My last day of work before the New Year’s break had Munky emailing me to inform me that my birthday present had been nabbed by customs. My birthday was way back in November, and I knew he was getting me something because he’d told me it was going to be late, so you can imagine that the sense of intrigue was somewhat fierce by this point. Being told that it had failed to get through customs made this even more so.
Shortly after I got home Frood emailed me, subject line: “You can has claws!” I opened said email and found the following message and attachment.
“Didn’t get through postal customs.”
At this point I jumped to an over-excited conclusion. Because the man in the picture is wearing trousers very similar to the ones Frood had been wearing when he left for work and I’d received that mail from Munky explaining that my birthday present had been caught by customs, I figured that Munky had got these for me as a birthday present and sent them to Frood because he works in a postroom, Frood had taken delivery and this was a picture that a colleague had taken on his phone.
I was so excited. I had visions of filling a room full of cardboard boxes painted as ninjas and running around yelling “Meega nala kweesta!” and “Snickt, bub!”
I mailed Frood back immediately, peppering him with questions, no doubt sowing the seeds of confusion. His response:
“No, they are from a news story. They were seized at the international mail hub in Coventry. So you can’t actually have any claws. “
Only, in my now-disappointed excitement, I failed to see the first sentence and fired back another email suggesting that perhaps all we had to do was present ID to the post office and pay the duty charges and we could get them through. Then I grabbed the phone and called Munky.
Munky: Hey you! How are you?
Me: Never mind that. What’s this about claws?
Me: The claws! The claws stuck in customs!
And then the whole sorry story came out and finally, with Munky gasping for breath in hilarity at how I had been beaten very profoundly with the coincidence stick until I’d grasped the wrong end of it and clung on like a kitten with a catnip mouse, I realised that I could not, in fact, has claws. At all.
And I still don’t know what he’s getting me for my birthday.
Very well, I forgive you. I forgive you because of the sheer joy of sticking one of the annoying Assassin girlies in a cement mixer.
I wanna do that again.
It’s not usual for me to review a game before I’ve finished it, but I’ll make an exception today because Frood is busy with Quantum of Solace (which is just Mace Griffin with an English accent).
First of all, let’s just do the wibbly-wobbly flashback thing. Imagine everything going a bit blurry like the teleporter effect from Blake’s Seven. You still with me?
Back in 2003 Marvel and Activision released Wolverine’s Revenge to coincide with the release of the second X-Men film — a blatant bit of Wolverine publicity if ever there was one, which made Magneto’s comment to Logan (“Once again, you think it’s all about you.”) even more lulz-worthy.
As it happened, this was a great game. It really was. The stealth kills and smell-o-vision were very well done, and made sense in terms of characterisation. I really enjoyed this game until it got a bit too frenetic for fun right up at the end. As I’ve said before and probably will do again, Activision do have previous for decent games based on the Marvel universe.
The new Origins game is an 18, so immediately you can tell that there is going to be gore. And there is. Lots of it. Which is kind of groovy. I don’t know about you but I get really ticked off with slicing and dicing and people falling over like rag dolls. If I’m kicking the living shit out of something I want see evidence. This game has it in spades.
It is also of the button mashy school, where chaining comboes means hitting the square button three zillion times before punctuating with triangle. This is, to be fair, reasonably similar to the previous Wolverine game, so I can’t complain about that too much. I just find it difficult to keep track of how many times I’ve pressed the square button when I’m being assaulted by three mutant wendigoes the size of Methodist churches, 10 killer robots and about 50 machine gunners.
You see, this game has decided that “increased difficulty” means “send more goons in to shoot him”. I’m not a huge fan of this. Indeed, it pisses me off to the point where, several times, I have been swearing at the screen, my controller slippery with sweat and my hand cramping as I try to dodge, block, roll, counter and pull off a berserker fury all at the same time while being shot to shit by an entire army of mooks who are all yelling “He’s hurt, he’s hurt, keep up the pressure!” It’s just not fun. It’s merely frustrating.
There are some really weird gaming decisions, too, like the scene in which you have to dodge the bullets from a sniper and fight off the inevitable goons while you are looking at yourself through the sniper’s sights. WTF? It’s hard enough dealing with a squad of machine guns at the best of times, but when you can’t see half of them because there are trees between the sniper who’s trying to kill you and both you and them, it’s impossible.
Which leads me to the dodgy camera angles. The camera appears to have a mind of its own and a sense of humour akin to that of GLaDOS. Why yes, thank you, I do so enjoy trying to fight off one of the stronger bad guys while my view is entirely obstructed by the freakin’ CEILING. Or the FLOOR. When fighting the camera follows Logan around like a slavish puppy, despite the supposed right stick control, so most of the time you’re staring at his arse while some giant robot pounds on him with RPGs you can’t see until they hit you because they’re coming from off-camera. This is unfortunate, because you’re supposed to counter projectiles by hitting them back at the source.
Ah yes. Countering. Hit L2 at just the right time to enable a bullet-time segment where you can hit square and perform a special attack. But “the right time” has to be precise to the millisecond, as far as I can tell. Too soon and he merely blocks, and that’s about as exciting and helpful as a dairy cow in the dressage ring.
The power-up bar in this game is rage, and Logan can accumulate rage by killing things or destroying certain items in the landscape. Once enough rage has been accumulated he has access to his superpowers of claw drill, claw cyclone, claw spin or, my personal favourite, berserker mode. He can tell which ones will give him rage because in this game smell-o-vision is a false-colour heat haze affair in which important things have certain colours. Red things are dangerous, yellow things can be destroyed for rage orbs and green things are useful in some way. Rather than the scent trails of the previous game, which made sense, and allowed you to sneak up on unseen enemies and spit them like a pig, this one has funny colours and sort of a blue breeze that indicates where you should go next. Not that you need to be told where to go next because it’s so linear you can’t even go exploring in the scenery a couple of feet from the path. No wandering about for you!
Yes, once more Activision have given us a game in which the scenery really is only scenery. This means it’s not much of a challenge to pick up the bonus items like the figurines that open up the costumes, which is presumably why you then have to complete a near-impossible bonus challenge in order to unlock said costume. Much as I’d like to unlock said costumes, I’m not sure I have the patience or the thumb stamina to fight a version of the character who has unlimited rage and all the combat reflexes of a highly trained cyborg ninja while mine has enough angry to shout at a used teabag and the reflexes of an asthmatic slug.
The gameplay is, thankfully, more varied than Ultimate Alliance 2, in that there are traps to avoid and jumping tests and the occasional puzzle. You can see where they’ve taken some hints and tips from Prince of Persia. The underlying God of War engine is also fairly obvious in the methods of dispatch for the larger, tougher enemies, especially the mutant wendigoes. These are not bad things. I like a bit of variety in my gameplay, which is why I find it so utterly bizarre and frustrating that they should have given us that and yet their combat difficulty is just throwing more and more and more things at Wolverine so he is forced to spend more time dodging and running around looking for a space to allow his healing factor to kick in before his guts spill out.
Generally the difficulty curve goes like this: start a section with a few standard grunts. Meet a whole bunch of grunts with a few of the special elite grunts who are harder to kill. Find yourself in a room with even more of them, plus some of the bastards that need a special move to kill. Fight until your hand aches. Move into a big, empty room where suddenly some new extra-difficult bad guy turns up and says “HAI!” Kill him and three more turn up and all attack at once. Swear a lot. Finally make it through that only to discover that now you’re fair game for all previous bad guys plus the new extra tough bad guys to throw down on you in vast numbers all at the same time. Rinse and repeat.
Frankly this game makes me go “GRRRRRR!” at the telly almost as much as Logan does on it. This is an adult’s game with childishly repetitive combat.
That said, you know, it’s not all bad. The feral senses could have — and should have — been done a lot better but, if you were a bad guy and had the crazy Canucklehead coming after you, would you send just one or two grunts? No. At the end of the day, if you’ve got Wolverine on your territory you send every man you have, armed to the teeth, and tell them not to stop firing until they run out of bullets or are dead.
And they will, trust me, end up dead. For while there are times when I have been reduced to screaming “FOR FUCK’S SAKE JUST DIE, WILL YOU?!” there is something deeply satisfying about going from a room full of mooks to a room full of dismembered mooks. Especially when, as occasionally happens, Logan moves in the blink of any eye from ripping some guy to shreds to answering his phone as if his mum has just called to ask if he’s coming round for dinner.
Ideally this would have had the stealth and the sneaking of the first Wolverine game combined with the potential for wholesale death and destruction on offer here. I should have been able to choose between sneaking up a scent trail for a silent claw through the gut or the incredibly useful lunge (the lunge is, at least while I’m playing, Wolverine’s primary mode of travel). As it is we have a gore-fest blender of a game with occasional challenges based mostly on being fast enough and pressing the right button at the right time. This isn’t a game you can get through without dying, frequently, unlike MUA2: it’s giving me RSI and blisters and is occasionally chuck-the-controller-at-the-telly frustrating. For all its flaws, however, it hasn’t given me the same sense of shocked betrayal that the film did.
It hasn’t, at least not yet, made me cry. Still, I suppose there’s plenty of time.
I’ve got a couple of game reviews for you today. To start with, let’s take a look at Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.
Do I need to repeat the whole Marvel Fan Girl thing? Yes? No? Tell you what, take a look at my Marvel games collection:
Yes. There are two versions of the original Ultimate Alliance. One for PS2 and one for PS3. Guess what. I liked it. A lot.
I mean, there are some real turkeys there. The Official X-Men game at the bottom left is a pile of shite. I can’t put that any more kindly. It is dreadful. Rise of the Imperfects isn’t really any better, but it’s made by EA so I was rather dubious before I bought it.
Y’see, my experience is that Activision are the guys who know how to make good Marvel games. One of my favourite games ever is X-Men: Wolverine’s Revenge, in which the smelly, short, hairy, bad-tempered Canucklehead takes a trip up to Alkali Lake and stealth kills his way most righteously through thousands of mooks and some super villains. Apart from the end level it’s a corker of a game. The end just gets a bit button-mashy frenetic for my tastes.
The series of co-op games that started with X-Men Legends has always been top of our list for acquisition because Frood and I enjoyed the first one so much. It was our first proper co-op game in which we got to beat the crap out of things together. We’ve bought each one since then and, with every iteration, Activision has seen fit to simplify the game and introduce more characters and yet make them more similar.
X-Men Legends had very customisable characters and your choice of spending your XP was very flexible. If you decided you liked one power over another you could preferentially load that one up and ignore the one you didn’t like. You could buy points for a power. You could assign those powers to different buttons. More to the point, the unlockable extreme powers were for each character. There were different items of kit that each character could wear, affecting their abilities and their resistances. It was possible (at least for Frood) to spend almost as much time playing with character levelling as it was fighting bad guys.
Rise of Apocalypse simplified the character levelling, but not so much that we were complaining. It made it less fun but it didn’t stop that aspect of the game being worth spending time on.
The first Ultimate Alliance simplified by a whole order of magnitude. If I were being unkind I might suggest that this was a direct reflection of Jemas’s rather hubris-filled statement that the Ultimates was there to bring success where all the regular Marvel story arcs were falling into a pit of failure constructed out of what-ifs and untold stories (see the statement at the end of The Tomorrow People). Personally, having read nearly all of the Ultimate X-Men, I can’t help but note that the fifteen-year olds who started out in that grew up pretty damn fast, and feel this is unsurprising because, unless you are going to deal realistically with what happens psychologically to child-soldiers, you can’t have child killers at all. Hormonal teenagers running around snogging one minute and slaughtering baddies the next with nary a blink is entirely implausible.
What I’m trying to say is that, for me, the amount of death and destruction in the Marvel Universe, the darkness of characters like Wolverine (epitomised in the Barry Windsor Smith one-shot) and Emma Frost (femme fatale indeed) is too adult on many levels for the sort of “X-Men as teenagers reboot” that the Ultimates tried to provide to be plausible.
Which is only slightly out of context, because it seems to me that the simplification of the Ultimate Alliance games is a direct result of a rather similar attempt to appeal to a more mass or younger audience whereas the early ones were aimed at fans. This despite the fact that the younger players would probably be happier dealing with complex gameplay than a lot of us more — ahem — mature players.
Other than the irritating simplification of character levelling, the gameplay itself has become incredibly linear. Incredibly linear. Do not show me an open door if I can’t enter that room because there’s an invisible barrier of code in the way. I want scenery, not set-dressing. Given the obviously upgraded graphics — the reflections on Iron Man’s suit are glorious — why can’t we have game arenas confined by the walls rather than inevitable plot? We had that in the previous games. Why not this one? If there’s a rooftop I can see and I have a flier, I should be able to go there. While I’m at it, as we have such gorgeous reflections on Iron Man’s suit, why in the hell do the others all look like they’re made out of plasticine?
Where previous games had levels that required certain characters (Ice Man for putting out fires, or fliers for retrieving objects), we merrily hacked, slashed and slaughtered our way through this one without any real thought for character choice. It makes no difference. Gone are the individual extreme powers in favour of this ridiculous “fusion” notion. They claim more than 200 different powers, but really there are only about five, as we discovered by taking every team combination we could through the basic training simulator before we got bored seeing the same thing over and over again. Playing Wolverine and Deadpool to Frood’s Spiderman and Jean Grey (he’s missing Toad and Blade, bless him), we could either suck everyone into a pile and whale on them; get Wolverine to run around in a very homoerotic fashion holding hands with someone else; or have someone pick Wolvie up and chuck him at the bad guy. If you’ve got someone who has beamy powers, including Storm’s lightning, you can add to this a sort of laser-death ray sort of affair.
For true entertainment, though, Susan Storm putting a hamster ball force field around the Thing is worth a shot.
Gone, too, are the individual boosts provided by cunning outfits of gloves and hats and things. Instead we have three slots for team boosts, each of which provides a power like an extra 15% stamina or resistance to fire. These apply to the whole team, not individual members. Rubbish. Just rubbish. You might as well pick three you like and forget about it.
Each level takes an absolute age to load, this being because all the cut scenes are pre-loaded. This is not for your convenience, oh no. This is so, when you inadvertently reach the boundary condition at the end of a segment, the cut scene can whisk you away before you’ve finished smashing all the crates and looking for secrets. Frood and I both swore at the screen a lot over this. We haven’t got all the collectibles. Some of them we haven’t found. Some of them we couldn’t pick up because the cut scene interrupted. On one notable occasion we went from a sewer in Latveria to a boat in New York two weeks later in the space of a second. I mean. What the hell, Activision?
Seriously. WHAT THE HELL, ACTIVISION? What gaming company lets the cut scene stop the players from destroying crates?
Plus points. Let’s find some. Doesn’t take long to play through the first time? Hardly a plus point. The graphics are great. Really they are. The dialogue in-game is pretty good, and the conversations in the headquarter sections between maps are written to be pretty well in character. Spiderman and Deadpool get some great lines. The Civil/Secret War storyline is nice, in that it reflects material that has been going on in continuity, although it’s material that I mostly haven’t read because I don’t have the six-figure income needed to keep up with everything these days (mind you, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Iron Man Nick Fury sent to Latveria, at least not in the Bendis/Del’Otto version). Captain America is voiced by a guy who is apparently trying to sound like Steve Austin, and he looks quite a lot like Steve Austin, so a point for consistency there. (I’m stretching, aren’t I?)
Dammit. I really wanted to like this game. It’s number 4 in a series of games I still dig out and play sometimes. It’s an Activision Marvel game. It should have been freakin’ awesome.
But it wasn’t. The powers are meh, the fusion powers not spectacular or varied enough, the gameplay is frighteningly — I mean, frighteningly — linear. There is no going back after each segment, and if you thought you could hold off the end and make your way back there’s a cut scene waiting to abduct you. You can save and swap characters wherever you like (in the previous games you could only do this at special check points) but there’s no point because the game only saves to the start of a level and there isn’t any need to swap out characters. You don’t have the option of portalling to a previous section of map from the central hubs so you can go back solo to kick some butt and find missing collectibles while your gameplay partner is busy making dinner.
In short, MUA2 is a disappointing outing for Activision that has got me wanting to go back and play X-Men Legends again. Which is a shame, because we liked it so much and have played it through so often that our characters are now too powerful: the game can’t cope and falls over when we try to play it.
It has come to my attention that one of the secret endings (that roll after the credits) indicates that Deadpool’s fate might not have been quite so final.
If anyone gets to see that one, please let me know. I’m going to cling to the idea that Weapon XI wasn’t really Wade. It was a different actor, after all.
I liked the suggestion that one of the endings should have been Deadpool leaning in close to camera and telling the audience “Time to go home now.” That would have been awesome, and made up for the disappointment of his depiction in the rest of the film.
I’m warning you now, there will be spoilers. Just one or two. The problem is that I can’t think of any way to tell you what I really feel without revealing a couple of things that would otherwise come as a complete surprise, especially to the fellow Marvel fans out there. What I’m hoping is that all the fans who are as sad as I am will already have seen it and everyone else won’t give a crap.
However, here’s your chance to look away. Look away now if spoilers concern you.
I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I heard it was being made, which is probably not the best way to approach a film. Marvel’s track record with movie adaptations is fairly hit and miss. The first two X-Men movies were great; the third one was a great big wobbly pile of shite. Iron Man rocked; Spider-Man was emo even before Venom got in on the act. There are two Hulks. Fans disagree which of them was better (me, I go with Edward Norton, in case that makes a difference to you). The less said about Ghost Rider the better, but then the Fantastic Four films were actually not too bad at all.
I’ve seen them all. Mostly opening night, at the cinema. The sight of the Marvel flicker-flack on the big screen puts a grin on my face that would make an orang-utan proud.
I’m not just a Marvel fan girl. I’m a Wolverine fan girl. So for this movie I didn’t even wait for opening night. I went to the special preview advance showing before the official opening, dragging Frood along with me. I take no blame for Rev Will’s attendance. He said he wanted to come. That’s him on the right.
The opening section appeared, initially, to have been lifted from the Origin story arc by Bill Jemas. So far so good. But then, um. WHAT? Say WHAT? Since when was Sabretooth Logan’s brother? Chris Claremont originally intended Sabretooth to be his father, and the source of the long-term enmity the simple fact that Victor didn’t think Logan measured up to the standard he’d set. Canon has since made it clear that Creed isn’t Logan’s father, but he sure as hell ain’t his brother.
Then follows a quick timelapse special of the two boys fighting through various wars (invariably for the Americans, despite Logan fighting for the Canadian army, but whatever, this is Hollywood). I already knew Liev Schreiber had been given the Sabretooth role, despite being about as non-Sabretooth as you can get. The only way they could have cast someone less like Sabretooth would have been to ask Will Smith to do it. Having said that, Schreiber wasn’t as bad as I expected him to be, but I still think they should have gone to the WWE for their casting.
I found Creed’s continual use of “Jimmy” to refer to Logan intensely irritating and totally out of character for both of them. Just, you know, as a by the by.
We come to Vietnam and Creed’s bestiality has been fed by decades of fighting, and yet Logan is still the noble warrior. When Creed attempts to rape a Vietnamese woman his officer tells him to stop. A fight ensues, in which Logan initially tries to protect the woman and then ends up protecting his brother. This theme arises again and again throughout the film: the notion of brotherly loyalty between Wolverine and Sabretooth. I found it totally unbelievable. Sabretooth is the character who takes great delight in the annual Wolverine birthday bash. By which I mean he bashes Wolverine on his birthday. That was the whole Silver Fox thing and… I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Full Metal Jacket this is not. Watchmen this is not. Where the Comedian shoots a pregnant woman in the head and walks away, here our two brothers find themselves in front of a firing squad for assaulting an officer. I wasn’t aware they did that in Vietnam. But still. Whatever.
Apparently it tickled.
They are then recruited by our old friend Stryker, although Brian Cox had the sense to turn down this one. He’s still in military rather than religious guise, so I can’t complain about continuity there. They join an elite group of soldiers, all of whom are mutants, for some purpose that isn’t made clear, although by the end it’s obvious that this was the start of the Weapon X project.
There are three characters in the Marvel universe I follow with any degree of consistency. Wolverine, X23 and Deadpool. The merc with the mouth is simply one of Marvel’s finest creations, and it’s all thanks to Fabian.
I have no idea who the rest of them are. I don’t care. Deadpool! Squee!
There follows an infiltration exercise designed primarily to show off the various powers of these mutants to the audience, and towards the end of this short sequence Ryan Reynolds shows a glimmer of promise. I begin to think that yes, yes, he really could do it. I mean, he’s not horribly mutilated with a face that looks like the inside of a tin of dog food and a voice that sounds like Demi Moore on gravel, and there’s no sign of him recognising the fourth wall, never mind breaking it, but this is pre-Weapon X, right? There’s still time.
But that’s it. That’s your lot. Not even two minutes of a chance to shine. Then our boy Logan takes exception to a bit of violence and walks away to find a new life in the Canadian rockies as a lumberjack with a beautiful schoolteacher girlfriend (who isn’t called Silver Fox). Next thing we know his old squad is dead, and the implication is that Sabretooth is doing it.
What? But I thought… Deadpool? Deadpool? Noes!!!!11!11! He can’t die! Wake up, Deadpool, please wake up!
He does. Eventually. But you’ll wish he hadn’t. It’s just too painful.
Anyway. Then follows a standard Marvel bit of manipulation to get Wolverine back into the Weapon X programme involving murder of loved ones and revenge and all the usual stuff to bring out the animal in him. Yada yada. I’m not going to bother describing it all in detail because it’s all rather predictable. He gets his adamantium — I was disappointed that they toned it down from the stark brutality of Barry Windsor-Smith — and escapes before they can wipe his memory, leaving a trail of bodies as he seeks revenge on his brother.
The plot seems to have taken a pick-n-mix selection from the various story arcs. The Weapon X programme is sort of classic, but mostly Ultimate. In this one the familiar characters from the X-Men films are kids, as they are in the Ultimate series, being used as the basis for experimentation… Sorry. My brain veered dangerously close to what they did to Deadpool and I had to stop and take a few deep breaths or else I’d have been reduced to a quivering heap on the floor, screaming to the heavens “WHY? FOR THE LOVE OF THE LITTLE BABY JEBUS, WHY???!!”
The Blob, usually nothing more than the butt of jokes and someone too foul to generate sympathy, was really nicely done in this film, and for me was one of the high points. Kevin Durand did a very good job with him. I think, basically, that’s one of the reasons this film was so disappointing. The actors all did a remarkable job with the material they were given (apart from Danny Huston as Stryker, who appeared to believe he was working in a straight to TV flick, or was asleep). But the plot was full of holes and inconsistencies; the characters were forced into actions that were simply not like them for anyone at all familiar with canon; the dialogue was at times trite, melodramatic and downright cheesy (that Wolverine and Moon thing was almost enough to make me gag); the fight scenes were often shot unsympathetically and there was just far too much CGI. Especially that bit at the end when Professor Xavier in a Dale Winton tan turned up in Airwolf. The power effects seem to have been taken straight out of Ultimate Alliance (“XXXOO overhead spin kick!”), although that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it worked very well for Gambit and both Frood and I were move-spotting throughout.
I could see where they had levered in bits to “please the fans” but you can’t just take something out of a story arc and drop it into a context that is held together by the araldite and cable-ties of retcon and expect it to work. You can take ideas, principles, tropes or themes and use those, but not plot points. It was obvious and necessary to focus on Wolverine’s battle to be human rather than animal, because that’s the character’s main conflict throughout his various incarnations. It’s fine, even better, to deal with the memory loss in a completely different way because the Weapon X programme isn’t being played out the way it does in the comics. It’s not fine to dump the future complement of the X-Men into cells and then randomly make the White Queen Logan’s girlfriend’s sister. Pulling plot points straight from the comics and juxtaposing them with major retcons is jarring and unsettling for those of us who know the comics. It’s one of the reasons why the third X-Men film fell down (Morrison did the Logan/Jean death scene far better in New X-Men). The other reason was the wasting of one of the best characters of the entire franchise. And Wolverine makes both those mistakes.
It’s a pity, and I have to wonder who’s to blame. The writers? The director? I can’t help but feel you could take the same acting complement, give them the production crew of X2 or Iron Man and you’d have an absolutely stonking movie in which the merc with the mouth would remain the merc with the mouth and I’d have been a very happy girl.
As it is this may not even end up as part of my DVD collection, and the only other Marvel films I don’t own are the ones in the Spider-man series.
Lest you think that my negative reaction is the disappointment of a superfan whose favourite character has been brutally sodomised by the writing crew, I can report that neither of my companions thought it any better and they quite happily tell me I’m a sad Marvel geek.
Let’s hope they manage to do a better job with Avengers, eh?
I bought the game thinking it was going to be a 2-player co-op. Frood would get Spidey and I’d get Wolverine.
I am, as has been said many, many, many times before, a sad Marvel fan girl (which reminds me to get my comics box out so I can check which series featured that Glaswegian whale mutant). I can forgive Marvel many, many, many things. I own Ghostrider on DVD, FFS. I am that sad.
However, I still find the preponderance of the Most Common Superpower somewhat vexing. It’s not because I’m a feminist (as I said a couple of posts ago). It’s because I’m a realist. I will happily suspend disbelief when it comes to Cyclops shooting optical lasers from his eyes or (just about) Logan staying alive trapped in a glacier by eating bits of his own leg because his healing factor made them grow back.
Well… OK. Yes, I have issues with that latter example. Mostly revolving around amino acids. Like I said: I’m a realist. What this means is that I will accept a particular twist on reality. I will accept that Emma Frost can turn to diamond, or Kitty Pryde can phase through walls. I will accept that Logan has adamantium bonded to his skeleton and Jean Gray is pretty much the definition of will not fucking die, but there are some things I can’t accept.
You cannot be an action superhero with 36FF breasts in that outfit.
Here’s for why this makes me want to throw a book at the wall and weep.
I’m 170cm and 63kg (that’s 5’7 and ~140lbs for you imperialists). My chest size is 32DD. I compete in triathlon and participate in long-distance cycling. Half my annual sports budget goes on bras. I would not be able to jog twenty metres without the sort of support offered by the Sportjock Super Sportbra. It would be agony. How Emma Frost, who seems to have a chest size of around 40GG, manages to walk without falling over, never mind fight in outfits that are apparently no more than a couple of pieces of foil wrapped around a ribbon, is utterly beyond me.
Also: figures. I hate to break this to you boys, but while Seven of Nine’s assets are formidable, and all her own work, they are somewhat enhanced by very careful costuming involving seamless internal corsetry. You can’t have strength without muscle. You can’t have muscle and still look like a stick with a couple of peas (or, even worse, watermelons) glued on the front. One of the most unconvincing action heroes of all time was Leeloo from The Fifth Element, but she got away with it by the Power of Cool.
Trust me on this one. If you had a genuine action superhero girl, she would look more like Tessa Sanderson than Sarah Michelle Geller. I’m probably about 10kg (20lbs) heavier than the stated of weight of most women taller than me in movies (anyone remember Vicki Vale claiming to be 108?) but I’m no lard-ass.
The sort of ridiculously low body fat that makes muscles stand out to be counted also results in no boobs. A passing glance at the ranks of female bodybuilders would tell you that. Look at Brigitte Nielson in Red Sonja, back when she looked like she might be able to fight, even though Sandahl Bergman should still have kicked her scrawny ass clear to the other side of Valhalla. Ultra endurance athletes, those skinny whippets who can run for miles and miles and miles: they’re all bone and sinew.
Basically, while I can cope with the leap of faith it takes to accept The Human Torch can fly and Jubilee can generate bursts of fireworks, I can’t cope with the inherent unrealism of the way people are depicted.
Which is why I would like to place Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men up on the pedestal next to Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. I’m not a massive fan of Whedon. I think that he has suffered from the common affliction of successful writers: he has become self-indulgent. However, I’ll give him this: his particular penchant for strong women means that the girls of this series are relatively realistic. Even Emma Frost looks like she might be wearing a push-up bra under there and if she took it off she’d be able to see her own toes. An important ability in an action hero, I’d have thought. John Cassaday, the artist, obviously also deserves a great deal of credit. His semi-realistic style is remarkably effective and sets off Whedon’s realistic dialogue.
Hisako: “Can I help”
Logan: “Are you a beer?”
There are still one or two frames where my inner bra-expert cringed a little, but overall this series is a rare thing: a comic book I can read without having my suspension of disbelief come crashing around my ears in a tangle of missing underwiring and absent corsetry.
Oh yeah. The plot’s not all that bad, either.