Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 16

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! This turns into a brief Gulliver’s Travels remake as we meet the Brownies, 37:19-39:47 on the Blu-ray.

The score is big and heroic as Willow and Meegosh walk through some tall brush, on their way back home. Willow tells Meegosh to slow down, and Meegosh says that if they hurry they can be home by tomorrow morning. It’s not clear how long they traveled to get here, but because they traveled via montage, it seemed like a long time. Perhaps they can travel quicker now that they believe they’re no longer being chased by Bavmorda’s troops.

Meegosh says they’ll be heroes when the return, and Willow asks, “Do you think so?” Meegosh acts out the part of villagers welcoming the two of them home, and Willow plays along, saying “Welcome back, boys. You deserve medals!” They laugh, but then Willow gets serious and asks if they did the right thing. Meegosh answers, “Absolutely. There’s nothing to worry about.”

On cue, they hear the baby crying nearby. (It really could be any baby, but because this is a movie, we know it’s the one we’ve been following this whole time.) Then we’re treated to an odd sight. The baby in a small pouch, being carried by a bird, with a tiny man riding on the bird’s back. “I have the baby!” the man cries, in a strange accent. We’ll soon learn this is Franjean, one of the Brownies. He gets a very quick close up, where we can see he has ‘80s music video hair.

The bird is flying very low to the ground in one shot, making this look very dangerous for the baby. The bird then flies over Willow, so close that he ducks. He shouts, “That’s my baby!” This is an interesting choice of words, considering his quest so far has been to give her away. This shows he still hasn’t let go. He calls for the bird and its rider to come back. Then we get our first taste of the Brownies’ comedy shtick as Franjean says, “Left, you stupid bird! Left!” The tie-in fiction reveals that this bird is an eagle, and its name is Canterfree.

Willow pursues, only for a tiny arrow to hit a tree next to him. There’s a quick shot of a Brownie on a tree branch with a bow, and then a second arrow strikes Willow’s arm. Meegosh says “Brownies! Let’s get out of here.” This suggests that he’s encountered Brownies before, or has at least heard of them.

Willow and Meegosh continue running, although it’s unclear if they’re still pursuing the baby or just trying get out of there. There’s a shot of a whole bunch of Brownies on a tree limb, firing arrows down at the two of them, with one arrow striking Meegosh. This repeats, with more shots of Willow and Meegosh running as the Brownies fire arrows from the trees. Willow says “Outrun them,” and then he and Meegosh fall through a hole in the ground as the Brownies can be heard laughing at them.

There’s a fade to later, to nighttime. Willow is asleep, and a Brownie voice says, “Hey ugly, wake up.” Water is thrown on Willow’s face. He wakes up and looks over, and we get our first real look at the Brownies. They all of big hair and are dressed in animal furs, all they have elaborate face paint. Most of them have a signature brown stripe down the center of their face, while others have a big brown circle painted over their left eye. I doubt we’re meant to understand the symbolism of this. One Brownie has a hollowed-out mouse’s head he’s wearing as a hat or helmet. This guy is Rool, the other prominent Brownie character.

The camera pulls back to reveal Willow and Meegosh tied to the ground, with about twenty Brownies surrounding them. One Brownie makes a comment about they are prisoners now. Willow asks Meegosh where the baby is. A light shines overhead, and heavenly voice says “Bring the Nelwyn to me.” Franjean says “You heard her,” to the other Brownies, suggesting that he is in charge. Also, Franjean is standing on Willow’s chest throughout this, for a nifty visual effect. Willow asks what’s going on, and Franjean, holding a spear, says “Shut up or I’ll break your nose. You are mine to toy with.” This is a recurring theme throughout the movie, that the Brownies never see themselves as small, but instead as equal or even superior to everyone around them.

The tie-in books have some information about the Brownies, but not as much as other characters or species. Despite being avid tree climbers, they live not in the trees but in underground burrows. They are an average of 9 inches tall. The Brownies live to be hundreds of years old (!). As the decades turn into centuries, the Brownies grow playful and mischievous to alleviate boredom. Because of this, the Daikini often consider them nuisances. Despite their playful nature, the Brownies are nonetheless fiercely loyal to their friends, and are skilled warriors with bows, spears, and swords. I’m having some trouble trying to identify the Brownies’ comedic accents. I think maybe they’re trying to sound French, but their voices are too exaggerated for humorous effect to know for sure. I’m pretty sure no one else in the movie talks with these accents.

As for our leader Franjean, the Willow graphic novel adds a line where he introduces himself as “the king of the world.” The music in Willow was composed by James Horner, who also did the score for Titanic. Could James Cameron have gotten “I’m the king of the world” from Willow via Horner?

Franjean orders, “Forward!” and the rest of the Brownies start dragging along the ground via their Brownie-sized ropes. Struggling against the ropes, Willow asks where Franjean got the baby. “I stole it from a stupid Daikini,” Franjean says. We in the audience assume Franjean means Madmartigan. Later in the movie, we’ll get a slightly more detailed version of how this happened.

The light and the heavenly voice reappers, saying “Franjean, release the Nelwyns and stop pestering them. Yes, the voice says “Nelwyns” as the plural, whereas everyone else in the movie has said just “Nelwyn” as the plural. Franjean says “Uh-oh,” and jumps off of Willow’s chest and on to the ground, for another nifty effect. Rool and another Brownie cut one of the ropes around Willow’s ankle, and this loosens him up enough so he can move. The next shot is like something out of King Kong, where Willow frees himself from the ropes, stands up, raises his arms, and roars at the Brownies, scaring them off. The Brownies run off into the trees, with one of them clearly crying “Yee-haw!”

The heavenly light appears again. It’s going to have a lot to say, so we’ll end here for now.

Next: A midsummer night’s Willow.

****

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Fantastic Friday: New looks, old flames

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #371 begins a multi-part story that contains a lot of what everyone remembers from this early ‘90s era of Fantastic Four, starting with a wild new look for Sue.

Gimmie a gimmick: Here we have an embossed cover, where the book’s logo and the image of Johnny are raised and, dare I say, touchable on special hardstock paper. The hard-to-find first printing was all white, while the much easier to find subsequent printings were all bright red. On the letters page, six people and two separate companies are given special thanks for their work in creating the cover.

At the end of the last issue, our heroes learned Alicia had been abducted. This one begins with our heroes already mounting a rescue. (The Marvel wiki insists that the Citizen Kang crossover took place between these two issues, but it goes unmentioned here.) Alicia was abducted when time froze during Infinity War, so Reed sets up a “trans-temporal reflector” inside Alicia’s apartment, revealing that Aron the rouge Watcher, who was not stuck in time, appeared and teleported Alicia away. Reed instructs Puppet Master to stay behind at Alicia’s apartment, while the FF come up with a rescue plan back at headquarters. There, Ben is reunited again with Sharon Ventura, who says they have another lunch date. As they take off, Reed goes looking for Sue and finds…

Yeah. She says she was starting to feel like “an old frump” in her regular costume, and then she lashes out at Reed for never noticing her. What goes unsaid here is that this behavior is more fallout from Sue mind-melding with Malice, the darker side of her psyche. Franklin is in the hallway outside, secretly watching Reed and Sue’s conflict. He swears to do anything to stop them, with glowing red eyes to confirm that his potentially world-ending powers are coming back.

Ben cancels his lunch with Sharon so he can join the search for Alicia. Sharon contacts her unseen “master,” who was eavesdropping on them the whole time. Reed tries to contact the Watcher for info on Aron, but the Watcher doesn’t respond, preferring instead to observe silently. Sharon returns, now wearing a brand-new green and purple costume, going by the name Ms. Marvel again.

Cut to Johnny, back in college at Empire State University, where he tries to make peace with Bridget O’Neil, the girl he argued with in issue #366. It doesn’t go well, because she’s frozen in block of ice. This is because Johnny is being attacked by the combined forces of Devos the Devastator and Paibok the Super-Skrull. Johnny fights back, leading the two of them on chase all over campus, all while hoping there’s some way to save Bridget.

At HQ, Reed devises a way to track Aron and teleport the team to Aron’s location. The “team” in this case is Reed, Ben, and Sharon, with Puppet Master staying behind to contact the Avengers in case something goes wrong. Puppet Master, however, thinks Sharon is there to prevent Ben and Alicia from reconciling, and he muses that he has no intention to stay on the sidelines. The heroes teleport to a cave in a snowy mountaintop, where Aron has his lab. He has Alicia there in an artificially induced coma. Aron shows up, revealing that he has created a miniature replica of the entire universe, based on his personal vision, and he intends the FF to spend the rest of their lives in it.

Back with Johnny, he manages to free Bridget from the ice while the college is evacuated. Then a third enemy joins the fight, It’s Lyja, still alive. Johnny doesn’t believe it’s her, especially seeing her new energy-blasting powers. She explains that Paibok gave her these powers, and she introduces her new moniker, Lyja the Laserfist! The three of them are too much for Johnny to fight at once, so he fires the ol’ FF emergency flare. Sue sees it and runs off to join the fight.

Johnny, however, is overwhelmed by all three villains, and decides the only way to defeat them is to use his mega-powerful nova flame. Sue arrives on the scene to find the villains gone, and Johnny weakened from the fight, admitting that he panicked and lost control. Then we turn the page and see that Johnny’s nova blast has destroyed most (all?) of Empire State University.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: We never see any resolution to Reed and Sue’s argument. On one page, they’re arguing, and then a few pages later, he’s on an adventure with Ben and Sharon, with no explanation of Sue’s not joining them.

Fade out: So, Sue’s new costume. I have no problem with a woman wanting to dress sexy, but when she’s doing it to get her husband to notice her, that’s troubling. When she’s doing it because of sci-fi mind-meld weirdness, that’s even more troubling. The real issue is how out of character this outfit is.

Clobberin’ time: Ben is still uncertain how he feels about Alicia, but he certainly doesn’t want her to come to harm.

Flame on: Johnny once again considers leaving the team, thinking that FF are not as extreme as the newer heroes in town. He doesn’t immediately call his teammates during the fight, because he wants to he can be as vicious as Wolverine or the Punisher.

Fantastic fourth wheel: Sharon is back with the team, albeit temporarily. The issue wants to set up a mystery as to who her new boss is, although it was revealed in issue #367 that it’s Dr. Doom. One line of dialogue states that Sharon is able to lift ten tons.

Four and a half: Franklin is seen with a Ninja Turtle toy. The coloring is slightly off, but it looks like Donatello.

The Alicia problem: Lyja originally sacrificed herself to save Johnny, but now she wants to kill him with furious anger. Lyja makes a few references to her and Johnny’s unborn child, even though that originally a lie. Johnny’s demands for further details go unanswered.

Commercial break: How does this work, exactly?

Trivia time: Spider-Man fans are already familiar with Empire State University, where Peter Parker has attended off and on over the years. Other superheroes who were or are students there include Squirrel Girl, White Tiger, and even Captain Britain. Villains who taught at ESU include the Jackal, the Lizard, and even the original Green Goblin for a while. Daredevil’s sidekick Foggy Nelson got his degree from ESU. In the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, Spidey attended Columbia University, but Empire State was mentioned in Spider-Man 3.

Fantastic or frightful? This is a big step up in quality from the crossover nonsense of the last few issues, but it still feels like our heroes are acting just enough out of character so that it is frustrating.

Next: NYPD Blue.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 15

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! We’ve entered a world of war and warriors, 30:35-37:18 on the Blu-ray.

It’s morning at the Daikini crossroads, and Willow, Meegosh, and the baby are asleep by their campfire. A man approaches on horseback, galloping a high speed. The horse wakes them up as it races by. Madmartigan is already awake, and watching them from inside his cage. Note that Madmartigan is cleaning his teeth with what looks like a piece of leather. In the previous scene, his teeth were all yellow and gross when he meant to appear threatening. Now that we’ve seen him be less of a threat and more humorous, there’s no more gross yellow teeth.

Meegosh asks “What was that?” But Madmartigan doesn’t answer. He says “Morning boys. Rough night last night, wasn’t it?” Then he decides to introduce himself, stating his name is Madmartigan. He asks the Nelwyn their names. Meegosh gets a dopey smile on his face and walks forward to shake Madmartigan’s hand, but Willow stops him. Willow says not to go near Madmartigan, that he’s dangerous. “I am not,” Madmartigan says.

Another rider on horseback approaches. There’s a little bit of slapstick as Willow tries to get the rider to stop, only to have to jump to the side as the rider speeds past. Willow asks what’s going on, and Madmartigan says “Smells like a battle.” Is he speaking metaphorically, or there the actual smell of blood and sword metal in the air? I’m thinking it’s a metaphor because we don’t see this battle.

Willow says he doubts Madmartigan is a warrior. Madmartigan says, “I am the greatest swordsman who ever lived.” This line is spoken with absolute seriousness, in sharp contrast with his jokey wheeling and dealing in the previous scene. This is not Madmartigan saying whatever he can think of to get out of the cage, but instead this is something he truly believes. He then asks once more for some water, politely this time. Coldly, Willow sips his own water, giving Madmartigan nothing but an intense stare.

The tone then shifts from serious back to comedic, as Madmartigan breaks down in overly-phony crying, doing that thing where he covers his face with his hands, but peeks through his fingers to get Willow’s reaction. Willow shows some sympathy and walks over to the cage with the cup of water and says, “Here.” Madmartigan stops the fake crying and casually says “Thanks, man.” But Willow is distracted by something and steps away, leaving Madmartigan high and dry (heh).

We then see a whole fleet of soldiers on horseback marching in their direction. (No CGI here, that really is a couple hundred extras on horses, all in full battle armor.) Madmartigan does the math, saying it’s two to three hundred horses, five or six wagons, “and about a thousand fools.” He keeps reaching for the water as he says this, for a little more slapstick. Distracted, Willow tries to hand Madmartigan the water, but drops it. Only a few drops of water hit Madmartigan’s fingers. Then there’s an odd beat with him desperately licking the water off his hand, to show just how dire his circumstance is.

Willow and Meegosh take the baby out of her travel pack, which I guess doubles as a sort of crib. Then there’s another shot of the soldiers getting closer. They’re wearing black and brown, with shiny silver helmets. There’s also a shot of several of them carrying large banners, with many of them ripped and torn. There are some symbols on the banners, but it’s hard to tell what they are.

Willow tries to get the attention of the man in the lead, but he says “Out of the way, peck.” This is a joke (a mean one) but it also establishes that these soldiers come from a similar place as Madmartigan. There’s a shot from Willow’s point of view, looking up at the horses, making them seem gigantic, as Willow continues trying to get their attention.

One of the soldiers stops, eyeing Madmartigan, who just glares back at him. Willow explains to the man that they found the baby in his village. “Will you please take care of her?” The soldier takes off his helmet to reveal a gruff figure with red hair and a red beard. In full tough-guy mode, he says, “We’re going into battle, little ones. Find a woman to take care of her.” Madmartigan shoots back with an insult, “I thought you were a woman, Airk.” (“Airk” is pronounced like “Eric.”)

This character is Airk Thaughbaer, a knight of Galladoorn. The tie-in books have surprisingly little background about Airk, except to emphasize his loyalty to the kingdom of Galladoorn. Airk asks Madmartigan “What did you do this time?” and Madmartigan answers, “Nothing you wouldn’t have done in my place.” “I always knew you’d end up in a crow’s cage,” Airk says. “At least I’m not down there herding sheep,” Madmartigan answers. Several more soldiers cross by on horseback as he says this, illustrating his point.

Once again, the jokey tone switches to something more serious, as Airk says “The NockMaar army destroyed Galladoorn.” Madmartigan asks, “The castle?” and Airk answers, “Bavmorda’s troops are crushing everything in sight.” Madmartigan asks to be let out of the cage, and then says one of the movie’s most famous lines, “Give me a sword, I’ll win this war for you.”

The last of the soldiers ride past, and Airk gives us a hint of his and Madmartigan’s history, saying “Madmartigan, I still serve Galladoorn. You serve no one. Remember. Sit in your coffin and rot.” Airk places his helmet back on and rides off. Madmartigan tells Airk “You need me,” and “I’ll be around long after you’re dead.” This part is some nice foreshadowing, but the next part is not, when Madmartigan has to add, “When I get out of here, I’m going to stick your head on a pig pole.” (Sadly, the wiki doesn’t have an entry for pig pole, but there will be plenty of talk about pigs before the movie is over.) Willow and Meegosh are shown watching this exchange with concerned looks on their faces.

Just what is the history between these two? The tie-in books inform us that Madmartigan was born into one of Galladoorn’s wealthiest and most powerful families, where he got the finest education and excelled at sword training. He joined the knights of Galladoorn, but his recklessness and troublemaking ways clashed with other, more disciplined knights. Madmartigan was booted from the knighthood after an illicit romance with a princess from Cashmere. Sometime later, Airk gave Madmartigan a second chance at knighthood by asking him to join the troops to fight Bavmorda’s army at Land’s End. For unspecified reasons, Madmartigan deserted the troops before the battle began, losing his honor. The tie-in fiction states that Madmartigan is in these cages as punishment for his desertion, but Airk is acting like Madmartigan’s predicament is new information to him. My guess is someone else arrested Madmartigan for desertion without Airk’s knowledge while Airk was off fighting the good fight.

There’s a shot of the road with only dust on it, signifying that the soldiers have moved on. Willow steps into frame, holding the baby. He and Madmartigan eye each other silently, and then Willow says he misses his family. Meegosh says they’re running out of food, and Madmartigan says there’s no one around who will take care of the baby. “You know why?” he says, “Nobody cares.” He says they want to go home and he wants out of the cage. He offers to take care of the baby as if she were his own. Meegosh says he believes Madmartigan. Or, perhaps Meegosh is just saying that because he wants to leave. Willow argues that Madmartigan knows nothing about babies. Madmartigan half-explains and half-brags that he knows a lot of women who do.

Now we shift from serious back to jokey, where Madmartigan returns to comedic wheeling and dealing, saying if he had someone to take care, perhaps he would have a reason to go on living. You’d think this tactic wouldn’t work, because he’s making it about his well-being and not the baby’s, but that also speaks to his rouge nature. “You can’t leave me in here to die,” he says. “Not when all I want to do is protect her.” Willow is shown contemplating this.

It’s hard to tell what happens next. It appears that a sword or knife strikes a lock on the on the cage, resulting in the entire bottom of the cage opening like a trap door. Madmartigan falls through it onto the ground. When the camera pulls back we see Meegosh was the one that struck the lock. First, I think we can assume this is lock Madmartigan wanted to pick in the previous scene. But then, who designed these cages so the bottom is the opening? How did Madmartigan’s captors get him in there to begin with? Did one person hold him up through the bars while another lifted the floor in place? Perhaps this opening is merely to empty out bodies after they’ve died, and there’s a separate traditional cage door among the bars that opens.

Madmartigan is immediately overjoyed to be out of the cage. He lifts Meegosh up and says “I feel better! You’ve done the right thing!” He jumps and spins around in the air with a “Whoo!” It’s interesting that although he’s dying of thirst, he’s not going straight for the water. Willow is all business, saying “You’ve got to promise to feed her.” Madmartigan appears enthusiastic about keeping his end of the deal, saying “Come to daddy.” Willow adds, “and keep her clean.” Madmartigan says “Absolutely.” Despite Madmartigan’s newfound positive attitude, Willow is deadly serious about reminding him of what’s important.

There’s a comedy bit where Madmartigan spins the baby around, followed by a reaction shot of her looking scared. He says “she likes me,” and the baby’s next reaction shot is a smile. Willow gives Madmartigan the baby’s changing rags, which look like just one rag. (I doubt that will last long) and a “milk bladder.” Madmartigan asks if there is milk in it, and Willow says it’s for her. Offended, Madmartigan says “I wouldn’t steal from a baby.” Like the greatest swordsman line earlier, this line is said with just enough seriousness that we believe it.

“You worry too much, peck,” Madmartigan says. “It’s Willow,” Meegosh says, and Madmartigan corrects himself with, “I mean, Willow.” He tells Willow that Willow worries too much, and assures him he’s done the right thing. He gives Willow a friendly pat on the shoulder and says to get home. Willow kisses the baby goodbye. Madmartigan gives a reassuring smile, and then walks off. “Please take care of her,” Willow says. Mardmartigan responds, “I give you my word of honor.”

Savvy viewers will no doubt suspect that this is not the end of the story, but there will be complications to come. They’re about to.

Next: Recipe for Brownies.

****

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Fantastic Friday: You need to work on your anatomy

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Annual #25 is part three of the four-part Citizen Kang, one of Marvel’s most forgettable crossovers with some spectacularly bad art.

Before going any further, we just have to talk about this artwork. Image Comics were the hottest thing around at the time, thanks to art by cool dudes like Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Eric Larsen, and the always-controversial Rob Liefeld. The art in this annual is an all-too-blatant attempt to mimic Liefeld. Every page features ridiculously over-muscled characters striking poses that the human body was never meant to strike. How did this happen? Penciler Herb Trimpe had been a Marvel mainstay since the early ‘60s, normally drawing in the Marvel “house style” standard of John Romita Sr. and Sal Buscema. Perhaps the culprit is inker Brad Vancata, who drew a lot in the “extreme ‘90s” style similar to the Image founders when he was with Marvel. He seems to have gotten his 90s-isms out of his system since then, having worked on designs for the Spider-Man multimedia attraction at Universal Studios and the videogame Hearthstone.

My point is, people don’t like Rob Liefeld, but he looks a lot better when compared to someone trying and failing to imitate Rob Liefeld.

Then there’s the story. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d never heard of Citizen Kang. The normally-detailed Marvel Wiki has only one sentence about this crossover: “The Avengers and the Fantastic Four become embroiled in the latest scheme by Kang to conquer time.” The fan-made Marvel Wikia, meanwhile only says “The full synopsis of this event is unknown.” This is part three. In Captain America annual #11, The Vision became lost in time when investigating strange goings-on in the town of Timely, Wisconsin. Then Captain America became lost in time looking for him. Then, in Thor annual #17, Thor went looking for Captain America, encountered a strange factory, and also became lost in time.

The annual begins with Dr. Druid and Nebula appearing at Fantastic Four headquarters, asking the FF to help them defeat Kang. It’s revealed that this is not really Nebula, but a Nebula from alternate timeline who now goes by the name Temptress. Dr. Druid says the time-traveling Kang has returned to the present and is up to something. He can’t go to the Avengers, because he and the Avengers split on poor terms. Reed prepares his time machine, the Rosebud II, for a trip to Timely, Wisconsin. Then we see the Avengers — Black Widow, Black Knight, Hercules, Sersi, and Crystal — also leaving for Timely in hopes of finding Vision, Captain America and Thor.

The FF arrive in Timely, where Temptress points them in the direction of the factory where we saw Thor disappear in his annual. As they fly into the factory, they become lost in time. First they fight a bunch of pterodactyls, and then the Punisher Gangs from the distant future (from the early ’90s Guardians of the Galaxy comic).

The Avengers show up in Wisconsin. They fly their quinjet through the factory and end up in the same timeline as the FF. Because she believes the Avengers are her enemies, Temptress convinces the FF that the Avengers are really Kang’s agents in disguise. The Avengers assume that Tempress has “ensorcelled” the FF, and the typical superhero misunderstanding fight breaks out.

The two teams are pretty evenly matched, with the brawl breaking down to Reed versus Black Knight, Sue versus Sersi, Ben versus Hercules, and Johnny versus Crystal. After several pages of fighting, Dr. Druid breaks everyone up, revealing that they’ve been tricked. Then a portal opens up, and there’s Kang. He says the heroes have arrived in his future city, Chronopolis, where he rules. Kang then summons his elite warriors, the Anachronauts, to defeat the heroes.

That’s the “to be continued.” The story picks up in Avengers annual #21. All the Wisconsin stuff was Kang seeding the present with his advanced tech, ensuring he’d rule in the future. While the superheroes fight the Anachronauts, Temptress reveals she is really Ravonna, Kang’s former love. She changes her name again to Terminatrix. Kang sacrifices himself to save her life, and she takes over as the new ruler of Chronopolis, and returns all he heroes safely back to the present.

Back to Fantastic Four annual #25, there are four backup stories. One is Reed teaching Franklin (and the reader) about a bunch of the FF’s villains. The second is Ben babysitting Franklin while getting angst-y about being a monster again. Third is part three of a four-part retelling of Kang’s origin that runs through all four of these annuals. Finally, there is a fight between Mantis and Moondragon, after Mantis tried to convince Moondragon to help rescue Mantis’ son from the Cotati aliens. (So that deeply-buried subplot is still going on.) Moondragon loses the fight, but she gains Mantis’ respect, so Mantis lets Moondragon go on her way.

Unstable molecule: Black Knight tries to reason with Reed scientist-to-scientist, comparing Reed to Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Fade out: Although Sersi is a Thor-ish godlike character, she’s no match for Sue, who tricks her with invisibility and wallops her with spear-shaped force fields.

Clobberin’ time: There’s a line of dialogue saying that although Ben is normally the team’s pilot, Reed doesn’t want anyone else touching the controls of the time sled.

Flame on: The Johnny versus Crystal fight also reveals that they have some unresolved issues. She thinks he’s still bitter about her leaving him for another man. His anger at her would suggest that she’s right. Reading between the lines, though, we know Johnny is really hurting at the still-recent loss of Alicia/Lyja, and not so much Crystal.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Crystal more or less joined the Avengers in Avengers #334, just in time for the Operation: Galactic Storm crossover. Other than hints that there might be romance with Black Knight, Crystal didn’t do much as an Avenger, but she was nonetheless a loyal member of the team for many years.

Four and a half: The video game that Franklin plays with Ben is called “Bad Pac Dudes.” After Ben accidentally breaks the controller, Franklin cheers him up by suggesting they go outside and toss a football instead.

Commercial break: I can’t even.

Trivia time: The Anachronauts are Apocryphus (Sersi’s son from an alternate universe), Raa (a magic wielding caveman), Ssith (a lizard-man from 12,000 years in the past), Tyndar (an unkillable Trojan warrior), Wildrun (the 18th century version of the Red Wolf character), Sir Ralston (an ancestor of the Black Knight), and DeathHunt 9000 (a cyborg from the future). They’ve only appeared sporadically over the years, which is too bad. I’d love to see someone at Marvel do something interesting with these guys.

Fantastic or frightful? What a disaster. I really dislike how dumb the heroes look by being tricked into fighting each other so easily. Then there’s the trying-too-hard-to-be-just-like-Image artwork. Those old issues of Youngblood you still have in your collection are way, WAY better than this.

Next: Don’t Lyja to me.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 14

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! I know you’ve been waiting for this one: Madmartigan finally joints the party, 26:25-30:34 on the Blu-ray.

Our heroes have arrived at the Daikini crossroads, a muddy wasteland-looking area, situated around a rickety wooden structure with two large cages hanging from it. Willow and Meegosh look around, as the camera pans across a skeleton in one of the cages. There’s a fade to show time passing, with a shot of the Nelwyn setting up camp under a dark grey sky. A strange howling is heard in the distance, and everyone reacts with fear. Vohnkar is all business, of course, ordering the others to get their spears.

The tie-in books describe the Daikini crossroads as a once-inmportant locale, a center of trade and commerce this continent’s four kingdoms. It once had a grand marketplace and a meeting hall for diplomatic negotiations. All that changed once Bavmorda took control of the kingdom of NockMaar, however. Bavmorda’s troops cut off all the trading routes in hopes of weakening the three kingdoms, to where all that’s left of the crossroads is a small village nearby. The villagers sentence their criminals to death by dehydration/starvation in these cages. As for that howling noise, the source of it is never identified. We can see how windy is was when they filmed this, so maybe the sound was just a trick of the wind.

The howling is heard again, and Willow backs up against one of the cages. It’s a big jump scare when a hand reaches down from inside the cage and grabs him. They won’t reveal this character’s name for a little while, but come on, we all know it’s Madmartigan. “Give me some water, peck,” he says, “or you die.” Get used to this word “peck” being used in an offensive, insulting manner throughout the film. He demands water a second time, and drops Willow. Willow falls back with the other Nelwyn, and nobody brings the water. This just makes Madmartigan angrier, saying “Bring me some water, you measly little pecks.”

While the others look concerned, Burglekutt leans forward and says, “This Daikini. We’re in luck.” Willow insists that they can’t give the baby to this stranger. “Somebody put him there for a reason,” Meegosh says. Burglekutt counters with, “Those soldiers are after us.” Meegosh then points out that Madmartigan is watching them.

Madmartigan’s attitude has changed, as he now smiles at the group. Vohnkar says they have to give the baby to somebody, and Madmartigan says, “I’m somebody.” He offers to take care of the baby if they let him out of there. He makes kissing noises at the baby, and there’s a terrific reaction shot of the baby with an “I’m not so sure about this” look on her face.

Burglekutt says he trusts this stranger “completely.” Willow says “But he tried to strangle me,” and then Burglekutt shows his true colors by saying “I want to go home.” Willow says they should wait. Burglekutt chides Willow for challenging his authority, but Willow says he will as far as the baby’s concerned. Madmartigan is quite to read the situation, saying “don’t listen to him, Burglekutt.” Burglekutt tells Willow he can stay there alone, but the rest of the group are leaving. Madmartigan encourages Burglekutt to stay.

Burglekutt tells the others to get their gear. Willow pleads for Vohnkar to stay, but Burglekutt says the decision is his, not Vohnkar’s. Fed up, Willow says “Burglekutt, you’re troll dung.” Madmartigan says, “Don’t let him talk to you that way, Burglekutt!” Burglekutt calls Willow a “runt” and says while they’re wasting time there, Willow’s fields aren’t getting planted. This is some nice continuity, as the movie began with planting and a planting festival.

Willow and Burglekutt have a standoff. Willow says “Burglekutt, I’m going to…” but he doesn’t finish the thought. Burglekutt mockingly says, “You’re going to what?” and then laughs in Willow’s face. Willow tries to get in the last word with “Someday, Burglekutt, someday,” but it’s no use. Burglekutt already has his back to Willow, saying to Vonhkar, “Let’s go.”

Vohnkar, who’s been mostly silent during all this, now says, “Meegosh, you coming?” Meegosh says he’s staying, and Burglekutt laughs at him as well. As Burglekutt and the others leave, Madmartigan pleads with them to let him out of the cage. He asks Vohnkar to borrow his spear, presumably for lockpicking. This foreshadows him picking a lock later in the movie. His feigned friendliness turns back into anger as he says, “Well, at least give me some water! Burglekutt, don’t leave me alone with these two!” He then sits back down in the cage, frustrated.

Meegosh asks what they should do now, but before Willow can answer, Madmartigan says, “Well, that was really stupid, peck.” Willow says not to call him that, and Madmartigan mockingly says “I’m sorry, peck.” He then repeats “peck” a bunch of times in a children-in-the-schoolyard way. Note that there’s a now a sunny blue sky behind Madmartigan, when it was overcast at the beginning of the scene. This could be to help the audience see him now as more of a humorous character rather than a threat, or maybe stuff like this comes with the territory when filming on location.

Willow then pulls out one of the magic acorns the High Aldwin gave him. He says he’s a powerful sorcerer and threatens to throw it at Madmartigan and turn him to stone. Madmartigan pretends to be scared, crying “No, don’t! There’s a peck here with an acorn pointed at me.” Willow puts the acorn away, saying he wouldn’t want to waste it. Madmartigan laughs at him again. Again, the acorns are a ticking clock throughout the movie, as the audience is unsure what will happen if/when Willow actually uses them. Willow and Meegosh return to their campfire as Madmartigan chants “peck” at them over and over.

In the Willow graphic novel, there’s an odd addition to this scene, in which a horse drawn cart goes by with some men on it. The men throw some lit torches at Madmartigan, burning his feet. They then ride off again. Madmartigan says to Willow, “Why not give them the baby? They eat babies!” I suspect these strangers are meant to be the caveman-like Poha referenced in the other tie-in books, but there’s no way to know for sure.

Time passes. We cut to night, where Willow and Meegosh sit around the campfire while the baby sleeps, as Madmartigan silently watches. Time passes again, and it’s morning.

Next: Here come the troops.

****

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Fantastic Friday: The end of infinity

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #370, the Infinity War crossover finally comes to an end… of sorts.

Recap: Magus, the evil doppelganger of Adam Warlock, has created evil doppelgangers of all the Marvel heroes. While the heroes deal with that, Magus successfully collected all the Infinity Gems and the Infinity Gauntlet, giving him godlike power. After Reed was abducted by his doppelganger, Sue merged with Malice, a psychic entity who represents all of Sue’s anger and aggression, so that Sue could lead a task force of Marvel heroes into space to save the day.

Magus makes a big villain speech about how he’s now omnipotent, conveniently catching readers up to speed, while the Marvel heroes all fight doppelgangers of themselves. Johnny uses his powers to destroy the doppelgangers, knowing they’re mere constructs and not alive. Ben, however, can’t bring himself to destroy Sue’s doppelganger because she looks just like Sue. As the doppelgangers gang up (heh) on Ben, he thinks that after this battle, “nothing will ever be the same again.”

During the battle, Sue turned invisible and snuck into Magus’ high-tech stronghold, which is apparently nearby. She comes across Thanos fighting his doppelganger. Sue ponders how both versions of Thanos are the evil one. She uses her force fields to help Thanos defeat the doppelganger, and then she sneaks off again.

Sue then finds Reed and Iron Man, who had been abducted by their doppelgangers a few issues back. They’re in suspended animation, alongside Daredevil, Black Widow, Namorita, and Darkhawk. (We never actually see these abductions. I think we’re meant to think that they occurred between issues 4 and 5 of Infinity War.) Sue frees Reed, only for Magus to appear before them. Sue, who is now part Malice, attacks, demanding action. It doesn’t work, because this Magus is only a projection.

Elsewhere, Magus once again makes a big speech about how he’s a god now, and he has apparently captured all the heroes who were in the battle, holding them in his “trophy case.” Thanos interrupts, and picks a fight with Magus. This distracts Magus long enough for Adam Warlock to place his hand over the Infinity Gauntlet. Because Warlock once wore the gauntlet, he can withstand its power. This begins a battle of wills between Warlock and Magus, with the fate of the universe on the line.

All the heroes are released from the trophy room as the universe gets all twisted and psychedelic around them. Galactus has everyone gather on board his ship, where they fly to safety. There’s a huge explosion out in space, and the FF are immediately teleported back to Earth, with no explanation of what happened. You have to read Infinity War #6 for that. Warlock, Thanos, and Warlock’s pals in the Infinity Watch pulled a fast one on Magus, replacing the Infinity Gauntlet’s Reality Gem with a fake one, which gave Warlock a means to defeat Magus. The cosmic being Eternity then declared that the gems can never again be used in unison, no matter what the reason.

Back at FF HQ, Sue is still angry mode, calling Reed the team’s weak link because he was defeated by his own doppelganger. Johnny flies off, still pondering whether he should quit the team. Sue calms down to play with Franklin, showing that she’s not all evil, while Reed ponders whether he should step down as team leader. Then the Puppet Master shows up, telling the team that Alicia has been kidnapped.

In Earth’s orbit, we catch up with Devos the Devastator and Paibok the Power-Skrull. They reveal that Lyja is not only still alive but has returned to full health. She steps out in her sexy new battle armor as Paibok announces that she wants vengeance.

Unstable molecule: This issue’s character arcs (such as they are) have to do with fears over the team breaking up. Reed faces a loss of confidence over his leadership abilities.

Fade out: The Thanos vs. Thanos fight is the same one from Infinity War #6, except that one doesn’t reveal Sue’s presence or involvement in the scene, making her truly invisible.

Clobberin’ time: Ben seems to be the only one who can tell that Sue has changed, and tat the group is heading for a breakup.

Flame on: Johnny wonders if this experience with Infinity War is what’s causing his desire to leave the team, but then he dismisses this idea.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Former alternate team members She-Hulk and Frankie Raye can be seen in the background in Magus’ trophy room and aboard Galactus’ ship.

Four and a half: Franklin has a Rubik’s cube among his toys, a good ten years or so after its popularity.

The Alicia problem: Lyja appears to be a lot taller and more muscular than the last time we saw her, but I guess shape-changers can get away with that.

Commercial break: Barry Sanders was such a big deal that he gets an entire page of the comic devoted to just his face.

Trivia time: Of course this isn’t really the end. Warlock, Thanos, the Infinity Gems, the Infinity Gauntlet, and even Magus will all return a year later in Infinity Crusade. The Fantastic four will appear in that crossover as well, but not to the same degree as they did in Infinity War.

Fantastic or frightful? A lot of this issue is repeating Warlock/Thanos scenes from Infinity War, so that the Fantastic Four feel like supporting characters in their own comic. Beyond that, this should be epic space adventure with godlike cosmic beings fighting for the fate of the entire universe, but it all feels so ordinary, without any sense of wonder. What a waste.

Next: Where’s Shaft, Chapel, and Badrock when we need them?

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 13

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! It’s time for another  cross-country travel montage, 24:25-26:24 on the Blu-ray.

We begin with a shot of Burglekutt walking out from behind a tree, wiping his hands on his shirt. Was he just using this tree as his bathroom? Let’s hope not, because he walks over to two of the others and has a bite to eat. The camera mercifully pans over to Willow, tending to the baby. He hears a dog howl, and then sees two NockMaar soldiers in the distance, riding toward them. Vohnkar of course is the first to leap into action, ordering the others to “Move!” The rest of the Nelwyn quickly gather their things as the riders get closer.

There’s another shot of the Nelwyn running further into the trees, with Vohnkar shouting an action-hero style “Come on!” We then see two of the Death Dogs running alongside the riders. The Nelwyn hide in some leafy green bushes as the Death Dogs run by them. A third NockMaar rider comes at the first two at angle, stopping them. “The Nelwyn have got the baby,” one says. “We searched the village, but a group of them are on their own somewhere.” The second says, “They couldn’t have gone far. Widen the search and report to Sorsha.”

It’s likely that the first NockMaar to speak is the Death Dogs’ pack leader. The pack leaders are NockMaar soldiers who, according to the tie-in fiction, have somehow given up their higher humanity to care for and command the Death Dogs. Doing so makes the pack leaders devolve into a doglike form, with “corrupted flesh and spirit.”

The big question here is if the Death Dogs are such great trackers, then why did they just run past when the Nelywn and the baby were right there? If Willow has latent magic powers he’s using without realizing it, perhaps he’s unknowingly using magic to protect the baby. Maybe, just maybe, this also explains how the movie gets away with the hearing-exactly-what-you-need-to-hear-while-eavesdropping cliché. Another question is how these guys can report to Sorsha, when in the previous scene we just saw Sorsha at Castle NockMaar, half a continent away. I guess we’ll have to assume he means they’re reporting to Sorsha’s officers.

Another big question is the reference to the NockMaar claiming to have searched the Nelwyn village. Is this referring to the Death Dog that attacked the Nelwyn festival, or did the NockMaar raid the village during the montage? Again, the movie references major events that we don’t see.

Vohnkar is again all business, saying “Come on, we’ll keep to the woods.” Remember that the High Aldwin instructed their group to follow the river, and this line suggests they are no longer doing that. The High Aldwin never actually specified the Daikini crossroads as their destination, but we’re about to see that’s still their goal.

Next we get the second half of the Nelwyn’s travel montage, which started a few scenes ago. First is a very Lord of the Rings-ish shot of the Nelwyn marching single file in silhouette along a mountaintop with taller mountains in the background. Then there’s a shot of the group sitting around the campfire sharing a meal, and this is where the score switches from suspenseful to uplifting, telling the audience they’ve successfully escaped. After that, the group is crossing a log across huge chasm of two cliffs, and then them walking among some large trees.

The montage ends with an odd shot of the Nelwyn emerging from an opening in a group of chalky white trees. Is this some sort of hidden entrance to pathways eventually leading to the Nelwyn village, or just the group’s way of staying out of site? Vohnkar leads the way, and announces “There it is! The crossroads!” The music stirs, but then cuts out as we see these “crossroads” are a rickety wooden structure with two large cages hanging from it. That’s where we’ll pick things up next time.

Next: Not William Atherton.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Being Sue Malice-vich

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #369 has cosmic crossover craziness and a familiar face from Sue’s past.

We’re still in the middle of Infinity War, where supervillain Magus (the evil twin of Adam Warlock) is creating evil doppelgangers of all the Marvel heroes. Last issue, a task force made up of select members of the FF, the Avengers, the X-Men, and Alpha Flight teleported to space in pursuit of Reed and Iron Man’s doppelgangers. This issue begins with that task force in the middle of a massive fight against Adam Warlock, Thanos, and Warlock’s pals the Infinity Watch. Infinity War #4 establishes that this is a cliché “superhero misunderstanding fight,” where the task force thinks Warlock is really Magus. Also, Thanos is here because he and Warlock have formed a temporary truce to stop Magus. None of this is properly explained in issue #369, however, making it look like everyone is fighting just for the sake of fighting.

The fight is interrupted when Galactus’ ship appears overhead, and beams everyone aboard. Inside, Dr. Strange, the Silver Surfer, Galactus, and former FF member Frankie Raye are on board, just having finished their own Eternity Quest crossover. Meanwhile, Magus has created a doppelganger of Thanos, and the two of them are secretly watching all this, with Magus bragging about how this is all going according to his plan. Magus presses a button in his ship, saying it’s time to take control of the Earth.

Back on Earth, Alicia is having tea with her father, the Puppet Master. He’s about to tell her that he saw Ben having lunch with Sharon Ventura, when the two become frozen in place. Time has stopped all over the Earth for everyone, except for Aron the rouge Watcher, who can sense what’s happening from his hideout in the arctic, and he ponders how to use this to his advantage.

In Galactus’ ship, Galactus runs a cerebral scan of all the heroes to get everyone up to speed. This has unforeseen complications for Sue, though, as she gets lost in a surreal mindscape of her own subconscious. There, she is confronted by Malice. The comic rightly points out that Malice was merely a temporary name and costume Sue adopted when she was being influenced by the Hate Monger (in issues #280-281). This version of Malice disagrees, saying that she’s always existed as living psychic entity repressed deep within Sue’s subconscious.

Sue and Malice fight, with Malice arguing that Sue needs Malice’s aggression and ferocity to deal with the conflict that lies ahead. Sue defeats Malice, and then absorbs Malice’s persona into her own somehow, hoping to combine Malice’s with Sue’s wisdom and compassion. Back in Galactus’ ship, Sue awakes and tells Johnny she’s never felt better.

 

On Earth, everyone is still frozen in time except for Aron, who teleports to Alicia’s apartment and abducts her. Elsewhere in outer space, we see Devos the Devastator and Paibok the Power Skrull have succeeded in bringing Lyja back to life. She’s unconscious, and Paibok plans to alter her genetic structure. In Galactus’ ship, we catch up with the events of Infinity War, where Warlock has retaken the Infinity Gauntlet and reassembled all the Infinity Gems, giving him the power of creation itself. Then a portal opens, with Magus and the Thanos doppelganger stepping out of it. They abduct Warlock and disappear.

Sue takes leadership of the superhero task force over Captain America, saying the heroes must attack Magus as soon as possible, before Magus gets adjusted to his new power. When the Hulk makes fun of her, Sue throws him around the room with her force fields. Ben and Johnny note that Sue is acting different than usual. The heroes open another portal (I’m assuming Dr. Druid is the one who does this, since he’s standing right next to it) to follow Magus. They jump through it, only to face an army of their own doppelgangers. Everybody fights. While the battle rages, we see that Magus has succeeded in wresting the Infinity Gauntlet from Warlock, claiming his victory over Warlock… and infinity itself.

To be continued!

Fade out: The original Malice story was about Sue facing her trauma and heartbreak head on, becoming a stronger person in the end. This issue makes the metaphor literal by having Malice be an actual character separate from Sue. Now that they’ve merged into half-Sue/half-Malice, we’ll see that play out in unexpected ways in upcoming issues.

Clobberin’ time: Ben makes a funny meta comment on these big crossovers by saying, “I hate these big brawls! No one gets ta admire my fancy moves!”

Flame on: There’s a quick scene where Johnny finds himself attracted to Psylocke, but doesn’t say anything because it’s still too soon after the whole Alicia/Lyja thing. Unknown to him, the telepathic Psylocke reads his mind, and thinks the two of them as a couple might have proven interesting.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Once again, both She-Hulk and Frankie Raye appear in this issue, but have no speaking lines.

The Alicia problem: Lyja appears in only one scene, where she is unconscious and strapped to a table, while two men discuss what to do with her. I know the word “problematic” gets thrown around a lot these days, but…

Commercial break: This is an ad for the videogame Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. Right to left, the characters are Neanderthal Donatello, Pirate Michelangelo, Cowboy Raphael, and Astronaut Leonardo.

Trivia time: The Infinity Gauntlet first appeared in 1990’s Silver Surfer #44. After Thanos gathered all the Infinity Gems, he just stuck them on his knuckles of his regular glove for a cool look. It’s not called “the gauntlet” until an issue later, when Mephisto tries to swipe the glove with the gems for himself. Later stories describe the gauntlet having cosmic properties by itself, with a lot of talk about the importance of building a new one.

As for the gems themselves, their history is way too long and complicated for this blog post. They first appeared in 1972’s Marvel Premiere #1, where they were called the Soul Gems. Their importance grew over time as the cosmic parts of the Marvel universe kept getting more and more cosmic. Marvel Premiere #1 is also when Adam Warlock got his name, and was no longer just called “Him.”

Fantastic or frightful? This is like one of those X-Men comics where it only works if you’re already deeply knowledgeable about the last 200 issues, plus all the other tie-ins to the current crossover. It’s supposed to represent a major turning point for Sue’s character, but that comes off as a watered-down version of what was done before. Can Infinity War please end?

Next: Infinity War ends.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 12

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freaking Willow! We check in on our villains, and it’s the first appearance of General Kael, 22:36-24-44 on the Blu-ray.

 

We begin with a shot of NockMaar Castle, with no other buildings around it. This movie often references huge cities and vast kingdoms that we never see. NockMaar Castle appears to be both the seat of government for NockMaar, while simultaneously acting as a border fort, protecting the kingdom from outsiders. Perhaps this system is to make it easier for the queen to visit with foreign dignitaries. Or, perhaps this one of many castles within NockMaar. We don’t know.

We then see the castle interior, a dark brick hallway lined with torches. Bavmorda and Sorsha stand in the center of the hall. Bavmorda tells Sorsha she didn’t ask for a dead nursemaid. With over-the-top anger, Bavmorda tells Sorsha, “You’re useless!” Sorsha is all business, though, saying her men are tracking the nursemaid’s trail, and are still in pursuit of the village. This maybe explains how the Death Dogs found their way to the Nelwyn village. Two huge doors open at the far end of the hall, and Bavmorda says “General Kael, at last.”

In walks General Kael, filling the screen with his suit of armor, cloak, and skull-faced helmet. The skull appears to not be human, but that of some kind of animal. He says, “My queen, I have destroyed the castle at Galladoorn.” A few scenes from now, when we meet the character Airk, we’ll see the fallout of this battle. Bavmorda says, “Well done,” adding she has another task for him. He is to help her daughter to find “that tiny, helpless baby that continues somehow to elude her.”

Then Kael lifts up the skull face on his helmet, revealing himself to be a man, and not some inhuman monster. (This is probably also so the audience doesn’t think he’s a total ripoff of Darth Vader.)  He does some exposition speak, asking “The baby of the prophecy? The one that will destroy you?” Bavmorda won’t have that, saying “I need that baby alive.” Then she does some exposition-speak of her own, saying she must perform a ritual to “exile the child’s spirit into oblivion.” How much of this sentence is literal and how much is hyperbole, I cannot say. We’ll see this ritual later in the film. Bavmorda then adds an extra-dramatic “Find her!”

Sorsha says she doesn’t need Kael’s help. Bavmorda says, “You will do as I say, child.” She then makes a motion with her right arm, but her hand is below the screen, so we can’t see what she’s doing. Whatever it is, it makes Kael smile slightly. Sorsha puts on her clunky black metal helmet and marches out of the room. Note that throughout all this, we see she has a quiver full of arrows on her back. Sorsha did the redheaded female archer thing way before Katniss and Merida made it cool. General Kael follows her.

Bavmorda’s druid advisor says to Bavmorda, “I’ve seen the signs. I fear your daughter will betray you.” Bavmorda responds with an uncalled-for insult, “I trust her loyalty more than I trust yours.” I’ve been researching all week, and I can’t find any background info on this character. His name in the credits is just “Druid.” All we know is that there are good druids named the Senkadi, and evil druids named the Brithemain. He’s obviously one of the latter. The question is whether he saw “the signs” using genuine magic, or if he could just tell this after seeing Bavmorda trash-talk her daughter. This could be his version of “the bones tell me nothing.”

Critics of the movie often argue that Bavmorda is a one-note villain. The tie-in books respond by giving her a lengthy and detailed backstory. A native of the kingdom of Tir Asleen, Bavmorda developed great magical powers at a young age, as well as an aptitude for evil scheming. Bavmorda’s chief rival since childhood was Fin Raziel, a sorceress whom we’ll meet later in the movie. When Raziel got engaged to Mikal, a prince of Tir Asleen, Bavmorda used magic to seduce the prince and make him obedient to her. She married Mikal, and worked her up through the royal family, eventually overthrowing and then destroying Tir Asleen. Now known by the moniker “the Demon Queen,” Bavmorda then conquered the kingdom of NockMaar, formerly a wild land made up of criminals and barbarians. With these ruffians serving as the NockMaar army, Bavmorda wages war against the two remaining free kingdoms, Galladoorn and Cashmere.

As for General Kael, we know that he is in command of the entire NockMaar army, with Sorsha being second in command. The novelization gives us a little insight into Kael’s thoughts. When he’s wearing the skull mask, he believes himself to be invincible. When not wearing the mask, he feels like a weary old man, overwhelmed by a lifetime of death and violence. This is important to remember when we get to the final battle. Behind the scenes, General Kael was allegedly named after film critic Pauline Kael. I say allegedly because it appears the filmmakers never did go on the record to confirm this. Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer have joked about this in interviews, but I doubt they’re the ones who came up with the name.

There’s also a lot to say about Sorsha and her backstory, but I’ll save that for upcoming scenes.

Next: Travelogue.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Infinity times X

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #368, the Infinity War crossover just keeps on infinity-ing.

In Infinity War, the villain Magus is creating evil doppelgangers of all the Marvel heroes. Reed and Iron Man were replaced by their doppelgangers. They arranged a summit of a bunch of the superheroes at Four Freedoms Plaza, only to set off a bomb. This issue begins with the predictable resolution of Sue using a force field to protect everyone from the blast. To add a little extra action, Thor summons some hurricane winds to blast the bomb’s nuclear radiation into space. In a scene almost identical from Infinity War #3, Magus and Thanos appear through a portal and take Evil Reed and Evil Iron Man away from the scene.

 

Sue offers all the other heroes the use of FF headquarters for the time being. That includes Daredevil, the Avengers, the X-Men, the New Warriors, and Alpha Flight. There’s a whole page of the Hulk and the Thing arguing, before Speedball, of all people, plays peacemaker between them.

Johnny takes off, flying over the streets of NYC. He considers leaving the team after they rescue Reed. He’s then attacked by a team of X-Men doppelgangers, as well as his own doppelganger. Most of the rest of the issue is Johnny fighting them all off. Johnny trashes a water tower to douse Evil Johnny’s flame, and he and storm chase each other around the skies for a while. When Evil Wolverine mentions something about not being alive, Johnny deduces that the doppelgangers are constructs, so he cuts loose with the powers, burning all the Evil X-Men to a crisp. Evil Johnny survives, and congratulates Johnny for being converted to “the dark side.” Evil Johnny escapes through a portal to join Magus and Thanos.

Back at HQ, there’s another scene identical to Infinity War #3, where the heroes decide that magic is the only way to find Magus and Thanos. Dr. Strange can’t be reached, so Scarlet Witch brings in magical help from Dr. Druid and Franklin’s former nanny Agatha Harkness. Sue takes Agatha aside and asks her to return, and help with Franklin again. Agatha initially refuses, but changes her mind once she sees Franklin again. Elsewhere in the building, it appears that Ben and the Hulk are about to fight again, but then we see they’re just playing foosball.

In the third scene lifted straight from Infinity War #3, Agatha, Scarlet Witch, Dr. Druid, and Shaman from Alpha Flight use magic to open a portal to Magus and Thanos’ location. A team of the most powerful and “most seasoned” heroes are hand-picked from the four teams to enter the portal. They do so, and the issue ends. The story is picked up in the rest of Infinity War #3. Thanos betrays Magus, teaming up with Adam Warlock to stop Magus. All the superheroes arrive. Thinking that Adam Warlock is Magus, the heroes attack both him and Thanos. With that, Infinity War is…

To be continued!

Fade out: Sue takes on a leadership role at the start of the issue, bossing all the other heroes around. By the end, though, Captain America is the one calling the shots. Maybe they’re co-leaders.

Clobberin’ time: Notice that while Speedball talks Ben and the Hulk out of fighting, Ben has his hand placed on Speedball’s shoulder, as if the two are old friends.

Flame on: Johnny’s newfound desire to leave the team will play out (sort of) in upcoming issues.

Fantastic fourth wheel: She-Hulk is present during with all the other heroes in this issue, but has no lines. The Marvel wiki states that Crystal is also here as one of the Avengers, but I don’t see her in this issue. Crystal can be spotted in Infinity War #3, though, confirming that she is there.

Four and a half: Agatha Harkness is described in a caption as having a look of concern on her face when she sees Franklin. Reading between the lines, it appears that she’s decided to return not out of sentiment, but because she can sense Franklin’s reemerging mutant powers.

Commercial break: Something something anatomy something.

Trivia time: Thor is shown to be out of his element, and now sure his own power. That’s because this is the new second Thor, Eric Masterson. Eric will later be known as Thunderstrike.

The reason Dr. Strange couldn’t be contacted is because at this time, he was off on his own crossover, the lesser-known Eternity Quest, where he, Silver Surfer, and former FF member Frankie Raye teamed up to fight the unlikely duo of Galactus and Juggernaut.

I believe this is the first time we’ve seen the entertainment room at Four Freedoms Plaza. In addition to foosball, there’s a pool table and a Xaxxon arcade game.

Fantastic or frightful? The Marvel Wiki lists 53 superheroes appearing in this issue, but by my count, only have 15 have speaking lines. The rest are just standing around in the background doing nothing. These big crossovers are supposed to be exciting because all the heroes are in one place at one time, but stunts like this dilute that excitement. It’s fun to see Johnny cut loose with his powers, but his big fight scene contributes very little to the plot.

Next: Malicious, again.

****

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