Saturday, August 11, 2018

Agnostic

As an agnostic, I've long battled with the notion of God. I was raised Roman Catholic, instilled with the belief that God cannot only see everything we do but hear every thought. In those thoughts and actions we are judged, which means, by implication, we are heard. If we are heard, why is there little to no divine intervention? Why are there no apparent miracles? Have we been abandoned? Have we been forgotten?

As an agnostic, all I have are questions. While the concept of God has always been alluring it has never felt solid, just something I reach for and fall through. We can turn on the television and see atrocity after atrocity. Reading the news, reading history, learning what we're capable of does not reinforce the concept. If anything, it contradicts it. We can listen to friends and family say terrible things. We can watch with our own eyes insufferable actions that we can do nothing to stop. Why am I drawn to thoughts of a higher power? Why do I think that my actions have unfathomable consequences? Is it guilt? Is it a primordial sensation I can't shake, akin to feeling hunted by a predator?

Day after day, thought after thought, these are questions I have to admit I don't know the answer to. I don't know if there's life after death; I haven't died. I haven't spoken with angels or a lost friend. I don't know what came before me, other than what others have written. I don't know what will happen after me. As a child, I once believed the universe ceased to exist outside the room I was within. When someone left the house, I wasn't sure that they didn't just disappear. I imagined they didn't, but at the same time, I doubted they were really shopping or visiting family or going next door; how could I really know for certain?

I own a Bible. I've read it. I've read religious texts from around the world, past and present. I went to church school every Sunday. I've prayed almost every night since grade school. I was baptized and confirmed, yet I still don't understand kneeling to a man, confessing to a man. If we are all sinners by nature, what good is an oath from one man to another? I've met worshipers that were bad, atheists that were good, and vice versa. How can this be, when communion and the gospel are supposed to elevate us to a higher plane?

I don't understand having to attend the same ceremony every week to be heard from an all-seeing, all-knowing being. Can't God hear my thoughts at anywhere I go? Can't God forgive what I regret?  I once saw a priest slap a friend at confirmation rehearsal so bad that my friend's face was red for the remainder of the time we were there. That priest was found to have pilfered donations and worse. How can one trust such an organization? Does a robe and followers make the priest holier than the faithful follower?

Faith is a cunning bitch of a word. For one to have faith, one removes all doubt. Questions no longer matter. Reasons no longer matter. As a lover of science and philosophy, I don't understand how questions or reasons could ever not matter. Einstein once said, "God does not play dice with the universe," and in that, there is true wisdom: for there to be a creator there must be rules, an order in which all things follow. Humanity does not create those rules; we decipher them.

As with alien life and ghosts, I simply can't have faith without proof. I must remain a skeptic that wants to believe that existence is more than a mistake or happenstance, that answers may come if the right questions are posed. As an agnostic, I accept nothing less than truth, be it now or in death.

Monday, July 9, 2018

"Mermin"

Mermin are creatures that are in my published short story from "The Enchanted Filing Cabinet." I drew this a while ago and hung it on the wall in my office. Basically, they excel at theft and come in packs.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Silver Surfer Screenplay

I own none of the rights. I just wanted to do a fun exercise concerning two of my favorite Marvel characters, so here are the first 10 - 12 pages of my Silver Surfer script:

EXT. - SPACE

A KREE WARSHIP floats beyond the atmosphere of a large, desert planet with two suns.

INT. - KREE WARSHIP

Squads of Kree soldiers hustle to battle stations, yet a MESSENGER heads in the opposite direction.

Doors slide open, revealing Kree hard at work on their computers and a pacing COMMANDER. The commander is tall and armored, unafraid.

COMMANDER
I demand answers. Have we been fired upon? Have the Skrulls broken the truce?

MESSENGER
Sir, we have images of the impending attack.

A SILVERY, BLURRED MASS hurtling through space like a shooting star appears on the screen.

The Commander snatches the messenger by the throat, lifts him off the ground, and tosses him aside.

COMMANDER
These pictures tell me nothing. Where did this weapon originate?
What fools beg for war with the Kree?

ANALYST
Commander, it’s within range!

COMMANDER
Then destroy it!

EXT. - SPACE

As every gun on the warship unloads, fighter ships pour into space.

The fire around the mysterious object subsides. Eyes aglow, the SILVER SURFER approaches on his board.

With swift grace, the Surfer weaves through an onslaught of lasers. BLASTS OF ENERGY shoot from his fists, cutting rows of fighter ships in half while he barrel rolls around an explosion.

INT. - KREE WARSHIP

Like a ghost, the Surfer slips through the warship’s shields and its main window.

The commander unleashes a battle cry and swings his sword, yet the blade snaps against the Surfer’s metallic form.

Both hands of the Surfer spread. Energy beams consume the bridge. The Surfer passes into the halls undeterred, leaving chaos in his wake.

Kree soldiers engage with guns, swords, and hammers. Spinning upon his board, the Surfer hurls them into walls.

As fast as the Surfer appeared, he slips through the warship’s floors and vanishes.

EXT. - SPACE

Behind the Surfer, the Kree warship implodes. He continues toward the planet.

EXT. - DESERT PLANET - KREE OUTPOST

Massive, defensive guns fire from the planet’s surface into the atmosphere; they are unable to hit the Surfer.

As if riding waves, he encroaches on the Kree soldiers amassing below him. He roars. Larger and larger, the energy around his fists grows.

In one passing swoop, his blast rips apart the outpost.

Slowing, the Surfer veers to a stop and whirls his hands.

Rumbling, shaking, the earth around the Kree soldiers crumbles. It turns black, whirling downward into a void that swallows them all.

THE SILHOUETTE OF GALACTUS’ HELMET BLOTS ONE OF THE PLANET’S SUNS.

Looking up, the glow in the Surfer’s eyes wanes.
 
SILVER SURFER
Master, I have found another planet in which for you to feed.

The ELEMENTAL CONVERTER of Galactus breaches the atmosphere. UNWINDING, METAL TENTACLES spread over the land. They plunge into the ground.

EXT. - SPACE

Solemn, the Silver Surfer watches from afar as the desert planet breaks apart into lifeless pieces of debris and the arms of the Elemental Converter wind back into its shell.

GALACTUS
I hunger.

SILVER SURFER
Galactus, my master, have you not just feasted?

GALACTUS
Feast? That was a morsel.
 
Walking around the broken planet, the Devourer of Worlds keeps his hands behind his back. He stands as tall as Earth, armored and helmeted, proud and emotionless.

The Surfer floats upward, closer to Galactus’ face.

GALACTUS (CONT’D)
Did we not strike a bargain, my herald? I took just a man, a pathetic scientist on a backwater world, and imbued him with the Power Cosmic to find me nourishment among the stars.

One of the desert planet’s moons collides with Galactus’ shoulder and is obliterated.

The Surfer looks at the destruction.

SILVER SURFER
I remember the bargain. I have not failed in my duties.

GALACTUS
In the past, you have served me well. You, Silver Surfer, have been my finest herald, but as of late, you have brought me nothing but snacks. You bring me worlds that barely support life or are dying, so I hunger, more and more.

SILVER SURFER
What would you have me do?

GALACTUS
Only what I ask, now through eternity. I am patient. I am everlasting. Find me a biosphere rich in life, or I shall return to Zenn-La and sic my Punisher on your people. Norinn Radd is dead, herald. You would do best to leave him behind and shrug off your guilt. You are mine, forever.

SILVER SURFER
(Kneeling on his board)
Yes, I am sworn to you. If my choices do not please you, where would you have me go?

GALACTUS
There is a place...long has it been hidden from me. The tug of something powerful has pulled the veil and made it known. I can sense its force, enough to satiate me for a hundred years. Uatu, the Watcher, feeble in his kindness, thought he could keep it from me. No more.

SILVER SURFER
I will do as you ask.

GALACTUS
Of course, you will. I am your Maker. I shall guide you there to subdue its people and follow soon after. This I bid, herald. This is the word of Galactus, all-powerful, the before and after and unbound to time.

SILVER SURFER
And if the Watcher interferes?
 
GALACTUS
He will not dare. Now, go.
 
The Silver Surfer speeds off, following a LIGHT TRAIL through the cosmos.
 
EXT. - Earth’s Moon - Blue Area

Within Uatu’s eyes, the reflection of the Surfer travels through space. Uatu blinks.

The reflection of Earth, which he looks upon with concern FROM THE MOON, takes the Surfer’s place.

UATU
I have dreaded this moment. For millions of years, I have watched this planet, observing its people grow and blossom, become beacons of hope.

A VISION OF INFINITY GEMS SWIRL AROUND UATU, COLLECTING ON THE GAUNTLET.

UATU (CONT’D)
First, came Thanos, and I did nothing as he ravaged Earth’s heroes.

The gauntlet snaps its fingers.

UATU (CONT’D)
Now, the Destroyer of Worlds sends his herald to wreak havoc.
There are few to stand against his might.
Whom to contact? Where to start?

MONTAGE

-CAPTAIN AMERICA kneels at BUCKY’S GRAVE.

-KRAGLIN stands behind ROCKET THE RACCOON as he flies a Ravager ship. TONY STARK sits dejected in a corner.

-HOWARD THE DUCK uses Quack Fu against would-be bank robbers.

-HAWKEYE sits beside BLACK WIDOW staring across a lake.

-Children play on the lawn of the X-MANSION.

-The DORA MILAJE mourn their fallen king in Wakanda.

-VALKYRIE holds THOR’S hand.

-ADAM WARLOCK and PIP THE TROLL stand together, staring into the vastness of space. Across from them, a LARGE ISLAND begins to form with a STATUE OF THANOS at its center.

-MS. MARVEL fights an UNKNOWN FOE.

-Cranes put the finishing touches on top of the BAXTER BUILDING.

UATU (CONT’D)
Perhaps, the answer is not now. The thoughts within Galactus’ herald did not match his deeds. Norrin Radd, enemy or ally...your past will be the key.

ZENN-LA APPEARS IN UATU’S EYES.

EXT. - ZENN-LA

It’s a planet similar to Earth but with roundish, stone homes. The people, though technologically advanced, live in harmony with their surroundings, caring for exotic plants and alien species.

INT. - NORRIN RADD’S HOUSE

Norrin washes vegetables in the sink. Dressed in green and yellow, he is bald and lean yet muscular.
 
He places the vegetables on a nearby counter, where robots dice them and prepare breakfast on a stove.

For a moment, Norrin watches a strange, multicolored bird-like creature on the hedge outside his window. He smiles, looking over his shoulder.

NORRIN
Good morning, Shalla-Bal.

SHALLA-BAL
Good morning, my love. What smells delicious?

NORRIN
A dish my mother taught me. It’s a scramble of eggs, spices, and vegetables.

Shalla-Bal has long, dark hair. She also wears green and yellow, though it is a flowing dress.

Tenderly, she wraps her arms around her husband’s stomach.

The bird creature squawks and flaps away.

SHALLA-BAL
I think it heard you.

Norrin and Shalla-Bal laugh.

NORRIN
Synthetic eggs. Synthetic veggies. No living being harmed.

SHALLA-BAL
I expect no less.

Splashing Shalla-Bal with water, Norrin turns into her embrace. They kiss.

SHALLA-BAL (CONT’D)
Where do your adventures take you today? Will you be home for dinner?

NORRIN
Aren’t I always?

SHALLA-BAL
Mostly. Sometimes, no.

NORRIN
Today should be a mostly. I’m to speak with the Council of Scientists about the defense systems, for a fifth time. When I fail to convince them this so-called breach should be inspected--

SHALLA-BAL
You’ll stop in the library and lose yourself in stories of Zenn-La’s history, imaging yourself floating around the cosmos like you used to draw when we were in school.

NORRIN
You remember those?

SHALLA-BAL
Oh, yes. Silver-something and his daring, female sidekick.

NORRIN
A sidekick modeled after you.

SHALLA-BAL
Darling, I’ve never been that endowed. Those were the drawings of a teenager in lust.

A BLUE LIGHT fills the kitchen, interrupting their laughter.

SHALLA-BAL (CONT’D)
The council summons you? Maybe you’ll get your wish to venture into space, after all.
The first in a hundred years.

NORRIN
Let’s hope.

SHALLA-BAL
Be back for supper or no dessert.

They kiss, before Norrin grabs a flat computer and a book and tucks them under his arm. He stops in the doorway, relishing the sight of his wife.

NORRIN
See you soon.

SHALLA-BAL
Let’s hope. And tell those old fools to listen for once!

INT. - ZENN-LA - COUNCIL OF SCIENCE CHAMBER

Norrin stands at a center console, surrounded by elders in chairs. The room is barren and cold.

Waiting for the elder scientists to stop shifting and coughing and grumbling to each other, Norrin punches the keys to his computer. He opens his book that is written in symbols and math equations, and smiles at Shalla-Bal’s scribble in a corner:
I’LL ALWAYS LOVE YOU

On the chamber’s walls, the solar system containing Zenn-La appears.

NORRIN
As you all know, since this is my fifth visit, the outer rim of our defense system was breached.

LEAD SCIENTIST
Your data is old, Norrin. Since last week, three of our four defense lines have been breached. We have since sent probes and none returned.

NORRIN
Three?

LEAD SCIENTIST
Yes, three. Seems a mass system failure. We’ve summoned you to grant access to a spaceship and inspect the innermost defense line. Your claim that we’ve neglected their upkeep seems...
(clears throat, takes sip of water)
...accurate.

NORRIN
And if it’s not a malfunction? If they’ve been destroyed or--
 
The council laughs.
 
LEAD SCIENTIST
Hardly. We are but a speck in a great universe. We are so remote we have never once, in our billions of years, interacted or found another life form outside of our own planet. Our ancestors were paranoid. Why, I do not know, but do not let your imagination go wild. We are scientists, Norrin, first and foremost. Collect data, bring it to us, and we will discuss this matter further.
 
Norrin looks around the room, finding only bored stares.
 
NORRIN
But, what if--
 
LEAD SCIENTIST
Norrin...do not make us change our minds.
 
The Lead Scientist dismisses Norrin with a wave of his hand.
 
Collecting his things, Norrin opens and closes his mouth as he debates saying more, but the council is back to murmuring and coughing.
 
NORRIN
(Leaving)
I guess I’m going to space.

EXT. - ZENN-LA

Norrin’s spacecraft ejects SPHERICAL PROBES once out of Zenn-La’s atmosphere.

INT. - NORRIN’S SPACECRAFT

Shalla-Bal’s photograph is on his main computer, and Norrin touches it, running his finger on her cheek.

After a pause, he directs the probes from his console. He slows the craft.

NORRIN
Diagnostics on first defense line.

EXT. - SPACE

The probes split up in several directions, scanning large, metallic objects set in a row.

INT. - NORRIN'S SPACECRAFT

NORRIN
Nothing wrong? How can that be?

ALARMS SOUND.

RED LIGHT FILLS NORRIN’S SPACECRAFT.

Rising from nowhere, arms outstretched, Galactus destroys the final defense line in a series of explosions that do him no harm.

Norrin’s spacecraft CRUMBLES to pieces, leaving him squirming for air, at the mercy of radiation and extreme cold.

As if plucking an ant, Galactus seizes Norrin and brings him closer.

PIECES OF THE SPACECRAFT FORM A PAD in which Norrin recovers and gasps for breath.

GALACTUS
I know why you have come, Norrin Radd, but I cannot diverge from my path.

NORRIN
You...know my name?

GALACTUS
I know all names, all thoughts, even from opposite ends of the universe.
Do not try to understand me, mortal. I am beyond you.

NORRIN
What are you? Why have you come?

GALACTUS
I have come for the energy of your planet, that which supports life.

NORRIN
No, you can’t! There must be another way!

GALACTUS
No wealth or pleasure will sway me. I seek only energy.

NORRIN
Our biosphere...if you drain our biosphere, you drain our lives! You will destroy an entire race!

GALACTUS
It is what I am. In order to survive, I must have the biosphere. Without me, the universe would fall apart. I am balance. I am a necessity, harsh as it must seem.

NORRIN
Life means nothing to you? Certainly, there are planets without sentient beings!
Why Zenn-La? Why a planet that houses people?

GALACTUS
Life means everything, but mine is more important. I do not expect such a small creature to understand. Had I a herald, it would be different.

NORRIN
No...you can’t...What if I was your herald?

GALACTUS
I can spare your world, but do you really know what it is you sacrifice? A herald is forever. You will lead me to countless planets long after yours has come and gone and Shalla-Bal is but dust. You will never see her again. You will seek life, quell resistance, and I will follow. Blood will be on your hands. Entire planets will mar your soul.
 
Silence as tears form in Norrin’s eyes.

NORRIN
If it means Shalla-Bal will live in peace, I give myself willingly. I am yours.
 
Norrin kneels.

GALACTUS
I am not without mercy.

From Galactus’ palm, light emanates and consumes Norrin on his platform.

Norrin screams in pain.

GALACTUS (CONT’D)
To remind you of your love, I will mold you in what brought you together.
Henceforth, herald, you will be...the Silver Surfer.

From his skin, a MOLTEN, SILVERY LIQUID METAL seeps over Norrin's body.
 
 
Some Notes:
 
*The format is off due to Final Draft vs Blogger - This is just a draft
 
*One of the main points is Silver Surfer is a villain, a powerful one. He wouldn't start his reformation till very late in the film. Even then, it's only a rebellion against Galactus. He's not a savior.
 
*Surfer should have a wide range of emotions. He's one of the most complex superheroes Marvel has.
 
*Kirby dot!
 
*This would reboot Fantastic Four, but Surfer would stomp them.
 
*Ultimately, Alicia Masters would spark memories of Shalla-Bal.
 
*Galactus and Uatu would confront each other, probably a war of words.
 
*Surfer would save the Fantastic Four from Galactus' Punisher, using deconstruct.
 
*Reed Richards would build the Ultimate Nullifier while Surfer distracts Galactus.
 
*Surfer's power does not come from his board; his board is psychically linked. Separating them does nothing.
 
*My dream Galactus would be Bryan Cranston.
 
*My dream Silver Surfer would be Karl Urban; OR still voiced by Laurence Fishburne.
 
*Final fight scene would NOT be in NYC; Yes, the Baxter Building is there but Avengers already did the best invasion of NYC possible for the MCU. Maybe Chicago or overseas...
 
*End on a sad note, Surfer is punished to live on Earth, never to return home or see Shalla-Bal.
 
*Either a sequel or Fantastic Four movie involving the storyline where Surfer decides humanity will only find peace if there's a villain to unite them...volunteering to be that villain. Again, it takes a while till he's the noble hero.
 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thor 2: Dark World Review (Spoiler Alert)

Spoiler Alert
 
 
Back in August, when the last trailer for Thor 2 premiered, I made a prediction based solely on that trailer about what I would see. I ended up not being far off. Rather than the Dark Elves invading London in the beginning, it happened at the end. Rather than joining Malekith, Loki takes out Odin (how, we don't know) on his own. Other than that, the sequel was what I expected: Thor, in bone-crushing fashion, saved the day and Jane Foster.
 
That's not to say I didn't enjoy Thor 2 or that the movie didn't hold any surprises. The two best twists came at the very end. First, Loki faked his death, which, as long as you were paying attention to when they showed a random Asgardian on Svartalheim, was visible soon after he "died." Ultimately, the twist was the villain triumphs; Loki takes the throne of Asgard. Second, during the credits, Sif and Volstagg take the source of the Aether to the Collector, who is played by Benecio del Toro. What was interesting about this scene was finding out the source was an Infinity Gem that had to be separated from another gem in Asgard. While this doesn't necessarily set an Infinity Gauntlet movie in stone--maybe, Avengers 3--it does make the prospect a possibility. After all, the most notorious villain to ever get his hands on the Infinity Gauntlet and the gems is Thanos, who was shown at the end of the Avengers and will make another appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy. I definitely have my fingers crossed. Due to copyrights, Marvel and Disney will never be able to create an exact copy of Infinity Gauntlet, but they could come close, especially if the next Fantastic Four movie bombs and they reacquire the rights to an important character like Silver Surfer.
 
Another great surprise in Thor 2 were the cameos. I always enjoy hunting for Stan Lee; this time around, they made it easy. And in a funny scene, Captain America, played by Chris Evans, made an appearance. Well, to be technical, it was Loki playing Captain America...played by Chris Evans. I wasn't expecting it at all, even when Loki started shifting in and out of illusions to mock Thor.
 
In fact, Thor 2 was loaded with jokes. One of my friends snorted in the theater for half the movie, and she asked afterwards if Marvel comics were as funny as the movies--I told her a lot of them had jokes throughout the issues. I think I laughed more during this film than majority, if not all, of the comedies I saw in 2013. I really got a kick out of Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) too, who had lost his mind since the events of Manhattan.
 
And, of course, there was a lot of action. Mjolnir flew about, smashing. Thor and Kurse pummeled each other. Creepy Dark Elves poured out of spaceships firing high-tech guns. Malekith and Thor hopped through dimensional rifts as they fought.
 
If I had one complaint that really threw me off, it was after Loki's "death" scene. Thor and Jane Foster found themselves stranded on Svartalheim, homeland of the Dark Elves. There was an entire realm, yet they wound up in a tiny cave that happened to be the portal they needed to get back to Earth in time to stop Malekith from obliterating the universe. It was a stretch, even for a movie with Norse gods.
 
Par for most superhero movies, the plot didn't make me think deeply. It wasn't meant to. Thor 2 was a popcorn flick, designed to fill our eyes with CGI and explosions, give us a laugh or two and expand upon characters we may or may not already be familiar with. I liked it. I thought it was better than Iron Man 3 and superior to its predecessor. It definitely gave me hope for the future of Marvel films, particularly Winter Soldier.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

X-Men: Days of Future Past Trailer


Once again helmed by Bryan Singer, this is the first glimpse of the latest X-Men movie. I'm hesitant to say it looks good, as I've been burned in the past, but I was excited to catch a glimpse of Bishop. I was wondering when one of the futuristic X-Men would make an appearance. I just hope he's going to be more than just a cameo in the opening sequences, when they show how the war ravaged Earth.

The trailer, unlike others, doesn't divulge too much about the movie. I appreciate that. It leaves a lot of mystery, especially in terms of action and, of course, the Sentinels, yet still gives us the plot and a slew of characters. As someone that wasn't huge into X-Men growing up I didn't even recognize a few of the mutants; I did spot fan-favorite Beast (will Kelsey Grammer have a cameo?), Rogue, Mystique, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Blink, Storm, Bolivar Trask--I can't wait to see Peter Dinklage as the villainous genius behind Sentinels--and Wolverine, who looks to be a co-lead with Professor X and Magneto.

It'll be interesting to see how Singer weaves such a large cast into the movie.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Trailer


Here's the first trailer for the next Captain America movie. Unlike a lot of people, I was a fan of The First Avenger, particularly the first hour, and its sequel appears to have improved the franchise with a darker tone and a more serious theme.

Again, I think this trailer shows too much of the film--I wish both the helicarrier crashing and the elevator scene had been kept a secret until release, but at least they didn't reveal (for those who haven't read the comic) the identity of the Winter Soldier. Hint: it's not Captain America.

What I enjoyed the most about First Avenger and will probably enjoy in this film as well is the involvement and growth of S.H.I.E.L.D. characters and Black Widow. It's good to see the introduction of new characters as well: Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Anthony Mackie as The Falcon, who could possibly make an appearance in Avengers 2 or even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the comics, the Falcon has ties to the cosmic cube, Black Panther, the Secret Avengers, and even replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America for a while, so there's a lot that could be done with this character.

Actually, the Black Panther helps design the Falcon's wings; I'd be ecstatic if he had a cameo.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Marvel Heroes: Patch 1.3 Review

Initially, Patch 1.3 was loaded with bugs, so I waited on my review. Its follow-up patch to correct bugs and adjust spirit and defense was practically unplayable, causing disconnects whenever entering terminals, treasure rooms, or different zones. I was sentenced to Avengers Tower for twenty-four hours, but as of yesterday night, the problems are mostly fixed.

One of the big arrivals to Marvel Heroes is Synergy. This system allows for passives on each hero, unlocked at both level 25 and 50. Once you reach that goal, they can be toggled at level 1 for any hero you wish or all your heroes. While it's a wonderful addition, granting bonuses to energy damage, health, rarity/special find, and even XP, I find it tedious to level a majority of my heroes beyond that first level 25 mark. The leveling, at least for me, is still grueling from 25 - 50. I have 15 heroes and only one is at level 60. The rest are 30 or lower, excluding a level 47 Iron Man. Synergy essentially promotes the usage of multiple heroes and alts yet the rate of leveling dissuades me at the same time.

Speaking of Iron Man, he saw a complete revamp. Along with new skills such as Wrist Rocket, an aoe missile attack, and One-Off, a laser attack taken from the movie Iron Man 2 (this skill is absolutely amazing and clears the screen), he now hovers when moving, instead of running. I do still find him a bit squishy, making a melee build impossible at higher levels where red terminals are desired to level faster, so some of the new skills are pointless until he is tuned. I've spent a few retcons on him, toying around with builds, checking out the different skills. He's fun, yet I still find other heroes such as Deadpool and Human Torch more fun to play. Others are loving Iron Man, especially the diehard fans of him.

A Prestige Mode was also introduced; it's akin to prestige in Call of Duty, where players with a level 60 are given the opportunity to start over from level 1. I said previously that 25 -50 is grueling for me, so I have no desire to even attempt this mode. It can be done up to 5 times. I can barely get a hero to 60 once. Unless they drastically change the speed at which one can level without buying loads of XP potions, I can't imagine very many players will endure this mode, especially since the only benefits are pets you can buy and a change in the color of your name. Maybe when achievements are implemented Prestige Mode might appeal to more people. I doubt it ever will for me.

Legendary Quests were implemented to assist the leveling experience. They're a randomized auto-pickup, starting in Heroic Mode and sending you to different zones and terminals to accomplish a list of goals. Once completed, you gain experience and pick up Odin Marks. These marks are spent at the crafter, improving artifacts. At first, the quests did not give anywhere close to the promised "best experience" in the game. When players complained on the forums, the amount was adjusted. They can be a tad time consuming; I find red terminals remain the best way to level, if your hero can survive the insane damage output of the mobs within them.

Along with the Odin Mark upgrades, artifacts can now be Advanced. They're supposed to be superior, but I haven't found any of worth--they've all gone to my crafter, which I'm tirelessly leveling...still.

On top of the hunt for Advanced drops, a slot for team insignias was put into the hero gear sets. These little perks, ranging from uncommon to epic, drop at random and not only give boosts to your hero, they boost those on your team. There are several types of insignias. Since my Human Torch has only ever been part of Fantastic Four in the comics, he is limited to Fantastic Four insignias and S.H.I.E.L.D. insignias (any hero can use S.H.I.E.L.D. insignias). Other heroes like Spider-Man and Iron Man have more options.

As usual, Gazillion continues to slowly but surely improve the overall depth of Marvel Heroes, demonstrating the game's potential. Their patches come fast, one or two majors a month, and every major patch seems to bring a new hero. This time around it was Luke Cage, who I haven't had the time to play, even though I received him in a random splinter box.

Unlike other ARPGs, I don't find myself getting bored to the point that I start searching for another game. It's probably due to the amount of patches and updates and heroes and bonus weekends. Plus, if the developers stay true to their word and start bringing in new zones (Asgard is slated to arrive soon), as well as raids and PVP, I may have no time for other games at all. My Xbox is dusty and lonely this morning, yet I'm about to log back into Marvel Heroes.