Wolverine & the X-Men: The Complete Series

It’s hard to imagine another “X-Men” series ever eclipsing the popular cartoon from the 90s, but “Wolverine & the X-Men” comes pretty close thanks to some great storytelling and gorgeous character design. The season-long story arc is especially impressive considering it manages to connect several different subplots in a way that doesn’t feel too forced. The main story follows Wolverine as he takes control of the X-Men after a mysterious explosion leaves Professor Xavier in a coma, all while Xavier speaks to him telepathically from the future to help prevent the doomsday event that’s about to occur in the present. Meanwhile, a brooding Cyclops spends his days searching for Jean Grey after she suddenly goes missing during the attack on the X-Mansion, and Magneto forms an army of mutants on Genosha to fight against the impending threat of Senator Kelly’s Sentinel Project.

Some of the other X-Men get their time to shine as well – like Rogue’s early arc involving her defection to the Brotherhood of Mutants, and Nightcrawler’s romance with the Scarlet Witch – but this is still first and foremost Wolverine’s show. And though I understand why the creators would want to thrust him into the spotlight (he is, after all, one of Marvel’s most popular characters), it’s a bit much. There are even some episodes that include him when he’s not needed, and it’s one of the reasons why the series starts to drag towards the end of the season. Still, the writers have done a nice job of integrating classic stories from all eras of the X-Men comics into the show, and the Age of Apocalypse cliffhanger in the season finale would have made for a great sophomore year. Unfortunately, Season Two got scrapped due to some financier problems, which is why this set is being called The Complete Series. It’s a shame someone else didn’t swoop in to save it from cancellation, because while “Wolverine & the X-Men” certainly had its problems (namely, Wolverine’s overbearing presence), it’s a show that was clearly made with comic book fans in mind.

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The Super Hero Squad Show: Volume One

After Marvel was bought out by Disney at the tail end of last year, many comic book fans were concerned about what kind of effect it would have on their favorite characters. Would Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck suddenly be popping up in the pages of “The Amazing Spider-Man”? Or worse yet, would more mature titles like “Deadpool” be watered down? The powers that be were adamant that it was going to be business as usual at the House of Ideas, and for the most part, they were right. But while most of Marvel’s entertainment empire has remained untouched by Disney’s kid-friendly ideals, their new animated series, “The Super Hero Squad Show,” feels a lot like a Disneyfied version of the Marvel Universe.

It’s the kind of cartoon you’d expect to see on Saturday mornings – from the Mighty Muggs-like character designs to the low-brow humor and moral messages built in to each story. This is a show where the heroes live in a town called Super Hero City (with a mayor voiced by Stan Lee, no less) and the villains reside next door in VillainVille, but while it may be embarrassing to watch Mole Man struggle with above-ground flatulence or Doctor Doom pop bubble gum, the show does a pretty good job of servicing older fans as well. Although the core cast only includes Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Wolverine and Falcon (with recurring appearances by Captain America, Ms. Marvel, and a stupid new character named Reptil), there are cameos from over two dozen other Marvel characters in the first seven episodes alone. And it’s not just the A-listers either, which goes to prove that while “The Super Hero Squad Show” may not be intended for adults, it has just enough fan appeal that most parents could easily enjoy it with their kids.

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Celluloid Heroes: Best Characters of the Decade

There are a lot of variables that go into making a successful movie – actors, writers, directors, producers, and all of the other overlooked crew members – but even if everything is done exactly right, it doesn’t mean anything without a good character. And at the end of the day, that’s what people remember the most when they leave the cineplex. As part of our look back at the movies of the 2000s, I present you with a list of the best characters of the decade. Obviously, some cuts had to be made (notable omissions include The Joker, Batman and Derek Zoolander), so feel free to comment on which of your favorite characters didn’t make the cut.

spiderman

10. Spider-Man

The web-slinger would probably make a list of best characters in any decade-end review of comic books, but this is the first time he can even be considered for a movie list. Thank Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” for that, because without its success, there’s a good chance we may have never seen Spider-Man jump to the big screen. Sam Raimi definitely deserves credit for adapting the character without all the cheese of the 60s TV series, but it’s Tobey Maguire’s strong performance that really brings the character to life. Although many claim the second film to be the best in the series, we think that all three have their own strengths and weaknesses. Sure, Peter Parker may lose some of his appeal when he goes all emo in “Spider-Man 3,” but seeing Spidey rock the black symbiote suit was just as cool as anything he did in the first two films.

Memorable Quote: “You know who I am. Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”

jigsaw

9. Jigsaw

Say what you will about the deteriorating quality of the “Saw” films: Jigsaw is right up there with Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Kruger as one of the ultimate horror icons. What makes him so different from the others, though, is that he’s a fairly regular guy (when he dies, he really dies) who isn’t so much a villain as he is someone who goes to radical extremes to get his point across. Though his argument that he doesn’t ever kill anyone could be debated for eternity, Jigsaw is still a pretty badass dude. Not only is he one of the most inventive baddies to ever grace the silver screen, but the fact that he’s doing all of this while dying from cancer is beyond impressive. Tobin Bell may never be remembered for anything other than his work in these films, but his limited appearances are so memorable that we wouldn’t really mind.

Memorable Quote: “I want to play a game.”

wolverine

8. Wolverine

Though it’s difficult to think of anyone other than Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, it certainly could have ended up that way. You can go ahead and thank the comic book gods for interfering, because if Dougray Scott hadn’t gotten hurt while shooting “Mission: Impossible 2,” “X-Men” fans might have seen a decidedly different take on their beloved adamantium-laced berserker. And since Wolverine has since become the mascot for those films (even earning a mediocre spin-off of his own) that also would have affected the movie as a whole, which might have stopped the whole comic book movie revolution before it even began. Just think about that the next time you see Jackman in his role as the wise-cracking, cigar-chomping mutant, because without his charismatic, star-making performance, this list would look a lot different.

Memorable Quote: “I’m gonna cut your goddamned head off. See if that works.”

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A few things I missed

* You’ve probably heard it elsewhere by now, but Bryan Singer has been signed to do a “Battlestar Galactica” movie, though of course it’s still very preliminary. I hope it stays that way.

The show will apparently not be related to the recently wrapped, broadly acclaimed TV series, but will be a complete redo of some sort or another and original producer Glen Larson is involved.  That Universal would want to do another reboot on such a recently and brilliantly rebooted property makes absolutely no sense to me at all and shows a real failure of imagination. Moreover, if the idea is to return to something more like the original, I have only one question: Why? One of the things that makes the new series so remarkable is how worthless its original was.

A few years back, I took a fresh look at the first few episodes after dismissing it in my younger geek years and, sorry, the show was three times as bad as I remembered. It was nothing more than a listless knock-off of “Star Wars” with an addition of some surprisingly blatant rightwing agitprop and all the poor characterization and infantile plotting that made seventies television that vast wasteland that it really was back then, with a few exceptions. There is nothing to be nostalgic for here and most modern viewers only know the new show in any case. Bryan Singer’s a smart guy and I just don’t get this.

* Speaking of Singer, his sometime writing partner Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) has been signed to do the next Wolverine flick.

* In other superhero related news, we are back at the start of it all with some new litigation which returns some of the control of Superman to the estates of his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. It may dramatically speed up, or slow down, production of upcoming Superman projects since the ruling goes into effect in 2013 and Warners might want to keep more money for itself by starting sooner rather than later. Regardless, as someone who remembers the “creators’ rights” movement in the comic book world of the late eighties and nineties, I have to think the good guys won here.

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Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies

The second volume of Marvel’s new “X-Men” animated series may contain a few more episodes than the last DVD, but that doesn’t change the simple fact that anyone who wants to invest in the series will end up spending nearly twice as much as they would on a normal season release. I mention this not as a disgruntled fanboy, but as someone who believes that the show deserves much better. Like me, you probably had your doubts at first, but “Wolverine and the X-Men” is quickly shaping up to be just as good as (if not better than) the popular 90s cartoon. “Deadly Enemies” doesn’t feature an overarching story like the previous volume, but instead offers up five standalone episodes that longtime fans will appreciate. We probably didn’t need another Wolverine vs. Hulk match-up so soon after the release of the DVD movie, but we do get a cool Wolverine/Gambit team-up episode (“Thieves’ Gambit”), a story dedicated exclusively to Nightcrawler (“X-Calibre”), and the debut of fan favorite, Psylocke. If there’s one thing writers Craig Kyle, Greg Johnson and Chris Yost know, it’s how to please the fans with mutant cameos galore. Now if only we could enjoy them on DVD without having to worry about going broke.

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