Cyclops – A Fallen Hero Reborn

Recently in Marvel Comics, Cyclops, famed leader of one of their most popular properties, The X-Men, has had a rough go. This week I’m going to dive into Cyclops as a character as well as what caused him to stray from his path as a hero and turn him into a fascist militant leader of Mutantkind.

Let’s start off with a rundown of his origins and his fall from leader to criminal.

Scott Summers aka Cyclops, first appeared in X-Men of September 1963, he was created by the dream team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

*Despite the length, this will be a brief rundown of important events in his  past that I believe led to his downfall and redemption. *

ORIGINS

Scott Summers was born to Maj. Christpher Summers of the U.S Air Force and his wife Katherine Ann. He was the oldest of their sons, his younger brother, Alex Summers, is known as Havok. One day, while on a flight with his family, a Shi’Ar Empire scout ship appeared and in an effort to hide their presence, set the Summers’ plane ablaze. Katherine took her two boys and strapped them together on the only available parachute, pushing them out the door of the plane. As the parachute deployed, some of the falling debris caused the parachute to catch fire. As they plummeted to the ground, Scott utilized his optic blasts to slow their descent. Upon impact with the ground he suffered a head injury that removed his ability to control his optic blasts. Unbeknownst to the two Summers boys, their parents were teleported onto the Shi’Ar ship before their plane went down. Their mother was also pregnant with another child at the time of their abduction. The third Summers boy, Gabriel, grew up to be known as the villain Vulcan.

Scott and Alex parachuting to safety

Scott and Alex suffered amnesia as a means of coping with the event and were hospitalized where they were looked after by Nathaniel Essex aka Mr. Sinister. Essex took an interest in Scott and believed him to be the stronger of the two. He arranged for Alex to be adopted separately to cause Scott to become emotionally vulnerable. One night while experiencing a nightmare, Scott opened his eyes and destroyed the roof of the building with his optic blasts. He then passed out and fell into a coma for a full year. When he awoke and recovered he was placed in an orphanage in Omaha Nebraska called State Home of Foundlings. Essex continued to experiment on Scott for his formative years and well into adolescence, continuously intervening if anyone ever came close to adopting him. Essex, disguised as a specialist, actually crafted Scott’s first pair of Ruby Quartz lenses.

After an accident where he lost control and obliterated a crane causing it to drop its load. An angry mob believed Scott tried to kill them, despite him saving them from the dropped debris. He was chased out of town and fled on a freight train. Scott fell in with a bad crowd, in particular Jack Winters aka Jack O’Diamonds, a notorious thief who wanted to use Scott’s abilities for crime. When Scott refused Jack would beat him until he agreed. Charles Xavier and the FBI tracked Scott and rescued him from Jack with Xavier offering him a full ride to his School for Gifted Youngsters, and the first member of the X-Men.

Classic suit

Scott was a natural leader but lacked the social skills to bond with his teammates. He fell in love with his teammate Jean Grey but was unable to express his feelings for a long time. Eventually Jean revealed she had a crush on Scott and the two of them began to date. Following the apparent death of professor Xavier, Scott was named Trustee of his Estate and ordered to continue his teaching and running the school. Xavier was revealed to be alive and in a subsequent mission Scott was reunited with his brother Alex who joined the X-Men as Havok. The team went through an overhaul and new members Storm and Wolverine were added to the roster.

THE PHOENIX SAGA

Arguably one of, if not THE most prominent X-Men arc, The Phoenix Saga sees Scott’s long time girlfriend Jean Grey become the cosmic entity “The Phoenix”. Without getting into too much detail, after a successful space mission, the X-Men are returning to Earth and must pass through a solar storm. Jean is possessed by the cosmic Phoenix Force and becomes the embodiment of the Phoenix, and uber powerful entity with cosmic level destructive power. The Phoenix then goes a little off the rails and decides to eat a sun, the Shi’ar Empire is having none of this and wants to kill her. The X-Men then battle with the Imperial Guard of the Shi’ar Empire to protect Jean/Phoenix from them. Realizing that she could never control the darkness inside of her, the Phoenix sacrifices herself on the moon leaving no trace of herself. Scott fell into a deep depression as he believed the love of his life was gone forever.

ROAD TO HIS DOWNFALL

Scott came out of his depressive state and met a woman named Madelyne Pryor, who bore an incredible resemble to Jean. Madelyne was a clone of Jean sent by Nathaniel Essex to seduce Scott and bear him an offspring that Essex could use for his own ends. Scott and Madelyne were married and she eventually bore him a child which was named Nathan Christopher Charles Summers aka Cable.

When Jean is discovered alive at the bottom of the bay in Jamaica where the Phoenix had first emerged, Scott packed his things and left his home in Anchorage with Madelyne and his son to be with Jean. When he met with Jean she explained that she believed the X-Men had strayed form Xavier’s dream for the team Together they founded the X-Factor with other original X-Men members and worked to help young mutants master their powers.

Eventually Scott and Jean are married and begin a life together while both remaining active members of the X-Men. After a particularly taxing battle involving Apocalypse and some Skrulls, Scott sacrificed himself to help stop Apocalypse. He was eventually found alive by Jean and his son Nathan in a village in Egypt. They helped to restore his psyche and cleanse Apocalypse’s influence from his mind. Scott began to grow more militarized and grimmer than he was before his death. He sought out counseling from new X-Men recruit Emma Frost, which only served for him to partake in a telepathic affair with Emma . Jean and Scott took a break and both contemplated on their relationship. Jean was killed by John Sublime who had taken control of Xorn and attacked the X-Men. As she died, Scott apologized for what he had done and how he had hurt Jean. Jean, seeing Scott’s sincerity, told Scott to move on and live his life without her. Scott and Emma Frost formalized their relationship and Scott found happiness for the first time in a long time.

Following the events of the House of M story line and “M Day”, mutants became an endangered species the world over. Scott and Emma opened the doors of Xavier’s school as a refugee camp for any mutants, no questions asked.

Militaristic Suit

Shortly after M-Day, The X-Men saved the city of San Francisco from a rogue mutant known as Goddess. As a thank you, the mayor and people of San Francisco offered the help re-establish the X-Men in their city. Scott and Emma took the offer and closed Xavier’s school relocating to a new compound in San Francisco. It was also during this time that Scott’s mentality moved from the ‘defend mutants at all costs’ to ‘kill or be killed’. Scott also formed the lethal covert team, the X-Force, and put Wolverine in charge as the team leader.

In the Utopia story arc, Osborn and his Dark Avengers were forced to stop rioting in San Francisco between mutants and humans following some devastating media footage depicting a mutant baby blowing up a small town. The Dark Avengers began abducting mutants and taking them to their Alcatraz facility where their powers were being siphoned into “Weapon Omega” aka Michael Pointer/ Guardian. Scott, appalled at what was going on, had Magik teleport the entire X-Force onto Alcatraz island where they did battle with the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men to buy Magik time to teleport all the prisoners away. At the conclusion of the arc, Scott has ‘M Asteroid’ raised out of the pacific (where it had crashed several years before) and declared it Utopia, the home of all mutantkind. Magneto joined the X-Men on Utopia swearing his allegiance to Scott stating that he had done what both Magneto and Charles never could, unite all of mutantkind.

Scott believed it was his duty to protect mutantkind at any cost and he became ever more militaristic and dictator-like to protect those living in Utopia. When the villain Bastion opened a time portal allowing sentinels through in an attempt to kill Hope Summers (Scott’s daughter from an alternate future) Scott ordered the X-Force to get Hope to Utopia at any cost. In the end it cost both Nightcrawler and Cable their lives to get Hope to safety and stop Bastion. Out of guilt for Nightcrawler and Cable’s death, and the countless other mutants who died, Scott disbanded the X-Force and buried his son. Several long time X-Men members began to resent Scott for his militaristic attitude and blamed him for the deaths of fellow teammates. When a massive Sentinel was sent against Utopia, Scott and Wolverine got into an argument about how to defend the island. Scott believed that it was every mutant’s duty to defend their home, even the children. Logan believed that the older X-Men and X-Force members should defend the island and the children should be evacuated. This led to a bloody battle between Logan and Scott, which resulted in Logan, and several other members who agreed with him, leaving to go back and re-open Xavier’s school that had been closed when the X-Men relocated to San Francisco.

SCOTT’S DOWNFALL

AVENGERS VS X-MEN

Scott was training Hope very aggressively and refused to give her an answer as to why. She grew angry and flared up with the power of the Phoenix Force. Meanwhile, across the country in New York, Nova crashed to the ground and when they Avengers found him all he said was “it’s coming”. The Phoenix Force was once again burning a path through the cosmos on it’s way back to Earth. After Captain America asked Wolverine about the Phoenix, Wolverine told him and the rest of the Avengers about Hope Summers. After seeing Hope’s ‘Phoenix Power’, Scott became convinced that it’s arrival would herald the salvation of mutantkind. So, when Captain America and the Avengers showed up to Utopia demanding Hope as a precaution against the coming threat, Scott attacked Captain America.

Scott attacks Captain America

After seeing Scott blast Captain America into the ocean, a SHIELD Helicarrier uncloaked and the Avengers invaded Utopia. Hope seeing what she had caused, and fearful of the Phoenix Force, fled. Eventually, the X-Men surrendered to the Avengers, who then began making plans to apprehend Hope and take her into protective custody. Scott and the X-Men teleport away and begin their search for Hope before the Avengers. Scott goes to Westchester in an attempt to convince Wolverine to switch sides and recruit any other mutants to fight for their own kind. Hope flees to the moon in hopes to reduce the damage the Phoenix Force could cause should it find her on Earth. The Avengers and Scott discover her location and both head to the moon. Scott brings Colossus, Emma Frost, Magik, Namor and Wolverine. The Avengers arrive shortly before the Phoenix and another fight breaks out with Iron Man trying to make a weapon to defeat the Phoenix. He inadvertently causes the Phoenix to split into 5 pieces, with each piece possessing one of the X-Men. Unable to defeat the X-Men, the Avengers regroup to come up with a new plan while the “Phoenix Five” take Hope back to Earth to “prepare her”.

Phoenix Five

With the power of the Phoenix, the Five begin reshaping the world to make it better. They outlaw wars and provide the necessities of life to everyone under their rule. The Avengers oppose them and even convince Hope to come with them, which prompts Cyclops to declare “No More Avengers”. Namor tracks the Avengers to Wakanda and went to confront them on his own, when he is beaten, his portion of the Phoenix Force leaves him and enters the others, strengthening them. The Avengers hide Hope in K’un L’un (home of the Iron Fist), in a different dimension, to buy time to come up with a plan. Colossus and Magik get into an argument and knock each other out, further strengthening Scott and Emma. Scott uses his immense power to break the dimensional barriers and enter K’un L’un to get Hope back.

Hope, appalled at what her father has done, banishes him to the moon. This pushes Scott further over the edge, knowing he could win if he had more power, he returned to Utopia to find Emma. Though he is unable to attack her, the intervention of Professor Xavier and the Avengers ignites another battle. As the battle rages, it begins to turn in favour of the Avengers and X-Men who are trying to stop Scott and Emma. Scott knocks Emma out and absorbs her portion of the Phoenix Force. As the sole owner of the Force, Scott goes insane and becomes the Dark Phoenix. When Xavier tries to shut his mind down, to end the fight, Scott loses control and kills him. Hope and Scarlet Witch manage to exorcise the Phoenix Force from Scott and use it’s power to “restart mutantkind”. They reignited the X gene on the planet allowing mutants to be born again.

Scott kills Xavier

MILITARISTIC REVOLUTIONARY

Scott was imprisoned for his actions in the Avengers vs. X-Men story line and remained there for some time until mutant hating humans killed his only friend and fellow mutant. Magneto and a small team destroyed the prison and broke Scott out, setting him on his new path. Scott went around liberating unjustly imprisoned mutants, helping them to master their abilities and offering him a spot on his new team. As he rescued more and more people, the citizens on the street started calling him a revolutionary and sporting signs and shirts saying “Cyclops was right”. This brought him into conflict once again with the Avengers who attempted to bring him in for his past crimes. Scott fled with the help of some other mutants and returned to Westchester and the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.

Cyclops vs. Wolverine

During the Incursion events leading up to Secret Wars Scott revealed that he was in possession of a phoenix egg and was willing to use it if necessary. At the battle of the final Incursion, when Earth-1610 (The Ultimate Marvel Universe) is on a collision course with Earth-616 (Main Marvel Universe) Scott uses the Phoenix Egg. At the battle of Manhattan Scott bonds completely with the Phoenix Force, now in full control of it’s power, Scott uses it to obliterate the forces of Earth-1610 and the Children of Tomorrow. As the Worlds are lost, Scott is transported onto the Illuminati’s Life Raft where he survives the smashing of the two universes and the subsequent emergence into Battleworld.

As the heroes on the life raft are forced to fight the Cabal on Battleworld, God Doom arrives to quell the fighting. When Scott attempts to use the full power of the Phoenix Force to destroy Doom, Doom shrugs off the hit and proceeds to snap Scott’s neck, killing him.

When Franklin and Reed Richards remade the multiverse Cyclops was resurrected along with all the other heroes and villains where he joined the X-Men once again. While his team was responding to a call on Muir Island, Scott came into contact with some trace remains of the Terrigen Mists. The Mists had been released by Black Bolt and his brother Maximus to spur the creation of more Inhumans, the only downside, the Mists are fatal to Mutants. When Scott was exposed to the mists, he began to die. He collapsed into the arms of Emma and pleaded with her to help him. He pleaded for it ” Not to end like this” before dying in her arms. Wracked with grief Emma used her powers to make a mental projection of Scott still alive and well. This projection of Scott was able to reverse the effects of the mists and stood down a large contingent of Inhumans. The projection of Scott was killed by Black Bolt, Leader/King of the Inhumans, and was mourned as a hero by the X-Men and the mutant community as a whole.

Scott’s Headstone on the School grounds

RESURRECTION

Teenage Cable from the not too distant future returned to the current timeline and paired with Paul Douek from Stark Industries to find a way to bring his father back. Utilizing leftover energy from the Phoenix Force, the duo were able to resurrect Cyclops. Scott needed time after his resurrection to examine the points in his life that led to his downfall and reflect on his choices and actions. During his reflection he was visited by Magneto who delivered some hard hitting advice, which helped Scott to realize his error and what he had become before his death.

Scott’s inevitable downfall came from him constantly seeing that the pacifist approach of Charles didn’t work. While Charles would advocate for action when necessary, he preferred words to fists. Watching the love of his life die (repeatedly), being betrayed by his father figure and having to bury his own son, Scott slowly lost his grip on his moral compass. He began to think that everything could be solved with the proper application of force and that by showing Mutants as a strong people, they would be respected. While his tactics worked sometimes, most of his actions caused people to distrust mutants less and less, causing them to become violent and Scott to respond to their violence in kind.

Scott’s Resurrection

Scott began to see himself as the only person actively working to keep mutants safe and felt he needed to resort to aggressive tactics to maintain that strength. He lost long time allies like Beast and Wolverine because of his inability to see the faults in his actions and caused the death of dozens of fellow mutants in his militaristic ideals.

Scott realizes the error of his past actions
Scott admits his faults

Deep down Scott is a good person, he’s flawed, but that’s what makes him such a compelling character. You need people like Superman and Captain America to always be the voice of reason and to fight the good fight, but flawed characters that make very real and relatable mistakes are more compelling and draw more comparisons to real life. For all his bluster and grand standing, at his core Scott is a good man who wants to do the right thing. He tries to keep control so he can always see the outcome and never be surprised; even though that doesn’t always happen. He knows that Xavier’s teachings won’t work in the long run but neither will militaristic action and he’s constantly trying to find a balance between the two in order to etch out a place for his people in the world.

There you have it! Cyclops’ fall and rebirth into the hero he once was! See you next time!

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Aquaman – King of the DCEU

Last night I was out with a couple friends enjoying a double feature for one of their birthdays. We took in the new addition to the Transformers Franchise Bumblebee and the newest addition to the floundering DCEU, Aquaman. While I immensely enjoyed Bumblebee, it’s by far the BEST Transformers movie, I had a few more reservations for Aquaman. After the disappointing Justice League and the terrible Batman V. Superman, Wonder Woman was the only thing keeping the DCEU afloat, until the king of the seven seas arrived.

Directed by James Wan (of Saw fame), this movie was the first salvo in the soft reboot currently underway from Warner Brothers and their DCEU. This review will be spoiler free but I will discuss several key aspects of the film and their relation to the source material.

STORY

The first thing I have to say and it can be taken a slight negative for the film, the story is all over the place. While they make it work for the film, they basically took the first five collected issues of Aquaman’s New 52 comic run and made it into the plot for the film. The main pull is the Throne of Atlantis story line which has already been made into an animated feature as part of the DCAU (DC Animated Universe). The story centers around King Orm (Aquaman’s half brother) a full blooded Atlantean and his bid for the throne of Atlantis. Wan’s film is a very ‘Shakespearean’ tale of family betrayal and political trickery with a healthy dose of comedic undertones. Arthur Curry (Aquaman) fresh off his defeat of Steppenwolf with the Justice League has decided to become the unofficial protector of the seas. This brings him into conflict with a particular group of pirates. These pirates have been operating with maximum casualties for quite some time and Aquaman has had enough. Those familiar with the storyline for the Throne of Atlantis arc will be able to see what will happen before it does; however, Wan and co. have worked enough subplots into the mix to provide some surprising turns wherever they can.

Left: Nereus and Xebel Forces; Right: Orm and Atlantean Forces

CAST

Jason Momoa returns as Arthur Curry (Aquaman) for his second foray into the DC comics world. He builds on his persona established in the Justice League and we are shown his origins with a great exposition at the opening of the film. As the film progresses we are also shown why he holds Atlantis in such low regard and refuses to help them in any capacity. It allows for a great heroic origin as Arthur goes from occasional vigilante to the full blown hero we’ve been waiting for.

Amber Heard straight up knocks it out of the park as Mera. There is a particular scene in the middle section of the movie where you really get to see why Mera is such a respected warrior and queen in the comics. She brings a very authoritative quality to the role which helps to balance out Momoa’s ‘bro take’ on the classic clean cut Atlantean king. Her arc through the film is one we’ve seen before in plenty of other works; however, Heard makes it her own and shows that Mera is worthy of her own movie.

The standout star for me is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta. At the beginning of the film we are shown a ruthless Kane as he and his pirate crew work to hijack a submarine. Through a turn of events he is left alone and blames Aquaman for it. This sets him on a path of revenge that has him crafting his Black Manta persona through the entirety of the film. When he finally confronts Arthur and Mera in Italy, he has emerged fully as the supervillain that has plagued Aquaman since his first appearance in Aquaman #35 from 1967. Abdul-Mateen II delivers a dark and gritty performance in an otherwise fairly light-hearted film which helps to cement Manta as someone who will continue to appear in future DC films.

Black Manta

Patrick Wilson gives us our main villain by his portrayal of King Orm/Ocean Master. A conflicted ruler who just wants to do right by his people, Wilson brings a certain gravitas to the role that helps to establish Orm as a force to be reckoned with. Wanting to preserve his people and their way of life he has grown tired of the mistreatment of the oceans by the surface world and he is through playing nice. Wilson’s protrayal of Orm helps to provide some sympathy for the young ruler but ultimately helps to give a villain you can’t help to love.

Other notable members of the cast are Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus and Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Despite 90% of the film taking place under water and in front of a green screen, Wan manages to deliver some stellar shots. One scene which appears to be a continuous shot (in the vein of the various Marvel Netflix series’), really showcases Wan’s keen eye. He created a living and breathing world at the bottom of the ocean that makes you believe in the might and magic of the fictional kingdom of Atlantis. As I said before in my review of Black Panther, I’m not a cinematographer and don’t pretend to be, but I can tell what shots look amazing and help to convey the emotion and feel of the scenes, and in that regard, Wan knocks it out of the park.

Amber Hear (Mera), James Wan (Director), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman) and Willem Dafoe (Vulko)

COSTUMES

The costumes in this film were perfectly done. Each character has a costume that directly references back to their comic roots and helps to provide a great feel for the overall tone of the film. I was extremely giddy when Arthur finally dons his orange and green comic accurate costume at the climax of the film. Mera’s costume is a direct recreation of her comic source material and Orm/Ocean Master’s full purple and silver battle garb is a perfect counterbalance to Arthur’s orange and green. Black Manta and the Atlantean soldiers take the cake for costume design. Giving us a great armoured and vibrant colour scheme for the costumes of the Atlanteans, Kym Barrett, worked closely with Wan to bring his vision to life. Manta’s costume was heavily influenced by the source material while adding a very apparent Atlantean touch to it to provide a truly menacing character.

“The Trench” which are an ancient race of Atlanteans since mutated into a cross of humans and Angler Fish, were truly horrifying and provided some very terrifying scenes.

Trench Drone
Trench Swarm

MUSIC

The score for the film worked extremely well to create and translate the mood and feel from the shots to the viewers. There were a couple of misfires with some of the music, in particular a horrible cover of ‘Africa’. In a movie of fantastical underwater civilizations and wondrous technology, it felt out of place and a cheap way to bring a small laugh from the audience. With the exception of that small misstep the music fit the film really well and even the inclusion of a Greta Van Fleet chart topper worked to immerse the audience in the world of Aquaman.

ACTION

It’s hard for me to accurately describe the action in the film. It’s not that it wasn’t apparent or well done, it’s just that the majority of it was done using CGI. For obvious reasons they needed to use CGI to convey the 360 degree combat that the Atlanteans and the other kingdoms of the sea are fluent in, not to mention their amazing powers, it just left me a little wanting. The up close and personal action scenes with Arthur,Mera, Manta, the Atlanteans and Orm were very well done and choreographed, but they were few and far between. There is a big CGI slugfest of a fight at the climax of the film that delivers on the building tensions throughout the run time and showcases the various kingdoms of the sea beautifully. I’m not sure if Patrick Wilson and Jason Momoa went to trident combat training, or if there even is such a thing, but their work with those tridents is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Arthur and Orm before ‘Ring of Fire’

OVERALL

As someone who has seen every comic book movie to come out since the release of the Dark Knight in 2008, I can say that this is (in my opinion) the best DC movie since Nolan’s trilogy. While I did thoroughly enjoy Wonder Woman, the villain just didn’t capture me like Orm and Manta do. I love Gal Gadot and think she’s perfect for the role of Diana, but Momoa knocks this one out of the park. I would rate it as the top DCEU movie and overall I would give it a solid 9.0/10. Shazam and Wonder Woman 84 are going to have to really step their game up to even come close to this gem that Wan delivered. I highly recommend that if you’re a fan of the character or any of the cast listed that you go and see the film. If this is the first salvo in a new and improved DCEU, then the MCU could be getting a run for their money.

Aquaman movie poster

See you next time!

Secret Empire – Captain America’s Greatest Betrayal

“We were supposed to be heroes. We were supposed to stand for something. It’s hard to say when it all started going wrong, but at some point, we let the fight become about us, not the world we’d sworn to protect. We found ourselves divided, and under siege. So many threats, so many dangers but the one that would end us, was the one we trusted the most.

Funny how the world can change in a day. How something so horrible can sneak up on you so quickly. And Stark was right. We’d won so many times against impossible odds. We started to take it for granted. Started to believe we were destined to come out on top. But something felt different this time.

We’d been pushed beyond our breaking point, slowly, methodically. And just as we were thinking we’d almost survived it, they struck the real blow.

As the battle began, there had already been suspicions. Whispers. Some knew who it must be, Hydra’s New Secret Leader. There was only one person who could’ve orchestrated all this, after all. Even still, they refused to believe… Until they saw it with their own eyes.

And so we fought. We fought because we believed we were right… And we fell because we were wrong.

We thought we were there to stop him, but the truth is… We were right where they wanted us to be. They had made plans for us… Found ways to turn our most powerful against us, again and again.

Later, when the stories were told, they’d all remark on the same thing.. how quickly it happened. We thought we were so strong, so unbeatable. That we could never collapse so quickly. So completely. So when we did, all we could do was watch it unfold, helpless as the day we were born. And with the world slipping away around us, we gazed into the face of our enemy, finally seeing them for what they really were.

They were stronger.

They were more powerful.

In that moment…They were worthy.”

Victorious Cap lifts Mjolnir

This was the moment, the moment when all the readers of Marvel Comics and the heroes contained within knew, that the world they knew had changed forever…

Captain America has been one of the most stalwart comic characters in all of history. He never wavered in his beliefs and he could bring out the best in everyone regardless of circumstances. So why did Marvel use this opportunity to make him evil? To answer that we have to go back to the prelude to Secret Empire.

HOW IT HAPPENED

The First thing you have to understand is that the history that we know since the beginning of Marvel Comics publication, was in fact false. The Nazis and Hydra were the victors of WWII. Captain America was a double agent trained by Kraken and Madam Hydra to act as the Allies’ saviour while secretly providing the Axis with information that could be used to win the war. This worked for pretty much the entire war before Cap’s double nature was discovered, and resulted in a much different world than we know. The ace in the hole was this, The Cosmic Cube. Now after the allies had driven Cap away, they had discovered the Cosmic Cube and its reality warping powers. (The Cosmic Cube and the Tesseract from the MCU are two VERY different artifacts).

Following his exile from Allied territory, Captain America had arrived to Japan high up in the mountains and entered a cave where he was greeted by his father figure/trainer Kraken. Kraken explained that this was where Hydra had begun and where it will continue its legacy. Captain America is led inside where he sees a pool and an old man stirring the waters. He is shown a vision of the allies preparing the Cosmic Cube to alter history and he is told that by submerging himself in the pool he will be protected from the change. Kraken went on to say that he would wake up in a world unfamiliar to him but that he would retain all of his memories and ideals.

As the allies began their change, Captain America submerged in the pool and was bombarded with memories and history that collided with his own. He awoke in a world where the allies had won and where he had been lost in the arctic for 70 years following his foiling of Red Skull’s final plan.

Now while there were various ticks and nods to Cap’s true nature through the beginning of the run by Nick Spencer. If you read the culmination of the previous 2016 event titled Avengers: Standoff! Cap’s change came as less of a surprise (Red Skull influenced the sentient Cosmic Cube ‘Kobik”, to rewrite Cap’s history making him a champion of Hydra as it restored Cap to his youthful appearance). In the first issue of Marvel’s new Steve centered comic run titled Captain America: Steve Rogers,is when his allegiance alteration is confirmed. In the final panels of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 (July 2016), Steve pushes his longtime ally Jack Flag from an airplane to fall to his apparent death, Rogers then turns to Dr. Selvig and says “Hail Hydra”.

Cap’s official turning point

WHAT CAME AS A RESULT

The opening to Secret Empire showed us one of the most complete and utter defeats of the Marvel heroes we have ever seen. The Guardians of the Galaxy, The Ultimates, Hyperion, Quasar, Captain Marvel and her Alpha Flight Space Program are trying to stop a Chitauri invasion of Earth and are fighting a losing battle. While they can beat the Chitauri en masse, the aliens just keep coming in endless waves. Iron Man and Iron Heart are attempting to repair the planetary shield to stop the invasion but they are not having any luck. The Defenders, Uncanny Avengers and some of the X-Men are attempting to quell a breakout from the Supervillain rehab center Pleasant Hill, with some success. One of the SHIELD helicarriers has gone missing and Hydra forces are waging a large attack against SHIELD all around the globe.

Nitro (the supervillain famous for starting the Civil War event, the REAL one, not the MCU version), exits the facility and proceeds to detonate himself in downtown New York City causing massive damage. The rest of the villains are teleported away while Baron Zemo and Blackout drop the entirety of the island of New York into the Darkforce dimension bringing on an endless night. The President then awards Steve Rogers (the Director of SHIELD) control over the United Stated military to help combat these threats. Once Steve has the power of the United States Armed Forces behind him, he sets his plan into action. He activates the planetary shield locking Captain Marvel and the ‘heavy hitters’ outside the planet at the mercy of the Chitauri. He crashes the missing helicarrier, now filled with Hydra soldiers, into another helicarrier and uses the hypnotic suggestion of Dr. Faustus to cause the defending SHIELD agents to become hypnotized and unwilling to fight. Iron Heart and her Tony Stark AI realize that the next target would be Washington D.C and have all the heroes rally there to defend it. Hydra sieges the city in an attempt to destabilize the government and the spirit of the American people. Steve Rogers, Now Hydra Supreme Commander, arrives and asks the Avengers to stop fighting and join him. When they refuse, his army moves in and attacks. He uses undisclosed methods to take out Thor, Vision and Scarlet Witch while the rest of the heroes are slowly beaten, one by one. As he stands victorious above them he reaches down and lifts Mjolnir high into the air. 

RAMIFICATIONS

This turn for the The Captain left a sour taste in a lot of fans mouths. Not only did they take one of the greatest heroes in all of comics and turn him into a Nazi, they also ripped down everything he stood for just to get some more sales and provide even a small semblance of competition to DC Comics with their Rebirth Initiative.

The bit that really stuck with most fans was the blatant disregard for the original creators of the character. Joseph Henry “Joe” Simon born Hymie Simon and Jack “King” Kirby born Jacob Kurtzberg, who created the character, were both of them members of the Jewish faith, both of their families having experienced persecution at the hands of the Nazis in WWII. By turning their creation of a man who stood for what was right and fought for the little man, literally against the Nazis, into a Nazi commander who took over the world, showed blatant disrespect to them.

Steve Rogers as Supreme Commander of Hydra

With all the backlash that Marvel experienced after writer Nick Spencer affirmed that this was not some trick, and that this was the original Captain America, they were (in my opinion) forced to rectify the situation. I won’t spoil what they did, but it kind of just sugar coated the entire ordeal and really ended up making the entire event a terrible run. Not only did they sugarcoat the run, but they kept the Hydra Cap! He still exists in the main Marvel universe (Earth-616) and is going to stir some shit up later on, they foreshadow that at the end of the run.

There’s a lot of things that I’m not a fan of with this event but one thing I can say for sure is that despite its flaws, it’s incredibly well written. The exposition and character development in this story is top notch, and as made evident from the opening speech of this post which was taken directly from Issue # 0, it delivers some hard hitting dialogue.

Cap vs. Cap

When all is said and done, the main betrayal of Captain America is not to any one hero, his long time friends and allies or the universe as a whole, it was to the fans and the legacy of the character. Marvel has worked very hard to rectify this situation and bring the faith of the fans back. I know that, personally, I haven’t purchased any Marvel comics since the release of Secret Empire because of how far out in left field they took it. I will be purchasing in the future, especially the new Moon Knight run but with their new Legacy imprint, I feel like they’re finally listening to the fans and going back to what worked for them for decades.

Hydra Cap armoured for battle

That concludes this post! check back soon for my review of Aquaman and Bumblebee!

Avengers: Endgame – Trailer Breakdown & Plot Prediction

Earlier this morning we were gifted with an early Christmas present, the new Avengers trailer! Originally it was supposed to be released on Wednesday earlier this week; however, due to the untimely death of past President George H. W. Bush, it was pushed to today to accommodate his televised funeral service in Washington. I was not familiar with his policies and and acts as president of the United States  but from what I understand he did a lot of good for the country and he will be sorely missed.

Onto the trailer!

Ever since the ‘snappening’ at the end of Infinity War, fans have been speculating as to what will happen to the defeated team. With Ant-Man and the Wasp, we were shown a probable solution to the Avengers’ problem of dealing with a fully powered Thanos with all the Infinity stones, Quantum Time Wells. In the post-credit sequence of Ant-Man and the Wasp, original Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) was coaching Scott on what to look for in the Quantum Realm. One of the anomalies that she cautions against is Quantum Time Wells, which (I think) is how the Avengers are more than likely going to beat Thanos. 

Let’s breakdown the trailer…

We start with a lonely Tony recording a voice message in hopes that Pepper will one day see it and know that in his last moments he will be thinking about her. He states that his oxygen will run out by the next day and power a few days after that, but he wants her to know that in his final days she was all he could think about. Which shows a lot of personal growth for Tony, ever since we were first introduced to him in 2008’s Iron Man he has been a fairly narcissistic person. Pepper was the one person that he could care about and who he wanted above all to protect. 

Tony recording the message for Pepper

The title card for Marvel Studios got a bit of a redo since the ‘snappening’ and now shows the title discarding into dust much like some of the heroes did after the snap.

We are shown Thanos’ armour arranged on a stand to represent a scarecrow as Thanos walks through a field of alien plants still wearing the damaged gauntlet. Apparently after Thanos murders half of the life in the universe he decided to become a farmer?

Thanos scarecrow

We are shown some exterior shots of the Avengers compound while Widow is summarizing what Thanos did to a startled Bruce Banner. We see a shot of a now beardless and groomed Cap shedding a tear for either Bucky or his friends and allies. Banner is amazed at everything that happened and see all the people they lost as their faces begin rotating through a wheel on the holo-screen in front of him.

Cap sheds a tear for the fallen

We get a shot of the empty Avengers compound and then more shots of the survivors from the ‘snappening’ as they mourn their friends and loved ones. We get a nice voice over from Captain America as he states that they all lost someone either friends or family and that they all lost part of themselves when it happened. 

Ronin

We cut to a shot of a hooded figure cleaning a bloody sword on their sleeve while Widow watches in a town somewhere in Asia. The figure removes their hood and mask to reveal Clint Barton who has adopted his Ronin alias. Cap’s voice over then says “This is the fight of our lives” as we see him looking at the picture of Peggy Carter he keeps in his compass. Inside of a Quinjet, Widow turns to him and says that their plan will work while Steve says ” I know it will, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if it doesn’t”.

Cap in Quinjet

We then get the title card for the movie where the avengers “A” is being put back together from broken stone on a purple background. The Avengers title appears on the screen with the subtitle “Endgame” appearing out of a purple flash. The final shot of the trailer shows us Scott Lang arriving at the Avengers compound and talking to the security camera asking to be let in. He introduces himself as Ant-Man and that they would remember him from the airport in Germany. Cap stands up with a determined look in his eyes asking if it’s an old message with Widow stating “No, this is at the front gate”. We then get a purple title card stating April 2019 with the ‘A’ in April as the Avengers ‘A’. 

April 2019

My prediction of the plot is as follows:
Scott Lang arrives along with Clint who has assumed the Ronin persona to the Avengers compound where Captain America and Black Widow are thinking up a counterattack. He explains how everyone (Hank, Hope & Janet) were wiped out and he needs to get them back. Cap and Widow will then explain what happened with Thanos and they will take some time coming up with a plan.
Tony is floating in space in the Milano (Peter’s ship from Guardians of the Galaxy) but without any fuel or knowledge of how the hip works/to fix it, he is set to drift in the void between Titan and Earth. He will be found by Captain Marvel who is answering Fury’s call from the post-credit scene in Infinity War. They return to Earth where the remaining Avengers and those that survived the ‘snappening’ are formulating their plan. 
Thanos is a farmer? and he is happy at what he has down knowing the universe will spin on. Though he knows something isn’t quite right.
The remaining Avengers decide to use Quantum Time Vortexes to go back in time to the battle of New York from the first Avengers film. Tony poses as a SHIELD security agent in order to help break Loki out so he can tell them where Thanos is. The original avengers and the new squad ally together during the battle of New York. The new squad are responsible for protecting the city while the original crew head through the wormhole to confront Thanos on the Chitauri station when he doesn’t have any of the stones.
In the climactic battle the portal will need to be closed . The original crew will still be fighting Thanos and they’ll make the sacrifice to hold the line while the new squad closes the portal to Earth, stranding them in Chitauri space. Cap and Tony will make a final stand against Thanos with both dying in the fight. With Thanos being defeated and not lasting to get both the power and space stones, the other stones are then returned to their rightful places and the timeline is reset. 

There you have it! My breakdown of the trailer and my prediction of the plot. I am super excited for this film and hope that it’s going to be even better than Infinity War was! See you next time!

The Campaign Setting

The world changed when the dragons returned. The ancient feud between the Chromatic Dragons and the Metallic Dragons was reignited after thousands of years. Along with the dragons, came magic. Not scholarly magic as taught by the Wizard’s Conclave, but Wild Magic, untamed and raw, a powerful force if channeled correctly, it is the native magic of the dragons themselves. Not only did a resurgence in natural “Wild Magic” occur but the portals to the Netherealm, believed to have been closed for tens of thousands of years, opened…

Demons, Ghouls, Wights, and other nightmarish creatures have begun to invade the land killing indiscriminately and raising the dead to join their ranks. The Dragons formed an truce to combat the new threat and began a campaign to close the portals and extinguish the dead from the land, there was just one problem, the dragons were losing. For every portal they were able to close, 2 more would open up and the lives lost to close the portal joined their enemy. The dragons were fighting a losing battle and couldn’t find a way to win.

On the verge of falling to the nightmare, an alliance was formed amongst all the species, both good and evil, to push the nightmare back and close the portals. Powerful mages from both sides allied together and sealed the portals with magic from the Dragon Orbs, powerful magical artifacts that contain the essence of Wild Magic. Once the nightmare had been defeated and the creatures destroyed, these Dragon Orbs were divided up amongst both sides with the knowledge of what could happen if either side decided to use them. An uneasy peace took the land for several years until the first attack by the Dragonlord Berylinthranox. Wanting more territory for herself, she launched a campaign to claim the land from Abanasia all the way to the borders of the Silvanesti kingdom to the west. This provoked all the other Chromatic Dragonlords to claim territory for themselves: Malystryx, Khallehandaros, Onyxstryx, and Sacrantaros claimed huge swaths of land from the Eastern most tip of Sancrist to the Eastwilde.

The kingdom of Solamnia, home of the Solamnic Knights, caused massive problems for Onyxstryx. The Knights, who were the governing force of good in the land, refused to bow to a Dragonlord and began a war against him and his forces. Reluctantly, Onyxstryx requested help from the other Dragonlords and their armies to quell the rebellion in Solamnia. The other Dragonlords agreed if they were permitted to divide a large portion of the land between them, Onyxstryx agreed and the armies gathered. It took one Solamnic Knight, Huma Dragonbane, who had rallied the remaining metallic dragons and support from the Elves and Dwarves to halt the Dragonlords advance. The battle lasted days, with heavy casualties on both sides.

The Gods watched as the battle unfolded with the evil Goddess Takhisis aiding her Chromatic Dragons and Paladine, the king of the Gods, aiding the Solamnic alliance.  Eventually when she feared her “children” to be losing, Takhisis journeyed to Earth and took her form of a giant 5 headed dragon, each head representing a different colour of chromatic dragon. Unwilling to allow his sister to tip the scales in favour of evil, Paladine also journeyed to Earth and took the form of a very powerful Wizard. Paladine aided the Solamnic Knights in crafting the Dragonlances, powerful weapons able to kill Dragons with a single blow to the heart.  Huma mounted his Silver Dragon, Palladium, and together they led a charge against the Chromatic Dragons. Huma himself struck down Takhisis, perishing in the fight. As Takhisis fell, all the dragons across the land disappeared leaving just the armies alone without wild magic.

For nearly a thousand years the land has been at an uneasy peace. With the dragons gone, the evil forces retreated to their strongholds in the north and east,  and the world began to heal. The land of Solamnia was returned to the knights who rebuilt their order and honoured those who died to bring an end to the war.

While the Dragonlord war is marked in history as fact, the Nightmare has passed into legend. No evidence of the creatures exist and the stories told to frighten the young children are all but myth.

Each member of your company received a mysterious letter telling them to meet at the Inn of the Last Home in Solace on the 3rd Sunday of Summer. In the letter it specifies that you will meet a man, and that he will know you but you will not know him. He will have a task for you to complete and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Nobody is sure as to who sent the letters, but each one contained a single white chicken feather.

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My Top 10 Favourite Heroes/Anti-Heroes

This week for my blog post, I decided to do a list of my top 10 favourite heroes from DC and Marvel combined. It’s not going to be a secret that you’re going to see a lot of anti-heroes on this list, given how much I love them, but there will be some clean cut heroes on here too. I should preface this by saying that this list is my own opinion and can fluctuate from time to time.

So let’s dive in starting at the bottom and work our way to the top.

#10. Captain America

Cap

Steven Grant Rogers was born in Manhattan, New York on July 4, 1920, to his parents Sarah and Joseph Rogers. He grew up a frail young man during the depression with his father dying during his childhood and his mother dying of pneumonia during his teen years. He attempted to enlist during the WWII draft but was denied due to his size and medical ailments. He was eventually chosen for the “Operation: Rebirth” the Super Soldier project headed by Dr. Erskine where he became Captain America. Captain America was responsible for helping to turn the tide of the war in the favour of the allies before he was tragically lost somewhere over the arctic. He lay frozen in ice for over 70 years before being discovered and thawed by the Avengers. Captain America has gone on to head the Avengers for decades and remains as their most constant member.

Why Captain America?

Chris Evans said it best when asked during an interview for the original Avengers as to why he chose to play him, he said” He’s the epitome of who you wish you could be. He’s good for the sake of being good”. We’re just going to ignore Hydra Cap and that Secret Empire garbage for a moment (like seriously? why?) and focus on what Evans said. He is the epitome of who you wish you could be. Captain America is one of he few heroes who has remained largely incorruptible during his comic run, and that is something we as people aspire to. Everyone is good, the choices you make dictate how the world sees you, and Captain America always makes the right choice. He might not always end up on the side of the law (Civil War anyone?), but he is always on the right side. This quality is something that everyone strives towards and gives them an objective to maintain which is something that is needed by a lot of people. But not only is he good for the sake of being good, he also has an ability to inspire. Captain America always believes in the best in everybody and he uses this belief in the people to inspire them to be the best version of themselves. During the Original Infinity War comic, he stood up to Thanos, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier he convinced hundreds if not thousands of SHIELD agents to stand up for what was right and to fight against the Hydra agents that had infiltrated their organization and in Disney’s Avengers Assemble his stand against Thanos and the Black Order convinced the entire population of New York to rally behind him and the Avengers to buy the time needed to win. No matter who you are, there is no denying that Captain America deserves a spot on everybody’s top 10 list.

#9 – The Flash

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Bartholomew Henry Allen “Barry Allen” was born in Fallville Iowa to his parents Henry and Nora Allen. Barry was actually one of twins born to the Allens but his brother was whisked away and given to another family, the Thawnes, who’s child had died during childbirth. The Allens were told that the second baby had been born still and that Barry himself was lucky to be alive. When Barry was a young boy his mother was murdered in their home and his father was framed for the murder. Henry Allen was convicted of life in Iron Heights Prison and Barry struggled without any parental figures in his life. He eventually developed an aptitude for the sciences and went to school for Forensic Science. He graduated and earned himself a job at the Central City Police Department in the Forensics lab. He was working late one night when a lightning bolt struck him after he had tripped and been covered in a cocktail of chemicals. This provided Barry with super speed and allowed him to become the superhero known as the Flash. The Flash has been a mainstay in the Justice League lineup for decades and is one of the voices of reason during the League’s debates.

Why The Flash?

Like Captain America, Barry has one underlying quality, the ability to make you believe in hope. No matter how bad things seem to get, Barry will always be able to get you to believe in not only yourself, but the others around you and trust that together you will find a way to succeed. It’s this ability that earned him a spot as a deputized member of the Blue Lantern Corps during the Blackest Night story arc. When the Black Lantern Corps took over the Earth and resurrected all the dead heroes, the live remaining heroes were vastly outnumbered and fighting a losing battle. It took the combined might of all the Lantern corps and having each of their rings deputize a new hero to even hope of turning the tide.Barry was inducted into the Blue Lantern Corps for his embodiment of hope and he used that power to help the other heroes believe in themselves. Barry has also been responsible for one of the greatest story arcs in the past 30 years… Flashpoint. This was literally the tale of how not to mess with the timeline. He changed one little thing, he saved his mom, and it brought the world to the brink of annihilation. It also is worth noting that he is the most underplayed hero in all of DC comics. He can time travel with ease, run faster than people can process a thought, and even outran death and existence. He’s seriously OP.

#8 – Green Arrow

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Oliver Jonas Queen was born to his parents, Moira and Robert Queen. He was a natural archer from a young age practicing frequently with his bow and arrow. When he killed his first animal, Ollie was briefly traumatized by what he had done forgoing his archery for quite some time. When he was on vacation with his parents on a safari adventure, he witnessed his parents get mauled to death by lions. He was raised by his uncle and eventually inherited his family’s company, Queen Industries. Unable to accept his responsibility not only to his family’s legacy but his City as a whole, he became a thrill seeking party boy. One day while on his yacht, he fell over the side of the boat and washed up on the shore of a deserted island. While on the island Oliver honed his hunting and marksmanship skills using a bow he had been holding when he fell over the side of his yacht. China White, a ruthless drug smuggler was using the island to grow and distribute her heroin around the globe. Oliver witnessed the slave labour being used by White to produce her drugs and resolved to shut the operation down. After dismantling her entire operation on the island, Oliver used their radio to signal the authorities and arrange rescue for himself and all the workers. He returned to Seattle as a renewed man and began his crusade to fight for the little guy and the disenfranchised.

Why Green Arrow?

There’s no way to sugar coat it, Oliver Queen was a dick. He was. But through his own personal tragedy and his crucible on the island, he emerged as the hero that Seattle and himself needed. He had the life most people dream of, a literal unlimited bank account, supermodels hanging off his arm, and the ability to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. It takes a lot to take someone like that and forge them into the hero he is today and that’s why I like him so much. He was a fallible rich playboy who almost paid the ultimate price but he got a second lease on life and decided to do more than drink himself to death. Not only is he a great hero, but he also is one of the most left leaning heroes and that adds a great mix to the line-up. He not only fights to protect his City as Green Arrow but he actually got himself elected mayor to help everyone in his hometown lead a better life. He  also lost all his money and was forced to live in a downtrodden tenement building for quite some time, which also helped to provide him with a new perspective on his life and the way he lived. Plus.. I mean come on… epic goatee.

#7 – Daredevil

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Matthew Michael Murdock was born in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City to his father Jack “Battlin'” Murdock. Matt was raised by his father for his entire life never knowing who is mother was. His father was a struggling boxer and was paid by a gangster known as “The Fixer” to throw some fights for bigger pay days. One day, Matt was walking down the street and saw an old blind man step out into the road in front of a speeding truck. Matt grabbed the old man pulling him to safety and the truck swerved, losing a canister of the radioactive liquid it was carrying. The canister broke on the ground and sprayed Matt in the eyes effectively blinding him. While he was blinded, it also provided Matt with heightened other senses and a form of echolocation enabling him to see without his eyes. When his father is murdered by the Fixer and his goons, Matt dons a costume made out of his father’s old boxing gear and nearly beats the Fixer to death. Realizing it’s not what his father or his faith would allow, Matt let the Fixer live and called the authorities. He went to law school where he met his best friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, with whom he opened a law firm. By day he defends the people of Hell’s Kitchen as Matt Murdock Attorney at Law and by night, he defends the people of Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil the Man Without Fear.

Why Daredevil?

Matt Murdock is one of the few superheroes that has a disability and that makes him top tier in my books. Not only does he have a disability, but he is also a deeply conflicted individual. Matt is one of the most devout Catholics in all of comics, Marvel and DC included. For someone as devout as he is, dressing up in a red devil costume and beating on criminals seems like something way out in left field. To balance his lives, Matt regularly attends confession and seeks guidance from his local priest whenever he can. Not only is Matt one of the most conflicted characters, but he is one of the most human, in that he makes mistakes… plenty of mistakes. You could argue that every character is human and makes mistakes, but for the likes of Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman or even Iron Man; their mistakes are few and far between. Matt follows his heart more often than his head and that has gotten him into some deep water over the course of his comic run. One of the best runs in all of Marvel came from Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil with the Born Again story line. Matt has his identity sold to the Kingpin by his junkie ex girlfriend Karen Page, and has his life turned upside down. He loses everything: his firm, his money, his friends, his home and sinks into a deep depression. The run truly shows how hard some people who suffer from depression need to fight everyday to get out of bed. I highly recommend reading it!

#6 – Punisher

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Born Francis Castiglione to his Sicilian Immigrant parents in Queens New York, Frank had a very uneventful childhood. In his teen years he studied briefly at the seminary before leaving to marry his girlfriend Maria who was pregnant with their first child. He eventually enlisted in the Marine Corps where he rose to the rank of Captain. Through his tours of service, he was assigned a Native American scout named Phan Bighawk, who taught Frank about guerilla warfare and how to effectively survive in the wilderness. During his third tour, Frank legally changed his name from Castiglione to Castle. While on leave after his third tour, he took his family on a picnic in the park which would prove to be a fatal mistake. When the Castles accidentally stumbled onto a mob hit, the mobsters murdered Frank’s wife and children in front of him and thought they had killed Frank as well. Frank recovered from his wounds and vowed to spend the rest of his life waging a one man war against crime and the organized families around the world. He has been waging his war ever since and has come into conflict with the Avengers and multiple heroes on different occasions. For the most part, the Avengers let him be as he never causes collateral damage and only kills criminals.

Why The Punisher?

The Punisher is one of my favourites for one simple reason, he represents the farthest someone can go before they cross the line between Anti-Hero and Villain. Not only that, but he represents how the justice system isn’t always perfect. Granted that while he is a vicious operative, he also has a strict code. A prime example of this code was shown during the Civil War comic arc when Spider-Man is nearly murdered by Jack O’ Lantern and The Jester. Despite being ordered to bring him in alive, the two villains decided to beat him bloody before murdering him, Punisher stopped that. He shot both villains in the back of the head and then brought Spider-Man to Captain America’s bunker demanding medical attention for the young hero. When he sees two villains attempting to side with Captain America and the Anti-Registration forces, he shoots them in front of Cap and his entire team. Cap goes ballistic and begins savagely beating Frank; but the thing is, Frank never fights back. He never once raised his hand or tried to defend himself, even when Cap shouted for him to. Frank simply took the beating and said “No, not against you”. His reverence for Captain America is linked to his fierce loyalty to his military training. During the Punisher: War Zone story arc, after defeating all of the Avengers with non lethal tactics, Cap arrives and demands that Frank stand down; Frank immediately discards his weapon, drops to his knees with his hands on his head and says “Yes, sir”. The thing that probably makes The Punisher such an attractive character is that he has no powers, he is just a man that used the tools and training at his disposal to make a difference in the world. Sometimes he might need a definite course correction, but he sees the world in a different way than most and sometimes his brand of frontier justice, is exactly what is needed.

#5 – Ghost Rider

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Johnathon “Johnny” Blaze was born to his parents Barton Blaze and Naomi Kale who were performer’s at Quentin Carnival. His mother left his father when he was young, taking his two younger siblings with her. Johnny and his father remained as a stunt act alongside Craig “Crash” Simpson. Johnny’s father died shortly after his wife left with their children, leaving Johnny an orphan. Craig and his wife took pity on Johnny and adopted him into their family. Johnny and Roxanne, Craig’s daughter, grew very close and became inseparable. Eventually Crash developed cancer and began to deteriorate rapidly. Johnny, seeking not to lose another father figure, turned to the occult. Johnny found a spell that would allow him to summon Satan himself, but in reality it summoned the arch-demon Mephistocles “Mephisto”. Mephisto cured Crash’s cancer, though Crash died immediately after performing a stunt. When Mephisto came to collect Johnny’s soul, he was driven away by Roxanne and her love for Johnny. Johnny eventually would turn into the Ghost Rider after being bonded with the demon Zarathos. Johnny changes every night into the Ghost Rider and would hunt evil wherever he saw it, damning the evil doers to the depths of Hell.

Why Ghost Rider?

Ghost Rider is in the top 5 for one reason, just because your powers come from a dark place, doesn’t mean that’s what you have to use them for. Johnny got his powers from being bonded with a demon after selling his soul to an arch-demon. Granted, he did some dark things, but he did them for the right reasons. He had watched his biological father die, he repressed the memory of his mother leaving with his siblings, and his adoptive father was dying of cancer; he was done losing people and would do whatever he could to stop that from happening. Despite his efforts, Crash died and Johnny nearly lost his soul.  It was Roxanne’s love for him that ended up saving his life and helping to forge the Ghost Rider into the hero he was. Traditionally, the Ghost Rider is a mindless bounty hunter in the employ of the Devil to track down problematic individuals and send their souls to Hell. Due to Johnny retaining his soul, he was able to battle the demon he was bonded with and this allowed him to retain control over himself. Not only is Johnny one of the best Anti-heroes in all of Marvel comics, but he’s also one of the most powerful having battled World War Hulk to a standstill, plus… he just looks badass!

#4 – Spider-Man

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Peter Benjamin Parker was born in Queens to CIA operatives Richard and Mary Parker. Peter was orphaned at a young age when the Red Skull had an operative named “The Finisher” murder Richard and Mary in a plane crash while also framing them for treason. Peter went to live with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben who raised him for most of his life. Peter became an honours student in science at his high school, but was bullied by the high school start football player Eugene “Flash” Thompson. One day while on a school field trip, Peter was bitten by a spider that had been irradiated by a particle accelerator canon. This spider bite, changed Peter’s DNA giving him spider-like powers. He used these powers to fight anonymously in an underground wrestling ring to earn some extra money. One night after he got stiffed on his money, Peter let a thief who had stolen money from the wrestling boss go free stating that it wasn’t his problem. For several days Peter continued to wrestle under the alias of Spider-Man, until he arrived home to find his Uncle Ben had been murdered and the police had cornered the assailant in a warehouse. Peter rushed there using his new powers to discover the man who had murdered his uncle was the thief he had let go. Peter vowed from that day on, to use his abilities to help people and become the hero he knew he could be.

Why Spider-Man?

Peter Parker represents the inner child that we all have still inside of us. He is the youngest Avenger and he believes in the good of people. Like the Flash, Peter has a way of inspiring others to be the best version of themselves. When Peter’s world came crashing down after his uncle’s murder, he took the pain and sadness he felt and used it to turn himself into a hero. He wasn’t perfect, by far. He stumbled, he fell, but once he got the hang of things he became one of the greatest heroes of all time. In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, Peter Parker Spider-Man is regarded as the greatest hero the world ever had, and that’s taking into account Captain America and Iron Man and Thor. Mostly Peter is on this list because of the fact that he never quits and despite being a kid with amazing spider powers, he still suffers all the problems regular teens and 20 something do: being broke, having a crush, failing a class, etc.. His costume is also one of the most iconic suits in all of comics.One of the main reasons peter wears a mask, as quoted by Stan Lee, was so his opponents couldn’t see when he was afraid. Peter embodies the statement of “With great power, comes great responsibility”, he constantly tries to be the man his uncle knew he would be and he tries to help everyone as best he can. Peter is the ultimate good guy, and his comic history has shown that when everything is going to crap, you can always count on Spider-Man to lighten to mood and provide you hope.

#3 – Deadpool

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Wade Winston Wilson was born to his parents in Canada, but not much is known of his childhood. Wade himself has stated three different stories for how he grew up, all that is clear is that he left his home at a young age and enlisted in the armed forces. He enlisted in the American army where he was sent to Special Operations training camp, which he failed out of due to his inability to follow orders he believed conflicted with his moral code. He also spent some time working for the CIA on a blacklist team carrying out missions all over the world. Wade was then diagnosed with over 30 inoperable cancerous tumors. He declined chemo not wanting to prolong his suffering and moved back to Canada. When he returned to Canada he was contacted by Department K, a secret branch of the Canadian government, and asked to join the Weapon X project. It was in this project that Wade received his healing factor courtesy of fellow Department K agent, Wolverine. Dr. Killbrew and his assistant Ajax, tortured Wade and several other “rejects” from various superhero programs placing them in a “Deadpool” the bet on when they would die. Wade eventually broke out of the center with his powers fully manifested and began his life as a mercenary for hire taking the code name of Deadpool.

Why Deadpool?

Deadpool is one of my favourite heroes for two reasons… one, his humour is hilarious, and two, he’s Canadian! Not only is he Canadian, but he is also played PERFECTLY by Ryan Reynolds. Those two points aside, Wade is so high on this list because of a couple of things. The first is his unwavering moral code, as shown in X-Force. When the team was tasked with killing Apocalypse, nobody batted an eye; when Apocalypse was reincarnated into the body of an 8 year old boy named Evan, Wade said no. Wade admits that he isn’t a hero, knows that he can never measure up to people like Captain America or Spider-Man but he absolutely refuses to kill a kid, no matter the cost. Wade did not have a very good childhood, and he is a firm believer that your destiny is not decided for you, that your actions dictate who you are. He brought this out in this comic run when because of his belief in Evan, Evan stayed on the good path and even ended up going to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. He also showed this quality in Deadpool 2 with Russel (Firefist). Cable was convinced Russel would go bad and nothing could change it, but Wade believed that if he could help  Russell to learn to forgive and let Karma take it’s course he could change the future, and Wade was right. Another and perhaps the actual top reason he’s so high on this list is because despite everything he’s done, deep down he’s a good person. He’s not a hero, far from it; but, he is a good person who wants to do the right thing. Captain America has been Wade’s idol ever since he was a young boy, no matter what he did he wanted to be like his hero and still strives to earn Captain America’s trust to this day. Not only is Deadpool a good person deep down, but his antics are just awesome!

#2 – Moon Knight

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Marc Spector was  born in Chicago Illinois to his Rabbi father and deeply Jewish mother. Marc did not have the best childhood. He would constantly get into fights to which his father was not happy with and took it upon himself to discipline Marc as he saw fit. The tension between Marc and his father got so bad that at the young age of 16 Marc left home, lied about his age and enlisted in the Marines. He fought through several campaigns with the Marines before being recruited into a CIA Blacklist team. After spending several years working for the CIA, Spector left and began a life as a mercenary. It was during his mercenary career he met lifelong friend Jean Paul “Frenchie” Duchamp. While working as a mercenary his boss heard of riches in an Egyptian tomb and attacked the dig site taking everyone hostage. Marc didn’t agree with his actions and challenged him to one on one combat. Marc lost the fight. Bushman (his boss) made off with all the riches and left Marc and the excavation team to die in the desert. The diggers took Marc’s body to the base of the statue of Khonshu where Marc died. As he was crossing to the other side, the Egyptian God Khonshu offered Marc a second chance at life if he became the moon God’s Avatar on the earth. Marc accepted the God’s offer and woke up as the Moon’s Knight. He returned to the USA where he invested his earnings he had amassed during his mercenary career garnering himself quite the substantial fortune. Marc adopted several identities to help keep his true identity a secret, Steven Grant billionaire entrepreneur, and Jake Lockley NY cab driver. This strain on his already fragile mind as well as the influence from Khonshu caused Marc to have a mental break and develop Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder. Marc condition is so advanced that his mind will seamlessly switch to whichever persona/identity is best suited for the task at hand.

Why Moon Knight?

Again, like Daredevil, Moon Knight is a hero with a disability. While Daredevil’s disability is obvious as he can’t see with his eyes, Moon Knight’s is inside of his mind and that’s something you don’t see a lot in comics; a hero who battles with their own psyche as much as with villains. The thing that interests me about Moon Knight so much is that he himself knows there’s something wrong but he isn’t sure what it is. He has all of these identities in his mind for different purposes but he doesn’t see anything wrong when he just flips between one or the other. He knows that he has D.I.D/M.P.D. but he has refused to seek treatment as it doesn’t impair his daily life. One thing that really makes Moon Knight pop as a favourite is that he doesn’t try to hide. Most heroes that operate at night time wear colours that can blend into the darkness of their surroundings, not Moon Knight, he wears white. When he was asked about it he said that he “wants them (bad guys) to see him coming because when they see white, their hands shake so bad they couldn’t hit the moon.” Mostly, the thing that makes Moon Knight top in my books is his brutality. Being a heavyweight boxer in the Marines and proficient with most firearms and martial arts weapons, he has no shortage of butt kicking gear. Not only does he have no shortage of gear, but during the Civil War event he also went a little… overboard. While most the heroes were concentrated on stopping each other, Marc let his inner animal out on the crooks and villains of his city. He would viciously beat them to “mark his territory” and anyone he took down, he would brand with a crescent moon on their forehead. Not a nice brand like Batman from B vs. S, no, he would carve the crescent into their forehead… marking them as someone that is on his “list” and ruining their criminal reputations. Moon Knight also understands, like some of the other on this list, that while you should try and save everyone, some people need to be stopped permanently for the greater good.

#1 – Batman

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Everybody knows Batman’s story, but for those who might need a refresher….

Bruce Wayne was born into the Wayne family and was set to inherit his family’s company from his father when the time came. When he was 8 years old, Bruce Wayne, and his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, left the monarch theatre after a showing the the Mark of Zorro late at night. To save time, they decided to cut down an alley (Park Row), Joe Chill was waiting in that alley and held the Waynes up for Thomas’ wallet and Martha’s pearl necklace. Chill ended up shooting Thomas and Martha dead in the alley and fleeing into the night leaving Bruce to watch over his dead parents until help arrived. Bruce refused to believe it was a random act of violence and spent the next several years looking for some conspiracy that would explain his parents hadn’t died for nothing. When no conspiracy could be found, Bruce resolved that his own fear was a contributing factor in his parents death and resolved to never be afraid again. He traveled the world educating himself in every science and martial art known to man as well as becoming extremely proficient in detective skills. He was gone for over 8 years on his quest for knowledge. When he returned to Gotham he crafted the identity of the Batman, a symbol who could use fear to strike at the criminals in his City to make sure that crime did not go unpunished. Bruce utilized the Batman to combat threats both big and small in his City to ensure that no other child’s parents were taken by a random act of violence.

Why Batman?

It’s no secret that I love Batman and for a myriad of reasons, but the most prevalent one is that he’s just a man. In a world of literal Gods, superpowered aliens, demons from other dimensions and Lords of magic, Batman hold his own.  Not only does he hold his own, he commands the respect of all these beings. Bruce Wayne represents the peak of human conditioning, not just physicality but emotionally and mentally. He is the representation of what a person could achieve with 100% determination to their goal and this something we can all admire. His unwavering dedication to his goal is inspirational and has made him a symbol the world over. Not only is he just a man, but he makes mistakes and those mistakes have consequences. His most obvious mistake is his allowing the Joker to stay alive. Granted, he can’t kill the Joker without becoming like the Joker and the Joker can’t kill him because then he will lose the only person who matters/can keep up with him, but this tit for tat that they have going on has real consequences for hundreds if not thousands of people. Red Hood/Jason Todd brought this fact up during the Under the Red Hood arc. He raises the point that if Batman had just killed the Joker for the things he did all those years ago, he wouldn’t have been beaten and murdered, Barbara wouldn’t be paralyzed, and graveyards of victims would still be alive. Bruce for all of his hate towards the Joker, says probably one of the most human things he could, he tells him that while he wants to kill Joker for what he’s done, if he does go there, he will never come back. This statement shows how fragile Batman’s moral code and sanity are. He has drawn a line for himself and sticks to that line, because knows that if he ever crossed it, even for someone who deserved it like the Joker, he would never be able to go back. He nearly crossed the line once during the Hush story line. In this arc, Joker had apparently murdered Bruce’s longtime friend Tommy Elliot. When Batman found the Joker over Tommy’s body holding a gun, he flew into a rage and began beating the Joker citing all the horrible things he did as his reason for finally ending him. The only thing that stopped him was Jim Gordon telling him that if he killed the Joker he was no better than him and that Jim would be forced to bring the Batman in for the murder. While Batman might “work alone” his allies are the ones who help to keep him straight, like Jim Gordon did in Hush; and ironically, they’re also the ones best equipped to reign him in or take him down if he ever goes rogue. With everything that Batman is, the most important piece is that he’s a symbol, a symbol for justice, a symbol for fear, and most importantly a symbol that anybody can be a hero.

 

There you have it, my Top 10 favourite Superheroes/Anti-Heroes! Agree or not, drop a comment! See you next time!

Rocksteady’s Arkham Series – The Best Superhero Games Ever Made

It’s been just under three years since Arkham Knight, the final chapter in Rocksteady’s award winning series was released, and it has left me wanting. The series started with the amazing Arkham Asylum for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, which centered around Batman trying to re-take Arkham Asylum after Joker had taken control.  The second game Arkham City took place several years after the first one when the city of Gotham had walled off a large section of the waterfront and dubbed it Arkham City; this game also released for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 but near the end of their run. The final installment came with the releases of the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, Arkham Knight. This final installment centered around Batman as he attempts to foil the plans of Scarecrow who has rallied his enemies together to destroy Gotham and kill Batman once and for all.

Before we dive into why these games are so amazing let’s get a rundown of the plot for each one…

Arkham Series

*This post will contain massive spoilers for the Arkham series of games. Though they have been out for at least three years now, so I don’t feel guilty about the spoilers*

ARKHAM ASYLUM

The game begins with Batman capturing Joker after a very botched attempt at assaulting City Hall. When Batman drops Joker off on Arkham Island, he questions as to why the Joker allowed himself to be captured so easily. With the help of Harley Quinn and some corrupt guards, Joker breaks out of his restraints and begins his rampage through the prison with Batman hot on his tail. Joker calls in bomb threats at various locations across Gotham stating he will blow the bombs if anyone steps foot on the island, forcing Batman to bring the entire island to order by himself. Joker releases various members of Batman’s rogues gallery  including: Bane, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Mr. Zsasz before disappearing saying he was preparing his “party”. Batman defeats and captures each of these Rogues as his idea of Joker’s plan remains a mystery. After discovering a secret production facility for a drug called “Titan”, which was developed by a doctor on staff named Penelope Young; Batman discovers that Joker has secretly been funding her research to gain the formula in order to make an army of superpowered henchmen. When Young refused to turn the formula over to Mr. White (the alias Joker was using to fund her research), Joker was forced to return to Arkham to extract the formula from her himself.

Joker eventually obtains batches of the completed Titan formula and kills Dr. Young in the process, forcing Batman to seek help from Poison Ivy to create an antidote. Ivy explains that the spore necessary to counteract the Titan agent is found solely in Killer Croc’s lair deep in the Asylum. After obtaining the spores and defeating Croc, Batman ventures to one of his satellite Bat caves, which is located on Arkham Island, to manufacture an antidote. Ivy attacks with her mutated plants and Batman is forced to fight her, eventually winning and destroying the plants responsible for manufacturing Titan.  Joker announces his party is ready to accept guests and when Batman arrives, he discovers the Joker has captured Jim Gordon and intends to inject him with Titan. Batman jumps in front of Gordon taking the dart filled with Titan and saving Jim. As Batman resists the change, Joker grows angry and overdoses on Titan turning into a giant monster. Batman defeats Joker and brings the asylum to order. In the post credit scene, Scarecrow is seen floating away on a container of Titan into the Gotham harbor.

ARKHAM CITY

This game picks up several years after the conclusion of Arkham Asylum, Bruce Wayne arrives at a press conference in front of the gates of Arkham City to protest its creation. He is ambushed by TYGER guards and the press conference is cut short as he, along with Jack Ryder, are imprisoned in Arkham City. Hugo Strange, the Warden of Arkham City, explains to Bruce that he knows he is Batman but will keep the information to himself for the time being. Bruce defeats the Penguin and some thugs before climbing to the top of the ACE Chemicals building and retrieving his Batsuit which was air dropped via the Batwing. As he dons the Batsuit, Strange comes over the PA system in Arkham City and says “Protocol 10 will commence in 10 hours”.

Bruce deduces that if anyone knows what’s going on in Arkham City it would be Catwoman, but he overheard some TYGER guards saying she has been captured by Two-Face. He saves Catwoman from the clutches of Two Face and then stops Joker from killing her with mechanical sniper rifle apparatus. He tracks Joker to the Sionis Steel Mill and infiltrates the mill to find him. In his pursuit of the Joker he saves several doctors that tell him the Joker is unwell and was forcing them to try and save his life. Batman discovers the Joker’s lair and is knocked unconscious by Harley Quinn. He wakes up to find Joker transfusing some of his blood into Batman afflicting him with the same degenerative disease Joker has. Joker is suffering from massive cellular degradation as a result of the Titan serum he took on the island to kill Batman. He also tells Batman that he has been shipping his blood to hospitals in the area for weeks infecting as many people as possible in hopes that this would force Batman to find a cure. Batman questions him asking if this is “Protocol 10” to which Joker replies that he has no idea what Batman is talking about.

Arkham-Games

As he exits the Mill, Batman seeks out Mr. Freeze who has been imprisoned in Arkham City as well. He tracks Freeze to the old GCPD building where Freeze has set up his own lab. As he infiltrates the building it has become apparent that Penguin has kidnapped Freeze for his own entertainment. Batman arrives at the old museum which Penguin is using as his hideout and discovers Freeze and his suit, but Freeze’s gun is missing. As Batman sets out to find Freeze’s gun, Freeze himself returns to his lab to begin work on a cure. Batman confronts Penguin who is using Freeze’s gun and defeats him but in his anger Penguin detonates the floor of his lounge causing Batman to fall into a chamber that houses Solomon Grundy. Batman defeats Grundy and returns Freeze’s tech to him at the old GCPD. Freeze tells Batman that he has managed to create a cure but due to its instability it is rendered useless. Batman hypothesizes that Ra’s Al Ghul’s restorative properties in his blood would render the cure stable and sets off to find him by tracking one of his operatives. He does battle with both Ra’s and his daughter Talia before obtaining the blood sample he needs to complete the cure. As Freeze finalizes the cure he battles Batman to find the location of his wife, believing Batman to know where she is. After Batman defeats him, they open the safe to find that Harley Quinn has stolen the cure. Batman returns to the Mill and finds a Joker that has been fully restored who tries to kill him.

As they fight, Strange activates Protocol 10 which is revealed to be the eradication of Arkham City to destroy the criminal element of Gotham. Talia arrives and offers Joker the use of the Lazarus pit in order to save Batman’s life, Joker accepts and leaves Batman in the wreckage of the steel mill. Batman wants to pursue Talia to save her from her eventual betrayal by the Joker, but Alfred and Oracle refuse, stating that Batman is needed to save the people of Arkham City. Batman scales Wonder Tower (the tower at the center of Arkham City that doubles as Strange’s headquarters) and confronts Strange. When Ra’s Al Ghul reveals himself to be the mastermind behind Arkham City, he kills Strange for his failure. Ra’s and Batman battle once again, with Ra’s being beaten again. To avoid the dishonour of being captured alive, Ra’s commits suicide and Batman is contacted by Joker to come alone to Monarch theater or he will kill Talia. When Batman arrives Talia confesses she stole the cure from Harley and stabs Joker through the chest. She is then shot by another Joker still dying from the disease. The impaled Joker is revealed to be Clayface who tries to kill Batman before being defeated using Freeze-tech. Batman drinks some of the cure leaving enough for someone else and destroys the Lazarus pit located beneath the theater before Joker is able to use it. Joker stabs Batman in the side causing Batman to drop the vial of cure, which smashes on the ground. As Joker slowly succumbs to the disease Batman admits that despite everything Joker has done and everyone he has killed and injured, he still would’ve saved him. Joker dies laughing at a joke that only he understands, leaving Batman alone in the destroyed theater. Batman carries Joker’s body out of Arkham City and places it on the hood of a police cruiser before disappearing into the night without a word.

ARKHAM ORIGINS

While not produced by Rocksteady, Arkham Origins is still part of the Arkham story line taking place 5 years before the events of Arkham Asylum. It centers around Black Mask putting out a hit on Batman on Christmas Eve for 50 million dollars. This attracts several well known Rogues to Gotham in order to collect the bounty, the Rogues include: Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bane, Copperhead, Killer Croc, Firefly, Electrocutioner, and Lady Shiva. Throughout the night Batman confronts and defeats several of the Rogues until eventually it’s revealed that Joker was the mastermind behind the entire thing. Bane learns Batman’s secret identity and nearly kills Alfred by assaulting and wrecking the Batcave. This also marks the point in Batman’s career where he realized he was unable to do the work by himself. Though initially against him, Captain Gordon eventually comes around and helps Batman when Joker takes control of Blackgate prison. Batman and the police work together to bring the prison back to order with Batman being forced to stop Bane’s heart and then restart it again to save the Joker. Bane suffers amnesia after his near death experience securing Batman’s secret identity and infuriating Joker. Batman apprehends Joker rather than killing him and leaves him to be found by the Gotham Police Force and Captain Gordon. This marks the beginning of the professional relationship between Gordon and Batman as well as the rivalry between Joker and Batman. Gordon is promoted to Commissioner for his part in securing the prison, but he keeps Batman’s involvement a secret. During the credits there’s a radio interview with Gotham mayor, Quincy Sharp, where he states he intends to re-open Arkham Asylum to help with some of the more dangerous criminals.

Arkham Origins

ARKHAM KNIGHT

The third (technically fourth) and final entry in Rocksteady’s award winning series is Arkham Knight. The Halloween following the events in Arkham City, the Scarecrow enacts his plan to destroy Gotham City and kill the Bat for good. He has developed a new fear toxin that he tests on a diner full of innocent people and broadcasts it all over Gotham. He allows the people of Gotham 12 hours to evacuate the city before he will disperse the toxin. With the city deserted except for Batman and his allies along with a few remaining Police Officers, the criminals of the city run rampant. Batman tracks Scarecrow to Chinatown and finds an imprisoned Poison Ivy who refused to go along with Scarecrow and the other Rogues’ plot for Gotham. Batman frees Ivy who says that she will be taken in willingly to protect her from Scarecrow.After taking Ivy to the GCPD, Batman meets Oracle at the clock tower where, with her help, he pinpoints the location of Scarecrow’s toxin production facility as Ace Chemicals. When Batman assaults the plant he is confronted by the Arkham Knight and his well armed militia. Scarecrow converted Ace Chemicals into a toxin bomb, with a potential blast radius of the entire Eastern seaboard of the United States, and told Batman that he had captured Oracle from the Clock Tower before fleeing from the facility with the help of the Knight. Batman renders the bomb useless but not before being exposed to a large dose of the fear toxin. Due to the remaining Joker infused blood in his system and the massive dose of toxin, Batman begins hallucinating the Joker throughout the City and interacting with him. As explained before, during the events of Arkham City, Batman is infected by Joker’s poisoned blood. Along with Batman, who has hidden his infection form the others, 4 other patients were poisoned with the blood before all of the infected blood had been accounted for. The infected patients are slowly mutating and turning into the Joker with the eventual endgame being multiple Jokers running around Gotham.  It’s later shown that Robin has all the other victims in a containment ward underneath Panasa Studios where he’s working on a cure.

Arkham KNight

As Batman escapes the destroyed plant he speaks to Commissioner letting Gordon know that Oracle had been kidnapped by Scarecrow. Gordon is angered that Barbara stayed in Gotham to help Batman, and goes off on his own to hunt down Scarecrow. Batman discovers that Scarecrow had manipulated Simon Stagg, a wealthy businessman, to force him to create and deploy the Cloudburst. The Cloudburst, allowed for the Fear Toxin to be massively dispersed into the air which would coat the entire planet in a matter of weeks. Stagg owns and operates his company out of two docked Airships tethered in the Financial District of Gotham City. As Batman assaults these airships he is forced to battle the Knight’s private militia which have taken control of the tethered stations. Eventually Batman once again confronts Scarecrow only to be once again dosed with a massive amount of Fear Toxin. This new dose allows the Joker to temporarily assume control of Batman’s mind and body. As Batman fights to regain control of his body, the Arkham Knight and Scarecrow steal the Cloudburst right out from under his nose. Once he recovers, Batman tracks Scarecrow to his hideout in Chinatown and arrives to find Oracle trapped in a hermetically sealed chamber. Before he can rescue her the chamber is filled with fear toxin and Oracle seemingly commits suicide out of fear.

Harley Quinn seizes control of the Panasa Studios cave, and releases the Jokerized patients into the studio in an attempt to free them. Batman and Robin must work together along with one of the remaining patients Henry Adams, who assists them from the containment ward. As Batman and Robin capture all the patients and Quinn herself, they return to the ward to find that Henry has killed all the other patients. Henry then kills himself stating that Batman will become the perfect Joker. As Robin turns to see Batman’s eyes glowing green, he attempts to subdue and imprison Batman in one of the research chambers in the ward. Batman easily counters Robin and imprisons him in the ward stating that he will not stop until the Scarecrow has been apprehended.  Elsewhere in Gotham, the Knight activates the Cloudburst and blankets the entire City of Gotham in Fear Toxin. Batman manages to destroy the Cloudburst and convinces the captured Ivy to utilize a giant tree hidden beneath Gotham to filter out the Toxin from the air to save the City. Ivy manages to save the City, but the strain of the effort causes her death. Batman manages to track the Knight to a construction site in the Financial District where the Knight has taken the captured Commissioner Gordon. Batman arrives to rescue Gordon and confronts the Knight who reveals himself to be Jason Todd. Jason Todd was the second Robin who was seemingly murdered by the Joker many years ago in an attempt to break the Bat. It’s later revealed that the Joker didn’t murder Todd right away, but actually tortured him for months effectively shattering Todd’s psyche and deeply traumatizing him. Todd, blaming Batman for his torture and subsequent near death experience, allied with Scarecrow in an effort to make Bruce feel the pain and helplessness he felt at the hands of the Joker all those years ago. As Batman attempts to reason with Todd and even offer to help him recover from what happened to him Todd refuses and escapes. Batman frees the Commissioner and the both of them head up to the roof to confront Scarecrow. Scarecrow is revealed to have Oracle alive and well, her previous suicide being a hallucination produced by the Fear toxin and Joker control, which allows Batman and the Commissioner the ability to save her. As Batman saves Oracle, Scarecrow captures Commissioner Gordon and escapes. Batman and Oracle return to the GCPD which is then assaulted by the militia forces of the Arkham Knight. Batman fends off the attack on the GCPD but in the fray, Scarecrow uses the distraction to overwhelm and kidnap Robin as well.

Arkham City Combat

Scarecrow offers to release Gordon and Robin unharmed if Batman surrenders to him without a fight. Believing that his surrender is the only way to ensure everyone’s safety, Batman surrenders. He is knocked out and taken to the ruins of Arkham Asylum, where it all began, and is strapped to a table before having his identity revealed on live television. Scarecrow then injects Batman with another massive dose of Fear Toxin which allows the Joker to fight for control over Batman’s mind and body. As the two battle inside Batman’s mind, Joker recounts all the horrible things he did in an effort to knock Batman off balance allowing the Joker to take control. Bruce not only resists, but manages to find the one thing Joker is afraid of most in the world, being forgotten. He battles the Joker in his mind, eventually winning and locking him away in his deep psyche to be forgotten for the rest of time. As Scarecrow watches Bruce fight through the Toxin he grows enraged that Batman keeps finding a way to win and attempts to inject him again. Jason Todd, now going by his alias of Red Hood, arrives at the broken down asylum and frees Batman who then injects Scarecrow with his own Fear Toxin.

Batman then finishes cleaning up the City and ensuring it’s safe for the citizens to return. Once he has cleaned up the City and captured all his Rogues, he activates the “Knightfall Protocol”. As he arrives back at Wayne Manor, the paparazzi are all around the property and shouting questions at him from beyond the fence line. Batman walks inside the manor and as the door shuts, the house explodes and is engulfed in flames, presumably killing Bruce and Alfred. In the epilogue, James Gordon, now Mayor of Gotham, is rushing over to the church so he can attend the wedding of his daughter, Barbara/Oracle to Robin/Tim Drake. Elsewhere in the City a young couple and their son cut through a back alley to avoid the rain and are accosted by some muggers. Before the muggers can get away with any goods, they’re assaulted by a silhouette that resembles a nightmarish Batman.

WHAT MAKES THEM AMAZING

I will be the first to say, most superhero games are shit. Seriously, just garbage. Every now and then you will get some good nuggets like Marvel Ultimate Alliance or Spider-Man: Web of Shadows; but for the most part, they tend to be lackluster. The main problem with superhero games is that they always tend to be tied to some other  film or television property which severely inhibits the stories that can be told. The tie in games for various movies work well enough to bolster sales and ride the coat tail of the movie’s success, but they lack all substance themselves. Rocksteady changed that formula.

The big change that Rocksteady had was they brought in renowned comic book writer Paul Dini to craft a 100% original tale that would take place in their universe. Drawing heavy inspiration from several of his other works, Dini delivered a dark and gritty story that focused on the Batman himself and how close he is to teetering on the edge. It wasn’t until the final game Arkham Knight, that we really got to see what a Batman looks like as he slowly loses control of everything around him. There are several quotes from DC Comics that detail Bruce Wayne/Batman’s obsessive need to control everything he can. Dini took this obsessive trait and showed us exactly what it would look like to watch a man who the rest of the world thinks has all the answers, struggle to maintain his grip on a reality that is slowly slipping through his grasp. It was a stark contrast to the invincible superhero most people know. He doubts himself, he makes mistakes, he questions his crusade, and he even loses in the end; all these things happen over the span of three games and really show just how human Batman really is.

Arkham Counter

The story isn’t the only part of the series that really drove it home for most fans, it was the gameplay. You can make a game with an amazing story, that really captures everything you need it to, but if the gameplay can’t hold up to the demands the story needs, you’ll end up with a product that doesn’t sell. Rocksteady wanted to focus on the aspects of Batman’s character that make him so terrifying like his combat skills, detective work, and stealth. They derived to show the game from Batman’s point of view while still making the NPC’s react to your actions and not feel like you were some all powerful invincible being.  Entering a room with 10 enemies is a challenge because, as I said before, they react to your actions. Take one out and let another see you? They’ll group together and operate as a team making it harder to catch them off guard. They will also work to remove your advantages like destroying vents with grenades or destroying gargoyles making you stay on the ground. This coupled with the amazing combat mechanic gave us a series which delivered two games noted as Game of the Year. The combat mechanic utilizes counter attacks along with gadgets to string together combos that allow for easier taking down of enemies. As the difficulties increase for the story the combat becomes harder and you lose the visible notifier to hit the counter button. One of the best aspects to the games though, is the Detective vision. This is a vision mode which you can toggle at any point which highlights enemies and interactive objects in the environment. It adds a whole new level to planning out your moves to remove a group of enemies from a room or trying to figure your way out of some tough spots. It also is used during the moments of the game where to progress the story you must use your detective skills to follow the evidence and draw conclusions.

 

Rocksteady’s Arkham series delivered a full and immersive story that has really only been seen from AAA game studios. They brought us a full cohesive narrative with accompanying gameplay that helped to restore faith in the superhero game genre. Batman has been one of the easiest heroes to make games for based on his style and skills. There have been many attempts to make a great Batman game but none of them have been able to compare to Rocksteady’s series. I personally loved the entire series and own all the games on both the Xbox 360 and the redux versions for the Xbox One. I have logged more hours into this series than I have probably logged into Skyrim which puts into perspective the replayability of the series. There have been rumours that Rocksteady has been working on another superhero game but so far it has been kept under a tight lock as to who it will feature, but the most popular theory is either Superman or Green Arrow. There was also another rumour that a further game would be added to the Arkham series taking place before Arkham City but after Arkham Asylum. It was to feature the dynamic duo with Robin being a 100% playable character. Nothing much has been said on this front and the rumour mill has recently dies down on anything remotely related to this “new Arkham Game”. I know that while I don’t think this series needs another installment, if they did release another game, I would FOR SURE be one of the first people to pick it up. I would highly recommend that anyone who enjoys adventure games with a great story checkout this series; you don’t even have to be a Batman fan to like the game, Rocksteady does a great job of explaining everything so that even someone who has no knowledge of Batman or his history can follow the story. That being said, they do jam pack the game full of Easter eggs and little nods so that even a seasoned fan of the Bat, like myself, still finds awesome little nods to several other characters throughout the series. I would give this game series a rating of 9.0/10 for all the reasons listed above and for the amount of fun you will have while playing, as I said before, I highly recommend this series!

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