Time Runs Out – the Conclusion of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers (and the Marvel Comics Universe)

It was the spark that started the fire – a legend that grew in the telling.

At the beginning, it was an origin story. The rebuilding of the Avengers. The reconvening of the Illuminati. And with overtones reaching back to the beginning of the Marvel Universe.

The left is from Avengers - the right is from New Avengers. Also on http://comparativegeeks.tumblr.com/

The left is from Avengers – the right is from New Avengers.
Also on http://comparativegeeks.tumblr.com/

At the end, it’s the mirror of that story. The collapse of the Avengers. The Illuminati replaced by the Cabal. The end of the Marvel Universe.

Jonathan Hickman’s run writing Avengers and New Avengers has been a blast. I’ve blogged about it a good deal because it’s one of the main comics I have been following on a regular basis – although I have stepped down to reading it in the trade paperbacks/collected digital volumes. That said, I am here now because these two comics just released their last trade last week – the end of the four-trade, two-title saga called Time Runs Out, which led directly to the current Marvel Secret Wars and which ended the Marvel Comics Universe in a very real way.

Yes, it’s comics, it’ll probably come back. Still, for now, es ist kaput.

So how did we get there? Even if the why of the universe ending was corporate and marketing and business, the mechanism that got us there took about 100 comics. So what happened? Why did time run out?

A Quick Rundown of Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers

To make this a quick rundown, I am going to be sourcing things out to previous posts I have written. In these posts, I have a number of screencaps from the comics with some further explanation of things so it’s not just me I’m referring to, it’s the comics themselves.

At their heart, these were two parallel and competing stories. In Avengers, as in the image above, it’s a bit of a reboot/reforming of the Avengers team. A fresh start, a new beginning. With an expectation of greater threats: with a need for a bigger team. So an origin story of sorts there. Meanwhile, new “villains” (many of whom end up new Avengers), new problems, and new versions of “old” heroes – like a female Smasher and a new Hyperion. Meanwhile, with the larger backdrop of the villains and the big fight to come (Infinity, which I blogged in three parts), there is a larger narrative and origin story of the whole universe. Callbacks to a narrative of, essentially, the big bang.

In New Avengers, that story becomes one of universal death. Of the opposite of the big bang: a big collapse, with the whole universe collapsing at once. Which they get to see happening, multiple times: the entire multiverse (multiple universes) is collapsing, universe by universe dying. I included Mister Fantastic’s excellent explanation in my original review.

Thus, the dual character of life, and death, between the two stories, which I have found really cool, and which I talked about as one of the great themes in Hickman’s comics in generalContinue reading

Star Wars Saturday: Video Games

Star Wars has created a great many secondary properties, like TV shows, books, and video games. Well, today I want to talk about the video games, because to me, that’s some of the best stuff that has come out of the franchise as a whole. The immersive experience that video games are known for blend seamlessly with the overpowered heroes that Star Wars is known for.

Most video games seem to have a hero that, somehow, overcomes all odds and all comers and wins the days. After all, a great many get to cheat and make use of save and load mechanics… But then, some don’t need that. Some are Jedi.

There are a great many Star Wars games, and I’ve only played so many of them, so rather than list only a few favorite games, let me explore and remember fondly some of the types of games that Star Wars has made great over the years.

The Lego Games

First and foremost, it’s worth mentioning that Lego now has a huge number of somewhat-similar, but totally different franchise, video games. Most are movie tie-ins, though some are just based on the general fictional universe, like the Batman ones. At this point, they’ve gotten so good at their storytelling in these games that they’re producing movies based on them.

No, not the Lego Movie. Although they did make a game of that…

But where did this all start? With what fan-beloved franchise? None other than episodes 1-3 of Star Wars. Wait, the new trilogy? Not even the original? That’s right. The mechanics blended beautifully with Lego manipulation, with the Force helping you build Lego objects and move them around the environment (something which they haven’t done as well in-world since except in the Harry Potter games).

The new trilogy also meant that you basically spent the whole time as Jedi – meaning you were also crazy powerful and nigh invulnerable. The Lego Games are great co-op games in part because this has persisted – you don’t die in the games, just lose coins and respawn. And you can pick the coins back up. The nigh-invincibility made the most sense with the Jedi.

Regardless, this was a strong game, which not only spawned two more Lego Star Wars games, but a whole host of other Lego games. They started strong, and are still riding that wave!

Vehicle Games

Also from the Wookiepedia.

Also from the Wookieepedia.

One of the things that Star Wars has in droves is cool land and space vehicles. And one thing they have made plenty of games for are vehicle games and simulators. I would be remiss if I did not mention the X-Wing simulator game, one that Gene’O still remembers and loves. I remember playing the Podracer one as well after episode 1 came out… almost like they included that ridiculously long scene so that they could make a game of it?…

I’m not much of one for racing games (nor the Lego racing mini-games…) but I remember loving the vehicle sections in some of the Star Wars games I’ve played. Such a variety, and they all do different things. Really just great from a video-game perspective.

Roleplaying Games

Of course, playing through the movie plots like in the Lego games is one thing… and simulating the vehicles is another… but the wide world of Star Wars really is ideal for an incredibly immersive experience, and where you get that is in the roleplaying games.

Actually, they made two KotOR games! I've been playing the first on my iPad... need to get back to that! Image from Wookieepedia a third time.

Actually, they made two KotOR games! I’ve been playing the first on my iPad… need to get back to that!
Image from Wookieepedia a third time.

Maybe the best known and most beloved of these is Knights of the Old Republic, a game from BioWare. BioWare is known for story-heavy games, with open-ended elements, lots of character choice and character driven stuff. That all sounds really good, set in a Star Wars universe!

It also lets you play more than just a Jedi. After all, characters like Han Solo and Princess Leia captured people’s imaginations just as much as the Jedi did. It also lets you be good or bad, light or dark side. These sorts of decisions allow for a very unique experience, and replayability.

There have been other roleplaying games – including two different massively multiplayer online games (MMO’s) which have been pretty popular as well. I know people who have poured a whole lot of hours into those, and loved them!

Star Wars: Battlefront

So good. Spent so much time with this in college. Yup, Wookieepedia.

So good. Spent so much time with this in college.
Yup, Wookieepedia.

If you did twist my arm and make me pick a favorite Star Wars game/series, however, it would have to be the Battlefront games. Honestly, I don’t remember much of episodes 2 or 3… and much of what I do remember is from playing the Battlefront games, and fighting on the planets!

In Star Wars Battlefront, you and friends go into a game which is also full of computer bots. Basically, full squads on both sides of a fight. You can be all on the same side, or against each other. Then you battle over control locations, which, once you hold those, give you access to vehicles, and even eventually Jedi.

There were different troopers to choose from as well, so you could be a basic sort of blaster Storm Trooper, or have rockets, jet packs, all sorts of things. Then there were tanks, or space battles where you had to fly from main-ship to main-ship, speeders, AT-AT’s to take down… and eventually, when the battle had been going for a while, the option to spawn as a Jedi came up. And fighting a tank with Yoda is just a fun thing.

!!! Of course from Wookieepedia.

!!!
Of course from Wookieepedia.

Our favorite mode, though, was a battle you could have at the Cantina, where all the options were Jedi. And it’s just a giant Jedi melee, with Force pushes and pulls, super jumping and running, thrown lightsabers, and General Grievous just walking around swinging four lightsabers… It was a blast.

Meaning, what game might actually make me buy one of the new generation of gaming consoles? Star Wars Battlefront 3!

What about you – what Star Wars games have you loved? Let me know in the comments below!

Secret Wars (1984) – A Comic Classic Review

Cover to Secret Wars (1984) #1!

Cover to Secret Wars (1984) #1!

Alright, maybe I use the term “classic” loosely but it certainly counts as something if, 30 years later, it’s still floating around in the Marvel Comics consciousness. This was Marvel’s first big “event,” where heroes and villains from across their titles ended up together in the same place dealing with the same situation.

And it shows – there are a lot of moments with people introducing themselves and clearly meeting for the first time. By today in the comics, the X-Men have fought Avengers numerous times, and half of everyone has been a member of the Avengers, there have been team-ups, and other big events have happened… there’s a whole lot less of the characters not knowing each other!

So quick synopsis: what the heck was a “Secret War?” Well, a handful of Marvel heroes (like most of the Avengers and X-Men, Spider-Man, most of the Fantastic Four… oh, and Magneto) and villains (like Dr. Doom, Ultron, the Wrecking Crew, Absorbing Man, Doctor Octopus… oh, and Galactus) find themselves whisked away across the cosmos to separate space stations. Down below, they watch as a new planet is formed – formed with pieces of other planets, a patchwork planet that comes to be called “Battleworld.”

Oh yeah and a galaxy is destroyed. Don't worry - I think it gets better.

Oh yeah and a galaxy is destroyed. Don’t worry – I think it gets better.

Then, after showing off its power, a voice speaks to them all: battle to the death, and they will be rewarded with their greatest wish. To top off the show of power, Galactus – his greatest desire being to stop wanting to eat planets – just goes straight for the voice and the glowy spot in space that is its source (the Beyonder). And Galactus is struck down.

What follows is 12 issues (a year) of the villains selfishly – and then following Doom’s orders – working to win the battles, and the heroes not quite getting along to fully stop the baddies. There are civilians, alien technology, and all sorts of things on the different patchwork pieces of the planet. So each fight is different, with new stakes or toys at their disposal. Galactus tries to eat the planet, Doom comes up with a scheme and gets the Beyonder power and loses it… and yeah, end result, not too much happens.

Although for a while, Doom has a face again. Cover to Secret Wars #11

Although for a while, Doom has a face again. Cover to Secret Wars #11

Okay, there are a few results. Some of the people summoned sound like they were dead in the comics and come back. Some new heroes and villains are created. I would say the biggest result was really Spider-Man finding the Symbiote suit, which would come to be known as Venom…

Dat headline...

Dat headline…

This was Marvel just getting started with events. Part of the idea is that “relevant” things should happen, character resurrections or deaths, suit changes, stuff like that. Big stakes, and seeing how the characters deal with them. And then usually a big reset button to return almost everything to normal. Marvel would get better at this, and one of the best is probably still the Infinity Gauntlet for stand-alone all-powerful-villain events, or else the Age of Apocalypse for alternate-reality-creating impact.

The creation of Battleworld!

The creation of Battleworld!

So why am I talking about Secret Wars? Well, more than anything, because they’re returned to Secret Wars in the comics. The first Secret Wars was the result of a single, all-powerful Beyonder having a whim to be entertained. The current Secret Wars is so much bigger than that – it’s the result of every Beyonder working together. Instead of a Battleworld built out of a few scraps of planets, the new Battleworld is built out of the last scraps of the entire multiverse – of all of the Marvel alternate universes. It’s an event which is seemingly taking apart the entire Marvel Comics universe, with the idea that it will for real and true never be the same again.

So how did they get there? That’s a post for another day – so I’ll be back soon with Time Runs Out!

Images copyright Marvel, and captured from the Marvel Unlimited service.

Hulk: Future Imperfect – A Comic Classic Review

What’s the greatest threat for the Hulk, the strongest one of all? Or even for Bruce Banner, the smartest one of all? I mean, he’d likely survive a nuclear apocalypse, and be left behind with the cockroaches and whoever might have hidden out…

Hulk Future Imperfect 2There’s a story in the comics where just such a turn of events happens. As the strongest survivor of World War 3, the Hulk by right of conquest becomes the Maestro. And so we find the Hulk’s greatest threat – his own cruel future self.

The Maestro is the creation of Peter David, one of the best known writers of The Incredible Hulk series (and my personal favorite author). In a two-part comic called Future Imperfect, the Hulk is recruited to head to the future and defeat the Maestro. As the only one who possibly could.

They duke it out physically, where the 100-years-older Maestro is nonetheless stronger, having absorbed so much radiation. Of course, it’s still a pretty good fight…

Puny Banner

The Maestro is stronger, and he wins the fight, taking Hulk prisoner. At that point, the battle turns internal. The Maestro wins the mental battle as well – as they fight over whether the death of the Hulk would alter the timeline. The Hulk doesn’t give in to try this desperate play.

Time Travel Theorizing

The other battleground is internal, as the Maestro knows the Hulk and what he might want. He also has the arguments and simple proof that the Hulk eventually gave in – and became the Maestro. So the third battleground is temptation. The idea that the Hulk could join the Maestro, and that together they could rule, and as the strongest ones, take whatever they wanted.

Strongest One of All

The future that was painted was interesting. It reminded me a lot of The Incal and I was surprised to see it wasn’t Moebius doing the art. It’s a full-on dystopia (literally called Dystopia), with a lot of new slang and a lot of horrible things. The Maestro, in particular, is ridiculously chauvinistic and most of the women in the society might come to be his possession. It’s good of the Hulk to come around and beat him…

Dystopia

It also has one of those great sorts of future scenes that often show up in visions of Marvel’s future: a room full of the paraphernalia of dead heroes and villains.

The Hall of Dead Heroes

Future Imperfect is a fascinating little comic, so if you’re looking for something to read that will make you really root for the hero to overcome the villain, check out this classic!

All images from Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect, copyright Marvel, and captured from the Marvel App.