Friday, October 31, 2014

X-men Supreme Issue #107: Civilization No Longer Lost Part 2 PREVIEW and New Commission


Happy Halloween from the X-men Supreme and in that spirit, I think it's only fitting that the current state of this fanfiction series, we deal with some pretty scary topics. It's not like the X-men haven't fought some pretty scary monsters since X-men Supreme began. They've taken on aliens like the Shi'ar, ancient primordial creatures like the Cambrian, and the walking horror show that is Sinister. In that respect, Sinister is the perfect enemy for the X-men to go up against during Halloween. He can always be expected to unleash something terrifying within this fanfiction series. He already has with what he did to Rogue and the secrets he revealed to Wolverine. Now, with the aid of Selene, he's prepared to unleash a new kind of horror.

But as scary as the threat posed by Sinister might be, there's another horror waiting for the X-men and it has nothing to do with monsters. A major theme of X-men that has persisted throughout its history involves the notion of family. Many of the X-men come from diverse backgrounds. Some come from different countries, like Nightcrawler and Colossus. Some come from different socioeconomic classes, Angel. The challenge has always been getting this diverse group of characters to work together and function like a family. That has been one of their strengths, even as members of that family like Rogue and Angel have left. But like a real family, certain problems bring them together and few problems are as dire as Sinister and Selene.

However, this story doesn't just involve problems surrounding enemies. There are other family issues to consider during this terrifying time for X-men Supreme. The issues surrounding the Sefton family have been a constant theme for this fanfiction series since they were introduced in the Family and Fiends arc. Amanda and Margali have guarded their secrets closely, including from Nightcrawler. Now, with Sinister and Selene on the warpath, they must return to their homeland, Nova Roma, to stop them. It's an exotic new locale for X-men Supreme and it promises to expose more family conflicts on top of those the X-men are already facing. The nature of those problems are going to have impacts that go well-beyond this arc. For this fanfiction series, those same themes of family and the conflicts that bind them will be vital moving forward. As always, I've prepared a preview that explores the world that the X-men will need to survive in order to get through this.

“I’ll say it once and I’ll keep saying it until it stops being so appropriate…wow,” said an astonished Bobby Drake.

“I would tell you to give it a rest already, but for once I’m not compelled to slap you,” said an equally astonished Kitty Pryde.

“It’s like being in a History Channel documentary and one of those Final Fantasy games,” added Scott.

“Didn’t know you had time for video games, homme. But I ain’t got a better analogy,” said Remy.

“Now I know Beast would go into seizures if he saw this,” said Jean.

The X-men were used to being astonished, but not like this. They were led into the city of Nova Roma on a special transport, courtesy of Senator Aquilla. This transport was a large hovercraft, providing a platform on which they could stand and take in the view of the city. It was clearly designed with the intention of impressing visitors with the glory of Nova Roma. Whether it was done out of arrogance or practicality, there was certainly plenty to admire.

The city was about the size of Manhattan Island and very reflective of its Roman past. To the north was Mount Anton, to the east was a large lake, and in every other direction there was dense jungle. Each of these natural barriers surrounded a vast urban landscape. The architecture, style, and layout of the city looked like it had been taken right out of a history book. It was elaborately planned, the buildings and streets laid out in a grid-like formation. The center of the city had all the government buildings and various temples to the Olympian gods. Moving out from this central area were more typical and modern structures that included office buildings, markets, and residential areas.

While the city itself was very Roman, there was also a very modern feel to it as well. The streets, buildings, and layout had plenty of technology to display. There were cars, traffic lights, and pretty much everything any ordinary city would have. For Nova Roma, however, it seemed like the technology was more polished. It was like the city was a decade or so ahead of everyone else. This could have been the result of integrating magic into the mix. Whatever the case, it was quite impressive.


“This city is incredible,” said Charles Xavier as he looked over the landscape.

“It’s Roman, Charles. It’s obligated to be incredible,” said Margali with a touch of sarcasm.

“It’s so isolated yet it looks so modern. It even feels more than modern,” said Ororo.

“Like I said earlier, the founders of Nova Roma saved a lot of the technology that was lost when Rome fell centuries ago. That extra boost has always given the city a leg up when it came to engineering and innovation. It’s still not completely ahead of the curve. It never pulled too far ahead of the rest of the world.”

“I’m under the impression you’re a bit cynical of our heritage, Margali,” said Senator Aquilla.

“I’m sorry, Lucius. Exile will do that to a person,” she sighed.

“Then allow me to fill in the blanks because there’s a lot more to Nova Roma than your less-than-flattering assessment.”

Margali was tempted to be bit more cynical with her old friend. She was held back by Shaman and Kurt. They did not need her to push their already tenuous luck.

“Easy, Miss Sefton,” said Kurt, “Ve are zheir guests after all.”

“You may be guests, but I’m still a traitor,” she said distantly.

Margali turned her attention back to Kurt and her comatose daughter, leaving Lucius to answer the X-men’s burning questions. His subordinates maneuvered the hover platform over some of the busiest parts of the city so that the X-men could see the grandeur of Nova Roma. They were able to make out cars, people, and culture from their vantage point. It was quite foreign to them in addition to being awe-inspiring.

“Much of what Margali says is true,” said Lucius, “In the same way Rome maintained a technological advance when it dominated in ancient times, Nova Roma sought to do the same. This is a big reason why we have thrived for centuries. However, we have not completely cut ourselves off from the outside world. We still import ideas and innovations such as TV, electronics, cars, medicine, and pretty much everything you would find in a other cities.”

“Including reality TV? Because that would really sour the whole deal,” said Betsy.

“Like I said…pretty much everything,” said the senator, not cracking a smile, “We’ve always managed to remain a step ahead. We make our computers run faster, our cars more efficient, and our medicines more sophisticated. It’s part of our Roman heritage. We strive to be better than the barbarians around us.”

“Forgive me if I say that sounds somewhat arrogant,” said Piotr Rasputin, who was one of the few who was less than amazed.

“It is. We Romans have never been known for our humility. It takes a certain level of arrogance to maintain a city of this caliber in secret for so many years. There are times when it does more harm than good. But we try to maintain a certain level of social and cultural progress.”

“Except when some of those traditions come before family friends,” said Margali under her breath.

“We don’t always make the progress we wish we could, but that doesn’t stop us from trying,” said Lucius, ignoring Margali’s comment, “Rome has always been willing to adapt. The old patriarchal order has waned over the centuries. Nova Roma has been quick to adopt more liberal philosophies like capitalism and human rights. In some instances our republican form of government has made it easier. That’s why we often made those advancements before most other societies.”

“You sound so dang proud, Ah can’t help but think there’s a catch,” said Rogue dryly.

“Think what you want. We’ve worked tirelessly to make Nova Roma a beacon of civilization.”

“Guess that means he’s not going to reveal what that catch is,” said Betsy, rolling her eyes.

“However, we have not completely cut ourselves off,” the senator continued, “Over the centuries, we have allowed outsiders from surrounding lands to join our city. That’s why you’ll see a variety of mixed races within our populous. That’s also why you’ll notice our language bearing traces of Latin, Spanish, and Incan.”

“Yet a lot of you seem to speak pretty good English,” said Professor Xavier.

“Part of maintaining Nova Roman’s status requires that we be well-educated. You would never know it, but for generations the most gifted of Nova Romans have left the safety of this city to learn about the outside world and import their knowledge. Every citizen is bound by duty to protect the sanctity of our city. It is among our highest laws and for centuries, it was upheld. For the last few decades, however, such trips have become far more limited.”

“Which I guess would explain why you were able to keep a secret like this in the age of the internet and TMZ,” said Jean Grey.

“I imagine my past transgressions are partially to blame for that as well,” said Margali.

“Not as much as you think, but more than I’m sure you’re comfortable with,” said Lucius.

“What do you mean?” asked Professor Xavier.

“There are other reasons why Nova Roma has had to become more isolated in recent years and it has nothing to do with the difficulty of keeping a secret in this day and age.”

“This be where the whole magic mojo comes into play, non?” surmised Remy.

“In a manner of speaking,” said Lucius cryptically, “I would rather save the details for my fellow senators. They’ll be very interested in hearing about Selene’s recent activity.”

The senator’s tone sparked deeper curiosity. There were definitely a few details he wasn’t telling them. Looking over towards Margali, Charles Xavier sensed she didn’t know either. She was too focused on her daughter to get excited about a meeting with the Nova Roman Senate.

They should would get their answers soon enough. The hovercraft arrived at the center of the city and touched down just outside the Curia, the main house of the Senate. The building was one of the most prominent in the city. It looked like a much fancier version of the Capitol in Washington DC, adorned with an elaborate landscape and various statues of Roman gods. It was surrounded by gates and guarded by various legions. Once they landed, the legions surrounded the area and provided a clear path for Lucius. The presence of Margali and the X-men earned some unfavorable looks. Never-the-less, they maintained their disciplined poise.

“We’re here,” announced Lucius as he stepped off the hovercraft, “We must hurry. The senate should be gathering in our secure chamber as we speak.”

“Not to get too ahead of ourselves, Mr. Senator. But what are the chances they will help us in stopping Selene?” asked Piotr, still deeply concerned about his sister.

“I cannot say. This matter must be debated first,” said Lucius.

“Debated? A bitch as crazy as Selene is threatenin’ this city you love so much and you wanna debate it?” said Rogue.

“Make no mistake. We take every threat to our city seriously. But there are procedures for this sort of thing,” said Lucius in a more frustrated tone.

“Not to knock your legal traditions, but you do know this is Selene we’re dealing with, don’t you?” reminded Jean, “She’s never been one to offer her enemies certain advantages…like time.”

The Nova Roman senator stopped walking for a moment and turned to face the X-men.

“I’m fully aware of the threat posed by this woman. More so than any of you can possibly imagine,” said Lucius firmly, “However, we are a city built on law. I’ve already pulled my share of strings to get you and an exiled citizen back into our graces. Don’t expect me to work miracles when I’m already risking my status and my reputation for you.”

“Translation, prepare to be disappointed,” said Kitty.

This remark earned Kitty a stern look from Lucius. The rest of the X-men spared her the same scorn. Harsh or not, they had enough experience in these matters to know when she had a point. For those like Piotr, who were eager to get their hands on Selene, it did not bode well.

“While they debate, Illyana could be suffering!” he said under his breath, “Why can’t we simply borrow one of those hovering machines and go after Selene?”

“I share your concern, Piotr,” said Professor Xavier, “However, we’ll only do her a disservice if we try to confront Selene without a plan. Like it or not, the Nova Romans are our best hope.”

“He’s right, Peter. You can’t beat an enemy like this without a plan,” said Scott, “We’ve tried that in the past and it usually fails spectacularly.”

“Just keep biding your strength, Peter. You’ll get your shot. We all will,” assured Jean.

“That in turn requires having a little faith in these people,” said Kurt, who was intent on getting back at Selene as well, “The Nova Romans have survived for 2000 years. Zhey must be doing something right. Who knows? Zhis senate of theirs may be more efficient zhan zhe one ve’re used to dealing vith.”

“I’ll believe that when I can make snowballs on the sun, Kurt,” said Bobby.

The X-men clung to whatever hope they could as they followed Lucius to the main entrance of the Curia. Scott, Jean, Bobby, Ororo, Rogue, Remy, Betsy, Kitty, Piotr, and Kurt couldn’t help but be a little defensive while surrounded by all these armed soldiers. Margali and Shaman tried to ignore them and focused primarily on the comatose Amanda. Professor Xavier sensed plenty of hostility in these people, but he also sensed a desire to save their city from any major threats.

They reached the large doors of the Curia, which was guarded by more soldiers. They all acknowledged Senator Aquilla while casting their suspicion on the X-men. Sensing this could be a problem, Lucius gestured towards his Praetorian Guard.

“I believe we can take it from here,” he told them, “The Curia is a place of politics, not a barracks.”

“Yes sir, Senator Aquilla,” said the lead captain, “Please let us know if these outsiders become a problem.”

“Leave diplomacy in the hands of professionals, Captain,” said the senator as he opened the heavy doors to the chamber, “The return of the Black Queen requires hard work and a level head on every front so I expect every ranking official in Nova Roma to…”

Senator Aquilla’s words stopped the moment he stepped into the Curia. Upon entering, he was met with an unexpected and infuriating sight that went against every last bit his rhetoric. To make matters worse, it involved an all too familiar figure.

“By the fire of Hades…AMARA!” bellowed the senator.


In addition, I have an exciting announcement for the X-men Supreme pics section. It's been a while since I've commissioned new artwork for X-men Supreme. Then at Baltimore Comic Con 2014, I had the privlidge of meeting a talented artist named Mack. He and I discussed X-men Supreme and he expressed an interest in doing work for it. I'm glad he did because he submitted a wonderful piece for X-men Supreme Issue 68: The Phoenix Saga Part 6. He brought one of the most defining moments of this fanfiction series to life and I can't thank him enough for it. I hope more pieces like this follow. Remember, if anyone is ever interested in submitting more artwork for X-men Supreme, please contact me and we'll discuss the details.

X-men Supreme Official Panels



There are so many elements to capture within the X-men mythos and after over 100 issues, I feel like I've captured plenty here with X-men Supreme. However, I want to keep exploring these themes and I want to keep developing this fanfiction series. I'm still not quite decided on whether I'll continue X-men Supreme beyond Volume 5. I have gotten some promising feedback. I also do have plans for X-men Supreme that go beyond Volume 5. Even if I do continue, I might have to slow them down. But readers can influence this decision-making process. Please take the time to contact me and send me your feedback. I'm always happy to listen and help make X-men Supreme more awesome. Until next time, take care and best wishes. And again, have a safe and happy Halloween. Excelsior!

Jack

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Wolverine and the X-men #11


Mourning the loss of a loved one is like the antithesis of masturbation in that there’s no wrong way to do it and nobody really enjoys it. I imagine it doesn’t suck quite as much in the Marvel universe because death is such a revolving door that for some characters, their loved ones might as well treat it as one of Brett Favre’s temporary retirements. Some may argue this limits the emotional impact of death. I think it’s refreshing because death sucks enough in real life. We don’t need it to suck as much in comics. That doesn’t mean it still won’t suck for Wolverine’s loved ones. His death has just started to reverberate throughout the X-men comics like letter from the IRS at Willie Nelson’s house.

Wolverine and the X-men #11 continues to follow Melita Gardner, one of Wolverine’s ex-girlfriends that didn’t wind up dead somehow, as she compiles stories and pictures for a book she’s writing to celebrate Wolverine’s life and the fact she got to bone him without dying. She’s already interacted with the students and staff of the school he helped found and they’ve recounted some fun stories, many of which ignore certain unflattering details like Wolverine’s whiskey stash, his temper, and his tendency for hitting on married women out of respect. Hopefully that means they don’t forget those shortcomings when he eventually returns, most likely in time for his next shitty solo movie at Fox. And hopefully, Melita doesn’t let that stop her from doing her job. That would make her more dedicated than half the people at CNN.

Much of Melita’s story and the work she’s been doing on this book has been built on flashbacks. Lots and lots of flashbacks. While flashbacks are usually a good way to make a comic difficult to read while stoned, the nature of the story here makes it work. Melita has triggered many in interviewing the folks at the Jean Grey Institute. But there’s still room for her own flashbacks. It’s hard to believe, but she did actually date Wolverine for a while and she actually survived. I know I said that already, but I think it’s worth repeating. Melita dated Wolverine, survived, and didn’t swear revenge on him. That makes her one of the most mature relationships he’s had in recent years. It also makes a flashback of her and Wolverine when they were together feel fitting. It even shows that in terms of ex-girlfriends, she’s a freakin’ unicorn in terms of ending things on good terms.


In the present, Melita is still seeking out stories about Wolverine from those who knew him best. She spent all of last issue exploring the Jean Grey institute. Now she seeks out others he worked with. In the same way Wolverine gets around every bar and Japanese whore house, he’s also had quite a few crossovers. Spider-Man is by far one of the characters he’s worked with the most and Melita makes it a point to get in touch with him (through Peter Parker, of course). While Wolverine’s reputation among the X-men is solid, his reputation with Spider-Man is slightly more complicated and not just because they’re both so fond of sexy redheads.

But the meeting doesn’t just lead to another flashback. It actually gets even more emotional than Melita’s flashback. It’s easy to forget in this era when we know celebrities die every time they start trending on Twitter that word doesn’t always travel as fast. The news of Wolverine’s death hasn’t exactly leaked out. It’s not like a reporter found him lying dead in a tub of whiskey. So that means those not in the X-men, like Spider-Man, wouldn’t know about his death. And when Melita reveals it, this makes for another emotional moment that hits all the right chords.


But it doesn’t get too depressing. This is where can do more than just confuse the hell out of stoners and drunks. Spider-Man recounts to Melita one of his many crossovers with Wolverine, but he singled out a battle against an army of Doombots as the story most worth telling. I can’t say I blame him. Any memory that involves busting up Doombots with Wolverine is a memory worth cherishing. But it’s a memory that does more than just mix in some action. It actually involves a meaningful conversation between Spider-Man and Wolverine about the merits of him starting the Jean Grey Institute and what kind of example a hard-drinking, temperamental Canadian would set. It’s not just fitting. It’s downright relevant and shows that even when he’s in the middle of fighting armies of Doombots, Wolverine can inspire more than just violence and redhead fetishes.


It’s a good flashback during an emotional moment. That’s exactly why it’s somewhat jarring when it skips right ahead to Melita and Spider-Man confronting Kid Omega. I won’t say that’s completely random. Kid Omega is someone who was heavily influenced by Wolverine and not always in a good way. In fact, they both influenced one another in way too many bad ways, but it was part of what made them both better as characters so I’m not going to get too picky about the details. I’m too drunk for that.

Regardless of what those details might be, Kid Omega is still an omega-level prick. While others are reacting to the death of Wolverine, Kid Omega threw a big ass party. And even after everybody passed out, he decided to deal with it by sitting on his ass and watching movies. Laziness is a good reaction to many things. The death of a friend isn’t one of them.


Needless to say, Meltia and Spider-Man don’t take kindly to him. At the same time, Kid Omega does offer a very different take on Wolverine. Whereas others share fond memories and relevant flashbacks, Kid Omega offers none of that shit. He basically spits on Wolverine’s fresh corpse, saying he was just a killer at heart who pretended to be a school headmaster. And that school he ran might as well have been a training ground for kids destined to scare the shit out of ordinary people. It leads to Melita and Spider-Man each taking turns shutting him up, but that doesn’t make what he says less relevant.

Kid Omega is a dick so what he says about Wolverine shouldn’t be taken with the same credibility as Bill Maher’s last drug test. But what he says is somewhat valid. Wolverine was, at his core, a killer. He always reverted to his killer instincts in some form or another. Even when he tried being a peaceful headmaster, he still went out on missions that involved him stabbing people. It is a disconnect, but Spider-Man rightly points out how full of shit Kid Omega is in using it as the sole basis for judging Wolverine. Part of what made Wolverine such a hero was that he fought so others wouldn’t have to. That makes him awesome in ways that most asshole teenagers can never understand.


So meeting with Kid Omega didn’t lead to a flashback or give Melita a balanced perspective for her book, but it did offer some insight. She and Spider-Man leave in what I imagine to be a pretty pissed off state of mind. They end up parting ways, agreeing that Kid Omega is full of shit and deserves more than a few spankings. But that only makes getting a better perspective more important.

And who better to give that perspective than Storm? It’s a moment that has been building since the previous issue, two of Wolverine’s ex-lovers meeting and recounting the life of a man they one loved. This isn’t like Jerry Springer when two angry ex-girlfriends to at one another in a way college students can cheer for and/or jerk off to. These two women both loved Wolverine dearly and Storm happened to be the one Wolverine was actively dating when he died. It sounds crazier than anything Kid Omega could say, but it is possible for two women who dated the same man to bond and Storm gives her the best possible perspective Wolverine could hope for that doesn’t involve a bartender.


It leads to another flashback. This one is a lot less complicated than the one Spider-Man recounted. It’s as basic a recollection as anyone can have with Wolverine. Storm goes on a trip to Japan with Wolverine, they get attacked by ninjas, and they kick the asses of said ninjas. It’s practically a dinner date for Wolverine and the women he loves. Hell, it might even count as foreplay. It doesn’t come off as overly romantic, but it shows that Wolverine and Storm could kick a lot of ass together. They could battle an army of ninjas, still catch a movie, and then make sweet love on top of Mount Fuji. It’s as romantic and as awesome as it sounds. It is also by far the most meaningful flashback in this whole arc.


Beyond the flashback, Storm makes a very powerful point that effectively tells Melita all she needs to know about Wolverine. This is a man who will fight, stab, and swear his way through any battle. But he’s also willing to trust others to be just as awesome. He trusted Storm to hold her own against an army of ninjas, just as he trusted her give horny every time they were behind closed doors. It’s a special kind of trust that most killers and stab-happy drunks don’t give, but he gave it to those he cared about. It’s a powerful message and one that could only be delivered by Storm. It gives Melita just the right perspective she needs to make her book work. As the woman whose love for Wolverine was probably the most genuine, it makes for such a satisfying moment.


Leave it Kid Omega to cheapen that moment. Melita and Spider-Man must have made a couple of brain cells semi-functional because Kid Omega finally decided to deal with Wolverine’s death in a somewhat less-douchy way. For him, that means traveling to the Savage Land and leaving a monument for him. Sure, it’s a shitty monument. A rocking chair is hardly a monument to Wolverine. If he really gave a damn, he would leave a giant case of whiskey. But still, it’s better than nothing and probably the most Wolverine could’ve expected from Kid Omega.


The main theme of this story isn’t built around funerals, vengeance, or killer robots. For once, the death of a major character is explored in a way that feels genuine. The X-men aren’t setting out on some mission to turn Sabretooth into a rug. They’re just recounting how he affected their lives and Melita Gardner provides a perfect perspective for that mission. Some of the stories she explores are cheesy, but they all hit the right emotional chords. Even Kid Omega’s brief sliver of emotion felt genuine. That alone gives this story the depth it needs to be awesome. It’s still lacking in some areas and the constant flashbacks are somewhat jarring. But it feels like a much healthier way to deal with the death of a character. That’s why I give Wolverine and the X-men #11 an 8 out of 10. In a comic book world where every great loss seems to require more therapy than anyone could reasonably provide, this is probably as healthy and competent a recourse as we’ll get. And it didn’t even require Oprah or Dr. Phil. Nuff said!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #33


I have a lot of bad memories about certain places, many of which I try to nullify with a healthy dose of weed and alcohol. Most of them come from my experience in high school. Some come from vacations that went bad, some of which ended up in different time zones. But all these experiences have one thing in common. They leave such nasty scars that the idea of going back makes me want to reach for the nearest bottle of whiskey.

The Ultimate universe has become to Marvel what my junior year in high school is to me. It’s a malignant tumor on the face of Marvel comics that has been withering deeper into obscurity with each passing year. And since the O5 X-men think their future sucks so badly in 616, I guess it might actually be therapeutic to take a trip to Ultimate to see just how fucked they could’ve been. Sure, it’s the kind of therapy that would probably get barred in every medical circle in the world, including Uganda. But it promises to get the point across. The O5 X-men now find themselves neck deep in the massive rectal wart that is Ultimate in All-New X-men #33 and they’re set to uncover just how good they’ve got it in 616.

That’s not to say some things don’t suck just as much in Ultimate as they do in 616 (although it is a very short list). One thing that sucks in every universe is Mole Man. There just aren’t too many ways a sewer-dwelling psychopath can’t suck. Maybe it’s fitting that this is where O5 Iceman ended up in Ultimate, if only to pay for the bullshit his older counterpart. It’s also fitting that he’s able to start kicking ass the second Mole Man gives him the kind of hospitality usually reserved for a North Korean prison camp.

There’s even a nice little bonus where O5 Iceman takes a page from the lessons he learned in Battle of the Atom, minus those that come along with fucking up the timeline. He used his powers to form Ice Hulks. Now this isn’t exactly as groundbreaking as the new iPhone, but it offers a nice connection to events like Battle of the Atom and details like that help give this story and this series a level of refinement. And as every drunk knows, refinement is the difference between light beer and single malt scotch.


O5 Iceman’s badassery does help get him out of the sewer and away from Mole Man, but it doesn’t get him away from just how much Ultimate sucks. As soon as he frees himself, he’s immediately greeted with the same kindness as the KKK would greet Al Sharpton. This is O5 Iceman’s way of realizing that in Ultimate, being a mutant is the same as being a carrier of Ebola. Maybe Ultimate hates mutants that much. Or maybe it’s because another one of Mole Man’s monsters show up to scare the shit out of the people even more. I’m not sure which it is, but I’m going to assume it’s a mixture of both.


While O5 Iceman definitely drew one of the short straws when he and the team got transported to Ultimate, others didn’t do much better. O5 Angel ended up in the Savage Land and X-23 had to cross paths with Jimmy Hudson, aka the most pathetic attempt to replace Wolverine in the history of the multiverse. They somehow managed to get their asses out of that shit storm and make their way back to their home/abandoned Weapon X base in Canada. While this seems incredibly logical, it is the antithesis of the refinement we saw with O5 Iceman.

It might not bother those who were too drunk and/or stoned when reading the previous issue, but there are some circumstances to consider here. X-23 appeared on some random football field in some random state. For all we know, it was in Texas. So how the fuck did she get all the way to Canada? Now maybe I would be willing to get stoned enough to believe that she could hitch a ride or steal a car and drive it to Canada. But when O5 Angel shows up, that’s where it starts to get messy.


For the non-sober crowd, O5 Angel appeared in the fucking Savage Land, which is in Antarctica. It’s one thing to hitchhike all the way from Texas to Canada, but Antarctica? Even a big-tittied blond who shits gold bricks couldn’t hitchhike that distance. Yet somehow O5 Angel makes that flight just in time to meet up with X-23? I get that it’s tricky to get into that level of detail, but without at least some detail, no amount of weed can make sense of this.

That lack of refinement extends to the way X-23 greets O5 Angel. Not only does she not ask how the fuck he flew all the way to Canada from Antarctica, but she doesn’t exactly greet him very warmly. This is a guy she just went out on a date with and by all accounts, they enjoyed each other’s company. That’s not to say she told him to piss off, but it comes off as somewhat cold. Maybe that’s to be expected after a long ass trip. But again, it’s hard to tell without details.


The only detail we get comes from Jimmy “Hillbilly Wolverine” Hudson. He somehow managed to track down O5 Angel. Keep in mind, he was in the Savage Land as well. So for those who argue he just flew all the way to Canada, it’s worth noting that this kid doesn’t have wings. So how the fuck does he track him from the Savage Land to Canada? Wolverine’s nose is good, but not that good. It’s another gaping plot hole that, like Ultimate as a whole, is best left ignored.

The only detail this piss-poor rip-off character does offer is access to the old Weapon X facility that they think is their school. He opens it to reveal that not only is it not their school, it hasn’t been touched in decades. He then drops another Ultimate shit stain on them. Mutants aren’t part of evolution in Ultimate. They’re just a failed science experiment. It’s every bit as effective as getting French kissed by Mole Man in demonstrating how much Ultimate sucks.


That’s a detail that’s sure to piss the O5 X-men off on plenty of levels. But it’s not like Ultimate has a shortage in details. O5 Beast was almost as unlucky as O5 Iceman in that he wound up in Ultimate Latveria. I won’t say it sucks as much as Mole Man’s sewer, but it’s close. And remarkably, Dr. Doom shows O5 Beast some hospitality. Then again, hospitality has a very different meaning for Dr. Doom, regardless of which universe he’s in.

Naturally, O5 Beast tries to escape. He fails because he’s in fucking Latveria all by himself with an incredibly resourceful Dr. Doom and no sane Reed Richards to stop him. At least this time he doesn’t get a chance to ask any inappropriate questions about women’s periods. Dr. Doom restrains him and demands that he tell him about the alternate universe he comes from. How he knows about this alternate universe is another detail left unresolved, but he’s fucking Dr. Doom. I’d be surprised if he didn’t know Sue Storm’s bra size.


A lack of knowledge is still the O5 X-men’s greatest weakness. Some of them don’t even know they’re in a fucked up alternate universe. In that sense, O5 Jean has the greatest advantage. She had the benefit of crossing paths with Miles Morales, who gave her an unofficial cheat sheet for Ultimate. Now he’s offered to help her. While the meeting with Amadeus Cho didn’t pan out, they still have options. That means asking wholly unreasonable favors of friends, a common trait among all those who become Spider-Man.

But this is where we do get some nice details that add some much-needed entertainment value to distract from the stench that Ultimate still exudes. O5 Jean meets up with Miles’ hetero-life mate, Genke. She even shows off her new deception trick. There’s even some juvenile humor about teenage boys guarding their impure thoughts in the presence of a pretty psychic girl. It actually harkens back to a time in Ultimate where it didn’t suck so badly and Spider-Man picturing Jean Grey naked was one of those fun little asides. For some reason, Ultimate exchanged that for making Reed Richards a psychopath. It’s only a fair trade by the Bernie Madoff definition.

Aside from the perverse preoccupations of teenage boys, O5 Jean manages to convince Genke to let them borrow his mom’s car. I would say that’s another overlooked detail since these are teenagers we’re talking about here, but I know from experience that cute teenage can get away with shit like that and they don’t even need telepathy. It has just enough refinement to be fun, which is saying something in any story that involves Ultimate.


Now equipped with a car, O5 Jean and Miles take a trip to Westchester where they think the X-men still live. Ignoring for a second how disappointed they’ll be, there’s some nice conversation between O5 Jean and Miles. She talks about how she got stuck in the present and how she’s dealing with her future being so shitty. It’s something she has been dealing with since the first few issues of this series and it’s still one of the best emotional drivers for this story. She worries about screwing up her second chance and now she’s stuck in a world where she can’t even enjoy that chance. It makes for a compelling moment that explores the emotional depth that O5 Jean has gained in this series.


Those emotions aren’t going to get much better for her when she arrives at Westchester though. She shows up to find that while the school isn’t named after her, it’s completely abandoned. This is another one of those poor details that would be easily overlooked by those who never read Ultimate or killed one too many brain cells in college, but the Xavier Institute in Ultimate is supposed to be destroyed. It was destroyed after the X-men disbanded. Now it’s back up again? And O5 Jean expects to find functioning Cerebro within it to locate her friends? It’s a strategy that would make sense if it didn’t completely conflict with reality, but that’s never stopped Marvel before I guess.


What may stop her, however, is the arrival of the former Ultimate Mutant Team. I refuse to call them the X-men because in Ultimate, they’re as qualified to be X-men as I’m qualified to be a drug rehab counselor. They are just mutants. There’s nothing about them that’s consistent with being X-men. That’s why them showing up, including O5 Jean’s ultimate counterpart, can only make everything a lot worse. It’s still a nice revelation and one that isn’t entirely random since Miles already hinted that he contacted them. But it’s one of those moments where the shortcomings of Ultimate limit the potential for awesome.


In the end, this issue felt like the first issue where the O5 X-men weren’t stumbling around the Ultimate universe like a drunk streaking naked through the woods. Before, they were neck-deep in the steaming pile of shit that is Ultimate. Now they’re about chest-deep. They’re starting to find each other. They’re starting to learn why this universe has become so fucked that three failed re-launches and crossover gimmicks have failed to make it more than just a festering rectal wart on the ass of Marvel Comics. They’re still lacking a clear plan on how to deal with it, but at least they’re putting themselves in a position to do more than just stand around looking shell shocked.

The strength of this story is in the personal touches. That’s what makes the struggles meaningful. That said, there are a lot of details lacking. Despite this, the core concept and underlying theme of the story is still strong. It’ll have to stay that way if O5 Jean is to interact with her Ultimate counterpart without throwing up. I give All-New X-men #33 a 6 out of 10. It’s good. It’s even insightful and entertaining at times, something that we haven’t had in Ultimate since the Bush administration. It just needs to find a way make all these elements come together within the shit tornado that is Ultimate. I won’t say it’s impossible, but I might have better luck passing a physics test while drunk. Nuff said!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pride and Mourning: Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy #2

The following is my review of Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy #2, which was posted on PopMatters.com.



Teenagers aren’t known for reacting rationally to tragedy. In fact, they’re not known for reacting rationally to much of anything. It’s almost expected that teenagers aren’t emotionally equipped to deal with major loss. Their brains are like an old computer trying to upgrade from Windows 98 to Windows 8. It’s a messy, glitchy transition to say the least. That’s why few are surprised when a teenager loses a loved one and they deal with it by shaving their head and joining a death metal band. It’s sometimes easy to forget that many adults don’t react much better, but at least teenagers have an excuse. However, a select few choose not to exercise that excuse.

Since her debut in X-men Evolution, X-23 has had plenty of excuses to be a volatile, irrational, unstable teenage girl. In many ways she is a perfect storm of teenage angst. She’s a clone of Wolverine, which by default gives her a temper and an attitude. She was conditioned (and at times tortured) to becoming a killer, just like Wolverine. And even after she escaped all this horror, she still has to deal with the rigors of being a teenage girl. As messed up as Wolverine was, he never had deal with the raging hormones, teen angst, and melodrama unique to teenage girls.

X-23 has essentially had the opposite of a head start in life and that life has already had its share of tragedy. Being tricked into killing her own mother certainly qualifies as such. Now she has to deal with the death of Wolverine, who was very much like a father to her. So this means X-23 is exceedingly handicapped in dealing with tragedy, but that’s exactly what she has to deal with in Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy #2.

In wake of Wolverine’s death, a number of his allies and enemies (mostly enemies) have been captured by masked figure looking to finish what Dr. Abraham Cornelius started, minus the stab wounds. In doing so the story takes a step back from what began, turning this whole issue into one big flashback that never actually continues that story. It’s not organized or concise in terms of the big picture, but it succeeds in focusing on the story surrounding X-23 and her having to cope with the death of Wolverine.

She’s not going to surprise anybody by demonstrating her poor coping skills and not just because those skills involve letting herself get stabbed in the Danger Room. Her teammates in at the New Xavier School and her teacher, Kitty Pryde, try to reach out to her. However, she doesn’t have that big emotional moment that’s so prevalent in every episode of Intervention. X-23’s teammates can’t draw on the benefit of the whole affair being staged. They can only get frustrated when X-23 claims to feel nothing. This sounds like the kind of double-speak that every teenager masters at some point during high school, usually before mid-terms. But with X-23, it actually comes off as genuine.

Being emotionally numb is a big part of what X-23 went through. It’s part of what makes her more than just a Wolverine rip-off character and gives her a unique persona. She was conditioned to not feel any emotions as a means of making her a more effective killer. Throughout her story, she’s been emotionally flat most of the time whereas Wolverine’s emotions fluctuates between being angry and needing a beer. She dealt with her mother dying. Now she has to deal with Wolverine dying and it makes sense that her first reaction would be the one she was trained to feel.

However, this doesn’t prevent later emotions from being more in line with that of a teenage girl. She claims to feel nothing, but she feels annoyed to the point where she ditches her team for a while and hangs out at the kind of seedy nightclub where teenage girls often go to end up on a Nightline Special. Throwing herself into party full of distractions is not a reaction that she needs to be conditioned for. It’s another reaction that feels genuine, if not somewhat predictable.


These emotions lead her into the crossfire of a conflict that has nothing to do with Wolverine or the ongoing story with his former frenemies. It’s a conflict ripped from a side-mission in a Grand Theft Auto game in that she teams up with a hero named Windshear to take down a gang that calls themselves “Happy Clams.” It sounds like a bad seafood restaurant, but it’s actually a gang run by on obese female version of the Kingpin who likes to exploit angst-riddled teens to do her criminal dirty work. It sounds like one of those ventures that the mob has been running since the 50s, but it leads to a powerful moment that gives X-23 a more productive emotional reaction.

It’s not just that she’s dealing with someone who is exploiting teenagers just like her. Windshear, who reveals he is dying, talks about leaving behind a legacy. Like Wolverine, he did questionable things in his past. But he wants to do more than just make up for them. He wants to do something that’ll actually make his upcoming death feel meaningful.

This is something Wolverine, and X-23 by default, never had to worry about until recently. It’s one of those deeper perspectives that most teenagers don’t allow themselves to see until years of therapy and an overuse of prescription drugs. While we don’t get to the details of how X-23 helps Windshear take down the Happy Clams without laughing at their name, we’re given enough hints to assume that they took care of business in ways that would make Wolverine proud.

In the end, it’s really not necessary to see X-23 fight people like the Happy Clam. The insight Windshear gave her, as wordy as it might have been, did more for her than any overpaid therapist could. It allows X-23 to return to the New Xavier School and actually admit she feels sadness at losing Wolverine. But she also feels pride for what he did to leave behind a legacy. Now she’s part of that legacy. It still doesn’t contribute to the story surrounding Wolverine’s old rogues, but it does tell a compelling story about a teenage girl with inherently poor coping skills finding a way to cope in as healthy way as she can. That alone is more uncanny than any mutant power.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Cyclops #6


People tend to forget that crazy situations lead to crazy problems. It goes both ways to an extent that even Anna Paquin would find excessive. Those who decide to kill that huge spider with a shotgun still act surprised when they hit some wires, start a fire, and have to fight the urge to shoot their insurance agent. It’s no different in comics. Heroes often get desperate in their efforts to deal with a situation and because of that, the often create entirely new situations that require even more desperation. Superman saves the world from an asteroid by moving it out of the way. In doing so he triggers an earthquake that turns California into a chain of islands. It’s the circle of life. O5 Cyclops might not be Superman, but he’s dealing with space pirates on top of being a teenager. Even being Superman wouldn’t help him with that. He’s learning how to be a space pirate from his father and already those lessons left them marooned on an alien planet. So there’s room for improvement to say the least. Now in Cyclops #6, he gets show how he’s learned from that experience. But if he fucks up again, they can’t act surprised. He’s a teenager. He’s not ready to perform brain surgery after one class.

Corsair must not have gotten that message. He must have unreasonably high standards for teenagers because now he finds himself in a situation where he has to punch his son in ways that would get him suspended from the NFL. It’s a complete departure from the friendly, understanding approach that Corsair has taken with his son since he decided to join him and learn how to become a space pirate at an age when most teenagers are learning how to drive. What could’ve changed? What did O5 Cyclops do to fuck things up this much that it warranted the kind of discipline only seen in Catholic Schools? Well, there is a story behind it and it’s worth staying sober for.


It actually started off a lot more innocently. Well, as innocent as is possible whenever alcohol is involved. O5 Cyclops and Corsair finally made it back to the Starjammer and reunited with the rest of the crew. They were all happy to see them return and prior to Corsair and Hepzibah’s reunion sex, they all shared a good celebratory drink. But since they don’t have whiskey in space, they drink something called Bach’terrian Vesperjuice. It sounds like the kind of liquor that’s fermented between a snake den and Ann Coulter’s vagina. As disgusting as it sounds, I desperately want to try it.

Beyond the booze, there’s also some nice insight from O5 Cyclops into the family-like dynamics of the Starjammers. Sure, they’re renegade space pirates that steal shit and raid Baddoon bandits, but they’re also very close-knit. They’re a bunch of ragtag aliens that find a way to get along. And O5 Cyclops’ exploits on the alien planet officially earn him some street cred. For a teenager, that’s like seeing an exposed tit. It goes a long way.


They can’t celebrate too long though. One of the reasons why they needed to get off that alien world so quickly was that Corsair admitted that he was kind of dying. It’s one of the side-effects of being brought back from the dead and not being Jean Grey. He’s relying on illegal alien drugs to stay alive, much like Larry King at this point. But now that he’s back with his crew, he can have his hot sexy alien cat lady girlfriend administer the treatment. It couldn’t be more of a relief without her putting on a sexy nurse costume, which I’m sure Corsair would’ve preferred.

The treatment finally gets Corsair out of the danger zone and in a condition to get into Hepzibah’s panties. As it just so happens, those same panties contain Corsair’s second round of treatment. After being stuck on a planet and left to die, I’d say Corsair has more than earned that. He’s in a good place now. The same can’t be said for O5 Cyclops though. While they’re off for a little inter-stellar humping, they find him already getting a head start on his first hangover. They don’t let it kill the mood, but they do acknowledge that O5 Cyclops really needs to work on his alcohol tolerance.


After he sobers up, O5 Cyclops decides to make himself useful while his father is enjoying the wonders of being alive and having a hot alien girlfriend. So he tries to hang out with Korvus, who also happens to be his future AU daughter’s one-time lover. But for some reason, that never comes up. He just starts helping out with random alien tech that he’s in no position to understand. That’s like giving a drunk a remote controlled cruise missile. Nothing good can ome of it.

While I’m sure this is vital for an aspiring space pirate to learn, his ineptitude is pretty startling. He’s less a leader of the X-men and more a walking Three Stooges parody. It again shows his inexperience, which I really don’t think anybody needs to be reminded of at this point. It also reminds everyone that Korvus is not dead and nobody seems interested in using him in a meaningful way. He’s in the same room as his ex-girlfriend’s time-displaced father. How could anyone pass up this opportunity?


Corsair, now invigorated with medicine and Hepzibah’s sweet loving, decides to take his son out for activities that don’t involve blowing up the ship’s vital components. This involves doing a little space walking and raiding an abandoned alien ship for parts. Sure, it’s the plot to no fewer than 25 alien horror movies, but a pirate has to make a living. At least with this, O5 Cyclops will only blow up a ship that’s already abandoned.

For a moment, O5 Cyclops laments how shitty a space pirate he is thus far. Sure, he’s been at it for less time than most college dropouts, but he’s already made an ass of himself on more than most teenagers do on a daily basis, which is saying something. It’s a nice reminder that O5 Cyclops is really out of his element here. He may be awesome when it comes to leading the X-men, but he’s not much of a space pirate. He’s like a lion in Antarctica. In the jungle, he’s the king. But in the tundra, he’s a penguin’s bitch.


His father tries to encourage him, but only ends up finding out that his son fucked something else up. It didn’t lead to anything blowing up, but it did lead to them being detected by another alien ship. This ship has far more competent space pirates because they proceed to disable the Starjammer and force the crew to surrender. He even captures O5 Cyclops and Corsair with a bunch of mechanical rejects from Japanese tentacle rape porn. I imagine at this point, Corsair is going to think twice about encouraging his son again.

That’s strike three for O5 Cyclops today. At this point, his ineptitude is getting pretty pathetic. That might be okay for some characters, but it’s starting to get excessive here and I normally never say that about a 16-year-old. I know O5 Cyclops isn’t as known for handling high tech gear, but that should make him this fucking hopeless. I know teenagers fuck up, but these fuck-ups just feel forced at this point. At the very least, the anti-Cyclops crowd will have something to jerk off to.


The name of the competent space pirate looking to take advantage of O5 Cyclops’ screw-ups is named Captain Malafect. It sounds like a symptom of liver disease, but it doesn’t make the Starjammer’s any less screwed. Now Corsair and his entire crew are abducted and taken prisoner. This finally brings us back to that brief flash-forward from earlier when Corsair was giving his son the Adrian Peterson treatment. Well, it’s at this point we finally realize that it might not warrant a suspension from the NFL after all.

Corsair yells at and berates his son, but he never lets it slip that O5 Cyclops is his son. He talks down to him like he’s just some dipshit skipper who stumbled ass-backwards onto the Starjammer and found a way to fuck it up. It goes back to the first lesson O5 Cyclops learned when this series began, which is to think like a pirate. That means sometimes being a little deceptive, even if it means being a dick. A quick wink from Corsair reminds him of this lesson. It also warns him that he’s probably going to need see a dentist after this.


It unfolds as we saw earlier. Corsair slugs his son in a perfectly convincing manner, almost too convincingly in some respects. I guess O5 Cyclops kind of earned it for his screw-ups, but I’m not a fan of corporal punishment that doesn’t come from a dominatrix so I’m not going to condone it. O5 Cyclops understands what his father is doing and goes along with it, even if it means getting yelled at. He’s a teenager and a mutant. He should be used to that. It still means he has to stand by and watch as Malafect forces the Starjammers to pile into some pod and get shot out into space, which sucks. That means O5 Cyclops even more incentive not to fuck up this time.


He certainly does his part, finally showing that he can be a competent pirate, so long as it doesn’t involve equipment that requires a PHD in astrophysics to work. Malafect, who still isn’t aware that O5 Cyclops is Corsair’s son, is curious about him and tries to figure out how Corsair could let someone so inept on his grew. O5 Cyclops decides to get back at his dad for the punch to the jaw and shows off his optic blasts, which I’m sure would intrigue any deviant space pirate. I’m not sure if it’s ironic or fitting that in order to finally be competent, O5 Cyclops has to be a bit of an ass. I’m too high to figure it out, but it does do the trick.


The effect puts O5 Cyclops in a position to save both his dad and the Starjammers. While Corsair rots in the brig, Malafect gives him a provisional status on his crew. He just can’t pass up a crewmate that has built in firepower like that. He also makes clear that if he so much as spills his coffee, he’ll throw him out of the nearest air lock. He’s not one of those Jack Sparrow type pirates. He’s one of those pirates that really isn’t afraid to be a dick. It puts O5 Cyclops in a very difficult position, but one he can’t afford to fuck up. So after all his ineptitude, O5 Cyclops is now the only one who can save the Starjammers. Again, I’m not sure if that’s ironic or fitting. I’ll just smoke an extra joint and just say it’s awesome.


If I’ve said once while sober, I’ve said it ten more times with more cursing while drunk. A fuck-up by a teenager is way more destructive by a fuck-up from an adult, minus those that involve tainted prescription drugs. O5 Cyclops is continuing to learn just how much he sucks at being 16. While he was able to be awesome enough to get him and his father off that deserted planet, he wasn’t able to avoid another one of those little mistakes that turns into a cosmic shit storm. Now he has to do what he did before and find a way to pull his ass and his father’s out of the fire. That involves doing exactly what his father is teaching him to do. He’s thinking like a pirate. He has to be deceptive, cunning, and a bit if a dick at times. He basically has to not act like a boy scout while still trying to accomplish what a boy scout would do. For a guy destined to lead the X-men, that’s not a bad skill to have and it continues the development of this lovable teenage boy who grows up to be a controversial adult that fans on message boards can’t stop bitching about. Cyclops #6 gets a 9 out of 10. Teenagers can all say they’ve had minor fuck-ups turn into utter disasters, but O5 Cyclops can say that he knows how to deal with it. Now if only he could learn how to handle his alcohol. Nuff said!