Comic Review: New X-Men – E is for Extinction (2001)

New X-MenE is for Extinction (2001)
Written by Grant Morrison, Art by Frank Quitely

Rating: A-

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely becoming the creative team of the newly retitled New X-Men was a very successful effort to revitalize the X-Men brand. After a few years of being relatively forgettable, Morrison and Quitely made changes to the team that still play a major part in the comics more than ten years later, and created elements that would be incorporated into the up-and-down film franchise.

E is for Extinction is the first story arch of their sizable tenure. It introduces the concept of secondary evolution, which has X-Men mainstay Beast changing from his old self into a more feline body, while telepath Emma Frost develops the secondary ability to change her whole body into nearly impenetrable diamond (a trait that is also shown in her minor appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and her supporting role in X-Men First Class). Perhaps a more obvious change for the crew is that with this shift in creative teams the group has also shifted from individualized outfits to more basic and matching suits that emphasize that they are indeed a team of superheroes and don’t operate as individuals.

The story of E is for Extinction is outstanding; a new villain called Cassandra Nova is hellbent on destroying mutants to make way for what she claims will be the next phase of evolution. Although she doesn’t have the same level of charisma as Magneto or the pure cool factor of Apocalypse, she is a strong villain on the basis of the fact that she is so powerful that it is pretty terrifying. By the end of the three issues worth that comprise the storyline (and three-quarters of the trade release), she has managed to rack up a body count in the millions.

Morrison and Quitely have worked together a lot since this run, but E is for Extinction really made the X-Men cool again. The spirit of this book is so important because it modernized the X-Men in a way that was later carried on into Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men and is still an important part of what the X-Men are. With all of this in mind, it is really essential reading for anyone with an interest in the X-Men in print.

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man
Directed by Marc Webb
Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves

Rating: B+

Rebooting a franchise that had three films making just about a billion dollars each in box office sales only five years after the last in the series doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Despite terrible reviews for the final chapter, Sam Raimi’s film version of Spider-man was popular and made a completely ridiculous amount of money. Why start fresh? It was hard not to wonder before going in to see The Amazing Spider-man, but now it makes a lot more sense.

While the Raimi trilogy was enjoyable in spite of some problems (Tobey Maguire was never great as Spidey, Kirsten Dunst was cute at times and unbearable at others), this new reboot of Spider-man directed by Marc Webb is the real Spider-man that comic book readers have been hoping for since the web-slinger originally made it to the big screen. It is a significantly more faithful adaptation, featuring Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy rather than Mary Jane (who was a much later girlfriend in the comics), and getting rid of the film Spider-man’s natural web-slinging ability in favor of the technology based wrist attachments of the comics. Most importantly, though, is the tone; Raimi’s trilogy was too light to be taken seriously, while Webb has just enough grit and the right kind of humor to make a film that feels decidedly more like the real Spider-man.

Andrew Garfield is a perfect encapsulation of the two major versions of Spider-man in comics, the traditional Earth-616 incarnate that you would see in any Spider-man comic, and Ultimate Spider-man, the slightly younger modern reimagining that started not long before the Raimi franchise. Garfield has the awkward nerdiness and the humor exactly right, with much help from a really great script. Emma Stone is absolutely perfect, adorable, and brilliant as Gwen Stacy, which makes for her inevitable exit in some film to come all the more unfortunate.

If The Lizard is a villain you appreciated from the comics or the animated show, you are significantly more likely to be pleased with him as a villain in The Amazing Spider-man. Fans who are more used to Venom or Dr. Octopus may find him a little tepid, and his character could have been slightly better executed in the new film, but anyone who grew up watching the Spider-man cartoon in the 90’s probably got as excited as I did seeing the Lizard wearing that battered lab coat. Rhys Ifans plays the part of Dr. Curt Connors perfectly, although the visual representation of the Lizard following his transformation sometimes looks a bit awkward.

The type of viewer who never reads a comic book and whose only exposure to Spider-man is his appearances in live action films is much more likely to be disappointed with this movie than someone who reads the stories or watched the cartoons. The Amazing Spider-man is really the Spider-man for comic books fans, whereas Raimi’s trilogy was the Spider-man for popcorn movie goers. Both have their merits but the fact is that, aside from Alfred Molina’s outstanding role as Doc Ock in Spider-man 2, The Amazing Spider-man improves in every department.