Character profile – Jean Grey

Comic books have some of the greatest female characters and so I have decided to start a new series where I will occasionally talk about some of the most awesome characters and highlight them. To start off, I thought it would be awesome to talk about one of the greatest female characters in Marvel who also happens to be a vital figure in my favourite superhero series, the X-Men and that is of course the great Jean Grey. Jean Grey has been a cornerstone of Marvel comics and of the X-Men for more than 60 years and is one, if not the most iconic character in that franchise. She has died and come back to life more times than I can count and has proven to be, in part thanks to the Phoenix, the most powerful mutant in the Marvel Universe (well depends on the writer).

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Jean Grey has evolved throughout the years. As one of the original X-Men her role in those early comics was to basically play the “damsel in distress”, always being captured by the enemies of the group. However slowly as the character developed she became more than just a damsel in distress and Cyclops love interest. She became this kickass heroine, not just capable of standing her ground but actually becoming the most powerful member of the team. Her character growth really kicked off with the addition of the new X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Colossus etc…) and it hit its highest point with the Dark Phoenix Saga.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is to this date, still considered the landmark of all X-Men stories. Written by Chris Claremont, it explored how Jean Grey, under the influence of the Phoenix slowly became crazy and after destroying a planet ended up sacrificing herself. Despite this story being retconned later on several times, the influence it had on the character of Jean Grey was immense.  This was her first (of many) deaths and it established her ongoing relationship with the cosmic entity the Phoenix. Her return with X-Factor showed her as an even more powerful  and assertive character, growing to lead the X-Men in several occasions and eventually to even become the Headmistress of the school (also married Scott, raised Cable (the son of Scott and a clone of Jean Grey) in the future, battled Apocalypse and had many more adventures).

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Jean Grey would eventually die again, this time at the hands of Magneto in 2006 and for the better part of the last 10+ years she has remained so, beyond alternate universe appearances. However her influence has been felt throughout the years, and every time the Phoenix makes an appearance or Hope Summer showed up (who looks weirdly similar to her and that has yet to be explained), we inevitably think of Jean Grey. Recently we have had the young Jean Grey and that has been a (sometimes) fun ride, but in the past few months we have seen the return, after 12 long years, of the original Jean Grey thanks to the Phoenix whilst simultaneously finally getting rid of it (at least until they bring it back). This time she is leading her own team of X-Men and for the almost the first time since the inception of her character is going at it without Cyclops, Wolverine or Xavier.

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Jean Grey is and always will be one of the most iconic comic book characters and one of the most important characters in the X-Men universe. In a universe filled with many strong female characters, Jean Grey has always been a standout. Her character has transcended the comic book medium becoming a pop culture icon. Thanks to her appearances in the films she has even gained even more fame and it will not end anytime soon. Jean Grey will probably die and return many more times in the comics but she will forever be the heart and soul of the X-Men stories and will remain “fire incarnate”.

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Review – Avengers Infinity War

I have taken my time, seen it twice, and now it is time for me to talk about the movie that everyone is talking about, Avengers Infinity War. I will keep this review spoiler free, at least as much as possible. People who know me, know that I am a huge comic book fan, especially Marvel although I do enjoy DC as well. For the past 10 years I have been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel has done a tremendous job of creating this connected universe that started with Iron Man in 2008 and has delivered us some of the best superhero films ever produced. We have become invested in these characters and their struggles so coming into the film, the hype and anticipation was incredible.

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I had big, very big expectations for this film and let me assure that it not only delivered but it blew them away.  This movie was an INCREDIBLE comic book movie. It perfectly captured what it means to read a crossover. The movie faced an incredible challenge, combining all of the characters into the MCU, present a new villain (Thanos) and deliver a satisfying story that has been 10 years in the making. The Russo Brothers have somehow been able to pull it off and gave us what in my opinion might be the greatest comic book film so far. The film was epic, it had heart, action, intensity, laughter, sadness, huge stakes and was entertaining as hell. The CGI in this film was great, especially in Thanos, who could be the best MCU villain so far.

Watching this film was perhaps the best cinematic experience I have ever had. I was in a theatre full of geeks, just like me, and sharing that collective euphoria with them over the movie was incredible. Throughout the film people were clapping, laughing, gasping and cheering like crazy. Whilst normally I don’t enjoy such things while I am watching a film, this time, with this kind of movie, it made the whole experience much better. I got to sit down and share this incredible film and experience with people who love this film as much as I do.

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Avengers Infinity War was simply brilliant. This movie delivered and it managed to share the focus between all the characters perfectly, especially giving us a great Thor moment that I can’t wait to see over and over again. The film was very courageous and it had an ending that left me shocked and eagerly awaiting the next films in the MCU, especially the next Avengers film coming out in 2019. If you have not seen this movie, you better get up and go to the nearest cinema and watch it, you will NOT be disappointed. As for me, all I can say is that it will be one very long year.

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Review – The Defenders

The Defenders have finally arrived to Netflix and thanks to being sick I was able to stay home and binge watch the whole show in one day and as such I am ready to bring to you my review of the season and I will keep the spoilers to a minimum. The Defenders are basically the street level Avengers and its members are Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil. All of this characters have had their own series and most of them, except perhaps Iron Fist, to critical acclaim. This series was the unification of all the Netflix Marvel characters and the culmination of many plots and sub plots that have started in the other individual series.

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The Hand are the antagonists in this show and we have seen them prepare their plan since Daredevil Season One. They seek power, influence and to obliterate New York. However to complete their plan and to return to K’un-Lun they need one more thing, The Iron Fist. In the show we are introduced to the Five Fingers of The Hand, amongst which we see some familiar faces such as Madame Gao, and their leader, Alexandria (Sigourney Weaver), a woman who has lived lives upon lives. It is she who resurrects the dead Elektra Natchios with the power of the Black Sky, and the last of the substance that makes the Five Fingers cheat death. Falling in line with the other Netflix shows (save for maybe Iron Fist), we are given a villain worthy of her status. With Elektra as her “muscle” we watch the unlikely heroes struggle to match her, even when they have her outnumbered, making every fight scene that much more compelling.

The show without a doubt delivers and it does a great job in setting up the story. The four titular characters are very different to each other and it takes a long time for them to come together, especially considering Daredevil at the start of the show is attempting to leave that part of his life behind.  However when they finally come together the pace really picks up and the show is incredibly satisfying, especially the interactions between the characters (highlighted by the wonderful Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones and her snide but hilarious comments). The action scenes are wonderful, especially the one in the hallway (a classic now in the Marvel Netflix Universe) and the one in the last episode.

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The characters are wonderful and everything is anchored in my opinion around Daredevil and his relation with Elektra who is played by Élodie Yung perfectly and is able to steal many of the scenes she is in. Sigourney Weaver is also excellent and joins the excellent list of Marvel Netflix villains, as she portrays a ruthless, timeless, powerful villain. The main cast does a great job as well, the chemistry between the Defenders is great and the rapport between the heroes is entertaining. Iron Fist, played by Finn Jones, who was the weak link coming into this show is much improved in this series. Both the actor and the writers seem to have found a more appropriate tone for him and his interactions with Luke Cage are a great throwback to their comics. The main cast is well complimented by all of the side characters we have come to know in the other series but Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing and Rosario Dawson as Claire Templeton (and the character who has been in every show) stand out particularly.

I enjoyed the story that was presented although I will admit that at some parts it dragged a little, however this was a minor issue that was offset by the great interactions between the characters that form the heart of this series. Another excellent point is the use of different colours to present each character, which gives us that comic book tone that is just great to see. The colour schemes change from character to character. Jessica Jones’ scenes are blue and dark, with Luke we are shown yellow lighting and a hip hop theme, while Iron Fist’s scenes are green, and lastly the scenes with Daredevil are often red. When they are all together we get a different tone to show us that it is no longer about the individual but about the team.

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I have really enjoyed this show and its ending is spectacular, heart-breaking and ideal to set up the next of the series with the Defenders, Daredevil Season 3, in which we seem to be heading towards one of the most classic Daredevil comic book stories. The ending had me feeling a myriad of sensations but most of all it left me feeling satisfied with the show as a whole. This first season of The Defenders has in my opinion lived up to the hype. It is entertaining, fun, gritty, dark and captures perfectly the tone of the different shows. We are perfectly primed to see now the next seasons of the individual shows of this characters and I can’t wait for the Defenders to come back. Meanwhile we can get ready for the arrival of The Punisher.

The Defenders: 8.5/10

Trailer Review – Thor Ragnarok

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Over the past few weeks a number of amazing trailers have dropped including some from comic book franchises that promise to be amongst the most talked about movies of the year. The trailers for “Wonder Woman”, “Batman v Superman” and “Spiderman Homecoming” all came with much hype and expectation and those trailers in more ways than not delivered upon the expectations. This week the trailer for “Thor Ragnarok” came out in a surprising manner since Marvel had not announced that the trailer would come out this week. With that in mind I have decided to give my quick thoughts about the trailer and the impression I got from it.

Thor Ragnarok gave us a trailer which shows that they have completely overhauled the tone and look of the Thor movies as in this one we see it become more light hearted and colourful. The colour palette of the movie is completely changed from the previous Thor movies and it has a feel similar to that of old Jack Kirby comics. I have not been a big fan of Thor movies before this one as I felt they were a bit boring and that Thor as a character on his own was not working, although he was great in The Avengers movies, so I for one do welcome this change.

The trailer is action packed and looks really great as it promises to tell a very intriguing story. In the trailer we see how Hela, goddess of death, attacks Asgard and destroys Mjolnir in an incredible shocking moment of the trailer leading to Thor being captured and having to fight in a gladiator arena against Hulk in a short scene that might have stolen the whole trailer as it highlighted the new tone of the Thor universe, colourful, fun and with epic action.

Cate Blanchett has been one of my favourite actresses since I discovered her in “Lord of the Rings” and in this movie she looks incredible as Hela and I believe is going to portray a character that will quickly become iconic and break the pattern of weak Marvel villains (with Loki as an exception). The trailer has me really excited for this movie and I love the fact that it is expanding the MCU and introducing us to new characters as well as taking us to new locations around the galaxy. This movie looks action packed, Thor is wearing his classic helmet, Hela looks awesome, Loki is back and the Hulk vs Thor fight promises to be such a great fun and epic fight that I think we will all be talking about it for a long time!

I for one can’t wait to see this movie that will drop around the same time as the Justice League in what promises to be a great month for comic book fans! Hopefully this movie will not disappoint us and this new foray into the mythos of Thor in the MCU proves to be entertaining and fun.

 

Review – Spider-Man Homecoming Trailer

Another week and another trailer has arrived. Last Saturday we got the all new trailer for the “Justice League” film that hits theatres on November and today a new trailer for the “Spider-Man Homecoming” Trailer has made its way into our screens as the movie gears up for its release on perhaps the best date ever, 07/07/17. Before we go into the trailer I just want to point out that alongside the X-Men, Spider-Man has always been my favourite comic book and Peter Parker is among my favourite characters in comics. Thus it is not a strange thing that I get really excited about Spider-Man movies and as such coming into this trailer I was incredibly excited.

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First let me say that I believe the casting of Tom Holland as the new Spidey is perfect. I believe he really captures the essence of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, capturing the fun and toughness that is Spidey and personally I believe he stole the show on “Captain America: Civil War”. The casting of Michael Keaton as the Vulture is I believe also a great and he will be able to do a great job in portraying this iconic villain. My first thoughts for this movie are that so far it looked great on paper and I had faith that Marvel and Sony would be able to deliver an Amazing Spider-man (pun very much intended) movie.

The trailer I have to say was GREAT. I loved it, I thought it provided us great insight to what promises to be a fantastic fun movie. It seems to have a really good balance of fun and more serious drama. Whilst it could be said that the trailer does show probably a bit too much of the movie I still think that it did a great job in promoting the movie. I do love the fact that they are using Tony Stark as a means to teach Peter Parker about being a hero, which makes sense since in this universe Tony has already gone through his own personal crisis. The suit he wears at the beginning looks great and I also enjoy the metaphor they are establishing of him having to win back the tech suit by learning how to be a hero.

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Teenage Peter Parker has always been a long-time favourite of mine and while I do love the first Spider-man movie and I thought Amazing Spider-Man was pretty good I always thought that it was a shame we did not get to see of the awkwardness of Peter in school and this movie promises to deliver that. That fact combined with what so far seems to be great action (the ship battle scene promises to be action packed and fun) and an amazing villain has me really excited about this movie. No other character or group, beyond the X-Men, can get me this excited for a movie. I have always related to Peter Parker a lot and it is just amazing to see him back on screen on what seems to be a very faithful adaption of the character.

Between the “Justice League” trailer and this one all I can think is that it is a great time indeed for us nerds, for us comic book fans.

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Review – Iron Fist

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The last of the Defenders has arrived as Iron Fist came out on Netflix last Friday and so far it has drawn a lot of criticism from critics whilst fans have been more forgiving and accepting of the show. The show is without a doubt a flawed show but it is not as bad as people are claiming it to be. Before I get into the official review of the show please be aware that I will not be talking about any of the racist issues that have risen about this show. As someone who is not directly affected I do not think my voice is qualified to talk about it. Also be aware that there are going to be spoilers on the review.

First of all, let’s talk about the negatives of the show. The show has a flawed pacing, and although the pace of the TV show does pick up towards the middle of the show, some episodes drag a lot, especially the first five episodes. The first five episodes are slow with not much development beyond corporate fights which makes it hard to follow this first episodes. Furthermore the fights in most of the episodes are not well done (although recent declarations by Finn Jones in which he says he learned the choreography 15 minutes before they were shot shed light on this) and lack passion and are not very smooth. The major flaw of the show lies in many ways in the character of Danny Rand. Most of the times Danny Rand does not feel like the “ultimate weapon” he is supposed to be, he is beaten easily (too easily) by others and in many episodes feel a bit too dumb as he keeps trusting people who have lied and done awful things to him. The choice of the villain at the end, Harold Meachum is a poor choice as he should not poise the physical challenge that he does in the finale. Lastly the fact that no one mentions clearly other members of “The Defenders”, especially Claire (shoe-horned into the show) who when she learns about the Hand does not tell Danny Rand about Daredevil, is really starting to hurt the Netflix Marvel Universe as it is not realistic.

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That said the show also had some great moments. Finn Jones does grow into the characters as the series progresses and by the end of it his portrayal of the Iron Fist is quite enjoyable. Rosario Dawson as Claire is once again great and shows how comfortable she feels in this Netflix Marvel Universe and her character. The latter half of the show is pretty good and the episode in which they travel to China and Danny Rand faces Zhou Cheng, the master of the Drunken Style, has a great fighting sequence. The challenge by the Hand to Iron Fist in Episode 6 is pretty good and entertaining as is the character development of Ward Meachum. However the best part of this show is the portrayal of Colleen Wing by Jessica Henwick. Jessica Henwick is able to express the vulnerability and power of Colleen Wing and every time she appears on screen the show improves and she steals the spotlight from everybody. She is without a doubt the breakout star of this show. The show, whilst plagued with issues, does end up setting a somewhat compelling story and is a good set up for the Defenders that will drop later this year.

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The show is entertaining enough yet we now seem to live in a society where either something is great or the worst. Critics and people on social media tend to review everything by extremes and I believe that is a huge mistake. Some shows are neither great nor bad, they are just entertaining and good and that should be embraced and not criticized. Iron Fist is a show that fits this description, a show with many problems, a show that is probably too long and has too many episodes but not a horrible show. It has fun moments and is good enough that most episodes are entertaining to watch. I have enjoyed the show for what it is and I am expectant to see how the characters of Danny Rand and Colleen Wing develop in The Defenders which comes out on Netflix on November.

Iron Fist: 6.5/10