman Speed
  • Extrasensory Input
  • Longevity
  • Super-Hearing
  • Super-Breath
  • Enhanced Senses
  • Martian Vision – Able to see Electro-magnetic Spectrum, Infrared Spectrum, Telescopic Vision, Microscopic Vision and Heat Vision similar to Superman.
  • Telepathy – Able to conjure Illusions, Astral Prjection, Possession, Mind Control, Telepathic Relay (connect multiple minds together to “speak”), Telepathic Assault, Thought Sensing, Mayavana (ability to create a mental reality as real as any other reality, can only be used once in a lifetime. J’onn used his during Despero’s attack on the JL Headquarters to stop the assault and save his friends/teammates)
  •  Telekinesis
  • Meditate instead of sleep

In addition to all his powers listed J’onn J’onzz also has: Genius Level Intellect, adept firearms skills, incredible detective skills and the ability to understand any language.

A Martian’s only documented weakness is to fire. Which stems from the H’ronmeers Curse and the psychosomatic trauma it caused.

J’onn is known to be very fond of the Earth snack Chocos, so much to the point of borderline addiction.

WHY THEY’RE UNDERRATED

Martian Manhunter is widely underrated because of how much he is underused. This is a being that was able to solo the Justice League on more than one occasion. He has shown time and time again that he is the willing to take the hit in order to save another teammate from getting hurt, and he believes that while Mars was his origin planet, that Earth is his home. As I stated before he has been called the “Heart and Soul of the Justice League” and he wears this title proudly. When all the other heroes falter and become lost they can always look to J’onn to help put them back on the right track.

During the Injustice comic run, J’onn came into conflict with Superman and his regime. He openly stood against the tyranny and was murdered as a result. He does help to deliver one of the best lines of the whole series. The panel is directly below.

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J’onn has gone to star in several films and live action series, more so than the Dark Knight himself, which begs to question as to why he isn’t a more popular hero? Superman himself has said that J’onn is the one of the very few beings that he is afraid to engage in open combat because he is the most dangerous man on the planet.

Supes Scared

J’onn J’onzz has so much potential and he is always wasted by being relegated to a back up character. I’m not saying his inclusion in the Justice League film would’ve saved it, but it couldn’t have been any worse than what we got right? DC needs to give some of their other great properties a chance instead of sticking with the same heroes. Yes, they’ve branched out with some out there inclusions like Justice League Dark and Cyborg, but looking at how many batman and Superman imprints there are… they could easily drop a couple of those and bring in someone like Manhunter for his own series. I just hope for J’onn J’onzz to one day become a household name like the characters he helps to keep on the right path.

 

An Impossible Expectation – Living Up To The Legacy

This week, I decided to focus on something that I have noticed with the newest press regarding upcoming seasons and movies based on comic media; the impossible task of living up to the legacy. With the explosion of the MCU beginning in 2008, comic book movies have become the best thing a studio can do to make money; however, it is not without its risks. While Marvel studios seem to have found the formula to make successful movies, other studios like DC Entertainment and Fox studios are more hit or miss. Don’t get me wrong they have some great hits, Deadpool and Wonder Woman are awesome and huge steps for the superhero genre if not movies as a whole. We got the first widely successful female led movie with Wonder Woman, Logan and Deadpool showed us R rated movies can still make buck, and now Black Panther has rallied the entire world behind the fictional nation of Wakanda. But for all the bluster that these movies and shows can provide… the one thing they can never do, is live up to the legacy of the characters.

Batman

Let’s take Batman for instance, how many Batman movies have there been? Including the movie from the 60’s TV show starring the late Adam West, there have been 9 live action Batman films; and all 9 of these films have done different takes on the character without nailing the source material 100%. I commend each actor for taking the role and making it their own, but nobody has been able to fully capture the essence of the character, and nobody ever will.

Batman was first introduced in Detective Comics #27  from March 1939, that’s almost 80 years of stories and character development. Now I’m not saying that anyone trying to take the role should quit, I’m saying the opposite, I think the more people that take the role on we can get a clearer glimpse into the character of Batman. With West, we got the silly, gadget driven Batman, Keaton gave us the dark and Gothic protector, Kilmer gave us the investigative defender, Clooney gave us the campy playboy, Bale gave us the tortured and driven knight, and Affleck gave us the brutal and vicious brawler. Each actor has made the role their own by taking a piece of the vast history of the character and putting their own spin on it.  While it can get tiresome as a fan to constantly have a new person taking on the role instead of sticking with one person, it is necessary. In the animated universe, no matter what, Kevin Conroy is the voice of Batman. Jason O’Mara delivers a great spin with the new DCAU films, but nobody can compare to Conroy’s iconic voice. The same thing can be said about the Joker. Anybody who tries to do that in an animated setting will always be compared to Mark Hamill while any live action interpretation will always be compared to the late Heath Ledger.

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Just in Batman’s history alone, we have over 5 Robins, only 1 of which has made it to the live action screen, multiple failures on the part of the Bat, his own death and resurrection, and his rehabilitation following his greatest defeat. None of the stories we have received so far in film format have focused on any of these aspects. We may FINALLY be getting the story of Jason Todd’s murder, which is arguably Batman’s greatest failure, but that happened in A Death in the Family from December of 1988. It took 29 years for his death to finally be mentioned in a DC live action film and even then, it was only done in passing. I am of course referring to the Robin suit on display in the Batcave spray painted with the words “Hahaha Joke’s on you Batman”; as well as, the mention of Harley Quinn being an accomplice in the murder of Robin in Suicide Squad. The suit is something that not many people would notice or even get the reference if you were not familiar with the source material. While the mention in Suicide Squad is so quick, if you blink you’ll miss it. While the live action films have been lacking in expanding the Batman mythos and history, the animated films have stepped up.

The modern DCAU (DC Animated Universe) took heavy influence from the New 52 run of DC Comics, while some of the classic stories and films took inspiration from the modern age of DC. We have seen Damian (Batman’s biological son) as Robin, Jason Todd as Robin and Red Hood, Dick as Nightwing, and the introduction of Batwoman and Batwing. For obvious reasons the animated movies can do more than a big budget movie can, and they can do it for much cheaper too. But Batman isn’t the only hero that this has been done with.

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Spider-Man is the most popular Marvel hero worldwide and one of my personal favourites. He has been a Marvel mainstay since his first introduction in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August of 1962. Since his introduction into Marvel, he has had 3 live action film adaptations as well as a whole slew of animated television shows and by slew I mean 9 animated shows. All of his shows have done a solid attempt at bringing his history to the forefront. The best one, in my opinion, is the Spider-Man animated series that ran in the early 90’s. It introduced a lot of kids to the great universe Spider-Man had created while doing crossovers with other heroes as well, most notably the X-Men. This is another example where the animated features have done far more to honour the legacy of Spider-Man than the movies ever did.

The first slew of movies were directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The first of Raimi’s Spider-Man films were released in 2002 to a warm reception. Introducing Norman Osborn/Green Goblin with a stellar performance by Willem Dafoe (we’ll just forget the power ranger costume…), then Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doc Ock is Spider-Man 2, and finally the abysmal Spider-Man 3 with New Goblin, scrawny Venom and a great performance by Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko/Sandman. The first two movies were well received but by the third the studio (Sony) decided to meddle and forced Raimi to include Venom into the plot. With the failure of the third film, Spider-Man was put on ice until 2012 when Sony rebooted the franchise with the Amazing Spider-Man.

Spider-MAn

Spying the success of the MCU, Sony tried to build an entire universe based off of Spider-Man. The first movie was okay, it was a fresh take and brought Peter back into high school. The second one was terrible, it was too long and destroyed the Green Goblin as a character. The one thing that the second movie did get right was the death of Gwen Stacy. Paying direct homage to Amazing Spider-Man #121, it was a near scene for scene remake of the iconic moment in Spider-Man’s history; right down to the costume choice being a direct recreation of the clothing worn by Gwen in the comic.

Now we have a new Spider-Man with Tom Holland that is included in the MCU. Sony finally admitted they screwed up and struck a deal with Marvel to allow them to use Spider-Man in the MCU.  Tom Holland has been extremely well received and looks to be the new breakout star of the entire MCU.

All these shows and movies have barely even scratched the surface on things that have happened in Spider-Man’s comic run. I will admit that I haven’t watched all the shows, but to my knowledge, the only one to properly introduce Venom and Carnage was the 90’s animated series; which included a large portion of the rogues gallery in various episodes. Again, while each show and film took a piece of the mythos and made it their own, it never quite captured the legacy of the character. Spider-Man is one of the most popular heroes in the world, and the inability to capture the essence of the character is a glaring issue. We’ve gotten the closest thing to a comic accurate Peter Parker with Tom Holland in the MCU, but even then, something feels off… oh right, his 40 something attractive aunt flirting with Tony Stark.

As I said before, all these attempts at bringing the characters to the screen are necessary if we are to eventually be able to pay homage to the legacy they have created. Batman and Spider-Man are just two examples of dozens of characters with histories and legacies that span decades. Fantastic Four, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Iron Man, and Flash all have rich legacies to pay homage to, and it’s just not feasible to do so with 1 or 2 movies or even a season or two of television.

I am a big stickler for accuracy in comic movies and shows, it doesn’t sit well with me when they change things or mesh story lines together, it irks me quite substantially. That being said, I understand that there is no way these interpretations are ever going to be able to measure up to the expectations in my head from reading the stories, and that’s okay. Fresh spins on characters are part of what has helped to ensure the longevity of comics. Each  new author and artist takes what was laid down before them as a foundation and builds on the character. Sometimes you get great runs, like Frank Miller with the Dark Knight Returns, and sometimes you get terrible interpretations like Rick Remender with his Axis event. Each of these events and runs have worked to establish an ongoing legacy for each character that film studios want to tap into to appeal to the fans, even if they butcher it in their attempt.

Many fans have sour tastes in their mouths from the likes of Ghost Rider 1 & 2, Man of Steel, Affleck’s Daredevil, Steel (ft. Shaq?! come on!!!), and the Schumacher Batmans; but they keep coming back, in hopes the studios get their shit sorted out and deliver something worthy of the legacy of the character. The main point I’m trying to make is, as a fan, don’t sweat it. When it comes to studios making movies or shows off of comics, there is no way in hell they will be able to jam 50+ years of history into 1-3 movies or a couple seasons of an animated show. Give the studios a break and just be happy they’re making an effort at all. It wasn’t so long ago when if someone suggested a movie or even live action TV show based off a superhero you would be met with mocking laughter.

I am not one to quote Superman (ugh..) but this quote perfectly explains what I’m trying to get at.

“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

in the sun

Give it time. If we give it time, I have faith that eventually we will be given wonders.

Project ORION – The Rise of the Spartans

This month for the continuation of the Halo series, I decided to focus on the SPARTANS and their origins as a unit.  Starting out in the early years of the United Earth Government (UEG), Project ORION is where it all began.

SPARTAN-II logo

PROJECT ORION

Project ORION was launched in the early years of the 23rd century shortly after the unification of the Earth into the UEG and the formation of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC). The project was started in an attempt to biochemically alter soldiers to create super soldiers for use in the field. While ORION would eventually be shut down, the concept was taken and utilized as the basis for future SPARTAN programs and certain advancements were used for field kits following the Insurrectionist Civil War.

In 2390, the UEG had formally established the Inner Colonies of the Earth Empire. For the next hundred years, humanity began to expand into the Sol system establishing dozens of colonies on habitable worlds. As the expansion continued, the power and influence of the UEG began the wane to the point that political independence was the hot topic among the colonists. Colonies began to separate themselves from UEG control and the UNSC took steps to maintain a grip on the Outer colonies that were trying to secede from the UEG. In preparation for conflict, the UNSC enacted Project: ORION on April 13, 2321, as a means of developing tougher, faster and stronger soldiers. Of the original 5 candidates selected, none were deemed a success and the candidates were returned to their respective units. Each of these candidates would die within a year of being returned to their unit for reasons  undisclosed by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).

Insurrectionist

As the Civil Wars on the Outer colonies intensified, Project: ORION was relaunched in secret on January 29, 2491, to combat insurgent attacks. The project was opened with 65 candidates, with a future 100 volunteers being accepted following initial training. On January 12, 2496, the first ORION soldiers were deployed as part of Operation: CHARLEMAGNE to recover a sub-orbital transit station over Eridanus II. The mission was successful without any casualties and without detection, this was also the only time in the program’s history that a full unit of its operators would ever be deployed.

With the success of Operation: CHARLEMAGNE, the tales of super soldiers being deployed by the UNSC spread like wildfire, causing conspiracy theories to be born. ONI used the leaked knowledge in a very aggressive propaganda run in the following decades to incite compliance from the outer colonies. During the same year as Operation: CHARLEMAGNE, ORION operatives were deployed as part of Operation: VERITAS, where they apprehended several Secessionist Union operatives who were employed in various high-level offices in the Colonial Military Administration (CMA).

As the Insurrectionist War began to heat up, the UNSC escalated their counter-insurgent activities with Operation: TREBUCHET. This operation was put into immediate action following the defection of UNSC Marine Colonel Robert Watts. ORION operatives were deployed to combat the insurgent threat and were very effective for a time. As the conflict dragged on, the insurgents became harder and harder to root out. The Insurgents adapted to the tactics of the ORION operatives very quickly and became increasingly harder to combat. While the bombings and flashpoint scenarios between Insurrectionists and the UNSC continued to increase, more civilians were caught in the crossfire, and were killed as a result. These civilian deaths added to the growing resentment for the UNSC on the outer colonies forcing more to join the Insurrectionist fight. In response to the growing Insurrectionist threat, the UNSC recruited more operatives into the ORION program, culminating in 300 active duty personnel.

As Operation: TREBUCHET continued, some of the older members of ORION began to exhibit PTSD and sympathy towards the Insurrectionists. Some operatives refused to participate in the program post-augmentation and were incarcerated as a result. Despite the success the ORION soldiers were having, the results were far below what the scientists expected. Due to the age of most candidates and the inadequate genetic screening performed during recruitment.; the genetic modifications led to minimal improvement and the immunosuppressants failed in many candidates. These issues led to irreversible genetic fragmentation and degenerative conditions in most of the ORION personnel.

In 2502, Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE was put in to action. KALEIDOSCOPE was a multi pronged approach by the UNSC to pacify the Insurrectionist threat. ORION operatives were deployed to neutralize key insurgent strongholds and eliminate insurgent personnel. The main goal was to eliminate Jerald Mulkey Ander, the leader of the Secessionist Union.

KALEIDOSCOPE

On March 13, 2502, Jerald Ander was assassinated by ORION operative, Corporal Avery Johnson. With Ander’s death, the Secessionist Union was easily dismantled; however, it did not deter those from seeking independent control from the UEG, it actually served to strengthen the Insurrectionist movement on several planets. While KALEIDOSCOPE dealt a massive blow to the insurgents, it failed to pacify the planets as had been originally intended and was declared a failure as the result. As Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE was wrapping up, it became apparent that some of the ORION operatives were beginning to develop severe side effects from the augmentations. These side effects ranged from physical anomalies to mental illness.

The ORION project began to decline in performance due to the ineffective strategies used by the UNSC. Operation: TANGLEWOOD was the final operation that ORION operatives participated in.

In 2506, project ORION was quietly terminated with the remaining 165 members being reassigned to various special forces elements in the UNSC. Some of the former ORION operatives began to exhibit mental instabilities and were discharged from the UNSC as a result. ONI concocted a plan to cover up the ailments being exhibited by the former ORION members as a medical ailment called Boren’s Syndrome. As many of the ORION soldiers began to retire and have families, the children of the former operatives required specially formulated injections to ensure they suffered no health defects. While some ORION members were discharged, others like Avery Johnson, were able to serve well past what is normally expected of human service. Johnson served for a continued four decades after the project was shut down.

*Johnson was dosed with an abnormally high amount of radiation emanating from a crate of plasma grenades on Paris IV; as a result, he was immune to Flood infection.*

THE FUTURE OF PROJECT ORION

Following the shuttering of Project ORION many of the augmentations and advancements were incorporated into the SPARTAN-II program and its successors. The failures of project ORION were blamed on the age of the recruits. Being adults, the recruits bodies rejected many of the augmentations, giving a less than expected result. The SPARTAN-II and SPARTAN-III programs were therefore forced to use prepubescent recruits so that their genetic information and physicality would allow for the augmentations to take hold. The SPARTAN-IV program overcame this obstacle, but that was not until after the end of the Human-Covenant War on March 3, 2553.

Due to the combat effectiveness of the ORION operatives the UNSC utilized project ORION and its operators as the model for a reorganization of the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs).

In the years following the closure of Project: ORION in 2506, the small amount of special forces in the UNSC were not able to effectively combat the rising Insurrectionist threat. Around 2510, ONI began to re-examine the Carver Findings (A set of theories published by Dr. Elias Carver in 2491, predicting the outbreak of an insurrection) to determine if there was a solution within Carver’s predictions to their current Insurrectionist issue. The findings stated that the instability would continue to grow unless drastic military action was taken. ONI had conducted it’s own research and came to the same conclusion as Dr. Carver; if the threat was not subdued, by 2525 there would be an open war between the inner and outer colonies.

Dr. Catherine Halsey had taken Carver’s findings and built on them herself. Halsey’s findings predicted that if UNSC inaction against rebel leadership continued, there would be a 35 year war with over 5 billion dead or a conflict of indeterminate length that would lead to the downfall of human civilization.  Halsey presented her findings to Vice Admiral Stanforth and ONI Section III, who had come to their own similar conclusions. In order to avoid this grim future, Halsey agreed to work for ONI under Section III’s Special Projects Division to develop a solution.

Halsey

Dr. Halsey took the data from the initial Project ORION and made drastic changes. The candidates would be selected based on age, and genetic markers that would increase the success of the augmentations. The candidates would have to exhibit physical strength and mental attributes as well as being under the age of 10. The age limit also helped with instilling core military values and the understanding of War; which could not be taught to already enlisted individuals. In addition to the more selective candidate pool, one of the other major changes involved the creation of powered exoskeletons for use by the operatives. The drawback of this new armor is its requirement for augmenting the subject, effectively turning the participants into human guinea pigs. Despite the obvious danger to recruits and the unethical means to which they would be treated, ORION-II was permitted.

In 2511, Generation II of Project ORION was initiated to combat the Insurrectionist threat.  By 2517, 150 suitable candidates had been selected for the program, though funding only allowed for half that number. Thus the top 75 candidates were selected from all planets across UNSC controlled space. The selection pool included both male and female candidates as well as various ethnic backgrounds to ensure diversity. The candidates all were around the age of six years old and most lived on the outer planets. ONI operatives kidnapped the candidates in the night and replaced them with flash clones. These flash clones were grown from the DNA acquired by the Outer Colony Vaccination Program. The clones would die after roughly a year due to medical complications resulting from flash cloning an entire human being.

Halsey was not fond of the original name for the project, Project ORION Generation II, so she renamed the project out of personal preference and desire to distance it from the failures of the first Project: ORION. Halsey centered on the SPARTAN-II program as a homage to the name of ORION.

With the subsequent success of the SPARTAN-II program, Project ORION was retroactively renamed as SPARTAN-I.

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There you have it, the story of how the SPARTAN program came to be. While the most popular iteration of the SPARTAN program is the SPARTAN-IIs and the face of Halo, the Master Chief; none of that would be possible without Project: ORION. Next month I will breakdown the SPARTAN-II program along with its various victories and defeats. See you next week!

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Most Underrated Heroes Vol. 7 – Blade

This week for my most underrated hero, I decided to focus on someone that is vastly underused and under-appreciated, Blade.

Blade first came to prominence during the late 90’s & early 2000’s when the Daywalker was given his own trilogy of movies starring Wesley Snipes in the titular role. Following the film trilogy, a Television series was ordered with Kirk Jones, in the role of Blade. The live action show lasted only one season before being cancelled by Spike TV (the network it aired on) due to budget limitations. a limited but successful anime show was also released starring Blade.

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Blade has been a secondary character for most Marvel publications and has never really been given his time in the spotlight. His lack of use is definitely linked to the mature themes his comics are made with; focusing on a Dhampir who hunts vampires and their familiars, often with brutal efficiency.

Blade was created in July of 1973 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan as a supporting character in the title The Tomb of Dracula. 

HISTORY

Blade was born in 1929 in Madam Vanity’s Brothel in the Soho neighbourhood in London England. He was born Eric Brooks, to his mother Tara Brooks and (at the time) an unknown father. Due to complications experienced during labour, Tara was forced to seek medical help from a local doctor. The doctor is question was a vampire named Deacon Frost. Frost began to feed on Tara during her childbirth and as such passed along some enzymes to her unborn/being born child. Tara was killed in the process and before Frost could kill Eric, he was driven off by the other workers of the whorehouse. Eric was then gifted some vampiric abilities such as the ability to: sense supernatural creatures, immunity to complete vampirism, and an extremely prolonged lifespan.

Eric grew up calling Madam Vanity’s home, but one night while walking home, he stumbled upon an elderly man being attacked by three assailants. Despite only being 9 years old, Eric decided to help the elderly man and ran to his aide. It wasn’t until he had joined the fray that Eric realized the assailants were vampires. The elderly man used a silver sword which was hidden in his cane to dispatch the vampires and save them both. After the ordeal the old man introduced himself to Eric as Jamal Afari, a famed jazz musician and vampire hunter. Jamal moved into Madam Vanity’s and began to instruct Eric in vampire hunting, hand to hand combat and music. Blade became very proficient in hand to hand combat techniques and the use of edged and bladed weapons. He trained himself to Olympic level fitness and was soon proficient in dispatching most younger vampires by himself. He was soon given the nickname of “Blade” by his fellow vampire hunters and the vampires that he would hunt. After several successful solo hunts, he believed he was untouchable and that he could take down any vampire he wanted. In his hubris, he joined a street gang that was headed by a very powerful vampire named Lamia. The battle with Lamia was grueling and cost Blade his then girlfriend, Glory.

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This  loss and the subsequent loss of Jamal to Dracula, hardened Blade’s resolve to rid the world of vampires. Jamal was resurrected by Dracula as a vampire, forcing Blade to battle and kill his mentor and father figure.  Blade then tracked Dracula across Europe and Asia even allying with several other hunters who called themselves Ogun Strong’s Vampire Hunters. Dracula murdered most of the hunters except for Blade and one other before they were able to stake him. In memory of one of his fallen comrades, Blade adopted the use of Teakwood daggers as his preferred weapon.

After tracking a resurrected Dracula to Paris, Blade crossed paths with Quincy Harker the son of Johnathan Harker, and his vampire hunters: Rachel Van Helsing (daughter of Abraham Van Helsing), Taj Nital, and Frank Drake. Reluctantly, Blade allied with these hunters on several occasions and even took on Dracula once more with their help. When Dracula defeated the hunters, Blade became aware that he was immune to a vampire’s bite. After coming to this realization, he decided to hunt down Deacon Frost alone and get revenge on him for the murder of his mother. During his solo career, Blade fought Dracula, Morbius the Living Vampire, and the Legion of the Dead.  While tracking Frost, his target fled to the United States and thus, Blade ventured into the underbelly of Boston, Massachusetts. It was during this solo career in the USA that Blade encountered notable Private Detective, Hanibal King. Blade allied with King due to a mutual hate for Deacon Frost (the man who had turned King into a vampire) and they hunted Frost together. Eventually they caught up to Frost and put him down for good, disbanding his supporters in the process.

King and Blade would go on to team up with previous Blade ally, Frank Drake and assist Dr. Strange in combating many threats, most notable the Darkholders.  They also assisted Dr. Strange in the casting of the Montesi Formula which was meant to destroy all Vampires on Earth. While the spell worked for a time it eventually dissipated and his former ally now turned vampire Taj Nital attacked him, forcing Blade to kill him. The vampire Lord Varnae rose to power, causing Blade and his allies to stop him. During the ensuing battle, King and Drake appeared to have been killed, before Blade killed Lord Varnae. Blade drifted around the USA hunting vampires and allying with various other hunters before he ended up in Louisiana, where he discovered an alive Hannibal King. The two once again, allied together to take down a resurrected Deacon Frost and Ulysses Soujourner, the latter of which had Morbius under his mental control.

Blade tracked Morbius to New York city where he allied with Spider-Manto take him down. During the battle, Blade was bitten by Morbius. Due to Morbius being a biological lab accident, his unique form of vampirism reacted with the enzymes in Blade’s blood. This reaction provided him with all the strengths of a vampire except sunlight did not affect him. It was after this that he was given the title “Daywalker”.

SHIELD attempted to use Blade’s blood to clone vampire operatives with UN support. The project was title Project: Silvereye and was shut down by Blade and a couple of allies. Blade and several hunters then all banded together to stop Dracula from becoming a God-like vampire Lord before Blade returned to New Orleans. Blade was once again forced to battle a resurrected Dracula (he just never dies) and put him down apparently, for good. After his most recent battle with Dracula it was revealed his father, Lucas Cross, was responsible for the latest Dracula resurrection. Cross kidnapped Blade and tried to force him to feed on a virgin girl to fulfill a prophecy. Blade bit his own hand off to get out of his restraints and rescued the girl before fleeing the SHIELD Helicarrier, Pericles V, where they were being held.  Blade would eventually begin the prophecy by feeding on a virgin girl after biting an evil vampire priest.

Blade was then hired by Dr. Doom to perform a task which involved travelling through time. During his adventure, Blade freed his captive father and fulfilled another part of the prophecy his father was trying to get him to start. Upon completion of the mission for Dr. Doom, Blade was given an elixir that Doom claimed would cure a Vampire of their need to feed but would also remove the blood lust hunters receive for killing vampires. Blade decided to give the elixir to Hannibal King and continue on his mission alone.

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During the first Civil War story line, Blade became allied with SHIELD which allowed him access to their technology. He used this tech to aid him in his hunt for vampires and even gave himself a “gun hand” to replace the one he was force to gnaw off. During his tenure as an operative of SHIELD, Blade fulfills a prophecy he believes will restore the souls to the extant vampires. He was wrong. In reality, the prophecy returned all vampires ever killed to life, bringing the world into peril. Following the conclusion of Civil War, Blade was recruited into Vanguard ( a superhuman black ops team run by the US government). Having been forced to return his “gun hand” after leaving SHIELD, Blade was given a cybernetic hand when he joined Vanguard. The team did not last for long before it was disbanded and Blade returned to England and joined MI-13, to combat supernatural threats. One of the members of his MI-13 team was named Spitfire, a vampire. When Blade tries to kill her, the two fight and eventually end up working together. After a mission together, Blade is trying to apologize for attempting to kill her, she kisses him; beginning a brief romance for the two of them.

Blade assisted the X-Men during the Curse of the Mutants arc when Dracula’s son and his vampires appeared in San Francisco and turned Jubilee. He butted heads with the mutant leader Cyclops, when the latter planned to resurrect Dracula to assist as well. Blade was quoted as saying “You don’t dig up Hitler to help get rid of Saddam Hussein”; however, Cyclops was not deterred and raised Dracula anyways. Blade was knocked unconscious by Cyclops when he tried to kill Dracula during the final battle. After the victory, Dracula returned Jubilee to the X-Men; however, Jubilee was still a vampire. When Blade went to “end her misery”, Wolverine stood between them and told Blade that it wasn’t going to happen. Blade left saying that sooner or later, someone is going to have to kill her and it will be harder for one of them to do it than it would be for him.

Not long after the end of the story arc, Blade was invited to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning to teach a class on killing vampires.

Prior to the Secret Empire event, Blade actually joined the Mighty Avengers by using Hawkeye’s identity of Ronin. Once he was discovered, he was kicked off the team for his methods and violent tendencies.

During Secret Empire, Blade was trapped in New York when it was isolated by a Dark Force dome. Due to the fact that the sunlight can’t get through the dome, the vampires living in New York declared open season and began attacking the human population indiscriminately. Blade went to war with vampires inside the dome to protect the citizens of New York. Following the event, Blade’s whereabouts are unknown.

 

POWERS & ABILITIES

Blade is not fully human. Due to his mother being fed on by Deacon Frost while she was giving birth to him, Blade is a Dhampir. A Dhampir is the term given to an offspring of a male vampire and human woman. While this isn’t 100% the case, it makes the most sense given the mutation Blade underwent while being born.

Due to being a Dhampir and having been bitten by Morbius, the powers Blade presents are as follows:

  • Superhumanly Acute Sense – All of his sense are as acute as those of a regular vampire which is greater than those of Wolverine .
  • Superhuman Strength – Able to lift about 1 ton
  • Superhuman Speed
  • Superhuman Agility
  • Superhuman Stamina
  • Superhuman Durability
  • Regenerative Healing factor – Stated by Wolverine during Civil War to almost be on par with his own. Blade cannot regrow limbs or organs.
  •  Prolonged Lifespan – while not fully immortal he has not aged since his introduction in comics.
  • Immunity to Vampire Vulnerabilities – immune to sunlight, silver, garlic, and religious symbols such as crosses and crucifixes.

In addition to his Powers listed above, Blade also has the following accolades:

  • Master Martial Artist
  • Expert Marksman
  • Expert Swordsman
  • Weapon Proficiency – Proficient with every form of weaponry known to man
  • Multi-lingual
  • Expert Driver
  • Sorcery Skills

In addition to all of his powers and abilities Blade is still plagued by one weakness, the “thirst” aka need to feed. In order to avoid having to feed on human, Blade has developed a serum that provides all the nutrients of blood without him having to attack someone. He keeps this serum on his person at all time. One dose is good for 24 hours of enhanced combat and he can ingest extra as needed to heal from severe wounds. If he is unable to take his serum he will become physically weaker and his self control will strain until he attacks someone to feed on them. Going without feeding or taking his serum for an extended time would prove fatal.

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Blade’s normal loadout consists of: Teakwood daggers, Adamantium Stakes, Kevlar body Armour, Automatic Sub-machine guns customized for hollow point garlic filled silver bullets, various UV weapons, garlic and silver injection weapons and his titanium forged acid etched sword.

 

WHY THEY’RE UNDERRATED

Blade is underrated because he brings an entire sub genre to the forefront, vampires. In the Marvel comics with time travelling villains, alien invasions, demons from another plane attacking cities and the bounty hunter of the devil himself riding around on a motorcycle… vampires seem to be left on the back burner. Not only does he include vampires, but he also includes all sorts of horror themed creatures like werewolves and ghosts that could also provide some awesome stories. The biggest factor that keeps Blade from joining the main Marvel heroes is the fact that his stories are very mature themed. I mean, a half vampire slaughtering full vamps as they feast on innocent people? Seems pretty mature themed to me.

I really think Blade is underrated just because a lot of people don’t know about him. Apart from the Wesley Snipes movies, most people probably didn’t know there was a television show or even an anime series dedicated to the character. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Blade movies; Snipes did an amazing job with them. I will confess that I have never seen the live action show, but I did watch the anime and it was pretty awesome.

If they included Blade in more publications or gave him his own run instead of relegating him to secondary character/ supporting character, it would really help to bring him into the mainstream. Blade has all the hallmarks of a great hero if given the chance. He is a half vampire with a drive to eradicate the species because of what they did to his mother. He fits in with the Avengers (powers-wise) and can hold his own against extremely powerful enemies like Lilith.

The mere fact that Blade hasn’t been included in more mainstream events is an issue. This doesn’t even touch on the fact that in a world saturated with white superheroes, he is one of the few prominent African American heroes. The first African American superhero we were given in mainstream media release, was Michael Jai White’s portrayal of Al Simmons “Spawn” in 1997. Blade was next with his first movie in 1998; then after the two subsequent Blade movies, it wasn’t until Hancock in 2008 we were given another African American hero. With the release of Black Panther last month, the world rallied behind the King of Wakanda and made it one of the best movie opening weekends of all time. There is definitely a call for more diverse heroes in mainstream culture and Blade would be a perfect example of a hero that already has an established career with doing well in media releases.

I know the release of the new Marvel Legends figures included the Defenders from the Netflix Marvel releases and… Blade! With Punisher season 2 beginning filming and Jessica Jones season 2 due out in a couple weeks, my fingers are crossed that maybe just maybe they’ll cross paths with the Daywalker himself.

Blade and Punisher

Black Panther – My Review *Spoiler Free*

I, like many others, went and saw Black Panther this past weekend when it released. The theater was packed and the anticipation was high among all those in attendance. When the Marvel title card appeared on the screen, I had a last thought of “what if this movie sucks like Justice League did?” I am glad to say that this was definitely not the case! From the opening scene to the end of the second post-credit scene (yes there are 2), the movie never stopped. The entire cast knocked it out of the park with their portrayals, and Eric “Killmonger” Stevens would give Loki a good run as Marvel’s top villain.

One thing I would like to say is that many people are saying this is the first superhero movie to star an African American male in the lead role, which is wrong. Blade, Hancock and Spawn all starred an African American male in the lead role and they were released years before the MCU even began.

Now that we have cleared that up let’s dive into the review.

*THIS WILL BE A SPOILER FREE REVIEW*

THE STORY SO FAR

Prior to the beginning of the movie, we have been given quite a it of a story involving Panther. He first showed up in Captain America: Civil War after the bombing of the UN gathering, which was held in order to sign the Sokovia Accords.

Zemo (disguised as Bucky “Winter Soldier”) bombed the UN gathering to disrupt the Accords and caused the rift in the Avengers. In doing so he killed King T’Chaka, the reigning monarch of Wakanda. His son, T’Challa, took the family ring from his father’s finger and became the king of Wakanda and the Black Panther.

Legacy

After failing to kill/capture Bucky himself, T’Challa allied temporarily with Iron Man and the pro-registration side. Following the airport battle and the evasion of Bucky and Cap from the authorities, Panther followed Iron Man in a Wakandan stealth ship to the bunker in Siberia.

It was there he learned the truth about what had happened and realized he had been hunting the wrong man for his father’s death. He took Zemo in for his crimes and retreated to Wakanda giving Bucky and Cap sanctuary from the authorities.

THE SETTING

The movie picks up with T’Challa fresh into his role as king. He is attempting to rescue some women who were kidnapped by a Warlord. As he returns to Wakanda, he is greeted by his mother, the Queen, and his sister Shuri. Shuri is the brilliant mind behind most of Wakandan technology and would definitely give Tony Stark a run for his money.

In order to be crowned King of Wakanda, the tribal leaders that make up the Senate of Wakanda are given the right to challenge T’Challa in one on one ceremonial combat. The winner of this combat will be crowned king of Wakanda and Black Panther.

Eric Stevens partners with Ulysses Klaue to enact a plan he has been harboring for years. When the “Killmonger” arrives in Wakanda, he immediately sets his sights on the throne.

Characters

Black Panther has a vast array of characters that are important to the plot. The amount of people involved in the film is staggering; not to mention, the fact that this film is made up primarily of actors and actresses of African and African- American descent makes it even better.

Cast

While there are far too many characters to list, here are the most prominent characters and the actors/actresses portraying them:

  • T’Challa/ Black Panther – Chadwick Boseman
  • Eric “Killmonger” Stevens/ N’Jadaka – Michael B. Jordan
  •  Nakia – Lupita Nyong’o
  • Okoye/ General of Dora Milaje – Danai Gurira
  • Princess Shuri – Letitia Wright
  • W’Kabi – Daniel Kaluuya
  • Everett Ross – Martin Freeman

As I said before the amount of people in this movie is impressive and all the characters are important in their own way to the progression of the story. Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, and Andy Serkis all bring their A-game to this film and make their characters memorable.

The particular stars of the movie for me are Michael B. Jordan and Letitia Wright.

Having only ever seen Jordan in a role as the hero/protagonist it was a very refreshing change to see him as the ruthless villain. He brought an intensity and backstory to the character that hasn’t really been seen for a villain in a Marvel movie.

Letitia Wright was definitely a breakout star for this film. She perfectly nails the sarcastic and youthful approach that the studio was giving to the character. Not only that, but she is probably the smartest person in the MCU. Her youth hasn’t stopped her from designing and building a large majority of the technology which is seen being used in Wakanda.

I don’t want to say too much more for fear of revealing the plot or character development; however, the cast created an atmosphere that really brings you to the magic and wonder that is the Wakandan nation.

COSTUMES

I will be the first to admit that I know nothing of African culture or traditional dress. Being a straight white male of Scottish and Polish descent and growing up in the Dutch farmland of Ontario, I was never really exposed to other cultures.  That being said, even I was able to tell the incredible work done by both the costume designer Ruth Carter and the production designer Hannah Beachler. They took influences from cultures all across Africa and incorporated them into the costumes for the actors in this film.

Shuri + Dora Milaje

The bright colours and intricate weaves of some of the costumes looked incredible while still remaining fuctional. The Dora Milaje definitely stole the show in their battle armour and their ceremonial garments.

Again, coming from someone who’s entire knowledge of African culture has been from movies and brief subjects in history class, I was blown away. I can only imagine how people native to the many cultures displayed in this movie could have felt.

ACTION

The action in this movie was top notch, even for a Marvel movie. I’ve personally found that while the action is always “good” in an MCU installment, there are a few where it really pops, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Daredevil, and Spider-Man: Homecoming are prime examples.  Black Panther really leaned into the influences from several martial art styles as well as the big cats of Africa themselves in inspiration for the choreography. One of the opening scenes see T’Challa taking on a warlord and his soldiers, and in this scene, he stalks them and hunts like the big cat of his namesake. When the action does kick off he dials it up to 11 and takes no prisoners.

Killmonger is definitely one of the better choreographed villains in the entire MCU. He trained in the American military and special forces and then eventually came to work for the CIA. Later in the film, Everett Ross describes him as ” one of the guys we would send into a country during times of political upheaval to destabilize the nation”. The fact that they would send one man in to destabilize an entire country just shows you how well trained and lethal he is. His motivations are a little weak but overall he brings a ferocity that none of the other MCU villains have been able to match.

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The final battle is definitely one for the books. It incorporates the various styles of the different characters in the film into one great fight. The best part of the whole fight when Daniel Kaluuya’s character (W’Kabi) brings what his people are known for to the fight and ups the stakes even more.

VISUALS

While it’s obvious that the shots of Wakanda are all done on a green screen (because Wakanda doesn’t actually exist… or maybe… that’s what they want us to think) Coogler does a wonderful job of making you feel like you are there in Wakanda experiencing this first hand. From the sprawling jungles to the metropolis of the capital city itself, Coogler crafts an entire nation of wonder and technology that would make Tony Star’s mouth drop open in awe.

I’m not one for cinematography, but I can appreciate when someone does their work well!

THE STORY

While the story was engaging there are obviously plot holes, it happens with every movie. While they aren’t glaring they are there, but for the casual movie goer they won’t even notice them.

The story of this film is very much centered around redemption and acceptance. When we start off, T’Challa is trying to accept the role he has been given as ruler of Wakanda and it’s defender. Through turns of events, his belief in everything he has known is called into question and he has to find it in himself to fight for what he believes is right. While he doesn’t know what to believe, he knows that he has to believe in himself if he wants to become the King his father and people believe he can be.

As I’ve said before, Killmonger is probably the best villain the MCU has put out to date. He is ruthless, calculated, and resolute in his belief. He knows that what he has to do might make him enemies but in the end he will be the one standing above the ashes and he will be victorious. I feel I can say this without wandering into spoiler territory, his belief is not wrong. During the film you are shown things from the perspective of T’Challa and his father, when Killmonger enters the picture, you are shown his side of the story and realize that he isn’t wrong in what he thinks. This draws an interesting development to the story as you try to figure out who the real “villain” is. The story very much plays on the trope of right vs. wrong and every shade of grey in between.

I will definitely recommend that everyone go and see this movie. Regardless of if you are a fan of comics or not the story and cinematography alone are worth seeing. Coogler and his team crafted probably one of the best Marvel movies to date. I would rate this movie a solid 9/10. As a comic fan there are nit picky things that I didn’t like, but I didn’t let them discolour my impression from the movie.  Check this out as soon as you can! I’ll be back next week for another installment of most underrated heroes, see you then!

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Wakanda Forever