A Look Back at X-Men Adventures Season II #4 (1994)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Note: Since this retro review mentions both Russia and Ukraine, I encourage you all to help the people of Ukraine (whose lives have been disrupted by Russian forces) by donating to the Ukraine Appeal project of Hillsong Church. Donate now at https://hillsong.com/appeal/

Welcome back, superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts, X-Men fans and comic book collectors! Today we revisit the X-Men Adventures monthly series which was a literary adaptation of the famous X-Men animated series of the 1990s.

To be more specific, we examine a tale of the major X-Men villain Omega Red within the monthly series adaptation of the 2nd season of the animated series. Take note that I previously reviewed X-Men #4 (1991), X-Men #5 (1992) and X-Men #6 (1992) which told the first tale of Omega Red who turned out to have a history of conflict with Wolverine decades prior.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at X-Men Adventures Season II #4, published by Marvel Comics in 1994 with a story by Ralph Macchio and drawn by John Herbert.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins in the Caucasus located between Ukraine and Georgia. Inside, a group of people work on a scientific operation resulting a power surge. The surge then causes a stasis chamber’s glass to crack. Moments later, Omega Red emerges and he has clear knowledge about who restrained him, who the government leaders and what happened to the Russian empire. He declares that the Russian empire shall live again. In Moscow, three high ranking military officers discuss their secret plan on restoring the Soviet Union. It turns out, the return of Omega Red is the first step for their ambitious plan.

In America, Jubilee encounters a group of activists who hate mutants inside a convenience store. Peter Rasputin/Colossus, the Russian mutant who encountered the X-Men sometime prior, comes into the store to help Jubilee. Afterwards, Jubilee and Colossus travel to Charles Xavier’s mansion – Xavier’s School for Gifted Children – and discuss important matters. He tells her that Omega Red has emerged in Russia and he need to speak to Professor X. It turns out, Xavier disappeared some weeks prior.

As the situation is so desperate for Colossus, he asks Jubilee if she would help him in his struggle to save his nation. Jubilee makes a hasty decision to do so and leaves a handwritten note telling her teammates that she is off to Russia…

Quality

Colossus and Jubilee in Russia.

While this comic book’s cover art easily reminds me of the Wolverine-Omega Red confrontation on the cover of X-Men #5 (1992), the story here is more varied than that mentioned comic book drawn by Jim Lee. As this is an adaptation of the X-Men animated series episode titled “Red Dawn”, it is not surprising to see the spotlight being divided by many characters.

Omega Red, who has been declared as one of the greatest X-Men villains ever, has a somewhat strong presence serving as the main figure of opposition against Charles Xavier’s team as well as the surviving elite remnant of the Soviet Union. Quite amusingly, Omega Red is totally loyal to the Russian empire similar to how James Bond is very loyal to England and the queen. In comparison to issues #4 to #6 of the X-Men monthly series, the history of conflict between Omega Red and Wolverine was very lightly portrayed.  

Wolverine and Omega Red in battle!

As mentioned earlier, the spotlight is shared a lot by many characters which results a lack of a true protagonist among the X-Men. This is not necessarily a problem as Omega Red’s presence had enough strength. The other Russian Colossus, who at the start of the story has not yet joined the X-Men, got a good share of the spotlight among the good guys and that results some quick and efficient exposition to get readers oriented with him, his family and how he became an outcast in his nation because of his mutation.

The plot itself is light on details which is not surprising due to the high amount of exposition which includes a geopolitical look at the remaining loyalists of the Soviet Union living in Russia which saw some of its regions transformed into republics. With regards to superhero spectacle, this one has a good amount of action and I can easily say the biggest attraction is the fight between Wolverine and Omega Red. Just don’t expect it to be as extensive nor as detailed as the ones Jim Lee drew in the adjective-less X-Men series.  

Conclusion

John Herbert’s take on Omega Red was carefully crafted.

X-Men Adventures Season II #4 (1994) is a fun superhero story to read and I find its portrayal of the Wolverine-Omega Red conflict to be interesting knowing it was not part of comic book canon of the time. Apart from the mentioned conflict, there is something for X-Men fans to enjoy here such as Colossus’ return and his new interactions with the X-Men, how Omega Red’s presence causes danger in Russia, and the current whereabouts of Charles Xavier. Lastly, I should state that John Herbert’s art style is engaging to look at and he made Omega Red look intimidating.

Overall, X-Men Adventures Season II #4 (1994) is recommended!

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Crystal Dynamics partners with The Initiative on developing Xbox-exclusive Perfect Dark reboot

There sure was a lot of buzz that rocked the Xbox gamers community. This was about the breaking and very surprising news that the Square Enix-owned game developer Crystal Dynamics (best known for the Tomb Raider trilogy of 2013-2018) has joined Xbox game studio The Initiative as a partner on the development of the Perfect Dark reboot being made exclusively for Xbox platforms.

The Initiative and Crystal Dynamics are co-producing Perfect Dark.

To put things in perspective, posted below is the excerpt from PureXbox.com’s article. Some parts in boldface…

Here’s some breaking news – The Initiative has announced it will be partnering with Crystal Dynamics to help it bring the new Perfect Dark game to the next generation.

Crystal Dynamics is best known for series such as Tomb Raider and was also behind the Square Enix project Marvel’s Avengers. In a follow-up tweet, The Initiative noted how the game was still “early in development”.

Although Crystal Dynamics has a lot of history with third-person action titles, it’s worth noting how this new entry in the Perfect Dark series is still being referred to as a “first-person” spy thriller.

Eurogamer has also pointed out how The Initiative was originally founded by the former Crystal Dynamics boss Darrel Gallagher, and how Tomb Raider reboot director Daniel Neuburger is also part of the Perfect Dark team.

Posted below are the tweets from The Initiative and Crystal Dynamics…

Read closely.

Furthermore, Xbox chief Phil Spencer stated on Twitter: Great to see continued momentum and progress on PD. Thrilled to have Crystal Dynamics partnering with The Initiative.

While it is indeed surprising that another game developer, not owned by Team Xbox, would come in to assist in the production of the upcoming Perfect Dark, it still makes sense not just because The Initiative’s Gallagher and Neuberger used to work for Crystal Dynamics, but also because the ambitious Xbox game studio (formed in 2018) was meant to be small and agile (additional reference here) and be able to work with partners on the production side of things of projects. The Initiative clearly does not have the workforce of 100 to 200 people it needs to make Perfect Dark and that is exactly where the Square Enix-controlled game developer comes in.

Remember Lost Odyssey, the very memorable Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) exclusive on Xbox 360? A lot of gamers remember Mistwalker as the developer of that game in relation to Hironobu Sakaguchi’s (AKA Final Fantasy creator) involvement and studio leadership, and yet the other team involved – Feelplus – is often overlooked. The other Xbox 360-exclusive JRPG Blue Dragon had Mistwalker and Artoon as co-developers. Artoon did much of the software development work.

Going back to Perfect Dark, I speculate that The Initiative will be more focused on the game’s overall design, the planned gaming concept and supervision with Crystal Dynamics doing the software development and other technical aspects of production.  The most recent Crystal Dynamics-developed games I played were the first two games of the Tomb Raider reboot trilogy…the 2013 game on Xbox 360 and the first sequel on Xbox One. I also played Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One but that game was mainly developed by Eidos-Montréal. I should state that I had the most fun playing the Tomb Raider games made by Crystal Dynamics even though Shadow of the Tomb Raider had new gameplay features.

While Marvel’s Avengers clearly received a mixed reception from video game review writers and even cost Square Enix a bundle of money, there is still no reason to worry about Crystal Dynamics negatively affecting the development of Perfect Dark. On the contrary, Team Xbox granted its game studios a lot of creative freedom along with continuous funding which I believe will benefit both Crystal Dynamics and The Initiative on making the Xbox-exclusive reboot. The internal attitudes and atmosphere of producing Perfect Dark will be totally different from that of Marvel’s Avengers. I would not be surprised to see Crystal Dynamics learn from their shortcomings during the making of the superhero video game with Square Enix. It should be noted that Gallagher’s history of work and management with Crystal Dynamics will ensure a bond of trust between the Tomb Raider developer and The Initiative. Trust between the collaborators is essential to ensure production will progress and be completed on time. The speculation that Perfect Dark’s production is in trouble (leading to Crystal Dynamics’ involvement) is just nonsense!

With The Initiative and Crystal Dynamics now co-producing the return of Joanna Dark, we can only wait until the next big update of the game gets released. Perhaps at E3 of 2022?

In closing this piece, posted below are Xbox-related videos for your viewing pleasure.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Dazzler #2 (1981)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back, superhero enthusiasts, comic collectors, 1990s culture enthusiasts and fans of Marvel Comics! Way back in 1981, Marvel Comics had a successful comic book series launch with Dazzler #1 (read my retro review by clicking here) which sold over 400,000 copies and further sealed Dazzler as an advantageous addition for the company’s superhero comics franchise. Dazzler, a creation of a deal between Marvel and a certain record company, debuted in Uncanny X-Men #130 and got involved with the X-Men until Uncanny X-Men #131. Dazzler appeared with Marvel’s famous webslinger in Amazing Spider-Man #203.

Dazzler #1 ended with a brewing rivalry between the title character and Enchantress. With those laid down, here is a look back at Dazzler #2, published in 1981 by Marvel Comics with a story written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by John Romita, Jr.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Dazzler preparing for her big show at Numero Uno, a prestigious disco in the city of New York. Just before the show starts, a huge crowd of people are in attendance and among them are Wolverine, Peter Parker (Spider-Man), Captain America, Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm and Tony Stark (Iron Man) to name some.

Just as Dazzler appears on-stage and draws a frenzied applause from the audience, the revenger-hungry Enchantress slowly makes her moves to ruin the lady who outclassed her to be the main attraction of the club. Even with her desire for revenge, the Enchantress decides to use her magic sparingly on Dazzler. In the audience, Peter Parker/Spider-Man begins to sense something is about to happen…

Quality

This shows what this comic book is really about.

The way the story was told is disappointing. This is because the spotlight on Dazzler and her anticipated conflict with the Enchantress got overwhelmed by the amount of superhero filler on the narrative. To be clear, it is fun and interesting to see a mix of the varied superheroes of Marvel together but this comic book ended up being an all-star showcase (X-Men, Avengers and Fantastic Four members included) than a real, standalone Dazzler story. In fairness, Tom DeFalco showed how skilled he is with plot structuring and capturing the personalities and tropes of the different superheroes (note: unsurprisingly, DeFalco accurately captured Spider-Man’s personality and he went on to be a major force behind Spider-Man comic books) but that does not change the fact that this comic book should have been more about Dazzler.

When it comes to the conflict between Dazzler and the Enchantress, it was executed with no depth at all. Literally speaking, there is not enough meat to consume here and it the conflict really ended up looking very rushed. As if that was not bad enough, there is not enough justification to show Dazzler defeating a monster summoned by the Enchantress.  Considering how shallow the Dazzler-Enchantress match-up turned out, it’s no wonder why there is so much Marvel all-star filler in the script.

As for the late-stage attempt to shift the narrative back to Dazzler, it is rather over-the-top and unsatisfying.

Conclusion

You recognize someone in the audience?

Dazzler #2 (1981) is an example about a creative team’s lack of confidence on crafting a decent story to develop a new superhero and ultimately resorting to fill it with a mix of other superheroes involved which itself symbolizes desperation. This comic book is not really a Dazzler story but an all-star showcase with Dazzler becoming a minor character in her own monthly series.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Dazzler #2 (1981), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $28 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $60.

Overall, Dazzler #2 (1981) is unsatisfactory. Anyone who loves Dazzler or who wishes to discover more of her will be disappointed with this comic book.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Dazzler #1 (1981)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back, superhero enthusiasts, comic collectors, 1990s culture enthusiasts and fans of Marvel Comics! Previously, I reviewed Uncanny X-Men #130 which was the first appearance of Dazzler who went on to become one of the most notable new characters of Marvel Comics in the 1980s. After appearing in Uncanny X-Men #131 and Amazing Spider-Man #203, Dazzler became more prominent among all of Marvel’s superheroes as the publisher launched an all-new monthly series featuring her. There is more to that than meets the eye, however.

In his article titled “Dazzler and Me”, Danny Fingeroth wrote: Marvel decided to tray an experiment with the relatively new “direct market” – comic book shops. It was decided that Dazzler #1 would only be available in comic book shops, not at traditional newsstands.

Dazzler #1 sold over 400,000 copies.

Even the top-selling comics of the era sold perhaps 250,000 copies. So, the first issue, anyway, was a major hit.

Apart from the confirmed commercial success of the comic book, it is a wonder if it is still good to read by today’s standards. To find out, here is a look back at Dazzler #1, published in 1981 by Marvel Comics with a story written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by John Romita, Jr.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Dazzler running away from four armed men who had been following her since she left the disco. She finds herself corned at the dead end of an alley as the men approach her. While pretending to be reaching for her make-up in the bag, Dazzler grabs and activates her portable radio which plays music. With the music turned on, she uses her power to convert it all into a dazzling display of light and color which makes the men disoriented.

While swinging nearby, Spider-Man notices the display of light but before he begins his approach, Dazzler makes her move to knock two men out. Another man fires his gun and his bullet ricochets until it hits the portable radio stops the music and Dazzler’s lights altogether leaving her vulnerable once again…

Quality

This page alone establishes Dazzler as a person struggling to make ends meet.

As far as telling a Dazzler story goes, this comic book is the complete package and it’s got very solid writing! Apart from showing what happened to her after her appearances in the Uncanny X-Men and Amazing Spider-Man series, this comic book formally introduces Dazzler in her civilian identity as Alison Blaire and thanks to efficient writing, it also reveals threads of her past and how her mutant powers manifested. Not only that, readers will get to see the title character as a typical person who is struggling to make ends meet even though she does her best with entertainment as a career.

Strangely, the focus on Dazzler is relatively light in content and the result is several pages of Marvel universe-related filler which shows several other characters like Captain America, Iron Man, Storm, Wolverine and others present with little to no connection with the title character. The X-Men scene is a nice touch as it will remind readers about Dazzler’s first interaction with them.

As a teenager, Alison Blaire’s power begins to manifest during this particular event in her life.

To build-up the first challenge for Dazzler, this comic book has the Enchantress as the villainess and ironically it also had some room of character development for her. Clearly this was done not only to build up anticipation for the next issue but to make readers root for Dazzler some more. In retrospect, the Enchantress would later emerge as an important figure in 1984’s crossover storyline Secret Wars.

Conclusion

The scene involving the X-Men is a nice touch as it connects with Dazzler’s previous interaction with them.

While it is indeed a product of the early 1980s carrying influences from the 1970s New York club scene, Dazzler #1 (1981) is still fun and engaging to read. Clearly this comic book is a must-have for anyone who loves Dazzler and it should be entertaining enough for geeks who love the 1980s and the Marvel-related crossovers of the time. Very clearly, this comic book succeeded in introducing and developing Dazzler as a person (as opposed to being a super hero) and the background story established fits in nicely with the character’s first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #130. Very clearly, there is a lot more to Dazzler than her unique super power and her disco look.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Dazzler #1 (1981), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the comic book costs $70.

Overall, Dazzler #1 (1981) is highly recommended!

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Looking good on the way to Xbox Series consoles launch, Part 5

The past few weeks, I’ve been discussing the launch games lineup and future games for Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, the significance of backward compatibility the new consoles have and the tremendous impact of the Xbox-Bethesda deal on the games industry as a whole.

Today, I saw Zalker 87’s YouTube video focused on the fact that Team Xbox hired several game developers from Sony to beef up the growing roster of very experienced game makers in The Initiative, the one Xbox Games Studios team that Microsoft established in 2018 to create great, big-budget games for the Xbox ecosystem. To say the least, the future for Xbox fans and gamers in general is looking very promising, and the fun will start with the launch of Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X on November 10, 2020. Watch the video below…

A lot really has been going on at the side of Team Xbox. Apart from the many developments that resulted from the Xbox-Bethesda deal, Microsoft continues to pour in more funds into the many game projects under production from the many game studios under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella, and hire more people to work on their projects. Clearly Obsidian Entertainment, Ninja Theory, inXile, The Coalition, 343 Industries, Playground Games, Turn 10 and other 1st party studios of Team Xbox are all busy making their respective games right now!

To put things in perspective, Sony and its first-party PlayStation teams have a solid track record of producing high-quality, fun-loaded, story driven 3rd person action-adventure games which went on to receive huge acclaim from the game critics and sold a lot. Such games are what are sorely lacking on the side of Team Xbox and it only made sense for Microsoft to use its massive resources to hire the great game makers from Sony’s 1st party studios and put them in The Initiative.

The logo of the all-star team The Initiative.

More on The Initiative, the studio recently hired more talents from Sony’s acclaimed studio Naughty Dog: Lee Davis who worked previously as the head of melee animation and Lauren Garcia who was the character shading technical director. Under The Initiative, Davis is the lead gameplay animator while Garcia is the senior shading technologies executive. The two former Naughty Dog experts were involved in the production of Sony’s The Last of Us: Part 2. In a Twitter post, Garcia expressed happiness about joining The Initiative calling it an incredible team. He thanked Xbox chief Phil Spencer as well.

Before hiring the two former Naughty Dog experts, Microsoft also hired Christian Cantamessa whose best known work was writing (as lead writer) Red Dead Redemption for Rockstar Games, Brian Westergaard (the lead producer on God of War), Remi Lacoste (director of Marvel’s Avengers and Shadow of The Tomb Raider), Christine Thompson (the lead writer for Destiny 2) plus many others which The Initiative studio head Darrell Gallagher confirmed.

As you can see, The Initiative is literally an all-star team of very experienced and high achieving game makers who were previously involved in blockbuster games as well as other ambitious projects. Their first project still has not been revealed so far, although it has been alleged that it could be related to the Perfect Dark franchise which Microsoft owns. Whatever story concept it will have, whatever game design it will come with (note: I personally expect a 3rd person action-adventure in design with a cinematic feel and highly advanced animation for immersion) and whatever new characters it will introduce, you can bet that The Initiative’s expected first game will catch a lot of attention once Team Xbox makes the official unveiling of it. When and where? We don’t know and only Phil Spencer knows.

Ultimately, The Initiative is contributing to Xbox Game Studio’s upcoming wave of high-quality, 1st party video games that will be released for each of the next five years through the Xbox ecosystem (targeting users of Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Windows 10 PC and mobile phones supported by Project xCloud). In other words, Sony and its PlayStation division have serious competition coming.

In ending this, posted below are assorted gaming-related videos for your learning and excitement for the next-generation! Do not forget that Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X will launch on November 10, 2020!

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more Xbox-related stuff, check out the Xbox Series Philippines Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/XboxOnePH