The Moira World Order

Don’t you just love it when your interests cross over? Or when different things you follow become analogies for each other?

That’s what happened to me today. I was thinking about the current state of the X-Men comic books and it reminded me immediately of one of the most famous professional wrestling storylines.

House of X Cover with NWO logo

Up until a few decades ago, professional wrestling was regional. The country was divided into territories run by promoters who stuck to their established boundaries. Anytime a sanctioned champion would meet another territory’s champion, the match would end in a draw. That all ended in the 80s when the WWF went national, eating up most of the \ territories. The WWF’s only competition was World Championship Wrestling, an Atlanta-based outfit that lacked the WWF’s production values or mainstream recognition.

Growing up, I was a WWF fan. I mostly ignored WCW, even after they signed Hulk Hogan, the biggest name in wrestling (by now Hogan’s act had gone stale and allegations of steroid abuse tarnished his character). But they did capture my attention briefly when two WWF wrestlers, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, signed with WCW. Hall and Nash appeared on WCW TV acting as if they were still employed by the WWF, there to take over their former company’s rival. The storyline was a throwback to the old territory days. You really believed they were there on behalf of the WWF and a lot of their (scripted) promos mentioned things usually left unsaid in the wrestling world. What Hall and Nash were doing was a seismic change in wrestling. And the story just kept getting better.

After a month of trash talking WCW, Hall and Nash challenged three of the company’s top stars to fight them and a mystery partner. The buildup was huge. Going into the match, no one knew who the third man would be. Most people suspected any of WCW’s stars who had previously worked in the WWF. Others suspected that WCW had signed another WWF defector. (Here’s another thing about mystery partners: 99 percent of the time, they’re extremely underwhelming- either a wrestler in a mask or an old wrestler coming out of retirement).

All was revealed near the end of the main event of Bash at the Beach ’96. Hall and Nash wrestled without their partner, holding their own. Then Hulk Hogan, the biggest name in wrestling, the most good of the good guys ever, started his way to the ring. He got in the ring and immediately attacked the WCW crew, aligning himself with Hall and Nash. After the match, Hogan proclaimed the group the New World Order. Their goal was simple: to take over WCW.

Just like that, the biggest storyline in wrestling got bigger. They sold millions of dollars worth of merchandise, and helped put WCW over WWF for the first time in many fans eyes. The turn of Hogan was huge. The idea of Hall and Nash invading WCW was huge. American wrestling fans hadn’t seen anything like it ever.

So what’s all this got to do with the X-Men?

House of X Title

For the past ten years or so, the X-Men, once Marvel Comics’ star franchise, has been stuck in a cycle of circumspection and languor. While there have been some very creative people working hard crafting entertaining stories, overall, the X-family has been on Marvel’s back burner, jobbing out to other groups, namely the Avengers and the Inhumans, for the benefit of those superhero teams.

Earlier this year, Marvel announced an ambitious plan for the future of the X-Men. Writer Jonathan Hickman would take the reins of the team, cancelling a number of X-books to refocus the line. The first part of Hickman’s multi-year plan involved a 12-week period involving two alternating titles, House of X and Powers of X, which would give the X-Men a new direction while making users take a different look at the team’s past.

We’re in the sixth week of this first period and Hickman’s books are a shakeup comparable to Hall and Nash first showing up on WCW television. They tread new ground for the team- adding a new twist to the team’s past while at the same time adding a mystery to their present and allowing readers to see possible futures. There are plot devices whose full impact have not yet been revealed and many questions. Thankfully, there are some visual aids in the books spelling out some of the details of Hickman’s new world.

Before the launch of the books, Marvel promoted the hell out of the Hickman’s run, going so far as to make the seemingly hyperbolic claim in the ad below- that the depicted scene was the most important in the history of the X-Men.

House of X/Powers of X promo

But the thing is, after week three, many fans were on board with Marvel’s claims. And it all goes back to the other part of the NWO formula- the mystery partner.

In the X-Men’s case, it was Moira MacTaggert. Moira was a human character introduced in the 1970s. While she played a role in a few major storylines, she was never an integral part of the X-Men. She was just there. Kind of like Hulk Hogan in WCW before the NWO.

But Hickman changed all that. House of X issue 2 explained that Moira (or Moira X) was a mutant after all, with the gifts of her mutation being undetectable and reincarnation with full memory of her past lives. Once she realized she was a mutant, Moira used her lives to attempt to cure mutations, fight alongside Xavier, fight alongside Magneto, fight alongside Apocalypse, assassinate humans responsible for the extermination of mutants and other pursuits. Even though readers don’t know the specifics of Moira’s first nine lives, we learn each time, no matter what Moira did, human-created machines were responsible for wiping out mutantkind. It was Moira’s mission to stop this.

Moira making a killing

So finally, in life ten (or life X), Moira decides to do what she did in the panels making up the most important scene in the history of the X-Men. She opens her mind fully to Charles Xavier, showing him each and every one of those previous lives. The small triumphs and the larger tragedies. And then the readers realize what this series is about- the history of the X-Men we know has been part of Moira and Charles’ plan so that mutants can thrive.

Hickman’s issues (so far) have drawn near-universal acclaim. The X-Men feel like the hot thing in comics once again. Fans are looking forward to these books every week, along with whatever comes next.

But the future is wide open. While Hogan, Hall and Nash had the wrestling world in the palms of their hands in the summer of 1996, their success was not long-running. They were popular for a few years, but their egos (and the NWO’s own popularity) led to the watering-down of the NWO and the complete collapse of World Championship Wrestling within five years.

The many lives of Moira X

It’s highly unlikely that Hickman’s storylines will doom the X-Men in a similar fashion. But for all the wonders of timeline manipulation and intrigue surrounding Moira X, the series has veered slightly from the X-Men’s central concept: protecting a world that fears and hates them. Hickman is a capable enough storyteller to be building back to that. With any luck that will happen and this new X-Men phase will be longer lasting than the New World Order.

Teasing Star Wars

This morning was an exciting morning to be a Star Wars fan.

The first teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was posted online. The short teaser doesn’t show much. A few shots of characters and locations (one familiar location, no familiar characters). But by the last shot, where the greatest spaceship in the galaxy loops and rolls over a desert planet, I was drooling for more.

This teaser reminds me of 16 years ago, when the teaser trailer for Episode I was released. That was also exciting to have new Star Wars material for the first time in a long time. That teaser gave a lot more away than the Episode VII trailer does. But times sure are different. Back then, I was in my dorm room, downloading a video file that was about 20 Megs large. The source was some guy’s camcorder from inside a movie theater. Even though the official version of the trailer was released shortly thereafter and has been available on DVDs and YouTube for some time, I think I watched that poor quality AVI file more than any other version.

Here’s the Phantom Menace trailer (the official) version for comparison:

Next to the Episode VII teaser, this is practically a full-length feature. It has dialogue, multiple locations, familiar characters. And it’s about double the length.

To me, while the Episode I trailer felt like Star Wars, after seeing today’s trailer, I can say that the Episode VII one is Star Wars. And the appearance of a certain hunk of junk may have something to do with that.

A Comic Book Fan’s Reward

I spent a lot of time in comic book stores growing up.

My favorite book was The Uncanny X-Men (and this was back in the day when there was only one X-title), and I didn’t get those people who were into the Avengers or Superman (and I didn’t know anyone who read the Fantastic Four). I would strike up conversations with the staff at these stores, looking for cheap back issues with good stories. One day, a clerk at the Jim Hanley’s Universe in the Staten Island Mall suggested I read a trade paperback reprinting what he called “the best storyline ever,” Days of Future Past.

I didn’t follow his advice immediately- the book was a bit more expensive than my usual purchases and the cover, featuring Wolverine (who I did not appreciate at the time) didn’t make me want to buy the book. It took a few months, but one day I purchased it. I started reading it on the car ride home on a hot summer day. My father stopped at the grocery store to pick something up and I was so entranced by the book that I asked to stay in the car so I can finish it.

It was a short, two-issue story that blew my mind. It was my first real experience reading about time travel (I read this before I understood Back to the Future, and the original story was published before the release of any of the Terminator movies) and alternate futures. And since then, I’ve become a fan of things like BTTF, Lost and Doctor Who, all of which feature time travel.

All these years later, I still consider myself an X-Men fan. I don’t read the books on as frequent a basis as I used to. And I think that the movie series is the best film franchise based on a comic book (even including the lackluster X3) (a bit of a side note: part of me does wish that comic books were this popular when I was growing up, although, I feel like a hipster saying I was into them back before everyone else was), so naturally when I heard the next X-Men movie would be based on Days of Future Past, I was elated. And I was right to be happy about it- the movie was a great blending of the two timestreams. It adapted the source material well (even if it had to make some changes for practicality sake) and the surprises at the end were very rewarding.

I do have two minor complaints about the movie and they both involve the same character, Colossus, who was my favorite X-Man growing up:

  • When in armored form, Colossus’ hair is supposed to be black (and it was in the other movies), but it was silver in DOFP.
  • In the movie, Colossus dies twice. The first one hurt enough. The second time was just rubbing it in.

Despite those quibbles, if I were able to project my consciousness in the past, the me of 20 years ago would be very happy with these movies. Even if I would have been surprised that good comic book movies existed.

Prime Minister’s Question Time Featuring Jack Bauer

With a show that’s had as many seasons as 24, it’s natural that some concepts may be repeated.

Take for instance, the family of terrorists. This trope has appeared before, where each member depicted on screen has been part of the plot. In only one instance, the Drazens of Day One, was the terror family the season’s ultimate group of villains. In others, they were pawns or allies. Right now, it seems as if this season’s terror family doesn’t answer to anyone (other than a nominal tie to a real-world terror group). And with the shortened format of this season, it’s possible that is the case.

Sure they have the motivation and means to be behind everything. And so far, they are convincing villains. But as far as where they rank (so far) against all of the other 24 villains, I don’t know if they are near the top. Sure, terror mom is scary, but she has a long way to go before she’s on the same level as Dina Araz.

Tonight’s hour was one of those episodes devoted to putting the pieces in play for whatever happens next. We learned more about the terror family. And we learned how Chloe got to be where she is. But as far as Jack was concerned, the whole episode (minus the altercation on the tube) was setting up his storming the embassy.

Jack’s approach to entering the embassy is gutsy- not just for Jack, but for this show. Yeah, he’s started a prison riot, had a former U.S. President in the crosshairs and even been witness to multiple nuclear weapons being discharged on American soil. But the idea of shooting protesters to start a storming the gates situation seems very bold for this show. (Or maybe it’s because there hasn’t been anything like 24 on TV in the last four years I’ve just forgotten the boundaries it can/should push).

Some other thoughts:

In the car, as Chloe was explaining what happened to her family, she let slip a line about the mysteries of Jack’s disappearance. Is there more to this than what we saw on the last day? Or was her helping him leave the country pretty much it?

I think because of his voice I expect Adrian to be a villain. It’s always possible.

It was nice to see Prime Minister’s Question Time get some play on 24. I can’t imagine Heller would be silent for four minutes until the next episode began.

Jack Bauer Has To Get His Honour Back

It’s been a while since the last episode of 24. When Jack Bauer disappeared in New York four years ago, I was ready to see him go. It was a great show, great concept, great characters, but it just wasn’t as great as it used to be.

But it’s been four years. It’s nice to have the ticking clock and the reminder that “events occur in real time” back on the TV. And it’s nice to have something to blog about again. It’s also nice that 24: Live Another Day brings back the concept and characters, but with less time to have to stretch things out in. Plus, this is the third time in the last three seasons (four if you count Jack’s adventures in Africa) that the show’s switched up locations. Through the early scenes, it didn’t look particularly English, but that changed in the second hour. And I have to admit I was keeping my eyes open for a TARDIS in the background.

It’s been hard not to compare this season with previous seasons. 24 is a different kind of show from season to season- the characters change but overall, the story doesn’t. And compressing the time to fit 12 hours instead of 24 means things move quicker, and hopefully fewer pointless plotlines.

The show’s tone hasn’t changed much. Although the real-world concerns (drones, leaking classified intelligence) have been updated for modern times, the plot devices (moles, presidential assassination plots) remain the same. And you still don’t want to mess with Jack Bauer. It took less than an hour and a half for him and Chloe to team up, so I’m a fan of the efficiency there.

So far, I can really get behind this new format. It gets right to the point, it seems like there’s less waste and it will take fewer times. So for right now I’m a fan of the new 24. And I’m glad it’s back. Until the cougar shows up.

Some other things:

  • Woah, where’s the countdown at the top of the show? It took them like six minutes to show a clock.
  • Nice to see Yvonne Strahoski (aka Sarah Walker Bartowski from Chuck) pop up in the world of 24. Hurts to hear that her husband was a traitor.
  • Heller is president with a Mister Rogers sweater and a bad memory (this raises an interesting possibility for this season’s mole..he’s the mole and doesn’t know it (although that’s something I would have expected from season six)).
  • Last I heard they use miles in England, not kilometers.
  • Didn’t the last season have drones in New York?
  • The chief of staff said he took care of Audrey for three years. I wonder if that was his only qualification for the job.
  • What kind of gun can go through concrete?
  • How does the CIA have access to English traffic/police information?
  • If I was the President preparing for a debate/discussion with an English audience, I would have the people prepping me speak in English accents for accuracy. Or at least quoting Month Python lines back at me.
  • Finally, I didn’t know that the U.S. Government had an official list of Jack’s kills. It may be official, but it’s missing a lot.

Going Viral

Something I posted about more than two years ago went viral (as the kids say).

On August 15, 2011, I posted my frustrations about a lengthy receipt from a quick trip to CVS:

And as if CVS wasn’t wasting enough of my time, it seems like they also like to waste paper.  Keep in mind, I had four items.  This was my receipt (I’ve enlisted some of Hope’s toys to give you an idea of the scale):

That receipt is more than a foot long.  I’m not sure whether to throw it out or to give it to a high school marching band so the drum majorettes have something to march behind for their homecoming parade.

According to NBC, I’m not the only one frustrated by these Andre The Giant-scale receipts. But I was the first.

You’re welcome Internet.