Friday, July 31, 2015

X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 5 Announcement and PREVIEW!


It’s official now. The X-men Supreme fanfiction series will continue. The response I got from the conclusion of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths was overwhelmingly positive. A lot of readers came out and let me know how much they had been enjoying this fanfiction series. Those who had been following X-men Supreme but never reviewed it finally took the time to let me know how much they’ve enjoyed this world I’ve crafted. To those people, I can’t thank you enough. Such support has helped inspire me to keep making X-men Supreme better. I know I left this fanfiction series in a vulnerable state. A lot of that had to do with me making it so I could end the series there if I decided. But that’s not happening. There’s still plenty of story to tell in the world of X-men Supreme.

As I’ve done with previous volumes of this fanfiction series, I’m going to do another entry of the Supreme Reflections mini-series before launching Volume 6. There were a lot of dramatic developments in X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths that affected a lot of characters. But there were some characters that were more affected than others. For all of its 50-year history, X-men has succeed on the strength of its characters. But as over a 100 issues of this fanfiction series has shown me, it’s hard to find time to develop all of them. So a mini-series like Supreme Reflections gives me some time to focus on these characters in a way I couldn’t during the main story.

And the first character I’ll be focusing on is a character that you won’t get to explore anywhere outside of X-men Supreme. Of course, I’m talking about Captain Jack Freeman. He’s one of the handful of original characters I’ve crafted for this fanfiction series. I knew from the beginning of X-men Supreme that I would be making a few characters to call my own, but I understand that the appeal of X-men Supreme would be the more established characters. That’s why I waited so long until X-men Supreme Issue 75: Renegade to introduce him. I don’t expect him to be anyone’s favorite, but I wanted him and General Nathan Grimshaw to act as a catalyst in this fanfiction series. They won’t dominate the plot, as a lot of OCs tend to do in fanfiction. But they will be part of the struggle.

For Captain Freeman, that struggle has taken on dimensions his training as a Green Beret never prepared him for. He hasn’t exactly been on the same page as the X-men or General Grimshaw at times. He’s very much a character who is uncertain of his place in the human/mutant conflict. He wants to be a soldier first and a mutant second, but that’s not always possible. He represents the part of the mutant population who doesn’t want to be defined by his mutant status. But at the same time, he struggles to avoid it. He admits he’s not very smart and he is prone to making the wrong decisions. And yes, he will have a major role in X-men Supreme Volume 6.

But who is Jack Freeman? Where did he come from and how did he get to be like this? I haven’t had a chance to really dig deeply into his world. That’s what I’ll be doing with the first entry of X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 5. This story will give readers a better understanding of who Jack Freeman is and why he’s struggles the way he does. His story is one that’s going to have some major implications later on in this fanfiction series so you won’t want to miss this. As always, I’ve prepared a preview that should offer some insight into a character that you can only find in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series.

In some ways I think I was worse than Magneto. At least Magneto was motivated by his powers. To me, they were just a tool. After I moved out of my mom’s place, I started selling weed full time. I actually used some of her contacts to beef up my business. I set myself apart by coming off as tough and resilient. I would demonstrate my powers to prospective customers, letting them know that if they bought from me they were buying from someone who could adapt. It was a good selling point. I made a pretty decent living because of it. By decent I mean I made enough to ride around in a beat up truck, stay in cheap apartments when I needed to, and have money left over to have fun. Because of my powers, I could be as irresponsible as I wanted.

What often happens to drug dealers and street punks is they get a nasty dose of reality at some point. Someone beats them up, someone shoots them, or someone finds a way to hurt them. I was pretty much immune from that. One time this guy tried to stab me and take my weed. He was pretty shocked when his knife bounced right off my chest. This one other time three guys came at me with baseball bats. They might as well have been hitting me with pillows. I laughed at them before I kicked their asses and took their weed.

It began another trend. With my powers I wasn’t just a degenerate. I was a degenerate that could fight. I pretty much taught myself to fight so I could deal with the competition. My powers ensured that nobody could measure up. I pretty much had the market cornered in my area. I had a steady stream of customers and income. Being a tough guy earned me some respect despite my lousy social skills. It even earned me my share of girls. It’s amazing what a couple of college girls will do for a few bags of weed.

It was a stoner’s paradise. I worked only a few hours a day, I had money in my pocket, and I was both feared and respected. Yet at the same time, I was miserable as hell. I hated myself. I hated my life. I felt like a loser. Hell, I was a loser. I never had anyone come along to give me a good kick in the ass. That all changed when I met up with a grizzly old Vietnam vet named Major Lenny Romita.


Once again, I’d like to thank everybody for their support of this fanfiction series. I still have some big ideas I want to explore moving forward. Once this entry of X-men Supreme Reflections has concluded, I’ll make some announcements on X-men Supreme Volume 6 and its release schedule. Like I said before, it may be different this time. But no matter how it comes out, I’m going to try and make it as awesome as possible. And part of that process involves getting feedback from readers. So please take the time to continue providing feedback for this fanfiction series. Either contact me directly or post it in each individual issue. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!

Jack

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Star Wars #7


How do you make something that’s already awesome even more awesome? It may sound daunting, but it’s the good kind of daunting. Bacon itself is already pretty awesome, but I imagine it only took a few joints or a dull Saturday afternoon for someone to figure out that dipping it in chocolate made it even better. And if that can be done with bacon, why not with Star Wars? Since Disney decided to splurge like Donald Trump at a hair salon, they’ve put Star Wars into the chocolate fountain that is Marvel Comics and attempted to make it awesome in a way that used to only be possible with cocaine and Quaaludes. So far, their effort has been a booming success.

The new Star Wars series under Jason Aaron and John Cassaday has captured everything we love about these movies, minus the incest overtones. It helps fill that virgin gap between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back like a gold-encrusted dildo. We get to see these characters evolve into the icons they’re destined to become and Wookies shoot Stormtroopers along the way. Anyone who can’t enjoy that on some levels needs to check the dosage on their meds. This ongoing orgy of classic sci-fi awesome continues in Star Wars #7, but with a character that some probably feel was explored a bit too much in recent times. Yes, I’m talking about Obi Wan Kanobi, the third most annoying part of the prequels after Jar Jar and Hayden Christiansen. But I’m willing to smoke an extra joint, forget how disappointing those movies were, and give this comic a chance to make him awesome again.

Obi Wan is certainly in just the right place to have an opportunity to be awesome. Tatooine is a lot like the Somalia of the Star Wars universe. It’s a lawless butthole of a planet with few resources except for an abundance of blood-thirsty warlords and criminals. On top of that, this story takes place at a time when he’s still trying to get used to the idea of being one of the last Jedi left. I imagine it takes a long fucking time to get over the kind of butthurt caused by having Emperor Palpatine slaughter the entire Jedi Order. In this context, having a good day usually means not wanting to do the swan dive into a tank of Jack Daniels.

It’s established early on that Obi Wan is living in one of the shittier parts of this armpit of a planet. Jabba the Hutt, most likely low on bikini-clad slave women, decides to impose a water tax on the Tatooine’s residents. And when some poor farmer doesn’t want to pay because he’s not a big fan of dying of thirst, Jabba’s thugs kick his ass and all Obi Wan can do is watch. He’s not a Jedi or a keeper of the peace anymore. He’s supposed to be dead with the rest of the Jedi. It pisses him off and this is beautifully conveyed with John Cassaday’s art. It almost makes me want to do the swan dive into a tank of Jack Daniels.


That’s the main theme of the overall story, Obi Wan struggling to live life as a recluse. Keep in mind, he was once a badass general who fought on the front lines of the Clone Wars. He used to spend his days slicing through droids with a light saber and telling Count Dookoo to kiss his ass. Now he’s just a hermit on a shitty planet full of shittier criminals. He actually makes fighting droid armies sound more appealing.

It’s a more human side of Obi Wan. Too many Star Wars fans know him only as the uptight asshat who failed to train Anakin Skywalker and the wannabe sage who tried to help Luke, only to get himself killed in the process. We never get to see him process just how shitty a turn his life took after the Clone Wars. It’s something that we needed to see, if only to stop telling him he’s a lousy teacher.


We get a glimpse of how he spends his days on Tatooine. He doesn’t fight thugs or aid rebels. He just keeps to himself, occasionally gets supplies at a market, and spends most of his time in some run down hut trying to forget the last three Star Wars movies. It’s a pretty shitty way to live, even by Tatooine standards. Nobody would blame him in the slightest if he started mixing cocaine and Scotch. However, he does have activities other than brooding.

While Obi Wan still has to cope with being the second biggest loser of the Clone Wars after Jar Jar, she still has a mission of sorts to keep him from developing a drinking problem. He’s supposed to watch and protect a young Luke Skywalker who has no idea what a douche-bag his father turned out to be. There’s some nice internal monologue here where Obi Wan’s sorrow becomes more apparent. He wants to train Luke. He wants to make it so he’s not the last Jedi in the galaxy. And who can blame him? It would be a slight middle finger to the Emperor.

However, he still remembers what happened the last time he trained a Skywalker. Creating one Darth Vader is enough. James Earl Jones can only push that legendary voice of his so much. It’s a powerful moment and one that actually makes Obi Wan more likable, something there wasn’t nearly enough of over the course of three big budget prequels.


He can’t train Luke, but he can still protect him indirectly as only a skilled Jedi can. When the same thugs from earlier arrive to try and collect Jabba’s bullshit water tax from the Skywalkers, he just pulls a quick Jedi mind trick and sends them on their way. It’s not a spectacle. It’s not exciting. But it works. It averts a conflict before it turns into another galactic shit storm. If only that sort of thing worked in real life. There would be a Victoria’s Secret and a McDonald’s in Tehran tomorrow.


There’s more inner monologue that documents Obi Wan’s lament. He talks about dealing with Jabba’s thugs. He also mentions how they’re collecting this tax in the middle of a drought. And on a desert planet, that’s like akin to a giant “fuck you and your poor ass” tax. Even Jeb Bush wouldn’t support that shit. He has to protect Luke in this environment. It might have been easier if he had been asked to clean up every strip club in New Orleans after Mardi Gras. It’s a tough gig, but his options are limited so long as Emperor Palpatine’s “Kill Every Jedi On Sight” policy remains in place.

He still tries his best to deal with being a nobody. It’s something no Jedi trains for. It’s not like he can go ask Vanilla Ice for advice or anything. It’s not terribly exciting, but it does offer some important insight into Obi Wan. We see him trying to cope and trying to carve out a living on this galactic shithole of a planet. But there are still times when that Jedi itch needs scratching.

At one point Jabba’s thugs show up again and by now, everybody reading this wants these guys to get a light saber up the ass. They still demand that everyone pay their water tax, even in a drought. This is the IRS from Ron Paul’s worst nightmare basically. Again, Obi Wan has to stop them in a very subtle, very unspectacular way. He uses the Force to break their weapons, which doesn’t really stop them. But it keeps him out of sight and he can go back to his hut feeling less shitty about himself. It’s not a total win, but it’s better than nothing.


It’s still pretty unsatisfying for Obi Wan. Just harassing thugs instead of impaling them where they stand doesn’t sit well with him. It’s not the kind of noble restraint that the Jedi Order preached. However, like Bristol Palin doing abstinence lectures, he can only restrain himself for so long.

One night, Luke wanders off because he’s a kid. Kids tend to wander off and not think much of it. They do it for the same reason they pick their butts, eat their boogers, and ask why a drunk can’t keep his pants on. It’s annoying, but it’s normal. It worries his Aunt and Uncle, but guess who finds him first? Nobody in the galaxy should be surprised when it’s Jabba’s thugs who just happen to be passing by. They probably see little kids as target practice.


Like most kids who like to put on pajamas and pretend their ninjas, Luke says he’s not afraid of these guys. Obviously, his Aunt and Uncle haven’t told him about taxes yet. If so, he would’ve shit himself already. He might as well be a wounded kitten in Jeffrey Dahlmer’s kitchen. Once again, Obi Wan has to step in, but he has to do it indirectly. It’s still not as fun as cutting up an army of droids with a light sabre, but it still gets the job done.

With help from the Force and basic physics, Obi Wan finally has an excuse to ditch the noble restraint bullshit and give these thugs the ass-kicking they’ve done way too much to deserve. It’s not very well-organized and it’s a bit chaotic. All anyone needs to know is Obi Wan channels his inner Jean Grey, minus the part where he destroys a planet, and takes these assholes out. Luke falls on his ass at some point. Again, he’s a fucking kid. Falling on his ass might as well be a required subject in kindergarten.


When all is said and done, the thugs are womprat food and Luke is safe. It may seem like a glorified street fight, but it’s still pretty damn satisfying. After these thugs went through the trouble of making themselves the least likable criminals since the Neo Nazis in Breaking Bad, watching them get their asses kicked was fun even if it had to happen in an indirect way.

In some ways, it works because it shows that Obi Wan can resist the urge to solve problems with his light sabre. That’s something Anakin never quite mastered and it cost him more than Hayden Christiansen’s good looks. It helps him protect Luke without him even knowing he’s being protected. It’s a far more effective method for protecting children than teaching them that Stranger Danger bullshit. It may work for Ralph Wiggum, but not for Luke Skywalker.


It leads to a nice moment where Luke’s Aunt and Uncle find him, not knowing at all that Luke just got a lesson in how big an asshole a tax collector could be. They don’t even meet up with Obi Wan. As far as they’re concerned, Luke just wandered off, got bored, and fell asleep as kids are one to do. It’s a nice moment and one that culminates with Obi Wan putting away his light sabre. It’s another powerful moment that shows he’s serious about staying out of sight and not being the Jedi that got lucky enough to avoid being wiped out. It also effectively sets the tone for the kind of guy he becomes in A New Hope. Except this time, he’s more likable than some snarky old man with the emotional range George Takei.


This story offers a nice insight into a time in the life of Obi Wan Kanobi that isn’t well known. It ends up being an important time because it shows that’s he’s way more likable than a few lackluster movies would have us believe. But it actually offers even more than that. This story wasn’t just part of some random flashback. It came from Luke finding Obi Wan’s old journal back on Tatooine a few issues ago. So this story was basically read through Luke’s eyes. It adds even more weight to the moment, making it even more satisfying. I still would’ve liked to see Jabba’s thugs get a light sabre up the ass, but this is a nice consolation prize.


Now I know there’s a certain segment of Star Wars fans who will never get over the prequels failing to live up to the originals. These same fans will let that hatred prevent them from ever caring about Obi Wan Kanobi’s story because the last time they cared, they got Jar Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen. I can understand that perspective to some extent, but that doesn’t make it any less petty. to use those movies as an excuse to thumb your nose at a story like this one isn’t a mark of sophistication. It’s a mark of being a douche-bag and there are enough of those in the galaxy.

This issue follows the same themes that this series has so skillfully established. It explores some of the unexplored territory in the vast Star Wars universe and does so in an nerdgasmically awesome way. For those fans who aren’t douche-bags, this will make you love Obi Wan Kanobi again. It’s a story that shows him as a broken, lonely, exile from a war where he and every other Jedi in the galaxy got pwned. But despite these struggles, he’s still a Jedi and he’s still capable of being awesome. It may be light on action and details at times, but it’s still more intrigue than Obi Wan ever got from the prequels. I give Star Wars #7 an 8 out of 10. This comic won’t make the prequels any better. It won’t make anyone forget about Jar Jar either. But it puts Obi Wan in a position to do more than whine about Anakin Skywalker and that should appeal to any Star Wars fan in this day and age. Nuff said!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Forging A New Batman: Justice League Gods and Monsters: Batman #1

The following is my review of Justice League Gods and Monsters: Batman #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


What does it take to become Batman? It's one thing to put on a costume, talk like a hung over Christian Bale, and declare a war on criminals. Any kid on Halloween or dedicated cos-player can do that. The actual process of becoming Batman, a dark knight of vengeance, is a lot more difficult. As the Val Kilmers and George Clooneys of the world have shown, not just anybody can step into that role.

This is exactly the challenge that Kirk Langstrom faces in Justice League Gods and Monsters: Batman #1. The vision established by Bruce Timm is pretty bold. He seeks to completely revamp DC's big three heroes, including Batman. But he's not just looking to recast Bruce Wayne with Ben Affleck while Christian Bale retires.

Bruce Timm wants to build a Batman up from scratch and he's using Kirk Langstrom, who has only ever been a poor man's Killer Croc as Man-Bat. If he hadn't been the visionary behind the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, he'd be laughed out of the room for pitching such an idea. But his credentials and legacy have earned him the right to pursue crazy ideas. We give Elon Musk that same luxury so why not Bruce Timm? But even with his impeccable legacy, can he build a new Batman out of Kirk Langstrom?


That's a difficult question to answer, but that's actually a good thing because Justice League Gods and Monsters: Batman #1 makes a genuine case that Kirk Langstrom can carry that title. The narrative doesn't try to make him too much like Bruce Wayne. He's not a rich kid who suffered tragedy. He didn't get bitten by some radioactive creature or anything like that. Timm makes a genuine effort to do something different that still puts him on the same path. Just doing it without the aid of aliens and radioactive animals is an accomplishment.

There are still some similarities. Like Bruce Wayne, Kirk Langstrom became Batman through a tragedy. The main difference, however, is that this tragedy was self-inflicted. And that's a problem right off the bat because a self-inflicted tragedy is like a self-fulfilling prophecy in that it undermines the definition. Langstrom became Batman because he tried to cure his cancer with a crazy, untested treatment using bat venom. Like taking speech lessons from Ozzy Osborne, it didn't turn out well.

It's a shaky foundation, but it doesn't keep Langstrom from being a compelling character who can believably carry himself like Batman. In the same way Bruce Wayne became more detached from the world, Langstrom does the same. The early parts of the story show how he's cut ties with every friend, relative, and associate he's ever known. And he does it without the aid of a cave or a mansion. In many respects, that makes his loneliness more tragic and more compelling.

But like Bruce Wayne, becoming detached allows Kirk Langstrom to focus all his energy on fighting crime. For Langstrom, he doesn't need criminals to kill his parents to make him do this. In many respects, it's how he makes the best of a bad situation. His cancer is cured, but now he has to feed like a vampire and there's no True Blood in this world. So if he's going to survive by hurting people, he might as well hurt criminals. It makes sense. It also makes him more like Michael Morbius than Bruce Wayne, but he does manage to set himself apart.

Vampire or not, Langstrom is still a brilliant man with a brilliant mind. He's able to use this in the same way Bruce Wayne uses his mind to solve crimes. He carries himself like a detective in how he hunts down criminals like Lew Moxon and Rupert Thorn, names that have appeared in Batman stories before. He also uses cunning and disguises in a way any believable Batman would. Langstrom is just much less hesitant to slaughter criminals rather than trusting the Gotham police to keep them locked up. Given how the Joker seems to escape every other week, it could be argued that his method is more efficient.

While this method of doing business is richly detailed and beautifully visceral, it does take away from another key component of being Batman. He fights criminals and he uses detective skills to get the job done. But one of Batman's defining qualities is that he works with the law and tries to arrest criminals. Kirk Langstrom does none of that. These criminals are basically just walking TV dinners to him.

That's not to say it doesn't make for a good story and meaningful character development. In fact, very few parts of the story actually involve Langstrom fighting criminals. Most of the story is spent with him investigating the criminal underworld. At one point, he actually makes a personal connection with son of one of the criminals he kills. This connection helps flesh out the best parts of Kirk Langstrom's personality. It's a personality that keeps him from becoming too much Man-Bat and not enough Batman. It's also this connection that helps flesh out the dark world that Langstrom is a part of, which is wholly consistent with the dark world that Batman has always occupied.

This dark world is full of tragedy and despair, revealing the ugliest parts of humanity. This is what Batman confronts and this is what he represents. He's the guy that runs into this terrible corner of the human condition while most ordinary, sane people will sprint marathons barefoot to avoid it. That's the key theme of Batman as a character and Kirk Langstrom, with all the Twilight and True Blood connotations that come with it, is able to capture this theme.

The biggest challenge of Justice League Gods and Monsters: Batman #1 was making Kirk Langstrom a believable Batman. By the end of the story, he makes a case that would at the very least generate debate. While he does capture the main themes of Batman, the deficiencies in the way he operates are hard to work around. If he were a pro football team, he could qualify for the playoffs as a wild card. He's not championship caliber, but this story firmly establishes that he's a solid contender.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, July 24, 2015

Strangers In Paradise Chapter 16: Front Lines is LIVE!


There are a number of ways for a strong relationship to stay strong, but there are always many more ways to destroy it. Sometimes, those ways that destroy a relationship are outside anyone’s control. Nobody chooses their significant other to have asshole parents, crazy ex-lovers, or enemies at the IRS. Sometimes that’s just how shit plays out. If they love each other enough and fight hard enough, a couple can overcome this. Sometimes it takes money, lawyers, and a significantly bruise ego (among other things), but it can work.

For Superman and Wonder Woman, they’re kind of used to having crazy, fucked up forces working against them. Superman tries to fight for truth, justice, and the American way in a world where Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are serious presidential candidates. Wonder Woman tries for honor, compassion, and empathy in a world where dictators, tyrants, and reality shows undermine every one of those concepts. They’ve been able to fight those battles pretty well on their own. Then, they come together and they have to fight an entirely different set of battles to make it work. But for love, that shit is worth it.

I know it’s cheesy. I know it’s the basis for every song by every boy band in history. But no matter how cynical or jaded someone might be, they understand on some levels that love is worth fighting for. So as I’ve explored Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship in “Strangers In Paradise,” I’ve tried give them a worthy fight. That’s not easy. These are two of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe. Superman can wipe his ass with entire planets and Wonder Woman can bust the balls of every male creature within the same galactic neighborhood. But in this story, they face a threat that no amount of brute strength and cheesy love songs can solve.

Right now, they’re facing a shit storm convergence, courtesy of familiar faces that just love stirring up shit. Lex Luthor, the gods of Olympus, and the Amazons have all coordinated to create the kind of conflict that tests more than just their relationship. Superman and Wonder Woman are basically at ground zero of a divine clusterfuck with Lex Luthor providing extra lube. Ares has subdued his father and taken over Olympus. Apollo has set up shop in the mortal realm. The Amazons are now being mind-controlled by Ares and Lex Luthor is packing divine muscle in the Annihilator Armor. Even by Superman/Wonder Woman standards, this makes for a pretty shitty day.


And it’s about to get worse. Superman and Wonder Woman have already taken the first steps into this shit storm, working together as best they can in an effort to stop it. But even with their power, they can only do so much. And they’re about to find out just how shitty it’s going to get. All I can say is they’re going to need more than a romantic getaway to recover from this one.


This isn’t just about testing Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship. It’s also going to test their resolve and their ideals, as any great struggle against those who stir up shit storms ought to. It’s not enough to test them physically. It’s not even enough to test their relationship. The way they go about being heroes is always being challenged and they have to find a way to rise to that challenge. But this is one challenge they can’t take on as individuals. They have to do it together.

Again, I know that sounds like a lyric from an old Brittney Spears song, but it’s true. Even two of the most powerful beings in comics can be challenged in a way that doesn’t feel bland and contrived. It’s a hard story to tell, but it’s one that’s worth telling. Nuff said!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #35


There are many non-western cultures that believe time is not linear and that it often flows in this chaotic, meandering path. On a partially related note, there are also many non-western cultures that have way better weed. Just think that’s worth pointing out because there are times when I suspect the man or woman who manages the release schedule is drunk, stoned, or getting a few too many blowjobs on the side. That said, I try not to let it stop me from enjoying the substance of a comic. It’s usually something an extra joint or two will help.

We all know that Secret Wars is in full swing. The worlds of 616 and Ultimate were destroyed in a cosmic clusterfuck. Now there’s only Battleworld. That’s where all the action is. That’s where all the fancy new toys and hookers are showing up. So why would a comic that took place before that have much appeal? Well, that’s a rhetorical question because it doesn’t fucking matter. The only thing that matters is whether or not a comic is awesome.

Uncanny X-men #35 was one of the numerous X-men comics that got delayed due to Secret Wars. It’s another comic that’s meant to help set up the triple sized Uncanny X-men #600 uber-party, which also got delayed due to Secret Wars. Either I’m really high or I’m seeing a pattern here. But there’s still a story worth telling in Uncanny X-men #35. Before the Secret Wars clusterfuck destroyed the world, Cyclops disbanded the New Xavier School and pissed off his ex-girlfriend. Admit it, you want to know what comes of that for the same reason you want to know why 50 Cent filed for bankruptcy.

The story is still following the aftermath of Cyclops disbanding the New Xavier School. But disbanding the school doesn’t mean that young, vulnerable mutants will be any less pissed off. One young mutant whose coping skills are only slightly worse than the average teenager is Blake, the wannabe punk rock girl that kick-started X-men: Battle of the Atom. It turns out being attacked by a Sentinel didn’t set her straight. So she decided to do the most logical thing she can do and blames her father, who happens to be a football coach at a high school. I’m pretty sure this is ripping off the last season of Friday Night Lights, but there’s really nothing here that’s quite as compelling. She and her father argue. He blames her and she blames him. It’s basically a Dr. Phil rerun if the teenager was given access to a flamethrower. It’s as volatile as it sounds.


With or without Dr. Phil, this confrontation was bound to become an omega level clusterfuck. Blake does exactly what she did in Battle of the Atom, summoning raging demons to attack hordes of innocent people. But unlike Madelyne Pryor, she doesn’t look nearly as sexy doing it. Again, there’s nothing new here. She’s a pissed off teenage girl with way too much power at her disposal. Make her rich and she’d have her own reality show.

Enter the young mutants from the disbanded New Xavier School. As in the same young mutants who have had next to no training and very limited experience being X-men. They think they can handle one pissed off mutant girl that they’ve faced before. And that’s not an entirely flawed assumption. This isn’t a fucking Sentinel army powered by Apocalypse. This is one pissed off mutant with serious daddy issues. It’s the mutant equivalent of getting a cat out of a tree.


The battle that unfolds is pretty standard. The mutants fight while the humans run, scream, and shit themselves somewhere in the process. The Stepford Cuckoos go on the psychic offensive. Hijack gets some help from a few buses. Goldballs holds off the monsters by throwing balls at them in what amounts to a glorified dodge ball game. Triage just waits for someone to get wounded to heal them.

Overall, it’s fairly well-organized. But it’s not all that epic. It’s still just them fighting a whiney teenage girl that they’ve already fought before. They’re not exactly playing Contra without cheat codes or something. The ending isn’t much of a spectacle. Ben Deeds uses his powers to convince Blake that this is not a healthy way to deal with her problems. Goldballs knocks her out before she can change her mind. It’s not as boring as watching Ben Stein read poetry, but it’s not going to get anyone’s heart racing like a necrophiliac at a morgue.


The day is now saved. These young X-men successfully fought off a pissed off teenage girl that could control demons. In the X-men’s world, that’s basically Monday. But they manage to do it with a little extra flare. They even take some time to chat with a few kids who recorded this shit on their cell phone. Their lack of maturity, a plan, and a team name is painfully clear. And Goldballs still looks goofy as hell in that uniform, but he’s still the most lovable guy in the group. What’s not to love about a guy who is a walking dick joke who dresses like rejected Star Trek villain? I’m serious. That’s the kind of guy I would buy a beer for.


After they leave, feeling pretty damn good about themselves for defeating a bitchy teenager, they crash at the old Hellfire Club building. Let’s face it, there are way worst places a bunch of teenagers could sleep for the night. It’s still way safer than most motels in Tijuana. They’re all aware that this used to be a club of kinky, megalomaniacal mutants who enjoyed the occasional orgy. Strangely, that doesn’t bother a bunch of teenagers. Maybe if they were Mormon they would be iffy about it, but they’re not so they get over it.

They wake up the next morning, probably hoping that they’ll find another whiney mutant girl with demon summoning powers to fight. But to their surprise, the video from their fight yesterday went viral. But it wasn’t because of a demon attack. That sort of shit probably happens on days when Dr. Strange is hung over or something. It’s Goldballs they all love. Apparently, a goofy Hispanic mutant who shoots gold balls out of his body is a novelty in the Marvel universe. Go figure. It gets so popular that his parents don’t call SHIELD to have his ass arrested like last time. I guess that counts as progress for him on some levels.


What follows next is basically a rerun of every Behind The Music and Where Are They Now rerun ever aired. A teenager suddenly becomes famous for reasons nobody really understands. At least in Goldballs’ case, he doesn’t need to star in a movie with Tim Allen or be in a boy band. He just has to fight crime wearing a goofy costume. I’d argue that’s a lot less demeaning anyways.

That’s not to say it isn’t appealing. There’s something inherently fun about seeing heroes in the Marvel universe being treated like celebrities. It’s a story that is rarely explored in the comics. It makes them feel a bit more real, dealing with the fame and attention their actions bring. And unlike douchebags who only become celebrities because of leaked sex taps, Goldballs and other heroes actually do something meaningful.

It’s fun, but it’s also kind of rushed. He’s like Vanilla Ice in his prime, a guy at the top of the charts with everybody eager for a piece of him. And he doesn’t even get shaken down by Suge Knight. It’s a good time for Goldballs and he clearly enjoys it. So do the others. Who wouldn’t? Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame. It lasts only as long as the next Kardashian scandal.


But like Vanilla Ice and every other child star not named Neil Patrick Harris, it all comes crashing down pretty quickly. And it’s not nearly as spectacular either. One day, he finishes roughing up Ulysses Claw, a D-list Avengers villain. Then out of nowhere, some asshole who wasn’t content being a dick on the internet throws a bottle at Goldballs that happens to wound him in the neck. It’s more serious than it sounds. Any time glass shards get involved in necks, even a drunk knows that the bar fight has gone too far.

It’s still a very poorly developed situation. Somehow, a bunch of anti-mutant assholes who probably got tired of protesting same-sex marriage rulings ganged up on these young mutants and attacked them. The Stepford Cuckoos respond with a few debilitating migraines, but the damage is still done. Even though Triage is able to heal Goldballs, the whole team is pretty traumatized. It doesn’t help that the cops harass them and not the asshole who threw the bottle. I don’t know if these guys are the LAPD, but they’re certainly qualified.


This whole ordeal is badly rushed and really kind of stale. These teenage mutants were riding so high and this is all it took to humble them? One anti-mutant riot? That would be like Taylor Swift retiring from music just because a few people booed her at a concert. Granted, these are still inexperienced teenage mutants. They’re not even in Taylor Swift’s zip code and Taylor Swift isn’t even a teenager. So maybe it’s not fair, but it’s still pretty stale.

Their solution is as simple as it is unspectacular. They decide that maybe they’re not ready to be mutant heroes so they go running to the Jean Grey Institute. It’s kind of full circle. They get kicked out of one school and they go running to another. And this is pretty much what Cyclops wanted for them when he disbanded the school. He wanted them to stay safe at the Jean Grey Institute. Being the welcoming and forgiving heroes they are (except for Cyclops), Storm welcomes them with open arms. It’s still pretty bland. If it were a Behind the Music episode, it would suck worse than the Oasis story.


In the grand scheme of things, this issue really didn’t accomplish much. All it did was show that a bunch of teenage mutants with little training and experience aren’t ready to be a full-time superhero team. It also showed that when shit starts trending on the internet, people are a lot more inclined to exercise on their asshole impulses. I don’t think that’s a concept we need reinforced in the era of Grumpy Cat, LonelyGirl15, and Riley Curry. That’s not to say it’s an invalid point, but the story felt more like a PSA announcement than an X-men story.

It still has its charm. It’s still fun watching teenagers try to be heroes and fuck up along the way. It’s also fun seeing teenagers try to handle fame. I’d argue that Goldballs handled it much better than Justice Bieber ever did, but that’s really not saying much these days. It helped set up some more sub-plots for Uncanny X-men #600 to address, but at this point even that milestone is starting to seem like an afterthought. I give Uncanny X-men #35 a 5 out of 10. It’s not going to get anyone high. It’s not going to sober anyone up either. It’s just a fairly typical story about how teenagers tend to get their hopes crushed and who needs that? Seriously, if I need my hopes crushed, I’ll just go back to high school. Nuff said!