Friday, October 6, 2017

No, really, what's happening in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy?

I finally fired up the third Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning Returns. The more I think about it, mechanically and thematically, the FFXIII trilogy is really weird. 

In the first game, you play a bunch of guys (Lightning among them, but despite being the first character and on the cover of the box, she's not really the main character) that have been charged by ineffable AI machine gods to do some vague task. It ends up being that they're trying to use you to break out of their programming that forces them to maintain humanity. If they don't complete their task, they become zombies, if they do complete their task, they turn to crystal until the machines decide to let them go.

In the second game, Lightning was turned to crystal, but she somehow gets recruited to protect time, and is off fighting this huge war, and so she recruits some more people to jump around to different times and places trying to correct things that have been thrown off because of her big war. Not really sure what happens next, but things apparently get fucked.

Third game starts off, and Lightning wakes up from her crystal stasis, and is charged by God (maybe the guy that made the machine gods in the first game?) to help prepare for the next world, because this one is ending. God's going to wake up in 13 days, and when he does, the world's going to end and be rebuilt. Shit's fucked though, and the world's on track to end in 5 days, in which case it can't be reborn. Lightning has two tasks: Keep the world in one piece until God shows up, and collect souls from people so that they can be reborn in the new world. You do this by completing quests where you give people hope, which preps their souls and gives you special energy that you literally infuse into Yggdrasil which extends the lifespan of the world. Also, apparently time broke at the end of the second game, and no one's aged for 500 years. So even though Lightning's been asleep the whole time, everyone she fought with in the first game is still kicking, but also, there are 500 year old children all over the place.

It's apparently like Majora's Mask where you run around doing stuff, and people will only be around at certain times for you to complete quests, and then the world will end, then you start back at the beginning with all of your stats and gear, but all of your quest progress is reset. Things get even weirder with the gameplay, though. You don't have levels in this one, which isn't that odd, but you also don't have a skill tree. Your stats go up when you complete a quest. Finding this guy's cat might get you 80 more hp and a point of magic, getting medicine for that kid's mom gets you 40 hp, and two points of attack. Outside of that, everything is gear based. You have four ability slots, corresponding to the four face buttons, and the outfit you're wearing usually dictates at least one of them, and then you can equip any ability you want in the empty slots.

All three games have heavily featured this idea of swapping between multiple loadouts in a fight. In the first two, you were just switching between different classes, basically, all of your healing stuff was on one class, and you'd have to switch to that class to do any healing. In the third game you only play as Lightning, and rather than having explicitly defined classes, instead you can switch between three gear load outs for her that you equip with different abilities and different weapons. The weirdest part of this is that you can only perform so many actions you can perform in a row, but each set of gear has it's own gauge for this, so you can blast through all of your actions on your first set of gear, switch to the next and use all of its actions, and then do the third, by the time you make it back to the first, it's ready to do a full round of actions again.

It's just bizarre, but in a way that's refreshing. I haven't really read any review of FFXV, so I've no idea if it continues in the same vein of all this weirdness, or if it's gone to something more comprehensible. I did watch the prequel movie, so I've got a bit of a feel for the story, and while it seems pretty out there, it's not like this.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

I just watched Transformers: The Last Knight

So, I finally watched the most recent Transformers movie. If you want to know my opinions on the movie franchise, and this movie in particular, it can be summarized thusly: The first Transformers movie was a fun, stupid action movie, but pretty good, each sequel I have progressively lowered my expectations, and been disappointed every time.

I could write two separate posts on the movie series. One detailing what's stupid about them, and the other talking about how it's just not for fans of any of the toys or fiction. This is not either of those, this is a post about Megatron's arm cannon.

Before we get into the movies, Megatron has transformed into a lot of things throughout the years, and had a lot of looks. The one thing that's been almost completely constant is that he always has a big ass gun on his arm, or occasionally his shoulder, and even more constant than where the gun is placed, is how the gun fires. In a way, it's been more consistent than any other facet of his identity. When Megatron fires his cannon, it starts as a purple pin light in the barrel, before swelling into a mass of purple energy, and then it bursts in a straight line out of the barrel. Wow, before describing it like that, I wouldn't have associated with male reproduction, but there you go. Get your yucks out.

How does this relate to Last Knight? Well, Megatron's in it. Unlock some of the movies, he does have an arm cannon in this one, but how he shoots was very disappointing. When we're given our first full look at him, we see him sitting on a throne of junk, and angrily shooting flames out of his arm cannon. Not traditional, but it's bold and intimidating, which is what Megatron should be. In every scene involving his arm gun after that, it's shown to shoot small, sometimes very rapid fire projectiles. Sure, maybe it's practical, or more realistic, but as I'm fond of saying, we're talking about giant, magical, alien robots! Who's looking for realism or pragmatism? Megatron is a tyrant, and the kind of strategist and warrior who could keep a war going for literally millions of years. His weapon of choice reflects his philosophy, it is not a precision weapon, the only reason he can shoot it straight, and not have it rip his arm off is because he's equally strong and determined. They've waged a war for longer than most civilizations have existed, those that are still alive, by necessity, are the most battle hardened badasses that the galaxy has ever seen, and Megatron keeps control of the more ruthless faction by being the biggest, most ruthless, and definitely most determined monster among monsters. When Megatron's gun gets shot, it shouldn't be lost in the chaos of all the peons fighting, everyone on the battlefield should know that Megatron has entered the fray, and the casualty rate is going to start rising sharply.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

ONE Thing That Annoys Me About The Star Wars Prequels

I've never been the biggest fan of Star Wars. I certainly like most of the movies, and the idea of the universe, I've just never considered myself a super fan. I've been playing the table top RPG Edge of the Empire, as well as reading the latest comics, so I've found myself thinking about the universe a lot lately.

Things are weird in the universe, especially in the original trilogy, technology is pretty contemporary to what they had in the 70s. There are exceptions, of course, like significantly cheaper and more reliable robotics along with advanced AI to drive them, cheap and easy space travel including FTL, blasters and light sabers. At the same time, many things are incredibly low tech by our standards. They just don't seem to have an concept of computer networking, let alone wireless networking. Anytime a droid wants to access data from another system, it has to make a physical connection. A friend of mine likes to point out that it's ridiculous that the standard blaster rifle doesn't seem to have an automatic fire.

Then you've got space wizards, and a bunch of sentient races that mostly cohabitate in the same cities.

Space wizards are what I want to talk about though. When we first find out about the Jedi in A New Hope, we're told that most people think they're myths and legend, probably just charlatans, if they were real at all. This makes a lot of sense if Jedi are really rare, maybe there just weren't that many of them to begin with, or if there were a lot at some point, maybe their numbers were just on the decline until Obi Wan and Darth Vader were part of the last handful of them.

Instead, when we got the prequel movies, we were shown a world that heavily relies on the Jedi. They don't seem to have an official place in the Republic's structure, but the Jedi council heavily influences the senate, and takes requests from them to dispatch space wizards to areas of conflict. There is enough infrastructure around the Jedi that they have a system where they can identify force sensitive children early, and indoctrinate them into the jedi order.

Jedi are friggin' everywhere, until pretty much the exact day that Luke and Leia are born. They're all killed at once, and Palpatine transforms the Republic into the Empire. The thing that's funny about this is that it gives us a pretty precise measurement for the time between movies. Luke Skywalker is barely an adult, he seems like he might be 18, but could be even younger than that. That means that the Galaxy Far Far Away has had about 20 years to forget that space wizards were not only a major part of the the governing body, as well as the largest war that anyone has seen in a long time, they also start to think that they were never real in the first place. That seems pretty unrealistic to me, but maybe if the empire made a big propaganda push, that could sway enough people that at least the majority of the public think that way.

This further starts to fall apart when you start looking at life expectancy of the various races. This is where Star Wars really starts to feel like Lord of the Rings, because just about every alien race out there lives substantially longer than humans. Yoda lives to be seven hundred years old, Wookies also live for a pretty long time, Chewbacca is fighting fit adult in Revenge of the Sith, hangs out with Yoda, is just starting to get grey fur by the time of Force Awakens, which is maybe 60-70 years later.

With lifespans of that length, the idea that people "forgot" about the jedi becomes harder and harder to swallow. In Force Awakens, we're introduced to Maz Kanata, who has run her establishment for around a thousand years! Who knows how long she was alive before she bought the building, but she certainly knows that space wizards walk among us.

There is certainly a lot to dislike about the prequel movies, and I'm sure you can find a number of people more eloquent than I who have cataloged all of the reasons to hate them, this is just the thing that's always really bugged me.

Friday, September 1, 2017

There's So Much Weird Stuff About Psylocke

I've been re-reading the Exiles comic book series, it's a fun romp through alternate versions of the Marvel universe. It even stars, for the most part, versions of iconic characters with a twist. We've got a version of Mimic that became a good guy, and eventually lead the X-Men and joined the Avengers. Thunderbird that not only didn't die alongside the first X-Men team, but was turned into Apocalypse's horseman of war. Heather Hudson became Alpha Flight's Sasquatch through a gamma ray experiment.

It's all great fun, they hop around between alternate realities trying to fix things that got messed up. Psylocke (from the core universe) shows up in the very last couple of plot arcs, and she reads like total fan fiction. She's invisible to the the sensors of the interdimensional hub that lets the Exiles be Exiles, she's unique among every other Elizabeth Braddock in the multiverse. She's a scary ninja lady that enjoys going up against the likes of Sabertooth, she has telekinesis, but she never really uses it, except to create telekinetic katanas. Oh, except she can telekinetically alter her molecules to make her self invisible?

In a medium famous for having complicated backstories, Psylocke is pretty complicated. You could be forgiven for not knowing that she is British, since she currently has an asian body. She was born the twin sister of Brian Braddock, who became Captain Britain, who just happens to also be a guardian of the multiverse, although they call it the omniverse for reasons, I'm sure. Eventually she developed mutant powers as a telepath (purely thought based, no telekinesis), and I was first introduced to her as a member of the X-men in the late '80s. This is a period when Jean Grey was dead, Havok was on the team, Colossus was stuck in his metal state, and the X-Men were criminals that were hiding out in the Australian outback.

Sometime after that, she is nearly killed, and abducted. For further reasons, she's taken to another dimension where they do something to her. Every time I see this referenced in the comics, there's a slightly different take on it. The end result is that she now appears to be Asian, and has sweet ninja skillz! I have heard it said that her body was simply twisted, and then implanted with skills, I have also heard that her body used to belong to an assassin of the Hand, or that the hand assassin and she were actually merged together. After this rebirth, she stops using her powers like a traditional telepath, although I don't believe they've actually changed, at least not yet. Instead of just reading people's minds, putting them to sleep, or any of the other typical Xavier stuff, she creates a "psychic knife" that projects out of the end of her hand, and "stabs" people with it, which inflicts some kind of psychic assault on them.

I've read an article talking about the racial insensitivity of having a British character becoming suddenly Asian. I'm not sure about any of that, it just sounds stupid. At this point, we've got a character that high school Bryce would think is really awesome. "She was a hot British chick with purple hair, but now she's a hot Asian chick with purple hair, but she speaks with a British accent, she can totally read minds, but instead she, like, makes a knife with her psychic powers, and then stabs her enemies with it and makes them relive all of their worst memories! And she's a ninja!"

So, that's most of the stuff that I know off the top of my head. After another vague amount of time, Psylocke and Jean Grey trade powers, because that's a thing mutants can do (it really isn't). I do remember reading a comic where Jean Grey was stabbing people with a psychic knife, this was also the era where she hooked up with Wolverine. Regardless, Psylocke now has telekinesis as well as telepathy, maybe? Then she shows up in Exiles.

I have read books that feature Psylocke that use her very well, a number of the recent X-Force books for instance, but the way she's used in Exiles just makes me think the writer wants to be her AND marry her.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fictional Locations in Fiction!

This is a strange thought that I've been mulling over for a while. Before I get into it, I want to recount a conversation I had with a friend that let me realize how differently fans can perceive properties.

So, the conversation had to deal with the decision to have Sulu be gay in the new Star Trek movies. George Takei had stated that he was opposed to the idea, on the grounds that it was a disservice to the character, because it would mean that Sulu had been closeted. A friend of mine had suggested that Takei was opposed to the idea because he was still in the mindset of the times (apologies if I didn't summarize their argument perfectly, we were both drinking on a river). My theory was that if you think of Star Trek as an existing universe, the movies take place in the same universe, albeit after being diverted from the original timeline just before the birth of Captain Kirk. If you buy into that, then you're saying that Sulu's sexuality was changed by the different chain of events, OR that he was closeted for the entirety of the original Star Trek series. The latter would certainly change how people would think of Takei's Sulu, the former sidesteps that, but maybe makes uncomfortable implications about how fickle a person's sexuality could be.

My main take away from the conversation was that a person who was a much bigger fan of Star Trek than I am, wasn't a fan of it in a way that let them see it as a living universe, and they actually struggled a bit to see it how I thought of it. 

Okay, that was more than a little rambling, and doesn't deal with what I really wanted to talk about, but I thought it was important to try and illustrate how I think about fictional universes before I got to it.

Right! So, fictional locations. I'm going to mainly talk about them in comic books, because I've got a lot of knowledge there, and the Big Two (Marvel and DC) have been doing it for seven decades now. DC comics has used two fictional cities pretty much since the beginning, Batman protects Gotham, and Superman's got Metropolis. Both of these locations are supposed to be heavily based off of real world locations, Gotham is usually thought to be New York, while Metropolis has been a few different cities depending on the era, for awhile it was Chicago, but I think it's LA now? Could be wrong on that one. It doesn't end there though, there's also Bludhaven, Star City, Keystone City and Central City make up the Gem Cities that Flash hangs around. Bialya is a fictional country ruled by the villain Queen Bee, Kahndaq is an arab country on the coast of Africa that's ruled by Black Adam. The amusing thing about Gotham and Metropolis is that the cities that they are supposed to represent, ALSO exist in the comic universe. So what does a map of the US look like in DC comics? Where is New York in relation to Gotham?

Marvel comics are less in love with creating new cities. However, they have a few very prominent fictional countries. Sokovia and Latveria are both generic European countries, the former featured in Avengers: Age of Ultron, while the latter is a dictatorship ruled by Doctor Doom's iron hand. Symkaria is once again somewhere in Europe, and it's notable for it's principal export being the badass mercenary forces of Silver Sable. Wakanda is an African country ruled by Black Panther.

So, what's the point of all of this? I don't have a solid one, other than I'm curious what the motivation for it is. I'm sure there's no small amount of laziness involved, which I don't mean as an insult. When you're creating a comic book, your audience isn't exactly looking for a rock solid, realistic geopolitical setting, and it's probably pretty far from your mind. It also allows you to sidestep criticism and hurt feelings on the part of the real world country if you come up with a completely fictional country that was taken over, rather than say, Bolivia, which Ubisoft and EA have been criticized over in the past. There's also the fact that the traditions and lifestyles of the region can be whatever the story demands, rather than having to worry about it being a good depiction.

I understand the expediency of all of that, but at the same time, I want to know: What country lost some territory in order for Doctor Doom to have his weird idyllic dictatorship. Are any of the great pyramids of Egypt in Black Adam's Kahndaq? Genosha and Madripoor are both copouts in that regard, because they're island nations, but even then there's information to consider, who do they trade with? They're probably not self-sufficient.

Like I said, I don't really have a point, so there's not really a conclusion down here at the end. I've just spent a lot of brainpower thinking about it, and figured I'd share. Thanks for reading, and no, you can't get that five minutes back.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mutants and Transformers, More Parallels Than You Probably Realize

First off, the disclaimer:

I love Transformers, enough so that I hold myself back from talking about them at least 4 out of 5 times I think of them. You don't want to be THAT guy, trust me. The thing that's most alluring about them is, of course, the toys. When I was a kid and I got a GI Joe, I got a little figure that could punch people, hold a gun, and drive a vehicle. If I was lucky, he could also fire a spring-loaded plastic projectile. When I got a Transformer, it could do all of that (except for driving a vehicle, although that wasn't unheard of) but it could also fold up like a piece of origami into a truck or a jet. It was kind of like a puzzle, even though I always read the instructions, I still marvel at the engineering of it all.

Now, Transformers have been around for over 30 years, and just like any other fictional property with that much history, you can find a lot of stuff that's surprisingly good. At the moment, we're kind of in a hayday for comics in general, Transformers has at least two really solid titles that have been running for a couple of years that are very well written.

Tl:dr I'm an apologetic Transformers fanatic.

So, Transformers and Mutants! If you've managed to avoid knowing what a Transformer is, but you're actually reading this, a Transformer is an alien robot that can change between at least two forms. Typically a humanoid robot, and something that adds functions or enhanced mobility. Inevitably in every fiction, they come to Earth at some point, and cosmetically change their alternate modes to resemble Earth equipment.

When they were first introduced way back in 1984, I don't know if they thought that Transforming alien robots wasn't going to be a big enough hook for children, or if they wanted more to put into each character's biography on the back of the box besides: "He turns into a car, and has a gun", but many of the original Transformers ended up with super powers. Mirage can turn invisible, Thundercracker can fly so fast that he creates concussive blasts that knock people, and robots, out, Skywarp can teleport, Bombshell can take over minds with little drones, Windcharger literally has Magneto's powers, and so on.

The early cartoon pretty much stopped paying attention to superpowers after the first season, only occasionally remembering they existed, and not giving them to many of the newer characters. The comics have had a lot of fun with them by retconning a bunch of old Cybertron politics involving discrimination and oppression based on having random powers, among other things.

One other thing that some Transformers can do, is smaller ones can sometimes combine into a larger one. Depending on which fiction and which character you're looking at, this can be a super power, a modification/surgical procedure they underwent, or something they were built for. Regardless, one thing that is fairly standard is that the merged form has a merged consciousness. The end product is a large, very powerful, robot that's not terribly bright, and a little indecisive. The first introduced combiner was Devastator, who is the combined form of all of the Constructicons. Now, each of the Constructions has a superpower. Mixmaster, who transforms into a cement truck, can pretty much breakdown any material at a molecular level and rebuild it into something else, so long as he ingests it? The funny thing, is that in theory, Devastator has access to all of the powers of his components, but since he can only act on shared thoughts, and only Mixmaster would think to transmute things, mostly he just smashes stuff, occasionally he shoots things. Later combiners somewhat mitigated this shortcoming by having more rigidly defined roles. If there was a clear leader that everyone respected, they were less likely to be so indecisive.

Okay, now, mutants! Specifically Marvel Comics mutants. I promise this going somewhere that I think is interesting, at least. I'm going to assume that we all know who the X-Men are, and how they get super powers randomly based off of genetic background. I know! They're not actually "mutants" but that's neither here nor there.

So, there's a guy, named Jamie Madrox, his super power is that he can generate doubles of himself, and he goes by the very clever name of "Multiple Man". Everyone just calls him Madrox for some reason...

There's a great X-Factor book where he's the main character, and they flesh out his powers and personality quite a bit. So, he can generate a copy of himself, and then he can later reabsorb it, and gets all of its memories. At some point, he couldn't figure out what to do with his life, and decided to do everything. He split off a bunch of doubles, and had each one start a new career and then come back in a decade and rejoin him. As such, he's a shaolin monk, legal counsel, CPA, locksmith, and SHIELD trained spy to name a few things. He can literally generate fifty or so doubles in just a few minutes, effectively creating an army of people with his skillset.

How do you mitigate such an over powered character? There's a couple of things. One, is indecision (See! Callback!), while he has, probably, centuries of life experience, every time he's reached a fork in the road, he's almost always had the option of generating a double, and basically taking both paths. It makes him very uncomfortable when he's dealing with people and has to make a choice. The second shortcoming he has is that each double is not an exact copy of his personality. Sometimes they get more or less of certain aspects of his personality. He doesn't know when he creates a double if it's going to be prone to fits of rage, hold grudges more than it forgives, just be manic, not take anything seriously, or just be so overcome with despair that it just wants to sit there. In the first issue of this run of X-Factor he sees a former teammate that's about to jump off a building, knowing that he's probably not the most optimistic at the moment, he generates a half dozen dupes, asks them how to save their friend, and elects the most uplifting seeming of them to go talk to him. This works perfectly, friend decides not to jump, except the double isn't just really peppy and positive, he's mostly a twisted sense of humor that thinks it's funny to push off after he's decided not to jump. He gets saved despite that, but it shows how unreliable he can be.

So, in a way, he's kind of the inverse of a Transformers combiner. He's conflicted and indecisive, but that goes away when he splits off pieces of himself. At the same time, he can turn himself into a larger force, but in order for that force to accomplish its purpose, they have to be doing something that they can agree on.

Anyhoo, I thought it was interesing.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Marvel's Civil War II is even stupider than the first one

Mainstream comics are inherently ridiculous, which is probably why I enjoy them so.  Lately, by which I mean for at least the last decade, the trend from Marvel and DC has been to have a big "universe changing" event that mostly happens in it's own limited series, while splashing out into the majority of other titles being published at the time.

Probably the first that I really followed, at least as an adult, was the first Civil War series. Brief synopsis: Lesser known superhero team fights a team of villains, and an entire school full of children get called, backlash is that the government institutes mandatory regulation and training of anyone that tries to be a superhero, Captain America is against, Iron Man is for, they fight. I tried to read all of the tie-in books, but ultimately got really annoyed when different writers decided to write the same character, at roughly the same time, and get them completely different. If you read the chronological order, you go directly from one issue where Stark and Cap say: "We have our different opinions and we respect that." To the next where the President tells Stark that Cap's opposing the registration act, and Stark says: "I'm going to put him down."

This is also my first exposure to Iron Man being the biggest asshole of the Marvel universe. To help in his fight against Cap and his rogue Avengers, he clones Thor from a strand of his hair that he secretly stole and kept for such an occasion (Thor was long gone, doing Thor things) replaces most of his brain with a computer, and gives him a fake Mjolnir that he built. Fake Thor is then the perpetrator of the only thing more important in a crossover event than heroes fighting heroes: The death of a character that's popular enough to be recognizable, but not enough to merit his own title. Here we had Bill Foster as Giant-Man who gets killed by Fake Thor.

I like and dislike crossover events for kind of the same reasons. They pit hero against hero, which is kind of counter to how heroes are supposed to work, but it's also great to finally get to see them fight and see which is stronger, etc. Recently Marvel did Infinity which lead right into Secret Wars, which were both amazing, and made me forget my previous dislike for crossover events. Now we have Civil War II, which I kind of feel exists purely because there was recently a Marvel movie that had the same name.

Now, let me tell you what was going on in Marvel comics right before CW2 kicked off. Steve Rogers had long been "drained" of his super soldier-serum, and was working for SHIELD as commander, and had handed his shield off to Sam Wilson, who was previously The Falcon. After an encounter with a reality warping child, he was killed, and then resurrected all super-soldiered up again, but also secretly an agent of Hydra (there are reasons, which are actually kind of fun, but beside the point.) He assume the name of Captain America again, but decides that it's okay for there to be two of them.

It seemed pretty natural to me, that Hydra Cap would get involved in some kind of event or initiative, and be on the more restrictive side of it. Nope, he's not involved in Civil War at all, other than half a page where he says that his involvement in the last one was enough for him... Okay. So, yeah, Civil War II starts up because of a new Inhuman that shows up with the ability to predict the future. He predicts a couple of near catastrophic events, and all of the heroes are there and ready, so the world is saved. Captain Marvel, fan favorite badass with realistically normal emotions and morals, comes down hard on the side of predictive justice. "Let's use this information, incarcerate people that are about to do something until the time has passed, and then let them out again." Tony Stark, on the other hand, is our voice of reason, kind of, initially he has concerns with where these visions are coming from. Is he actually seeing the future? Or is he somehow processing information and algorithmically extrapolating the future? "That's dangerously close to profiling." Is almost an exact quote of Tony Stark. Which based on his past, it feels like he's fighting against that, almost purely because someone told him that profiling is bad, not because it's what he actually feels. Although he does express, later, that he got involved in the last Civil War, and he end up being on the wrong side. So maybe he's acting against his leanings intentionally, Regardless, after doing all kinds of scans, it's revealed that Ulysses, the aforementioned Inhuman, takes in all kinds of information from the universe on every wavelength, and processes that information to come up with his predictions.

There's all sorts of questions to be asked about that: Once the vision has occurred, has the future been altered enough to invalidate the prediction? How accurate are his predictions? Are they subject to personal biases that he might have? By averting one possible future, are they opening themselves up for something worse? So far, none of these have been answered yet, some of them are used as philosophical arguments about acting on the visions too much.

So far, two deaths have occurred as part of this event. The first is surprising, and surprisingly non-sensical. Bruce Banner is formerly the Hulk, Amadeus Cho, supergenius friend of the Hulk, somehow sucked all of his Hulk-iness away, and is now the Hulk. Ulysses has a vision that Banner Hulks out again, and kills all of the Avengers. Literally every superhero shows up on his doorstep, and says: "Hey buddy, whatcha been up to? Working on anything gamma related?" Banner gets angry at everyone's lack of trust, and then Hawkeye (Clint Barton) assassinates him with a damn arrow, designed by Banner to kill him should he ever Hulk out again. "Was he, wasn't he?" is the big question, and Barton goes on trial, and is ultimately acquitted since no one can say for sure.

The second death, which has been getting a lot more publicity, is that of James Rhodes, AKA War Machine. In this instance, they get a prediction that Thanos is going to raid a facility on Earth, and kill everyone in the process of stealing something gizmo.

Now, let me talk about Thanos for just a second, if you're not much of a comic reader, you might know him from his brief appearances in the first Avengers movie, and as the guy behind the scenes in Guardians of the Galaxy. Thanos is quite possibly my favorite villain of all time. Physically he's strong enough to go toe to toe with Hulk. Intellectually, he's a super genius, he has access to any alien technology you could probably think of, and is capable of developing his own. While he's generally very technology oriented, he's not opposed to getting down and dirty with a bit of magic as well. He's long had an association with Mistress Death, who is an intelligent embodiment of death, he is infatuated with her, and she has brought him back from the dead on numerous occasions to do her bidding. He has occasionally filled in as something called the Avatar of Death, basically her champion in the affairs of the universe. On top of all of that, he's quite unstable. He's frequently the villain of the story, although occasionally he works with heroes to save the universe, where he resides, or to get revenge against the true villain of the story. He always has a plan, and frequently he succeeds in his plans, he has actually destroyed the universe, at least once, but then built it again, because he changed his mind.

I spent a paragraph talking about how stupid powerful and evil Thanos is, because the group of people they brought to fight him approaches Star Trek "away team" levels of stupidity:

Blue Marvel: He's living Anti-Matter. Among lots of other things, this makes him very difficult to hurt, and nearly impossible to kill.

Spectrum: She's living light! See above

Captain Marvel: She's pretty tough, she could probably survive getting punched by the Hulk, so okay. Apparently her powers also work by absorbing energy, and then spitting it back out. A big part of their strategy was to let Thanos shoot her with things, and the she would throw it back.

She-Hulk: I don't mean to be sexist or anything, but she's frequently shown to be less strong and durable than the Hulk. As much as I love her character, she wouldn't be my first choice for a fight with Thanos, since I doubt he's ticklish, but she's not the worst.

Dazzler: She's a normal mutant, her only power is that she can convert sound into light. Literally she's a character that was introduced a disco star. Light can do a lot of things, but I really don't think she belongs anywhere near a fight with Thanos

Medusa: She's the queen of the Inhumans, has intelligent control over her hair, its not made of snakes. For most of my teens, when I was reading very old Fantastic Four comics where she was sometimes a villain, ally, or even a member of the FF, I thought her hair was just normal hair, that she could control and had a lot of. Recently I've discovered that it's stronger than steel, basically her hair constitutes more mass than the rest of her body, and it's all individually manipulable steel wires that are microns thick. She still doesn't belong in a fight with Thanos, she's the queen of the Inhumans. The number of people that she could tap that would be better suited for this fight than her is staggering. Not the least of which is her estranged husband, Black Bolt, who is functionally a mute, because if he were to speak at a normal volume, his voice could destroy the west coast. Hey! Maybe he could scream at Dazzler, and she could convert all of that energy into a focused light beam and cook Thanos? No, he's not there though.

War Machine: James Rhodes is a good guy, a better guy than Tony Stark. He's wearing a heavily modified castoff Iron Man suit, who knows how far out of date. As far as Thanos goes, this is a man, in a can.

I think there might have been a couple of others, but they're not that important, and I don't have the book handy to recap.

So, this goes about as well as you could hope. They do manage to capture Thanos, although when you're dealing with Thanos, who knows what he was actually intending to do. He could have a machine that gives him even more accurate predictions than Ulysses. Actually, I'm fairly certain I've read comics where it's confirmed that he has that kind of technology.

Sorry, side track. Thanos, of course, doesn't just give up when he is confronted by group of Earth heroes with varying levels of fabulous hair. After losing his gun that he was carrying for some reason, he punches War Machine in the chest, and crushes him to death. This makes the missile he was launching go wild and hit She-Hulk in the chest. War Machine dies shortly thereafter, and She-Hulk is in critical condition, every comic which mentions her states that she probably won't survive the night.

So, THIS incident, where a bunch of people willingly decide to take on a mad god is the rallying point of whether or not predicting the future is bad. Not the guy who was murdered by his former friend for something that he might have done.

Yeah, crossover events are kind of stupid.