Most Underrated Heroes Vol. 8 – Martian Manhunter

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

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

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HISTORY

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

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

This all happened centuries before his arrival on Earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEATH

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

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

BLACKEST NIGHT & RESURRECTION

Black Lantern Martian Manhunter

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

BRIGHTEST DAY

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

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

NEW 52

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

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

REBIRTH

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

POWERS & ABILITIES

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

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

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

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

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

WHY THEY’RE UNDERRATED

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

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

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

Supes Scared

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

 

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An Impossible Expectation – Living Up To The Legacy

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

Batman

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

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

Batfamily

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

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

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

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

Spider-MAn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in the sun

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

Most Underrated Heroes Vol. 6 – Azrael

This month for underrated hero, I decided to focus on a character that has been traditionally cast as the villain/ anti-hero for the Batman fans, Azrael.  Azrael has been around since the early 90’s and has been a player in several major arcs for the Dark Knight. Most famously, Azrael took up the mantle of the Bat after the events of Knightfall when Batman was healing from his broken back.

Azrael’s first appearance was in the 1992 comic arc titled Batman: Sword of Azrael. The original Azrael (Jean Paul Valley) was created by Denny O’Neil and Joe Quesada. Later on in his publication history, Jean Paul was removed as Azrael and the title was bestowed upon Michael Washington Lane. While Lane did hold the title it was only briefly before Valley reclaimed his proper position as Azrael.

Starting out as a villain, it wasn’t until his own series, which ran for a hundred issues from 1995 -2003, where Azrael transitioned from villain to hero.

 

HISTORY

Azrael is the assassin from the Sacred Order of Saint Dumas, a medieval religious order that splintered from the Knights Templar Order. The Order of Saint Dumas was founded by their leader and Templar Knight, Dumas, during the crusades. Ra’s al Ghul went on an “adventure” with Dumas and described his compatriot as a “vicious man and insane fanatic”.

Jean Paul Valley was not born, he was genetically engineered from DNA harvested from the previous Azrael, his “father”.  His DNA was then combined with several other members of the order that had held the title of Azrael. They then took that genetic mixture and added in some genetic information from certain animals; then he was grown in a tank until he was “born”. He grew up with his father Ludovic Valley, the former Azrael, and attended Gotham University in the computer science program, from which he graduated.  Throughout his life Jean Paul was subjected to deep psychological conditioning which ever so slightly oriented him towards the Order’s goals. When his father died, Jean Paul was activated by the Order and was called upon to take up the mantle of Azrael. It was after his father’s death that Jean Paul came to learn how he was created and who his father actually was.

During his first mission for the Order, Jean Paul was tasked with killing a rogue member of the Order who had killed his father, Ludovic, and was running a weapon smuggling ring. It was during this mission that Valley first crossed paths with Batman, the latter of which had been investigating Ludovic’s death. When the rogue member kidnaps Bruce Wayne, Azrael allies with Alfred to bring down the weapon smuggling ring. Azrael honed his detective skills and tracked the rogue Order member for a final showdown. When Batman is nearly killed in the final confrontation, Azrael risks his life to save him, showing Batman that Azrael was more than just a killing instrument. After the rogue member was brought to justice, Valley requested Batman’s help in breaking the conditioning instilled in him so he can make his own destiny.

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After this Bruce employs him as a security guard at the Wayne Tech headquarters; while Batman and Robin use him as an apprentice crimefighter and begin instructing him on detective work.  As I said before, his real pivotal inclusion comes during the events of Knightfall. When Bane breaks Batman’s back, Valley steps in with his own modified version of the Bat suit to take up Bruce’s war on crime. During his stint as the caped crusader Valley comes to believe that Bruce’s tactics are obsolete, and that to truly beat crime you have to fight on their level. He begins using increasingly brutal tactics and even begins to show little regard for innocent bystanders.

Going against Bruce’s orders he defeats Bane using an enhanced battle armour he built while still under the mental conditioning of the Order. As Bruce continues to heal,  Azrael becomes increasingly violent and brutal to the point of allowing criminals to fall to their deaths. He becomes angered at Robin (Tim Drake) nearly strangling him before banning him from the Bat-cave. He also seals the cave off from Both Wayne Manor and Drake Estate before openly bad mouthing Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD.

When Bruce hears of Valley’s tactics and exploits he resolves to take back the mantle and title of Batman. After a long and drawn out fight, which culminates in a final showdown in the Bat-cave, Bruce tricks Valley into taking off his armour. Once he has removed the armour, leaving his helmet on ( due to its enhanced night vision capabilities), Bruce blasts Azrael with direct sunlight. Realizing he has been beaten, he asks Bruce for forgiveness. Bruce declares that Valley is to leave the cave immediately. As Valley leaves, he declares Bruce Wayne as the one true Batman. Bruce keeps tabs on Valley over the following months because he saw the potential in him that Bruce saw in himself at a young age. He also recognized that he himself had a role in Valley’s descent into madness, which hits him with just a little bit of guilt.

Valley lives on the streets with the homeless population of Gotham for several weeks. During his time on the streets Valley befriends a man named Brian, an alcoholic disgraced psychiatrist. With Brian’s help, Jean Paul discovers the secret of the order and their true agenda. The pair also aid a young sister by the name of Lilhy to escape from the Order.

He redeems himself by saving several senators from being assassinated prior to No Man’s Land. After seeing his redemption, Batman sets him after notorious hitman Nicholas Scratch. While in pursuit of Scratch, he was unsuccessful in saving a Senator on Scratch’s hitlist. Scratch strangles the Senator minutes before Azrael arrived and framed Azrael for the murder. During No Man’s Land, Azrael assists Batman in maintaining order throughout the chaotic Gotham City. He is given a new suit designed by Batman and sets to work defending Dr. Leslie Thompkins’ clinic during the chaos of No Man’s Land.  He begins to have hallucinations of his father and St. Dumas himself, Azrael returns to his original costume before being target by supernatural “miracles”.

 

DEATH

In the final issue of his run, Azrael is seemingly killed off. While fighting Scratch and LeHah, Valley is shot by 2 specially coated bullets which allowed the bullets to penetrate his armour with ease. It’s never revealed what the bullets were coated with. While LeHah and Azrael fall into the river, Scratch is arrested for firing the shots that killed Azrael.

While his body was never recovered, there were snippets in various comics that lead readers to believe that Jean Paul Valley had survived his death.

Blackes Night Azrael

During the DC crossover event Blackest Night, Azrael is shown to be a member of the Black Lantern corps and fights along with the other zombified heroes. There was quite a bit of speculation saying that this could’ve been the previous Azrael, Ludovic Valley; however, the tabloid of Blackest Night listed Azrael as none other than Jean Paul Valley, confirming his death at the hands of Scratch.

 

RESURRECTION

While Valley was dead for several years, another was given the mantle of Azrael. He was recruited by a splinter sect of the Order of Saint Dumas called the Order of Purity. This individual was the ex-cop named Michael Washington Lane. Lane was subject to Dr. Hurt’s experiments during the Battle for the Cowl, and appeared as the “third ghost of Batman” in the event. Lane did not remain as Azrael for long, but he was one of the characters to don the identity in the Batman: Arkham game series.

In the New 52 Valley was resurrected during Batman & Robin: Eternal. He worked as an enforcer for the Order but was seen wielding a sword rather than his regular bladed gauntlets. Eventually he rebelled and assisted both Red Hood and Red Robin (Tim Drake) in taking down the Order.

In Rebirth, Valley appeared in detective comics as a supporting character for the first two volumes before become a full fledged member of the team in Vol. 3.

POWERS AND ABILITIES

Azrael is just a man, like many other of my underrated heroes. He is a man that was genetically modified and spliced with animal DNA to become the perfect weapon. He is trained to the peak of human conditioning & physicality and has bested Batman in combat.

Azrael is not a master of combat. He is an adequate fighter but his modified genetic code allows him for inhuman reflexes, metabolism,  speed and strength. As such, he has dueled Deathstroke to a draw, and bested Batman in hand to hand combat.

His suit is called the Suit of Sorrows, which contains an ancient extremely advanced AI which bonds with the wearer of the armour. It provides the perfect synchronicity between movement and thought. It also allows for the suit to predict the most likely action and shows the weakest points on his enemies.

He is shown to use retractable daggers in his gauntlets, and a couple different swords as his main weapons.

The Sword of Sin – When struck by the Sword of Sin, the victim is forced to remember every sin they’ve committed through their life which they must atone for.

The Sword of Salvation – When struck with the Sword of Salvation, the victim is forced to remember every past tragedy they have experienced through their life all at one time.

 

WHY HE’S UNDERRATED

Azrael is a human experiment that was meant to be a weapon. He was genetically designed and conditioned since his creation to be a weapon for the Secret Order of Saint Dumas, and he rebelled. He had a bit of a bumpy road but he was able to pull through with help from Batman and his friends. Mostly though, I think he is underrated because he was able to battle Deathstroke to a draw and beat Batman in hand to hand combat. He is relegated to being a side character and viewed as a broken mind by most of the main continuity heroes. The reason I like him so much is how close his condition resembles Moon Knight. Moon Knight suffers from MPD and Azrael is just a troubled mind, but they still are viewed the same by the superhero community in their respective universes. They are constantly being watched as though they are going to snap at any moment and cause a major problem for the community as a whole.

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Mostly the reason Azrael is underrated is because he is the poster child for redemption. Everyone loves a good redemption story, especially when it involves an assassin for a religious zealot organization rebelling and taking them down. There’s just something poetic about a religious sect getting dismantled by someone they tried to brainwash into service…

I really like Azrael in the Rebirth Detective Comics, I think he brings an interesting dynamic to the team and the conversations between him and Luke Fox are awesome. While Jean Paul still has his faith despite everything that they’ve done to him and he still believes in a higher power, Luke Fox is grounded in science and physics. Luke doesn’t understand how Jean Paul can still have faith after everything that was done to him and Jean Paul is working to show him that faith is not something that just disappears after challenges. He has a line that says his crucible is done and he has come out the other side better for it, and he will use this new life and power to help those in need.  I’m not one generally, for a  faith based character because on my own beliefs, but for some reason I can get behind Azrael and his motives and actions; and really… that’s what makes a character great. If you, as a reader, can get behind them and root for them despite that you might disagree with their beliefs, that means that character is written well.

I really want to see more Azrael in the future of DC comics and hopefully can get him on either the TV screen (properly), or the big screen! His brief inclusion in Season 2 of Gotham was just garbage.

This concludes my monthly post about underrated heroes, see you all next week!

DCEU – Restructuring and Revamping

For this week’s post I decided to focus on some new developments in the DCEU camp and what my thoughts are behind them.

Okay so I don’t think it’s exactly any sort of a secret that Ben Affleck is going to leave the Batman role behind in the next couple of years. From the lackluster performance of Batman V. Superman, the failure of Suicide Squad, and the very sub-par Justice League; DC entertainment have decided to restructure their entire expanded universe and inject some hopeful new blood into their floundering franchise.

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The first big piece of news that isn’t really that new is that Ben Affleck is no longer writing or directing the film that was tentatively titled The Batman. In wake of Affleck backing out of the directorial and writing role DC Entertainment has tapped Matt Reeves (Planet of the Apes trilogy) to helm the project. As part of the condition that Reeves takeover the project he is going to make a trilogy and he has scrapped the pre-existing script (with Deathstroke as the villain) to write his own original script and story for the trilogy. This came as a shock to fans who were hoping to get an Affleck directed Batman film. I know I loved the Town and Argo, both films were written by , directed and starring Affleck and I was a little disappointed that they scrapped the story he had worked so hard on. Not only was the story scrapped, which featured Joe Manganiello reprising his role as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, but Deathstroke was potentially scrapped as a villain all together. We did get a little tidbit of a taste of Manganiello as Wilson in a Justice League post-credit scene wherein Lex Luthor floated the idea of the Society of Supervillains. Since his announcement of taking over the project Matt Reeves has stated he has an idea in mind and he has begun the early stages of writing the script. Recently it was reported that Ben Affleck would not be starring as Batman in Reeves’ trilogy, and that a new actor would be cast in the role of the Dark Knight. Speculations began flying as to why Affleck would not be reprising the role and who would be best suited to take his place. Some of the front runners for the role were rumoured to be: Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hamm, and Karl Urban; with recent news putting Gyllenhaal as the favourtie for the role.

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While I do love Batfleck it is apparent through interviews and appearances at cons and television, that Affleck is not crazy about the role. He was reported as saying at San Diege Comic-Con that he” …is Batman and it is the role of a lifetime for any actor. He is Batman for the foreseeable future.” That being said recent re-structuring of DC Entertainment may have that called into question. While Affleck certainly does have at least 2 more movies (1 of which being another Justice League) in his contract, the actor and the studio are not in the greatest of spaces after the fiasco that went on with the re shoots of Justice League. It has been well documented that the studio pushed both the actors and replacement director, Joss Whedon, into a tight schedule for re-shoots of the film. This caused everyone associated with the film to work for long hours without a break and caused tensions to rise behind the scenes, with Affleck being very vocal about the whole ordeal.

Do I want Affleck to step away from Batman? No. I think he has the best look of anyone that has taken the role thus far. Don’t get me wrong the Dark Knight trilogy is amazing, but it is more fondly remembered for the amazing performance by Heath Ledger than for Batman. I grew up watching the animated series, playing the games and reading the comics, and Ben Affleck definitely has the look to play Batman. I am not crazy about the voice modulator that everyone seems to think that Batman has to use. My friend Malcolm and I have said it since the beginning that to make any Batman fan happy, have Kevin Conroy voice over the actor and make the cape CG.

Recently, The Flash movie has finally found its directorial team with John Francis Daley and Johnathan Goldstein. These two were the minds behind the Vacation remake starring Ed Helms and they also co-wrote Spider-Man: Homecoming, which they were also considered to direct before Marvel went with John Watts. With the Flash movie having finally found its directors the focus has once again turned to the story, Flashpoint. DC Entertainment Announced that this would be the title of the Flash movie before Justice League was released, and it was honestly the smartest move they could make.

Flashpoint

In DC comics Flashpoint was when Flash decided (after being goaded on by Reverse Flash) to travel back in time and save his mom from dying. The entire adventure caused a new time stream to form and it was not a pretty future…  Aquaman and Wonder Woman at war, Superman never having seen the sun, Bruce Wayne dying in the alley and his father becoming Batman while his mother goes insane to become the Joker…. When Flash was finally able to right his wrong and reset the timeline, the New 52 had begun. DC Comics used both Flashpoint and Infinite Crisis to “reset” their comic multiverse down to just 52 Earths. It allowed for a re-launch of existing properties giving all their characters a younger look and more inexperienced feel. Sadly the New 52 did not prove to be very popular among many comic fans and DC re-vamped and re-launched their comic properties again with Rebirth just 6 years after the New 52 began.

The reason Flashpoint is the smartest call they could make is due to the nature of the story. As I said before DC Comics used it as a means of resetting their comic universe and DC Entertainment will most likely use it in the same manner. With the lackluster performance of the DCEU thus far (minus Wonder Woman) DC Entertainment is looking to re-vamp their brand and start fresh with their expanded universe. With Aquaman set to release in December of this year and Wonder Woman 2 set to come out next year along with (potentially) Suicide Squad 2 the re-launch seems to be a weird call to make.

I think the main reason for the re-vamp is to go with a younger Batman. They will keep the rest of the League as is, most of them are “younger” anyways; and they will introduce a younger Batman to join the League. This will bring their movies and comics more in line with one another and allow for a more cohesive and accurate timeline.  One of the many criticisms of the DCEU is the age discrepancy between Batman and the rest of the League. In the DCEU as it stands now, Batman is mid 40’s to early 50’s, while the rest of the League are their mid to late 20’s. While this worked great for the gruff experienced Batman showing the younger ones how to do things, it doesn’t translate well for a good dynamic after that.  Injecting a younger actor into the role will open up the experience to potentially include a Robin or two and bring some much needed revitalization to the DCEU.

 

 

Justice League + Punisher- Review (NO SPOILERS)

This past weekend two of the most anticipated releases of the year came out, Justice League and the Punisher Netflix series. I am glad to say that I saw them both in their entirety upon release. This is going to be a long post as I will review both of these entities in their entirety. That being said this will be a spoiler free review and dive mostly into the productions and characters.

Let’s Start off with the one the entire internet is talking about… The Justice League!

JUSTICE LEAGUE

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I am going to be frank with this one, I liked the movie but there were quite a few things that needed to be fixed with it. I have found from watching all the DCEU movies that they are made for comic book fans whereas Marvel movies are made for everyone. What I mean to say is that there are some sections of the Justice League movie that I, as a comic fan, were able to fill in with ease; however, someone who might not be as well versed in comic books would not be able to connect to. For example, they did a piss poor job of explaining what the mother boxes were for and who Steppenwolf is. I glossed over it, as did the people i was watching it with, because we knew who these characters were and how they functioned. For the most part the people in the theatre seemed to follow the movie fairly well, there were only a few scenes where I heard a collective “Huh?” from the audience. The overall pacing of the movie was really good, it didn’t get bogged down like Batman V. Superman did, and it didn’t jump making huge leaps like Suicide Squad. Mostly though, it was fun! I walked out of that theatre with a smile on my face and thinking that it was basically just an episode of Justice League unlimited in live action form.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

All right, it’s pretty well known that this project was experiencing a LOT of drama behind the scenes. most notably, Zack Snyder having to take some personal time to deal with the suicide of his daughter. Warner Brothers then brought in Joss Whedon (of Avengers fame), to finish the project and see it through post production. Most people are not aware that most of what was re-shot under Whedon were the character interactions and the action scenes he left largely alone. Warner Brothers actually fired Zack from the project during post production when they ordered him to cut the movie to less than a 2 hour run time and he refused.

Now with that in mind, STOP BLAMING WHEDON FOR THIS MOVIE!

Moving on… Zack Snyder has a very specific style that works very well with the darker and grittier heroes. That being said it doesn’t really flow with the tone of the Justice League. If Snyder directed a solo Batman movie (which he pretty much did with Batman V Superman) I personally, would watch the shit out of it. I loved his take on Watchmen and his style has no equal. His style is very gritty and he grey washes a lot of the colours to make them more flat and matte. He isn’t like Michael Bay who puts a blue filter on EVERYTHING and adds explosions just because; and he’s not like J.J. Abrams who likes to blind people with lens flares, but he definitely has a very unique style that nobody can mistake.

It’s obvious which scenes of the movie were filmed by Snyder and which were filmed by Whedon.  The tonal shift between scenes is very obvious in some cases and it can cause you to feel like you’re watching two very different movies. Again, not Whedon’s fault, he did what he was hired to do. He actually didn’t want to take the project away from Zack, but when WB fired Snyder, Whedon stepped up because he loves the characters and was waiting just like the rest of us for Justice League.

Whedon’s style is very… different from Snyder’s. not to say they are polar opposites, but they kind of are. Whedon loves to add colour splashes and make everything pop to add visual flair to the shots. As I said before it is very evident what was shot by Snyder and what was shot by Whedon.

HUMOUR

Okay, so this is not a dig at Zack Snyder but he really doesn’t get humour and he doesn’t really add it into his movies. He does cynicism and sarcasm like a boss, but for outward obvious humour he is kind of deaf to it. Pretty much all of the humour in Justice League came from Whedon and his re-shoots. Most of the humour in Justice League comes from the interactions between the characters and the dialogue they deliver.

Ezra Miller though! Ezra plays Barry Allen/Flash in this film and he is by far the best character in the movie, this is coming from a die hard Batman fan too. When he first meets the other members of the League and they go to the Batcave for the first time, he runs around checking everything out, just like any member of the audience would. He is basically an extension of how any member of the audience would react in the movie, he is in awe of the other Leaguers and when compared to the rest of them he is the rookie.  Batman has some great mentoring moments with Flash and it shows that this Batman views Flash like one of his Robins which is a very cool dynamic to introduce into the DCEU. I don’t want to say anymore because that could give away some of the best scenes, but let me say that Flash’s antics caused the entire theatre to laugh, every time.

COSTUMES

So the costumes in this movie are pretty much identical to the ones worn by the Trinity in Batman V Superman with the exception of Batman. For most of the movie he is wearing a very dark blue suit reminiscent of the cartoon Justice League. His suit looks black in the dark but when it’s shown in the light it has a very dark blue hue to it. Just like in the promotional poster for the movie that says “You Can’t Save The World Alone”. The rest of the League has awesome costumes as well, with the exception of Superman and Wonder Woman, the creators opted for a more armoured look for everyone during the final fight. I think this makes them look more prepared for what they encountered and made it more believable than different coloured spandex.

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One thing that was brought to my attention was by one of my movie viewing compatriots during the scene where Steppenwolf appears on Themyscira. She (my compatriot) noted that the Amazons were much more scantily clad than in the Wonder Woman movie. I will admit I didn’t notice this as I was too focused on the action, but when I went back and looked at the trailers showing the scenes with the Amazons my friend was right, they were no where near as armoured as in Wonder Woman.  While this is obviously a ploy by the creators to keep young men coming to the movie I thought it had to do with something entirely normal, maneuverability. Wonder Woman takes place during the time span of World War I, during this movie the Amazons are much more armoured and move slower compared to Justice League. It was also during Wonder Woman that the Amazons discovered their armour no longer stopped the weapons of man. I am of course referring to that scene on the beach, when several dozen Amazons including their general were cut down by rifle fire.  Now this might be my mind over thinking it but I believe that when they came to realization that their armour was ineffective they opted for a lighter material that they can still used to deflect physical attacks, but didn’t restrict their movement.  When you see the movie you will understand what I mean, I just can’t say anymore without spoiling it.

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for an oscar worthy movie then this is not it. If you’re looking for a fun superhero movie with some great one liners look no further! While it failed to capture the magic of the Avengers, Justice League made leaps and bounds compared to some of the previous DCEU continuity. It got rid of the dark and gritty tone set by the previous installments in the universe and decided to go for a more fun approach.

I will say this Steppenwolf looked absolutely terrible. When a movie costs over 300 million to make you think they could use some better CGI. For most of the movie he looked like he was cut out of PS3/Xbox360 cutscene. His reasons are very unclear in the movie and this inhibits the story telling quite a bit. I think they should’ve used him as a segue way into their big bad Darkseid, and they might eventually, but as of right now he was a very lackluster villain for the League to have gone up against. When you see the movie you’ll understand what I mean during the final fight, 2 members of the League kept him occupied while the rest did other things.

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Despite the drama behind the camera and the tonal shift this movie is a solid superhero flick. It’s not as complex as it could’ve been but it also didn’t spoon feed you everything off the hop (Marvel). It is far from the best superhero or even DC movie ever made, but it’s definitely not the worst either (Bat Nipples anyone?) I definitely give this movie a 7/10. It has some flaws and some things that I would change personally but overall like I’ve said it’s a fun movie to just kick back and enjoy for 2 hours.

 

Onto Marvel!

 

PUNISHER

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So, I’m sure myself like many others, marathoned Punisher in either a day or a day and a half. My friend and I decided to get up early on Saturday, make a coffee and a bagel each and start the marathon. the title sequence was amazing! The song and the sequence showing the various bullets and weapons that then form the Punisher skull just fit the show so perfectly! The song itself is going to be a must have for my personal playlist, it was reminiscent of the classic rock ballads with hints of country thrown in. I will admit that I dislike country music very much, (but that’s a whole other topic), but this song was awesome! The series itself is probably the most brutal of all the Netflix series to date. It follows Frank after he has finished his crusade for vengeance and he is trying to keep a low profile as Pete. Things obviously don’t go to plan and he is dragged back into his old life. Micro seeks out Frank to help him bring down a government conspiracy so that Micro can see his family again. The show doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t skimp on the violence either. The final two episodes are probably two of the most brutal episodes of a show I have ever seen and I watched Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

This show has a very Stark and gritty tone to the shots they use. When Frank is sporting his full Punisher garb they use a lot of shadows and lighting tricks to hide his face while making the skull on his armour pop. Giving the impression of the skull coming for you as opposed to the man. They also use a lot of warm colours during his memory scenes and dream sequences. They also like to frost the tiniest bit of the shots when he is recounting a memory. They especially add a very soft filter and bloom the light sources when he dreams about his family. It’s a great technique that adds a lot more to the scenes.

HUMOUR

This is a show about the Punisher, he really isn’t a funny guy. That being said the supporting characters of Billy Russo and Micro really bring the humour and so does the character of Stein. Those three bring just a little bit of light and antics to this dark brutal drama.

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COSTUMES

The costumes in this show are spot on. Most of the characters only wear regular street clothes so there isn’t much to convey. When the Punisher does suit up though he is like a mash up of the 2004 Thomas Jane and the 2008 Ray Stevenson. He sports tactical gear without looking overly tank like. He isn’t sporting light gear but he is definitely not wearing full advanced combat body armour.

The weapons! Weapons fall under costumes, it’s my blog I can put them where I want!

For most of the show he uses the tools he has at hand, sometimes a sledge hammer and sometimes a handgun. When he does get his arsenal though, look out anonymous henchmen! The main battle scene wherein Frank takes on about 30 guys by himself is nothing sort of spectacular. He weaves and kills like some sort of deadly water dancer. If the water dancer could kill you with their bare hands in 30 different ways…

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

This series is a great addition to the Netflix Universe. It currently sits as my second favourite series after Daredevil and before Iron Fist. I don’t want to dive too much into the plot for fear of spoiling something but I will say that it’s a great revenge plot. Following the Punisher’s arc in Daredevil Season 2 could’ve been rough but this production team and the actors pulled it off amazingly.  I would definitely rate this series a solid 8.5/10. I can’t explain why I gave it that rating until you watch the series. Once you watch it and the ending you will definitely understand the rating I gave it. The plot is a little convoluted at times and if you aren’t paying very close attention you can miss some key moments. Bernthal embodies the role and really gets into the grit of what makes Frank Castle tick. For those expecting a series where Frank senselessly murders hundreds of anonymous henchmen, this isn’t it. Want that kind of Punisher violence then watch Punisher:War Zone starring Ray Stevenson. I will say that Bernthal doesn’t look like the comic book version of Frank Castle but he definitely acts like him when it counts.

 

Those are my reviews of both releases. Agree or not let me know! see you next week for another edition of Underrated Hero!

Justice League Vs. Avengers – Who Is the Better Team?

For this week’s post I decided to do something a little different than I normally do. This week I’m going to explain who I think would win in a fight between the Avengers and the Justice League. To make this an even fight I am going to use newer incarnations of the teams to balance out.  The teams I will be using are the New 52 Justice League as well as the MarvelNow! Avengers team.  So let’s kick it off by looking at the roster of the New 52 Justice League.

NEW 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE

The New 52 Justice League is the younger re-launch of the classic team from DC Comics. The team consists of many of the same players as the original team with some changes. Let’s take a look at the team:

The Power House – Superman

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It’s no secret that I don’t like Superman. I just find that any sort of conflict with him is redundant as he can just be Superman and win. That being said he is the obvious power house of the Justice League. With Super strength, invulnerability, heat vision, flight, super speed, frost breath, etc.. there are not many that can stand against him in a fight. As the big blue boy scout he stands as the figurehead of the League and is the one constant member.

The Fighter – Wonder Woman

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Wonder Woman is an Amazon, and in the DC universe that is a big deal. The Amazons hail from the mystical island of Themyscira where they have live din seclusion from the world of man for centuries. Having been trained as a warrior from a young age Wonder Woman is very skilled in many forms of classical combat. With her increased strength, speed, reflexes and flight she is very much a force to be reckoned with. In addition to her physical abilities and skills she also sports the Lasso of Truth, and invulnerable rope made by the Gods of Greece that compels the victim to tell the truth.

The Tactician – Batman

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Batman is my favourite hero hands down, I could spend an entire post writing about him and the reasons he’s amazing, but I will save that for another time. As a master of over 100 forms of martial arts, Batman reigns as one of the best fighters in all of DC Comics continuity. In addition to his fighting skill, he is trained to the peak of human perfection, the World’s greatest Detective, and a master strategist. In many Justice League comics and altercations Batman is the mind behind their combat efficiency deploying each member of the League according to their skills.

The Tech Genius – Cyborg

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Cyborg was created by fusing alien technology with the burned body of Victor Stone. The New 52 changed his origin but it made it work better with the overall narrative of the comic run. Boasting a combination of human technology, Apokalyptan technology, and the remains of his human body, Cyborg stands as the youngest member of the League in the New 52. With a motherbox incorporated into his exo-skeleton Cyborg is able to teleport the League anywhere they want to go with only 1 in 1,000 jumps malfunctioning and sending them back to Apocalypse. He also has an advanced AI named Grid embedded in his ex-Skeleton that enables him to instantly connect to any piece of technology either alien or human.

The King – Aquaman

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Aquaman is the reigning king of the fabled Atlantis of Legend. Being born of the queen of Atlantis and a human man, Aquaman is only half Atlantean. He boasts an impressive skill set with his strength being able to rival that of Superman, swimming at super speeds, near invulnerable skin, ability to telepathically control sea life, control over the oceans with his trident, and increased speed. His trident is one of the few things constructed on earth that is able to pierce Superman’s invulnerable Kryptonian skin. He is also able to command storms, the oceans themselves as well as an ancient race of man eating sea creatures called the Trench with his trident.

The Speedster – The Flash

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The Flash is the fastest man alive. Having been exposed to the speed force and struck by a bolt of lightning that turned out to be himself when he disintegrated after the Crisis on Infinite Earths story line (seriously I’m not kidding) he became the Flash. Boasting speeds that have never been fully measured except in incredible feats throughout comics, Flash is probably the most over powered member of the League. Able to instantly connect to the speed force and utilize it to boost his own speed he has been known to travel through time and even outrun existence. If the Flash even went rogue there is not a single person who would be able to stop him.

The Pilot – Green Lantern

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Green Lantern is a member of the Green Lantern Corps which polices the known universe. The universe is broken up into various sectors and each sector has a lantern responsible for guarding it. Green Lantern from Earth is tasked with protecting Sector 2814. Sporting a ring that can literally make anything the wearer can think of, he is a force to reckoned with. His ring is powered by the central battery on the planet Oa and is fueled by the Green light of Willpower. After and extensive career as a test pilot and military training Green Lantern is very skilled in aerial combat and space combat.

 

MARVELNOW! AVENGERS

The team roster for the MarvelNow! Avengers is quite extensive as such by sheer numbers, the Avengers would take the fight. I will limit the team of the Avengers to who I believe to be the most prominent members and match them based on the categories listed with the Justice League members.

The Powerhouse – The Incredible Hulk

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The Hulk is the strongest hero there is, plain and simple. He spends most of his time as his human counter part Bruce Banner, but when Banner loses control or changes willingly he becomes the unstoppable green Goliath. Hulk’s upper limit of strength has never fully been reached or even hinted at. This is due to the fact that the more mad he gets the stronger he gets. Not only does he get physically stronger as he increases in rage but he also gets physically bigger.  With someone like the Hulk on your team there is nobody that can stand against his rage, and his willingness to kill also gives him an advantage over his opponents.

The Fighter – Wolverine

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Wolverine is an immortal Canadian who don’t take crap from nobody. Okay he isn’t actually immortal but with a healing factor that can heal any wound almost instantly and an indestructible skeleton made of Adamantium there are not many that compare to him. Not only does he have incredible ferocity during battle and a willingness to kill but he also can fly into a berserker rage from which there is no stopping him until he has killed his opponent. In addition to his healing factor and his skeleton he has adamantium claws that extend from his knuckles and can cut through all known metals. He is also a mutant and gifted with beat like enhancements to his smell and stealth.

The Tactician – Captain America

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Standing as the sole success of the Weapon I project during WWII, Captain America has stood as a symbol for the people of the United States for generations. With his enhanced reflexes, strength, speed, and battlefield experience he is the tactical mind behind the Avengers and their combat operations. Armed with a metal shield made of an adimantium/vibranium alloy, Captain America has taken on many foes bigger and more fearsome than himself. Not only does he have extensive real life battlefield experience but he also spars constantly with other members of his team to hone his combat techniques for taking on people with powers.

The Tech Genius – Iron Man

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Iron Man is the resident tech genius of the Avengers, it can be argued that Hank Pym, Reed Richards and T’Challa can give him a run for his money but Iron Man is the best candidate for this position. Known for using his extensive collection of mechanical exo-suits for combat he can adapt to any situation and prevail. Each suit has specific different abilities but one of the constant factors that all of his suits come equipped with his flight, repulsor blasts, and  an AI companion. In addition to his repulsors more of his suits come equipped with extensive Stark Industries weaponry that  makes him a veritable one man army on the battlefield.

The King – Thor

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Hailing from the the mythical realm of Asgard, Thor is the Prince (eventual King) and God of Thunder. As an Asgardian his lifespan is much greater than any normal human spanning over hundreds of thousands of years. He is super strong, invulnerable to most damage, and equipped with MJOLNIR. His hammer MJOLNIR gives him the ability to control lightning, allows him to fly, and is made from an indestructible metal known as Uru which can only be found in dying stars. It is worth noting that while Thor Odinson is of Asgard, anyone who is deemed “worthy” by MJOLNIR is able to lift it and is imbued with Thor’s powers and abilities.

The Speedster – Spider-Man

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I know, I know, Spider-Man is not a speedster but he does have increased reflexes and his Spider-sense works so fast that he is able to dodge bullets, this makes him as a contender for the Flash. Originally ranked as one of the strongest characters in Marvel comics, Spider-Man has super-strength, increased speed, reflexes, spider-sense, wall crawling, and web shooters. He is also one of the smartest people in the Marvel universe and currently owns and operates his own massive tech conglomerate known as Parker Industries. Spider-Man is so strong that constantly has to hold back from hitting to hard for fear of killing his enemies by accident.

The Pilot – Captain Marvel/ Ms. Marvel

Captain Marvel

With extensive training as a fighter pilot as well as other military training Ms. Marvel is the perfect synchronization between human and Kree physiology.  With enhanced strength, speed, endurance, flight, precognitive sense and immunity to most poisons and toxins, Ms. Marvel is one of the heavy hitters of the Avengers. She is also able to fly into space and can project photon blasts from her hands as well as absorb energy. She was also able to connect to a white hole (a hypothetical region of space time) which allowed her control over stellar energies (gravity, light, electromagnetic spectrum); this connection has since been severed but her other powers remain.

 

THE OUTCOME

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Alright now that I’ve outlined the teams and the various abilities of each member it’s time to tell you who I think would win. As I said before I am a huge Batman fan and i do love the JL (even if Superman is there) but I would have to give this to the Avengers. While I truly do believe that a battle between Cap and Batman would be awesome, I do believe that the Avengers would come out on top for most of the match ups. Thor would easily wipe the ground with Aquaman and then assist Hulk with Superman, Captain Marvel would beat Green Lantern, and I do believe that Wolverine would give Wonder Woman a good run for her money. But the factor that clinches it is the fact that the Hulk is willing to kill to win, whereas Superman is not. Iron Man I’m sure would find a way to beat Cyborg eventually but with his white noise cannon and Grid, Cyborg might prevail as the winner there; however, in the end Tony is also a tech genius and can just use a suit that Cyborg can’t track, like his stealth suit, or simply fly them into space.

I do believe that this match would come down to the final few punches but like I said before if we went with the starting rosters for each team the Avengers would win by sheer number, especially when those numbers include Captain Universe and Hyperion.

If you disagree let me know if not, see you next week!

Most Underrated Heroes: Vol.2 – Red Hood

Time for volume 2 of the most underrated heroes! This months addition is none other than the anti-hero Red Hood.

For those unfamiliar with the Bat-family and the succession of Robins, Red Hood is the persona adopted by the second Robin, Jason Todd, after he was murdered by the Joker and subsequently resurrected. Red Hood is one of the title characters in Red Hood and the Outlaws and has held various titles throughout his comic publication.

HISTORY

The Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin for Jason Todd is that he was son of Acrobats Joseph and Trina Todd who were killed during their show by Killer Croc. Jason had strawberry blond hair and was a basic carbon copy of Dick Grayson; even going so far as to wear different pieces of Dick’s old disguises before being presented with a Robin costume by Dick himself. Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths event DC Comics took this opportunity to re-write and re-brand large portions of their continuity to coincide with their new direction for publication. This new direction is where we get the origin for Jason that has been dubbed the “official” origin.

After Dick had become a fully fledged member of the Teen Titans and left Bruce to pursue leadership of that team full time, Batman was on his own. One night while on patrol in Park Row (Crime Alley), Batman was returning to the Batmobile and he discovered the wheels had been removed by a young boy who was attempting to steal them. Bruce sees that he is enrolled in a school for troubled boys which falls through, Bruce eventually adopts the boy and trains him as Robin after Jason helps him stop a gang of thieves. After six months of training and tutelage Jason is given his own Robin costume and begins his nightly patrols with Batman.

During the revamp period Todd was painted the outcast/rebel Robin. He defied authority, smoked, swore, and used excessive violence. There have been several instances where he defied Batman specifically: going after Scarecrow alone and bringing him in, jumping the gun on a botched drug ring raid, and the death of serial rapist Felipe Garzonas. Leading up to the death of Garzonas, Todd had been using increasing levels of force to one point where he breaks the arm of a pimp about to slash one of his working girls.

The death of Felipe Garzonas marks the point where Batman began to realize the mistake he had made with  Jason. Garzonas was a serial rapist who was protected legally by his father’s diplomatic immunity. When a young girl named Gloria hangs herself to avoid being raped a third time by Garzonas, Todd finds her body before Batman and makes a beeline for Garzonas. Todd chases Garzonas up onto the 22nd story of a building and Batman arrives in time to see Garzonas fall the 22 stories to his death, with Robin standing at the ledge. When confronted about it Todd says that he “…didn’t push him and that he must’ve spooked him and Garzonas slipped”, before Todd could catch him, he fell to his death.

 

DEATH

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The death of Jason Todd is one of the biggest events in all of Batman comics. Titled A Death in the Family the story follows Todd’s quest for the truth and his subsequent end at the hands of the Joker.  When Todd his side lined for excessive force and disobeying orders he leaves the Batcave to walk around his old neighbourhood. While on his walk he is flagged down by a woman who used to live beside him and his parents, she hands him a box of things and among them is his birth certificate. The certificate is badly damaged by the name of his mother begins with an “S” proving the woman he grew up calling mother was not his biological mother. Todd utilizes the Batcomputer along with an old address book of his father’s that was also in the box to narrow down the number of potential women to three. Jason then runs away to try and find his birth mother. After striking out with the first 2 women Batman finds Jason in Israel where they encounter the Joker who has been named a member of the Israeli government and now has diplomatic immunity. Jason then tracks the final woman, Shelia, to Ethiopia where she runs a clinic. Todd is overjoyed to have finally found his mother but his mother is being blackmailed by the Joker to provide him with medical supplies. It is later revealed that Todd’s mother was responsible for an illegal clinic and experimentation on young women in Gotham and fled to Ethiopia to avoid charges. She hands her son over to the Joker, in hopes of getting out from under his thumb. Joker ties up Shelia and forces her to watch as he beats Todd with a crowbar and leaves him within an inch of his life. Joker then ties up Todd and leaves him and his mother locked in a warehouse with a time bomb. They try to get out of the warehouse but remain trapped as the timer ticks down, in a final effort to save his mother, Jason leaps on the bomb to try and shield some of the blast with his body. Batman arrives too late to save them and Shelia dies in Batman’s arms after confessing what she had done. Batman buries Jason and keeps his uniform in a glass display case in the Batcave with an epitaph that reads “A Good Soldier”.

 

RESURRECTION

Jason remained dead for quite a few years, long enough for Tim Drake to assume the mantle of Robin. In main comic continuity his resurrection is a little odd. Basically, Superboy Prime was trapped in the paradise dimension (a dimension that borders our own). In an attempt to break through to our own dimension he repeatedly punched on the barrier blocking his way, this in turn created temporal ripples. One of these such ripples was responsible for the resurrection of Jason Todd. Todd breaks out of his coffin and wanders away from the site, he is taken to a hospital when he is discovered wandering the streets, but no connection was made that he was Jason Todd. He spent the better part of a year as a wandering amnesiac vagrant on the streets of Gotham, he was recognized for his fighting style by a street crook and the information made it’s way to Talia Al’Ghul and she swept him up and took him away. She further trained him while the League of Assassins swiftly eliminated anyone in Gotham who knew of his resurrection. Talia put him in the Lazarus pit to attempt to restore his memories, but he emerged broken and mentally unstable. He fled the League and used what funds he had secured from Talia to hook up with a Mercenary group on their way to Gotham.

In the Under the Red Hood movie the resurrection story is slightly different with Ra’as Al Ghul hiring Joker to help him in a plot. Joker goes off book and kidnaps Robin and murders him by beating him with a crowbar and them blowing him up. Ra’as then swaps out Jason’s real body at the Sarajevo morgue for a mannequin and revives Todd using the Lazarus pit. Todd kills 2 members of the League before fleeing into the night not to be seen again until he emerged in Gotham as the Red Hood.

RETURN TO GOTHAM

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After having trained for several years in various deathly arts, Red Hood plans his return to Gotham. During Hush Todd collaborates with Riddler and Hush to battle Batman. He confirms for Riddler that Bruce Wayne is indeed Batman and initially confronts Batman at his grave site during the climatic final battle of the run. He swaps out with Clayface and observes Batman from afar, when Bruce shows no regret with him sparing Joker’s life after he killed Jason, Todd is severely angered and resolves to kill Bruce. Talia then gifts him with a flame knife and his iconic red helmet.

In the Under the Red Hood story line, Jason returns under the persona of Red Hood and begins taking control over the gangs of Gotham and going to War with Black Mask. In an effort to even the odds, Mask unleashes the Joker from Arkham. Todd kidnaps the Joker and proceeds to beat him with a crowbar mirroring the way Joker had tortured him before he was murdered. In the climatic showdown with Batman and the Joker, Jason confesses to Bruce that he forgives him for not saving him, but doesn’t understand why Bruce let the Joker live. Jason tries to force Bruce to either kill him or the Joker, but Bruce saves them all and Jason disappears after that, again.

Since  his return to Gotham Jason has gone on the hold every title of the Bat-family, including Nightwing, Red Robin and Batman.

Battle for the Cowl pitted Jason Todd Batman against Tim Drake Batman and Dick Grayson Batman for the title of the one true Batman.

POWERS AND ABILITIES

Jason was trained at a young age to become Robin; as such he is an Olympic level athlete with stealth training and extensive combat training.

He was further trained by the League of Assassins as well as the All-Caste which is an organization older than the League of Assassins which trained Ra’as Al Ghul.

He is proficient with all firearms as well as most high tech weaponry and gadgets.

For all of his training Jason Todd is still just a man, a slightly unhinged and deranged man, but a man just the same.

REASONS HE IS UNDERRATED

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Red Hood is one of the few examples of characters who are too human to the point they’re no longer fictitious. If presented with the same situation most people would do the exact same thing, try and get revenge on the person who killed them and the person who they trusted to save them. I don’t mean that everyone is a vengeful, angry sociopath; but there is no denying that it is human nature to want revenge on someone that has wronged you.  As a character Jason tends to be lumped in as one of the failed sidekicks who never really amounted to anything like Garth or Speedy. I think he has a lot to offer and in the New 52 and Rebirth they have done some great arcs involving him and the rest of the Outlaws. I mean he was the Leader of the League of Assassins at one point, that takes some serious skill! Not only has he also battle Batman to a stalemate but he has done the same with Deathstroke and Ra’as Al Ghul!

Also Jason is the perfect example of a redemption story, they’ve already toyed with him and Bruce reconciling their differences for that only to have been a ruse so Bruce could bring back Damian… I like most of the Robins even the ones that are a little different, but Damian is just annoying. He needs to be taken down a peg… again. I think that Jason should be used more as someone trying to do the right thing but always having this voice in the back of their head saying it’s not enough, that he wants to be a good person but he keeps falling back into his old ways. The sad thing about Jason is that most of the rest of the Bat-Family forgive him and understand why he does what he does; but Bruce can’t seem to see it, or even if he does, he doesn’t want to deal with it.

Jason Todd is one of the characters that I think make for a very compelling story, no matter what he does, he always adds his own touch to it and that makes it awesome. I want to see him take a more active role in Rebirth and the Bat-Family as a whole!