Billy Russo (Jigsaw)

Well, just as we finish with The Punisher‘s first teaser, a new one is released, and this one may even ben the series’ opening. The entire main cast is finally shown, and there’s only one character we didn’t meet already: Billy Russo, portrayed by Ben Barnes. Billy will be Frank Castle‘s best friend from the times of the Special Forces, a former soldier who’s now the CEO of his private military corporation, Anvil. Russo is known to be Castle’s nemesis in the comics, the disfigured Jigsaw, so it’s easy to guess things won’t go well for the two friends. This is Jigsaw’s second live action appearance, after Dominic West portrayed another version of the character in Punisher: War Zone. In here, Billy “The Beaut” Russoti is a gangster who gets horribly disfigured by The Punisher when the vigilante throws him in a glass crusher, and who subsequently declares war on him. Eventually, he’s impaled and burnt alive, but not before killing most of Frank’s friends and allies. Waiting to see this new, militarised Jigsaw, let’s take a look at one of the very few criminals who can claim to have survived The Punisher. More than once, actually.

Born in New York City, Billy Russo was born in an Italian-American family, and he was regularly beaten by his violent father since he was a kid. This kind of family life didn’t traumatize him the least, but it taught him to consider violence as an integral part of life. When he grew up he became a handsome and charismatic man, and he joined the criminal syndicate Maggia, becoming one of their most valued and proficient assassins. Known as The Beaut because of his good looks, somewhere down the line he married a woman named Susan and had a son from her, Henry, whom he treated even worse than his own father treated him. Within the Maggia, the Costa Family took a particular liking to him, and they started employing him to solve their most delicate problems; one of these was the “accidental” murder of Frank Castle’s family, that had led the survivor to become the vigilante known as The Punisher. Russo was asked to silence everyone connected to the Castle case, including another killer who had previously failed the task, and so he did, until he missed the most important target of all: Frank Castle himself, in fact, survived the bomb he had placed in his home. Following this failed attempt, Castle tracked Russo down and killed all his grunts. Only Russo was left alive as a living message to the organised crime, but obviously not without undergoing a special punishment himself: realising how much the killer valued his pretty face, The Punisher knocked him through a glass plane, over and over again, until Russo’s face was reduced to a bloody pulp. Barely surviving the experience, Russo hired the best surgeons to put him back together, but nobody could make something about his face, as every muscle, tendril and tissue was damaged beyond repair: the final result was a hideous abomination that bore nothing of “The Beaut”. Furious and vengeful, Billy Russo adopted the moniker “Jigsaw”, and swore vengeance against the man who had ruined what he valued the most in life.

Not wanting to face The Punisher directly again, and trying to guess what he could take away from a man who had already lost everything, Jigsaw tried to frame Castle for murder, making people believe he had gone berserk and started killing innocent people as well. One of his victims, however, was a friend of Nightcrawler, and Spider-Man accidentally saw him committing one of the murders The Punisher was accused of: the two heroes’ intervention cleared Castle’s name, and Jigsaw retreated. He clashed with Spider-Man once again, when he took Liz Allan and Harry Osborn hostages after a robbery, but he was eventually arrested. Even from prison, however, he wasn’t exactly harmless: following the same idea of making people fear The Punisher, he orchestrated a plan to drug him, so that he started executing even innocent people committing minor infractions. When Castle was arrested, Jigsaw tried to kill him in prison, but failed; he organised a prison riot to attempt an escape, but he was stopped once again by his old foe. Quite ironically, Jigsaw was freed by the Trust, a military organization who brainwashed some villains to turn them into brutal vigilantes. Jigsaw regained his free will only when he saw his hated enemy again, breaking his conditioning and coming back to his old ways. For a time he sided with the demon worshipper Samuel “Rev” Smith, who had promised to heal his face with magic, and when Castle finally killed him Rev used the power obtained by the demon Belasco to resurrect him. He had his face restored as promised, but The Punisher took care of destroying it once again before leaving him for dead in Venezuela. As he came back to New York, Jigsaw learnt that The Punisher had been finally killed: furious instead of happy, he wore a copy of The Punisher’s costume and started killing everyone connected to his enemy’s death, punishing them for denying him the pleasure of killing Castle. When it turned out the vigilante had just faked his death, Jigsaw was simply joyful. He was stopped by Punisher and Daredevil and sent to Ryker’s Island again, of course, but he couldn’t help but smiling, thinking he still had the chance to kill Frank Castle.

Billy Russo is a violent psychopath, a highly intelligent and cunning gangster who lives for the kill and who sacrifices even business and profit to a good, old-styled vengeance. As Jigsaw, he’s a superb tactician and strategist, an expert fighter and a lethal user of any kind of weapon; apart from being naturally able to tolerate a great amount of pain (probably because of his damaged nerves), Jigsaw sometimes uses a titanium exoskeleton to face enemies far stronger than himself: the armor grants him superhuman strength and durability, and contains an arsenal of lethal weapons. An extremely dangerous, deranged criminal, Jigsaw is a killing machine bent on destroying his enemy, The Punisher, as well as everyone standing between him and his hated target.

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William Rawlins

The second (and if I’m not mistaken last) character we can identify in The Punisher‘s trailer is one of the villains, possibly a secondary one: William Rawlins, portrayed by Paul Schulze. We don’t know much about Rawlins’ role in the series, apart from the fact that he’ll be a CIA top agent operating in Afghanistan, and that his mission will intersect with Frank Castle‘s one…and not in a peaceful way. We can see from the trailer that his left eye is blind, and that’s a nod to the comics version, who sports a trademark eyepatch. In the comics, Rawlins is surely a pain in the back for Castle, but not for the “regular” one, as the CIA agent only exists in Earth-200111, the X-rated MAX series. Let’s see together.

William Rawlins was the son of a decorated American soldier stationed in Egypt, and he moved to Texas when his father became a CIA agent. William had wanted to join the Agency since he was a kid, but when he was old enough he discovered that his father was actually a corrupt agent, who had contacts with many mob bosses, warlords and dictators, and who made remarkable extra money with drug smuggling. This revelation only strenghtened Rawlins’ resolution to become a CIA operative himself, and so he did, inheriting all his father’s connections and becoming a good “personal friend” of Nicky Cavella, an Italian-American mob boss (he even had a sexual relationship with him to buy his favors). Thanks to his father’s friends and to the bran new ones he had made for himself, Rawlins became insanely rich and influent in a short amount of time, and he often used missions abroad to cover some illicit operations of his own. At a certain point he married a fellow CIA agent, Kathryn O’Brien, and he used her as an alibi during said operations. Once he took her to Afghanistan, allegedly on a mission to dismantle a Taliban group, actually to collect drugs to sell from those same Talibans. There, however, Rawlins “forgot” to pay his suppliers, and as a result the Talibans tried to shoot his helicopter down; as the aircraft was too heavy, Rawlins had only two choices to make: either he threw the drug off the helicopter, or he did the same with his wife. This was quite a simple choice for him, and he abandoned Kathryn in the middle of the desert. The woman was rescued only days later, after being repeatedly raped by her captors, and as soon as she came back home, she was arrested, as Rawlins had framed her indicating she was actually the one who was smuggling drugs in Afghanistan. Needless to say, as despicable what he had done was, this was a turning point in Rawlins’ career, as other corrupt and powerful men realised he could be trusted for even more important operations: he was finally reaching the top he had always dreamt of, and the only price he had to pay was his wife. Pretty cheap, according to his standards.

Rawlins became the CIA contact for all the corrupt politicians and officers who wanted to do something off the records. When some US Army generals decided it was time to make quite a turn in the war on terror, Rawlins was entrusted with the delicate task of training terrorists in a secret facility and to send them in suicide missions to strategic locations. His first recruits were instructed to highjack a plane and to crash it against some key buildings in Moscow, winning Russia‘s cooperation in the war and creating a great diversion while he stole some virus sample from a secret lab, but somehow the Russian intelligence was informed of the threat and shot down the plane before it could make any damage. Investigating on the failure, Rawlins found out that The Punisher was in Russia at the time, and that he was most likely the one who had warned the Russians. The generals were clearly upset for the failure, and ordered him to kill The Punisher. Back to New York City, Rawlins called for his ally and former lover Cavella’s help, and the two of them set a trap for the vigilante. The plan worked out pretty well, with the gangsters acting as bait while Rawlins took his time to incapacitate Castle, but when he was about to kill him, he was knocked out by The Punisher’s new ally: Kathryn O’Brien, his ex-wife. Kathryn, Castle and the rogue CIA hacker William Roth captured Rawlins, and when the agent woke up he was tied up in the vigilante’s hideout. The Punisher brutally interrogated him, and he even cut his left eye out when he mocked Kathryn for what had happened in Afghanistan years before, until Rawlins finally confessed all the war crimes he had committed following CIA’s orders, while Roth filmed everything. While Castle and O’Brien left the base to act on the intel they had achieved, Rawlins tricked Roth into letting him go to the bathroom: taking advantage of this single moment of freedom, he killed the hacker and escaped, putting as much distance as he could from his captors. As soon as he recovered, however, he resumed his hunt for Castle and his ex-wife, wanting to settle scores: after all, he couldn’t afford such a nuisance to taint his reputation with his many contacts and allies, and the corrupt Russian General Nikolai Zakharov seemed to be a good springboard to come back to the scenes with a blast.

William Rawlins is a cunning, deceptive and manipulative individual, a morally depraved man who’d do anything to obtain what he wants. Greedy and unscrupolous, lacking the slightest sign of human empathy, he orchestrated a number of terrorist attacks and similar atrocities without showing the tiniest remorse. A trained CIA agent, he’s highly intelligent and well versed in combat, a tactician born who prefers not to be involved in action directly, but who can hold his own when threatened. A thief, a mass-murderer, a kidnapper and, if the situation requires it, even a prostitute, Rawlins is the apotheosis of everything’s evil, a cowardly and clever assassin who knows perfectly how to move to obtain the maximum profit with a minimum risk.

Curtis Hoyle

Marvel television isn’t going to let us alone for long, especially on Netflix, as soon we’ll be able to watch The Punisher spin-off series. In the first teaser trailer we only got flashes of footage, but looking carefully we can spot some new characters nevertheless. In what seems to be a flashback from the times of the war, with Frank Castle lashing out at someone and some other soldiers trying to hold him down, we see a man in the background, looking seriously worried for the situation: that’s Curtis Hoyle, portrayed by Jason R. Moore. In the show, Curtis will be one of the few loyal friends remaining to Frank, and among the fewest knowing he’s still alive. In the comics, Holye is Caucasian rather than African-American, but the greatest difference comes when looking at his role in Frank’s story, as he’s not exactly an ally…

Curtis Hoyle (sometimes reported as Chris Hoyle) was born in New York City in an unknwon family. When he came of age he joined the US Army, just in time, as the United States of America had just started a brand new war in Vietnam. Born for the fight, Hoyle joined his country’s military effort, and he found himself battling in a living hell of jungles, guerrilla and napalm. During the war Hoyle was promoted Lieutenant, and he had the chance to meet many skilled soldiers and operatives such as Frank Castle and Bruce Ayres. This kind of men wasn’t the only one he came upon while in Vietnam, however, as many officers from both sides were trying to exploit the conflict to become rich. Curtis Hoyle met one of these men on the battlefield, the Vietnames General Buktir Van Tranh, who made him an offer that would have granted him a wealthy future. Van Tranh was recruiting men from every side of the war, allowing them to fake their deaths to work for his newborn drug ring: living shadows, with the world believing them to be dead, the General’s agents were invisible, untraceable, and extremely rich. The last part was more than enough to convince Hoyle to join, and he orchestrated things so that he appeared to die in a helicopter crash in Loc Nohl. Alive and kicking, he joined the General and disappeared for a while, making a name for himself in the organization. He expanded Tranh’s market outside Asia, and he started dealing with cocaine producers to aim at a more remunerative market than the original one. Eventually, Hoyle became the General’s right hand man, Van Tranh’s most trusted operative, in charge of a number of delicate operations.

Wanting to make yet another quality jump, Van Tranh launched Rockhouse Operation, that would have expanded his influence in the United States to compete with the local drug lords. Hoyle was the mind behind the entire operation, and he was tasked with recruiting new operatives for the smuggling of the incoming cocaine. The first man Hoyle contacted was Bruce Ayres, a former comrade in arms: he revealed to be alive, and asked the pilot to become a courier. After a couple of days of thinking, however, Ayres gave the wrong answer, and rejected the offer: Hoyle killed him without a second thought, and arranged things so that it looked Ayres had killed himself for PTSD. Unbeknownst to Hoyle, Ayres had already told everything to yet another “undead” friend, Frank Castle, now the vigilante The Punisher. Things got rocky when Wilfrid Sobel, the man in charge of Rockhouse Operation in New York, was killed, apparently in a struggle with a rival named Bill Messina who wanted to take his place in the organization. Intrigued, the General sent Hoyle to meet this Messina guy, and to bring him to him in his headqarters in Bolivia. Hoyle immediately recognised Frank Castle in “Bill Messina”, but he obeyed his orders nevertheless, pretending to fall for it. Once in Bolivia, however, Hoyle exposed Castle, and the General promptly imprisoned him along with a drug enforcement agent, a Señor Valencia. Castle and Valencia joined forces, and managed to break out. Knowing his enemy, Hoyle decided he would have not taken any chances, and he started shooting at Castle from an Air Force Apache helicopter he had stolen. Things didn’t go as he hoped for eventually, as not only The Punisher survived the bombing, but he jumped on the helicopter and attacked him directly. The two men fought for a while, but eventually the vigilante overpowered him, and threw him out of the Apache, killing him. Finally, there was a reason for Curtis Hoyle’s name to be on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Curtis “Chris” Hoyle is a greedy and unscrupolous man, a cold-blooded killer who’ll murder anyone who stands in the way of his profit. A trained soldier and an expert marksman, Hoyle rarely dirties his own hands, but when he does he’s efficient, swift and deadly. A man who’s sold his soul to money, Hoyle is a drug dealer, a murderer and a (well) paid thug, just the kind of scum his former friend Frank Castle lives to kill…

Helena Wayne (Huntress)

On with Lucy W.‘s request we meet the Huntress…but not the one we knew in Arrow, rather the original version of the character: Helena Wayne…and the surname should give away whom she’s the daughter of. Helena first appeared in the tv special Legends of the Superheroes portrayed by Barbara Joyce, first as a member of the Justice League of America celebrating the retirement of Scarlet Cyclone, then at the celebrity roast hosted by Ed McMahon. Her more remarkable appearance so far is as the protagonist of the unlucky tv series Birds of Prey: known as Helena Kyle, the young woman portrayed by Ashley Scott is a half-metahuman daughter of Catwoman and Batman. She doesn’t even know who her father is and she grows up with her mother, but when she is killed by the Joker she decides to use her supernatural abilities (mostly feral strenght and agility, and a mild precognition) to become a vigilante along with Oracle and Black Canary, under the tutelage of Alfred. In the comics, this Huntress is first introduced in a “What if…” story, and only exists in Earth-Two, a parallel dimension from the main one. Let’s see together.

Helena Wayne was the daughter of billionaire Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, and she grew up in luxury enjoying the advantages of a wealthy environment. Her parents, however, also imbued her with a strong morality, so that she always thought of her wealth as to a responsibility rather than a privilege. She had a close bond with the family’s butler, Alfred, whom she saw as a second father-figure since he was the one taking care of her anytime her parents were away for work. When she was still a girl, her parents finally revealed to her that they were actually the superhero Batman and the former criminal Catwoman: Helena enthusiastically welcomed the news, and she even started training as an athlete and gymnast under her parents’ tutorship. She even became close friends with Robin, who she now saw as some sort of older brother. Her life was simply perfect…until one night, one of her mother’s old henchmen came back from her past. The man, “Silky” Cernak, blackmailed Selina into coming back to her Catwoman persona and rob Gotham City Civic Center, otherwise he would have given to the press a picture of her as Catwoman murdering a cop. Selina did as she was told, but Batman, called by Commissioner Gordon, intervened to help his wife against Cernak. In the following fight, Catwoman was shot and fell from a roof, later dying in her husband’s arms. Saddened by her mother’s death, Helena was even more shocked to learn why all this had happened: not believing for a moment her mother could have killed someone, not even when she was a criminal, she decided to solve the matter herself. She tailored herself a costume, and she stole some weapons (including her trademark crossbow) from her parents’ arsenal. Alone, she used the skills she had learnt from her parents to track down Cernak, and not only she found him, defeated him and arrested him, but she also made him confess that he had doctored the picture, and that her mother never killed anyone. After leaving Cernak at GCPD Headquarters, having cleansed her mother’s reputation, Helena decided not to renounce to her new identity, and to keep fighting crime as a masked heroine: the Huntress was born.

At first, Huntress joined Robin as Batman’s young assistant, acting mostly as a sidekick. When her father, who was already dying of cancer, was killed in a final battle with the mystic-enhanced Bill Jensen, Helena found herself an orphan, and a heroine without a mentor. She moved from Wayne Manor, preferring an apartment in Gotham City, but she kept protecting the city as Huntress, first alongside Robin only, than together with the reborn Justice Society of America. She briefly joined also Infinity, Inc., a team of second generation heroes, mainly children of the original ones from the JSA. With time, she became best friends with PowergirlSuperman‘s time stranded cousin, but she also deepened her relationship with Robin, even trying to flirt with him for a time. Eventually, she gave up her hopes on Robin and started a relationship with D.A. Harry Sims, a partnership born in crime fighting that evolved into something deeper…until it ended because of Sims’ constant worries about Huntress’ safety, and because of her reluctance in telling him her secret identity. As time passed, however, Huntress felt more and more the lack of a father figure guiding her in her heroic career, so she used the dimensional transporter she found in the old Justice League Satellite to travel to Earth-One, where Batman was still alive and kicking. Huntress introduced herself to her “father”, and much to her disappointment, despite believing her story, the Dark Knight refused to give her any advice, stating she had to learn on her own what being a hero meant; however, he introduced her to Batwoman and Batgirl, giving her a chance to confront her experiences with their own and to learn something from her dimensional trip nevertheless. She was even involved in an adventure of the Bat Family as she helped Batman and the two girls against Poison Ivy and that world’s Catwoman, who was still a villainess. Despite the shock of battling “her mother” alongside “her father”, Huntress learnt a lot from her trip to Earth-One, and she came back to Earth-Two ready to be a heroine her true parents could have been proud of.

Helena Wayne is a good-hearted and good-willed woman, who feels all the pressure of a challenging legacy but who’s more than determined to live up to it. As the Huntress, she doesn’t possess any superhuman ability, but she’s an extremely skilled athlete, gymnast and hand-to-hand combatant, and she possesses a variety of weapons and gadgets going from usual grappling hooks to her father’s notorious Utility Belt, and of course to her mini-crossbow, her signature weapon she’s pretty much infallible with. One of the greatest heroines of Earth-Two, Huntress represents the union of two opposite worlds, a sign of hope for everyone to see that there is no such thing as an irredeemable criminal.

Anung Un Rama (Hellboy)

casualgamer comes back with another, single request, and it’s quite a tasty one: Hellboy, the demonic superhero created by Mike Mignola. The hornless, bright red devil already appeared in two very good movies, portrayed by Ron Perlman. The first one acted as an origin story, with Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. fighting the evil sorcerer Grigori Rasputin and Hellboy facing his origins and true purpose, while the sequel, Hellboy: The Golden Army, was an intriguing and amazing picture that saw the B.P.R.D. square off against the vengeful fairy tale creatures led by elvian Prince Nuada, with Hellboy saving the world once again, and finally retiring from B.P.R.D. to live a “normal” life as a husband and a father with his beloved Liz Sherman. A threequel has been in development hell for quite some years now, but eventually Mignola announced an R-rated reboot starring David Harbour in the lead role. Waiting to see whether or not Harbour will be able to top Perlman’s performance, let’s take a look at the original Harbinger of the Apocalypse.

The demon known as Anung Un Rama (literally “and upon his brow is set a crown of flame“) was born from the unnatural relatioin between the English witch Sarah Hughes, a direct descendant of Sir Mordred and thus of the legendary King Arthur (thus making the demon himself the rightful King of England), and the demon lord Azzael (thus making the baby also the heir of the throne of Hell). Sarah had spent her life trying to save her soul repenting from her past as a witch, and on her deathbed, in 1617, she expressed the wish to die in the church of East Bromwich, with her two children, a nun and a pastor, by her side…but Azzael appeared to claim the soul he had been promised. Sarah was dragged to Hell, where her body was burnt, and only the demonic child she had conceived with Azzael in her youth remained. The demon lord named his son Anung Un Rama, and chopped his right hand off, attaching to its place the Right Hand of Doom, the only key able to control the outworldy entities known as the Ogdru Jahad. When the other demons learnt that Azzael was trying to control the Jahad, they attacked him, and right before being imprisoned in ice the devil sent his son to Earth to protect him from his rivals. The baby appeared on Tarmagant Island, in Scotland, the night of December 23, 1944: at the end of World War II, the sorcerer Rasputin summoned him on behalf of the Third Reich to use him to free his masters, the Ogdru Jahad, and turn the tides of the war. A group of Americans led by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm was investigating the ritual, and intercepted the creature. Realising the baby was different from a pure demon, Bruttenholm befriended him, and decided to take him along. He christened him “Hellboy”, and eventually adopted him. The discovery of Hellboy remained a secret, and the US Government, in the form of the secret organization for supernatural threats B.P.R.D., raised the child to become the greatest paranormal investigator ever existed. Taken to a secret base in New Mexico, Hellboy started his life among humans, and his training to become a B.P.R.D. operative.

While Hellboy grew up pretty fast, looking like a grown up man at age 8, his mind was still the one of a teenager, and he often questioned the authority of his superiors and instructors. He was taught the basics of exorcism, use of artifacts and magic, but he also received a combat training by the Torch of Liberty, a seasoned superhero who also gave him his trademark gun, the Good Samaritan. Thanks to his superhuman abilities, Hellboy became the primary agent of B.P.R.D., and travelled the world chasing Nazi scientists and sorcerers in hiding after the fall of the regime, mythological creatures such as werewolves and vampires, and even pagan deities and demonic creatures. It was while accomplishing difficult missions for the Bureau that Hellboy started finding something disturbing about his origins and his destiny: while assisting the medium Mister Tod in 1979, Hellboy met a Ogdru Hem, a child of the Ogdru Jahad, and this put him in contact with the horrors beyond space for the first time. Other missions followed this one, but Bruttenholm realised he had to tell Hellboy the truth about his nature. Just when he was about to tell him something crucial, however, Bruttenholm was killed by a frog monster, who was in turn slain by an angry Hellboy. Following the only lead he had from his adoptive father, who was speaking about the Cavendish Family right before dying, Hellboy collected his friends and fellow agents Abe Sapien (a human-fish hybrid) and Liz Sherman (a pyrokinetic girl with uncontrollable powers) and went to Cavendish Hall Manor, a legendary haunted house inhabited only by Mrs. Cavendish, an elderly widow who had lost her three sons in an expedition in the Arctic. Much to the agents’ surprise, Cavendish revealed to them that the expedition was led by Bruttenholm himself. What Hellboy didn’t know was that the Cavendish boys and the Professor had unwillingly awoken a Ogdru Hem, Sadu-Hem (the origin of the frog monsters), and most importantly Rasputin, who had manipulated events to lure Hellboy to Cavendish Hall and use him to bring the apocalypse and the Ogdru Jahad upon Earth. It was finally time for Hellboy to learn about his past…and to decide about his future, whether he would have sided with a humanity he didn’t belong to, or with cosmic abominations bent on destroying it.

Despite his demonic appearance, Anung Un Rama is a good-hearted and althruistic “man”, albeit quite childish and immature, still retaining the rebellious mind and character of a teenager. As Hellboy, he possesses superhuman strength, stamina and durability, being impervious to most damage, and being able to heal fast from apparently any kind of damage, including lethal one; he’s instinctively able to comprehend magic language and rituals, and his B.P.R.D. training also made him a proficient exorcist and relics and artifacts user, as well as an amateur magic user; an expert in armed and unarmed combat, he uses any kind of weapon, from sacred relics to his oversized revolver the Good Samaritan to blades (including the legendary sword Excalibur) in his missions; his right hand has been replaced with the Right Hand of Doom, the limb of the deceased god Anum, and it’s able to free the Ogdru Jahad from their extradimensional prison and unleash Ragnarok on Earth. A living contradiction, Hellboy is a devil who feels true love and empathy towards humans, and he hides behind the facade of a gritty tough guy with a harsh sense of humour the fear he’s eventually going to be used to destroy the world he loves so much.

Iridia

If the reviews of the upcoming Inhumans are quite worrisome, it looks however that Marvel is trying to improve its series before its official release, and the trailers show us more and more interesting footage and visual effects. In one of the latest ones, no new character is properly introduced, but one of the Inhumans appearing in Attilan is quite hard not to recognize: I’m speaking of the girl with butterfly wings we see speaking with Crystal, a still unnamed actress who’ll bring on the screen the first live action appearance of Iridia. In the comics, Iridia is a flashy yet secondary character, who actually stands out even more than her live action appearance thanks to wings much more colourful than the show’s ones. Let’s see together.

Iridia was born in Attilan, the secret city of the Inhumans. Since her birth, beauty hadn’t exactly been her thing: with her skin ruined and covered in blotches and boils, her hair thin and gray and her hunch, she looked like an old crone, and she was the laughing stock of all the other kids in Attilan. When she came of age, she wasn’t selected to undergo Terrigenesis, and she lived this news as a tragedy, as she was denied the only means she had to escape her horrible visage. Not giving up, she asked for an audience with King Black Bolt, and she pled to him to let her undergo the process, explaining her situation and telling him she only wanted to be “less ugly” than she had always been. The royal bodyguard Gorgon yelled at her, scorning her for making such a childish and selfish request to the king, but Black Bolt, via his queen Medusa, reduced him to silence, and agreed to bring Iridia to the Gene Chamber personally. Much to the Royal Family‘s shock, Black Bolt used a huge amount of Terrigen Mist on the woman, who was left in a horrible state after the process: only a brownish, ugly lump of organic material was left in her place, and the attending ones believed Black Bolt had killed her in punishment for her vanity. Before the Royal Family could question the unnecessary cruelty of such a punishment, the alien Blastaar attacked the city along with an army of Kaptroids, ancient Kree robots, and the Inhumans abandoned the Green Chamber to repel the attack. While the Royal Family was fighting, Iridia, still alive inside what was actually a coccoon, slowly transformed, obtaining a new form. She emerged just in time for the victorious Royal Family to witness her transformation: she was now young and beautiful, with a pair of splendid butterfly wings protruding from her back. She was finally just as beautiful as she had always dreamt to be.

The newly reborn Iridia had to face an immediate chrisis, as the destruction of the Kaptroids had activated a strange monolith that caused dangerous earthquakes all over Attilan. While the Royal Family left the city to ask the Fantastic Four for help, the other Inhumans guarded the city. Iridia was with the feral Leonus when a strange meteor struck Attilan: the space rock would have hit her, but she flew away just in time to avoid it, while Leonus wasn’t fast enough. The “meteorite” vaporized the moment it hit Leonus, leaving a green aura behind. Iridia was worried for her friend, but he dismissed her, and ignoring her concerns he went to the dungeon. Iridia, suspicious, followed him, and she witnessed Leonus speaking to the centaur-like Stallior and touching him, infecting him with the same green aura of the meteorite. Iridia realised the meteor was mind-controlling both her fellow Inhumans (it was in fact a Kree device), and she could do nothing but watch as the two hypnotised guards freed the most dangerous prisoner in the dungeon, the deranged prince Maximus the Mad. Maximus pled his loyalty to the Krees, and accepted to do their bidding in exchange of his freedom. Maximus didn’t lose time, and attacked with his machines the only two members of the Royal Family remaining in Attilan, Crystal and her husband Quicksilver, imprisoning them. Iridia then took the matter in her own hands, and decided to warn Black Bolt, so that he didn’t come back to Attilan unprepared. While Maximus was busy capturing all Inhumans, Iridia snuck away, but Black Bolt was already close to Attilan: she started shouting her warning to him, but this attracted Maximus’ attention, and the usurper shot her down. Luckily enough, Iridia wasn’t the only one who had escaped Maximus: she was rescued by a “resistance” and nurtured back to health. While Black Bolt himself had been captured, LockjawTriton and Karnak managed to escape, and Iridia met them and told them everything she knew about Maximus’ escape. Finally, the Inhumans loyal to Black Bolt could begin a counter attack to free their king.

Iridia is a young woman who’s suffered marginalization and humiliation all her life, and who uses her newfound gift of beauty not for vanity or self-esteem, but just as a means to fit in a society she felt excluded from. As an Inhuman, she possesses strength, durability and reflexes slightly superior to a regular human, while her senses are enhanced by the antennae-like appendixes on her forehead; she can fly at high speeds thanks to the wings on her back, and her muscles and lunghs evolved to allow her to fly. An Inhuman who truly felt Terrigenesis as an evolution and the beginning of a new life, Iridia is ready to consecrate her newborn self to Attilan, grateful to the king who was able to change her life forever.

The Messiah

Preacher has definitely lost whatever he had still left of “politically correct”, so don’t read ahead if you get easily offended. In Dirty Little Secrets, we learn The Grail‘s most guarded trump card: before crucifixion, Jesus Christ had had an affair with a woman and fathered a child, a baby that the apostle Thaddeus took along to protect Jesus’ lineage until the end of times. Unfortunately, centuries of inbreeding to mantain the bloodline pure had obvious side effects, and the actual Messiah, called Humperdoo from the weird noises he constantly makes, he’s a dimwitted idiot. Needless to say, this sort of Messiah is a disappointment for both Jesse Custer, who’s looking for answers, and for Herr Starr, who worships order, and who now sees in Custer a suitable replacement for the retarded “Savior”. In the comics, Grail’s Messiah is just as blasphemous as he is in the show, but his origins are a little bit different, disrespecting even more Christian traditions. Let’s see together.

Only a selected few people on Earth know the real story of Jesus Christ: he was indeed the son of God, but he never died on the cross. His loyal disciples gave him a powerful drug that made him seem dead, only to free him from his sepulchre afterwards. As soon as he was free from Romans and Pharisees, Jesus escaped from Jerusalem and got married with Mary, he had children, and he got killed in a stupid accident with a cart. His mystic semen, however, couldn’t be wasted, and the small group of followers who knew about the truth, the same ones who had started the legend about Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to Heaven, decided to guard the godly bloodline, preserving the Messiah for the end of times. This group took care of Jesus’ children and forced them to mate with one another, to make sure that the divine blood wasn’t tainted. This group grew in number and influence until it became The Grail, the world’s most powerful secret association, Centuries after centuries, however, the forced inbreeding led the new descendants to be more and more mentally challenged, with only the mystic properties of their lineage allowing them to be actually able to reproduce themselves. Finally, with God going missing and the end of times approaching, it was time the “true” Messiah was born. The last two descendants of Christ, brother and sister (and husband and wife), gave birth to a male son; coincidentally, neither of them survived the experience, as the male accidentally killed himself in rage as his wife/sister was taken away from him for giving birth to the baby, while the female one was killed during deliverance. It looked like destiny wanted the child to be the last one of his holy lineage, in a way fulfilling The Grail’s prophecy.

The boy born from this relation was a constantly happy, irredeemably idiotic young man, a mentally damaged puppet controlled and taken care of by The Grail’s leader, Allfather D’Aronique. The boy was as far from the prophecy (and from every possible meaning of the word “Messiah”) as he could be, he urinated everywhere, he ended all his sentences with the no-sense catchword “Humperdidoo“. Despite this, D’Aronique kept including him in the Grail’s ultimate plan: to orchestrate a nuclear war by the year 2000 and to present the Messiah to the world as a new savior to follow, only to use him as a convenient puppet and to rule in his stead from behind the curtains, a goal that would have been within reach even with a retarded Messiah such as the one at Grail’s disposal. Despite his obvious appearance and behavior, however, the Messiah was revered as a true savior by many members of The Grail, whose blind faith made them overlook the blatant flaws of the one they were following; some others, on the other hand, weren’t so ready to accept such a guidance. One of the latter was Herr Starr, Grail’s Sacred Executioner, a brilliant and ruthless man who wanted to replace the retarded Messiah with a one fitter to rule, specifically Jesse Custer, an American preacher who had been given the power of the Voice of Command. The unaware Messiah was caught in a struggle for power that saw Herr Starr oppose D’Aronique for the control of the Grail, and that saw the intervention of many unwanted and unforseen forces such as the unstoppable Saint of Killers. Eventually, Starr and D’Aronique clashed one last time in Masada, on a helicopter, while the poor Messiah was bouncing along in the desert beneath them. When Starr threw the obese D’Aronique off the chopper, the boy found himself right under him, and he was squashed like a bug by the massive Allfather. So much for the divine bloodline.

The Messiah is a pure and innocent young man, whose purity and innocence is preserved and allowed by total stupidity. Centuries of inbreeding made him an ugly and mentally challenged dimwit, far from whatever people were expecting from the world’s savior. Being the pure descendant of Jesus, he actually possesses some divine powers, but apart from precognition he never showed any, mostly due to his less than limited intellect. A genetic abomination brought to life only to act as a standee for the true people in power, the Messiah is completely unaware of what’s happening around him…and that’s probably the reason he’s the happiest person in the world.