Archive for March 15, 2020
The X-Men's next threat is Hell itself - literally. In the comics, the X-Men are celebrated as a metaphor for tolerance and inclusion; as a result, many of their greatest villains are human bigots who they oppose on a philosophical level as well as a physical one. For all that's the case, though, the X-Men have also faced off against both cosmic and demonic threats.
Take, for example, the various denizens of the Hell dimension, Limbo. Originally ruled by a demonic being named Belasco, Limbo is a sort of "pocket universe," a realm of corruption, and it's inhabited by brutal and savage creatures. Belasco stole the young Illyana Rasputin - Colossus' little sister - and spirited her into his domain. Although the X-Men rescued Illyana, time passed more quickly in Limbo than in the real world, and Illyana was transformed into the teenage mutant codenamed Magik. She ultimately became ruler of Limbo, supplanting Belasco.
It seems, however, that Magik is no longer on the throne of Limbo. The current Ghost Rider series has seen a number of demonic beings form an alliance against Johnny Blaze, who is currently ruler of Hell itself. One prominent figure in this alliance is Belasco, who now rules Limbo once again.
It's unclear how Belasco has regained his throne; Limbo was last referenced at the end of Matthew Rosenberg's Uncanny X-Men run, when Magik was freed from her humanity and transformed into the demon Darkchylde. The X-Men comics then skipped a six-month period, and Magik has somehow been restored to human form; she's now living among the mutants on the living island of Krakoa. Curiously, she still wields the Soulsword, which is traditionally held by those who rule Limbo. Something clearly happened in that six-month period; perhaps Darkchylde was defeated, and the Illyana living on Krakoa is one of the mutant clones. Still, whatever happened, it's likely to cause major problems for the X-Men. Belasco has always been obsessed with Magik, and it's only a matter of time before he heads to Earth.
Limbo played a major role in a 1989 event called "Inferno," and Jonathan Hickman's X-Men relaunch appears to be setting the pieces in place for a sequel of some kind. Powers of X #4 contained several oblique hints at Inferno, and Madelyne Pryor - aka the Goblin Queen, the main villain of Inferno - is due to return in Zeb Wells' upcoming Hellions book. It looks as though Belasco is another key piece in the game; but it remains to be seen whether he's a king, or just a pawn.
Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network have become the lifeblood of video games, enabling millions of players around the world to connect and play together. Because of that, it's a big deal whenever one of the services go offline.
On Sunday, March 15, 2020, Xbox Live went offline for countless players across the world, right in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis. Many players started reporting the outage to Microsoft.
For anyone looking for info, here's everything we know about why Xbox Live went down and when it will be back up again.
Xbox Live went down around 5:10 PM ET, and that's around the time many users started reporting issues. At the moment, the reason the service went offline isn't clear, although there's likely one main culprit; the level of traffic.
With the Coronavirus causing problems worldwide many countries, organizations, and citizens are quarantining inside. At the time Xbox Live went down both Italy and Spain were in total lockdown. This, no doubt, has led to a massive influx of Xbox Live users flooding the system, which could have simply overloaded it. The status page for Xbox Live Support was also down for a time, although it's gone back up since. Microsoft will likely announce an official reason for the service going down later on.
Whenever Xbox Live goes down it's hard to give an exact timeline for when the service is going to go back up. Around 5:35 ET Xbox Support announced that services were restored and players should be able to access everything normally.
Of course, with so many players still using Xbox Live it's possible that it could go down again, or still see continuing issues. In the case that happens, players can head to support.xbox.com where they can check the status of core services, social and gaming, purchase and content usage, and more. If players are still having issues, they can try restarting their Xbox and signing back into Xbox Live. As more and more people around the world quarantine, both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network are bound to see spikes in traffic.
Batwoman has fixed a long-standing problem with secret identities in the Arrowverse by letting Mary Hamilton figure out that her step-sister, Kate Kane, is secretly Batwoman. There’s been a history in the Arrowverse of characters being kept in the dark way too long about secret identities, which didn’t reflect well on the characters. The plot-twist in Batwoman redeems the Arrowverse for this flaw.
In the Arrowverse, several key characters were oblivious to the obvious truth of a masked hero's secret identity until it was revealed to them. Iris West spent the majority of The Flash season 1 not realizing Barry was the Flash. She only found out when the Flash touched and shocked her late in The Flash season 1, causing her to remember when that happened with Barry while he was in a coma before becoming the Flash. Another example was Lena Luthor on Supergirl. Despite spending a lot of time with both Kara and Supergirl separately, Lena never figured out her secret identity. Instead, Lena learned it only when Lex Luthor told her that Kara was Supergirl, making Lena not look like the super-intelligent character she’s supposed to be.
On Batwoman, Mary figures out Kate's identity by putting a bunch of clues together, avoiding repeating the mistake made in The Flash and Supergirl. She hasn’t seen anything that confirms Kate’s secret vigilante life for sure yet, but the evidence pointing to it is incredibly strong. In episode 14, Mary pushed Kate to let her take an active role in the Duela Dent investigation from both the Kate and Batwoman angle. When Kate turns her down, Mary starts to lay on the guilt, saying that she accepts Kate no matter what and Kate can always be honest with her, almost turning antagonistic. This gives just as many storytelling opportunities as a more traditional secret identity story, without falling into the usual tropes.
Unlike other secret identity discovery plots, Mary has a lot to do here. She put the clues together: Nocturna’s attack on Batwoman, the ketamine Kate had in her system, Luke Fox being on an earpiece with Kate at odd times, and even Batwoman’s coming out interview. This isn’t an accident or being told the truth. Instead, Mary’s given an active role in that part of the story. Mary doesn’t stop at figuring out Batwoman’s identity, either. She will clearly go to great lengths to help others, as shown by the illegal clinic she runs. Of course, she’d want to help Batwoman with her work cleaning up the city.
This isn’t just a benefit to Mary’s character, but to Kate and Luke as well. Being a superhero or part of their support staff can often mean a character is bizarrely competent, especially around keeping secret identities. Mary is picking up on where they slip – Kate’s bad lie about the ketamine and Luke obviously using the earpiece in public. If Batwoman didn’t let Mary figure this out now, there’d have to be some sort of miraculous save to throw Mary off. A big theme to Batwoman is that both Kate and Luke are still learning how this works, so it makes more sense that they’d fail at keeping Kate’s identity that secret.
There’s still some more traditional secret identity superhero tropes going on in Batwoman, most notably the story with her ex-girlfriend Sophie. With Mary’s story, they’ve clearly learned from the other Arrowverse shows: it’s hard to keep a secret identity, and letting someone discover it and want to help can be good for just as much dramatic storytelling as the more traditional version of the story.
Though Black Widow will fill in some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's story gaps, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) lives on and her "sister" Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) may have actually been the one to make the sacrifice play in Avengers: Endgame. Black Widow will cover the time between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. This time span may hold the key to the return of Black Widow to the franchise, despite her death. It hinges on the question of whether or not Yelena, as Natasha, took the fall in Endgame.
The announcement of the Black Widow film was long overdue, 10 years after the character's franchise debut in Iron Man 2. Although, fans were confused about its announcement following her death in the fourth Avengers film, it has since been revealed that Black Widow will be a prequel. It will follow Natasha's journey back to Russia where her story began, reuniting with faces from her past, who have been described as her real first family. Among them will be her surrogate sister, Yelena Belova.
Yelena and Nat went through the mysterious Red Room together, receiving similar training and being fed similar Russian propaganda. They are near equals, understanding each other inside and out. This makes them two of many Black Widows. Because of this, one could convincingly imitate the other, and it has been theorized that somehow Yelena was the one who lived through the events of Infinity War and Endgame disguised as Nat. This would suggest that Black Widow is still alive chronologically.
At some point in Black Widow, Yelena could "borrow" Natasha's face, and technology introduced in Captain America: The Winter Soldier makes this a possibility. The Photostatic Veil is a piece of S.H.I.E.L.D. espionage equipment. When placed over the face of the user, s/he takes on the appearance of someone else. Natasha used it in the 2014 film to thwart Hydra's takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D. masquerading as World Security Council member Hawley (Jenny Agutter). It also saw a handful of uses in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D television series.
It is unknown as of now whether or not Photostatic Veils will be in Black Widow. If so, at some point in the film Yelena could convincingly replicate Nat's face likely for the sake of their mission against the enigmatic Taskmaster. There could be some kind of mix-up that results in the two trading places from that point on.
If this is the case, there are wider implications on the MCU that would have to be addressed. For one, the timing of their switch would be a key piece of information. Did it occur after Civil War? After Infinity War? Some other time? How long was Yelena assuming Nat's life? The answer would create a domino effect of other questions. The culmination of these questions would affect Natasha's biggest moment in the franchise: her death in Endgame and the repercussions of her sacrifice for the Soul Stone.
On the bright side, Black Widow would still be alive, and Scarlett Johansson could potentially return to the character in future MCU films. However, the emotional resonance of her death would be largely lost. Her demise in Endgame altered the entire story. The original Avengers were in shambles. This isn't to say Yelena's death wouldn't be sad, but it means Natasha's choice would be ultimately cheapened, regardless as to how strangely it came off. A bait-and-switch would tarnish the film retroactively.
As far as story issues go, there are plenty to discuss. Narratively, it is incredibly convoluted. For as detail-oriented as the MCU can be, this is almost too much. It would undercut Natasha's story, coming off as a knee-jerk reaction to the fan outcry for her return. In doing so, it would also squander Yelena's potential in the franchise, reducing Florence Pugh's part in the MCU to a mere body double. Pugh has proven she is worthy of so much more with a prosperous future in the franchise. A twist like this would throw all of that out for no good reason.
Logically, this theory is maddening. Why would Yelena choose to live Nat's life for so long? Better yet, where is Natasha for this entire time frame? Also, its highly unlikely she could mimic Nat in every possible way from her movements to her speech patterns down to the last microscopic detail. Especially troublesome are her memories. Photostatic Veils only work on the surface, not for personality. After years apart, Nat couldn't have possibly told Yelena everything about her post-Red Room life so quickly.
Even if she did pull it off, Yelena would surely be found out by her peers eventually. It's a given she'd have to remove the veil at some point. All it would take is for one person to see her and the whole act would be up. If it is to be accepted that no one noticed, it is an insult to the intelligence of her teammates. In that same vein, it would be a major insult to that of the audience as well.
Though it is fun to speculate, it is likely that Natasha and Yelena will keep their faces to themselves. Black Widow is a prequel, so for the time being she remains deceased chronologically. Black Widow will see the big screen one more time though, and she isn't the only hero to rise from the grave in Phase 4, as Vision (Paul Bettany) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) have been confirmed to appear in future MCU films. Still, until Black Widow hits theaters speculation can still run wild. Could Yelena have taken Natasha's face and her selfless moment in Endgame?
Everyone knows Spider-Man is one of the most capable superheroes, and despite the constant soap opera drama in his life, Peter Parker always manages to somehow stop muggings, gang wars, and supervillain attacks every day. But in one comic story, Peter decided to switch jobs with a different superhero – and discovered (to his shock) that his friend and rival Johnny Storm – The Fantastic Four’s Human Torch – can actually do his job better than he can.
Fortunately for Peter, Johnny decided not to carry on as “Spider-Torch” – and later discovered there were more than a few downsides to dealing with the constant bad press Spidey seems to attract.
The story took place in the Spider-Man/Human Torch: I’m With Stupid miniseries written by Dan Slott and drawn by Ty Templeton. During the five-issue storyline, Slott and Templeton explored different periods in Peter Parker and Johnny Storm’s lives to examine the evolving relationship between the two heroes. In the second issue, a college-age Peter and Johnny get into a feud over who can be a better superhero. Spider-Man suggests they trade jobs for the day – allowing Spidey to travel with the Fantastic Four to another dimension, while the Torch investigates a new drug ring run by an unknown super villain.
Clearly the heroes' exchange doesn’t sit well with the rest of the Fantastic Four, who were counting on Johnny to use his powers to control the excess heat generated during their journey. Spidey tries showing off by using his webbing to insulate the FF’s ship – but this only screws up the ship’s scanning equipment, ruining the mission. Meanwhile, Johnny proves surprisingly competent as a street-level hero... after realizing how much baggage he is truly carrying. His attempt to go “undercover” is ruined when he gets knocked out by some drug dealers who recognize him as a superhero celebrity. The Torch quickly regroups, however, and subdues the dealers. He even gets them to admit their drugs are supplied by Kraven the Hunter. Unfortunately, before Johnny can get them to reveal Kraven’s location, the thugs clam up. A problem Spidey deals with every day. But one Johnny solves in an unorthodox way.
After delivering the criminals to the police, he has them call in one of Kraven’s gang members for questioning. He then makes sure that the gangster arrives just in time to see Johnny lighting himself on fire and screaming in mock pain. Terrified that the police are apparently torturing criminals to get information, the gang member reveals Kraven is hiding in an old zoo.
The Human Torch then goes after Kraven himself and fights off his army of wild animals with ease thanks to his flame powers. Johnny’s cockiness apparently gets the better of him, however, when Kraven gets the drop on the Torch and poisons him with a lethal dose of his street drug (which turns out to be extracted from the venom of poisonous snakes). As Johnny lies dying, he begs Kraven to reveal who he was working for. Kraven smugly tells him everything, only to have Johnny suddenly sit up and reveal he was wearing a wire – and that poison doesn’t work on someone who can boil their own blood.
Having saved the day, Johnny even gets the key to the city for taking down the drug ring. Furious that the Human Torch really is better at stopping street level crime than he is, Peter storms off. Spidey does receive a helping hand from Flash Thompson, however, who slips a laxative in Johnny’s coffee as a parting prank.
Fortunately, Peter got over his ego-bruising and continued teaming up with Johnny over the years. The two took down multiple petty crooks and thugs together, and Johnny also gave Spider-Man additional chances to prove himself to the Fantastic Four, even going so far as to offer Peter his place on the team in the event of his death. However, Johnny’s responsibilities to the Fantastic Four kept him from stopping drug rings and underworld operations with Spidey on a regular basis.
But there’s another reason why the Human Torch tends to stay away from street level crime. During Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s run on The Fantastic Four, the FF ended up overthrowing Doctor Doom and taking over Latveria – an act that puts them into conflict with the U.S. government. This earns the FF a lot of bad press that they're bit typically used to. Especially when the public, who used to fawn over Johnny Storm, starts to hate him. Distressed, the Torch asks Spider-Man to meet him on top of the Statue of Liberty where he asks a burning question – how does Spidey manage to get through each day as “a complete loser?”
Understandably ticked off, Spidey still agrees to hang out with Johnny at a water park and let off steam (pun intended). By a shocking coincidence, Spidey’s villain Hydro Man is working at the park and starts a fight with the two. Possibly due to his currently poor public image, however, Johnny now has a terrible case of bad “Parker Luck.” He gets his clothes blown off of him by Hydro Man, screams, “I have no pants!” – and then realizes he fell into the kiddie pool and is being videotaped by a news crew. Spidey spins him a web diaper (yes, really), but Johnny burns it off before accidentally running into the women’s changing room.
Just as Johnny’s public image is about to hit rock bottom, Spidey, taking pity on his friend, stages a mock rescue. Seeing that the water park’s beloved mascot is about to fall from a collapsing tower, Spider-Man pretends his web shooters are empty and allows the Human Torch to save the park worker in front of the cameras and get back in the public’s good graces. (Spidey, sadly, goes back to being a hated loser).
So, while the Human Torch might have the ability to be a better street level hero than Peter Parker, he clearly doesn’t have the tough skin necessarily to withstand the insults Spidey regularly receives. Being Spider-Man means more than wall crawling and web slinging, after all, and an egomaniac like Johnny Storm just can’t handle the constant bruising to his celebrity status.