X-MEN FIRST CLASS: A PRE-SHOW PRIMER FOR NON-GEEKS

As we approach the June 3 release date of X-Men First Class, the movie, it might be worth going over a few facts.  First of all, the “First Class” of X-Men isn’t really the first class.  Comic fans know that the first five were Beast, Cyclops, Marvel Girl (Phoenix/Jean Grey in the X-Men film trilogy), Iceman and Angel.  The terrific X-Men First Class comic books, written by Jeff Parker, were about that team.

For the film, we’ll see a few faces that will be familiar to those who know X-Men only from the three films: the team will be led by a pre-doctorate Professor X, and will include Beast—who we will see both pre- and post-blue hair, Magneto, and Mystique.  However, the roster will also include some pretty esoteric folks.  Who, you ask?

Angel. Rather than use the Angel character from X3, the film picked out Grant Morrison’s insect-winged character, who also goes by the name “Tempest” because she can create ice/fire blasts.  The weather powers won’t be part of the movie, as I understand it—she’ll just have her insect powers, which include regurgitating acid.  She’s a pretty minor mutant in the X-world—I’m surprised she’s in the movie.

Azazel. Named after a “real” mythical demon, Azazel is Nightcrawler’s daddy.   It’s not clear whether he’ll serve that role in the film, but since his powers are basically the same it will be hard to distance the character from the Nightcrawler character in the first trilogy (that actually takes place after XM:FC–like Star Wars).  Plus, he’s got that pointy tail.  Of course, Mystique is Nightcrawler’s mommy, so that whole thing might be hard to reconcile in this film.  This is another pretty esoteric choice–although he’s somewhat more mainstream than Angel Salvadore by virtue of his progeny.  It’s weird–were the film’s creators trying to reward nerds, or alienate audiences with a passing familiarity with X-Men?  It’s very hard to tell why they chose these particular mutants….

Banshee. Banshee’s unfortunate “real name” is Sean Cassidy.  But he first appeared way, way back in 1967, so it’s not like Roy Thomas got the name from the former Hardy Boy/teen heartthrob.  His power is a sonic scream.  Kinda like Black Canary, only he can fly and isn’t as easy on the eyes.  In the film version, this may be adapted to be sonic blasts—it’s unclear that he’ll actually be screaming for the entire movie.  That would, after all, be very annoying. Banshee is far and away the best known and most used of the lesser-knowns who make up the cast.  Your girlfriend might even have heard of him.

Darwin. Darwin got his start in X-Men: Deadly Genesis—Ed Brubaker’s first major work for Marvel Comics—and has the ability to quickly adapt to any situation.  It’s a tremendously cool power, and he’s been a great contributor to Peter David’s wonderfully underread and underrated X-Factor series.  Darwin is the guy I’m personally most interested in seeing on the big screen.

Emma Frost. Known as the world’s hottest comic book character, Emma can turn diamond hard (and can make geeks hard, too) and has psychic powers.  She’s also Scott “Cyclops” Summers’ girlfriend, at least in the comic books.  Doubt they’ll include that little wrinkle in the movie, though.

Havoc. Cyclops’ bro.  But apparently he won’t be a sibling in the movie.  Anyway, he can shoot plasma blasts.  That’s pretty much all you need to know.

Riptide. Riptide is a Chris Claremont/John Romita Jr. creation who is pretty similar to Red Tornado.  He has wind power—but not break-wind power.  That would  be cool, wouldn’t it?  Like Angel, Riptide’s not a major character in the comic books—I don’t know why they’re picking him over so many other, better-known and cooler options (like Madrox or Polaris or Dazzler or Longshot (now, that would have been awesome)). 

Sebastian Shaw. Head of the Hellfire Club in the comics, he’s a huge guy who can absorb energy and throw it back at you.  So if Hulk hits Shaw, Shaw hits back with the same force, basically.

There you have it!  With this info, you should be able to impress any non-geeks you find at the theater.  So, if it’s possible to get laid at a superhero movie, you’ve got a bit of a leg up.  Thank me later.

The movie is coming on June 3.

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