Friday, September 15, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 157: Drug War Part 3 PREVIEW!


It’s one thing for the X-men to battle a cunning enemy like Sebastian Shaw when they’re at full strength. It’s quite another when they have to fight that battle when divided. X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided began by establishing the extent of that division. This fanfiction series took a fateful turn in X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide. The team that had been united against the likes of Sinister, Magneto, and the entire Shi’ar Empire is fractured. Charles Xavier’s bold, but controversial efforts with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative triggered it. Now, both the X-men and X-Force are feeling the full impact.

The struggles in Volatility Sensibility were just a precursor. Sebastian Shaw, who has done plenty to leave his mark on this fanfiction series going back to the Phoenix Saga, is taking full advantage in the divisions of the X-men and the reservations many still have with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. One mutant, Beak, already fell victim to his influence in X-men Supreme Issue 153: Revolting Youth. Now, Jubilee and the Five Lights, characters that some X-men fans remember well, take it a step further.

The Drug War arc is the first real instance where Charles Xavier and his X-men deal with one of their major enemies exploiting the situation created by the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It was only a matter of time. Bold actions always triggers bolder reactions. The X-men experienced that after the election of President Kelly and the arrival of General Grimshaw. However, they’ve never encountered a battle like this. What happens may very well determine the fate of the initiative, the X-men, and mutants, as a whole.

There have already been plenty of complications, some of which will have a major influence on future events within this fanfiction series. If you read the end of X-men Supreme Issue 156: Drug War Part 2, you already know what and who I’m talking about. It has already disrupted Sebastian Shaw’s plans. It’s about to disrupt much more than that. Jubilee and the Five Lights are still under his influence. Chimera still has X-Force pinned down. There’s still the issue of Mutant Growth Hormone. Like dangerous drugs in the real world, it’s a problem that can’t be uncreated.

There’s only one issue left in the Drug War arc. It’s the biggest arc in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided to date. It’ll also mark the first turning point in the struggle between the X-men and X-Force. If you want to know where this fanfiction series is heading, this is an issue you don’t want to miss. As always, I’ve prepared a preview of this defining battle that will shape the course of X-men Supreme.

“So c-c-cold. Even for a R-R-Russian,” grunted Colossus as he tried to divert Idie’s ice blast.

“Go, Teon! Break him!” urged Idie.

“FIGHT!” roared Teon as he moved in and attacked with a punishing right cross.

Colossus went up to block the attack. This time when Teon struck his arm, he felt a distinct snap. Even through his metal skin, the bones and flesh beneath broke in a way that put him in a world of pain.

“ARRRRGGGHHHHH!” exclaimed the Russian.

“My heavens…she made his metal skin brittle,” gasped Beast, who was trying to escape Kenji’s tentacles, “Hang on, my friend! I will assist you!”

“You’ll watch him suffer and hate every moment of it,” seethed Kenji.

Beast had been using his agility to avoid being completely smothered like Rogue and Storm. Upon seeing Colossus’s injury, he attempted to leap out of his swarm of tentacle appendages completely. That ended up being a poor decision.

Before he was even a few feet off the ground, Kenji’s tentacles slithered around his feet and pulled him back. Beast ended up falling flat on his face, allowing Kenji to completely encase him. Beast could only watch as Colossus writhed under Teon and Idie’s menacing presence. He was then pulled up into the air so that he was suspended next to Rogue and Storm.

“Welcome to the club, Beast. Uncomfortable yet?” said Rogue dryly with only her face showing through the tentacles.

“It’s not the most awkward position I’ve been in, but it’s close,” grunted Beast as more of Kenji’s tentacles wrapped around him.

“Any chance you could lend a hand to myself or Colossus, Storm?” asked Beast, “I know you’re in a tight spot, but we could use some help from Mother Nature.”

“I’m…trying,” grunted Storm, who was very short of breath, “This boy…not letting me concentrate. Can’t-mmf!”

Storm was silenced by one of Kenji’s tentacles shoving itself right into her mouth. It rendered her even less inclined to summon any help from the weather. It was Kenji’s way of proving that he was in control.

“My collection is growing,” seethed Kenji from within his oversized humanoid form, “Once I have your friends, I shall make your deaths my greatest masterpiece!”

“Hnn…if this is your brand of art, you’re even sicker than you look,” grunted Rogue.

“Belittling our adversaries is only making it worse, Rogue,” said Beast as he felt the tentacles around him tighten.

“Errr! Got a better idea?” said Rogue, getting short of breath as well, “Where in the heck is Captain Freeman? Ah thought he-mmf!”

Rogue was silenced just as Storm had been. Kenji forced one of his tentacles into her mouth to shut her up, leaving her at his mercy.

“No ideas will save you now,” scoffed Kenji, “We are the Lights of the Inner Circle! We are linked by a power you cannot possibly understand! You can never hope to…”

“KENJI LOOK OUT!”

The Japanese mutant was cut off by an unexpected cry from above. Kenji was so focused on keeping Beast, Rogue, and Storm restrained that he didn’t notice an ominous shadow passing over him. When he looked up, he saw the large figure of Laurie spiraling out of control.

On her back was Captain Freeman, who was using the dragonfly-like wings she formed to direct her chaotic descent. He directed her right into the chest of the oversized creature Kenji had created. That was also the area where Kenji himself resided. From within this hulking monstrosity, his eyes widened as Laurie crashed into him head on.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” they both yelled out.

The impact that followed caused much of Kenji’s large form to scatter like wet mud. The humanoid figure he form dissolved as his amorphous form mixed with Laurie’s. As they tumbled roughly to the ground, the many tentacles Kenji formed dissolved. That freed Rogue, Storm, and Beast from their confines. As they fell to the ground, Captain Freeman was there to meet up with them. Having leapt off Laurie’s back before she and Kenji collided, he rushed to their aid.

“Sorry I’m late guys. That crazy fish girl was a fighter,” said Captain Freeman as he and Beast helped Storm stay upright.

“No worries, Captain. Your timing was impeccable,” said Beast.

“I would have preferred it to be a few moments earlier,” said Storm, still coughing up pieces of dissolved tentacle.

“I’ll work on that for future missions,” assured the Green Beret, “But first, I plan on ending this mission on a high note!”

The mutant soldier earned some much-needed credibility with this latest stunt. Storm and Beast were more inclined to believe him. However, these six mutants weren’t going to make it easy for him.

“The only thing you’ll end is your life!” seethed Jubilee,  now flying towards them at high speeds, “I’ll make you wish Kenji had crushed you!”

In her blind rage, Jubilee formed another glowing ball of energy in her hands. Without taking careful aim, she unleashed it right towards them. Captain Freeman prepared to shield Storm and Beast with his adaptive form. This time, though, he didn’t have to.

Rogue came rushing in from the side and stepped in front of the incoming blast. But instead of just absorbing it, she punched it with her enhanced strength. That caused the ball of energy to fly right back towards Jubilee. Since she was going so fast, she couldn’t avoid it. When it struck, it sent her flying in the other direction.

“What the-UNGH!” she exclaimed.

“Sorry Ah had to do that Jubes, but that pal of yours left a nasty taste in mah mouth. Ah had to take it out on someone,” said Rogue as she rubbed her fist.

“Thanks, Rogue. It’s good to know you’re still pissed off enough to fight,” said Captain Freeman with a grin.

“Ah don’t care if it is Jubilee and a bunch of kids. They’re playmates with Shaw. Someone’s gotta give them a timeout,” she said strongly.

Now more emboldened they turned their attention to Gabriel, Idie, and Teon. The sudden shift in the battle hadn’t gone unnoticed, either. The X-men weren’t as disorganized or inept as they expected. They continued undermining the Inner Circle. This could not stand. Their king and queen wouldn’t allow it.


There’s a lot I want to accomplish with the Drug War arc. The big reveal at the end of X-men Supreme Issue 156: Drug War Part 2 has already set the stage for the next major upheaval in this fanfiction series. Given the events and twists of the recent X-men comics, I think the timing is perfect. Some of that wasn’t planned, on my part, but I have tweaked some of those plans accordingly for reasons I hope will become obvious.

X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided is the most ambitious entry of this fanfiction series to date. I knew before I wrote the first issue that I was going to be upsetting some X-men fans with my decisions. I’ve heard some of those concerns in the feedback that I’ve gotten. To those readers, I urge you to trust my vision. There is a payoff and it will come. Even before that point, though, I need plenty of feedback to ensure that payoff is as awesome as it can possibly be. Either contact me directly with your comments or ignore the spam and post your comments directly in the issue. Either way is fine, but contacting me will probably be more efficient for now. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Titles, Legacies, and Basics: Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-Vell #1

The following is my review of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


The story of one hero taking on the mantle of another is one of the most controversial stories that can be told, albeit for all the wrong reasons. No matter how great or terrible that story actually is, there will always be a certain contingent of fans who are ardent traditionalist. To them, Batman must always be Bruce Wayne. Steve Rogers must always be Captain America. Peter Parker must always be Spider-Man, preferably a version not foolish enough to make deals with Mephisto.

There's nothing anyone can do to placate those fans, short of ending the story permanently and letting them fume in their own little world of utopian nostalgia. Since that's not a very interesting story, Marvel Generations is doing the next best thing by adding depth and connections between the heroes of the past and the heroes of the present. The titles may be the same, but the characters, context, and narrative are very different. The only thing that doesn't change is the incessant whining by the ardent traditionalists still arguing why Gwen Stacy should come back.

Regardless of how ardent certain fans may be, most tend to agree that certain characters can benefit from that added depth more than others. At the moment, few characters are need of that depth more than Carol Danvers. Through the masterful efforts of writers like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Carol ascends to a level of prominence that makes her the closest thing Marvel has to Wonder Woman. The fact she takes the title of Captain Marvel in the process is almost secondary. Then, Civil War II happens and suddenly, she's the most controversial non-clone character in all of Marvel.

That makes the stakes in Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 that much higher. Margaret Stohl already has a daunting task as the writer of Mighty Captain Marvel, which attempts to rebuild Carol's status as Marvel's premier female hero after Civil War II. The events of Secret Empire and Marvel Legacy put her in a position to recapture some of those elements that make Captain Marvel a title that anyone of any gender would be proud to have.


Part of that effort involves taking Captain Marvel back to basics, none of which involve superhero politics, visions of the future, or arguments about how long Carol's hair should be. Instead, Carol finds herself in the middle of an war in the Negative Zone that involves an unfamiliar race of aliens, a familiar threat in Annihilus, and her old mentor, the original Captain Mar-Vell. It has all the ingredients to bring out the best in Carol Danvers. It won't settle debates her hair, but even Captain Marvel's power can only go so far.

That power is enough for her and Mar-Vell to carry out the feats for anyone wielding that title. As with previous issues of Marvel Generations, there's not a whole lot of context surrounding the Vanishing Point. There really doesn't have to be. Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 is a bit more concise in that it establishes a clear connection between the events in this story and those of Secret Empire #10. That approach allows Carol to hit the ground running within a chaotic, sci-fi heavy alien war that maximizes Brent Schoonover's colorful art style. Compared to the bleak circumstances of Secret Empire, it's pretty refreshing.

The same can be said about Carol's interactions with Mar-Vell. Much of it is built around over-the-top sci-fi action, but that's fairly in line with their history. Whatever their titles, both characters define themselves by their alien connections. It's a big part of how the connection they forge. The events of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 occur before that connection really blossoms, but it establishes that these two characters share more than a title.

In between battles against aliens and arguing with a race that isn't used to these kinds of battles, there's a fair amount of drama between the two characters. They both have different styles. Carol is more hot-headed and impulsive. Mar-Vell is more cunning and diplomatic. There are times Carol's approach proves effective. There are times when Mar-Vell's approach works as well. It creates tensions, but it's the productive kind of tension. That may seem shocking in an era where tensions between superheroes serve as the basis for every other major event at Marvel, but Stohl shows how it can work.

Carol Danvers and Mar-Vell wield the same title, but are effective at honoring that title in their own unique way. They both say they work alone, but it's only when they use those ways together that they prove most effective. It comes off as a lesson that both characters need to learn. In Carol's case, it's a lesson that's worth re-learning, given her recent missteps among her fellow superheroes. It gives the impression that Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 leaves Carol in a better place, as a character.

In that sense, the overall story has both the basics and a sense of purpose. It feels complete in the sense that it has a relevant impact on both Carol Danvers and Mar-Vell. There are some shortcomings, in terms of details. The story does drag, somewhat, in a few areas. Even with sci-fi settings and a major threat like Annihilus, it never feels as epic as other memorable space battles. Some of that may be due to the restrictions of the Vanishing Point. Like other issues of Marvel Generations, it can only do so much before the timeline snaps back into position.

Whatever limitations there are on the premise of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1, Stohl and Schoonover get the most out of it for the characters involved. By getting back to basics for anyone bearing the title of Captain Marvel, it demonstrates that there is a legacy to that title and one that's worth upholding. Whether or not Carol uses that legacy to improve her standing within the Marvel pantheon remains to be seen, but between gaining a better perspective and taking her frustrations out on Annihilus, she's in a much better place now.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Red Queen Chronicles: The Prodigy Part 1 is LIVE!


Summer is over, but I'm not done heating panties or triggering awkward boners in public places. That's right. I have another sexy side-project and even if you've put your bikini away, this should still make you feel hot all over for all the right reasons. You're welcome.

Once again, I've been amazed with the feedback I've gotten for my "Red Queen" series. It's hard to believe that this all started with just some twisted little story I did about Mary Jane being a prostitute in an AU that involved no deals with Mephisto. I never intended to expand that story as much as I have, but between the feedback I've gotten and all the new ideas it has inspired, I just keep building on it.

I like to think I've set a sexy foundation on which many sexy stories can be told. I've already told quite a few, some more elaborate than others. I've tried, for the most part, to give them some semblance of plot. I understand that's not the primary reason people read these sexy side-projects, but I think a little plot goes a long way towards adding to the sex appeal. This latest project is no exception.

With it, I'll actually be exploring some other aspects to this sexy AU I've created. Specifically, it digs a little deeper into Mary Jane's history as a prostitute. That history will lead her to meet up with a character whose prostitution history is actually canon in Laura "X-23" Kinney. She's always been a favorite of mine. As soon as I began expanding this series, I knew I would get to her sooner or later. It turned out to be sooner.

This story will be a two-part story. It'll explore the past and expand on the present in ways I hope will moisten panties and stain boxers. The first one is officially up. Given how quickly X-23's star has risen in recent years, I think the time is right for her to gain a little sex appeal.


As always, I strongly encourage everyone to provide feedback for this story. I've already gotten far more than I ever expected with this series. The more I get, the more incentive I have to keep growing this series. I hope this one continues that sexy tradition. Mary Jane may not need more sex appeal at this point, but a little more could never hurt. Nuff said!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Building (and Tinkering with) a Legacy: Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1

The following is my review of Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


When a new character takes on the legacy of an older one, the greatest challenge is making that transition seem fitting and meaningful. It helps when the older character has a sizable network of friends, family, and side-kicks in the wings, ready to carry on that legacy in a way that feels like a true extension of the story. This is how Batman's legacy can continue whenever Bruce Wayne is MIA, whether it's through Dick Grayson, Terry McGuinness, or the occasional robot.

Unfortunately for the legacy of Iron Man, Tony Stark isn't as keen on side-kicks and family. Throughout his history, he tends to monopolize all things Iron Man. At times, he gives the impression that he only tolerates War Machine because he doesn't use a title or color scheme that undermines his brand. He's akin to a musician who doesn't mind people doing goofy parodies of his music. That may be an effective way to control a legacy, but it does create issues once Tony is unavailable. With no Robin or even a Bucky Barnes waiting in the wings, Iron Man's legacy is especially vulnerable.

That makes the task Brian Michael Bendis undertook in creating Riri Williams all the more daunting. He doesn't have the time or capacity to create the kind of built-in legacy that Batman has. He has to put Riri in this role of filling in for Tony Stark with next to no build-up or dramatic underpinnings. Riri just happens to be in the right place at the right time when Tony Stark goes down in Civil War II. It's the kind of happenstance that can only come at Marvel where Cosmic Cubes, deals with Mephisto, and the Scarlet Witch going crazy constantly skew the odds.

With Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1, Bendis has a chance to forge a greater personal connection between Tony Stark and Riri Williams. In a sense, that sort of connection is overdue because even in his AI form, Tony acts more as a guide than a mentor to Riri. The lack of any deeper undertones still creates the impression that Riri's role is forced and contrived. Creating a more personal connection can help mitigate that impression.

Bendis makes that effort and even tries a different approach, compared to previous iterations of Marvel Generations. Whereas the other stories have taken characters to the past, he takes Riri to the future. That's somewhat more practical, given the inherent themes of futurism in Iron Man. However, pragmatics only go so far. When it comes to actual substance, the story falters and only ends up highlighting the reasons certain fans complain about Riri in the first place.

By taking the story to the future instead of the past, she ends up in a very different world, compared to the one she comes from. This is inherently an issue for her character because so much of her story is tied to her situation in the present. Her family, being from Chicago, and stumbling through the growing pains of being a hero are part of what makes Riri's story compelling. None of that is present in Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1. That leaves Riri isolated and only highlights some of her less flattering traits.

From the moment she arrives in the future, Riri basically acts as her own narrator. It tries to come off as cute and awkward, as is often the nature of teenagers, but it just comes off as annoying and self-centered. She doesn't say or ponder anything that isn't depicted by Marco Rudy's skilled art. When she encounters familiar-looking heroes from the future, including a next-generation Avengers team and a 126-year-old Tony Stark, who also happens to be the Sorcerer Supreme, the moment falls flat. For overly-emotional teenagers, that just goes against the laws of physics.

That's not to say Riri is cold in the story. She does make it a point to hug Tony when she gets the chance. However, that's pretty much the extent of the connection they forge. It's also the extent of the drama in the story. There's no epic battle. There's no shared struggle. One is teased, but goes absolutely nowhere. There's no point where Riri really works with Tony, thereby gaining a better understanding of what it means to be Ironheart. She basically just sits back, watches, and gets a crash course in how great the future is.

While that sort of techno-utopian ideology is a key component to Iron Man, Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1 doesn't present it in a very compelling way. It's mostly done through Tony Stark talking, Riri Williams reacting, and everyone else just shrugging their shoulders. It's as compelling as it sounds. There aren't any moments of real struggle with Riri. She's basically just a guest passing through and not much else. Her passing out when she first arrives is the most she does to move the story forward.

That's not to say there's no overall impact for Riri. Seeing the future and all the beauty that Rudy's art can depict leaves an important impression. It shows that the future she, Tony, and all things Iron Man are trying to build is worth building. That's a meaningful impression, but one that doesn't need to be belabored in an Iron Man comic, which is built on the very premise that a better future can be built. Riri's story already involves plenty of future-building so the impression comes off as redundant.

Bendis has many opportunities to craft a more meaningful connection between Riri and Tony in Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1. Few, if any, of those opportunities pan out. Riri still comes off as an annoying teenager who basically stumbles to success at every turn as Ironheart and Tony comes off as overly coy with his ego. The story succeeds at capturing the futurism themes inherent of most Iron Man stories, but that's all it succeeds with. For someone as capable as Riri Williams and Tony Stark, that's just too low a bar.


Final Score: 4 out of 10

Friday, September 1, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 156: Drug War Part 2 is LIVE!


When it comes to humans and mutants, there are few ways to make some things easier and infinite ways to make everything harder. The X-men seem to learn this every week in the comics. They learn those lessons just as often in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Magneto has certainly made the X-men’s efforts difficult in arcs like Uprising and Overlord, creating plenty of fear and hatred to undermine the peace and understanding that Charles Xavier is trying to promote. At least Magneto has a dream of his own. Some of the X-men’s foes are far more selfish and far more devious.

That describes Sebastian Shaw to the letter. He’s already made quite a mark in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. When he wasn’t busy corrupting the Phoenix Force in the Phoenix Saga, his son was laying the groundwork for programs like Weapon Plus. Despite being severely wounded by Wolverine, he managed to make a comeback in the Dark Legacy arc. Now, he’s ready to exploit the divisions in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. Being a ruthless businessman, he’s found his opportunity in Mutant Growth Hormone.

What X-Factor discovered in X-men Supreme Issue 153: Revolting Youth was just the tip of the iceberg. This potent drug, which has its roots in the X-men comics, has the potential to create more complications than even Magneto could’ve inspired. This doesn’t just augment mutant powers. It can take ordinary mutants like Beak, who have no interest in taking a side with Magneto or Charles Xavier, and turn them into monsters. In terms of making things harder for the X-men at a time when they’re so divided, Shaw’s timing and cunning couldn’t be worse.

He’s already exploiting the X-men’s divisions. The Drug War arc has established that, like the X-men comics, Sebastian Shaw has a great many resources and manpower at his disposal in this fanfiction series. He’s poised produce vast quantities of MGH. How this serves his agenda has yet to be revealed, but the X-men and X-Force can’t afford to find that out the hard way. They need to stop him. Unfortunately, the circumstances in X-men Supreme are not in their favor.

Being divided and desperate, the X-men took a bold chance and sent Jubilee to infiltrate Sebastian Shaw’s operation. Along the way, she met a young group of mutants that X-men fans should recognize from Generation Hope. In the comics, they were the Five Lights. In the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, they are just five mutants who seek better opportunities than the ones laid out to them by the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. Their desperation is Sebastian Shaw’s gain.

Both the X-men and X-Force are now on the front lines, but after the events of Volatility Sensibility, the margin for error is painfully small. Both teams have already struggled to operate on their own and have shown no ability to set aside their differences, even in the face of a threat like Sebastian Shaw. Failure at this point will make for some dire consequences for the future of X-men Supreme. That future is already bleak as the battle in Drug War is set to escalate.

X-men Supreme Issue 156: Drug War Part 2

This is going to be a messy battle for the X-men and X-Force, alike. These are messy times for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, as a whole. I know that’s very different from what’s going on in the X-men comics right now. Believe me, I didn’t plan it that way when I laid out the story for X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. I get that many X-men fans are tired of schisms and civil wars. However, I still want to make this fanfiction series feel relevant, even as events in the X-men comics change.

As always, that means your feedback and comments are critical. Please, if you can, take the time to review this issue and any others that you’ve been following. Every bit of feedback helps and every bit of criticism helps ensure that X-men Supreme is as awesome as it deserves to be. Either post your comments directly in the issue or contact me directly. Please don’t mind the spam in the comments section. It may just be easier to contact me for now. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack