Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Maturation of (Regenerating) Degenerates: Deadpool Assassin #1

The following is my review of Deadpool: Assassin #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


When it comes to gratuitous violence and genuine heart, Deadpool is in a class all his own. In fact, it's not unreasonable to say that Deadpool, as both a character and a concept, goes out of his way to stand out and isn't afraid to be obnoxious about it. Regardless of whether his name and design was derived from Deathstroke, he's someone who does more than most to stand out in a sea of Wolverine, Superman, and Batman rip-offs.

Thanks to two successful movies and the inherent likability of Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool's star has never burned brighter. It's safe to say that in his efforts to stand out, he has succeeded. His mask, his tumor-laden face, and his propensity to break the fourth wall are now every bit as iconic as Wolverine's claws or Captain America's shield. He has nothing left to prove. He's earned the right to brag and gorge on all the chimichangas he wants.

As much as he's achieved, Deadpool always finds ways to stay busy and entertain. Most of those ways still involve the kind of destruction and vulgarity that would get most characters fined by the FCC, but he never does it out of pure malice. He's not Sabretooth, Norman Osborn, or Dexter Morgan. He's crazier than a sack of ferrets, but he still maintains a code of conduct that sets him apart from less scrupulous mercenaries. Those who undermine that code are likely to be on the wrong end of Deadpool's guns, katanas, and toilet humor.

That's both the setup and the appeal of Deadpool: Assassin #1. Cullen Bunn and Mark Bagley put Deadpool in a position to further set himself apart by showing that there is merit to having a code of conduct as a mercenary. That process involves a hefty bit of bloodshed and mayhem, but anything other than that just wouldn't be true to Deadpool's increasingly powerful brand and he does plenty to maintain it in this story.

Bunn and Bagley don't try to reinvent the regenerating degenerate. They just put him in a situation where he can do what he does best, which means being in close proximity to far less ethical mercenaries and evil ninjas. For Deadpool, that's like mixing chocolate and peanut butter, but with several extra sides of carnage and bloodshed. It's every bit as potent as it tries to be.


These crude, but colorful basics give Deadpool: Assassin #1 plenty of entertainment value. However, there are some other side-plots thrown into the mix that keep it from being a generic story about a Deadpool-centric shooting spree. One involves Deadpool's old friend Weasel, whose life has taken a far more domestic turn. He still works with Deadpool and still provides him with plenty of opportunities to shoot things, but he's got other priorities. In revealing those, Deadpool himself reveals something striking and potentially profound.

Being so unhinged and eccentric, Deadpool never comes off as one of those guys who plans for a simpler future that doesn't involve as many explosions. Between his skills as a mercenary and his fourth-wall breaking awareness, he rarely shows interest in settling down, retiring, or taking up a hobby that doesn't require heavy firearms.

He operates on a moment-by-moment basis, going from one job and/or wisecrack to the next. While he may occasionally mix things up by joining the X-men or marrying a succubus, Deadpool still acts primarily on an impulse. Even with the limited ethical standards by which he operates, he's not known for his foresight any more than he's known for his choice of underwear. Wherever there's violence to be had, he tends to gravitate towards it. With an unstable mind and a body covered in tumors, that's kind of how he has to be.

That's what makes his admission that he's getting bored with mercenary work so striking. He still makes clear that he loves killing unscrupulous mercs and ninjas, but that's not enough for him anymore. He claims he's only doing a few more jobs before he moves onto something else. It's not clear how serious he is. It's like Peter Parker saying he doesn't want to be Spider-Man anymore, but that sentiment goes away the second he has an excuse to change his mind. Unlike Peter, though, Deadpool isn't known for responsible decision-making.

That makes the plot surrounding Deadpool's changing priorities seem tentative, at best. Nobody, fictional or otherwise, can buy that he wants to retire to his own tropical island and sip margaritas for as long as his healing factor allows him to live. He gets bored too easily, enjoys dangerous surroundings too much, and makes too many impulsive decisions. While that makes his antics fun to watch, it also makes any effort to settle down less believable.

To some extent, Weasel's situation reflects that. He's no longer a former Hydra agent who just happens to be friends with an unhinged mercenary. He's got a stable job, a wife, and an overall easier life that involves less killer ninjas and more credit card bills. It's less hectic, which Deadpool claims to want, but Weasel never gives the impression that it's very fulfilling.

If anything, he sends the message that settling down can make a man feel domesticated. This doesn't impact Deadpool's intentions or his ninja-fighting skills, but it does throw shade on the idea that seeking a less damaging occupation comes at a cost. It also establishes that if Deadpool really does attempt to hang up his katanas and guns, he'll end up changing his mind faster than Peter Parker ever did.

Long-term intentions aside, still provides plenty of value in terms of giving Deadpool fans what they want. Bagley's artwork makes it colorful while Bunn's dialog makes it witty. It checks all the necessary boxes for a fun, engaging Deadpool story. It tries to do more and while it lays a foundation, it doesn't offer much in terms of clues. He's still doing mercenary work, as only he can, but what does someone like Deadpool do when he wants to move onto a new endeavor?

That question goes unanswered in Deadpool: Assassin #1. More than anything, it puts Deadpool in a position to mix things up again. It probably won't result in him getting a job as a tax attorney or a janitor, but if it leads him to novel forms of violence, then it can only help the potty-mouthed merc in his never-ending struggle to overshadow Deathstroke.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, June 15, 2018

X-men Supreme Issue 170: High Evolution Part 2 PREVIEW!


One of the biggest appeals of the X-men, whether it’s comics, movies, or cartoons, is how their fight for peace and understanding a global impact beyond saving the world from invading aliens. Sure, the X-men deal with plenty of aliens and I’ve included that in this fanfiction series with arcs like Outer Limits, but some of the X-men’s most compelling struggles occur when humans and mutants alike are impacted. X-men Supreme has had plenty of conflicts like that, Dark Legacy probably being the most profound. However, High Evolution may end up being even greater.

X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided has just begun its final major arc. The culmination of the divide that began in X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide is starting to unfold. What started as a bitter disagreement between Charles Xavier and Cyclops has become a huge liability for both the X-men and X-Force. They’ve been clashing and arguing, leading to some pretty damaging results that played out in events like Drug War and Crimes Against Inhumanity. The potential damage this time, though, is unprecedented for this fanfiction series.

Magneto is back and he’s not alone. After an absence that began at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear, the Master of Magnetism has returned alongside the mysterious Dr. Wyndham, whose name should be familiar to X-men and Marvel fans, alike. He’s brought with him the ultimate failsafe to ensure the survival and prosperity of the mutant race. He calls it Asteroid M, carved out of the same asteroid that almost doomed the whole world in the Overlord arc. It’s not just a safe haven like Genosha. It’s a whole new world for mutants.

However, Magneto has never been one to limit his vision. That vision fell short with Genosha. He has no intention of making the same mistakes as Asteroid M. This time, however, he’s not looking to wage total war on the human race. He claims his vision for humans and mutants has evolved. He’s now opening that vision to other humans, provided they evolve within this new world and not just in their thinking. It’s the kind of act that promises to complicate the efforts of the X-men, General Grimshaw, and President Kelly.

It certainly doesn’t help that the world is still in a very vulnerable state, due to the events of Crimes Against Inhumanity. The damage to global defense systems have left humans and mutants alike feeling unsafe. They can no longer trust their government or the X-men to protect them anymore. Now, here comes Magneto offering a chance to escape. Given their experience with him, though, expect Professor Xavier and his X-men to be skeptical, even in their divided state.

The situation is evolving and devolving. Expect it to get worse before it gets better. Like the final arcs of every other volume in this fanfiction series, I intend to leave the world X-men Supreme forever changed by the end of this arc. I’m not just talking about a resolution to the schism between Charles Xavier and Cyclops, either. There will be huge changes, heavy losses, and massive upheavals. Once again, I’ve provided a preview of some of those changes and how the X-men will attempt to confront them.

Wanda Maximoff had a lot riding on her shoulders. She was leading both the X-men and X-Force into a trap on a planetary scale. Like many others, she heard the reports of the chaos her father’s announcement had caused. She didn’t have time to hear all the stories of determined people fighting for a spot on Asteroid M while equally determined people tried to thwart them. She assumed the chaos was part of a larger plan.

‘Once again, I’m caught in the middle of your madness, father. This time it may not even be your fault. I hope it isn’t because this is getting old. I can’t keep doing this for you. Something has to give this time. You must decide…your madness or your family.’

Wanda maintained her strength as she, the X-men, and X-Force were transported to the designated coordinates for the transport pod. They arrived in a series of Chinook helicopters. The ride aboard was tense.

A group of MSA operatives continued to surround Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Domino, and Nightcrawler. Phoenix, Beast, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Psylocke, and Colossus remained close as well, but remained silent. The tension between the two teams was still apparent. Captain Freeman made it a point to sit between them so they didn’t worsen any lingering wounds. Everyone needed to prepare themselves for what they may face on Asteroid M.

Once the helicopters landed, they were greeted by a military convoy that had already surrounded the area. In a clearing near the lake, they could see the metal transport orb waiting for them. The MPs had already cleared out every civilian within a five-mile radius. Once X-Force and the X-men stepped out of the helicopters, the MSA operatives pulled back. That left General Grimshaw to lead them to their destination.

“Looks like everything’s in place,” announced General Grimshaw, “This is where we cut you loose and expect you to do your jobs.”

“You sound like you’re expecting us to blow you off, General. Do you really think we’re that dishonest?” said Cyclops.

“I hope that’s a rhetorical question, Summers,” said Captain Freeman under his breath.

“Once you’re up in Asteroid M, you’ll be a long way away from our jurisdiction,” said the General, “If I was in your position, I’m sure I would be tempted.”

“You’ve got nothing to worry about, General. We consider ourselves honest deviants,” said Emma Frost.

“As if hanging out on a floating rock with Magneto is that appealing,” said Domino, “I don’t care how enticing he made it. So long as he’s running the show, it ain’t paradise.”

“Keep in mind we don’t know if he’s running anything,” added Professor Xavier, “That’s part of what we’re supposed to uncover.”

“Yet we have no idea on what that other part may be,” Psylocke stated, making it clear that this didn’t sit well with her.

“Guess we’ll have to play it by ear and cut up anything that gets in our way,” said Wolverine, “If there’s something or someone out there tough enough to pull Magneto’s strings, I’d love to meet him. So would my claws.”

“That makes two of us,” said Wanda strongly.

There were certainly plenty of issues to resolve on Asteroid M. Both teams were eager to uncover the turth as they stood ready to depart. General Grimshaw signaled the military personnel to clear out. The MSA operatives had already returned to the helicopters and the convoy that had arrived before them was starting to leave.

Upon reaching the pod, they encountered one large military jeep. As they approached, the doors opened and two familiar figures stepped out. One was Abigail Brand of SWORD, who had been in the driver’s seat. The other was James Proudstar, now back in his X-Force uniform and looking ready to join the battle.

“James!” exclaimed Storm as soon as she saw him.

“I see you got paroled, Warpath. You get off for good behavior?” teased Domino.

“They flew me here in a fancy jet and let me ride in the front seat. Guess I was good enough,” said Warpath with a grin as he was greeted by X-Force.

“It’s good to see you back in action, Warpath,” said Nightcrawler as he shook his teammate’s hand.

“Before we go any further, I think we owe you an apology,” said Cyclops.

“For what? Leaving me behind after I did something insanely reckless?” the Native American scoffed, “There’s nothing to be sorry for. You did what you had to do. I did what I had to do. And I’d do it again.”

Warpath turned towards Storm as he said this, shooting her a brief smile that made her blush. It looked as though prison hadn’t embittered Warpath. It didn’t make what he did any less reckless. Chances were, they might end up having to be reckless for again.

“Even if you do, don’t expect to get this lucky again,” said Abigail Brand, who was carrying a large metal case, “Your buddies may have spared you months of legal rambling, but the fine print on your pardon says you still have to earn your freedom.”

“You really have a grudge against other peoples’ self-esteem, don’t you?” said Warpath dryly.

“In this line of work, we can’t afford to be all touchy feely,” said Agent Brand sternly, “When the world is turning to shit, we need to be a little harsh.”

“No wonder you’re so dang good at your job,” muttered Rogue.

“It also helps to be resourceful,” added General Grimshaw as he approached Agent Brand, “Did you bring it with you?”

“You think I would have left my office if I hadn’t?” she said as she held up the large case, “SWORD is already undermanned and overworked. I didn’t have anyone I trusted enough when I retrieved this little gem.”

“What is it this time? You expect us to carry a bomb with us?” said Phoenix dryly.

“Do not give them any ideas, Phoenix,” said Colossus.

“As if you’re the first to suggest that,” quipped Agent Brand, “Lucky for us, there are those with functioning brains. Those brains tell us that certain symbolic gestures leave more of an impact than any bomb.”

Without going into further detail, Agent Brand set the metal case down on the hood of the jeep and opened it. When the X-men saw what was inside, they could already feel the impact that Agent Brand had described.

“Is that…” began Beast.

“My father’s helmet!” exclaimed Wanda.

“I thought it was stolen from Genosha,” said Gambit.

“It was. I was there,” said Wanda as she took the helmet from the General, “Some masked man calling himself Renegade took it. My father tried to track him down, but he never found him.”

“Yes, I remember hearing about that,” said Professor Xavier, who had to hold his tongue since he already knew the details.

“How did you even…” began Nightcrawler.

“I can’t tell you and you don’t want to know,” said General Grimshaw, “How we obtained this helmet is irrelevant now. The important part is using it for your mission.”


One of the biggest challenges in developing X-men Supreme involves maintaining a commitment to world-building on the scale of the X-men comics. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been incredibly rewarding. As a life-long X-men fan, I understand that it’s not enough to just focus on the many uncanny characters within the X-men. It’s important to treat the world they live in as a character as well. That’s what I try to do with this fanfiction series and it’ll be even more important with the High Evolution arc.

To date, I’ve gotten plenty of wonderful feedback on how I’ve handled certain characters, including a few I’ve significantly changed compared to the X-men comics. To all those who send me that feedback, I am forever grateful. I hope it continues as X-men Supreme enters another critical stage, but I still need more to ensure that this latest effort at molding the X-men’s world is sufficiently awesome. Whether you’re a fan of the character or the world they live in, I want to hear from you. Please send me your comments via by contacting me directly or post them in the issues. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Friday, June 8, 2018

Justice In Its Totality: Justice League #1

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


In a perfect world, justice isn't a fluid concept. What's heroic today still holds up a hundred centuries from now. In that world, teams like the Justice League don't need to agonize over too many decisions. Those tried and true standards answer all those hard for them. Even during the family friendly golden age of comics, though, the imperfections of the real and fictional world keep finding their way into the story.

Between the events of DC: Rebirth #1 and Dark Knights: Metal, the Justice League undergoes plenty of upheaval, both as a team and among its individual members. Timelines get re-written, marriage proposals occur, and secrets of the DC universe reveal themselves in ways that would make any hero's decisions much harder to render. It can get confusing, at times, but it still reflects the evolution of the Justice League and the nature of justice itself.

For many of these complications, Scott Snyder is both an architect and a catalyst. The events of Dark Knights: Metal don't just throw in another upheaval, which the DC universe faces every other week. It requires the Justice League to regroup and reorganize themselves. A universe full of talking gorillas and homicidal clowns is chaotic enough. Even demigods, aliens, and billionaire playboys need to adapt along the way. In Justice League #1, Snyder carries the team into a new era of chaos.

From the very beginning, the scope and scale of the chaos is on a level that requires the full strength of DC's heavy hitters. There's no subtlety or steady build-up. The crisis is already at a level that involves Lex Luthor, Vandal Savage, and a hole in the Source Wall. The situation couldn't be more dire without an army of Darkseid clones invading every planet in the universe.

For any one individual hero, including Superman on his best day, it's a level of over-the-top action that is hard to keep up with. For the Justice League, though, it works perfectly. It starts out as an elaborate, albeit generic plot by Vandal Savage involving a race of subterranean creatures called Neoanderthals. While even a simple plan by Savage usually calls for the collective firepower of the League, this conflict is only a precursor to a much greater threat.

It's not enough to just throw powerful villains and their nefarious plots at DC's most powerful heroes. Snyder brings in forces that don't necessarily have a face, an identity, or an evil laugh. It's not just a threat to law, order, and justice. It has the potential to undercut the very nature of the DC Universe itself. The Martian Manhunter calls it the Totality. It's somewhat esoteric, but it presents the Justice League with a unique threat. Conversely, it presents someone like Lex Luthor with an opportunity.

The challenge in any era of Justice League, going back to the pre-Crisis era, is establishing a predicament that requires more than a simple team-up or crossover. Superman can team up with Batman and Wonder Woman can team up with Aquaman ever other week to take on a unique threat that may just be too tedious to handle individually. The primary difference between a casual crossover story and a full-fledged superhero team involves forging a collective identity.

Throughout the history of the DC Universe, the League assembles when there's more than basic justice at stake. Whether it involves infinite Earths or a full-scale invasion from Apokolips, there's a point where heroes can't just be heroes. They have to come together to keep the world, the universe, and every notion of justice intact. Snyder channels some of that Crisis spirit, but stops short of breaking the timeline again.

In the case of Justice League #1, it's not the threat posed by Vandal Savage that's the main catalyst. It's the hole in the Source Wall that pushes the League into a difficult spot. That hole, another byproduct of Dark Knights: Metal no less, creates something the Martian Manhunter calls the Totality. It's somewhat esoteric, but it still carries that ominous aura that reflects DC's commitment to never-ending world-building.

Parts of the Totality reference other aspects of DC lore, but the underlying concept is simple. The fundamental nature of the DC universe is changing and Lex Luthor knows about it. As such, he and others like him are sure to exploit it. Justice, once again, isn't a perfectly consistent concept that always reverts back to a particular form like Superman's iconic red underwear. Given enough time and stress, larger forces will disrupt it.

That theme and its implications are nicely documented through the powerful mind of the Martian Manhunter, who acts as a messenger to the rest of the League. They're not really in a position to do much about the Totality, which for a team as powerful as the Justice League is really telling. They're basically left to brace themselves while Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage get ready to make the most of it.

It's here where the strengths and weaknesses of Justice League #1 really show. In terms of strength, it builds seamlessly from recent upheavals in the DC universe. Even for those not familiar with events like Dark Knights: Metal, the narrative never comes off as too sudden or contrived. As for weaknesses, though, the overall nature of the Totality falls flat and that keeps the story from having a major impact.

Even with a basis in the Source Wall, the Totality comes off as this impersonal chaos that isn't contingent on Lex Luthor's plans or Darkseid's ruthlessness. It just feels like one big disruption within the overall DC universe, one meant to undermine the Justice League's efforts in a way they can't stop. Too much time is spent just trying to make sense of it, which renders the battle against Vandal Savage as somewhat of an afterthought. Seeing as how that battle literally broke the surface of the Earth, that almost seems unjust.

Justice League #1 still does more than enough to carry the League into a new era. Snyder's usage of high-level threats and evolving challenges give the story an appropriate scope. It doesn't entirely fit together just yet, but the pieces are there and Snyder gives himself plenty to work with. The nature of justice and the DC universe may change in accord with every Crisis-level event, but so long as the spirit of the team remains intact, justice still finds a way to prevail.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Red Queen Chronicles: The Lost Son Chapter 1 is LIVE!


When it comes to sexy side-projects, some ideas are difficult to work into a story that's both sexy and compelling. It's one of the things I struggle with most in crafting these stories. On the flip-side, there are also some ideas that work a little too well because of their inherent sex appeal. It doesn't seem like a problem, but it can be. An idea that's just that sexy can sometimes make maximizing the story a real challenge.

Daken is one of those rare characters who embodies that idea to the letter. It's not just that he's unapologetic in how he exercises his sexuality. He will literally fuck anyone and anything for any reason. Since he also happens to be Wolverine's son, complete with his healing factor and all the sexy benefits that come with that, he actually can fuck on a level that elevates his sex appeal into uncharted territory. In a world that still has characters like Emma Frost and Mary Jane Watson, that's saying something.

Shortly after I finished, "The Red Queen Chronicles: The Phoenix," one of the most frequent requests I got from readers was to bring Daken into this story. In a world where Jean Grey is uninhibited sexually, there are just too many reasons that appeals. I certainly don't deny that and I had many long conversations with passionate readers on the subject. The challenge was crafting the right story to ensure maximum sex appeal.

After working long and hard, including a few setbacks along the way, I feel like I've finally found that story and I'm ready to tell it. I'm ready to bring Daken into the world of the Red Queen. It's not a story that I can tell within a one-shot or just two chapters. This is one of those stories that needs to be a bit longer to contain all the sexiness. It's hard work, but worth the effort and the first chapter should help set the tone.


I hope that gets everyone excited for this story, in more ways than one. I've yet to decide how many chapters this will be. It depends on how the events I've planned play out. Rest assured, though, there will be plenty of sexiness to go around. That I can promise you. Nuff said!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Overdue Resurrections and Heartfelt Reflections: X-men Red Annual #1

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


When death and resurrection are so common that it becomes indistinguishable from an extended hiatus, it’s difficult for either to have much impact. Even if the death remains a powerful moment within a larger narrative and the resurrection finds a evoke the necessary drama, it’s not always possible to explore the more personal effect it has on a character. That’s why the resurrection of a non-time traveler, non-alternate universe Jean Grey presents such a rare opportunity.

Her return in the pages of Phoenix Resurrection succeeds in ways few resurrection stories achieve in an era of never-ending death and rebirth. It doesn’t just bring back a character whose death had a far-reaching impact and whose rebirth has equally profound implications. It takes a character who hasn’t experienced or influenced the course of the X-men or Marvel universe for over a decade and puts her in a setting that may as well be an alternate universe. In the world she knew, Spider-Man is still married, the Maximoff twins are mutants, and Nick Fury looks more like David Hasselhoff instead of Samuel L. Jackson.

A character that dies and comes back after just a few years is bound to experience some culture shock, but it’s rarely jarring to the point where clones start to make sense. For Jean Grey, so many world-changing events have transpired, including the deaths of some loved ones and the resurrection of others, that she may as well be in another universe. It’s not possible or even in character for her to just brush off how much the world has changed, especially for those close to her.

X-men Red Annual #1 gives her some time to take in this world. It also gives Tom Taylor and Pascal Alice a chance explore the emotional depth of a character whose passions have a long reach. In doing so, they capture some of the most important elements of Jean Grey's character, a few of which may have been overlooked or forgotten during her prolong absence. However, the story that unfolds is much more than a refresher course on a beloved X-woman.

The narrative pics up almost exactly where Phoenix Resurrection left off. Jean Grey is alive again, having severed ties with the Phoenix Force and had a heart-wrenching goodbye with her dead husband, Cyclops. She's surrounded by the friends, family, and teammates who mourned her for so much over the years. It's one of those situations that can be either intensely emotional or incredibly awkward, but Taylor pursues the former over the latter. For Jean Grey, who is defined by her passions and the predicaments in which she expresses them, it's very fitting.

Naturally, Jean has a lot to catch up on. Being dead for a couple years is hard enough. Alien invasions, Hydra-led uprisings, and deaths of other characters can occur within that time and still have room for holiday specials. Being dead for nearly two decades means Jean has to catch up on schisms, extinction plots, and even an upcoming wedding between Kitty Pryde and Colossus. There's a lot to take in, if not too much for a cohesive story.

Taylor isn't tedious with all these revelations, but he doesn't gloss over them either. There isn't a word-for-word retelling of major events, which would've made the plot as interesting as a physics lecture by Reed Richards. Instead, the primary focus is on Jean's inner musings. Her thoughts and feelings emerge through a series of well-designed thought-bubbles, a feature that Chris Claremont utilized to give characters like Jean Grey so much depth in the past. It proves just as effective in this instance and helps set Jean on a new course for the future.

This also helps provide some connections to her role in X-men Red, another one of Taylor's books. However, X-men Red Annual #1 doesn't attempt to be a prequel. It's not an extended epilogue of Phoenix Resurrection either. More than anything else, it bridges the gap between the past that Jean missed and the future she hopes to build now that she's back. In doing so, it also provides some needed closure to one of the most jarring details of Jean's return.

That has to do with Cyclops, namely the adult non-time traveling version, being dead due to the events of Death of X. It's something that evokes an especially powerful reaction in Jean, one that prompts her to confront Black Bolt and the Inhumans, who are indirectly responsible for his death. It helps inject some conflict and action into an otherwise emotional journey. It's one of those situations where it could easily devolve into another Punisher-style vengeance plot. However, that just isn't Jean Grey's style.

At her core, Jean is a woman of great power and compassion. She has the power to make those who hurt others suffer for their transgressions, more so than Ghost Rider or all the Batman rip-offs ever made. That's not her preferred recourse, though. True to the teachings of Charles Xavier, which she has championed since the Kennedy Administration, Jean opts for understanding and forgiveness. If someone is willing to apologize, then Jean Grey is willing to forgive.

At a time when heroes and villains alike define themselves by seeking revenge, Jean brings something different to the table. The rift between mutants and the Inhumans after the events of Inhumans vs. X-men cannot be understated. This conflict is what kills the man who held Jean in his arms when she last died. For her to confront those responsible and not seek retribution doesn't just establish the breadth of Jean's heart. It shows that is possible to mend these wounds.

It also indirectly establishes just how much the world needs Jean Grey. At a time when Captain America can be a secret Hydra agent and Spider-Man can have his mind swapped with his greatest enemy, there needs to be a voice that conveys a message of forgiveness. Since Jean's voice carries more weight than most, the impact of her return feels that much more relevant.

X-men Red Annual #1 has Jean do plenty more besides reminding others that it's okay to accept a heartfelt apology every now and then. She gets to spend time with characters who've missed her dearly. She also gets to meet others who she have a chance to interact with before she died. These moments are brief and leave plenty to be desired. The issue itself is extra long, but Taylor and Alice could've made it several hundred pages and it still wouldn't have been enough to fully explore every aspect of Jean Grey's resurrection.

As such, the plot does come off as rushed in a few areas. There are plenty of other characters with which Jean could've had a moment. There are also other unresolved details surrounding her death and absence, namely those involving Emma Frost and Magneto, that are never addressed either. Even with these oversights, Taylor gets the underlying message across. Jean Grey is back. The world didn't just miss her. It missed everything she stood for.

Final Score: 8 out of 10