Sunday, December 9, 2018

A Story Arc for Angel

If you were to take the powers of the five original X-Men and ask people to rank them in terms of the usefulness and effectivity in battle, I think that it would be a safe to assume that the power of flight wouldn’t be on top of many people’s lists. I mean don’t get me wrong, flying is a cool power but I would take concussive energy blasts, telekinesis, ice generation and even enlarged hands and feet over it...ok maybe not enlarged hands and feet, but you get the point.

Warren Worthington III, aka the high flying mutant called Angel is one of Marvel’s oldest superheroes having made his publication debut as a member of the X-Men over 50 years ago. Unfortunately, for almost half of that time, he was possibly one of the blandest characters in the Marvel universe. Unlike his other teammates who had their own individual personal struggles with their powers to deal with, Warren was your typical handsome playboy billionaire loved by everybody. And regarding his specific power of flight, while visually his wings might look spectacular, I would think that in a typical combat scenario, their sheer size alone would be more of a disadvantage compared to other superhero fliers.

That all changed in 1988 when writer Louise Simonson and her husband Walt Simonson did a major revamp to the character changing him in my opinion for the better and definitely making him a more effective and compelling character in every possible way.

During the epic crossover story arc, The Mutant Massacre, Angel, who at this point is a member of the superhero team X-Factor, is seriously injured in battle by the evil Marauders Blockbuster and Harpoon. The former crushed his wings and the later uses his energized...harpoons to impale Angel on a wall by them. He is eventually rescued by the God of Thunder, Thor. Unfortunately, Angel’s mutilated wings develop gangrene and are amputated against his wishes under the orders of his supposed friend Cameron Hodge.

So let’s backtrack a little bit here…..originally introduced as a supporting character in the X-Factor comic book, Cameron Hodge was Warren’s old college roommate who is brought in to run public relations for X-Factor. Unfortunately it turned out that Hodge secretly hated mutants, especially Warren. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was the founder and leader of an anti-mutant organization called The Right.

When he finally wakes up from surgery, Warren is understandably devastated over the loss of his wings and sneaks out of the hospital to commandeer a private jet in an effort to “fly” once again. To the shock of everyone watching helplessly below, the plane suddenly explodes seemingly killing Warren. His death is ruled a suicide, unknown to everyone that the explosion was actually caused by a bomb planted on the plane by Hodge.

I remember the time I first saw this specific comic in my friend’s room. Seeing the image Angel behind a NO symbol splashed on the cover, my initial thought was “oh I guess this is where he dies”. After reading the issue I was just “meh” about the whole situation….His “death” didn’t really affect me that much at all...which was quite telling at how uninteresting a character he really was up to that point.

Of course, this is comics and no one really dies, and like I mentioned earlier, the writers had bigger plans for Warren. Seconds before the explosion, Angel is secretly teleported away by the ancient mutant Apocalypse. Back at his lair, Apocalypse offers to restore Warren’s wings in exchange for his service as one of his Four Horsemen. The mentally unhinged and desperate Warren readily accepts and is subjected to extensive genetic alterations.

The end result leaves Warren literally blue skinned and equipped with a new pair of deadlier wings composed of razor sharp organic metal blades for feathers. He is renamed Death and proceeds to lead the other Horsemen into battle against X-Factor. After a number of encounters with his former friends, Warren is tricked into thinking that he kills Iceman. The shock of seemingly murdering his old friend helps Warren regain a little sanity and ultimately reject Apocalypse.

Despite breaking free of Apocalypse’ influence he initially refuses to rejoin X-Factor and instead goes off on his own to seek out his former friend Hodge whom he discovers has kidnapped his ex-girlfriend Candy Southern. Eventually he tracks down Hodge and using his wings to decapitates him, although not before Hodge manages to deal one more blow to Warren by murdering Candy. With Hodge dead (ok actually his head survived thanks to a supernatural deal he made with a demon, but that’s a story for another time….), Warren moves on and slowly re-integrates himself into the ranks of heroes, renaming himself to Archangel.

Since then, Archangel has become one of the most popular X-Man with his action figures easily being one of the “must haves” for any X-men collector. Looking back, I find myself very fortunate over the relatively stress free ways that I got some plastic representations of Archangel for my shelf.

Back in 2009 when I was still living in Singapore, during one of my regular trips to the Sunday toy flea market, I came across vendor selling a lone mint on card 3.75” Marvel Universe Archangel at a very close to retail price. At that time I wasn’t really collecting any Marvel figures yet but on a whim, since I was a fan of the character, I decided to get it as a one off purchase (yeah right!). Turned out to be a great move as that figure became pretty pricey and hard to find for quite some time.

I also lucked out a few years later with the 6” Marvel Legends version of Archangel which I found in a local store also selling for a decent price. This was right before the release of the movie X-Men: Apocalypse which featured a blade-winged Angel. So I figured this was the right time to get another Archangel since I anticipated a resurgence of interest in the character thanks to the movie. I was right, despite the movie kinda...sucking, Marvel Legends Archangel prices almost doubled in such a short amount of time and was one of the most sought after figures for many Marvel Legends collectors. That is until Hasbro finally decided to throw all those who missed out on the initial release a much needed bone in 2018.

Initially when news of this imminent release of a new Archangel was announced I thought that it would be a completely new figure so I put in a preorder for it despite already having the original figure. Call it a case of FOMO*, but I figured that I could hold on to the better version and just sell off the other. It turned out that the newer version was just the original figure with some slight tweaks, a lighter paint job and a slew of extra accessories including a masked Death head which for me was a definite highlight.

In the end, I decided to keep both Archangels. I gave the original darker version the death mask (yes I know the paint doesn’t match but whatever) and placed him next to his master, Apocalypse on the shelf.

The newer brighter version fit better next to his fellow X-Men. And to make sure he could stand front and center without blocking anyone with his massive wings, I also got myself a retracted wings sculpted piece from the talented customizer Dave Cardenas who goes by Loose Collector online.

Since his original transformation, Warren aka Angel aka Archangel has gone through a number of convoluted storylines wherein he regained his original feathered wings, then converted back to his death persona and so on. At this point even I’m not so sure exactly what form or name he’s currently going by.

But one thing that is for certain is thanks to the original change done by Louise and Walt Simonson way back in 1988, Warren Worthington III almost overnight turned from one of the most useless and boring X-Men characters into one of the most compelling and deadliest, with powers that enabled him to go toe to toe and defeat even a certain overrated cigar smoking clawed shortie. It’s probably one of the most successful modern reinventions for a superhero character ever….How’s that for an improvement ‘bub?

*fear of missing out