MIT admissions video captures Marvel’s new Iron (woman) man Iron Heart

I had a myriad of questions after watching the video, but nothing that couldn’t be answered with research later. However, I did quickly find a blog post by Mechanical Engineering and Robotics student and blogger Salem G, which describes all the behind the scenes work the team powered through to produce such a stunning video.

In the short video new Ironman – or Ironwoman, using the code name Ironheart – 15 year old Riri Williams, formulates and fabricates a new suit of armour, before collecting a metal tube. Contained within are admission letters for new MIT students. Delivering an admission letter from the world’s highest ranked University is a heroic act indeed. Hermes was the messenger of the Greek gods, and was renamed Mercury when admitted to the ancient Roman pantheon. Is there a pattern here? Mythological messengers with metallic names make deliveries? The behind the scenes blog post can be found on the MIT admissions blog page.

Avengers and X-men: Axis #1 – Comic Review

In an new Marvel event, a powerful new villain created from violence, and the frankenstein-like combination of Professor X and the Red Skull, begins a dark plan. This is chapter one of Axis. The comic book offers:

  • The opening of a large scale event, with many Marvel Universe characters.
  • Artwork of an immensely powerful villain, against a grim background.
  • Insight into Tony Stark’s character.
  • Hatred themes – how the emotion is used, and reactions to it.

The Marvel Universe unites in a grim setting against a giant, red colossus: Red Onslaught

Large scale events bring the disparate fragments, individuals, and teams from the Marvel universe. Medusa, Invisible Woman, the X-men, Two teams of Avengers, the Vision, Captain America. There are a vast selection of bright colours from the many costumes worn by Marvel’s Super heroes.

They charge into battle – a thunderstorm rages over the rustic wood huts constructed to hold mutant prisoners. A grim scene. Even during brighter scnenes, a gloomy haze seems to cover sources of light.

These Avengers, X-men, and individual heroes unite against a giant, red, horned colossus calling itself “The Red Onslaught”. Imperial purple and scarlet armor plates; black keratinous horns curved inward; black octopus tentacles sprouting from its back.

With telepathy, the creature unleashes hateful thoughts, and forces them upon Marvel’s heroes. Iron Man is its first target

This entity is more creature than human. It’s a giant, at least the height of small office building, and was created when the Red Skull attempted to fight Magneto, and was killed by the magnetic villain.

Red Onslaught tortures and torments. With telepathy, it forces everyone around the globe to think hateful and violent thoughts. Not simply unleashing repressed anger, envy, or other vicious thoughts bubbling below the surface, Red Onslaught has telepathic power enough to inserting hate into those without any. Conflict is manufactured: a real nightmare.

The first target: Tony Stark. Iron man once had the weaknesses of all the Avengers, X-men, and other Marvel Universe individuals saved in a register of super heroes – his initiative files. These were thought lost – his memories deleted like data on a corrupt hard drive.

No malicious thoughts are buried too deep for Red Onslaught. Stark’s anguish is clear when he comes to understand that he has been subtly influenced by the Red Skull for some time now.

Through the powers of Wanda Maximoff, and the setting, the comic references the historical use of hatred and propaganda in World War Two. Onslaught argues Iron Man’s anxiety comes from a hateful place.

Hatred is the theme of this comic book – while it is the first in a large scale event, the opening issue makes a strong impression with this theme. What people do with hatred, and what hatred causes play out in this issue.

Historically, hatred’s role in World War two is highlighted:  a concentration camp setting appears, referencing the Nazi party, and the propaganda that created hate. The Red Skull is a historical villain, and the roots of the character in World War two are clear in the concentration camp setting. Further, scenes where Scarlet Witch is coerced into manipulating reality into a “nazi nightmare” show more historical references. It’s nothing close to the House of M story line, but stands out as a significant moment nonetheless.

Red Onslaughts breaks down Iron Man’s fears and anxiety, mocking Stark. Iron Man’s catalog of weaknesses was compiled from Stark’s hatred of his friends, not fear or anxiety, according to the creature.

Avengers and X-men: Axis #1 is published by Marvel Comics. Rick Remender (W.) Adam Kubert (A.) Laura Martin and Matt Milla (C.) Chris Eliopoulos (L.) Cover artwork by Cheung and Ponsor.

Action Comics #35, Wonder Woman #34, Captain America #25 – Short Comic Review

While I’m on vacation for three weeks, I’ve put together a short round up of comics published this week. I’ll return to full reviews on October 11, 2014.

Action Comics #35

The comic opens with Superman flying through space, and closes with Lois Lane starring directly out at the reader, saying “you don’t understand Superman at all”. The last few pages of the comic are narrated by Lane’s article. While Clark Kent might be disillusioned and depressed following his recent Doomsday infection – not to mention the guilt he is feeling after meeting with Lana Lang back in Smallville – Lane argues that Superman needs Earth and it’s people. Superman might appear to bring monsters and destruction, but he inspires us to be better. In turn, people inspire Superman to be a better, stronger, and faster hero.

It’s an interesting story. Superman is not up on a pedestal. He’s a part of the world, and an important part that keeps everything moving forward. Also worth seeing is a page where the heroes of Metropolis are seen helping the city recover from a recent attack by Brainiac. The young shapeshifter Baka returns. Supergirl saves small family from falling cement. Moreover, a page shows police officers and the Metropolis fire service working to save the city – a tribute to their service.

Wonder Woman #34

There’s some great ideas and insights into what it means to be a god in this issue. Wonder Woman also struggles with a tough question. She wants to be peaceful, however she has been selected as the new god of war, and her family is under attack from the powerful villain known as The First Born.

Hera says that human life, to her, is like watching television. The characters mean little to her, ultimately, and the episodes are relatively short. Zola is not impressed. Eris, god of chaos, laughs at Hera for her detached point of view. Meanwhile Wonder Woman, faces the question: stay true to her peaceful ideas, or use violence, and fight a war against the first born. This is escalated to the brink of no return, where she cannot reason or argue her enemy out of his war with the gods.

Hera makes a decisions. She shows restraint, and something a bit like kindness to Wonder Woman, Zola, Orion, and several other cast members. Hera, Eris, and Wonder Woman also have some of the best wordplay in the comic. There’s some interesting moments in the artwork, when monsters are transformed into crystal statues, and giant, elephant mechs charge into battle.

Captain America #25

The new Captain America arrives in this issue. Jet Black endures drama. Even her brother Ian questions her motives, her rejection of Arnim Zola, and her friendship with Captain America. The pain drawn on her face is powerfully executed when accusations are thrown at her.

Arnim Zola returns to dimension Z in a brilliant flash of white and blue light. Later, Captain America and the avengers enter into another situation of extreme pressure – a dinner party at Avengers Mansion with all of the current Avengers teams (except the Young Avengers and Secret Avengers) and X-factor. These scenes have several back-and-forth comedy moments between characters. Artwork here is highly colourful. Hyperion’s head to body proportion may need adjustment, however.

A full page artwork introduces the new Captain America.

An epilogue reintroduces an old threat – Hydra believe now is the time to start drawing plans against the new Captain America.

Avengers #34.1 – Comic Review

A short story about the hero Hyperion has the character questioning his purpose, and finding the beginnings of answers. Avengers #34.1 offers:

  • Artwork that ranges from microscopic worlds, to a view of the Earth from orbit
  • A super hero – Hyperion – who questions his purpose, and shows several values within the scope of the short story.
  • Values such as responsibility, resilience, truth, and care for small actions appear.

Views of drifting white clouds and continents appear as the powerful hero Hyperion stares down at the Earth. His magnification vision plays a key role in the comic book artwork.

The comic artwork ranges from close settings inside a pickup truck interior, and a family living room, all the way to the outer atmosphere of the earth. Views of drifting white clouds and continents in green and sandy yellow appear as the powerful hero Hyperion looks down.

Magnification appears as another artistic point. Hyperion uses his telescopic vision to greatly magnify flecks of dust and skin cells to analyse DNA.

In contrast, a ruthless villain called the Mauler unleashes a series of energy attacks – a sonic cannon and a ground-to-air missile. Energy beams of white and orange fire flood the panels where Mauler attempts to slow down Hyperion. The immense and unstoppable powerhouse is undeterred by Mauler’s attacks. It’s fitting the all artwork for Hyperion in this issue show him standing upright, with strong poster, and a set, determined facial expression – resilient.

Hyperion might appear to be a copy of a Super hero template planted in Popular Culture decades ago, but the character tells a story with large and strong themes like responsibility, guardianship, and the ordinary vs. the extraordinary.

If Superman can be placed at the centre of a large map, with all other different super heroes branching out from his first appearance, Hyperion would be found close to the centre, nearby the Man of Steel.

Readers might classify Hyperion as a Superman copy: another invulnerable, flying costumed man with a bright colour scheme. The comic does not address the questions of Hyperion’s inspirations – although it does distinctly ask: what is his purpose? Is he just a power fantasy or a revenge fantasy without any use?

The fact remains, that Hyperion is a character with a broad set of abilities – with such power and invulnerability, his character can explore large themes like parenthood, guardianship, responsibility, and the ordinary vs. extraordinary.

There is a great discussion about the value of a super hero in the face of environmental problems and climate change. Hyperion asks himself if he really can make a difference saving small lives in the face of such a complex ecosystem as an entire planet.

The bigger question the comic asks of super heroes like Hyperion – Are you actually a teacher? And what lessons do you have?

Hyperion is still trying to find an answer to why he is here on Earth – Through his actions, resilience, truth, and an ability to see value in small actions are valued.

It’s not entirely clear if what lessons Hyperion has to teach; it’s more clear that Hyperion might still be trying to answer those questions himself.

What he can provide is assistance and help. And there is a great discussion of how valuable truth and accuracy are. Resilience in the face of problems that everyday life throws out is also clear from the story – Hyperion does not back down in the face of an all out assault from Mauler – he could attack Mauler instead, but chooses not too. Hyperion solves problems not with force, but by getting to the truth that lies at the core of problems, and things that go wrong.

The story also comes with a reminder to see the value in small actions, which might seem insignificant if approached with the wrong perspective.

Avengers #34.1 is published by Marvel comics ($4.99 USD). Al Ewing (W.) Dale Keown (P.) Norman Lee (I.) Jason Keith (C.) VC’s Cory Petit (L.) Cover artwork by Keown and Keith.

Captain America #23 – Comic Review

Steve Rodgers might have aged, but his intelligence for battle strategy remains. Can he stand up to an armour clad intruder who can slip past the Avengers?

Captain America #23 offers:

  • Impressive full page artwork with a great sense of motion and space
  • Great character dialog
  • A small theme of resilience
  • A story that depicts the villain as the mirror-opposite of the hero

An intruder inside Avengers mansion wears impressive armour. The metal plates are coloured in regal purple and gold. Full page artworks show off Iron Man defending the mansion, and a team of monstrous copies of the Avengers – the “Unvengers”

The intruder inside the Avengers mansion wears impressive armour. Their costume is regal purple and gold, and coated in spikes. The action scenes where this intruder slides, jumps, and vaults past Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk show impressive grasp of space and motion.

The Falcon later flies over New York, joined by Jet Black – also showing good sense of space in the artwork. Full page artwork throughout the issue depicts Iron Man defending Avengers Mansion, and the debut of the “Unvengers”, which are monstrous imitations of the Avengers created by Zola.

The Avengers, The Falcon, and Jet Black receive some interesting Dialog. Hulk makes a great statement about smashing things.

Captain America’s supporting cast have some strong and interesting dialog – Iron Man, Hulk, Thor specifically in the opening and middle scenes of the comic have great conversation points.

Despite his age, Steve Rodgers still has a commanding presence. The villain – Zola – is silent in this issue. Zola’s influence spreads across the comic regardless. Captain America takes on a strategists role. He sends the Avengers and his allies on a mission to stop Zola.

later, Hulk in particular has a great moment about smashing, and The Falcon tells Jet Black that he refuses to be left behind.

Spoilers for Captain America #23 follow

The villain and hero mirror each other in this comic book. A reunion between two characters adds a resilience theme to the comic.

There is a major parallel draw between Captain America and Zola in this comic. The point hinges on Steve Rodger’s son, and Zola’s daughter. Both Ian and Jet Black have grown and established their own identities. When Jet Black infiltrates Zola’s massive castle, Ian attacks the Avengers Mansion in an attempt to reconnect with his Father.

The actions of Zola’s daughter and Rodger’s son mirror each other, just as the hero and villain sit at opposite ends of the a spectrum.

Zola has, in addition, made copies of Steve Rodgers friends in the Avengers. The villain, in this case, literally copies the hero.

Ian’s reunion with his father brings a theme of resilience to the comic book. Ian is dressed in hard armour, and overcomes a series of obstacles on the way to his goal. These scenes make a small statement about not giving up and staying resilient.

Captain America #23 is published by Marvel comics ($3.99 USD). Rick Remender (W.) Carlos Pacheco (P.) Mariano Taibo (I.) Dean White (C.) VC’s Joe Caramagna (L, & Production) Cover artwork by Pacheco and White.

Uncanny Avengers #22 – Comic Review

It’s the end: Kang the Conquerer concludes his long plot. Using the Uncanny Avengers, he has gained god-like powers from a dying Celestial.

Brought together in 2012, a new team of Avengers and X-men began working toward their goal: show unity and solidarity in the face of mutant discrimination.

The battle to stop the giant Kang begins now.

Uncanny Avengers #20 offers:

  • Fiery artwork, with colourful superheroes fighting across rubble coated streets
  • A battle between Havok and Kang at the core of the story
  • Themes of good vs evil, and the consequences of power
  • These themes are suitable for high school and college students investigating ethics in popular culture.

Orange blasts of energy and flames pervade the panels of this comic book. On a ruined city street, the Uncanny Avengers face Kangs assembled monsters from various, adandoned, damaged, or spent timelines.

Fire flares up and burns across this comic, much of it from the dying Celestial. Orange energy blasts flung from the hands of the mechanical Arno Stark take down Tony Stark in the opening panels. The art shows off the damage done by Kang’s assembled characters from across various damaged or spent timelines. A ruined city street is coated in rubble. The colourful Avengers fight off Kang’s monster collection.

Another great moment in the art: a new look for Sunfire, who dubs himself an atomic knight.

Kang might have absorbed the powers of a Celestial being, but his true power is the leverage he has taken over The Wasp and Havok. The villain has captured their daughter.

The key conflict pushes aside all the other characters except for Havok and Kang. The fight between this man – a husband and father – and a titanically arrogant time traveller makes up the centre of the comic book. The Uncanny Avengers are there, in the periphery, doing their best to hobble Kang’s now god-tier power.

Kang is powerful. A celestial died, and he absorbed the leftover energy pouring from its body. But that’s not his real power in this issue. At the heart of the story is Havok and Wasp’s daughter. Kang has effectively stolen her away from the new parents, and leverages her life to prevent Havok stopping him.

Considering Kang’s theft of the Apocalypse twins from their mother at the beginning of this long running story arc, the villain has built a plan on attacking children.

A theme of good vs evil, with a discussion of the consequences of absolute power, appear in this comic book finale.

A theme of good vs evil stems from Kang’s actions. He claims to be above definitions of good and evil: ” Concepts such as good and evil hold no value to a being of my prominence”.

Such an empty statement to make. Kang would leverage anything to gain a personal advantage. Kang chides Havok – who attempts to fight back, knowing that his daughter will be in danger if he assualts Kang – saying ” is this how a hero would behave?”

There’s no doubt Kang’s actions could be called evil. The value here is that using children is an evil act carried out by villains – arrogant men like Kang, who want power and control. The theme of good and evil here leads into a discussion of how power can blind characters from seeing the consequences of their actions. The Uncanny Avengers remind Kang of consequences here as the Avenger Earth story arc concludes.

A popular culture reference – more like a reference back to Marvel Comics own mythos – is the Sentry mentioning the “White Hot Room”, which is a higher dimension occupied by Celestials and the Phoenix Force. Coincidentally, an alternate reality version of the Vision appears in this comic empowered by the Phoenix force.

Uncanny Avengers #22 is published by Marvel comics ($3.99 USD). Rick Remender (W.) Daniel Acuna (A.)  VC’s Clayton Cowles (L.) Cover artwork by Daniel Acuna.

Uncanny Avengers #20 – Comic Review

in 2012, a new team of Avengers and X-men began working together. Their goal: show unity and solidarity in the face of mutant discrimination. The new, Uncanny Avengers were overwhelmed by a new pair of villains called the “Apocalypse Twins”. The twins alarmingly caused the Earth’s complete destruction, and whisked away all the Earth’s mutants to a new Earth: Planet X. Wasp, Thor, Havok, Wolverine, and Sunfire survived the assault, and now plan to use time travel to save the Earth from it’s early destruction.

Uncanny Avengers #20 offers:

  • A vast array of colours, and a artwork of a sweeping, futuristic city
  • A diverse cast of  characters from alternate worlds
  • Themes of family conflict
  • Values: emotional control, and rationality
  • The comic is suitable for High School and College students studying themes of family conflict, and rationality under pressure.

Colourful backgrounds contrast with the varied costumes worn by the super heroes. Characters from a broad set of alternate realities sport a diverse set of colours across their outfits. A sweeping, futuristic city appears, and dissolves.

What is most visually striking in this comic book are the vibrant costumes. Characters from alternate realities gathered here sport red, black, blue, white, grey, and silver costumes. The effect strikes a bright note when contrasting colours are used for the backgrounds in fighting sequences.

The blue and silver costume of the new, Lady Avalanche stands out against a bright orange background.

While most of the comic artwork is bright and detailed, most of the scenes take place inside metal walled rooms. Later, however, a vista of futuristic buildings appear. The sky is bright white. Later, these buildings dissolve, and the effect is striking.

Fire effects also impress here. Sunfire unleashes reams of flame, while Kang the Conqueror summons a burning cloud of energy when he activates his time-traveling abilities.

There is a diverse cast here: May Parker is Spider-woman from another world. The Beast takes down the Blob, and the Summers brothers find common ground.

Other than showing off a diverse range of heroes from parallel worlds, the interaction between characters strengthens this comic book. Diversity brings conflict. It also allows unity.

The Summers brothers bond despite being separated by the circumstances: this version of Scott Summers is old and cynical. Alex Summers from the mainstream Earth has been fighting for years. He’s tired. The brothers still share a moment where they

An alternate Spider-Woman called May Parker has a strong character voice. Chirpy and charming at first, she shifts gear into a serious tone when she fires electric webbing over her foes. The Blob shows misogyny. And vanity. He lords himself over the X-men, and makes a point about the Wasp being a woman, rather than just being an Avenger. Dr. Hank McCoy, the beast, summarily stomps him into the floor.

It seems despite the time and place, the brotherhood of evil mutants will appear to challenge the X-men.

A theme of family conflict runs throughout the comic. It’s purpose is to build up emotion. The comic places value on controlling emotion. The value has greater impact if the consequence of losing control is higher disasters.

The key dramatic moments of the Uncanny Avengers #20 centre around families. Janet Van Dyne and Havok might lose their daughter if they wipe out this alternate future. Wolverine is confronted with his son, again. The Summers brothers reunite, again. Kang the Conqueror is faced with stopping his estranged, adopted daughter.

Why is this theme here?

Emotion.

family interactions – where more is at stake – point to emotional control and rationality under pressure. In this case, the pressure is extreme at the moment the heroes must place all their trust Kang. He promises to send them back in time to save the Earth. Sunfire’s trust problems boil-over when the pressure reaches its highest. Wolverine quickly stops him.

The message here is about emotions, rationality, and control under pressure. With their families under threat, the Uncanny Avengers face higher anger and fear. By having the Avengers overcome these emotions, value is placed in emotional control. Without control, there would  be disaster.

A popular culture reference is Psylocke and Kang combining their abilities to send the Uncanny Avengers back in time to prevent the Earth X future from occurring. The process is similar to Rachel Grey and Kitty Pride combining their abilities to time travel in the X-men: Days of Future Past story arc.

Uncanny Avengers #20 is published by Marvel comics ($3.99 USD). Rick Remender (W.) Daniel Acuna (A.)  VC’s Clayton Cowles (L.) Cover artwork by Daniel Acuna.