Friday, October 21, 2016

X-men Supreme Issue 143: Proactive Regression Part 1 PREVIEW!

Some characters don’t get a chance to shine until others screw up or screw themselves over. The X-men are finding this out the hard way in the X-men comics right now. Marvel is screwing them over or having them screw themselves to make way for other characters, namely those whose movie rights they own. I don’t intend to be that petty in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. That said, there are some characters in X-men Supreme that have been biding their time, looking for an opportunity.

Well, that opportunity came during the X-men’s six-week absence in wake of the Outer Limits arc. They left a lot of confused enemies and allies in their wake. A Warlock factory was destroyed, Wanda Maximoff was injured, Alex Summers is now calling the shots on Genosha, and President Kelly is prepared to take extreme measures. The X-men’s allies, including Emma Frost and General Grimshaw, have done their best to keep things from getting out of hand. Now that the X-men are back, they’ll need to do more.

In addition to the destruction and confusion left in their wake, another enemy of the X-men is plotting behind the scenes. When X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation began, the biggest threat to the X-men and human/mutant relations was the Mutant Liberation Front. Under Toad’s leadership, they attacked cities and infrastructure. Then, in the Natural Disorder arc, they attempted to deliver the killing blow. The X-men stopped them, but not in time to save the life of Polaris, which had a major impact on Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and Havok.

Beyond the scars left by this attack, the events Natural Disorder arc did not see the complete destruction of the Mutant Liberation Front. While Toad was apprehended, some managed to escape. Chief among them is Stryfe. He already made his presence felt back in X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope when he tried to start a riot during the Inauguration Day arc. He nearly ruined President Kelly’s first day in office, but the X-men stopped him.

That got him arrested, but he was later freed by Toad in X-men Supreme Issue 110: Prison Break. While he did follow Toad in the Mutant Liberation Front, they frequently clashed. Stryfe did not entirely share Toad’s approach to liberating their kind. Now that Toad is not in the picture anymore, he’s ready to strike with a new plan and he’s intent on avoiding Toad’s mistakes.

That means the Mutant Liberation Front is back and they’re preparing to strike at a time when both sides are vulnerable. Stryfe already has a collection of former Morlocks and allies, all of which are on the run and trying to avoid Toad’s fate. He also doesn’t have the luxury of playing the long game, wearing down the X-men and their allies. He needs to strike now. The Mutant Liberation Front is poised for a new attack and this one promises to be their most devastating. That attack will be the centerpiece of a new arc called Proactive Regression and its effects will shake the X-men Supreme fanfiction series to its core. As always, I’ve prepared a preview of just how major those effects will be.

“Tell me what we know about this mutant we’re tracking,” said Ororo, who kept looking around for signs of trouble.

“There ain’t much to know. Her name’s Joanna Cargill. Calls herself Frenzy when she’s collecting a paycheck from White Cell,” said Wolverine as he kept sniffing the air around him, “Mystique and Elf pulled her name from some data they stole from Department H. Hank and his girl identified her as the Mutant Liberation Front’s newest member. They think she’s their main link to White Cell.”

“Do you think Stryfe agreed to that?” questioned Ororo.

“Not a snowball’s chance in a Louisiana heat wave,” scoffed Gambit, “Stryfe be the kind of homme that don’t share well. Ain’t no way he would pass up a chance at leading his own crew.”

“Not unless White Cell gave him a compelling reason,” said Warpath, “From what I’ve learned, these guys aren’t in the business of simply screwing people over. They’re not the IRS. Pretty much everything they do is for mutual benefit.”

“So what kind of benefit could a pack of strays like the Mutant Liberation Front offer?” asked Rogue.

“Don’t know yet. That’s something we’ll have to beat out of Miss Frenzy, among other things,” snarled Wolverine.

Wolverine walked faster, leading the others to a busy intersection between a high end boutique and an overpriced salon. On the other side of the streets there were a string of restaurants. All were pretty busy. The traffic across the intersection was pretty constant. A large volume of cars and trucks passed by and spewed diesel exhaust into the air. It obscured the scent, but not enough for Wolverine to use it. He stopped right at the crosswalk as the light on the adjacent side turned red.

“Don’t tell me you’ve lost her trail, Wolverine. I’ll smash you with one of these cars if you’ve lost it!” said Warpath impatiently.

“Like you could, bub,” quipped Wolverine, “And I ain’t lost the trail. She was definitely here. I just can’t figure which direction she was going.”

“Maybe someone gave her a chance to do a little shopping. That would make her the lucky one,” commented Rogue.

“No, Frenzy is all business. I’m sure of it,” said Warpath strongly, “My brother mentioned this woman a lot in his journal. He singled her out as being deeply involved in some special wing of White Cell. He would’ve tracked her down himself if he hadn’t…”

“Calm down, James,” coaxed Ororo, sensing he was getting worked up, “We know this is personal for you. We’re trying to help you. It doesn’t help any of us if you let your emotions get the better of you.”

“If he did that, he would’ve felt up Miss Munroe back at the airport,” said Rogue under her breath.

“That ain’t funny, cherè,” grumbled Gambit, who still didn’t like the idea of Warpath being attraced to Ororo.

“All of you, shut up!” barked Wolverine as he sniffed deeper, “I’m smelling something new. The trail gets…messed up at some point. First it went down one street. Then it turned at another. Then it started moving faster.”

“Faster? Is it possible she was attacked?” asked Ororo.

“Nah, if that were the case there would be a lot more screaming. This is deliberate. It’s almost as if she stopped and…”

Wolverine paused as he followed the direction of the scent across the street. It took a moment for him to process. When his nose finally caught up with his brain, his eyes widened. At this same moment, the light across the street turned green.

From behind several cars, a large pick-up truck carrying farm equipment sped across at high speeds. Startled pedestrians got out of the way as fast they could. About halfway across the intersection, it swerved so that it was in a direct collision course with the X-men.

“Ah hell!” grunted the feral mutant.

“LOOK OUT!” exclaimed Rogue.

These are volatile times in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Charles Xavier may be back in action and walking again, but the X-men are going to undergo some serious upheavals. Granted, those upheavals don’t involve sterilization or the callous killing of major characters. I’d like to avoid that with X-men Supreme. I’d also like to make this fanfiction series as awesome as it can possibly be. That means any amount of feedback I get is vital. Make no mistake. I do take any and all feedback I get seriously. If I’m doing something wrong in this fanfiction series, I want to know about it. I want to fix it. So please take the time to send me your feedback. Either post it directly in the issue or contact me directly. I’m always happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Channeling Heroism Through Infamy: Infamous Iron Man #1

The following is my review of Infamous Iron Man #1, which was posted on

It's become an annoyingly popular trend in recent years, turning heroes into villains and villains into heroes. It's like Marvel and DC Comics are trying desperately to make their own version of Walter White. They want a character who can fluctuate between heroism and villainy without the aid of mind control, evil clones, or shape-shifting aliens.

It's entirely understandable. A character that can navigate these narrow, poorly defined lines between heroism and villainy tends to be much more compelling. We don't know if this character will help rescue a cat in a tree or just set the tree on fire. They're unpredictable and volatile, never needing more than a friendly nudge to cross those lines that Superman and Captain America don't dare cross, at least without the aid of massive retcons.

This is what makes the premise of Infamous Iron Man #1 so compelling. It attempts to turn Marvel's alpha dog villain, Victor Von Doom, and into a genuine, non-mind controlled hero. That's right up there with making Thanos a nun in terms of seemingly ridiculous concepts. However, Doom's development in the pages of Invincible Iron Man, coupled with the end of Secret Wars, puts him in a unique position to do just that. Now, Brian Michael Bendis is ready to realize that potential.

The details of the story in Infamous Iron Man #1 don't involve Doom just stepping into a new suit of armor, calling himself Iron Man, and shooting the nearest Hydra agent. Instead, Bendis crafts a narrative that makes abundantly clear that Victor Von Doom is uniquely qualified to embrace this role. He makes it feel like a natural progression of the character that emerged in Invincible Iron Man. This is a version of Dr. Doom that has a very different outlook after the events of Secret Wars. What he does and why he does it feels organic, appropriate, and uniquely engaging.

There's no inversion spell. There's no clone involved. There's not even some sudden moment of clarity. Victor Von Doom's decision to become Iron Man fits perfectly with his ongoing efforts to do more than just terrorize the world with metal masks, evil boasting, and Doombots. He's trying to find a new place in the greater Marvel landscape and becoming Iron Man, especially in wake of Civil War II, is as fitting a place he'll find without the aid of Doombots.

What makes this setup even more compelling is the context surrounding Dr. Doom, even before the events of Secret Wars. Bendis makes it a point to explore this context, going back to Doom's days in the Illuminati where he didn't shy away from such infamy. In doing so, Bendis raises some important questions for Dr. Doom, courtesy of the Red Hood. Sure, these questions get the Red Hood shot and transported to India, but they're still valid questions.

The primary question at hand is what exactly drives Victor Von Doom at this point in his development? For many years, he defined himself as the one man who could outsmart Reed Richards. He defined himself as the one who mastered science and sorcery. He also defined himself by his desire to save his mother's soul from Mephisto. These are all core components of the evil, menacing Dr. Doom who will gladly kick a puppy if it makes him more superior to Reed.

Now, Reed Richards and his family are gone. His mastery of science and sorcery is beyond dispute. He even managed to finally save his mother's soul. On top of this, he has his own country, more money than any super-villain can reasonably steal in one lifetime, and an army of Doombots to ensure he'll never have to clean his castle or cook his meals. What else is left for Victor Von Doom?

Infamous Iron Man #1 shows that Dr. Doom has plenty to offer. He demonstrates as such in a lopsided, but revealing battle against Diablo, who for some reason thought kidnapping Maria Hill was a good idea. He also connects with Tony Stark's former lover, Dr. Amara Perera. He articulates through words, actions, and Alex Maleev's detailed artwork that there's a need in the Marvel universe and he's uniquely equipped to fill it.

Moreover, Doom makes the prospect of him being Iron Man seem exciting in the sense that we've never seen an Iron Man like this before. Tony Stark may have exercised questionable decision-making skills, both in and out of his armor, but there are lines he doesn't cross. He makes clear that when there's a conflict to confront, he'll play the part of the hero. With Victor Von Doom, we don't have such certainty.

How will Dr. Doom deal with a Hydra invasion of New York? How will he deal with the likes of the Mandarin, AIM, or angry Stark Industry shareholders? It's clear how a hero would handle them. It's not at all clear how Victor Von Doom will handle them and that's what makes the idea so compelling.

In the end, this idea is the greatest selling point of Infamous Iron Man #1. It gives context and reason for Dr. Doom taking on the mantle of Iron Man. Beyond that idea though, the details are fairly standard. There is some action, some significant character drama, and some mysterious reveals. However, some of these details are too short or abrupt. These are details that can easily be fleshed out in future issues, but it limits the substance of the story.

Despite this, the style points alone make Infamous Iron Man #1 one of the most intriguing development not involving a superhero civil war in quite some time. There's still something uniquely off-putting about rooting for Victor Von Doom to become a hero. He still makes clear that he's Dr. Doom. He still comes off as the kind of man who will punch Reed Richards in the jaw and blame the Avengers for it.

However, he also comes off as a character entering an exciting new phase of his development. He's not hiding from his infamy. He's channeling it into a new endeavor. It may not be as satisfying to him as punching Reed Richards in the jaw, but it gives him a bold new purpose. Whether it makes him famous or infamous remains to be seen, but it promises to be an exciting story.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Death of X #2: Nuff Said!

There are some people who just don't give enough fucks to hide their bias. I consider myself to be one of them, but I'm a drunk with no power, no influence, and poor impulse control. I didn't have a lot of fucks to give in the first place. For the folks in charge of X-men, a 50-year-old multi-billion dollar franchise, their capacity for giving fucks is inherently greater. That means they have fewer excuses and when they stop hiding their own bias, it's just a dick move.

That's what Death of X is to many X-men fans, an overtly bias dick move. They've made it painfully clear whose dicks they want to suck in this story. The X-men, under Cyclops' leadership, are grim and solemn, looking to start a war the second they have a chance. The Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners are all sunshine and rainbows. Hell, Crystal probably shits chocolate milkshakes in their world. They've set up a horrendously bias, overtly unbalanced conflict that's about to take a bit steaming shit all over the X-men and it's not going to smell like chocolate. Death of X #2 is basically another dose of laxatives and I'll be holding my nose for the duration of this review.

My nose may suffer, but my eyes are more than happy to take in Aaron Kuder's artwork as Storm meets up with Medusa, the current ruler of the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners. She basically tells us the same shit we found out in the first issue. Their giant green fart cloud is killing mutants and Storm, like everyone else in the X-men, has a big fucking problem with that.

Medusa kindly points out that the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners know nothing of these effects. As far as they know, their big fart cloud has the same impact on mutants as potato chips, minus the salty aftertaste. She comes off as sincere and shocked, but only to the extent that a North Korean diplomat comes off as sincere and shocked when he finds out his country has a bad reputation. At the very least, she seems willing to work with Storm on dealing with this issue, which is more than North Korea has ever managed. That much, I'll concede.

They have some pretty in depth discussions, but not much comes of it. Again, we're basically told shit we already know. And just as before, the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners are portrayed as all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorn shit. Medusa carries herself as being just as shocked and appalled by this development. She even enlists Crystal to notify her that the next big fart cloud is heading for Madrid and they should get any mutants in its path into the next time zone. It's a wholly unreasonable request with an unreasonable time frame, but that's pretty much every Tuesday in the Marvel universe.

It seems like a concession, but there are X-men not named Cyclops who aren't convinced. Forge rightly points out to Storm that Medusa may be more inclined to help her own people than a bunch of mutants who have a nasty habit of getting attacked by killer robots. Remember, this is Forge. He builds awesome shit. He doesn't regularly beat Reed Richards in chess or anything, but if even he can sense that the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners may not be entirely sincere, that's saying something.

There's a concerted effort here to make Medusa come off as an innocent, untainted victim here. She never gives the impression that the mutant-killing effects of their giant fart cloud were known. She just worries what may happen if one single mutant suspects as such. Once again, she comes off smelling like Taylor Swift's perfume.

Not surprisingly, Cyclops doesn't get that same effort. Before learning all the facts and assessing the situation, which he has done compulsively and effectively for nearly 50 fucking years, he decides to basically fuck himself over and go for broke. That involves using the collective psychic talents of Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos to announce to the world that the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners lied, their fart cloud kills mutants, and he's going to wage a fucking war to stop it.

Now let me stop for a moment, unclench my nose, and whiff in the bullshit here. This is the same Cyclops who, not so long ago, decided to do the exact opposite in Uncanny X-men #600. This is a character who, in nearly every other situation, assesses the situation carefully and does not jump the gun. He leaves that shit to Wolverine and others like him. Now here he is, throwing lit matches at a grease fire, and doing everything possible to NOT think this through. I expect this kind of shit from Wolverine, Deadpool, and even Spider-Man. For Cyclops though, it doesn't just feel forced. It feels like someone just spit on a blank piece of paper and called it the Mona Lisa.

He doesn't just stop at warning mutants either. He basically takes the objectivity of a North Korean reporter and claims this fart cloud will kill humans as well. Naturally, it causes the shit to hit the fan in Madrid. It's the exact opposite of sound strategy. Sure, it may rally humans and mutants to his side, but he's a fucking X-man. He knows what happens when people rally around fear and paranoia. Killer robots usually aren't far behind. The fact that Cyclops, the same skilled tactician that beat Bastion and pwned the Avengers, can't see this is a fucking joke. It's so forced that it kills any sense of drama or impact.

Along with a whole lot of terrified mutants and humans, the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners get the message as well. It completely changes their mission. In the last issue, it was all sunshine and roses when they traveled to Japan to watch their fart cloud roll through a populated area. Hell, some treated it like a 4th of July barbecue. Now, an entire city is losing their shit because Cyclops delivered a psychic message that gave them plenty of reason to. It makes their task of getting mutants out of the way that much harder. Again, they're set up as the heroes and the victims. It feels about as sincere as the comments section of an anti-feminist message board because it had to be so fucking forced.

At the very least, it leads to some decent action that allows Aaron Kuder to show off his art skills. Crystal heads out into the giant fart cloud and meets up with Storm, who is uniquely equipped to deal with fart clouds. It's enough to make you wonder why the fuck the X-men ever had to move to Limbo in the first place. They got someone who can control the fucking clouds. I'm sure there's a reason, but I'm not sure it's a non-bullshit reason.

Bullshit reason or not, it does the trick. It diverts the fart cloud from Madrid and saves whatever humans or mutants would've been fucked over. This still doesn't change the fact that Cyclops scared the everloving shit out of everybody with his psychic message, but it at least mitigates one problem. That's the most the X-men can hope for these days. That's probably the most that Fox's lawyers will allow.

It's still not much of a victory in the X-men's eyes. While the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners are just inconvenienced by this shit, they're burying one of their fallen friends. On Muir Island, some of Cyclops' team, as well as some visitors, show up to bury Multiple Man and his clones. It's another grim, solemn scene that highlights the bleak, dire state of the X-men. It's sad, but it's consistent with the overall theme of the story so I'll give it that.

There's even a nice moment with Colossus and Magik, which is also kind of forced because before Uncanny X-men #600, these two had a lot of reasons to hate each other. Now, they just brush that shit off without really confronting it. That may be a good way to deal with internet trolls, but issues with demon-loving siblings? That's pushing it. Still, it's a sincere moment that reinforces the X-men's sentiment towards the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners. They think their big fart cloud is sacred. They'll never just destroy it. They'll gladly let mutant suffer. That's just how fucked the mutant race is these days.

Back in Madrid, people are still losing their shit. The X-men decide, reasonably so, that they need to bring in some backup to settle people the fuck down. So how does Crystal decide to help? She decides, unreasonably so, to use the powers of the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners' lasted recruit from the last issue. Those powers involve putting everybody, including the X-men, to sleep. In a busy city with people driving cars, holding babies, and walking down stairs, this ranks right up there with mixing laxatives with sleeping pills in terms of a shitty idea.

They don't even have the fucking decency to warn Storm and her team. They just see all this chaos, decide it's too much of an inconvenience to actually do something, and resort to putting everyone to sleep. It works, but it's as big a dick move as anything Cyclops did. At the very least, Cyclops warned them of imminent danger. The Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners just created new danger by putting everyone to sleep without first checking whether they were holding babies, hot cups of coffee, or lit matches. Even so, they'll still come off as the innocent victims. It's so forced at this point that most people reading this will probably be numb to it at this point and I don't like being numbed unless weed is involved.

So now the X-men and the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners have even more reasons to kill each other. For a moment, they're able to help one another. Then one side decides to put them all to sleep without warning them. Between this and Cyclops' bullshit, I think both sides have disqualified themselves from being labeled competent diplomats. So what's the solution? You bring in someone who's as diplomatic as a recovering crack head. That someone is Magneto.

It probably helps that Emma Frost is the one to contact him. Hell, she probably showed him her tits just to sweeten the deal. Magneto stopped putting up with Cyclops' shit towards the end of his non-revolution. Now, he has a chance to flex his nuts again with the Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners. That means he's probably the most objective, untainted, unforced personality in this conflict. How sad is that? it awesome?

Well, I may have been better off just amputating my nose completely. Like Fox News, I never expected it to be fair and balanced. At the very least, I hoped there would at least be some fucking effort. Guess I was hoping for too much. This is not Civil War or Civil War II. Marvel is not trying to make this a balanced conflict in the slightest. They basically force Cyclops into being irrational, impulsive, paranoid, and stupid. This is the same guy who instinctively analyzes, strategizes, and counters every battle plan as a habit. Now, we're supposed to accept he's this fucking stupid? After waging war against Bastion, the Avengers, and the Phoenix Force?

Well toss a pile of shit in a bucket, mix in some ice, and call it Bud Light because that's exactly what we get in Death of X #2. There's no effort to assess or analyze the situation. It just jumps into full-blown conflict between the X-men and Racist Xenophobic Slave-Owners without anybody thinking it through. There's no organization. There's no context. There's no possible way for there to be any drama whatsoever. Again, you can also tell which side Marvel favors. It basically ensures this story is so forced and contrived that it's not the least bit compelling.

Now I'm not going to blame the writers here. Charles Soule, Jeff Lemire, and Aaron Kuder are basically given a shit sandwich here that they have to eat. Too much of this reeks of the same agenda that ended the Fantastic Four's long-running series. They HAVE to make Cyclops evil and after Uncanny X-men #600, they really don't have the tools to do that. They HAVE to force it. I don't blame them, but that doesn't make the story any less shitty. If you're at all hoping for some context and depth, kill those hopes with a machete. They're not here and if Fox's lawyers have anything to say about it, they'll be legally barred for the foreseeable future.

Final Score: 3 out of 10

Friday, October 14, 2016

The New Red Queen Chapter 2: Bold Benefits is LIVE!

Whenever I do one of my sexy side-projects, I do it knowing that it's a small-scale side-story that isn't intended to be too epic or elaborate. I do it because it's just a fun, sexy departure from my usual work with X-men Supreme. I don't intend for them to be on the same scale as other stories, nor do I expect them to be much of a hit.

That's why the response I got from "The New Red Queen" was such a shocker. Who know a story about a overtly sexier version of Mary Jane Watson with Emma Frost on the side would have such an appeal? Now that I write that down, I want to kick my own ass for not seeing it. Then again, that makes the surprise all the more pleasant.

For this, I sincerely thank all those who read and supported this story. I really appreciate it. Honestly, I had no idea that demand for a sexier version of Mary Jane Watson was that high. It's good to know that the concept has so much appeal. That made writing the next chapter and making it as sexy as possible all the more vital.

I'm sorry I couldn't get it out sooner. I understand there are many restless Mary Jane Watson fans out there who have had a nasty pain in their balls since Spider-Man made that fateful deal with Mephisto. I hope this story can ease that pain, among other things. If the response I get continues to be this strong, I'll definitely consider expanding this world and all the sexy possibilities. I'll also make it a point to ensure that I update this story within at least three weeks of posting a new chapter. I don't want the wait to be that long. That's just cruel and our collective balls can only take so much.

That being said, I hope that this new chapter is worth the wait. It continues what the first chapter started, setting Mary Jane Watson on a new path towards a new job that maximizes her sexiness. The world needs more Mary Jane Watson and I hope this story can contribute to that. Enjoy!

Again, thank you all very much for supporting this story. Really, I did not expect the response I got. If it continues, I'd love to expand the concept. If anyone has any suggestions or ideas, I'm happy to hear them. Anything that involves expanding a story where Mary Jane Watson is sexier can only help make the world a better place. Nuff said!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Polish of the Dark Side: Darth Vader #25

The following is my review of Darth Vader #25, which was posted on

In the post-Breaking Bad era of popular culture, it's not enough for our villains to just be villainous anymore. The qualities of overtly evil characters like Lex Luthor, Thanos, and every James Bond villain that ever existed are no longer sufficient. These characters deserve layers, personalities, and development every bit as much as the heroes. It seems like an unwarranted consideration for villains, but it's one that helps craft more compelling narratives.

In this respect, Darth Vader is a character that was ahead of his time. When he shows up in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, he carries himself as a traditional bad-to-the-bone villain who will blow up a planet full of sick puppies in order to crush the rebels. Then, by the end of Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and the maligned prequels that followed, he becomes a more complex villain who does what he does for reasons beyond just enjoying the cries of dead Alderaneans.

Kieron Gillen takes this complexity and hits the ground running full speed when his Darth Vader series begins. He succeeds where three prequels with production budgets north of $100 million failed, building new layers to Darth Vader as a character and as a villain. Gillen never tries to make Vader an anti-hero. He doesn't try to make him sympathetic either. He just uses this series Darth Vader a more compelling character. As such, Darth Vader #25 acts as the cherry on top of a very delicious cake.

Make no mistake. Darth Vader does nothing remotely heroic in this issue. Darth Vader #25 still occurs within the context of the period before Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This means he's not remotely close to the character who sacrifices himself to save his son. He's still on that path, but he's going to dig himself into a deeper hole before he gets there.

For much of this series, Gillen has Darth Vader focus on a different goal, but one that's more relevant for this particular part of the Star Wars mythos. It begins with him acknowledging that he failed to prevent the destruction of the Death Star. He gives Emperor Palpatine a valid reason beyond mustache-curling evil to question the competence of his apprentice. It's Darth Vader's job to prove himself again and, true to his devious legacy, he goes the extra parsec.

It doesn't just involve Darth Vader confronting and defeating the Emperor's efforts to defeat Cylo, who the Emperor taps as a possible replacement. It also involves Vader himself going behind the back of his Emperor, carrying out missions that undermine his blind obedience to his master. This is what led him to cross paths with Dr. Aphra, Triple-0, and BT, three characters that frequently steal the show in this series. There's just something inherently charming about a murderous version of C-3P0.

These subversive efforts, alongside his efforts at redeeming himself, give extra weight to Darth Vader's villainous legacy. It's a legacy that doesn't really need to be refined, especially in wake of the ill-fated, Gungan-filled prequels. However, this extra layer of complexity acts like the extra layer of frosting on a cake. It makes everything sweeter in the end.

The battle against Cylo comes to an end, one that involves a creative yet destructive use of the Jedi mind trick. Darth Vader's dealings with Dr. Aphra come to a head as well. All the secrets and plotting create such a unique dynamic between Darth Vader and Dr. Aphra, making for a confrontation with the Emperor that carries a significant amount of dramatic weight.

Anyone hoping for Darth Vader to show mercy for Dr. Aphra after all she's done for him will be disappointed. Within the context of this stage of the Star Wars mythos, nobody should be surprised either. Darth Vader at this stage of development is willing to encase Han Solo in carbonite and cut his son's hand off. He's more than willing to toss a loyal ally like Dr. Aphra out of an airlock. If anything, that's as merciful as he can possibly be at this point.

While not surprising, this moment carries weight because Gillen puts time and effort into crafting a unique relationship between Darth Vader and Dr. Aphra. Those efforts help give the moments in Darth Vader #25 the dramatic weight it needs to have an impact. It feels much more meaningful than Darth Vader just force choking an entire legion of Gungans, but is every bit as satisfying.

There's no question that Darth Vader is still bad to the cybernetic bone at this stage in the Star Wars mythos. His battle against Cylo and his confrontation with Dr. Aphra prove that beyond any doubt. However, Gillen does offer some hints that the Darth Vader who goes onto sacrifice himself to save his son is starting to emerge.

These hints are somewhat subtle, sometimes excessively so. They show mostly through the crisp artwork of Salvador Larroca. It's not as overt in Darth Vader #25 as it is in previous issues of this series, but the subtext is there. It doesn't add much to the dramatic weight of the story, which does skew the balance more to the Dark Side. However, given the context of the story, it's still appropriate.

Kieron Gillen didn't set out to remake or redefine Darth Vader with this series. More than anything else, he works to reinforce the devious, villainous part of the character that the prequels tried too hard to circumvent. There's still an internal struggle here that will manifest in the final minutes of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, but the tone of the narrative in Darth Vader #25 is clear. This narrative embraces the dark side and the results are impressive. Most impressive.

Final Score: 9 out of 10