Sugah & Spice

A site for all things Romy.

April 7, 2014
by Loni
0 comments

0

Captain America: Winter Soldier

Posted April 7, 2014 | Categories: Movies | Tags: , ,

Shut Up and Take My Money

Shut Up and Take My Money

I took my son to see Captain America: Winter Soldier this weekend. He’s four years old and has seen several Marvel films in the past, usually at home, but this was the first time I felt comfortable taking him to see one in the theater when he wasn’t scheduled to nap through the climax (as he did with Iron Man 3). To his credit, he assured me throughout that he wasn’t “scared one little bit.” I’m sure that had nothing to do with being snuggled in my lap for the entire film.

I had heard that Scarlett Johansson was the star of the show for this movie, and – while I would hesitate to go that far – I was pleased to find that she was nearly as important as Captain America. Johansson was an amazing “get” for the franchise, and my only regret is that she can’t now be tapped to play Rogue in the X-films. (Actually, that isn’t true; my greatest regret is how poorly Rogue has been written in the X-franchise. In its present state, the role is far beneath Johansson’s star power.) Add Scarlett Johansson to the list of A-list actors/actresses who have made me fall in love with characters for which I previously cared not a whit. (For the curious, she shares this list with Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hiddleston, James McAvoy, and – to a lesser degree – Hugh Jackman.)

Warning: Spoilers below.

Johansson and Evans as Black Widow and Captain America

Johansson and Evans as Black Widow and Captain America

It doesn’t really matter how many books I’ve read or how many movies I’ve seen; I’m completely incapable of predicting surprise plot twists. So when the Winter Soldier assassin of 50+ years was revealed to be Bucky Barnes, I was just as shocked as some giddy screenwriter was hoping I would be. And the scene toward the end of the film where the  middle-aged, female council member kicks everyone’s butt before revealing that she’s Black Widow in disguise…? Yeah, I had no idea what was going on, even as she was pulling off her (amazingly awesome) digitally rendered face. On the plus side, I’m pretty sure I enjoy films with easy-to-spot plot twists more than my eye-rolling counterparts. On the minus side, I’m pretty sure that a side effect of this superpower is the frequent inability to notice glaring, helicarrier-sized plotholes.

While it’s rare for a sequel to surpass the original work, Marvel has been doing well in this regard, of late. I would argue that Wolverine: Origins, Thor: Dark World, and Captain America: Winter Soldier all fit this bill. Maybe the paces of superhero origin films are simply too familiar to make for an interesting story anymore, and a second act is required to begin to create a more interesting narrative. (Although, conversely it was actually Wolverine’s origin story that surpassed whatever hot mess of a narrative its predecessor was intended to portray.) It might be tempting to argue that CA:WS is more interesting partly because of its technological advancement, but there is definite beauty in the way that WWII-era technology was depicted. Certainly, the number and variation of villains – a virtual rogues’ gallery – made for a more interesting set of antagonists than even the inimitable Hugo Weaving (Red Skull, Elrond, Agent Smith) could contend with. Besieged on all sides by enemies long-thought dead, friends brought to mistrust and manipulation, and a brand new crop of H.Y.D.R.A. villains far more insidious than their predecessors, the protagonists of our film – Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, and Nick Fury – are forced to trust each other implicitly, if they are to have any hope of overthrowing a vastly militarized NSA-esque plot of global domination and oppression.

Clockwise from upper left: Georges Batroc, Alexander Pierce, Winter Soldier, Dr. Arnim Zola, Senator Stern, Jack Rollins

Clockwise from upper left: Georges Batroc, Alexander Pierce, Winter Soldier, Jack Rollins, Senator Stern, Dr. Arnim Zola

Tender moments such as Steve Rogers’ and Peggy Carter’s bittersweet reunion and his quirky but surprisingly believable escape with spymaster Black Widow serve as clever counterpoints to relieve the tension of the more grand story arc. I was surprised but nonetheless convinced that Samuel L. Jackson had decided to leave the franchise, so I 100% bought his on-camera death and teared up on cue. (Again with the terribleness at spotting plot twists.) And I can’t think of more beautifully executed, complex technologies than the three helicarriers. (Hey, True Believers! what’s better than a helicarrier?? THREE helicarriers!) In short, it was the perfect non-origin film for a long-beloved character. It makes me long for the same sort of treatment to be given to a number of my favorite heroines: Rogue, Ms. Marvel, or even Mystique. (Imagine the possibilities of a Salt-style film featuring Jennifer Lawrence as our favorite blue-skinned anti-heroine.) And, on a similar note, I fully intend to see Johansson’s upcoming release, Lucy, and to pretend it’s the Black Widow film I’ve been waiting for:

March 24, 2014
by Loni
6 Comments

6

X-Men: Days of Future Past, Trailer 2

Posted March 24, 2014 | Categories: Movies | Tags: ,


Mystique from X-Men: First Class

Mystique from X-Men: First Class

It seems that Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) will play a larger role in this film than in X-Men: First Class — not too surprising, given her precipitous rise to stardom. I’ve been really happy with the recasting of Mystique, because while I generally liked Rebecca Romijn’s portrayal of Mystique, Lawrence plays a much more relatable version of the some-day-villainess (admittedly, that has more to do with how the role was written). I’m wondering if we won’t see a more cynical, Romijn-esque version of the character in the scenes of DoFP that are set in the future. Given Mystique’s immunity to aging, I think it will be interesting to see the same actress demonstrate discernibly different personalities within the context of her character’s inexperience/experience.

As if Mystique’s seemingly expanded role weren’t enough to be excited about, Tyrion Bolivar Trask finally brings us Sentinels! And am I the only one digging Charles’ full-on American Hustle-esque hairstyle?

March 18, 2014
by Loni
0 comments

0

Uncanny Avengers #14

Posted March 18, 2014 | Categories: Issues | Tags: ,

Uncanny Avengers 14

Uncanny Avengers 14

Ironically, it was news of Rogue’s recent death in the pages of Uncanny Avengers that spurred my decision to resurrect Sugah & Spice. I was playing online in Marvel Heroes a couple of weeks ago when I saw another player make reference to Rogue’s death in social chat. Naturally, I immediately minimized the game and frantically Googled, “Is Rogue dead?” The last issue of Uncanny Avengers I had read was #5, so I had a lot of catching up to do — starting with the pages where Rogue kills Wanda and is killed by the Grim Reaper and working my way back through the issues leading up to that event.

Rick Remender’s stint on Uncanny Avengers has had its pluses and minuses. Overall, he tells a compelling story (the scene where the Red Skull uses his newly-stolen mind control powers to incite everyday people to murder was great, as are pretty much every scene featuring the Apocalypse Twins). Nonetheless, I was very disappointed with his portrayal of Rogue; most of the time, she seemed to be included purely as a foil to the more level-headed (!) Scarlet Witch. Rogue blames Wanda for Cyclops’ decision to murder Charles Xavier, and, after the House of M, doesn’t trust her not to cause further damage to the world’s remaining mutant population. For her part, Wanda argues that mutants, including Rogue, have brought much of their own persecution upon themselves by continually seeking to define themselves as “other.” What might have been an interesting debate between two equals instead degenerated — over and over — into name-calling and threats.

Rick Remender explains why he’s written her this way in a recent interview with CBR:

Then in “AvX” the mutants lose Professor X. I wanted to show the repercussions of that in one particular person and that was Rogue. Like many of us do when we’re experiencing guilt or mourning she reverted back to who she was, which was an angry person. So for me, as I analyzed that, it made sense for Rogue to be the one because of her past, whereas Logan is trying the road of the samurai. He’s trying to make good because of the responsibility on his shoulders. That was why I always said Rogue kind of becomes the Wolverine.

Writing Rogue as Wolverine is going to be a hard sell for most fans, male or female.

Painful mischaracterizations aside, as I said, the storyline itself is interesting, with multiple warring factions providing an ample source of conflict for our heroes (and with each other). To summarize the major actors in the story arc:

Avengers Unity Division

Avengers Unity Division

With tensions between mutants and humans at record high levels, the Avengers Unity Division is formed with the hope of providing a positive example to the public of mutants and humans working together. Borrowing from both the Avengers (Thor, Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man) and X-Men teams (Rogue, Wolverine, Sunfire) and lead by Cyclops’ younger brother, Havok, tensions between would-be teammates boil over and schism the team within the first few issues.
Red Skull

Red Skull

A Nazi groomed by Hitler himself and long-time adversary of Captain America, the Red Skull hates many things. The latest target for his hatred is mutantkind. Stealing the corpse of Charles Xavier, he extracts a part of the world-class telepath’s brain and fuses it with his own, granting him incredible telepathy and mind control powers. We learn from several sources throughout the series that he will eventually use these powers to drive humanity to a mutant-hating frenzy, resulting in the internment of mutants in mutant concentration camps.
Kang the Conqueror

Kang the Conqueror

His hope of becoming the next heir of Apocalypse thwarted by the births of Uriel and Eimen, Kang the Conqueror despises mutantkind as a threat to his rule of Earth. Using his powers of time manipulation and under the auspices of preparing them for their exalted status as heirs of Apocalypse, he expends considerable effort torturing the Apocalypse Twins, going so far as to consign them to the mutant death camps of the future.

Apocalypse Twins

Apocalypse Twins

Twin siblings Uriel and Eimen were born of a union between Warren Worthington and the Pestilence Horseman, Ichisumi. Originally thought to be the next heirs to Apocalypse, they were spirited away through time by Kang and, upon their eventual return, killed a Celestial just as he was about to bestow the mantle of Apocalypse upon Genocide. Each twin possesses some form of chronomancy, abilities which they use to pursue their goal of safeguarding mutantkind by rewriting Kang’s intended future and transporting all mutants — willing or otherwise — to a new homeworld. Lacking the power to do this themselves, they seemingly manage to sway the Scarlet Witch to their cause by presenting it as an opportunity for redemption for her actions at the end of the House of M story arc.
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Four Horsemen

The Four Horsemen are allied with the Apocalypse Twins, Uriel and Eimen, who brought them back from the dead: Sentry, Banshee, Grim Reaper and Daken. They are determined to prevent anyone — human or mutant — from interfering with the Twins’ plans for mutantkind. Having been slain by his father, Daken takes particular interest in torturing Wolverine. Rogue accidentally killed Grim Reaper in Uncanny Avengers #5, having underestimated the power she had absorbed from Wonder Man. He, in turn, kills her in Uncanny Avengers #14.
Rogue Kills the Scarlet Witch

Rogue Kills the Scarlet Witch

In Uncanny Avengers #14, the Scarlet Witch has lead the Apocalypse Twins to believe that she will go along with their plan to forcibly abduct and relocate the mutant population from Earth to a new homeworld. However, she plans to summon the mutants of Earth — not into the stasis units that would keep them immobile — but onto the ship fully conscious and able to battle the Twins. Naturally, none of this has been communicated to Rogue who arrives and murders Wanda in an effort to prevent what she believes will be another disaster on the level of House of M. Her efforts to stop the (not-actually-evil) spell are for naught, however, since Wonder Man sacrifices himself to provide her the necessary energy to finish.

Rogue’s death at the hands of the Grim Reaper is gruesome as she is first impaled by Reaper’s scythe and subsequently electrocuted. (I think Steve McNiven secretly wanted an excuse to draw an electrocuted skeleton because COOL.) At the time of her death, Rogue had imprinted Wolverine’s bone claws. You might think she would also have been in possession of his phenomenal healing factor, but – thanks to recent events in Wolverine’s own title – he doesn’t presently have a healing factor. Given the nature of how Wolverine has been depowered – viral infection – it’s unclear whether his healing factor is simply being suppressed or if his DNA has been altered in a more permanent fashion. Only in the former case would I expect that Rogue would still have been able to imprint his healing factor, a power so strong it’s allowed Wolverine to come back from near-disintegration. Logic aside, I’m sure they’ll find a way to return both Rogue to life eventually, whether it requires Wolverine’s healing factor to be retroactively declared to have been “dormant” or time-travelling.

"Well, maybe she'll be alr-- ack!"

“Well, maybe she’ll be alr– ack!”

It’s always jarring to witness the death of a beloved character, but I find myself particularly frustrated at what felt like deliberate character assassination leading up to Rogue’s death, like she was written to be completely unrelatable/unlikeable so that her death would be more acceptable to the reader. Wanda’s death, on the other hand, was tragic because a) she was trying to outsmart Uriel and Eimen and b) she had just found true love and a path to redemption with Simon. I have to admit that, as anxious as I am for Rogue to not be dead, I hope she is resurrected in a different title under a different writer.

"Rogue and Scarlet Witch" by Marcio Takara

“Rogue and Scarlet Witch” by Marcio Takara

Further Reading:

March 16, 2014
by Loni
0 comments

0

Day One

Posted March 16, 2014 | Categories: Blog

My First Issue: X-Men Vol. 2, Issue 33

My First Issue: X-Men Vol. 2, Issue 33

1994. A skinny 12-year old girl stands in the magazine aisle at a chain grocery store amid motorcycle and fashion magazines. She’s holding a comic book with all the clumsiness of the uninitiated. She thumbs through the pages for the fourth or fifth time. It’s not the first time she’s stood here. In fact, she was here just two days before, holding the very same issue and facing the same dilemma.

She watches the Saturday morning cartoon, X-Men the Animated Series, with excitement bordering on fervor. She’s mastered the esoteric controls of her family VCR and treasures her collection of episodes recorded on VHS. She even pauses her favorite episodes, navigating frame by frame to line up her favorite stills which she then reproduces with pencil and paper. She has a well-worn copy of The Marvel X-Men Guidebook given to her by a friend that she’s read cover-to-cover several times and a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of X-Men and Marvel-related clippings from catalogs and magazines. Still, all of these things have been free. If she makes the choice to buy the issue she holds in her hands, it will be the first monetary investment she’s made.

She checks the front of the issue for its cover price: $1.50. A big commitment for a kid whose parents don’t give an allowance. It will be her first comic book purchase. But she knows that it won’t be her last. With an odd mixture of resignation and triumph, she leaves the aisle to find her father, comic book in hand. She’s going to need more Ziploc bags.