Tag: x-men

The Age of Apocalypse: The Best of the Worst Possible Futures

Contributed by Max Bowen

I recall a time at a comic shop when I dared utter the phrase “I really liked the Age of Apocalypse” storyline. The owner, as close to a living personification of the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy as you’re ever likely to find, immediately launches into a tirade about how it’s actually the worst series ever, snatches one of the trades off the shelf, and then dares me to read it.

Keep in mind I own all the trades, so making me read this really isn’t that big a punishment.

“Well, OK, I will, I say.” Because it’s awesome—but not just because it’s a good look at a bleak future.

Age of Apocalypse (AOA), was a four-month spinoff series launched in 1995 that asked the question “What if Charles Xavier never founded the X-Men?” The answer is pretty damn dark, as the immortal, Darwin-obsessed mutant Apocalypse is able to rise to power and conquer much of the known world. Humans are reduced to a minority, hunted down, and placed on the short end of the stick. All told, they’re looking down the barrel of extinction, and Apocalypse is all too happy to pull that trigger. Only one man, the time-displaced Bishop, remembers the world as it should be, and he’s on a quest to make things right. From the company known for putting out alternative storylines, this one stands out to me as one of the best.

I won’t spoil all of it for those that haven’t checked it out, but the series is rife with ironic twists. The biggest of these is that Magneto, one of Xavier’s greatest foes, ends up leading the X-Men, now a resistance group dedicated to bringing down the big man. The entire familiar X-cast is there, all in unexpected new roles, or with major shifts to their personalities and it’s a great read, if for no other reason than to see what changes have been made to your favorite mutants.

OK, sales pitch aside, the message of the series as I see it is that one life touches many. Xavier dying before his time radically alters the Marvel Universe as we know it, showing us that without his influence, the worst of us are given the chance to show some good, and those with the purest souls can easily stray to the dark side.

But what about the rest of us? Most of those reading may not rise to his level of fame, but what we do still makes a difference, even if it’s a small one. What kind of impact do we have on the people we know, and what would their lives be like if we had never entered the picture? Yeah, I know, it’s the same message in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but it resonates, even today.

Think back to those you spend a lot of time with: have you ever influenced them, either for good or for ill? Did they take your cue in planning their own lives, or making their own decisions? It’s not a bad thing—A lot of us will ask “what would so-and-so do?” I often thing of my mom and what advice she would have when I’m in a tough spot, and I think we all have someone whom we’ve changed their lives.

Consider that, and maybe you’ll see that you have made a difference for the better, and maybe you can do it again for someone else. Or maybe you’re actually the villain. Maybe you gave some bad advice that leads the listener to really screw up their lives. I suppose the lesson to take is to consider your own words and deeds, and if there’s someone out there that uses them as a blueprint for their own decisions.

Yes, you may not be the one to change the world, but you may change a life. And honestly, that’s a pretty big deal.


Max Bowen is the host of the Citywide Blackout Radio Show.

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Comics: A Transformative Medium

Comics. From comic strips to graphic novels, they have the power to transform a person. While they have become a pop-culture phenomenon, there was a time when the admitted love of comics branded you as a loser. Despite compelling stories, beautiful artwork, and ability to transport the reader to the far reaches of the universe, they were looked down upon.

If it were not for comics, I would not be a reader. If I were not a reader, I would not be a writer. I recount often how comic books were thrust upon me on long drives between North Carolina and Maine. The characters became familiar and the stories kept me hanging on the edge of my seat. Despite being too young to understand the adult themes, I found myself falling in love with this world where the impossible was not only possible, but the norm.

Years later, as my parents attempted to transition me from comics to novels, I was handed a set of X-Men novels written by Christopher Golden. The moment I reached the end of each book, I found myself amazed that novels contained a bit of the magic held within the glossy pages of comics. My love of reading starts and ends with comics but in-between, I have been exposed to fantastical worlds, galactic space ships, fearful tales of ghosts, and love affairs with vampires.

This story is not unique. I am not alone.

For the month of November, I am inviting creators to share what comics impacted them and how it changes their lives. Check back as the month progresses, find comics to explore for the first time or the hundredth.

X-Men Fan Films Determined to Keep Hollywood on its Toes

I’ve been recharging my creative battery by consuming an uncanny amount of superhero pop culture. I went on a hunt for extreme geekery and what I found was a plethora of fan made films. People with as much love for the X-Men as myself have taken it upon themselves to bring the source material to life. Of the dozens I watched, these are the two most impressive.

CHRONICLES OF HOPE

The folks over at K&K Productions upped the bar quickly with their interpretation of the events post Messiah War. The petulant child and her cybernetic father-figure are on the lamb, dodging the time traveling traitor of the X-Men, Bishop. It’s not enough for a gun battle between Hope, Cable and the Purifiers, the amazing special FX of Nightcrawler rival that of X2. I hope they continue the series. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for more.


RAIN

Ororo Munroe is often considered a fan favorite. Being the secondary leader of the X-Men for years and later besting Scott Summers without her powers, she has proved that women have earned their spot in the limelight. But what could be better than a fan film featuring Storm, a Goddess of Nature? A punked out version of Storm who abandoned formality and gave into to her darker side. Where the big budget is lacking (and the fight scene a bit rough), the story is tight and the effects perpetuate one goal, to prove Storm is the badass of the X-Men.

Logan – No Post Credit Scene (No Spoilers)

When the superhero genre is filled with over the top special effects and relies on the powers of its cast, Logan is a quiet movie focusing instead on the story of a man out-of-place and past his prime. When you’re a soldier without a war, and what you do best is kill, what does the world have left for you?

I’m not a fan of Wolverine in the comics. Much like Superman, his powers have been seen in a capacity that makes him Godlike and we lose the potential to fear for the character. Torn in half, decimated by a nuke, even the lost of his razor claws have done little more than slow him. Logan however quickly grounds us, bringing us into a world not far off in the future and with a character who is past his prime and barely surviving.

The story is loosely adapted from Old Man Logan, and fans of the series knew it would be altered due to property licensing. What we were given is story about a washed up mutant, trying to protect the one man who has always supported him. When a woman appears in his life claiming he has a daughter, Xavier, ever the headmaster, wants to see the child to safety. Logan on the other hand, he is an old man stuck in his ways, seeing the possibility for loss, tries to stick to his loner ways.

Tucked away in an abandoned mining silo, Patrick Stewart’s Xavier spends time caught between a man losing his mind and the sagely professor. Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman have a bond throughout this film that reminds us their lives have been interconnected for the last seventeen years. In heartfelt speeches and moments of tenderness between them, we see Logan’s regard and respect for the only man who has ever been a father to him. The movie goes to the extent of having them join another family for dinner to drive home the point. Sitting around a dinner table telling stories of their adventures in thinly veiled disguises, we see people, not heroes.

Similar to barn scene in Avengers 2, where we meet Hawkeye’s family, the characters are given a moment to be human. The scene is interrupted, as is the life of a superhero, but for a good long time, we are left with thought-provoking questions, something the genre is not known for giving us. What lengths would I go to protect my family? Could I be a father? Would I find commonalities with those different than me? What if my child was “different?” How does the most powerful mind feel about the fragility of his body? Will the world remember me when I’m gone?

While the movie features Hugh Jackman’s title character, a role he has grown and expanded to new layers of complexity, it is Patrick Stewart who steals every scene. Having killed hundreds of people with his telepathy as a seizure erupted and he lost control, we’re given a man whose strongest attribute is slowly failing him. Having already lost the use of his legs, we’ve always found comfort in him being able to step outside his body and move freely with his telepathy. Wrapped in self-doubt, grief, and blame for the atrocities he has caused, we see a man with no legacy, a man who tried to change the world and failed. His own mind has turned against him, and we understand his frailty. And while this sounds gut wrenching, we find ourselves often laughing at his old crotchety nature and the sharp jabs he gives to Logan. The playful Patrick Stewart we’ve grown to love, the one wearing matching outfits with Sir Ian McKellen also has a strong presence. I find myself frequently wondering where the role ended and where the actor began?

I should also include Dafne Keen for her role as Laura. X-23 is a complicated character because she simply does not understand who or what she is. Manufactured for war, she is the biological daughter of Wolverine, but has never known a father. While Logan’s mythos is wrapped in mystery from the fateful day within WeaponX, Laura has been bred for war. Watching her fight is amazing, probably the best choreographing I’ve seen in years, but it’s the moments in which she lets down her guard and becomes a child that we connect with her.  She matches Logan in intensity, rage, fighting, and even comical moments, the pair together were magnificent in being reflections of one another, a true father/daughter dynamic.

I can continue to gush, and remind people that in the 70 years of comics we’ve read, we’ve grown to love the people more than the powers. We see momentary glimpses to the young cigar smoking Canuck, but more than that, we see the story of a man who is ready to say goodbye.

Since 2000, I have had the opportunity to watch my passion play out in front of me. For good or for bad, I have been along for the ride. Seventeen years I’ve watched Hugh Jackman play my angry uncle and Patrick Stewart play my second father. While I am sad to see them leave, they are giving the characters the farewells they deserve.

Now, we wait for the Next Generation.

<SPOILER>
As the title says, there is no post credit scene. I spent a good chunk of the movie trying to figure out where the next movie (even if not starring Hugh Jackman) would come into play? Would X-23 assume the mantle and have a movie of her own? Do we see the potential of the New Mutants? When the screen remained blank, I felt cheated. It took me time to process this, but overall, I’m content that there is no continuance. Fox set out to say farewell to the characters and the moment I realized they were gone, I came to grips with what type of story this was. No “to be continued,” simply a story of a man’s last actions.

Comic Characters Who Need Their Own Movie

Over the past decade, comics have made the big transition from the printed page to the silver screen. It hasn’t been a flawless leap, and there are a few productions that I think we as a people wish had never seen the light of day [cough, Fantastic Four, cough]. Truly, it’s a great time to be a nerd, when one of the cornerstones of geek subculture has now become part of the mainstream, and it’s a little less cool to say that you know who Wolverine is.

But here’s the problem: Wolverine’s one of the few we know. In an industry with a dearth of possible stories, we’ve seen five Spider-Man movies, six starring the X-Men, and countless Avengers titles. While more are planned, it doesn’t look like the theatrical roster is going to expand by too much. So, I decided to throw my two cents and comprise a list of characters, some from Marvel and others from different companies, that I think deserve their own movie.

Darkhawk
Regarded as a C-List hero that gets to occasionally team up with the big boys, Darkhawk has in fact saved the entire world and gone toe-to-toe with some of the heavy-hitters of the Marvel Universe [the guy was part of the Infinity Crusade, I think that at least moves him to B+ List]. His back story starts out like many heroes—as a kid, Chris Powell basically fell into his powers, after he used an alien amulet to transform into an android powerhouse.

Unlike many, his course to heroism was somewhat erratic. His mentors include Venom and The Punisher, folks whose idea of due process is a deciding whether to skin the bad guys alive or just cave in their skulls. It’s no surprise that he’s questioned the wisdom of leaving the bad guys in one piece.

Now, let’s talk powers—Darkhawk has enough for two characters. Super strength, an energy shield, a force blast, flight, even some kind of nightmare face that terrifies anyone he looks at. Yeah, his outfit makes him look like a cyberpunk Power Ranger, but he makes it work.

Multiple Man
Jamie Madrox’s own powers have tried to kill him. There, I think that’s all I need to say.

What? I need to do more. Fine, fine….

Madrox is a mutant with the power to create a duplicate of himself through physical impact. Basically, you punch him and get two to fight with. Have fun with that. He’s a member of X-Factor, a government -run mutant team because sure, the government has always had the best interests of mutants at heart.

Despite some questionably judgment in allegiences, Madrox has proven himself a hero time and again. The guy can make as many duplicates as he needs, and as far as I know, there’s no limit to this ability. He’s basically a one-man army. More than that, he can see, hear, and experience anything his copies do. Send one to infiltrate a Hydra base, but he gets killed? No worries, Madrox Prime [as he’s sometimes referred to] saw everything he needs to stop their fiendish plan.

But that’s not all! He can learn anything his copies learn just by absorbing them back into his body. He once sent a copy to spend years learning martial arts, then gained all the skills in a moment. If he gets hurt in battle, drawing the copies back into himself can heal his wounds. It’s actually a wonder that he bothers being part of a team.

Mice Templar
OK, this would be likely be multiple films, but the premise is amazing: infusing Celtic and Norse legends to tell a tale of destiny, revenge, and war. On the surface this seems like standard Disney fare: an army of mice taking on the evil rat empire, but the similarity ends very quickly. And very, very bloody

While this certainly has the potential to be a good animated series, let’s just say the parental warning would be high for this one. It’s about as gory as the movie Braveheart, and has a complex, ever-evolving story that follows a young mouse named Karic, someone who wants absolutely nothing to do with the destiny thrust upon him as a great savior, only agreeing once he sees that he’s the only thing saving his kind from complete annihilation. So, no pressure, right?

Ink
A lesser-known member of the second incarnation of the New Mutants, Tattoo isn’t actually a mutant, and has no powers that are his and his alone. Instead, he employs a mutant tattoo artist, whose gift allows him to make any ink he draws a power. Draw the biohazard sign on your hand: congrats, you can now broadcast the plague to anyone around you. A set of wings on your heels: heads up, you can fly. Hell, the guy even gave himself the powers of the Phoenix. Yeah, the same one that decimates worlds for fun. That Phoenix.

To be fair, Tattoo isn’t a real hero, and only gives himself these powers for his own gain, but when the chips are down, he steps up and does the right thing, even when that “right thing” puts him in a coma.


Max Bowen founded Citywide Blackout five years ago to support and promote Boston’s music scene. The show has grown significantly over the years, with many different co-hosts bringing their distinct personalities, experience, and expertise to the table. This show wouldn’t exist if not for their hard work.

Today, Citywide Blackout airs on WEMF every Thursday at 9 p.m. with co-hosts Matt Zappa and Tom Crossman. The show shines the spotlight on musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, and much more.

In addition, Max is a regular contributor to The Noise Magazine, which covers the Boston music scene through live show and CD reviews and in-depth articles. He has worked as a journalist for Gatehouse Media for the last 10 years. Today, he’s the editor of the Westwood Press and Medfield Press newspapers.

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