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Logan: The End of an Era

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If you’re one of the movie goers who contributed to Logan’s $85.3 million domestic opening over the weekend, then this review is for you. For everyone else, you may want to go see Logan before reading. The following article Logan: The End of an Era will contain spoilers. This will be your only warning. Clear? Good. Now that we have that bit of business out of the way, I wanna talk about the movie everyone else is talking about. That’s right if you haven’t guessed it, I was one of the nerds…sorry, geeks who ventured and braved the crowds to see Logan. I sat shoulder to shoulder with friends and strangers to witness the end of an era. Which era? The Wolverine, or at least Hugh Jackman’s portrayal as one of the more popular characters in the X-Men lexicon. And let’s face it, this may very well be the end of the character Logan as well, for the time being. At this stage, I don’t see anyone else picking up the reins and having much chance of success. But, that’s a conversation for another day. As I said, I wanna talk about Logan.

Here’s a quick synopsis from the always loveable IMDb:

“In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.”

Not a bad synopsis, as simple as the basic premise and catalyst of the film itself. Better than the typical three words they usually give movies. And they’re not wrong, as the movie opens, the year is 2029, and sleeping Logan is woken by a gang on the Texas-Mexico border attempting to steal his tires. Logan stumbles on the scene and gives a somewhat slurred warning for the would-be “bad guys” to do themselves a favor and take off.  On par with what most red shirts do, they ignore his warning and shoot him down. A typical setup for any superhero action movie. But there’s somewhat different here. Something amiss. Wolverine isn’t getting up as fast as he used to. He’s taking a lot more punches until he’s basically driven into an animal like state, lashing out wildly and somewhat lazy. EVenutally in what would have normally taken him seconds, he finally dispatches the would-be thieves, jumps back into his car (a limo BTW), and takes off. He stops at a nearby gas station and runs into the bathroom to clean himself up. It’s here we see more evidence that something is not right with our beloved hero. His body is riddled with poorly healed scars. Marks that would have in the past healed over in a blink of the eye, are now a visible roadmap who his harsh existence.

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So, I’m not going to do a play for play on this review. If you’ve seen it, then you already know what happens.

For the most part, Logan (as a movie) felt very familiar. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Wolverine as the reclusive hero or even the reluctant hero. In just about all the movies thus far in which Wolverine makes an appearance, he has been the grumpy cigar smoking asshole everyone loves, except for in Days of Future Past (my favorite X-Men movie) in which he took lead role as the dominant leader of the pack, and of course his cameo in X-Men Apocalypse, one of the few highlights of that movie where they finally got the Weapon-X story arch right. Tell me I’m wrong, but besides those two movies, has not Wolverine always been the “reluctant hero?” And that’s okay. It’s his MO. What it really means is that director James Mangold will have to work twice as hard not to bore the shit out of long time fans. Something he wasn’t quite able to do in his first foray with Wolverine in The Wolverine (2013), which to be fair was much better than the previous Wolverine movies, the duo bust that-shall-not-be-named (Last Stand and Origins), he still fumbled a bit with the ending. The majority of The Wolverine was pretty good, I thought. Bringing Logan out of his guilt and into his true purpose as a soldier/warrior.

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Carrying into Logan, Mangold brings the evolution of this “warrior’s tale” to its final conclusion, in a movie that works as both a western and as a dystopian without having to resort to a dismal apocalyptic future. No, the Sentinels are not to blame. Nor is Bolivar Trask. Or even Col. Striker…well, perhaps his legacy is to blame for some of it. No, the real bombshell is that it was Xavier’s degenerative brain disease that is to fault in the so-called “Westchester Event,” as he called it in an impromptu confession of sorts, to the deaths of the mutants, or at least the X-Men. Most of the backstory is left to interpretation and not filled in with lazy narration or exposition. This “revelation,” just before Xavier’s final moments, reveals that this is NOT just another reluctant hero movie, this isn’t a rinse and repeat from Mangold’s first go with Wolverine back in 2013. Logan was a hero, he was a warrior and a soldier, but after witnessing the deaths of his friends, an event that would send any hero Helter Skelter, he’s simply lost his purpose, his banner…now set on caring for himself, and also an ailing aged Professor, and of course Caliban is there too.  Can you image?He’s caring for the man who killed his friends, not malevolently of course, to no one’s fault but the disease. Still…what a burden, right? Enough to make anyone a selfish prick.

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So, the motivation makes sense, and though they make stem from the same vein as previous films, the differences make all the difference. Logan is a wounded, dying animal driven into a corner, and as such furiously defends himself and his very selective circle. But then a strange woman arrives and begs for that “hero,” the legend that this Wolverine, to return and help guide a young mutant, Laura (who happens to be his daughter), played wonderfully by Dafne Keen, to a place called Eden on the Canadian border. Eden is a place mentioned in a comic book, along with a set of GPS coordinates. But Eden doesn’t really exist, and it does exist. This part of the story was kinda brilliant, playing off audience expectations. Seeing an X-Men comic, kinda fourth wall; kinda not, showcasing a sentimental view of the X-Men and this place called Eden, which Logan constantly tells Laura doesn’t exist because it’s in a comic book, therefore fictional, and then, in the end, Eden does exist, but not in the way audiences may have expected. Eden was simply a rondevu point for the escaped children who were part of an initiative designed to re-create the Weapon-X program, the same program that gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton and claws.

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From here the conclusion is drawn in the sand. Thanks to the children, and some hair trimmings, Logan becomes what he was always meant to be. Not a warrior for hire, but a hero. A very angry and very very violent hero, facing off against what he could have become had he remained in the original Weapon-X program, a rampaging, feral, mindless killing machine. This clone aspect was interesting and very symbolic, forced to square off against one’s past, a somewhat distorted mirror image. For a moment, I thought X-24 looked somewhat like Sabertooth from that dreadful Origins movie with the mutton chops. For a story arch this long, spanning seventeen years, the ending of Logan was exactly how it should have ended. Just like with the “what happened to all the mutants” question, the “why isn’t Logan healing” is also kind of fill in the blanks. The assumption I think is that Logan is suffering from some sort of long-term exposure to adamantium. his healing factor is all but burnt out now. Knowing this, we should have known going into this movie that Wolverine was not going to ride off into the sunset. This was his last mission, not to save the future, but to give the future a chance. While sad, the ending is fitting, as Laura and the other children bury Logan, marking his grave with a wooden X, and running off into an unknown destiny.
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I’m sure more will be said regarding all those metaphors and symbolisms we grazed over about family and parenthood or fatherhood, and all that. For now, let me close this review with one final summation. Why did “they” have to get Wolverine right on the FINAL movie??? Seriously. Finally, as audiences would no doubt want more, we’re given the last bill. The emotional setup was near-perfect, opening the curtains by giving us a brief look at Deadpool 2, everyone laughing and then closing the curtains with Logan’s death and an uncertain future for a new generation of mutants. And the no after credit scene added to the realization, this was it. Perhaps not the end of the X-Men, but certainly the end of an era.

My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars. 

Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of dark fiction. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He is published with The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. His debut novel, Reinheit, is published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein and Apocalypse Meow. His military/paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, both Dwelling and Emerging and Conceiving, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can keep up with Thomas and all his strange books by joining his author newsletter, at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

Get your copy of The Hobbsburg Horror for only $2.99!!!

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Killer Croc: a few things you might want to know

Just this past week the biggest announcement to date was released regarding the casting of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (LOST) as the one and only Killer Croc. Okay…so maybe not the biggest news concerning the upcoming live-action adaptation of Suicide Squad. Perhaps you might consider Jared Leto as The Joker to be the biggest news. Or maybe Will Smith as Deadshot. Well…as terrifying and dastardly as The Joker and Deadshot may be, Killer Croc remains my favorite among the Batman universe villains. Killer Croc is easily twice as frightening as any other baddie. And not just because of his appearance, no. But because of who and what he is — how he came to be, and what he remains, human at our most basic level. Here’s a little skinny on Killer Croc. Just a few things you might want to know:

Mutation

Killer Croc was born…different. A genetic disorder that gave him his reptilian appearance. As he grew older his strength increased and he found he had the ability to regenerate. However, regeneration came with a cost. Each time, according to comic book lore, Killer Croc uses his gift he becomes more animalistic or reptilianistic, if you will. Not just in behavior but in appearance as well. My first introduction to Killer Croc was in Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), however, in that series he was not very impressive. Just some grey looking dude with a bad attitude. My second introduction to Killer Croc was my favorite because he was at his lowest most primal state, in Batman: Arkham Asylum. I can still remember the feeling of both awe and dread, thinking: ‘I have to face off with this dude later? Jeezzus!’ But underneath it all, Killer Croc is still human, despite his appearance or behavior, no matter how much he wants people to think otherwise.

History

Killer Croc wasn’t always Killer Croc. He was Waylon Jones, for a time. A classic trademark of Batman villains, Mr. Jones was not born a monster, but became one through years of abuse and torment. In his case, because of his monstrous outward appearance. In fact, according to comic book lore, “Killer Croc” was a nickname bullies gave him when he was just a boy. Eventually, Waylon disappeared and only Killer Croc remained. He’d spend the majority of his young adult life in reform schools or behind bars. After prison, he joined a traveling circus and performed by wrestling giant alligators to the death under his destined name, Killer Croc. This is the background I hope writers use in casting Killer Croc in Suicide Squad, the circus performer gone rogue. But its doubtful they’ll make use of his history. There is a point in some of the comic storytelling where Killer Croc tries to take over the mob in Gotham. When that plan fails, not just because of Batman’s heroics, but because Bane breaks his arms, he pulls a stint in Arkham Asylum. After escaping, he flees into the sewers, becoming even more bestial, and consuming human flesh.

Suicide Squad

To the best of my knowledge, Killer Croc was never in any of the old Suicide Squad comics and his role in the film has been undefined, for the time being. However, there has been a directorial tease regarding where the new upcoming movie will take us, Arkham Asylum. As mentioned above, in the hit 2009 video game with the similar title, Asylum could very well be the place Suicide Squad bumps into Killer Croc. As much as I would love for the big baddie to have a larger role in the film, I have a gut feeling he’ll just be making an appearance or playing a part through a small portion of the film. Say, prison escape or something like that. Discovering Killer Croc in Arkham will be the best way to introduce this largely unfamiliar character to larger audiences. As Arkham is both dark and creepy, it would make the perfect setting to showcase the monstrous Killer Croc. The movie is set to release next year, but hopefully we’ll get more details as they become available.

Who is YOUR favorite Batman baddie? Let us know in the comment section below!


comiCulture: a comic symposium

Thought i’d offer some new local nerd news this morning. Coming September 21st, 2013 @ University of Houston, Clear Lake location, the universities art department is hosting the first ever comic symposium. Exhibits are running through October 18th, but the main event will be next Saturday from 10 AM till 4 PM. But this isn’t your normal comic-con, where focus is given to characters and stories; at this convention, the focus will be geared towards aspiring artists and the trade they love. Some of the more notable panels include: comic narration, illustration, and a rare opportunity to have YOUR portfolio reviewed by seasoned comic industry veterans.  What more could you ask for, right? Oh, and its absolutely, 100% free!!!

Curious on who the panelists are? University of Houston comiCulture will feature: Leroy Brown (Ice Cubes), David Doub (Dusk Comics), Charles Martin (Literati Press), Mark Nasso (Land of the Rats), James O’Barr (The Crow), Terry Parr (Shonuff Studio), Bruce Small (Transyltown), Maurice Terry Jr. (Bad Cog), Terry Wagner (Mental Diversions Studio), and Gary Watson (After Twilight), to name a few. comiCulture is proudly sponsored by local comic book shop Bedrock City Comics and lavish Candlewood Suites. You can reserve your seat at the panels and check for more information @ http://www.comiculture.org

The UHCL Art Gallery and the Garden Room are on the first floor of the Bayou Building.

University of Houston-Clear Lake
2700 Bay Area Blvd.
Houston, TX 77058

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Happy Birthday America

For me nothing says America quite like Captain Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. Created during WWII, the Cap was one of the most popular characters of the 40’s. He gave an identity, a face, a model for good verses evil (via The Red Skull). Even in the recent film, The First Avenger took both old and new audiences into the murky depths of the Second World War and showed us the virtue of a true hero. Unfortunately, during the McCarthy era (1950’s) the Cap’s popularity waned. The 50’s proved to be one of the most paranoid decades our country has ever seen, regarding the Second Red Scare, and when hero’s such as Captain American would have been beneficial, we simply didn’t know who we could trust, specially folks representing the government. Fortunately, for us, the Cap was reborn, or defrosted I should say, during the 60’s in the face of Americas largest and bloodiest battlefield, Vietnam. The Cap has remained in circulation ever since with even more dramatic story arches, remaining a figure for good in a world where good and evil are constantly blurred.

Captain America remains one of my favorite Marvel characters, even in the star packed Avengers film. The best line from The First Avenger has to be between the small Rogers and Dr. Erskine. When asked if Rogers wanted to kill Nazis, Steve replied: “I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullets. I don’t care where their from.” I can’t quite say why this line gets me, except because, perhaps here, Steve hints at the true nature of heroes. Heroes do not seek out violence, but they also don’t back down in the face of danger. Captain America alludes to how, I suspect, many American troops have felt over the past two hundred or so years. Democracy doesn’t seek out fights, but sometimes, in the face of oppression, we gotta do what we gotta do, like knocking out Hitler over 200 times!

With that being said, Happy Birthday America and everyone have a safe and celebratory 4th of July.

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