A Logan Review – Old Man Stabby

Logan, 2017, Hugh Jackman, posterTITLE: Logan
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant, Boyd Holbrook
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
STUDIOS: 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Kinberg Genere, Hutch Parker Entertainment, The Donners’ Company
RATING: R
RUN-TIME: 137 min
RELEASED: 
March 3, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

If you’re a fan of the X-Men film series, Logan is in many ways a frustrating film. It’s very much the expressionistic, character-driven piece it sets out to be. But the Wolverine character is heavily defined by the world he’s in. A world filled with prejudice toward super-powered mutants. In Logan, that world has been heavily altered. While we all love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, what this movie really could have used was a little more world-building.

In the year 2029, mutantkind has been nearly eradicated. Logan, the man formerly known as Wolverine, is one of the last ones alive. In his care is a frail Charles Xavier, suffering from dementia and seizures. Logan isn’t exactly in great health himself. But danger once again finds our clawed hero, this time in the form of a young girl named Laura. Like Logan, she has adamantium claws, healing powers, and a deadly temper. She is hunted by Transigen, the group responsible for wiping out mutantkind. And if they have their way, Logan, Charles, and this mysterious girl are next.

Comic book fans know Logan is somewhat based on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan book. That story features a gray-haired Logan in a world conquered by supervillains. The first lines in the very first panel are: “No one knows what happened on the night the heroes fell. All we know is that they disappeared and evil triumphed and the bad guys have been calling the shots ever since.”

logan-image-1-hugh-jackman-dafne-keenThere’s very little information like this in Logan. Information that helps us define the different world we see these familiar characters in. I’m not of the belief that absolutely everything needs to be spelled out for the audience. But the memory of the X-Men team is very much a part of this movie. It even implies that a new generation will pick up where Logan and the others left off. So wouldn’t it be helpful to tell us what happened to the X-Men? Were they all hunted down and killed by Transigen? Was there a big battle, like in Old Man Logan? We don’t have to comb through the roster one by one. But for instance, Logan loved Jean Grey. That could have been used to prompt a line or two about how she and some of the others died.

Instead, the film is chipped away at by these questions about how the established characters got to where they are, and who some of these new characters are. We do get allusions to a tragic event involving the widespread telepathic side-effects of one of Xavier’s seizes in Westchester, New York. To the uninitiated, Westchester was the home of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and home base to the X-Men. So it’s reasonable to assume that’s where many of them died. But casual moviegoers won’t know that. Hell, I’m fairly versed in X-Men lore and it took me awhile to put it together.

logan-image-2-hugh-jackman-dafne-keenHalf the potential of a story like this lies in exploring the dystopian future, and how we got there. Logan doesn’t do much of that, and the movie suffers for it.

Still, Logan is indeed the R-rated Wolverine flick many have waited for. The movie takes full advantage of its expanded parameters. We see severed limbs aplenty, gallons of spilled blood, claw shots through the face, and plenty of F-bombs. If this really is Hugh Jackman’s last go-around as Wolverine, he goes out in a blaze of bloody and cathartic glory.

Jackman’s claim that this is the last time he’ll pop the claws is a downer for sure. In 17 years, he’s played the character seven times. Nine if you count his brief uncredited appearances in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse. He’s left an indelible mark on the character and the X-Men franchise as a whole, bringing tremendous depth and likability in addition to the berserker rage that fans love. What’s more, I’m not ready to fully rule Jackman out of another appearance in the role. He’s publicly flirted with coming back for certain scenarios, and it’s not like he’s been typecast. He was Jean Valjean, for crying out loud. More importantly, he’s a proven and highly lucrative commodity in that role. It’s show business, folks. Anything is possible.

logan-hugh-jackman-patrick-stewartPerhaps less publicized is that Logan is perhaps Patrick Stewart’s last time playing Charles Xavier. Something else this movie has going for it is the novelty of ol’ Captain Picard dropping a few F-bombs. Why the hell not?

Dafne Keen makes her film debut here as Laura, a.k.a. X-23. Not a bad way to make your entrance, with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart at your side. She’s quite the find. Keen doesn’t speak for most of the movie, and has to convey a quiet rage beyond her years. She becomes the perfect mini-Wolverine.

There’s been a good amount of talk about Logan defying the genre of superhero movies. While I maintain this genre is more versatile than people give it credit for, Logan feels unlike most, if not any superhero movie you’ve ever seen. At one point, Xavier and Laura are watching Shane. That’s extremely fitting, given the movie’s clear influence on Logan. Mangold has also talked about The Cowboys starring John Wayne, and The Gauntlet with Clint Eastwood. Oddly enough, he’s also mentioned Little Miss Sunshine and The Wrestler.

logan-image-3-hugh-jackmanLogan is hardly the most satisfying installment in the X-Men franchise. But it’s absolutely the most unique. There’s an undeniable thrill and catharsis to seeing Jackman rage out as Wolverine, potentially for the last time. From a performance standpoint, he absolutely sticks the landing here. Though that should come as surprise to absolutely no one.

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Blatant Insubordination: Darwyn Cooke, Chloe Grace Moretz, X-Men in Space

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Darwyn Cooke, graphic ink cover1. Darwyn Cooke

A few days ago we lost the great Darwyn Cooke. Make no mistake about it, folks: He was great. Don’t take my word for it. Just take a look at his work. Type his name into Google Image, and you’ll see art from Batman: EgoCatwoman, The Spirit, Parker, some of his recent DC variant covers, Before Watchmen: Minutemen, and more. Seemingly everything this man drew looked iconic, timeless, and at certain points idyllic. He could do heartbreak and drama as well as anybody, but his characters also weren’t afraid to smile.

In the eyes of many (myself included), Cooke’s magnum opus was DC: The New Frontier, one of the projects he both wrote and drew. Set in the ’50s and ’60s, The New Frontier shows us a world driven to paranoia by the Cold War. The superheroes of the Golden Age have been driven into retirement. But a new generation rises to take the world into a new era, and combat a deadly extraterrestrial foe. In the process, we see the rise of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, the formation of the Justice League, Martian Manhunter learning about this strange new society, and much more. It’s a love letter to the era Cooke grew up in, and his passion is very much on display. The story was eventually made into an animated movie, and I’ve always remembered a moment from an interview Cooke gives for the DVD.  At one point he gets choked up when talking about that period in history, obviously waxing nostalgic for his childhood.

Before his work in the comic book industry, Cooke worked as a storyboard artist on both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. He even created the opening title sequence for Batman Beyond. He even created a Batman Beyond short film in celebration of The Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary. To say the least, it’s glorious.

It’s a crime that we lost one of the true greats in the industry to cancer. But what an incredible legacy Darwyn Cooke leaves behind. He was a true giant whose work will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

Chloe Grace Moretz, Captain Marvel, Glamour2. Chloe Grace Moretz as Captain Marvel

Like a lot of fans, I did a double take when I saw Chloe Grace Moritz wearing a very Captain Marvel-ish jacket on the cover of Glamour. Granted, I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything. At least not yet. She might be a little young, but she’s hardly the worst pick in the world to play Carol Danvers. I’ll say this much: She looks good in the Captain Marvel colors.

On the subject of Moretz, as I type this we’re a few days away from the release of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Moretz plays one of the sorority girls that moves in next to Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. I’m not a huge Seth Rogen fan, but Neighbors was his best movie in quite some time. The sequel, however, feels like a contrived excuse to remake it. My token bad sequel example is always Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. This seems like it’s cut from that same cloth.

Still, it’s getting decent reviews. So maybe they can pull it off…

3. X-Men

The reviews for X-Men: Apocalypse don’t look as great as one would hope. But it may not matter much, as apparently there are already plans for another X-Men film set in the ’90s. Director Bryan Singer says they may do something with an outer space element. Meh.

Now that the crew from First Class (Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, etc) are likely done, and Hugh Jackman is probably done after the third Wolverine flick, this seems like a good opportunity to give the X-Men franchise a new jumping on point. We’ve done some cool world-building in the last few years. But I’m itching to get back to a core team of X-Men. Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Beast, etc. If you have to recast everybody, then just rip the bandaid off and do it.

X-Men #1 (1991) cover, Jim Lee

Bleeding Cool ran a story yesterday on which X-Men comic book stories could inspire the next movie. With the space idea in mind, they pitched The Dark Phoenix Saga (they noted it might have a stench on it from X-Men: The Last Stand) and The Brood Saga. Personally, I’m in favor of a more back to basics approach. If the movie has to be inspired by a particular story, my pick is Mutant Genesis, the first story in the Chris Claremont/Jim Lee run from the ’90s. Magneto creates an asylum for mutants on an asteroid called Asteroid M, which naturally creates problems. That keeps it nice and simple, doesn’t it? The X-Men vs. Magneto. And they can keep the X-Men fairly tight knight. Xavier, the five heroes I mentioned above, and maybe Rogue? Or Gambit? Maybe Colossus? Either way that leaves us with seven X-Men total. That’s the same number of Avengers we had when that franchise started. And that satisfies this alleged desire to take the franchise into space.

I give Fox a lot of credit for not giving the franchise a hard reboot. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make it a little more accessible.

Image 1 from nbcnews.com. Image 2 from newsarama.com. Image 3 from marvel.wiki.com.

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An All-New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men Review – I Grow Up to Be a Villain???

All-New X-Men, Vol. 1: Yesterday's X-MenTITLE: All-New X-Men, Vol. 1: Yesterday’s X-Men
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: Stuart Immonen
COLLECTS: All-New X-Men #15
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: March 27, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Even with its flaws, thus far All-New X-Men manages to be one of the more compelling Marvel NOW! releases.

While at death’s door because of another next-gen mutation, Beast makes a drastic move. In an attempt to make Cyclops see just how far he’s fallen (see Avengers vs. X-Men), he travels into the past and brings the five original X-Men to the present day. Now these relatively young and naive incarnations of Beast, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman and Angel must face a future where Charles Xavier is dead, Cyclops is leading a “mutant revolution,” and humans all over the world are suddenly gaining mutant abilities.

All-New X-Men Vol. 1: Yesterday's X-MenYesterday’s X-Men is ambitious, to say the least. Here we have a book that’s trying to bring in new readers by kicking off a new chapter in the world of the X-Men, while at the same time bringing in time traveling counterparts from another era, while at the same time trying to adapt to a new status quo where Cyclops is essentially a bad guy, while at the SAME time trying to introduce new characters. We certainly can’t accuse Bendis of phoning it in, can we? What’s more, this entire debacle works for the most part. It hits a few snags, but All-New X-Men has been near the top of my weekly stack since issue #1.

First and foremost, Stuart Immonen puts on a heck of a show here. He draws a hell of a Beast, particularly in the opening pages where we see him crying out in pain, with his hand extending out beyond the panelling toward the reader. The panel in the lower lefthand corner of the first page is a favorite of mine, as the character’s eyes tell such a great story. Cyclops also looks wonderful. He’s got a great badassery about him, particularly in the moment when he crosses his forearms, using the “X” symbol as part of an act of war. Immonen also has the unenviable task of drawing both Cyclops and Iceman at different ages (Beast is something of an exception, as his younger self is still human-looking). Almost all of this is pulled off very nicely.

All-New X-Men, Vol. 1: Yesterday's X-Men, Beast, Stuart ImmonenBeast a new look here, though I can’t say I’m a huge fan. At this point my loyalties are with feline Beast as opposed to simian Beast. Granted, it’s too early to make too harsh a judgment. But one character I CAN judge harshly is Iceman. Presumably to differentiate present day Iceman from past Iceman, Immonen draws the modern day character with silly looking icicles all over his body. This all seems like a needless distraction to me.
Bendis likes to banter. The more of his stuff you’ve read, the more obvious that is. It’s just how his voice is. He’s witty. I usually don’t have a problem with it. Depending on who he’s writing, it often works to his advantage because it gives us the sense that the characters know each other well. It also lends itself perfectly to funnier characters like Spider-Man. The trouble here is that Storm, and more notably Emma Frost, two characters who air less on the jokey side, seem to act out of character at times. Most of it is subtle, i.e. the use of certain words or expressions. But it’s there. On the plus side, Beast does deliver a classic bit of Bendis humor to Jean Grey toward the end of the book. She asks him: “How did I die?” His honest, logical, scientific-minded response is: “Which time?”

All-New X-Men, Vol. 1 Yesterday's X-Men, Stuart Immonen, BeastOn the subject of our fuzzy friend, while Yesterday’s X-Men is essentially a book about Cyclops, one can make the argument that Beast steals the show here. In addition to seeing young Hank McCoy interact with and treat his present day counter part, readers will likely find themselves questioning the wisdom of his decision to tamper with the space time continuum. From a character logic standpoint, it’s something we can chalk up to desperate times and desperate measures at the end of the day. But the stakes are immensely high, and the number of things that could potentially go wrong are astronomical, which obviously makes for a more tense and intriguing story.

And then we come to the proverbial elephant in the room, Jean Grey. If we’re looking for a way to bring Jean back, this works as well as anything. The characters all react accordingly to the reappearance of their fallen friend. She doesn’t get a hard hitting one-on-one scene with either Cyclops or Wolverine in this book, but it’s bound to be coming. Here Comes Yesterday plants the seed for that, and for now that’s enough.

We also get a sub plot in this book about how Cyclops, Emma Frost and Magneto are suddenly having trouble with their powers as a result of their direct contact with the Phoenix (though Magneto wasn’t actually part of the “Phoenix Five”). This feels like filler to me, but I’m willing to see where it goes. At the very least, it gives us an interesting scene between Cyclops and Magneto in issue #4.

If All-New X-Men is set to be the new flagship book of the X-Men line, then things are looking good for the time being. We’ve got a compelling story, fantastic art, and some great fan service going on. The negatives are there. But the positives are strong enough to offset them for the time being.

RATING: 8/10

Image 1 from ign.com. Image 2 from shootingdirtylooks.wordpress.com. Image 3 from superheroscifi.wordpress.com.

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An Avengers vs. X-Men Review – Cyclops Did WHAT????

Avengers vs. X-Men coverTITLE: Avengers vs. X-Men

AUTHORS: Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction
PENCILLERS: John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel, Adam Kubert.
COLLECTS: Avengers vs. X-Men #0-12
PUBLISHER: Marvel
CUMULATIVE PRICE: $52.87
GRAPHIC NOVEL RELEASE: November 2012

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Avengers vs. X-Men was one of the more inviting event comics I’ve seen in several years. The title alone tells you a lot. You read it and you immediately know the premise, and that almost all of Marvel’s big name heroes will be front and center. Toss in the fact that it revolves around the Phoenix Force, one of the most recognizable pieces of Marvel’s mythology, and we’ve got ourselves yet another Avengers-themed money vacuum. I wish I had one of those…

When the Phoenix Force returns to Earth, the heroes fear it has come for Hope Summers, Cyclops’ granddaughter from the future (don’t ask). Fearing for the safety of the entire world, the Avengers, led by Captain America, try to peacefully take Hope into protective custody. But Cyclops, now the leader of his own team of X-Men, won’t allow it. After Scarlet Witch reduced the mutant population to roughly 200 in House of M, Cyclops sees Phoenix’s return as Hope’s chance to fulfill her destiny as the savior of mutantkind. His refusal to cooperate leads to a battle between the Avengers and the X-Men. Ultimately, this conflict among the heroes will place everyone in even greater jeopardy as the X-Men are granted a power greater than they can possibly imagine…

Avengers vs. X-Men #1, John Romita Jr., face offSo you’re going to put these two teams against one another, and not have mind control be a factor (at least not initially). The first thing you need to be worried about is making sure neither team looks like the bad guys. Avengers vs. X-Men accomplishes this by having both teams fight for control of the situation, rather than work together to solve it. Captain America shows up on Utopia, and essentially tells Cyclops they’re taking Hope into protective custody. Feeling threatened, and with the mindset that the Phoenix could help reignite the mutant race, Cyclops lashes out. Thus, the fight begins.

So what we have here is a situation that both sides came into looking for a fight. Captain America secretly brought the entire Avengers roster to Utopia as back up. On the other hand Cyclops, who’s kind of been acting like a dick lately, thinks that the Phoenix Force, a destroyer of worlds that once possessed and killed his wife Jean Grey, is only concerned about the welfare of the mutants. But Earth’s entire population will ultimately be endangered here. Throw in the way Captain America cheap shots Wolverine in issue #3 for no real reason, and for the first half of the story both teams are essentially having a dick measuring contest with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. That doesn’t exactly reflect well on anyone, does it? But we have to have a fight, right? Otherwise we can’t sell comics…

Just before the halfway point, Marvel does play the mind control card by having the Phoenix possess Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor the Submariner, Colossus and Magik. The “Phoenix Five” then begin to remake the world as they see fit, telling world leaders that the time for peace has come…whether they like it or not. This turn of events is about Cyclops more than the other four. Avengers vs. X-Men marks the culmination of the slow fall from grace we’ve seen him go through in recent years, the apex of it all being what happens with Charles Xavier.

Avengers vs. X-Men, Phoenix FiveReaders are always looking for long term consequences from their event comics. In terms of AvX, they need look no further than Cyclops, who truly becomes a tragic figure in this book. Like so many other characters in mythology and popular culture, he was only trying to do the right thing. But he went to such terrible lengths to do so that he literally became the kind of force he originally set out to stop. In the end, not only did he murder his surrogate father, but he lost everything. He lost the family, his friends, his camaraderie with his peers, even his freedom. while these five characters are being influenced by the Phoenix, their choices are still their own. All of this was his doing. He did it. Him. And now he has to live with that for the rest of his life. Pretty heavy stuff, huh? In terms of long term effects, the added depth and dimension this story brought to the Cyclops character will likely be its enduring legacy outside of being an event comic where a bunch of heroes fought each other. And let’s be honest, Charles Xavier will be back eventually.

In terms of structure, things grew a little stagnant during the second half of the story, as we knew we were simply waiting for the Avengers to take the Phoenix Five down one by one. They give Spider-Man the spotlight for an issue, as we see him persevere while Colossus and Magik beat him within an inch of his life. That provides a nice character moment for him to break up a bit of the staleness. But it’s an unavoidable valley in the story. The writers do what they can with it, and very capably I might add. But it is what it is.

Avengers vs. X-Men, Spider-Man, Colossus, MagikJohn Romita Jr. does some fine work here, despite some awkward depictions of Cyclops early in the story. Olivier Coipel and Adam Kubert are also very strong. One person I took special note of in issue #11 was Laura Martin, whose reds, oranges and yellows made for a great sunset metaphor during the Cyclops/Xavier confrontation.

Avengers vs. X-Men was an easy pitch for readers new and old, it had some of the best talent in the industry attached to it, and it did some great fan service. Could we have asked more from it? I suppose there’s always someplace you can ask for more. But I can honestly say that the main story was worth the money I spent on it. And at the end of the day, can we really ask for much more than that?

RATING: 8/10

Image 1 from heroes4hire.com. Image 2 from gamespot.com. Image 3 from ign.com. 

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