Back in the early 19th century a whole bunch of very paranoid textile-working bruhs had a major bitch-flip. They were called the Luddites and what they did was uprise, namely broke a bunch of threshing machines. Before you dismiss them simply as Green Street Hooligans their paranoia and consequent actions sort of made sense.

The Luddites rose-up during the early stages of the industrialization as they were afraid that the newly applied machines will leave them out of work. A very rational fear if you ask me. Now I’m not going to get into the history of England during the Victoria Era as quite a few scholars have already written pretty good books on the subject, but it’s just that this Luddite thing got me thinking.

Yes, I am aware that we are well past industrialization, but aren’t we experiencing similar social and economic changes now? Only instead of giant machines we have computers, and social media. More and more things are becoming digitized and automated. There is this great encouragement for people to do all of their shopping without leaving the house… Even at the airports many of the check-in stands are no longer ‘operated’ by humans but by annoying and slightly complicated-to-figure-out chunks of plastic and metal. I have to say that there is something very unnerving about this mass propaganda of replacing human connections with mechanisms.

But whatever, I’m not much of a people person anyway. So, lets connect the dots and get back to the main point, which is Tsutomu Nihei .

Nihei published his acclaimed work NOiSE in 2001. When I first read it my mind was blown not only by the fantastic art, but also by the sheer brilliance of the story, although back then I sort of dismissed as nothing more than over-dramatized work of fiction.

The story, much like all the great creepy ones, is taking place in a post-apocalyptic mega-structure of a city. At the centre of the plot we have the young police officer Susono Musubi.

Susono Musubi’s journey begins when she start to investigate the disappearance of little kids. When her partner is killer our heroine feels that something is very wrong, and it really is. The little kids are returned back to their homes with chips installed in their brains, this is the foretelling of the end of humanity. If you liked NOiSE you might want to check out its sequel BLAME! Even though Musubi is no longer the protagonist it still makes a mind-blowing read.

Funny thing is when I was reading the manga back in 2003 I thought that Nihei was simply being paranoid, or he was on something, but quite frankly the more I look at the world and our dependancy on along with the willingness to accept technology as an integral part of our lives I wonder just how prophetic his works actually are.

Rereading his things just makes me want to go out and look at the sky and walk on grass barefoot or something, and I’m trying not to be too cheesy here.

I’m not going to speak for Nihei by saying that he’s trying to rise some very serious existential questions, especially since he’s a sci-fi fan so maybe it’s just his imagination acting out… Either way his works do make you think, and in light of everything that’s happening today I won’t be too surprised if the remanent of humanity will find themselves in something very similar to THE CITY.

 

 

 

Mark Millar‘s “Superman: Red Son” is an alternate universe tale that presents to its readers what the Superman-verse would be like if he was landed in Soviet Russia instead of the United States. Thus, we are introduced to a world where Batman’s parents are murdered for their political views and transforms Bruce Wayne into a freedom fighter, who leads a coup against Superman, to overcome Superman`s Orwellian “Big Brother” approach to saving the world. What Mark Millar effectively delivers is essentially a narrative about the cold war and an insight into the minds of our superheroes, and how they relate to the world around them.

In Millar’s universe, Superman grows up in a farm in Soviet Russia, and falls in love with Lana, who, after having been witnessed by Superman lining up for food with her children, inspires him to accept the responsibility of leading the country in solid dictatorship.

Superman’s rise to fame is what spurs the Cold War to shift from nuclear weapons to the building of super humans. What comes out as a result is a horrifying league of super mutants – creatures that lack the motivation and back story that creates super heroes. Thus, the mutants created in defense of the United States becomes the physical manifestations of the fear and apprehension so dominant during the Cold War, an effective tool in demonstrating the effects the Cold War had on its people.

Lois Lane is a tragic heroine married to Lex Luthor, an obsessive S.T.A.R. labs scientist whose sole purpose in life is to defeat Superman. Though she is still a reporter for the Daily Planet, her non-existent romance with Lex Luthor highlights the isolation and lifelessness of this universe. Similarly, going along the trajectory of tragic heroines, Diana aka Wonder Woman is presented as Superman’s loyal companion in keeping everyone in line with Superman’s beliefs, and whose love is perpetually unrequited. Diana’s sacrifice towards the end of the story in order to help Superman defeat Batman is what clarifies the true nature of Superman’s intent: power and control beyond any means.

Superman’s inability to give the citizens of whichever universe he is written into, whether or not it’s in Metropolis or Soviet Russia, agency and independence in choosing the world they want to live in, is what keeps him fallible, and whats spurs Batman into action. Batman, a hero motivated by a flawed, humanistic trait – vengeance – is always going to be contrasted against Superman’s “good” intentions.The conflicts presented in this alternate universe tale is one that is inherent within the traits of Batman and Superman. Superman`s demi-god abilities is exactly what disconnects him from the creatures he protects – it is both what makes him heroic, and his hubris. Superman is the perpetual outsider, whose good intentions are thwarted because of his disconnect.

Perhaps what is most interesting in the Red Son is that it does not follow the standard morality concept of attributing communism to evil, and capitalism to good. The political views of the story are rooted in intent: Superman is not evil because he`s a Communist or because he`s Russian. His intent is grounded in altruism; it was his execution of his ideals that casted him as the villain. Similarly, though Lex Luthor`s actions pitted him as the hero, fighting for freedom against oppression, his intent is still grounded on his selfish and egotistic obsession of defeating Superman.

Thus, Red Son allows its readers to reflect on the fluidity of morality, and what that means when the responsibility of instilling morality falls in the hands of ultimately flawed characters, and what actions they perform that cast them into the roles of super heroes. This stand-alone story is both political and philosophical, but it also full of Superman lore that will keep its fans satiated. Truly a wonderful read, and amazing illustrations to boot, Red Son is definitely a must-read.

This article was initially meant to be about the 10 best (single) issues of the X-Men, but as I started researching (re-reading) and reviewing, I quickly came to discover that more useful and informative would be the 10 best story arcs in the X-verse which I have tried to provide to you all below.

#10 – Inferno (#239-243):

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_241Brief Synopsis:

“Inferno” was a Marvel Comics company-wide crossover concerning the corruption of Madelyne Pryor into the Goblin Queen, the final transformation of Illyana Rasputin into the Darkchylde, and a demonic invasion of New York City.

Good:

As this involved books across the Marvel Universe with some of the storylines being at best incidental and/or irrelvant, it was a bit of a mish-mash of characters and writers.  However, the actual main X-Titles, written by Claremont were actually very well done and the story/character development in them extremely well explored.  Some of the fight sequences in this arc are exceptional and worth a read as are some of the graphical elements!

Bad:

As mentioned previously, the fact that these books crossed the Marvel Universe made it a little bit of a pain to ensure that you actually caught all the key elements that might have happened.

#9 – The Morlock Mutant Massacre (#210-#213):

mutantmassacre12Brief Synopsis:

The Morlocks are under attack. The Marauders are acting like hunting parties, tracking down the Morlocks and viciously killing them without apparent cause. The X-Men and other heroes rush in to help stop, or at least, slow the slaughter.

Good:

Wolverine and Sabretooth have a pair of classic bouts, setting up what will become one of comics’ classic rivalries. Some definite character growth and development as Shadowcat, Nightcrawler and Colossus take serious injuries while Angel of X-Factor experiences the agony of having his wings impaled by harpoons.

Bad:

The Morlock Mutant Massacre is the first X-Men crossover, and one of the best so not too much to say with regards to the ‘Bad’.

#8 – Age of Apocalypse

20130605-202544-700x404Brief Synopsis

Legion (David Haller), a powerful psionic mutant on Earth and son of Professor Charles Xavier, travels back in time with the intention of killing Magneto. He believes Magneto’s death will allow Xavier to achieve his dream of human/mutant equality. But Legion traveled to a time when Magneto and Xavier were still friends. So Xavier dies trying to protect Magneto. Legion vanishes, and a new timeline is created. The only person aware of how history has changed is Bishop, a time traveling mutant who followed Legion.

Because of Xavier’s sacrifice, Magneto comes to believe in his late friend’s dream of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. Apocalypse, an immortal mutant villain, was monitoring the fight. He chooses this moment as the perfect time to begin his world conquest, which didn’t happen in the regular Marvel Universe for another ten years.

Good

Logan & Jean Grey get together … Magneto & Rogue … some excellent ‘what-if’ scenarios and battles are explored … what’s not to like?!

Bad

Some people have this near the top of their lists and others at the bottom. Its near the bottom of mine not because the story isn’t interesting, but rather because there are too many different books to follow and pick up.

X-Men_God_Loves_Man_Kills_cover#7 – God Loves, Man Kills (Marvel Graphic Novel #5):

Brief Synopsis

“God Loves, Man Kills” is a powerful story resonating with all kinds of persecuted minorities such as African-Americans, Jews and homosexuals. It’s also surprisingly personal, emotionally complex, beautifully rendered and well deserving of a place on this list.

Good

Yet another X-Men story that is widely considered to be a classic. An emotionally charged story with young kids murdered and mutants being persecuted. But artist Brent Anderson does a great job of using images to allude to historical events without becoming heavy-handed. Writer Chris Claremont does a great job of using crowd reactions to show that the issue may be more complicated than either Rev. Stryker or the X-Men are willing to admit. The real heroes of this story are actually two normal cops who don’t know who to believe but who still do their duty.

Bad

Definitely NOT a story that you would expect in a Comic book – very deep and emotional and shows a different side to a lot of characters. Nothing really bad about this one.

#6 – Acts of Vengeance(#256-#258):

Brief Synopsis:

Written by Chris Claremont. Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Joe Rubinstein. During the infamous “Acts of Vengeance,” Wolverine and Jubilee face off with Iron Man’s arch nemesis the Mandarin and the Hand’s deadly new assassin – Psylocke?!   At this point in X-Men history, the team has disbanded and the various heroes are scattered around the globe. The Mandarin takes advantage of the situation and kidnaps Psylocke. He brainwashes her, body-switches her and transforms her into his assassin.

Good:

Wolverine on his own against Mandarin, the Hand and a host of ninja assassins. It’s a great kung fu action story, with one hero facing impossible odds and the other hero the unwilling pawn of the enemy. Plus, the story serves as Jim Lee’s introduction to the X-Men.

Bad:

The main crossover is admittedly pretty awful but it resulted in some great tie-in stories, especially in the X-Men titles

782688b695a9137e2a6d154424ca5354#5 – Broodfall(#232-#234):

Brief Synopsis:

The Brood is Marvel’s foray into a predatory alien race not all that far off from H.R. Giger territory, only they infect their victims like a virus, eventually turning them and assimilating them into the Brood collective.  This is the best Brood story ever, bar none. While all of the earlier Brood stories featured the X-Men going into space and facing the Brood out there, this story features the Brood coming to earth. That means that if the X-Men lose, the Earth loses. That makes the stakes a lot bigger and much more personal than in previous Brood stories.

Good:

The Brood infect Wolverine with one of their seed. Wolverine has often been the focus of stories in which he has to battle his own inner demons. This time, he has to battle an inner demon that isn’t his own!  Of course, there are also big battles, panic in the streets to make even Japanese monster movie enthusiasts happy, Brood beasts throwing cars around and more superhero action than you can shake a stick at.  This is definitely the highlight of the Marc Silvestri era of the X-Men.  Some excellent covers and artwork are also evident!!

Bad:

Nothing bad to say about this one!

#4 – Rogue Redux (#269)

Brief Synopsis:

Rogue is spat out from the Siege Perilous to land in her room in the X-Men’s headquarters in the Australian Outback, seemingly unchanged. From a news report, she learns that Mystique has been murdered. As she tries to alert her teammates, she learns firstly that she has lost her Ms. Marvel powers and secondly that the HQ is now back in the hands of the Reavers. Surprisingly, Carol Danvers now has a body of her own again and, while she fights the Reavers, Rogue absorbs Gateway’s powers long enough to teleport herself and (accidentally) Carol away. Carol ends up on Muir Isle. Though struggling bravely, she falls under the control of the Shadow King and chases Rogue as his servant.

Good:

Rogue and Magneto – together gain for the first time.  Some great fight sequences and battles and also some amazing covers.

Bad:

Doesn’t really do anything to advance the storyline but still a very good story in and of itself.

hellfire_club_by_gcassata-d4grm2b#3 – The Hellfire Club – (#207-#209)

Brief Synopsis:

John Romita Jr.’s first run on the series, and features a murderous scuffle between X-Man Rachel Summers (Phoenix II) and Selene, a member of the infamous Hellfire Club, the mysterious “Inner Circle” of which likes to control world affairs a little more than they should.

Good:

A huge brawl in Central Park with the whole Hellfire Club taking on the X-Men and then it gets even better with Nimrod, the super mega badass Sentinel programmed to destroy all mutants.

Bad:

Nothing bad here either!!

X-Men_v1_141#2 – Days of Future Past (#141-#142):

Brief Synopsis:

A graying Wolverine, an adult Kitty Pryde, a dystopic future ruled by mutant-hunting Sentinels, the death of the X-Men and a time travel story.  This is the inspiration for the most recent X-Men movie

Good:

This is another of the classic X-Men stories.

Bad:

It doesn’t hold up quite as well as “The Dark Phoenix Saga” but it’s hard to hold that against the original story. It’s just that it’s been copied, imitated, parodied and revisited so often that it doesn’t seem as original as it would have at the time.

#1 – The Dark Phoenix Saga (#129-#138):

XMen135Brief Synopsis:

Written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne, this is the story that shows up on lists of the best comic book stories of all-time. And it deserves it. Reportedly, Claremont and Byrne had observed that over the years, a number of villains had reformed and become heroes but we’d never seen a comic book hero fall and become a villain. They decided to tell the untold tale and they chose beloved ingénue Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl, for the role.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of comics’ great tragedies. It explores the axiom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Slowly, Jean Grey, now known as Phoenix, begins to flex her powers in ways that the readers and her teammates find morally questionable. Yet, the fall is made even more tragic by the involvement of the Hellfire Club. Jason Wyngarde, aka Mastermind, manipulates her mind and her emotions which makes Jean Grey a victim of tragic circumstances as much as of her own power. Phoenix-The-Untold-StoryUninhibited by any morality, Phoenix eventually uses a sun to replenish her powers, causing the sun to go supernova and killing billions of inhabitants of that solar system. That crime brings Phoenix to the attention of the Shi’ar Empire, now set on capturing and executing her for mass murder. The tragedy is further deepened when Jean Grey is apparently “cured” of the Phoenix power before she stands trial meaning that the Shi’ar are convicting the innocent ingénue rather than the powerful Phoenix. The X-Men, despite their earlier reservations, stand by Jean Grey only to watch her sacrifice herself in order to save the rest of the team.

Good:

Action, fights galore and an excellent story that captures your heart and mind.  This is number 1 becasue it’s the best and well deserves this rating!

Bad:

This is it. This is the big one.  There is NOTHING bad about this book.  If you’ve not read it before, get it now.  You won’t be sorry.