Veranke

In these days we also received news regarding the next (the last?) movie in the X-Men series: Dark Phoenix. Everybody believed Jessica Chastain would have portrayed Majestrix Lilandra, but she surprisingly turned out to be playing Skrull Queen Veranke, something even more unexpected considering that the Skrulls will make their MCU debut in Captain Marvel. As for now, we only know that the shape-shifting alien will be the main villain of the movie, and that she’ll be after the Phoenix Force…something she never had to deal with in the comics. Let’s see together.

Veranke was a Skrull princess born on the Throneworld, aka Tarnax IV, home to the Skrull nobility. Raised in the Tyeranx 7 province, Veranke was a member of a particular religious sect, the Dard’van, zealots who believed in the prophecies held in the Book of Worlds. Among the many prophecies reported in the book, there was one about a group of aliens that would have challenged and defeated the mighty emperor. When the Illuminati, a group from Earth led by Tony Stark and Reed Richards, arrived on Tarnax and threatened the entire Skrull Empire, and then managed to escape the obvious punishment, Veranke saw it as the fulfillment of said prophecy: she traveled to the capital, where she publicly accused Emperor Dorrek VII of ignorance, as he didn’t know nor believed the prophecies. She warned him that other three remained to be fulfilled: the coming of a devourer who would have destroyed the Throneworld, a wave that would have decimated the Empire, and last a sign of salvation, a “world of blue” that would have been the Skrulls’ new home. Dorrek couldn’t allow someone to question his authority unpunished, but neither he could kill Veranke and make her a martyr for her cult: he rather exiled her on a deserted planet, where she would have spent her entire life. Veranke spent years in her prison, her voice unheard and her prophecies forgotten…until Galactus elected Tarnax IV as his next meal, and consumed it. Just as she had foretold. With Dorrek dead, the Skrulls elected Veranke as their new ruler, and she came back to her people as a queen.

Now respected and listened by all the Empire, opposed only by a tiny minority who had in the original Super Skrull Kl’rt and in Prince Xavin its champions, Veranke could start her religious crusade: interpreting the texts, she identified Earth as the “world of blue” that was her people’s promised land, and she started planning a slow but detailed invasion. Some agents, herself included, would have gone to Earth, replacing some key figures and absorbing their memories and skills with the ancient Skrull Infiltration Ritual. First, some of Veranke’s agents replaced agents of Hydra, then, when Spider-Woman came to a Hydra facility to regain her lost powers, she was sedated and imprisoned by them, while Veranke took her place. She successfully deceived Hydra, and she even deceived Nick Fury, whom the original Spider-Woman was working as a double agent for. Even more, she even came back to S.H.I.E.L.D. after the “mission” and she joined the New Avengers, with nobody ever suspecting she wasn’t the real deal. She participated to many missions with the Avengers, collecting the prisoners escaped from the Raft, teaming up with the Thunderbolts to arrest Cloak and Dagger, repelling an attack from Ultron and battling The Hand. Only once she had her cover almost blow up, when the Scarlet Witch created an alternate reality: fearing this would have foiled her plan, “Spider-Woman” tried to kill Scarlet along with Criti Noll, who had replaced Yellow Jacket, but they failed. Scarlet was later forced to restore reality as it was, just as Veranke was reached by the news that the Annihilation Wave, led by the warlord Annihilus, had invaded Skrull Empire, and billions had died. With the last prophecy fulfilled, Queen Veranke had now to win a new world to her people, as she was destined to…

Queen Veranke is a true believer and a committed ruler, an empress who deeply cares for her people and who sincerely believes that serving them means to follow with them the path revealed by the Book of Worlds. As all Skrulls, she’s a skilled shape-shifter, but the Ritual also granted her all of Spider-Woman powers: superhuman strength, speed, agility, durability and stamina, wall-crawling, immunity to any known poison, venom or toxin, pheromone control and secretion, flight and bioelectric blasts. A warrior queen led by an iron-strong faith, Veranke unites the inspiration of a leader born to the determination of a religious zealot, a charismatic and dangerous figure who moves one of the greatest empires in the universe…

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Celeste, Irma & Phoebe Cuckoo (Three-In-One)

When we meet Esme Cuckoo, in The Gifted, she mentions that Sentinel Services captured her family…and we already know three of her many sisters. One of the far too many cameos in X-Men: The Last Stand, in fact, sees the Stepford Cuckoos walking in the background, while Professor X is speaking with Storm about the future of the school. Interestingly enough, there are only three of them, the Three-In-One, while the other two sisters who originally formed the Five-In-One are missing. We didn’t get to know them better after that single apparition, and we can only assume they were originally killed by Sentinels in the first timeline, and maybe by a deranged Professor X in the second, but this is obviously unconfirmed. Maybe we’ll know more of them in the series: in the meanwhile, as usual, let’s meet their original comic version.

The Cuckoo sisters were born when Doctor John Sublime, working for the Weapon Plus program, harvested egg cells from a comatose Emma Frost, and used them to clone an army of powerful telepaths that, combining their powers, would have been able to kill the entire mutant population on Earth. The project, named Weapon XIV, gave birth to thousands of identical girls: Sublime at first activated only five of them, and sent them undercover in Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters to hone their abilities. The five sisters, Celeste, Esme, Irma (nicknamed “Mindee“), Phoebe and Sophie, pretended to be an orphaned quintuplet, and were admitted to the school as students thanks to powerful psychic blocks concealing their true identities. They soon earned the attention of the professors, especially of Emma Frost, who elected them to be her proteges, and Professor X, who took them into a special class for telepaths, along with the one who would have become their rival, Quentin “Kid Omega” Quire. It was apparently because of Quire that the Five-In-One became Four-In-One, as when Kid Omega, powered-up by the drug Kick, led a rebellion within the school, the sisters took the drug in turn, and used Cerebra to stop him: the plan succeeded, but Sophie died in the process. The four remaining sisters blamed their mentor, Emma Frost, for Sophie’s death, and both for exacting revenge on her and for testing their now maimed powers, they telepathically informed Jean Grey of Emma’s affair with her husband Scott Summers. What Celeste, Mindee and Phoebe didn’t know was that the true responsible of Sophie’s death was Esme, who had allied herself with the mysterious Xorn. This all came out when Esme tried to kill Emma Frost, and nearly succeeded: as Esme escaped from the school with Xorn, the Four-In-One became the Three-In-One.

After Esme resurfaced as a member of a new Brotherhood of Mutants, and was killed by her lover Xorn, the remaining Cuckoos were reassigned as all the students to specialized training squads, modeled on the students’ gifts and potentials; the Three-In-One joined the Corsairs Squad led by Cyclops, and they were appointed as co-leaders of the team. Their training with Cyclops definitely gave its results, as the trio managed to lead the team to the second place in the Field Day Events (specially designed missions in the Danger Room) after Emma Frost’s Hellions. The Three-In-One became telepaths so powerful that, when the Phoenix Force came back to Earth, it even considered using them as hosts, before resurrecting Jean Grey. Their talent was widely recognized by the teachers, and when the X-Men left to try and stop the Dark Phoenix, they were left at the mansion using Cerebra to coordinate the team, a task that just a couple of years before had killed Sophie, even if there were five of them instead of three, and they had been powered-up by Kick. After M-Day, when Scarlet Witch depowered the almost entirety mutant population, the Stepford Cuckoos were among the very few mutants who retained their powers, along with only other twenty-four students. Fearing weakness in number, Emma Frost gathered the remaining students and subjected them to quite an ordeal, ordering them to fight one with the other in an all-out brawl until the ones she would have deemed worthy would have been allowed to join the New X-Men; disgusted by this test, the Three-In-One promptly informed Cyclops of what was happening, and he stopped the “selections”. Just when the Stepford Cuckoos had won the trust of mentors and students alike, however, John Sublime resurfaced, ready to activate his dormant agents and to use them for their original purpose: to erase what little remained of the mutant population on the planet…

The Stepford Cuckoos are three sisters sharing a single mind and living as they were a single person, but they still retain individual characteristics: Phoebe is more ambitious and daring, Irma is romantic, brave and selfless, while Celeste is a pacifist, the most compassionate of them all, and the one who truly values their unique bond. As the Three-In-One, they are mediocre telepaths taken individually, but when their abilities are combined they become extremely powerful, able to rival in sheer strength with seasoned telepaths like Emma Frost or Jean Grey, accessing all the abilities connected with a potentially limitless mind power. A gestalt entity who struggles to keep united three different personalities (and to suppress a program that presses them into annihilating their own race), the Stepford Cuckoos are a unique group of sisters who share a hive mind and an impressive power, a trio with all the potential of being the greatest asset of the new generations of mutants, or their greatest threat…

Christopher Bradley (Bolt)

boltfilmSpeaking of Logan, there’s a couple of name-drops worth noticing, and one of them refers to a character we previously met in the franchise. When we see all the children developed by Alkali, some of them are the artificial children of mutants we know, with their DNA allegedly taken from the old Weapon X archives and labs: there’s also a chubby African-American boy with the power to generate electricity, and his files tells us he’s the biological son of Christopher Bradley. We already met Bradley in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, portrayed by Dominic Monaghan (how Monaghan can have a black child from a Mexican mother is beyond my comprehension). In the movie, he is a member of Team X with the ability to remotely control electronics; after the team disbands, he starts working in a carnival, using his powers to make money…until Sabretooth finds him and kills him, so that his powers are later added to Deadpool‘s arsenal. The comics version is totally different, starting from his powers. Let’s see together.

Christopher Bradley was born in Duchess CountyNew York, a perfectly normal boy from a perfectly normal family. He had a normal childhood, and grew up to become a high school student. He had a best friend he spent most of his time with, Jeff, and he had quite a crush on Donna Funaro, a girl from his class. Again, nothing strange here…until he started suffering from headaches. At first it was nothing, but then the pain started to be stronger and more frequent, to the point that Chris was sincerely worried he was seriously ill…until one day, at school, the headaches were revealed for what they really were: the first symptoms of an emerging mutation. Chris was a mutant, and he discovered it in one of the worst ways possible: by losing control in public. His first chrisis happened in his boltcomics1house, but he merely noticed any difference with the ordinary headaches (albeit, if he paid any attention to it, he would have noticed that all the electrical devices in his house had been fried). After a day at home, he came back to school, starting in the best way imaginable, finally finding the courage to ask Donna Funaro out. While in class, however, he started to unconsciously absorb static electricity from the surroundings, generating electric bolts as a result; unable to control himself, first he tried to hide in the bathroom, but as the phenomenon kept growing, he warned everybody to step away from him…until he lost his senses. When he woke up, he was with two people he had never seen before: they were Phoenix and Gambit of the X-Men, mutant superheroes and teachers in a school specialised in young mutants. The two mutants brought Chris back home, and had a chat with his parents, explaining to them that their son was a mutant, and that they offered them the opportunity to enroll him in the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, where he would have been trained in the control of his powers, and where he would have completed his education. Chris overheard their conversation…and panicked, running away from home, not wanting to abandon his old life. Of course, he ran to the only place he was always welcome, Jeff’s house.

Soon, however, Chris Bradley had to realise that much of his world had been lost already: as soon as he saw him, Jeff panicked, still scared for what had happened at school that morning. When Chris tried to explain himself to him, things didn’t get any better: not wanting to have anything to do with a “mutie”, Jeff rejected him. Chris came back home and followed Phoenix and Gambit to their school, where he continued his studies and learnt how to control his powers. He was still just a student when he learned that he had contracted the Legacy Virus, the plague that was decimating the mutant population. Knowing he would have eventually died, but not knowing how much time he still had, Chris cut ties with the X-Men and left the school, coming back home. Something good came out from all of that, as he finally started dating Donna, who still wanted despite him to be a (dying) mutant. His parents insisted him to visit several clinics in the desperate search for a cure…and it was in one of these that he was attacked by the Friends boltcomics2of Humanity, an extremist anti-mutant group. Chris was saved by Maverick, another Legacy-infected mutant, who told him to look for him if he ever needed help. The time came sooner than expected, as the Friends burnt the Bradleys’ house to the ground: Chris left to look for Maverick…thus leading his enemies right to him. Chris fought alongside Maverick against the Friends of humanity, and the two won the battle thanks to the intervention of two other X-Men, Iceman and Wolverine; after that, Maverick helped the Bradleys to start a new life in Florida, with a false identity. Known as Brian Johnson, Chris resumed a normal life…until the Legacy Virus made him lose control of his powers. Back to New York, he ran into Maverick again, and the hero encouraged him to value what remained of his life, making him chose a nickname and fight groups like the Friends of Humanity. Chris listened to the one he now considered his mentor, and joined the New Warriors as Bolt: he didn’t know how much time he still had to live, but he would have made his best to make it count.

Christopher “Chris” Bradley is a young man haunted by bad luck; despite losing and suffering much, he managed to turn his scars into strength, and he’s now a brave and selfless hero. As Bolt, he’s able to absorb, generate and control electricity, and he can use it in a variety of ways, from shooting shocking lightning bolts to generating energy shields, from damaging electrical devices to creating a distorted aura around himself to hide his features. Not afraid to die since the Legacy Virus is killing him nevertheless, Bolt always puts himself on the first line, in a reckless yet heroic way to use the time he has left to make something meaningful with his life.

St. John Allerdyce (Pyro)

pyrofilmThis week several tv series are starting the new season, but waiting for them, let’s see another character from Brick89‘s list, another mutant, another villain: Pyro. Pyro first appeared in the very first X-Men movie as one of the Xavier Institute‘s students, portrayed by Alex Burton: he tries to flirt with the newcomer Rogue by creating a fire ball, but Iceman freezes it ruining his effort. In X2: X-Men United he’s portrayed by Aaron Stanford, and he’s one of the few students who manages to avoid being captured by William Stryker and his men; he follows the remaining X-Men in the rescue mission, but he ends up being seduced by Magneto‘s philosophy, and joins him by the end. In X-Men: The Last Stand he’s become Magneto’s right hand man, and follows him everywhere, committing terrorist attacks under his orders. During the battle of Alcatraz he’s defeated by Iceman, and flees when the Dark Phoenix unleashes her power. His trademark zippo on a memorial in X-Men: Days of Future Past informs us that he’s been killed by the Sentinels, but it remains to be seen if he’ll ever return in the new timeline. In the meanwhile, let’s take a look at the original one.

St. John Allerdyce was born in SydneyAustralia, from an unknown family. Growing up, he found out he was a mutant with the power of controlling and manipulating fire (but not of creating it): since he couldn’t think of any useful way to use his ability, he preferred to keep it secret for most of his early life, and soon became a journalist, living for some years in Southeast Asia (especially Vietnam and Indonesia). His travels gave him enough material to start working on his true dream, becoming a writer, and he actually managed to do it, first writing novels based on his experiences in Asia, then Gothic romance novels: in both cases, the critics hated his books just as much as other novelists did, but he had quite a success with the wide public that encouraged him in continuining his work. St. John met many readers and fans every day, but once the woman who approached him turned out to be something else entirely: she was a mutant as well, the shapeshifter known as Mystique, and she offered him a different kind of pyrocomics1contract. Mystique was recruiting mutants to form a second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, following the disapperance of Magneto and the disbandment of the previous one, and she needed someone with John’s…talents. Allerdyce didn’t know how she had learnt he was a mutant, since he only used his powers for emergencies and it had been a while since the last time, but he was intrigued by the woman’s offer, and by the perspective of doing something more with his life than writing Gothic romance for old dreaming women. Convinced, he joined Mystique and the other mutants she had already recruited: the precog Destiny, the immovable Blob and the destructive Avalanche (the last one soon became his best friend). Mystique helped him develop his power, so that he could manipulate fire to higher levels; since he wasn’t fireproof, however, he was given a special isolating suit that protected him from the flames, and to compensate his inability to create fire, he was also equipped with a portable flamethrower he mounted on his wrists. Pyro was born.

The first mission for the new Brotherhood was to kill Senator Robert Kelly, a strong anti-mutant activist. A time-traveling mutant, Kate Pryde, arrived from the future to thwart the assassination, as Kelly’s murder would have started a chain reaction that eventually brought the robotic Sentinels to annihilate mutants and superumans, taking over the world. Pyro and the others didn’t care much for this warnings (they had their own future teller, after all), but the X-Men did: the two teams clashed, and eventually the Brotherhood was defeated and the Senator saved. Pyro was arrested, but the authorities made the mistake of putting all the mutant terrorists together in the same prison: as soon as they realised this, they put together their efforts to break out…or at least to try to, as the Avengers were called to face the emergency, and in the ensuing fight the Brotherhood was defeated once again. Pyro stayed imprisoned for months, until the US Government offered the members of the Brotherhood a deal: they would have served under them, in exchange of pardon for their past crimes (this was a chance for the Government to have a “public face” to their newly signed Mutant Registration Act, in the effort of making the law pyrocomics2more popular). The Brotherhood accepted the offer, and they became Freedom Force, a law-abiding team used as an obedient puppet by the Government agents. During their first mission, Freedom Force faced the Avengers again, with the order of arresting America’s most popular (and powerful) heroes. Pyro accomplished several missions with Freedom Force, and proved pivotal in the arrest of Rusty Collins, a sailor with pyrokinetic powers: every time they battled, usually with groups like X-FactorX-Terminators, the New Mutants or even the Mutant Liberation Front, Pyro used his powers to manipulate the fire created by Collins, turning it against him and his allies. He was fundumental even during the massive breakout in the Vault, where his pyrokinesis was the only thing able to keep at bay Venom. Eventually, FF was disbanded, and Pyro and Blob were abandoned in Kuwait after a disastrous mission: being betrayed like this wasn’t exactly what John had signed for, and after being a war prisoner, his feelings towards the Government were so friendly that he immediately decided to come back to the new Brotherhood, this time led by Toad.

St. John Allerdyce is a pragmatic man, not evil, but surely ready to do pretty much everything for some profit. Despite being usually one of the “bad guys”, John has also acted heroically in his life, proving to be selfless and brave if situation required it. As Pyro, he has the power to control and manipulate fire, giving it any shape he desires (usually animal shapes) and moving it as he likes it; he’s not able to create fire, but he can increase the dimension of existing ones, so he carries a flamethrower on his wrists to light a fire that he later controls. Both a hero and a villain depending on the circumstances (or simply the mood), Pyro is a mutant mercenary who will always take care of one person in the world: himself.

Jason Wyngarde (Mastermind)

mastermindfilmAnother villain from Brick89‘s list, this time from the mutants‘ world: Mastermind. His movie adaptation is an amalgam of different characters, the first being him, following the unnamed son killed by William Stryker (a recent retcon resurrected him) and Mutant 146: all three together form Jason Stryker, a lobotomized mutant able to cast illusions so powerful that they can trick even the world’s most powerful telepath, Professor X. Jason first appears in X2: X-Men United, portrayed by Michael Reid McKay: in here, he’s Stryker’s son, who as a child was so resentful towards his mutant-hating parents that he tortured them with his powers, leading his mother to suicide. As Stryker started working on Weapon X, he used his son as his first guinea pig, and transformed him into a mindless drone in his total control, and he unleashed him against Professor X to force him to kill all mutants on the planet. He then briefly appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, portrayed by an unnamed kid, frozen by his father in a cryogenic stasis. Now, let’s see who Jason (Wyngarde, not Stryker) is in the comics.

Little or nothing is known about Jason Wyngarde’s early life. He was born somewhere in the South of the United States of America, and he was a mutant in a moment in which most people didn’t even know mutants existed. He had the remarkable advantage of not suffering a physical mutation, as he was capable of projecting extremely accurate and complex illusions in the mind of anybody. As an adult, he trained in the use of his powers bringing them to perfection, so that they could influence every single sense of his target; he used this talent in quite an underwhelming way, however, as he joined a carnival and started working as a mentalist. His show was extremely popular, but nobody could see behind the “trick” Wyngarde used…nobody but a stranger passing by, who immediately recognised him as a mutant. The man turned out to be Magneto, the mutant terrorist, who was mastermindcomics1gathering other mutants from all around the country to form a team able to face the X-Men, the mutant superheroes who had stopped him from taking over Cape Citadel. Jason Wyngarde was exactly the kind of man Magneto was looking for, and the mentalist liked the terrorist’s idea of protecting mutankind from an inevitable racist uprise of humanity: Jason joined the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants as Mastermind, and along with his teammates ToadQuicksilver and Scarlet Witch battled the X-Men more than once. Mastermind proved to be more ambitious than his idealistic leader, and aimed to conquer the world to form a mutant utopia…one in which he would have been much more than the carnival trickster he had always been. Along with his ambition, he also developed a strong desire towards his teammate Scarlet Witch, but her overprotective brother Quicksilver always kept him away from her. Mastermind was kept in high consideration by Magneto, and he was also sent to recruit other mutants to the cause in his stead (even if he failed in convincing Unus the Untouchable). His cooperation with the Brotherhood ended when the cosmic being The Stranger, enraged at Magneto, transformed Mastermind into a statue and brought the Master of Magnetism and Toad on another planet.

Luckily enough, The Stranger’s spell wasn’t permanent, and after a while Mastermind returned to his old fleshy self. Without Magneto around, with his ambition not the least quelled, Wyngarde joined Factor Three, another mutant-based organization with similar aims and ideals to the Brotherhood, but much more pragmatical: they aimed to create a mutant nation capable of rivaling USA and URSS for world supremacy. Factor Three’s plan nearly worked, especially thanks to the forced “help” of Banshee, until the X-Men intervened once again, exposing the team’s leader, Mutant Master, as an alien who sought to conquer Earth. Factor Three and X-Men teamed up to defeat the Mutant Master, and managed to save the planet from an invasion…but the battle attracted the attention of the mutant hunting robots Sentinels, against whom Mastermind’s psychic powers were pretty much useless. Wyngarde was saved by his sworn enemies, the X-Men, and apparently abandoned his criminal ways as a result…but he was the mastermindcomics2master of illusions, and even his “conversion” was nothing but a trick to take time and decide what to do next. He joined the reborn Brotherhood along with fellow Factor Three members Blob and Unus, and finally Magneto came back on Earth and claimed back his leadership. He even created the first artificial mutant, the extremely powerful Alpha…but that proved to be not much of a good idea, as during a fight against the Defenders Alpha rebelled to his creators, and turned them all into children, thus annihilating their powers (mutant powers developed through puberty). At least, Mastermind had learnt to bring his powers to a whole other level, as with Magneto’s help he had casted a powerful illusion on an entire nation (Santo Marco, in South America), helping the Brotherhood to conquer it. As a result, as soon as he came back to his adult age he was contacted by the powerful Hellfire Club, who had become interested in the illusionist. As a test for admission, he managed to manipulate the powerful X-Woman Jean Grey into becoming the new Black Queen in the Club. Finally, Mastermind had found someone who could fully apreciate his talent, someone who could also reward his personal ambition just the way he wanted it…

Jason Wyngarde is an ambitious man, frustrated by the lack of recognition his talent suffered through all his life. As Mastermind, he has the mutant power to cast powerful illusions on his targets, able to affect every sense; his illusions are so complex and realistic that he’s actually able to kill someone with them (once he made someone believe he was drowning, and even if there wasn’t any actual water the man ceased to breath and died), and he can envelop in his power more than one person per time, once even an entire country. Manipulative and clever, he’s one of the most dangerous mutants around, mostly because he’s constantly, and wrongfully, underestimated…a thing he obviously uses at his own advantage.

Sebastian Hiram Shaw (Black King)

blackkingfilmOn with casualgamer‘s list, we find another Marvel villain: Sebastian Shaw, the Black King from the infamous Hellfire Club. Shaw first appeared in a very brief cameo in X2: X-Men United, portrayed by Charles Siegel: he’s see debating on television with Hank McCoy the “mutant problem”, with the audience unaware that both the speakers are, in fact, mutants. He then appeared as the big baddie in X-Men: First Class, portrayed by Kevin Bacon (and his fate in the movie makes his cameo in X2 quite a major continuity problem…). In here, he was introduced as a Nazi scientist named Klaus Schmidt, who finds out about young Erik Lensherr‘s mutant powers and experiments on him during his years in Auschwitz; thanks to his powers he can be eternally young, and he resurfaces in the 1960s as Sebastian Shaw, the head of the secret organization Hellfire Club, bent on causing a war between USA and USSR to make humans extinct and letting mutants inherit the planet…an ideal that will inspire Erik into becoming the terrorist Magneto, after settling his score with Shaw. Now, let’s see who this powerful villain is in the comics.

Sebastian Shaw was born in PittsburghPennsylvania, the son of Jacob Shaw. The Shaws were once a noble and wealthy family, but were now impoverished and socially excluded. Sebastian grew up determined to restore his family’s name and fortune, and dedicated all his life to study and to build himself. The same year his father died he was admitted to engineering school, and that was also the year he found out he was a mutant: after receiving a severe beating in a bar, he realised he could convert the energy his body received (in this case the kinetic one of the punches) into physical strength. Totally dedicated to his goal, he didn’t pay much attention to his true nature, and founded Shaw Industries immediately after finishing his studies; by the age of 30 he was a millionaire, and ten years later he was a billionaire: finally, he had accomplished his life mission. Now able to focus on himself, Shaw became engaged to a Spanish mutant, Lourdes Chantel, a teleporter; thanks to his fortune and his growing power, he also attracted the attention of Ned Buckman, the White King, who offered him to join the Hellfire Club, a secret and powerful blackkingcomics1organization aiming to world domination. Shaw was initiated along with Warren Worthington Jr., John Braddock and Howard Stark, but he was the only one to stay (much to Lourdes’ regret, since she didn’t trust Buckman, and feared that the nature of the Hellfire Club would have corrupted Sebastian). Shaw was undoubtedly an ecceptional individual, and he managed to enter the Council of the Chosen and to be appointed the Black Bishop of the Hellfire Club…but he was far too ambitious to be satisfied with that. He started gathering other mutants, such as the telepath Emma Frost, to create a personal inner circle, but the final push was given by Buckman himself: a racist and a human supremacist, the White King supported Stephen Lang and his Sentinels, and when Project: Armageddon, aimed to kill all mutants, started, Lourdes Chantel was among the victims. Enraged, Shaw used Emma’s telepathy to force Buckman to kill Paris Seville, the White Queen, and then himself. After that, he appointed himself as the Black King, and Emma Frost as the new White Queen: the Hellfire Club was now his to command.

In the following years, the new Black King expanded the Hellfire Club’s power and influence even more, and recruited as his Lords Cardinal other powerful superhumans, such as the immortal Selene as the Black Queen, the mass-manipulator Harry Leland as his Black Bishop and the cyborg Donald Pierce as the White Bishop. To the outside world, the Hellfire Club was still run by humans, and Shaw mantained this facade keeping financing the construction of Sentinels, with the double result of having anti-mutant bigots like Robert Kelly or Henry Gyrich trust him as one of them, and of constantly keeping in check and under his direct control the anti-mutant robots. Looking for an all-mutant army to recruit, Sebastian Shaw set sight on the X-Men: he ordered the assassin Warhawk to bug Cerebro, so that everytime Professor X used it to locate a new mutant Shaw knew it; this way, he believed he would have had the chance to recruit said mutant before the X-Men did. This attempt failed twice, since the X-Men were more powerful in battle than the Club’s operatives, and it even revealed to the heroes blackkingcomics2the Club’s existence. The X-Men managed to infiltrate the Hellfire Club and to attack the inner circle, but Shaw defeated them, and led some mind-controlling experiments on them that later brought Jean Grey to lose control and become the Dark Phoenix. The X-Men managed to escape, and the Hellfire Club lost much of his strength: Pearce turned out to be a traitor and an anti-mutant himself, and Selene began plotting against Shaw to take control (having murdered the previous inner circle to gain his position, Shaw was always ready for betrayal, and saw it coming with great advantage). If inner conflicts weren’t enough, a sentinel from the future, Nimrod, threatened to exterminate all mutants, and the Hellfire Club was forced to form an uneasy alliance with the X-Men to stop it: Shaw himself destroyed the Sentinel with Leland’s help, but at the end of the battle both Leland and Friedrich Von Roem, the White Rook. To replace the lost members and to solidify the new alliance, Shaw admitted Storm and Magneto in the Hellfire Club, knowing far too well that their presence would have mined even more his weakening authority over the group. Not that there was much to worry about: he had created himself from nothing, and he would have done it again, if necessity called for it.

Sebastian Shaw is a brilliant and ambitious man, a natural tactician who uses his great intellect and his vast resources to make reality match with his (high) idea of himself. Self-important, arrogant and far too aware of his own power and gifts, he’s a cunning megalomaniac who aims at world domination, no less. As the Black King, he’s a powerful mutant, able to absorb any kind of energy (even if kinetic one works best) and to convert it into physical strength, durability, speed and stamina, using it also to rejuvenate or heal himself: in a battle, the more Shaw is hit, the stronger he gets, thus being a formidable opponent for anybody, managing to easily overpower even a power-house like Colossus after receiving sufficient blows. A proficient combatant and a natural-born leader, Shaw has at his disposal the remarkable resources of both his personal fortune and the Hellfire Club, making him one of the most influent, and dangerous, people on the planet. He’ll never be powerful or rich enough to satisfy his ambitions, and new limits are just made to be exceeded…but taking over the world would be a good start nevertheless.

James Howlett/Logan (Weapon X)

weaponxfilmLast character appearing in X-Men: Apocalypse was a much awaited one for sure, even if he’s not exactly a new one. In the flashbacks from X2: X-Men United and in X-Men Origins: WolverineWolverine‘s origin story was pretty fast: he was experimented on in Alkali Lake by William Stryker, and as soon as the Adamantium was bonded to his skeleton he escaped and rebelled against his creators. In Apocalypse, thanks to the continuity reset, things are a bit different, and Logan doesn’t escape from Stryker after the experiments…so he can become Weapon X, the mutant bio-weapon Stryker had been looking for in his work. Weapon X is found and freed by Jean Grey in Alkali Lake, and after he goes on a berserker frenzy (finally!) on Stryker’s men, his mind is healed by Jean’s telepathy, hinting at their future connection. Logan’s uniform as the mindless killer is stunningly similar to the comics one, and his behavior as well…now, let’s take a look at the original.

In his long semi-immortal life James Howlett, the mutant known as Logan first and Wolverine later, had many roles and jobs. In 1961 he was working for the CIA as an operative, but being a mutant he was reassigned to Team X, a black ops team composed of mutants only, designed to be the military wing of Weapon X Project, in turn part of Weapon Plus Program (a government’s secret program aimed to weaponize humans, the same which had given birth to Captain America aka Weapon I). In order to join Team X, Wolverine and his teammates (Silverfox, SabretoothMaverickMastodon and Kestrel) had their memories wiped out and replaced with false implants, so that Logan forgot most of his past life, except for a brief period in Japan: he also forgot about his enmity with Sabretooth, and the two were able to work together. Each time Team X succesfully completed a mission, their memory got erased once again, so that they could not remember nor reveal any top secret detail about what they were doing in certain areas. Wolverine’s healing factor was duplicated and transmitted to the other members of weaponxcomics1the team, but it was also slowed down with Carbonadium, so that the Weapon Plus officers could kill him if the situation required it: as a side effect, however, he regained part of his memory, not that this gave much to him, as Sabretooth discovered this and killed the one who was helping him, double agent Janice Hollenbeck. As a result, Logan was brainwashed once again and assigned to cruel and sadistic missions, so that the government could be sure they had regained their perfectly obedient killing machine (during this time, he was sent to Vietnam, where he brutally tortured and brainwashed top soldier Frank Simpson, damaging his brain for good). With time, however, the inner tensions in Weapon X, mostly caused by Sabretooth’s brutality, brought the team to conflict, and eventually it disbanded. Logan walked away without regaining his memory, and joined Department K, a secret Canadian agency…what he did not know, was that Department K in turn had ties with Weapon Plus, and that all his moves had been forseen and guided since he “left” Team X.

Logan, in fact, was the one agent among all the members of Team X that the scientists in Weapon Plus had found suitable for their tenth project, the creation of Weapon X. He was tested again, this time working in conjuction with CIA agents Nick Fury and Richard and Mary Parker, and with spy Carol Danvers, even managing to foil a plan from the secret organization Hellfire Club. When Wolverine tried to retire, however, Weapon Plus intervened directly, and some operatives sedated him and kidnapped him. When he woke up, he was in a containment tank, studied by Dr. Abraham Cornelius and Dr. Carol Hines. The two scientists learnt everything they could about the mutant’s healing factor, and thanks to their experiments they succesfully bonded his skeleton and bone-claws with the indestructible metal Adamantium, in an excruciatingly painful process. During the entire process, while still in the tank, Logan was submitted to his most intensive brainwash yet, with all his memories being erased; plus, he was repeatedly hypnotized, and convinced that he was not a man, that he hated being human, and that he was but an weaponxcomics2animal, part of a pack: individuality only led to pain and death, and he had to free himself of it. When the process ended, Logan’s past and personality were buried deep into what remained of his mind, and he was but a savage animal, with no sense of self, obedient to every order he was given: he was now Weapon X, and nothing more. As a final test, Cornelius ordered Weapon X to attack Roanoke, a small town in Virginia, and to kill all the inhabitants: the creature did as he was told, and he slaughtered everyone, men, women and children, leaving nobody alive. Weapon Plus had finally the perfect bio-weapon they were looking for, and Weapon X accomplished a number of missions…until Logan’s healing factor started messing up with his mind-control, and hypnosis became less and less effective. With the possibility that the so-well-trained dog now began biting the hand that had been feeding it, Weapon Plus had more than a good reason to fear its own creation.

The man who once was Logan is nowhere to be found in Weapon X: a mindless animal, he kills on command, and does it brutally. He possesses a remarkable healing factor that allows him to sustain virtually any wound, and which significantly slows his aging; his skeleton and natural bone-claws have been bonded with indestructible adamantium, making him nearly impervious to any kind of damage; his high-tech helmet and visor enhance his already unnatural senses, and keep him under constant control from Weapon Plus. None of his weapon or martial arts expertise survived to the brainwash, but he has no need of it: unleashed, savage, Weapon X fights like a wild animal, with no restraint, no mercy, no boundaries. He’s an infallible killing machine, a remorseless killer…with a wounded but still strong personality struggling to emerge from layers and layers of hypnosis and brainwash.