Saturday, May 10, 2014

Beta's Top Ten X-Men Villains (Part One)

This may be a good time to just go right back the way you came...
X-Men Month continues! X-Men: Days of Future Past approaches I’m tossing as many X-Men posts as possible in a blatant scheme to bring in search engine hits for your entertainment. Three years ago this month, while writing blogs leading up to my review of X-Men: First Class, I listed my Top Ten Favorite X-Men (Part One, Part Two) but even as I wrote that blog I wanted to do a Top Villains list as well but I didn’t have the time back then. I figured I’d write it up eventually but then I never did. So now I finally have an excuse which is great because I have a list that I’ve spent years working on!

Actually I threw it together over the last two weeks or so. But I thought about doing it for the last three years!

Anyway the X-Men, likely due to their massive popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, have faced a large variety of foes over their fifty year history from simple crooks to interdimensional despots and everything in-between. For a superhero team that’s supposed to be a metaphor for prejudice they sure fight a lot of enemies that don’t neatly fit into the analogy. However they do have one of the best rogue’s gallery in superhero comics. Today (and then a second day because this will be a two-part blog) I’ll be looking at my favorite villains. Not the “best” but rather the ones I like the most; the ones that when they show up in a comic I say “Oh shit, I should probably pay attention to this storyline.” Let’s get to it.

Honorable Mention

The Juggernaut: Professor Xavier's evil, resentful step-brother whose magical powers make him super strong and invulnerable. A classic X-villain old Cain Marko doesn’t make the list proper because as dangerous and powerful as he is he spends most of his time trapped somewhere, like a mountain or a magic pocket dimension, and it’s gotten so bad over the decades that’s it’s makes him kind of a joke. Plus he’s a thug with little imagination. As reviled as Chuck Austen’s run on Uncanny X-Men was at least he tried to give Juggernaut the character development to grow from those limitations. It didn’t stick but I for one liked the idea of Marko trying to be a good guy since being evil has worked out terribly for him.

Click below for Part One.

#10: Sabretooth 
I'm not 100% sure why he's somehow less heroic than Venom
Yeah, yeah, I know; “the blogger who hates Wolverine so much is putting the character’s archenemy on his favorite villain list”. Look, I do hate Wolverine but as a villain I appreciate Sabretooth a lot more. You see when he murders the shit out of his enemies I don’t mind it as much because, you know, he’s evil and he’s a psychopath and he’s a villain that needs to be stopped as opposed to when Wolverine murders people and everyone is all like “wow, what an awesome antihero”. Anyway Sabretooth was originally conceived as a villain for Iron Fist, weirdly enough, but years later he was brought into the X-Men comics and reveled that he had a past relationship with Logan that mainly involved both of them hell bent on killing the other. Because Wolverine’s past was a ball of mystery and lies the exact nature of this relationship is not completely known even today, as even the stuff that has been revealed may not actually be true (because someone though that memory implants was a great way to make Logan’s back story even more needlessly complicated). Chris Claremont and John Byrne, his creators, wanted to reveal him as Logan’s father but that has since been proven not to be the case. He was also hinted to be his half-brother but that too seems to have been disproved (in the comics, at least).

As a darker image version of Wolverine Victor Creed has the same powers; an overpowered healing factor and superhuman senses, and sometimes he also has an adamantium skeleton but that is not consistent. He is often portrayed as psychotic killing machine but I like him better when he’s a cunning opponent who is fully capable of outsmarting his enemies. I’d prefer him to be the assassin who liked killing people waaaay too much than just a berserker. Also I liked how in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 one of his special moves was just him summoning his partner Birdy to gun down his opponent. We need more of that.

Sabretooth was portrayed by Tyler Mane without a personality in the first X-Men movie and later by Liev Schreiber in X-Men Origins: Wolverine where he pretty much acted like Sabretooth but didn’t particularly look like Sabertooth.

#9: Sentinels 
Pictured: The one time I don't dig giant robots
I’m sort of cheating with this one because I’m actually including all Sentinel related characters into this one group so Master Mold, Nimrod, Bastion (who I think is actually just Master Mold and Nimrod smooshed together), any of the Trask family and anyone else are being included here. Ultimately the Sentinels are mutant hunting robots created by Bolivar Trask who viewed mutants as a threat to humanity despite (because of?) his own kids being mutants. He eventually realizes that he’s an asshole and sacrifices himself to save the X-Men but despite his death the Sentinels continue being built by many other wealthy racists (and also Sebastian Shaw who doesn’t see anything wrong with building and selling mutant killing robots despite himself being a mutant).

Typically Sentinels are giant humanoid robots, which is kind of weird since you’d think that’d be a really bad design for a mutant hunting robot, but they have also taken many other forms. Sometimes they’re particularly powerful Sentinels, sometimes there are advanced Sentinels from the future here to ruin someone’s day and sometimes they’re “nanosentinels” which I assure you sounds ridiculous to me as well. Despite being classic X-Men adversaries they’re fairly low on the list because of their inconsistent threat level. While they’re sometimes depicted as a terrible threat they’re just as often depicted as a minor annoyance and are slaughtered in droves by the X-Men. Sometimes we’ll get something associated with them that resembles a proper villain (such as Bastion) but for my money they aren’t the most interesting villains but are still important enough that they deserve a spot on this list.

After fifteen years of begging from the fans the Sentinels are set to finally make their onscreen debut in X-Men: Days of Future Past, not including a brief cameo in X-Men: The Last Stand.

#8: Mojo 
Pretty sure this is the guy who cancelled Community
When I think television executive, oh yeah, I think evil, spineless blob from another dimension. Okay, that’s a joke. Actually I think of an evil, spineless blob with a coke addiction from California but they’re similar beasts. Mojo is one of the X-Men’s stranger villains both in appearance and his modus operandi. He’s the ruler of a dimension known as the “Mojoverse” who controls his subjects through television, which is totally not a commentary about modern American culture (how’s everyone enjoying Game of Thrones, by the way?). Since the ratings tend to be especially good when the X-Men are involved Mojo has a bad habit of periodically messing with them. He’s also connected, and a nemesis, to Longshot who’s an X-Man that you likely only have an emotional attachment to if you were old enough to read comics in the 1980s. (I know him as that guy from the 90s X-Men cartoon who was pissed they took his timeslot). Supposedly the Mojoverse is unique in the multiverse and thus there is only one Mojo in existence so he occasionally menaces with other versions of the X-Men from other dimensions.

Also he created these guys.

X-Babies, they make their dreams come true!
Despite appearing in several X-Men cartoons as of this writing Mojo has never appeared in an X-Men film though I’m unsure if this is a bad thing or not due to the fact that since he makes Jabba the Hutt look like Zac Efron a live action version of the guy might make us all sick.

#7: Dark Beast
Now we’re starting to get into the guys I earnestly love as villains. #7 is Dark Beast who, probably pretty obviously, is an evil version of Hank McCoy from the Age of Apocalypse universe transplanted to the main 616 Marvel Universe. In this home dimension, a nightmarish reality where America was conquered by evil mutants, he was a high ranking scientist for Apocalypse (more on him later) and trained in the art of mad science and genetics by that universe’s Mister Sinister. As a side effect of the harsh world he hailed from he seems to lack the restraint and moral compass of his mentor…and if you know anything about Sinister you know how insane this sentence sounds. But that’s okay because Dark Beast is pretty f**king bonkers.

Dark Beast is, at the end of the day, a mad scientist who a) doesn’t usually seem to have any end goal other than conducting science and b) seems pretty confident that the world is his personal laboratory and he can pretty much do whatever he wants with it. Despite being an insane villain with zero empathy Dark Beats is occasion approached by heroes looking for his expertise in genetics to help solve a problem when they are desperate enough so that likely speaks volumes of how talented he is. However, because he’s an insane villain with zero empathy, the heroes are usually quickly disgusted by his methods…or he betrays them, whichever comes first. He’s an evil version of Hank McCoy but the character is actually versatile enough that he can menace heroes that have nothing to do with the X-Men’s scientist and has done so in the past. He could probably be an A-List Marvel villain if the writers took the time to pull the trigger. He certainly is the best villain to escape the AoA universe (Holocaust and Sugar Man just don’t cut it). If nothing else he makes me laugh…and then feel incredibly bad for laughing.

As the Age of Apocalypse has not been introduced in any of the films Dark Beast hasn’t appeared in any movies. However a sequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past called X-Men: Apocalypse is already set for a 2016 release and while we don’t know any details it’s not impossible that it may take place in the AoA universe and that might mean Dark Beast will show up. Probably not though.

#6: Mystique
She's a little different from the movie version
The mysterious shape shifting mutant has been a reoccurring enemy of the X-Men since the early 80s. She’s been a mercenary, a terrorist, a government agent and an assassin and is the adoptive mother of Rogue and biological mother to Nightcrawler. She has worked for a number of employers over the years, including Professor Xavier, and been the leader of her own version of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She has claimed that the protection of the mutant people is her primary goal, and that everything she does is to that end, but she has several times demonstrated less than altruistic motivations. Self-preservation often seems to be her main concern in any giving situation while other times manipulating events to restore her mother-daughter relationship with Rogue that has become very strained over the years regardless how much it hurts others. In the end what her game truly seems to be is as mysterious as her background and as ever changing as her appearance.

Mystique is cool for a multiple reasons: she’s a badass, she was one of the first LGBT comic characters (she was in a relationship with fellow villain Destiny), and she has ties to several important X-Men characters. However I’d say the reason I like her is that she can be used in many different roles due to her shifting loyalties, immense variety of talents and skills, questionable motivations and long lived life. Mystique has been portrayed as thug for hire, femme fatale, ruthless pro-mutant terrorist and all around untrustworthy asshole and it usually feels pretty natural. Actually the only time I dislike Mystique is when writers try to make her a hero, even an antihero, and it always feels really forced and ridiculous. This sort of thing worked to really well for Emma Frost, another female villain, but through most of her existence she was depicted as a teacher (though not necessarily a “good person”) so the leap from “teacher of mutants” to “teacher of young X-Men” to “full-fledged X-Man” isn’t so large. Mystique on the other hand is a murdering, selfish, terrorist responsible for many tragedies who thinks she’s perfectly justified to manipulating her own children (or in some cases completely abandoning them) in order to get what she wants. That doesn’t sound like X-Men material to me. Good villain, lousy hero.

Though I gotta say a lot of artist sure like to draw her provocatively
A character called “Mystique”, but who really didn’t have that much in common with Mystique, was played by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in the first three X-Men movies and Professor X’s childhood friend, also called “Mystique” and supposedly the same character, Jennifer Lawrence in X-Men: First Class and will reprise her role in Days of Future Past.

As of right now this blog is 2,300+ words so I'm going to go ahead and call that here. So later we'll revisit this list, though perhaps not immediately. [EDIT: Part Two can be found here]

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