Category Archives: Featured

“Out Loud & Live!” with JC Alvarez

Episode: #304: “Let’s Get Reacquainted…”

On this episode…let’s get things rolling in the aftermath of San Diego Comic-Con 2017! Lightning strikes again on a new series coming to The CW and some news about returning favorites! What you should be reading now in DC Comics featuring the voice talents of a special guest, and there’s a new Star Trek to discover! (Original Airdate – 7/31/2017)

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A Mutant Renaissance :: Marvel Comics X-MEN GOLD & BLUE

The Uncanny X-Men are back in the spotlight with a pair of coinciding series that bring with them a new revitalization of a franchise that was once the pearl of Marvel Comics! Setting the Blue and Gold standard!

Once upon a time there were these misfits teenagers brought together under the sage guidance of a headmaster of a “school for the gifted”, but just how gifted these unlucky teens were wasn’t entirely clear even for their creator. After a string of successes that included the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Avengers and even the Hulk, Marvel Comics the House of Ideas wanted more from Stan Lee and demanded another hit from the man!

Stan had already given the world the mightiest, the most amazing, and the fantastic — the only thing left to do was go astonishing and uncanny! The answer came in the form of The Uncanny X-Men. Published in 1963 the group would be a very close reflection and raise social commentary on the social upheavals being experienced in American culture. The X-Men were “mutants” — humans born with the genetic propensity to super powers!

Where most of Stan’s creation had derived their abilities from unfortunate accidents, given to supernatural or super scientific circumstance, mutants were born with their gifts, and ultimately became the focus of fears and prejudice by a “normal” society that felt threatened by mutants  evolutionary advantage, or in some cases their ascent to superiority. It led to some of the series most outstanding storylines.

Uncanny!

The obscure popularity of the X-Men especially in those early adventures certainly solidified an audience for the group of teenagers who took it upon themselves to travel the world in defense of those feared and disenfranchised who couldn’t help themselves, but suddenly the title’s demand starting to wain. In 1969 the original stories ended with the release of Issue #66 and the series continued with reprints into it’s Issue #93.

In 1975 the “All-New, All-Different” line-up was introduced by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum and with Giant-Size X-Men #1 a new era was born. The team was a mix of diversity featuring characters from all corners of the globe. At first the new members had a difficult challenge of proving themselves, especially to one another, but soon they would develop into a family. These X-Men would be properly introduced with Issue #94 of The Uncanny X-Men written by Chris Claremont.

Claremont would begin an unprecedented 16-year run on the title that would propel The Uncanny X-Men to the top at Marvel Comics marking the mighty mutants (alongside Spider-Man) the lead sellers for the publishing giant. The X-Men’s message of inclusivity among diversity resonated with readers from all walks of life, and secured their transition into mainstream with a blockbuster film franchise, Saturday morning cartoons and several action figure toy lines.

All-New, All-Different

In recent times, the mutants have taken a backseat to the other members of the Marvel pantheon including The Mighty Avengers who have themselves overtaken the cinematic spectrum of the Marvel Films universe and become bigger stars on the big screen then they might have ever been in the publishing mecca. Over the course of the characters’ rise among theater audiences, the Avengers became the center narrative of the publishing arm of Marvel as well.

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This didn’t leave much room for the X-Men who never fell out of favor with their fandom, but were relegated to the side as a clear uniformity was built to strategically align with the cinematic world, to which the X-Men were not (at least at the moment) subscribed to. While many of the publishing events centered on the Avengers, the X-Men were often written into B-stories, or segregated into inclusion with representation coming only from the bigger stars in the line like Wolverine or Storm.

It has also quickly become evident that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has also substituted the mutants within its narrative with the Inhumans — a nearly godlike off-shoot of the human race that has lived in seclusion and often in hiding from the rest of mankind, but who have been taking their place at the table in contemporary plot lines. The Inhumans became centrifugal in two recent publishing events, and took over an arc on television’s Agents of SHIELD.

The Inhumans will also headline their own primetime series this fall on ABC.

Astonishing in Blue and Gold

One would assess that with the continuing profitability of the X-Men movie franchises still drawing audiences nearly two decades later, especially after a recent cinematic reboot, the mutants had a fanbase that would not be ignored. It appeared that the time to reinvest in the X-Men had arrived. Springing out of the recent Inhumans vs. X-Men limited series which pit the two enigmatic forces against one another, Marvel retconned the X-Men titles with a series of brand new #1s.

Reintroduced in the one-shot X-Men Prime #1 the future of the X-Men is precarious at best, so looking to the future Storm insists that Kitty Pryde return to the fold and assume a role she has been groomed for her entire career. Ororo wants Kitty to lead the X-Men and serve as a role-model, as headmistress to the next generation of young mutants. In order to achieve that goal, Kitty demands that the X-Men must give up their exile and rejoin the rest of planet.

At the conclusion of the aforementioned Inhumans vs. X-Men limited series, the X-Men moved their base of operations to Limbo in order to escape the effect of the Inhuman’s Terrigen mist; released into the Earth’s atmosphere and proven dangerous to mutants. With little other choice left to them, the X-Man Magik moves their headquarters to her demonic Limbo. Not exactly an ideal location by which to thrive and or raise a family. Kitty demands that the group return to Earth.

Using her skills of teleportation Magik lands the X-Men and their mansion into the heart of New York City, literally placing the home in Central Park. Kitty is able to keep most of the team together, but does not convince the “original” five X-Men including Jean Grey, Cyclops, Angel, Beast and Iceman to stay with the group. The time-displaced teenagers decide that the future they’ve inherited is not all that it’s cracked up to be and carve out their own path.

X-Men: Gold is written by Marc Guggenheim and follows the more traditional course of action as Kitty attempts to secure her X-Men’s place in the world. Fighting on her side are classic X-Men including Storm, who has given up the reigns of leadership to Kitty, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Prestige (Rachel Grey) and Old Man Logan. Their mission statement remains the same, and already they’ve come face-to-face with a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and Sentinels.

The title in the line X-Men: Blue is written by Cullen Bunn who is propelling the younger “originals” led by Jean Grey on a completely different tangent. This group has decided on Jean’s insistence to ally themselves with the X-Men’s greatest foe Magneto and it’s evident that the Master of Magnetism has his own agenda in the works. If some of these larger, over-reaching arcs sound familiar, you’re not alone. You’ve been reading X-Men comics for more than three decades.

No one may want to admit that what the X-Men require is a significant reboot that simplifies the mythology. It had gotten particularly out of hand in the late 90s into the start of the new millennium, and has just not been able to get back to the richer, humanistic story arcs that Claremont infused into the title. The writer even attempted to return to the comic for a short period of time, and it appeared that the magic truly had gone off into limbo.

X-Men: Gold and X-Men: Blue are on sale now and are published by Marvel Comics.

SPIDER-MAN Comes Home to Marvel Films

He’s been “amazing” and “spectacular” but Peter Parker — the SPIDER-MAN has never had a HOMECOMING like this! However will the web-slinger stand on his own after joining the CIVIL WAR?

Of any other superhero in film, with the exception of perhaps the Batman, everyone’s favorite web-slinger Spider-Man has proven blockbuster gold for Sony Pictures, a fact not lost on the studio who only recently loosened its noose on the Marvel Comics character allowing him to join the Marvel Films cinematic universe! It’s quite appropriate then that the hero’s next silver screen outing has secured as its title Spider-Man: Homecoming since the last time we saw Spidey he was taking on some pretty heavy guns in Captain America: Civil War.

Spider-Man first swung into action joining the rest of the Marvel Films characters in “Captain America: Civil War” now Peter (Tom Holland) is coming home!

Stepping into the very famous spandex will be Tom Holland who did a pretty good job of going toe-to-toe alongside Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) against his longtime Avengers teammate Captain America (Chris Evans) when that group of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes found themselves on opposite sides of the issue. It’s fair to say that young Peter Parker got himself caught up in the middle of the beef when his hero, industrialist Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) persuades the high schooler to fight for his side!

Back In The Swing of Things

We’re about to find out whether or not that was a good decision on Peter’s part, after all, he’s got to come back home to New York City and pick things up where he left off. Directed by Jon Watts this Spider-Man feature is promising to borrow less from its five predecessors, and set up its own web of intrigue. For starters, it will assume that everyone is already invested in our friendly neighborhood amazing Spider-Man and his origin will not be a primary play of the narrative that ensues. We all get it — Peter Parker (Holland) is bit by a radioactive spider, etc.

The film’s arc will apparently pick up shortly after Peter returns from his escapade helping Tony take down Cap and his crew. An eager Mr. Parker is now eager to prove he’s got what it takes to join the ranks of the mighty Avengers, but he’s got homework and high school to think about first. That’s right, Peter is back in high school and this 15-year old is trying to balance term papers and fighting crime. Then there’s the appearance of the Vulture, played by Michael Keaton. Everything starts to unravel for Peter when this hi-tech avian hitman moves in on his territory.

Spidey saves the day in one of the film’s most daring scenes which combined practical and CGI effects to bring to life his death-defying rescue of the Staten Island Ferry.

Spider-Man: Homecoming will mark the first appearance of the Vulture, one of the classic villains in the character’s rogues gallery. Adrian Toomes first plague our hero’s existence in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 published by Marvel Comics in 1963. Toomes is depicted as a brilliant inventor who scavenges technology from the Avengers first battle against the alien forces that rained down on New York City in Marvel’s Avengers. Envious of Tony Stark, Toomes has decided to outwit Iron Man and instead will find himself facing off against the two heroes.

Already Spider-Man: Homecoming is winning over fans especially of the established Marvel Films cinematic universe who have been looking forward to seeing this character join the rest of the line-up. With the Avengers: Infinity War promising to deal a dark hand to some of the long-standing heroes that have been apart of this universe (including Agents of SHIELD and Netflix’s Defenders cast) Peter better be careful what he wishes for. Spider-Man has been already been confirmed to play his part in that storyline which will bring everyone together to battle Thanos.

Spider-Man: Homecoming opens in theaters nationwide on July 7 and is distributed by Sony Pictures in collaboration with Marvel Films.

DC Comics Enters Into DARK DAYS

The comics event of the summer is still shrouded in great mystery, but one thing is certain as the FORGE begins for DC Comics there are DARK DAYS ahead indeed!

Though still knee deep in the midst of it “Rebirth” a publishing-wide initiative that more closely reintegrates its more than 75 year legacy back into its storylines DC Comics has gone a step further and thrown its readership into “Dark Days”. The latest summer event launched this month in June with a premiere edition one-shot entitled Dark Days: The Forge and is the first act leading to a series of events that will have repercussions throughout the DC Comics universe.

Yes — we’ve all heard that before, more than once or twice, but with the advent success of the “event” storyline this is the publishing giants way of producing a blockbuster in print. The story will involve major players in the DC Comics universe and is propelled by a mystery at the Earth’s core that has Batman investigating, and keeping secrets from the rest of his colleagues in the Justice League, which is especially troublesome to Aquaman.

There is also an evolving threat that will be reestablishing Hawkman, Carter Hall back into the mainstream continuity. The Winged Avenger’s origins, dating back to his reincarnations as an Egyptian prince are being reexamined in the course of this story, as is the re-entry of another old favorite Plastic Man — or at least that’s who it looks like the Batman and Mr. Terrific (back from his exile to Earth-2) have been keeping “on ice” on the moon.

The covers to the first arc leading into the epic event METAL from DC Comics, DARK DAYS: THE FORGE on sale now.

Forging the Mystery

All this is going on as much of the DC Comics universe is piecing itself back together, reestablishing its legacies, after the reboot controversy of “The New 52” that wiped out and/or retconned much of the 75 year history of the heroic pantheon. Since that initiate which relaunched many of the main titles back in 2011, plenty of other historic moments in DC Comics timeline have been rudimentarily erased including the first Crisis on Infinite Earths.

When “Rebirth” was announced as the latest continuity “reboot” it began with the revelation that 10 years had been misplaced from the DC Comics continuity, but not all the characters are aware of it. Until the return of Wally West / The Flash many of the main players were completely in dark of that fact, and only recently did Barry Allen / The Flash and Batman embark on a mystery that lead them back to the “FlashPoint” that stared it all.

Now events are beginning to coalesce for our heroes, and the Batman has uncovered a new mystery that strikes at the heart of the very multiverse — the core of the very Earth in fact. Whatever is going on, it’s affecting metal — and is having a distinct affect on metals with certain mystical or supernatural properties. It’s also triggered something that Batman has kept hidden inside Superman’s Fortress of Solitude — something that looks very familiar.

The Batman convinces Mister Miracle to trip the lock to a seal compartment underneath the fortress and inside resides a pillar — a antenna of sorts — used by the Monitor to prevent his evil alter-ego the Anti-Monitor from unleashing his anti-matter wrath on the multiverse during the first Crisis. While Batman investigates the device which has come online, deep beneath the Batcave, Green Lantern follows a path that leads him to non-other than the Joker!

How all this comes together is anyone’s guess for the moment, but scribe Scott Snyder has revealed that he’s been laying down the framework for “Dark Days” ever since he started his work on Batman. Now collaborating with James Tynion IV the pair are opening the gates of what is being dubbed the “Dark Multiverse”. How our heroes will fare against what’s in store? We’ll just have to grit our teeth as the prelude to Dark Days: “Metal” begins with “The Forge”!

Dark Days: THE FORGE #1 written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV and is out now published by DC Comics.

iReview :: TRANSFORMERS: The Last Knight

The world of the Transformers is on the verge of collapse and as far as their concerned, they’re taking everyone — including the human race — with them. How can the two races survive when their leader Optimus Prime has been turned into an instrument of destruction in The Last Knight!

Whether you’ve been a fan of director Michael Bay’s Transformers film franchise or not, one thing is for certain, it was the only toy-turned-big-screen star to survive the boom of the new millennium. Hasbro, the toy manufacturer that holds the claim on the property, also attempted to get several of its other brands to crossover, but Transformers was the only one that stuck. A decade, and five films later, audiences are still filling multiplexes to catch their favorite alien robots duke it out!

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More than Meet the Eye

Perhaps the success of the Transformers can be easily equated to the nostalgia factor of the brand. Based on the toy line from the 80s that gave rise to the equally popular animated adventures, the enhanced mythology that has been built around this property has far-reaching resonance with its audience. The idea was always very cutting edge; the origins of these technological marvels, robots from a far off planet called Cybertron engaged in a civil war that lands them millions of miles away from home, and forced to hide in plain sight on Earth.

The evil Decepticons, conquerors by nature, are now determined to rape the planet Earth of its raw resources in an effort to return to their home planet and defeat their enemies, the Autobots, a heroic group of rebels lead by Optimus Prime. The human race finds itself caught in the middle of these two titans as the battle escalates, and the power struggle between the two forces threatens to upend all the good that could come from these newfound allies. When Michael Bay launched the franchise in 2007 with Transformers the film was an instant hit!

Fate of The Last Knight

With the recent trend among movie studios now to dilute franchise fatigue by simply “rebooting” the same brand every other year or so, dusting off some of the old and retooling casts and elaborating on the “origin story” formula, when Paramount Pictures decided that Transformers needed some refreshing, they asked Bay to “move things in a slightly different direction”. The last film Age of Extinction did away with most of the previous three films core group of characters, and recast a proven action hero Mark Wahlberg as the lead human.

His everyman mechanic/inventor Cade Yeager was a step-up from the millennially marketed hero that was keeping the driver’s seat warm. The robots, of course, are the real stars of the film, but Wahlberg brought a new kind of legitimacy to the franchise and was able to kickstart the franchise’s “Generation 2” act which pushed the mythology of the Transformers further than the previous installments. Though the intention all along to build on the world of the alien robots and their connection with the human race was something that Bay profited from putting forward.

Now with the fifth film Transformers: The Last Knight there are suggestions that this will be the last one, at least in this series, and perhaps this may be true especially since its director capitalized from including story points from across the previous films to tightly wrap things up, but also leave a very important plot point hanging just in reach for the inevitable follow-up. What sets this episode apart from its predecessors is how much more richly developed the story is; the narrative is so much more inviting regardless of whether audiences were connected to the previous four films’ narrative or not.

The Transformers are all mostly fugitives being hunted down by humans who want them off the planet and gone, especially after the events that ravaged Chicago (see Transformers: Dark of the Moon) and have gone into hiding along with Cade, but there appears to be an object moving towards the earth and threatening it with annihilation! The humans strike up a bargain with the evil Decepticons, when they learn that Cade is in possession of an amulet that prophecies the arrival of the “last knight”.

It all leads to the inevitable final battle with the humans caught in the middle and Optimus Prime’s alliances in question!

And although everything may feel as if it was tightly wrapped up and delivered to an end, there is that particularly significant plot point mentioned earlier. Among all the Transformers, perhaps the most dangerous has proven the planet-sized devourer called Unicron first introduced in the 1985 animated full-length feature Transformers: The Movie. That creature we learn lies dormant and embedded within our very planet, and it is threatening to awakening soon! So what will that mean for the Earth itself? We’ll have to wait and see!

See the trailer here:

Transformer: The Last Knight directed by Michael Bay and starring Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel and Laura Haddock is now showing in theaters everywhere and is distributed by Paramount Pictures.

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY :: What We Know So Far…

CBS is preparing to take audiences back to the Final Frontier with an all-new and enlightened original journey with STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. The latest installment of the franchise has already hit some turbulent space and it hasn’t even launched the airwaves, but set your phasers for stun and prepare to engage!

When CBS first announced that it wanted to bring Star Trek back to television, many imagined that the network was caught up in the celebratory sensations linked to the long-enduring franchise which is still in the midst of its 50th Anniversary. The Original Series which took popular culture by storm and introduced us to Gene Roddenberry’s crew of the now legendary USS Enterprise created a phenomenon that has lead to four proper spin-off series, an animated Saturday morning TV show, thirteen motion pictures and countless hours of fan adulation!

With the growing advent of original subscriber base content CBS is hoping to lure a larger audience into its clutches on CBS All Access with Star Trek: Discovery the first new series hitting the television market in 12 years. The last of course being the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise which starred Scot Bakula. Since then Star Trek was rebooted on the big screen thanks to J.J. Abrams who with his genius engineered an entirely refreshing take on the original recasting all the major roles and turning the Enterprise into a luxury-sized space Lexus!

There have been three films to follow, Abrams dictum, the last released in 2016 Star Trek Beyond doing well enough at the box office to stimulate interest in the studio to pursue a follow-up that may will bridge the generations. In the meantime, there is more than enough Star Trek to go around and CBS is hoping to pique audiences enough with the latest journey which promises to be a very different voyage in to the far reaches of space, with a focus not necessarily on the individual sitting in the captain’s chair, but on a crew member embarking on their greatest adventure yet.

Actor Jason Isaacs in the role of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Capt. Gabriel Lorca in an image first released by Entertainment Weekly.

Of Discovery

This much we already know about the new Trek series, it won’t be about the captains at the center of the seat. There will be captains along this journey, the captain of the Starship Discovery will be played by Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter fame. He plays Captain Gabriel Lorca, a master tactician who will find himself in the crosshairs of the Federation’s oldest adversaries, the Klingons. The series is set before Captain James T. Kirk’s historic mission, making Star Trek: Discovery another prequel series.

And although their will be some familiar faces popping into the narrative, it’s not necessary centered on the enduring legacy of a certain Starship Enterprise. It follows the life trials of a first officer played by Sonequa Martin-Green who left from one franchise hit (The Walking Dead) and into the spotlight of another. Martin-Green will be playing First Officer Michael Burnhum of the USS Shenzhou and her life is about to open up when she sets foot aboard Discovery. This will be the first time that a Trek series will be seen through the eyes of someone outside the captaincy.

Martin-Green has commented that it hasn’t escaped her, the enormity of what she’s about to step into and the legacy that is Star Trek. Though there has been certain controversies surrounding the production, first the obvious delays in production, the fact that it will be a serialized story that will run the length of the season, but strangely some have commented on the diversity among its cast, which is truly shocking! Considering Roddenberry’s mission of inclusivity of all cultures, races and religions that have at the core of Star Trek’s eddic, Discovery is a reflection of the times.

Her character, Michael Burnhum (deliberately a name that is most commonly associated for a man’s name) is on a very unique trajectory, one that audiences of Star Trek have never experienced before. Burnhum is a student of the Vulcan Learning Center and the Vulcan Science Academy — in fact the first human to emerge from these academies, hence her unique relation to Sarek, Spock’s father (played by James Frain). Show-runners Aaron Harberts and Grethen J. Berg are promising it will be very different, following the path of this one character to discovery.

Fans won’t have much longer to wait! Star Trek Discovery is set to premiere on CBS on Sept. 24 before transporting on the CBS All Access streaming service, with distribution on Netflix across the world.

Star Trek: Discovery premieres Sept. 24th on CBS with First Season episodes streaming on CBS All Access.