Friday, February 5, 2016

X-men Supreme Uncut: Cyclops and Jean Grey's Cosmic Lovemaking


Over the past 15 years, Marvel has been on a mission in its comics. That mission is simple. If it is an iconic, historic, well-developed romance, then they will fuck it up, kill it, and spit on its corpse. Let's run down the list of iconic relationships that they've screwed over.

Cyclops/Jean Grey - death, psychic affairs, and X3

Scarlet Witch/Vision - death, psychotic breakdown, complete retcon

Rogue/Gambit - completely abandoned, utterly ignored, used for shitty cover ruses

Spider-Man/Mary Jane Watson - three words: One More Day

Nuff said!

I don't know if an editor at Marvel caught his wife fucking the pizza guy or something, but they really seem to have a vendetta against romance. Since I find vendettas to be a waste of time, I've chosen not to incorporate that shit into my X-men Supreme fanfiction series. While I might explore other pairings, including a few that you'll never see in the comics, I try to respect the classics.

And for those who respect them as well, I have a little winter treat to offer. It's another one of my sexy side-projects. It's a project born partially from being snowed in for days on end so keep that in mind. But more than anything else, it's pure, unapologetic romance with a lot of overt sexiness thrown into the mix. And this one involves the X-men's most iconic pairing that Marvel just loves screwing over, Cyclops and Jean Grey.

In the comics, these two have been beaten down and denigrated for all the wrong reasons. Whether it's Wolverine lusting after a married woman or Cyclops marrying a clone, few romances have been more shit on than Cyclops/Jean. In X-men Supreme, I wanted them to come together for all the right reasons. They finally did at the end of the Sinister Intent arc. I even did a sexy side-project of their first time together. With this, I want to take it further and make it a lot hotter.

This story takes place after the X-men Supreme Phoenix Saga. I already hinted they had gotten a lot friskier after the ordeal with the Phoenix. Well, this story goes into more graphic detail. They literally survived dying for one another. There's going to be a little extra passion so naturally, I decide to take it to its sexiest extreme. Enjoy!


Let's face it, Marvel is killing romance with a flamethrower and a machine gun. Their efforts to fill the void left by these iconic romances never pans out in the long run. Just ask Emma Frost. But at the very least, stories like X-men Supreme help keep some of those iconic romances alive. It might not always be the most complex ways to develop characters, but it can still be sexy as hell. Nuff said!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Adolescence Is Everybody's Kryptonite: Spider-Man #1

The following is my review of Spider-Man #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Creating an iconic character is like trying to create another Mona Lisa. There's no formula to it. Nobody truly knows whether a character will become an icon any more than Da Vinci knew that his paintings would be the subject of a Dan Brown novel. It's these iconic characters that make up the backbone of the comic book industry and if modern comics has a Mona Lisa, then it is best manifested in the character of Peter Parker.

He's not just a character that Marvel and Disney milk for billions. He's a proverbial everyman who readers can relate to more than aliens from Krypton, warriors from Paradise Island, or talking raccoons with machine guns. Peter Parker embodies that uniquely close connection with readers wherein his heroics and his persona aren't larger than life. The strength and success of Peter Parker helped make him an icon. He turned Toby McGuire a Hollywood superstar. He turned Andrew Garfield into someone other than that guy who once dated Emma Stone. Peter's influence is beyond dispute.

In the same way the music industry looks for the next Elvis Presley, Marvel keeps trying to create another Peter Parker. The success of such efforts are varied at best. For every Kamala Khan, there's are multiple Ben Rileys. By most measures, the biggest success to date is Miles Morales. He may have been born from the defunct pile of ashes that was the Ultimate Universe, but the strength of his character has made him an icon in his own right and he managed to do it without resorting to clones.

With the end of Secret Wars, Miles Morales has now set up shop in the prime Marvel Universe. Now, absent of the baggage that made the Ultimate Universe the ultimate afterthought, he's free to develop on a new path in Spider-Man #1. That path follows a similar route to Peter Parker with a few unique twists along the way. While the destination is the same, the route might be a bit too familiar at times.

Miles Morales is in a very different place compared to Peter Parker. It's not just because he's a teenager, he's still in high school, and he hasn't been cloned yet either. He's still trying to establish himself in this world of female Thors, talking trees, and time-displaced X-men. On top of all that, he has to do that while trying to navigate high school, grades, and teenage hormones. The responsibilities placed on him couldn't be more unreasonable without demanding he master origami in the process.

This is the sort of balancing act that Superman, Batman, and Captain America never have to deal with. They're adults dealing with adult problems. What Miles deals with, and what Peter Parker once dealt with as well, are problems that actual people face as teenagers. Give any teenager superpowers and they'll still struggle being a teenager. Adolescences is everybody's kryptonite to some degree. This is what made Peter Parker relatable in his youth. This is what makes Miles Morales relatable in Spider-Man #1.

Brian Michael Bendis goes out of his way to emphasize Miles' struggles as a teenage boy over his struggles as Spider-Man. He spends most of the issue out of his costume, dealing with the frustrations and complications that come with being a teenager. This includes struggling with grades, dealing with irate teenage girls, and discussing midterms with parents. For countless teenagers, this is every bit as daunting as a battle against Galactus.

It's a typical part of a teenager's life and a part that most adults try to forget. Spider-Man #1 goes out of its way to capture that and for good reasons. It's one of the most important elements of Spider-Man's formula. While this keeps Miles grounded, as prescribed by the classic Peter Parker formula, it does have some shortcomings.

At times, the narrative tries too hard to make Miles Morales into a younger, non-clone version of Peter Parker. In the same way it's impossible to recreate the Beatles without John Lennon, it's not possible to make Miles exactly like Peter. It's one thing to have him struggle with school, grades, and women. This has been the basis of every Spider-Man movie and cartoon for nearly two decades. However, Miles Morales has a few key elements that set him apart and these elements are poorly developed in Spider-Man #1.

Miles doesn't life with his Aunt and Uncle. Miles' best friend doesn't have a rich father who occasionally puts on goblin masks and throws pumpkin bombs. Most notably, Miles isn't the nerdy white boy that shows like The Big Bang Theory have been glorifying for a decade. He's a half-black, half-latino kid in an urban area. Expecting his experiences to be the same as Peter Parker requires a certain ignorance of 100 years of American race relations or a complete rejection of every rant Bill O'Riley has ever made on the subject.


That's not to say that these differences are outright ignored. Miles' friendship with Genke, as well as his dealings with his parents, do help establish that Miles is not a Peter Parker clone. In any Spider-Man story, that counts for a lot. However, the failure to explore the elements that make Miles a different kind of Spider-Man is a significant shortcoming for the story.

Despite such shortcomings, Spider-Man #1 still sticks close enough to the formula to work. It still shows Miles functioning as both a teenager and as Spider-Man. When he finally does put on his costume, he confronts a threat that doesn't feel like it was pasted from old Steve Ditko art. There is sufficient intrigue to make Miles Morales' story worth following.

Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli follow the necessary formula to make Miles Morales feel like Spider-Man, but the finished product feels incomplete. It lacks the kinds of egregious flaws that would make that formula volatile. There's never a sense in Spider-Man #1 that Miles Morales is ready to make a deal with Mephisto. Miles is still a long way from Peter Parker in terms of iconic status and movie appearances, but with this issue, he takes another important step.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Invincible Iron Man #6: Nuff Said!

Let’s face it. We as a society are totally schizophrenic with our attitudes towards billionaires. On one hand, we hate their guts for buying gold-plated toilet seats and paying migrant workers 15 cents a day to wipe their ass. At the same time, we adore and emulate them in every way we can. We strive to be them, as though we wish we could afford to be the assholes we know we are at heart. It’s a disturbing attitude, but it has made Iron Man the most important character in the Marvel universe.

To be fair to Tony Stark, he hasn’t carried himself with the kind of assholery we associate with billionaires. Brian Michael Bendis has started his run on Invincible Iron Man by fleshing out the vulnerabilities of Tony and not just by making him drink again. He’s become a more compelling character and the pride with which he bears his facial hair is respectable. But now he’s got Mary Jane Watson in his corner. That’s like giving Bill Belichick 10 first round draft picks. It’s an embarrassment of riches. But I’m going to explore these riches as I review Invincible Iron Man #6. I’ll try to keep my own schizophrenic attitudes in check, but I can’t make any promises.


Like many obscenely rich people, Tony Stark often sends others to do his work for him while he enjoys his obscene riches. This means sending War Machine out to Osaka, Japan to investigate some more bloody shenanigans by Madam Masque at a Stark Industries facility. There’s not much hint as to what she’s up to, but she caused another big bloody mess and probably got horny while doing it. That’s reason enough to send a walking War Machine to deal with her.


War Machine enters to find a distinct lack of homicidal women, which I guess should come as some surprise in a building owned by Tony Stark. He does encounter some unexpected surprises though. Sadly, it’s just a terrified, underpaid maid from the janitorial staff. War Machine gets a wet sponge to the face. But given the women Tony has dated, he might as well have gotten off with a free puppy.

He basically comes up with nothing. It’s at this point Tony tries to fill him in on all shit Madam Masque has been putting him through. It’s not enough she likes to steal his shit and bust his balls. She’s starting to dry-hump demons as well and after what happened with Illyana Rasputin, he doesn’t need that. He needs a way to find her without terrifying underpaid janitors. And Tony wants War Machine to do the heavy lifting.


Why is he doing the heavy lifting, you ask? Well, like I said, rich people like to pay others to do their shit for them so they can enjoy being rich. And in this case, Tony is completely occupied by the intimate company of Dr. Amara Perera. Apparently, he convinced her to let him into her panties and they’re in the middle of the morning afterglow. So yes, he’s in no condition to hunt down Madam Masque. The man does have priorities.

Now is it a typical dick move for Tony to send someone else to do his shit while he bangs hot women? Sure. However, Dr. Perera is not just another pair of tits and a hot ass that can be found in nearly every hip hop video ever made. She’s actually someone Tony has connected with in recent issues. And yes, I said that with a straight face. Bendis has gone out of his way to have Tony connect with someone who isn’t a machine, an alien, or an underpaid assistant. It may be shocking, but damn if it doesn’t work.


Tony continues to stake a permanent claim in Dr. Perera’s panties by buying her breakfast at some hole-in-the wall diner that he randomly decided has the best waffles in the world and thinks its cute to be so rich and eat there. Those are her words, not mine. They start talking science and progress, the kind of shit Tony Stark lives for. It’s a beautiful moment for a man whose character is indistinguishable at times from an overly elaborate porno.

Then, Dr. Doom shows up. No, I don’t mean that he attacks New York City with an army of Doombots. I mean he actually shows up at the diner, wearing a nice suit, and carrying a cup of coffee. He has no mask, no Ultimate Nullifier tucked in his pocket, and no dead Avengers under his shoes.

It’s not as fucked up as it sounds. In wake of Secret Wars, Dr. Doom has a new outlook on life and he’s been exploring that outlook in this series. He’s been aiding Iron Man in his battle against demons and mystic forces. And he’s done it with a style that would make Don Draper’s dick shrivel. Tony still doesn’t trust him for obvious reasons. He might still be evil, but now he’s a real smooth motherfucker kind of evil.

Not going to lie, I think this new Dr. Doom is more interesting than Tony Stark has ever been.


While Tony Stark is protecting his girlfriend and his balls from Dr. Doom, War Machine continues his mission as James Rhodes. Since he didn’t find anything in Stark’s building, he hits up a shady Japanese gambling den run by Yukio. If there’s anything involving demons and cybernetic ninjas in Japan, she would know about it. This is the sort of thing she used to deal with every Thursday after banging Wolverine on Wednesday night. And wouldn’t you know it? There is some hulking asshole with two beautiful women on his arms who might know a thing or two. Because people who know shady shit tend to attract beautiful women. I don’t think it’s fair either.


It’s official now. Tony Stark’s breakfast date with his girlfriend is ruined, but not because Dr. Doom brings a bomb with him. He just continues to being a smooth motherfucker and making Tony look like an ass. He doesn’t even flinch when Tony has his Iron Man suit on standby ready to blow his head off. It makes me think this Dr. Doom would be the ultimate poker player.

But he’s not just there so that Tony can make an ass of himself, although I’m sure that’s a nice bonus. He’s there to convince Tony he’s on a new path. That path doesn’t involve him going to jail, standing trail for his crimes, or dedicating the rest of his life to hugging puppies. But it’s a path that doesn’t involve conquering the world every other week so it’s still an upgrade.


Doom’s main concern also has to do with Madam Masque. She’s rubbing elbows with demons and that concerns him. He already helped Iron Man stop her from tearing the demonic realm a new asshole. However, he’s not content with just sparing the world from one too many Exorcist sequels. He wants to be more thorough and efficient at containing threats. And damn it, I want to cheer him on.

Tony still isn’t buying it. He’s still looking for any excuse to kill Doom and dance on his grave. But Doom never gives him one. He just claims he’s trying to reverse some of the damage he’s inflicted and maybe take down a few demons in the process. He also wants to look smooth as fuck while doing it. Even Tony has to respect that on some levels.


With all the smooth-talking, it’s easy to forget that this issue hasn’t had much action that didn’t involve underpaid janitors. Well, that finally changes when War Machine decides to put on his armor and track down the hulking asshole with two beautiful women in his arms. He’s not subtle either. I think Tony Stark requires that he not be while wearing one of his suits. It’s a standard Iron Man style traffic stop, complete with a gun fight and abrupt adjustment to car insurance premiums. It’s not as epic as a battle against the old version of Dr. Doom, but at least no underpaid janitors were harmed.


However, the battle takes an unexpected twist when the hulking asshole reveals a trick. Remember those two attractive women he had in his arms? The arm candy that makes irritable feminists everywhere want to neuter the nearest dog? Well, it turns out they’ve got fancy glowing swords and decide to join the fight. It catches War Machine by surprise and it should. This is 2016. Mad Max: Fury Road has been out for over a year now. Sexy badass women should no longer be so shocking.


So...is it awesome?

In the sense that it has no noticeable flaws other than making hot blondes everywhere want to sleep with Dr. Doom, yes. It is pretty damn awesome. This is the most polished, well-developed portrayal of Tony Stark with his pants on in quite some time. You can practically hear the charismatic wit of Robert Downey Jr. coming through every word. And if that doesn’t make hot blondes horny as well, then something is inherently wrong with human biology.

Invincible Iron Man #6 was fairly light on action, but heavy on everything else. Tony’s personal life got some added depth. War Machine got to flex his guns in a way that has nothing to do with dick jokes. And the All-New, All-Different Dr. Doom continues to upstage Iron Man in the best possible ways. At the rate he’s going, I might be inclined to polish Brian Michael Bendis’ head if I ever get the chance to meet him. This new path for Iron Man couldn’t be better without getting a supermodel involved. Wait…he hired Mary Jane Watson in the last issue? Never mind!

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Uncanny X-men #3: Nuff Said!

The success of Guardians of the Galaxy and the omega-level nerdgasms caused by the Suicide Squad trailer have proven one uncomfortable truth. We, as fans, don’t give a shit if our heroes are total assholes. We just care that they can get the job done and be badass while they’re at it. And I’m not talking about the John McClane type badassery either. I’m talking about the kind that is driven by greed, selfishness, and pussy hounding. We’d spit on these people if they worked on Wall Street, but since they’re heroes we cos-play as them at comic conventions.

Uncanny X-men has a number of characters who are about as noble as horny crack head in withdraw. Magneto was a villain for a reason. He’s perfectly okay with fear, murder, and destruction on a level that would make the Man of Steel critics shut the fuck up. He’s put together a team in Uncanny X-men that’s trying to kick the collective asses of a mutant race that’s been horribly fucked over and off-panel no less. That team has just been flexing their muscles a bit without bitching about Cyclops for the first two issues. Uncanny X-men #3 has them do a little more than flexing and I’m here to tell you if it’s awesome. These characters might still be assholes, but that’s beside the point.


If nothing else, the X-men get a damn good reason to keep being assholes. They arrive at an M-pox treatment center in Seattle, Washington. Not content with being coffee-addicted hipsters, they want to protest sick mutants. For some reason, they think protesting will stop them from spreading a disease triggered by a fucking Inhumans plot. I don’t get it either, but Psylocke and Magneto are beyond giving a shit. They’re just there to sneak in under a telepathic ruse and resist the urge to punch every whiny protester in the jaw. They may be assholes, but their restraint is respectable.


Their target is Triage, the lovable healer from Cyclops’ old team who once flirted with the Stepford Cuckoos and survived. He’s offering his services to M-pox victims. He can’t cure it, but he can temporarily alleviate the symptoms. It’s basically Big Pharma’s whole business plan. Hell, if they could could patent his ass and charge obscene amounts of money for his services, they’d have done it yesterday.

They give him the typical Terminator speech. Triage’s life is in danger and it’s not just from Big Pharma. Someone is using healers for target practice and since healing is kind of important during a plague, they need to protect his ass whether he likes it or not.


With a ruthless efficiency almost as good as Big Pharma lobbyists, the Dark Riders show up before Magneto and Psylocke can convince Triage he’s half-a-drop of lube from being utterly fucked. They hit hard. One of them is a blatant Storm rip-off with none of the sex appeal. He gets the protesters out of the way and running towards the nearest Starbucks for cover. At this point, I’m pretty sure Triage is starting to accept just how fucked he is. It really is a serious situation with plenty of dramatic weight. These guys already killed a healer in the previous issue. They can’t be brushed off the same way the X-men brush off a standard Sentinel attack.


While Psylocke stays with Triage, Magneto does what he does best and with extreme prejudice. In this case, extreme prejudice is a good thing, but not in the Rick Santorum sort of way. Magneto flexes his magnet-controlling nuts against the Dark Riders. These assholes already killed one mutant. He’s not going to let them kill another and he’s going to be an asshole about it. It’s a perfect metaphor of sorts for how these X-men do business.

However, he has to temper his rage boner to some extent, but for reasons other than catastrophic bladder damage. He needs to keep the Dark Riders alive and scared shitless enough for Psylocke to scan their minds and learn more about them. It’s probably the most restrained Magneto is willing to, hoping to find the asshole who sent these guys to kill all the healers. Like waiting for that perfect stripper, he’s wants to save some of that rage boner for a good occasion.


This is where Greg Land’s art once again shines. Yeah, he does occasionally draw female characters with the body dimensions of Jenna Jameson. And yeah, he does sometimes give characters the kinds of goofy expressions we only see in deodorant commercials. But he draws some damn good action sequences.

Magneto’s battle against the Dark Riders is fucking brutal in the best possible way. He’s not heroic, but he stops short of Dexter Morgan level brutality. This keeps the Dark Riders from becoming giant blood stains. It also helps save Triage from joining Elixer as another mutant screwed over by the aftermath of Secret Wars. I think even Cyclops would agree at this point that the list is long enough.


Triage isn’t the only healer the X-men are after either. While Magneto and Psylocke are busy saving his ungrateful ass, Monet visits another healer in Shen Xorn in Tibet. Who is Xorn? Well he may be Magneto in disguise. He may be some creepy mutant healer in a creepy mask. It depends on how much shit was retconned since the last time I got drunk. But he is a healer and that makes him a target.

He ends up being a lot more polite than Triage. He’s very welcoming to Monet and not because Greg Land gave her nice tits either. He offers her tea and kindly denies her offer for help. While Magneto would’ve strangled his ass for being so casual about threats to their race (assuming he’s still not in disguise), Monet minds her manners. Even on a team of assholes, someone has to mind their manners. Not much comes of this moment, which really disrupts the story. But at the very least, it establishes that Monet is the least inclined to horribly maim someone on this team.


Whether by force or fear, Triage goes with Magneto and Psylocke. They have a nice chat about just how fucked the mutant race is and once again, they don’t go out of their way to blame Cyclops. Yes, Magneto is less petty than Storm in the post-Secret Wars world apparently. But their conversation does reveal some important details that add to the intrigue.

Apparently, the Dark Riders see the plague the same way a pot head sees an unopened bag of chips. It’s an opportunity to indulge their belief that such horrific tribulations are good thing because they weed out the weak, pansy motherfuckers who are holding them all back. It’s a natural part of the universe screwing over the mutant race and healers like Triage are fucking with it. And they do have a leader. Hunting down healers and killing them is just their way of kissing that leaders boot.

Now I don’t like to make too many assumptions when it comes to these stories, but an extreme philosophy of survival of the fittest? That sounds familiar and I think it’s the premise of some Bryan Singer movie coming out in May, but his name escapes me.


Magneto, Psylocke, and Triage arrive on Genosha, which I guess is their unofficial base of operations. Because if you’re going to be a team of asshole X-men, a school just isn’t appropriate. An island where 16 million mutants died? Well, that’s not appropriate either, but I’m guessing the Terrigen Mists have limited their options for real estate. They meet up with Sabretooth, he says Xorn isn’t going to come with them. However, they do have intel on the Dark Riders so instead of waiting for another healer to die, they’re just going to hunt them down and take them out as brutally as possible. They’re assholes, but they’re efficient assholes.


As the X-men move ahead, it’s worth remembering that this shit all started when they attacked a company that was putting mutants into suspended animation so they could sleep through this dark period of mutants being screwed over due to movie rights. Well, that company is still in business. If Sears is somehow still in business, then there’s no reason these guys shouldn’t be.

But they’re still targets. You’d think they’d cut their losses after Magneto attacks them. Well, now it’s Fantomex, Mystique, and guards from the Hellfire Club. Why is the Hellfire Club helping them? I guess they need mutants for their orgies or something. It’s one thing to have Magneto and the X-men as enemies, but Mystique, Fantomex, and the Hellfire Club? At this point, it’s probably best they cut their losses and get into another business. Even the tobacco industry is less hazardous at this point.


So...is it awesome?

It’s violent, it’s brutal, and it moves the story along. In this day and age, we’re lucky to get two out of three on that list. The violence and the brutality isn’t quite as visceral as previous issues. And the plot of the story doesn’t move forward much. But compared to other plots involving Cyclops-hating, Inhumans-glorifying bullshit, this shit was right on point. More characters are getting involved. The threats the X-men deal with are evolving. There’s a lot to love about this cast of crude, unlovable asshats. And I didn’t think I’d be able to say that about any character not created by Seth MacFarlane.

The cast in Uncanny X-men #3 might not be in a position to do anything about the movie rights. They sure as shit aren’t going to make mutants less hated and feared. But they are going to survive and they’ve shown in this series that they’re willing to make you shit yourself in order to do that. You can’t help but respect that on some levels.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Living in a (Fleeting) Moment: All-New, All-Different Avengers #4

The following is my review of Uncanny X-men #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


There's a reason why the YOLO (You Only Live Once) meme became annoying quicker than a failed American Idol audition. As a concept, it's not inherently wrong. Despite what some world religions might claim, we only know for certain that we have one life to live. In the Marvel Universe, however, the concept becomes a bit more flawed and a lot more complicated.

It's not just because death in comics is a revolving door with a rusted lock. Because of retcons, reboots, and clones the concept of living in the moment might as well come with an asterisk. That still doesn't stop some characters from embracing the concept in a completely non-hipster type way. It's the primary lesson conveyed on All-New, All-Different Avengers #4. And it's conveyed in a way that even the cynical and the jaded can appreciate.

Mark Waid was tasked with assembling a new team of Avengers in the post-Secret Wars world. It sounds like a simple task, but when billion-dollar movie franchises are built on these teams, the stakes are a bit higher than placating fickle fanboys. Waid still rose to the occasion, creating a team of Avengers that includes familiar faces, rising stars, and a solid mix of diversity. While Glen Beck hasn't complained about it yet, it's a team that reflects a fitting and appropriate sentiment for 2016.

The first three issues of the series was a standard coming together story. It wasn't nearly as epic as a certain movie staring Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., but it didn't feel as overplayed as a certain movie starting Andrew Garfield. All-New, All-Different Avengers #4 offers the first real insight into how this new team of Avengers functions and it does so in a way that never feels like a bad reality show or a 60s era sitcom.

There's just a real insight into this new team that feels genuine and balanced. It's basically the complete antithesis of the team dynamics we see in Lethal Weapon movies. There are very different personalities with characters like Nova, Ms. Marvel, and Vision. However, those personalities find a way to mesh in a manner that never feels forced. They don't need a drill sergeant or football coach to whip them into shape. They're not the Cleveland Browns. They're the Avengers.

When they get a chance to demonstrate their competence as Avengers, they pass the test. They don't necessarily pass with flying colors, but when the enemy involved is Cyclone, the test is graded on a curve. He's no Red Skull. Even Hugo Weaving couldn't make Cyclone an intimidating threat. However, he does give this new team of Avengers a chance to shine. While the scope of their efforts are as generic as a traffic stop on the Jersey Turnpike, the battle against Cyclone reflects the new normal for this era of Avengers.

It's not just the diversity that makes this new team of Avengers feel appropriate. It comes back to those sensibilities that we, the society of 2016, have developed in recent years. It's no longer enough for the Avengers to show up, fight monsters, punch the Red Skull in the face, and tell kids to eat their vegetables. As the backlash against movies like Man of Steel have shown, modern audiences care about civilian casualties. Indeed, in an era when the failures of our heroes are more scrutinized than ever, society is much less forgiving of missteps and oversights.

The Avengers in this conflict go out of their way to protect the civilians caught in Cyclone's attack. It takes up a good chunk of the fight. While Cyclone eventually gets knocked out in the same tradition as the Red Skull, the emphasis on protecting civilians adds an important dynamic to what would otherwise be the superhero equivalent of a typical Tuesday.

Beyond the new dynamics of a diverse, civilian-focused Avengers, there is another moment that adds weight to an otherwise typical clash in the new Prime Marvel universe. It comes in the form of a kiss between the new Captain America, Sam Wilson, and the new Thor, Jane Foster. In this case, the cover isn't an elaborate form of trolling in the tradition of Action Comics #600 or Astonishing X-men #14. This kiss does happen, but it's not the kind of kiss that will appeal to the Twilight crowd.


This moment between Sam Wilson and Jane Foster is another keen reflection on 2016 sensibilities. It comes after both characters get reminded that they look nothing like Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth. There are fans, even within the comic itself, that whine about Captain America and Thor not being the "classic" versions. It's the whining internet trolls of comic book message boards taking form and substance. However, Sam and Jane deal with it in the best way possible and it doesn't involve whining to a moderator.

The two characters kiss. They do so after Sam laments about living up to the high bar set by Steve Rogers. Jane, whose true identity is still a mystery to everyone on the team, understands that these are unreasonable standards set by unreasonable people who make unreasonable comments on the internet. The kiss is just a good way of reinforcing her point and shutting him up.

At the same time, however, it isn't conveyed as a kiss that will create Marvel's next big power couple. This is not their response to DC's efforts with Superman and Wonder Woman. At the very most, this is just an awkward kiss at the end of a junior prom. In the context of the story, this is probably for the best.

Over the past decade or so, Marvel has treated romance and iconic couples with the same tact and care as a Jerry Springer rerun. It's gotten to a point where there are no iconic romances left in Marvel's vast mythos. Some have been killed off, retconned out of existence, or denigrated beyond repair. Marvel has treated their most iconic romances with the same care a two-year-old treats bowl of pasta. They only know how to make it into a mess and neither Sam Wilson nor Jane Foster deserve such treatment.

This kiss and the dynamics built around it give All-New, All-Different Avengers #4 just the right impact. There's a sense of hope, albeit fleeting, that this team can function in 2016 in all its unique sensibilities. Mark Waid has taken a diverse cast with iconic names and made it feel genuine. Glen Beck may still protest at some point, but that would only confirm that this new team of Avengers is doing something right.

Final Score: 9 out of 10