Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wow! Can you believe it's another year already?!
Actually, I suppose you can, given that you've had most of January to get used to the idea. Here on the Infinite Wars, however, we've slipped into a temporal shift that's left us lagging a couple of weeks behind the presence. Not to worry! We've got the perfect remedy to get us in the mood!

2008 was a jam packed year for fans of four-colour fiction! In our estimation, it will be forever recognised by history as a landmark year for superhero comics in many respects!

The cultural sensation and financial successes of both Iron Man and The Dark Knight redefined the landscape of superhero films. Their legacy capped off a year that also saw Hulk, Hellboy, and Mark Millar's Wanted hit screens, with the acknowledgment of this fast growing pseudo-genre through a post-humous Academy Award nomination for Heath Ledger (as Joker).

On the page; the two leading publishers rattled the cages of their iconic properties, most notably, DC, with the reality crunching epic, Final Crisis. Spinning out of earlier events in the year, such as Death of the New Gods, the series presented the most realised vision of a franchise universe in ruin, proposing a scenario where the unthinkable occurred -- evil won!

Several exciting events in 2009 are driving the Infinite Wars toward a big fourth year, bouncing directly off the legacy of 2008! What are they, you ask? Read on, oh wise one!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
2000's X-Men proved to be the forebear of a revolution in comics-to-film projects. After ingloriously losing it's visionary director, Bryan Singer, to a rival franchise, the series struggled to round out it's success with an overstuffed third feature manned by fourth quarter replacement, Brett Ratner (Rush Hour).

The sins of the past look to be undone in 2009 as the enigmatic star of the trilogy, Wolverine, dives into his past in this pseudo-prequel!
It'll be hit-or-miss as the secrets of Wolverine's veiled history introduce a host of guest mutants, many of whom were cut from previous films. Sabretooth, Gambit, and Blob, rate among the most recognised joining the cast, while Ryan Reynolds steps into his second spin-off hopeful, abandoning the legalities of the Blade franchise, to appear as Deadpool.

In a cinematic year-off for the major superhero icons, Origins goes up against another Mark Millar project, Kick-Ass, as well as the eagerly anticipated anti-film epic, Watchmen. It's success will likely determine other potential X-Men spin-offs, like the long rumored Magneto picture.

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li/Street Fighter IV
Sadly, video games cannot claim the same success in finding their way to the big screen, as comics. Two major fighting franchises will be having a go, in 2009, however. Tekken features in August with the sixth core instalment of the gaming series, but in February, it's all about Capcom's Street Fighter revolution!

Street Fighter IV confirmed it's validity almost instantly in 2008. In 2009 the game comes to home consoles, offering an even wider range of fan favourite characters than it's arcade predecessor. Also accompanying the game, much needed elaboration in story, conveyed through an array of animated sequences developing the story of the game.

Sadly, despite what I'm sure were well meaning intentions, it seems highly unlikely the Chun-Li film will do any favours for the much maligned process of video game adaptation. Despite iconic similarities to their comics predecessors, for some strange reason, investment in gaming properties fails to garner the same artistic precedent. For Street Fighter, a dated sense of fear seems to have guided the series' cinematic return in the wrong direction, completely stripping the film of characters' iconic designs, rendering an generic cinematic trailer to leave fans cold.

The hopes of the film lie in everything that was held back from the first trailer, but with so much absent from a promotional device, fans of the story will want to look to the animated sequences in the game, and it's bonus DVD.

Dark Reign
When super-powered Skrulls infiltrated every corner of the globe, things were bound to change, but few could have predicted exactly what would come of the Secret Invasion's aftermath!

The knuckle-dragging exploits of the Skrulls proved to be one of the year's greatest anti-climaxes, amounting essentially to one great big high selling anti-event. That said, you can't fault Marvel for backing it up with a strong new direction that sees some of the company's greatest villains in power!

With Tony Stark rendered a cowardly traitor and the corrupted SHIELD now completely dissolved; Norman Osborn has stepped up as the new lynchpin of the Marvel Universe!
As leader of HAMMER - the new governments super-intelligence organization - Osborn has cemented his power and influence, taking it one step further to dismantle the Initiative, and establish a new group of Avengers made-up of wolves in sheeps clothing! Osborn himself steps into a repainted suit of Iron Man armor to become the Iron Paitrot, while various other Thunderbolts recruits fill out the identitys of many well known superhero brands!

Couple this turn of events with Osborn's association with a secret cabal - a Dark Illuminati, formed by some of the world's leading dark powers - and things look defiantly interesting in the Marvel Universe! Will the promise of these concepts come to bare sweet fruits? This might be the biggest question surrounding the mysteries of the House of Ideas!

The Blackest Night
It was teased way back at the end of 2007 in Geoff Johns' power ring epic of the Sinestro Corps War, but we'll have to wait until July to witness the fulfilment of a horrible prophecy - Blackest Night!

The dead will rise, pitting the Green Lantern Corps and the heroes of the DCU against friend and foe, alike! Exactly who will emerge as part of this undead legion remains to be seen, but anyone following spoilers released as part of DC's action figure solicitations knows, two of our predictions are set to appear among their number; Earth-2 Superman and Martian Manhunter!

Quite possibly the most anticipated story of 2009, Blackest Night benefits strongly from the last two years of Green Lantern development under Johns, and a simple equation of math: undead heroes + power rings = awesome. For execution of the concept, this one should slay undead rival, Marvel Zombies. With a fourth Zombies on the way, we can only hope. Groan.

Final Crisis Aftermath
The 'not so brilliant' among us seem to insist Final Crisis has been a brightly coloured mess of confusion, but of course, they are wrong. The brilliance of Grant Morrison's superhero epic is it's multi-tier storytelling, offering casual readers a powerful apocalyptic superhero slugfest, or the deeply invested, commentaries on the philosophy of franchise comics and their infrastructural relationship between fractured narratives and hyper-conceptual consequence.

The final issue of the core series hits this coming Wednesday (Jan 28), and promises to shock and amaze! I honestly cannot imagine how the story will end, but quietly hope we can resolve the crisis without starting back at the beginning; a scenario grimly prophecized by treatment of certain characters, and even the coming of the Blackest Night. Scary stuff, true believers.

Among the key events spinning out of Final Crisis: Battle for the Cowl and Flash: Rebirth!
The Batman RIP/Final Crisis "death" of Batman remains one of the most heated topics on the internet. Exactly what has and will happen remains to be defined, but it comes directly opposite a world where men are becoming gods, the dead are rising, and Barry Allen is alive!

X-Men 2 (May 2003)
"X-Men United" Singer/Penn/Hayter/Dougherty/Harris

Having spent life as a loner, a school for gifted youngsters seems like the last place the man called Wolverine would come to settle.

Never the less, caught between two warring factions of mutants, Wolverine finds refuge with the militant X-Men, and joins them in their battle against evil mutants, and the prejudicial forces of humanity.

As human-mutant tensions mount, a staged attack on the United States President prompts presidential authorization to unleash William Stryker and his forces on the X-Men.

Stryker, though a zealous anti-mutant bigot, holds the keys to Wolverine's past with the Weapon X project. Thus, it is with great reluctance that he draws his claws against him.

Street Fighter Alpha Vol.1 (April 2007)
"Round. 1" Masahiko Nakahira

The legend of Ryu's defeat over the Muay Thai champion Sagat has spread across the globe, but for the wandering world warrior the victory has come at a terrible cost.

Working as a bodyguard for drug smugglers; Ryu finds himself despondent after the glory of defeating one of the world's most popular fighters. However, unbenknownst to the world, Ryu is also plagued with doubt, having resorted to a power forbidden by his master, Gouken.

Working in Thailand with fellow street fighter and British thug, Birdie; Ryu is about to become the subject of an anti-narcotics sting launched by Interpol. Over zealous intervention inevitably escalates to violence, and when the battle is done, this night of fighting is destined to change Ryu's life forever...

Thunderbolts #111 (April 2007)
"Faith in Monsters" Ellis/Deodato Jr

Under the direction of Norman Osborn, the Thunderbolts have been completely overhauled in the wake of the Civil War. Incorporating existing members of the super-team and former criminals recruited to hunt rogue heroes, the new team is a volatile and untested mess.

Placing Moonstone in the position of leader, Osborn sends the team out on their first mission: Defeat and detain the rogue protégé of Captain America; Jack Flag.

With the press watching will this soft-target be the undoing of a team of reformed and manipulated villains. Or will they unravel live on the air?

Green Lantern #25 (January 2008)
"Birth of the Black Lantern" Johns/Reis

The Anti-Monitor - a creature of immense power that once sought to destroy the multiverse - joins Sinestro in creating a new Corps of agents, with the intent to use them as heralds of his conquest over the positive realm. Harnessing the yellow power rings of Qward, the Sinestro Corps operate on a design of fear, using it to control their yellow energy the same way the Lanterns us willpower.

Tricked into believing the Sinestro Corps were to attack Oa, the designates of Sector 2814 soon find themselves four against an army, as the Anti-Monitor and his heralds emerge in the Milky Way. They launch their attack on Earth, but the rest of the Green Lanterns, along with heroes native to the planet, soon join the war. The Justice League, Justice Society, Titans, and more, rally to join the Green Lantern Corps in a stand against a force determined to seek the destruction of all.

Countdown #2 (June 2008)
"Darkseid Equals Death" Dini/McKeever/Giffen/Kolins

When the prophecized death of the New Gods begins; Darkseid begins siphoning the powers of each of the deceased for future use in his attempts to create the Fifth World on Earth. In need of a storage vessel, Darkseid recognises Superman's best pal, Jimmy Olsen, as one of the most protected individuals in the cosmos.

Though the mysterious development of these strange powers gives Jimmy hope of becoming his own type of superhero; the intrepid photo journalist soon discovers the truth about his many fantastic transformations! After being reunited with Superman, Darkseid is able to take control of Olsen's new abilities, forcing him to emit Kryptonite!

The intervention of the Atom gives Jimmy a chance to take control of his powers, but even with the giant-size energy of a New God, he's unable to overcome the dark lord. Just as all hope seems lost for Superman's pal a boom tube ushers the arrival of a New God thought dead - Darkseid's son, Orion! Intent on putting an end to his father's darkness once and for all, can Orion fullfil the prophecy?

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