Friday, August 29, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Cyclops #4


Some people are better equipped to deal with shitty situations than others. These people will fuck up like everybody else, but they'll actually find a way to come out stronger. They're the ones that become accomplished athletes and businessmen. Sometimes they'll also become politicians and lawyers, but we take the good with the bad. Superheroes have to deal with shittier situations than any overpaid athlete or well-connected politician. They can't always buy or charm their way out of a problem, unless they're name is Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne. They have to be survivors. Cyclops has definitely survived some pretty amazing shit, including but limited two a couple of dead wives, a clone, and a homicidal lost brother. But O5 Cyclops hasn't survived these things yet and hasn't yet become the alpha male X-man who's equipped to confront any threat and still have the strength to bone Emma Frost and Jean Grey.

That's what has made the Cyclops solo series so enjoyable. We get to see O5 Cyclops on his journey to becoming this survivor with help from his father of all people. In Cyclops #4 he gets a chance to learn a very important set of survival skills, namely those that help him survive being stranded on an alien planet. Even though he's just a teenager, these are skills he needs to learn if he's going to live long enough to see Emma Frost and Jean Grey naked.

Being a good father and all, Corsair is dedicated to teaching his son the skills he'll need if he's going to hook up with women like Emma Frost and Jean Grey. That includes survival skills on an alien planet. I'm not entirely sure how that would help him deal with beautiful women, but I imagine it can't hurt. Like much of this series, O5 Cyclops shares some of his inner thoughts. He and Corsair are roughing it, doing what they can to survive in this alien world with the knowledge that his father won't be able to live much longer without the illegal drugs he's been using. It sounds like an awesome Breaking Bad spin-off, but it reveals O5 Cyclops' growing doubts.


When they're not just trying to survive, Corsair attempts to teach his son other skills that he might find useful when the time comes to get Emma Frost and Jean Grey out of their panties. That includes swordplay because beautiful women apparently love guys who can wield a sword. And Corsair shows that O5 Cyclops clearly has plenty of room for improvement. His current skills wouldn't impress a waitress at an Applebees, let alone the Emma Frost's of the world. Corsair is a tough teacher, not adhering to any the bullshit New Age parenting techniques that only permit feeding a teenager's bloated self-esteem. But he does it in a way where he doesn't come off as a dick. He just comes off as a competent parent. Seriously, why does that have to sound like such a novel concept?


O5 Cyclops, to his credit, accepts his shortcomings with more maturity than my entire graduating high school class. But he accepts them a bit too much in that he seems okay with knowing that he's probably going to die on this alien planet as soon as Corsair dies. And what teenage boy in his position wouldn't think that? He's not the experienced space pirate here. He only recently learned how to fly a space ship and flirt with alien women. How can he expect to survive on his own once his father is gone? He can't and for once, that's not just typical teenage angst. That's just plain logic.

Corsair, once again demonstrating the kind of parenting skills that are exceedingly rare in comics, refuses to accept that attitude in his son. Any decent, non-lazy parent wouldn't accept it. So he calls his son out on his angst. Anyone who has ever called a teenager out on their angst knows it's like trying to trim a pit bull's toenails when he's he's horny. It's a tough fight to even approach, but Corsair does in a way that once again doesn't make him come off as a dick. He's just being a decent parent. I know I should be used to this by now in this comic, but it still astounds me.


This leads to a much more meaningful conversation, which O5 Cyclops and Corsair have been having a lot of lately. Whereas previous issues focused primarily on Corsair, this time they focus on the man O5 Cyclops became. Corsair claims that the reason his older self went down such a dark path was because he lost hope. It sounds cheesy, like something from a Mel Gibson speech. But it's not wholly inaccurate. It's just overly simplistic, ignoring the really fucked up circumstances in which Cyclops found himself. I'm sure a lack of hope wasn't what drove him to marry a clone of his dead girlfriend or go Dark Phoenix when everyone in the Marvel universe was attacking him.

That said, there is some merit to it and Corsair even relates it to his own experiences. He mentions at some point how Cyclops traded hope for rage. That still doesn't account for the difficult circumstances he had to deal with, but it does show how his judgment and his outlook became so clouded at times. There's no doubt that Cyclops as an adult became a much darker person and not just because he dated Emma Frost. O5 Cyclops once again makes clear that he does not want to become that person, which he has said time and again since All-New X-men started. It's a powerful moment for him and one that couldn't have happened without decent parenting. And it didn't even require Corsair to threaten to take his cell phone away. He's rapidly becoming the anti-Darth Vadar of comic book parents.


Encouraged by his father, something I'm sure many teenagers aren't used to, O5 Cyclops decides to ditch the angst and get to work on this new hopeful approach. But unlike the bullshit self-esteem programs that are pushed in high schools, he decides that wishful thinking is for suckers and goes to work finding the quantum tracker from the ship. He's not an expert on quantum trackers or anything quantum related. But he knows that if they're going to be rescued, they need to fix this thing so some bounty hunters can find them. Technically, that's not a rescue. That's more like trying to hitch a ride with a state trooper by waving a bag of cocaine in the air, but it's better than staying stranded.


Now O5 Cyclops and Corsair divide their time between surviving and fixing some advanced alien technology that they're not equipped to understand. I won't say that's a productive use of their time, but I imagine that's also a skill that'll help O5 Cyclops with the ladies down the line. The pacing of the story does start to drag somewhat here. It's hard to tell just how productive they're being. But knowing that Corsair has only so many doses of that life-saving drug left, they have plenty of incentive to not sit on their asses and whine.

That's not to say there isn't some excitement. At one point, they do have to deal with the local alien animal life on the planet. And on this planet, the skies are full of these flying blue fish with bat wings. It's not nearly as terrifying as it sounds. Earlier, Corsair did warn O5 Cyclops that he might have to resort to eating these things if he wants to survive. These creatures must have heard that because they decide to attack Corsair. No matter what planet they're on, talking about turning someone into food is kind of a dick move.


This time, it's O5 Cyclops who gets to show he's got some skill to work with. He uses his optic blasts to take down the creatures. He even admits that he let his father act as bait so he could get as many as possible with one blast. It's also somewhat of a dick move, but it does show that O5 Cyclops has been paying attention to his father's survival training. And the first rule of survival training is that sometimes a dick move is necessary to survive in a hostile environment. I have a hard time believing that women don't find a man who can survive an alien world like that wouldn't find it sexy on some levels. Corsair seems to understand this and gives his son a deserved pat on the back.


This leads to a well-deserved feast with alien flying fish as the main course. It may sound disgusting at first, eating alien creatures. Even the Ted Nugants of the world would be somewhat reluctant. But O5 Cyclops doesn't complain. He just says it tastes like chicken. Apparently, chicken is the universal taste of all undefined meats in the universe. There's something about that which makes me smile. It also makes me hungry too. It feels like a fitting way for O5 Cyclops to put his father's advice about having hope to good use. Not only did it get him to stop whining, but it got them a good meal. It shows that being a decent parent actually has more benefits than just not being a dick.


Armed with hope and a full stomach, they're finally able to fix the quantum tracker from the ship. So in the end, their efforts were pretty damn productive. They learned to effectively survive in an alien environment, living off the land and eating alien creatures. Now they're going to have to learn how to survive being "rescued" by bounty hunters. Somehow being stuck on a planet and eating alien fish birds doesn't sound so unappealing. But O5 Cyclops has already learned plenty of valuable skills from his space pirate father. This sounds like it could be yet another teachable moment. And the more O5 Cyclops learns, the more he'll have to impress Jean Grey and Emma Frost when he gets back.


Now O5 Cyclops is one step closer to becoming the man that will one day see Emma Frost and Jean Grey naked. This was another issue that provided compelling insight into O5 Cyclops as he learns and grows with his father. He's not the same whiny, confused teenager he was for a good chunk of All-New X-men. He's more vulnerable now. He sounds more like just another anxious teenager than the future leader of the X-men. This time, there was more focus on the man he would become rather than who he is now. His father's insight was a little generic, sounding like something he got from a fortune cookie. But it's not wholly inaccurate either. And for once, the value of a good father really shows in how Corsair inspired O5 Cyclops to fight for survival rather than succumb to typical teenage angst. It's a beautiful moment, even if it dragged a bit at times. It's still sad that a father has to be stranded on an alien planet with son to have a little quality time in the Marvel universe, but that doesn't make it any less meaningful. I give Cyclops #4 an 8 out of 10. With that, I'm going to KFC. For some reason, I've got a strange graving for chicken. Nuff said!

X-men Supreme Issue #102: Prison Break Part 3 is LIVE!


In many great conflicts there are no clear winners, but there are no clear losers either. Throughout the history of the X-men and Marvel Comics, some of the greatest conflicts have had incomplete or unbalanced resolutions. They don’t always end in tragedy, but they don’t end in triumph. There have been a few instances in X-men Supreme where the X-men have been victorious over the likes of the Brotherhood or the Phoenix Force. But at other points in this fanfiction series, the X-men have been unable to achieve a clean resolution. Oftentimes, this uncertainly leads to further conflict. This is the situation they find themselves in with Prison Break.

This first arc of the X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths is a fitting representation of the current conflict in this fanfiction series. The resolution that Professor Xavier arranged with help from General Grimshaw and Wanda Maximoff in wake of Magneto’s previous attack was incomplete. While it created peace between Genosha and the rest of the world and ushered in a wave of prosperity, this peace was fragile and opened the door to many new conflicts. This is how Shanobi Shaw, Colonel Wraith, and Reverend William Stryker have been able to make their move. The X-men were in a position to fight them, but they weren’t able to stop them.

This has created a volatile situation where heavy losses have already been sustained. Emma Frost has suffered the worst by far. In her effort to free herself from the grip of Sebastian Shaw, his son ended up finishing what his father started. Now two of her daughters, Sophie and Esme, are lost. But this loss is just the tip of the iceberg. The conflict that Shanobi fueled had many far-reaching implications. Now, as the dust settles in the final issue of this arc, the seeds of the next great conflict will be sewn.

X-men Supreme Issue 102: Prison Break Part 3

This first arc of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths will set the tone for upcoming conflicts within this fanfiction series. This is the tumultuous world that X-men Supreme has become. It is not a simple matter of confronting Magneto or battling killer Sentinels. The X-men are trying to forge a new kind of peace, but now they have allies like General Grimshaw and Emma Frost. And to build upon this peace, the story will continue to expand. New and old characters alike will show up to contribute. The world of X-men Supreme will grow in a way that I hope will only make it more awesome.

But to ensure it expands in all the right ways, it’s very important that people take the time to provide feedback. I know it’s still early in X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths, but there has been a noticeable drop in feedback already. I hope to change this in order to have enough support to continue X-men Supreme beyond Volume 5. So please, to all those who read and support this fanfiction series, post your feedback directly in the issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!

Jack

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny Avengers #23


When it comes to comics, I sometimes have to approach them the same way I would approach a dominatrix. I know there are times when it's going to hurt, but there will also be times when it feels awesome. The challenge is sticking it out and holding on. Okay, maybe that's not the right figure of speech I should use, but it's somewhat relevant. In the same way Peyton Manning can be good for a hundred games and choke in the Superbowl, some comics can be awesome for months on and and end up taking a nose dive into a mountain of pig shit. I won't say Uncanny Avengers got that bad at the end of the Apocalypse Twins arc. I'll just say that I needed to burn a little extra incense than usual. But I still see plenty of potential in this series. Like a dominatrix with an awesome boob job, I'm willing to endure a little more. Uncanny Avengers #23 is the first issue to take place after the Apocalypse Twins arc. Rogue, Captain America, and the Scarlett Witch are alive again. Havok is still a douche, but he's way ahead of Hank McCoy after kicking Kang the Conqueror's ass. For that reason alone, I'm willing to apply a little extra lube and burn even more incense in anticipation.

The lube definitely comes in handy early on because there are definitely some plot holes to squeeze through and not in the way that is usually accomplished on the set of a gay porno shoot. It's perfectly understandable on paper. After taking on a Celestial and ripping off X-men Days of Futures Past to beat Kang, some of the Unity Team take a vacation. Nobody would blame them at all for spending a month in Tahiti drinking martinis from a hot tub full of rum. It's when they return that the extent to which Kang fucked them up starts getting confusing.

When they arrive, Captain America has somehow aged into a Martin Sheen rip-off. And Wolverine, who may or may not still have his healing factor, is somehow okay despite now having a shitty haircut. There's no explanation other than Kang just really fucked them up that good. It's like the blackout part of getting drunk and waking up with a tattoo in Chinese that nobody wants translated. It forces drunks like me to make way too many assumptions and as someone experienced in blackouts, that can be dangerous. That's not to say some parts don't make sense. Those that got directly fucked up by Kang, namely Rogue, Havok, Sunfire, and Banshee, are too fucked up to go on a vacation and the Avengers are trying to find ways to unfuck them. It's still confusing, but at least this blackout doesn't result in a nasty hangover.


There's some nice discussions here with Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, and Cap. Rather than use this as an excuse to retire early, they all seem to want to dust themselves off from this latest scrap with Kang. For some like Wolverine, who still may or may not have his healing factor, that's no harder than sleeping in the next day and taking a few cold showers. But for Sunfire, who became a disembodied hunk of fire thanks to Kang, a few showers and some bed rest just ain't gonna cut it.

For Havok, whose face now looks like he tried to go down on a porcupine, he needs a different kind of healing. First off, he's going to need that and a damn good plastic surgeon. But since he's a Summers, he could probably still get laid way more than most men. He also gets to reunite with Wasp in a moment that would be much more emotional if their entire relationship wasn't built around time travel. Their relationship is still being portrayed as more epic than it really is, which is probably the biggest plot hole of this whole story. But with enough lube, it still goes a long ways to help him heal and convey the right emotions. I still think a plastic surgeon would have been more helpful.


But the one who is most fucked up and most hung over from the party with Kang is Rogue. She was the one who had to go toe-to-toe with a fucking Celestial. In doing so, she had to absorb a fuckton of powers. That's like taking all the hard liquor on the top shelf of a bar, pouring it into a bucket, and chugging it in one gulp. It might sound badass, but it'll fuck anybody up no matter how powerful they are. For Rogue, that means Wonder Man is stills trapped inside her. And while this means she now has to worry about a guy always watching when she's taking a shit, it also means she can't touch anymore.

Now this should sound familiar to anyone who stayed sober in the 90s. This is exactly the same shit that Rogue went through when she absorbed Ms. Marvel's powers. She was super strong, super vast, and super sexy. However, she couldn't control her powers enough to touch. She probably remembers how much it sucked, only being able to have an intimate relationship with her shower head, and gets pretty pissed off. For someone who survived a fight against a Celestial, it's a unfair on the scale of the Saudi Arabian legal system. It's also pretty inane in that this shit has been done. And even though I wasn't entirely sober for a good chunk of the 90s, I really don't think this same story needs to be told again.


That's not to say that Rogue's struggle isn't compelling. There's a lot more emotion and depth put into this than the Havok/Wasp romance. It also isn't just Rogue who's struggling. Wonder Man is still trapped in her mind and as much as he enjoys being stuck in the body of a beautiful woman with a great rack, he probably prefers a form where he can effectively bang the Scarlet Witch. He's now just another voice in her head. He attempts to calm her down while she throws a classic 90s hissy fit. It almost made me want to break out my Nirvana and Pearl Jam CDs. Then I realized I don't listen to CDs anymore and just feel sad that Rogue has to go through this shit again.


The Scarlet Witch eventually catches up to Rogue before her hissy fit does too much property damage. She tries to calm her down as well and reminds Rogue that she has a pretty good incentive to help her fix this. She doesn't want to relive the 90s either. She wants to get Wonder Man out of her so they can go back to bumping uglies in ways that would make Magneto's head explode. Considering how much these two hated each other when Uncanny Avengers began, it's actually a nice moment that basically forces them to help each other in a meaningful way. It's also nice in that it still leaves the door open for some really hot Rogue/Scarlet Witch lesbo action, but my penis is getting ahead of itself. It's still a big confusing on why this played out 90s plot is happening again, but at least there's a plan to address it and not drag out it for five seasons of a cartoon series.


The emotions between Rogue and the Scarlet Witch feel genuine. The same can't really be said for Havok and Wasp. Despite Havok's face still being fucked up, he and Wasp share a tender moment alone back at the Avengers Mansion. But it's still confusing in that it gives the impression it has more depth than it actually has. This whole relationship went from playful flirting to them being married and having a kid in the future in just a few issues. Even a relationship with Taylor Swift has more backstory than that. These two don't have decades of romance to build on. Nobody is going to mistake these two for Reed/Sue or Peter Parker/Mary Jane. Hell, Peter Parker/Carlie Cooper has more emotional depth than these two. They try to come together, lamenting over their lost daughter, but it just falls flat. And that's not because I'm a callous drunk. There are just way too many gaps between flirting and being Celine Dion style in love to take it seriously.


It's almost a relief when this emotionally bland moment is interrupted by Immortus, who claims he has a way for them to get their daughter back. Unfortunately, he's not big on specifics. He just basically says what was already implied by the end of the previous arc. Kang's defeat helped secure the futures that he came close to wiping out. Now Immortus' Infinity Watch will make sure nothing fucks them up again. But none of this really explains how Havok and Wasp can get their daughter back. He just basically plagiarizes old Beatles songs and says they need to overcome their grief and keep loving each other. He might as well tell a kid that just saw his dog get run over by a truck that drawing rainbows will bring it back to life.

It's not a glaring plot hole, but it's still pretty damn confusing. I'm all for the power of love. I've listened to plenty of Bon Jovi songs. I know it's supposed to be strong and all, but it has the depth of an opinion piece on Fox News. It gives no hint about what Havok and Wasp need to do or how they're going to do it. All it does is keep trying to remind everybody that these two did not have an epic romance until recently. My short-term memory may be more fucked than my sperm count, but even I can't overlook details like that.


The only detail Immortus gives them is the detail they already had way before they considered having a kid. They need to stop the Red Skull, as if that isn't always implied in the Marvel universe. They already know he's on the loose and armed with Charles Xavier's brain. They also know from the Apocalypse Twins that he's going to really fuck things up for mutants. So did Immortus really need to give them that advice? Isn't any relationship improved by stopping the Red Skull from succeeding in anything he attmepts?

The Red Skull himself seems to understand that. Now that the Unity Team is busy fighting off their Kang-induced hangover, he's in a perfect position to exploit their weakness in a way only Nazis can. He even has a few additional resources this time, namely Ahab. Kang decided to ditch him in the past and now he thinks it's a good idea to help the Red Skull. Just typing that makes me want to roll my eyes and bang my head against my desk. However, Kang has shown that he's able to out-think even a fucking Celestial. I'm not going to discount the possibility that he could also out-think a Nazi.


This part of the story is probably the least confusing because no matter what the Red Skull is planning, it's pretty much a given that it's the kind of plan that would make the ACLU shit themselves. He's a fucking Nazi. There's really not much variation when it comes to evil plans. So for this plot, he's busting out a Nazi classic. That's right, he's resorting to concentration camps. Sure, they didn't work out well for Hitler and they kind of gave Nazis a bad name. But the Red Skull has never given many shits about bad publicity. If he's going to exploit the talents of Charles Xavier, he might as well go for overkill. Isn't that the Nazi motto after all?


This issue was more than just a little confusing. I'm won't say it's as confusing as the fourth season of Lost, but anyone who reads comics stoned like me is going to wonder if elves secretly gave them a frontal lobotomy when they weren't looking. The tone of this issue was very different compared to recent issues and rightfully so. Kang left a mess worthy of 50 college frat parties behind when he fucked with both the timeline and the Celestials. The Unity Team here isn't a team as much as it is a group of shell shocked racoons. They're all trying to pick up the pieces and the Red Skull is standing over them with a flame thrower just waiting for the perfect opportunity to broil them where they stand. There are some nice character moments, but the pacing is choppy and incoherent. The only thing that's really clear is that the Red Skull is remembering how much he enjoyed Nazi-style concentration camps. That gives this issue a sense of impact. Anytime someone thinks concentration camps are a good idea, it's a given that something fucked up is about to unfold. With AXIS on the horizon, this issue helps set the foundation, albeit unevenly. I give uncanny Avengers #23 a 6 out of 10. Rogue is having an identity crisis, the Red Skull is getting nostalgic, and Havok's career as a face model is over. That much is clear. Whether this leads to more time travel or more Celestials getting killed remains to be seen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #31


There's a reason the uptight, embittered adult population of the world is weary of leaving teenagers alone. Some of it has to do with the fact that they weren't trusted to take care of themselves and have fun when they were young so naturally, they feel inclined to do that to every other teenager they come across. But most of it has to do with the paralyzing fear that they're going to fuck up in ways that can't always be attributed to alcohol. This is not a completely unfounded fear. Teenagers have neither the experience nor the understanding to make sense of how fucked up the world is, no matter how mature they tend to be. Their brains just haven't made the necessary connections. They might as well be going through life partially blindfolded. Give those teenagers superpowers and that same embittered population is prepared to shit itself. That's part of what makes All-New X-men so much fun. It's a bunch of time-displaced teenagers who are utterly ill-equipped to deal with their world trying function within it. That's like being both blindfolded, handcuffed, and pumped with crystal meth. Now the adults of the New Xavier School are getting caught up in the events of Original Sin, which means they have to leave the O5 X-men on their own in All-New X-men #31. That's like giving an unlimited supply of napalm to Michael Bay. No good can possibly come of it.

No good can also ever come from trying to make the Ultimate universe feel relevant again. It has been tried many times over the past five years and the extent of the failures involved would make Waterworld and Catwoman seem worthy of an Oscar. But the O5 X-men need to stay somewhere while the adults fuck up their own universe with another big event like AXIS so they might as well hunker down in a universe that really can't get more fucked than it already has.

To do this, there is actually a nice touch of convergence in the sense that the events of Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand is referenced. In that story, the Ultimate version of Amadeus Cho and Tony Stark discovered the gateway to 616 that Galactus used to attack their world and turn New Jersey into his personal toilet. That alone is reason enough to close the gateway, burn the plans, and nuke the ashes. But Cho, who happens to be a bald 15-year-old with three PHDs in Ultimate, is against it. Sadly, that's not even the top 10 of the most fucked up versions of an Ultimate character. At least his character doesn't involve incest. And like most 15-year-olds, it doesn't really matter what he thinks because something from the 616 side of things fucks the portal up. It has the Ultimate side of the world confused and nervous. But honestly, given how fucked they already are, how nervous can they bother to be?


From one act of convergence to another, there's also a solid transition from the events of the previous issue and from Original Sin. X-23 and O5 Angel return from their date just as the adults of the New Xavier School run off with their frienemies at the Jean Grey Institute to read Xavier's will. They have a little chat before they arrive, but it's nowhere nearly as cute or as fun as their last conversation. For one, X-23 is in more than just a pair of panties and a T-shirt. But that's not the most jarring shift sadly.

The tone considerably different compared to the bubbly teen romance shit that dominated the previous issue. X-23 insists that O5 Angel be a gentleman and not brag about how he got to see what kind of panties she wears or claim they reenacted every scene from a Ron Jeremy movie. He doesn't make any promises because it's biologically impossible for a teenage boy to be coy when he hooks up with a cute girl, but X-23 does remind him that she has adamantium claws and can kill him in a billion different ways. So I guess O5 Angel has plenty of reasons to keep his biology in check.


O5 Angel and X-23's return is met with the same fanfare as another arrest for Suge Knight. There's not a whole lot of shock or intrigue. The only one who wants the juicy details is O5 Iceman and he asks for them while X-23 is still within castration distance. I guess that's another part of teenage biology that they have to fight, being incapable of waiting when it comes to stories that might or might not involve exposed breasts. But to O5 Angel's credit, he does know that X-23 is still close enough to peel his dick like a banana if he says the wrong thing so he wisely stays quiet.

O5 Jean Grey doesn't ask for any juicy details, but she does catch up with X-23 and notes how she seems slightly less pissed off than usual. It actually leads to a nice little conversation where O5 Jean actually encourages X-23 to hang out with O5 Angel. He's a nice guy who hasn't been turned into Apocalypse's prison bitch yet. The concept of being with a nice guy is still an alien concept to X-23, but for once romantic entanglements don't result in more tension. That or I'm guess O5 Jean is just glad X-23 isn't looking to jump O5 Cyclops' bone anymore.

It's still a very different tone compared to all the high emotions that had dominated the previous issue. It also feels underdeveloped. But the mere fact that X-23 and O5 Jean are able to have a conversation without one of them threatening to stab something or eat a star shows progress in their growth as teammates. And progress for teenagers is a rare and beautiful thing. And it didn't even take an extended suspension or a night in jail either. If only my freshman year could have been this productive.


So now the O5 X-men and the rest of the teenage mutants of the New Xavier School are alone and unsupervised. At this point it's just a matter of time before something starts going horribly wrong. And once again, it begins with Hank fucking McCoy. Now to be fair to Beast (which feels like a strange concept to even think about at this point), he wasn't looking to screw something up and blame on Cyclops again. He was just monitoring Cerebro for new mutant signatures. Then for reasons that aren't explained, it goes ape-shit over a new mutant and that's reason enough for the X-men to suit up and investigate. Do they take a moment to think things through? Fuck no, that's something responsible adults might do. They entertain the possibility of informing the others, but that would require more thought than teenagers are biologically capable of so they just leave.


It's not yet clear whether this anomaly is connected to the one felt by the Ultimate side of the shit storm. But like the Cleveland Browns failing to make the playoffs, it's a pretty safe bet. This anomaly, like many unexplained anomalies, begins with a teenage girl named Carmen. She's busy taking what appears to be a school class photo, also known as a preliminary mug shot to those who attended shitty public schools. Whereas most teenagers would just try desperately not to fart or hide their boners, Carmen starts glowing like squirrel that just caught on fire and starts seeing visions of other worlds. She even starts shooting strange portals into these worlds out through her breasts, which would be so fucking sexy if one of those portals didn't lead to the Ultimate universe. Even boobs can't make that piece of shit more appealing at this point.


The poor girl is obviously confused and probably not all that concerned with any zits that might show up in her school photo. The O5 X-men and X-23 then show up and try to calm her down. Because what calms a confused teenage girl down more than seeing a bunch of other super-powered teenagers in tight spandex outfits? I'm not going to claim it doesn't work, given the irrational nature of teenage biology. I'm just going to say it's a bit of a stretch. Even so, they do manage to get Carmen to calm down. She even reveals that she has an internet connection and knows who the X-men are. But she's still a long ways away from not shitting herself.


Unfortunately, this is where the O5 X-men's inexperience is pretty damn glaring. There's nothing inherently irrational about what they're doing and for a bunch of teenagers, that's saying something. They detected a mutant in danger. They decided to go help that mutant. This is basic X-men 101 and after 50 years, nobody has an excuse for not passing that final exam at this point. But even though the O5 pioneered this tactic, they're still like Peyton Manning in his rookie year. They don't have the stats or the Superbowl ring to lean on.

The O5 do their best to not let their inexperience show. Then O5 Beast completely fucks that up by asking this scared teenage girl if she's on her period. That's like someone facing a DUI asking a female traffic cop if she's PMSing when she asks if he's been drinking. Even O5 Iceman thinks that shit is immature. Maybe Bill Murray could get away with that shit in Ghostbusters, but O5 Beast is the exact opposite of Bill fucking Murray and O5 Jean even points this out to him. I would have thrown in a psychic sledge hammer to the balls, but that's just me. I think this means they can all safely blame O5 Beast for what happens next because as soon as the cops show up, Carmen freaks the fuck out and does the mutant equivalent of PMS.


It's not as big a spectacle as it sounds and it's not nearly as bloody. It's actually pretty bland. There's just another big blue flash that's indistinguishable from the flash I probably see when I wake up after getting my stomach pumped. Then the O5 start showing up in another universe. It's a bit convenient, a mutant who just happens to have the power to send them to another universe. I still say that's not nearly as crazy a power as having a mutant that shoots out gold balls from his body, but it feels more like a plot device than an actual power. This could have just have easily been accomplished by tinkering with one of Reed Richards' old gadgets or pissing off Magik. Instead, it turned a typical X-men mission to help a mutant in need into a crossover event. It's like a traffic stop that turns into an OJ Simpson style police chase.

The first one to wake up in ultimate is O5 Iceman. Now there aren't a lot of nice places to wake up in with Ultimate that don't involve Tony Stark's guest room, but Mole Man's sewer is definitely up there in terms of shitty locations to enter this shitty universe. It's not the worst either. He could have ended up in New Jersey. But in Ultimate, every shitty circumstance is graded on a significant curve.


By comparison, O5 Jean Grey might as well have cheated on her test. She appears in the middle of the street in New York City during rush hour. That's only a slight upgrade over being trapped in Mole Man's sewer. But O5 Jean, having the power that New Yorkers stuck in a traffic jam only wish they had, is able to get away without causing a four hour traffic delay. That alone is an act of unmitigated heroism. At the same time, she's understandably confused because she was in Austin, Texas just a few moments ago. Now she's in New York and face-to-face with a version of Spider-Man that she's never encountered before. I want to say O5 Jean is a little concerned at this point. But after being abducted by the Shi'ar and mind-fucked by Charles Xavier Jr., I'm just wondering if she's going to get bored this time around.


Once again, a bunch of unsupervised teenagers have gotten themselves into a fuckton of trouble by trying to take on something they're horribly ill-equipped to take on. There are a lot of horror movies that have this kind of premise. There are also a lot of porno movies that have this same premise, but that's besides the point. This issue didn't have the O5 X-men do anything they don't normally do. A strange mutant manifested in a way that felt like the first gust in a shit storm. The O5 X-men went to investigate and help any mutant that happened to be in need. This is the shit they've been doing since aliens and lizard people teamed up to kill Kennedy. This time it just had them end up in the Ultimate universe. It's not particularly groundbreaking. Nobody is going to be picking their jaws up off the floor after reading this. But nobody is going to have much to bitch about in terms of characterization and plot structure. The tone compared to the previous issue is somewhat jarring, but not in a way that makes me want to drink more than I already do.

If the goal of this issue was to get the O5 X-men to the Ultimate universe, it succeeded. If the goal was to get them to the Ultimate universe in a novel and interesting way, it didn't. But it's still a bunch of unsupervised teenagers trying to play hero. It has plenty of entertainment value, despite the jokes about women's periods. I give All-New X-men #31 a 7 out of 10. I'm not going to say that this issue somehow justifies the way adults treat teenagers. I'll just say that when a bunch of teenagers end up in the fucking Ultimate universe when they try to strike out on their own, a little extra supervision is entirely warranted. Nuff said!

Quality Time and Honest Mistakes: Wolverine Annual #1

The following is my review of Wolverine Annual #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


There’s a big difference between honest and dishonest mistake. In an honest mistakes, people tend to act in a way that’s perfectly logical in the context of the facts, as they understand them. In a dishonest mistakes, people act only in the context that they see an opportunity to do something that they won’t have to apologize for. One usually results in an awkward conversation followed by a heartfelt apology. The other sometimes results in a blood feud or a standoff with federal agents. Contrary to popular belief, gold and food are not the oldest forms of currency. Excuses to act foolish and get away from it will always carry greater value in any society.

More often than not, the X-men find themselves on the receiving end of too many dishonest mistakes. Wolverine alone has had enough to be his own reality show on TLC. There promises to be a few more before his upcoming death, which makes whatever personal time he can spare all the more precious. Wolverine Annual #1 doesn’t attempt to put Wolverine in a position to cross a few more things off his bucket list before he takes his overdue dirt nap. It doesn’t even attempt to confront anything or anyone that might keep him from finishing his bucket list. It just tells a simple, concise story about Wolverine going on a camping trip with Jubilee and her adopted son, Shogo.

On the surface, it feels like a bland narrative. It only sounds slightly more interesting than a story about Wolverine getting drunk at a bar on St. Patrick’s Day. Why would a story about Wolverine camping with Jubilee be more entertaining than a story about Wolverine battling an army of ninjas and killer robots? It’s the nature of the conflict that he and Jubilee encounter that make this narrative compelling. That same conflict also provides some solid insight into what Wolverine is dealing with now that he has lost his healing factor. It’s also a conflict that isn’t fueled by some vengeful lover, another angry offspring, or an army of ninjas. It’s completely driven by a misunderstanding, but not the kind Wolverine and the X-men are used to dealing with.

The setting itself reveals the extent to which Wolverine’s circumstances are a case study in the unusual and the absurd. Jubilee isn’t just the adventurous former mall rat that endeared herself to fans of the 90s X-men cartoon. She’s now a de-powered mutant turned vampire who also happens to be the adopted mother of an infant child. In addition, Wolverine has some family of his own, but not in the typical drinking buddy tradition.

At some point in his unusual and absurd life, he became the pack leader of a bunch of wolves. They somehow managed to catch up with him and join their little camping expedition. It makes for the kind of circumstances that only Wolverine could be comfortable with. There’s a young girl, a baby, and some ferocious animals. If the wolves started talking, then it would make for the perfect Disney movie.

There’s a lot of insight into how Wolverine sees himself, his friends, and the people he considers family. There are even a few enjoyable moments with him and Jubilee that capture the playful spirit not seen since the Clinton years. However, this mood is ruined by someone other than Sabretooth for once. A couple of other campers who have no desire to seek bloody revenge on Wolverine or hunt vampires in the Van Helsing tradition happen to pass by. They’re just a typical married couple with a few problems trying to deal with those problems through camping. It’s cheaper than counseling and less dangerous than lawyers.


This is where the misunderstanding begins. Take any two ordinary people, put them in the woods, and have them come across a wolf being in close proximity to an infant. What’s the most appropriate reaction? These two have no idea that this baby belongs to a vampire teenage girl and this wolf is friends with Wolverine. Even if they weren’t ordinary, that thought would never cross their mind. So they hardly come off as the bad guys when they grab Shogo and run. To them, they’re rescuing a baby from a hungry wolf. And when a teenage vampire girl shows up, they only have even more reasons to react in a perfectly appropriate manner.

That’s what makes this conflict so compelling. It doesn’t have to resort to ninjas or blood feuds. For once, this really is a sincere misunderstanding where perfectly normal and perfectly appropriate emotions lead to a major clash. It leads to Wolverine getting shot and Jubilee channeling her anti-Twilight inclinations. It’s a conflict that hits the right emotional chords without needing a conflict on the scale of a Roland Emmerich movie.

While the emotions and actions involved in the story are strong, the conflict itself is somewhat rushed. There’s a concerted effort to give the couple involved in this misunderstanding a measure of depth and sympathy, but it’s not enough to give the resolution to the conflict sufficient weight. There’s definitely plenty of drama, but there just isn’t enough struggle to make it satisfying. And in this rare instance, throwing ninjas into the mix wouldn’t have helped because it wouldn’t fit the context of the story.

It still makes for a strong story built around quality character moments and a different kind of conflict. For once, Wolverine got involved in a fight that was based entirely on an honest mistakes. Honesty might not even be appropriate in this instance, given the absurd circumstances of his life. Wolverine Annual #1 helped highlight the nature of these circumstances while also showing how vulnerable Wolverine is when he tries to deal with them without his healing factor. It’ll make his bucket list much harder to complete, but it also makes for a more meaningful journey and a more eventful camping trip.

Final Score: 8 out of 10