Monday, March 30, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Amazing X-men #18


There are certain people who should never be given a certain kind of power. We all learned that the hard way through two terms of George W. Bush’s presidency. It’s not always an issue of power corrupting. It’s just an issue of bad combinations. Nitro on its own is fine. Glycerin on its own as fine. But when put together, shit can get pretty volatile. In that context, the power of Juggernaut is like weapons grade plutonium. There aren’t a whole lot of people who can or should ever have that kind of power. But some are less qualified than others.

Cain Marko was already horribly under-qualified during his stint as Juggernaut. So now that the power of Juggernaut is up for grabs again, the bar is set pretty damn low. That didn’t stop Cyttorak from trying to lower it even more when it called out to an army of known sociopaths to gorge on it. The X-men did their best to stop them, but in the end the Living Monolith was the lucky winner. As bad as Cain Marko was, making him the Juggernaut is like giving the Hulk nuclear weapons. It’s fucking overkill. But overkill can still be pretty damn awesome. Amazing X-men #18 is in a position to reinforce that while settling who gets to wear the goofy helmet. I guess all the unstoppable power in the world can’t overcome awful fashion tastes.

I won’t say the Living Monolith’s look as Juggernaut counts as an improvement, but it’s still pretty fucking terrifying. An average-sized Juggernaut was bad enough. A giant sized, Attack on Titan sized Juggernaut is overkill in a way that even Donald Trump would find excessive. He’s not just big. He’s armed with the unstoppable bloodlust of Cyttorak. He’s now powerful enough to tear the world a new asshole and make it constipated. It truly is a pants-shitting level of unstoppable, as it should be for any story involving Juggernaut.


The X-men are understandably shell-shocked. They entered this fight with the intention of preventing shit like this. Instead, they failed to stop the absolute worst case scenario that didn’t involve giving Blob a sponge bath. It’s as epic a failure the X-men have ever had without one of them being senselessly killed off. So how do they deal with it? How can they possible confront such an unstoppable threat? They’re not just going  to sit down over a camp fire and try to talk it out, right?

Well shave my balls, put makeup on my dick, and cast me in the next Pixar movie because that’s exactly what they do. Seriously, Storm decides to just sit down and lament. And it’s not over the fact they now have an overpowered Juggernaut to deal with. She laments about being in such a shitty mood lately. Ignoring for a moment that her lover just died, this is not a good time to dwell on shit like this. I was expecting someone to pick her up, but the rest of the X-men end up joining her. They even share fond memories of that special time when Storm shared Emma Frost’s fondness for nudity.

Look, I enjoy memories of a naked Storm as much as the next guy, but this is too much WTF for a crisis. I get that the X-men are overwhelmed by the threat of a Living Monolith Juggernaut. But this just really derails the plot. To be fair, Rockslide and Cain Marko point that out. It doesn’t make the volume of WTFs involved any less egregious.


Firestar actually starts a campfire while the Living Monolith is soaking in his new power and preparing to wipe his ass with the entire world. They just shrug it off while they review other overwhelming threats that they had to overcome. They all agree that none has been more powerful or sucked more ass than this. Sure, they’ve fought giant robots, but none of those robots had the power of the fucking Juggernaut.

They do eventually start spit-balling ideas, still managing to ignore the big ass Juggernaut just over the horizon. It makes me wonder why the fuck the Living Monolith doesn’t try to step on them like bugs. It’s like they’re daring him to come up with a way to stop him. Even with unstoppable power, that’s a dumb move. It’s not too dumb in the sense most of their ideas suck. However, it does give them a chance to address some of the personal issues that emerged at the beginning of the story. Storm was pretty harsh with Colossus in saying he should sit this one out. He disobeyed her, but she’s not in a mood to bust his balls. She ends up apologizing, but not before noting that he also had a nasty tendency to sacrifice himself when shit like the Juggernaut is involved. And after Wolverine’s death, they don’t need to deal with that shit again.


They keep on talking, going through more fucked up ideas like calling in Magik or asking the Scarlet Witch to help. Because it’s not like the Scarlet Witch hasn’t royally fucked up the Marvel universe on two separate occasions or something. I have to imagine at this point that the Living Monolith must be twiddling his thumbs or taking a piss because eventually, they do come up with a viable idea. And it doesn’t involve inversions, genocide, or getting seduced by Dr. Doom.

Colossus actually gets a little existential on Juggernaut, questioning his and Cyttorak’s motivations. He starts to sound like one of those hippie protesters that whine about rampant consumerism while waiting six hours in line to get a new iPhone, but he does make a valid point. Cyttorak gives power to Juggernaut because he wants destruction and chaos. But to what end? Has anyone even bothered to ask this question? Has Cytorrak ever asked himself this question? I know it sounds like I just had a few extra shrooms, but it’s not a bad question to ask.

It actually makes the idea of sitting around a camp fire and thinking about this shit have merit. It takes away some of the WTFs in that it produces something that’s genuinely worthwhile. They all agree that the key to stopping Juggernaut is to get Cytorrak to reassess his goals. They’re basically going to try and be a guidance counselor to a rebellious teenager. That’s only slightly less daunting than taking on the Living Monolith.


The X-men then finally get up off their asses and start doing something about this. While Colossus agrees to confront Cytorrak, most of the X-men decide to battle the Living Monolith. They figure he’s done twiddling his thumbs and is ready to start crushing shit. The battle is on a fairly epic scale and it’s got plenty of firepower with Storm, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Firestar, Northstar, and Rockslide. It’s still horribly one-sided though. They know they’re not going to stop a Juggernaut-powered Living Monolith. They just need to keep him occupied and not get killed. It’s still a basic tactic for the X-men in a Juggernaut fight, but it’s a classic for a reason.


While the X-men Living Monolith are now finally doing something meaningful, Colossus gets help from Rachel Grey and Pixie to call upon Cyttorak. He’s not exactly happy to see his former champion. He seems perfectly happy to have a new champion that happens to be the size of a skyscraper. Hell, I’m surprised he doesn’t have a full-on rage boner. But then Colossus starts asking him the same existential questions he asked his team earlier. Cain Marko is even there with him. Like a Jehovah’s Witness trying to convince a teenage boy to stop looking at internet porn, he tries to get Cyttorak to think about his next failed champion. It’s not entirely wrong, given his perfectly imperfect track record. And unlike Jehovah’s Witnesses, he doesn’t just slam the door in his face or turn the garden hose on him. So I guess the question resonates.


This might be the perfect opportunity to set Cyttorak down on the couch and help him have a nice Dr. Phil moment that he can later tell Oprah. Then Colossus gets a little too bold and offers a different challenge. He dares Cyttorak to give him more power than he’s ever given any one of his champions before. He then says he won’t use that power to cause chaos and destruction. He’ll use it to kill Cyttorak. First, let me just say that the universe isn’t big enough to contain Colossus’ balls anymore. Let’s get that out of the way. Second, this is either the craziest dare made since A Christmas Story or the smartest.

Cyttorak must be either crazy or dumb because he accepts Colossus’ challenge. It’s actually a pretty amazing moment. The X-men aren’t just out to fight Juggernaut this time. They’re out to stop him at the source. They’re not fighting the symptoms anymore. They’re fighting the disease. It is a change to the classic formula that past Juggernaut battles have followed, but it’s a meaningful change. It took a while to get to it, but it’s starting to feel like it really has worth to it.


It succeeds in one key part. It removes the power of Juggernaut from the Living Monolith. That’s one huge problem solved. It’s a visceral, powerful moment that involves the Living Monolith getting knocked flat on his ass. Even though he didn’t get a chance to do a whole lot of damage as Juggernaut, it’s still pretty damn satisfying. If only he hadn’t been twiddling his thumbs while the X-men contemplated a way to screw him over, his defeat might have more impact. But he was already a douche before he became Juggernaut. Kicking his ass at any stage is still satisfying.


The only problem is that Cyttorak decided to take a page out of Darth Vader’s playbook and change the deal. Instead of giving this power to Colossus, he decided that he didn’t trust giving an X-man all that power. He must have read the original Phoenix Saga and knows it doesn’t end well. So instead, he gave Cain Marko the power he was going to give Colossus. Now Cain Marko has to be the one to destroy Cyttorak, if he still gives a shit at this point. Again, it’s both crazy and brilliant. Even if Cyttorak loses, Cain Marko is still unstoppable and the X-men are fucked. I’m guessing this means he can look forward to another massive rage boner.


Before this issue even began, it had a pretty epic foundation to build from. It was X-men versus Juggernaut. It’s right up there with Wolverine in a dick-measuring contest with Cyclops in terms of classic X-men themes. So far, the story has utilized a pretty basic yet pretty compelling method for carrying out this classic struggle. A new Juggernaut is about to emerge and the X-men try to stop it. But in this issue, the X-men dared to try a different approach. In a world where people riot over changes to the Coca Cola recipe, that can be dangerous. And I think what the X-men did here worked, at least in part.

I admit the idea of the X-men sitting around a camp fire and lamenting how fucked they are while a hulking Juggernaut rampages doesn’t appeal. It’s like watching Jerry Springer without any fights or strippers. It was one of those WTF moments akin to watching a couple of cops play Candy Crush on their phones while a gang war is going on. I understand that some cops won’t respond to anything that doesn’t involve giving out bullshit traffic tickets, but I hold the X-men to a higher standard. At least with this issue, they did get their shit together. And by finding another way, they actually made this classic struggle more intriguing. It took a while and it dragged like my dick on a hot summer day at a baseball game, but there was a solid payoff in the end. And it did offer a few revealing moments for certain characters. I give Amazing X-men #18 a 6 out of 10. I truly do wish that problems could be solved with a camp fire and a cooler full of beer. And I see the merits of taking a moment to think about dealing with a recurring problem. But like masturbation, there’s a time and a place for everything and it can get pretty damn awkward when people try it in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nuff said!

Friday, March 27, 2015

X-men Supreme Issue #117: Fate and Uncertainty is LIVE and X-23 Pics!


Throughout the history of X-men, there have been cycles of progression and regression. For a time, the X-men seem to make strides in achieving Professor Xavier’s goal of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. Then something comes along to undermine that progress. At other times, something comes along to completely divert the X-men’s attention from this goal in the first place. I’ve had the X-men face more than a few distractions in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, but I’ve always tried to give them a sense of progression. I want the X-men to evolve in this fanfiction series in a compelling way. That means dealing with the consequences of a major event.

The Weapon Plus arc was a major event by any measure. It closed another dark chapter in the history of Weapon X, an enemy that has already done a great deal of damage in the world of X-men Supreme. This time, it ended with Colonel John Wraith dying at the hands of his latest living weapon, Fantomex. It also ended with Graydon Creed being arrested and Reverend William Stryker going on the run again. It also gave General Grimshaw’s vision for policing mutants with the Mutant Security Agency some much needed credibility in the eyes of President Kelly. However, the damage left by Fantomex will lead to plenty of shifts throughout X-men Supreme.

I intend for those shifts to lead to progress on many fronts. This fanfiction series had guided numerous characters through many upheavals. Even before X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths began, Wolverine faced more upheavals than most. He hit rock bottom after breaking off his relationship with Storm and finding out he had a clone of him running around named X-23. In recent times, he’s been pulling himself back up again. In defeating Weapon Plus, Wolverine is now in a different place with this fanfiction series. His life and that of X-23’s will never be the same.

Other characters also face significant upheavals. Sage finally had to confront her past with Sebastian Shaw, leaving an indelible impact on her relationship with Beast. Rogue crossed paths with Isaac from the Church of Humanity, an organization that will have a major role later on in this fanfiction series. All these upheavals unfold at a time when other threats are still looming. Some of those threats are going to come into play very soon in X-men Supreme and that process continues in this issue.

X-men Supreme Issue 117: Fate and Uncertainty

In addition to the closure and aftermath of the Weapon Plus part, the time had come to give X-23 a place in the pics section. I know I introduced X-23 at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear, but I wanted to wait until she established herself in X-men Supreme before I gave her a section of her own. After her battle against Fantomex, I'd say she's more than done enough. She's now a part of the X-women section and I proudly establish a new section for her here on the X-men Supreme official website.

X-23 Pics

X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths is entering a critical stage. The final conflict for this era of this fanfanfiction series is in sight. As such, the future of X-men Supreme is still in question. I still haven’t decided if I’ll continue. I certainly would like to. I have plenty of ideas for more progress in the world of X-men Supreme. Feedback has been good. Commenters like Bumlinger have been very generous. But I need more feedback to ensure that I’m doing quality work with X-men Supreme. Please take the time to post your comments on this fanfiction series. Either contact me directly or post it directly in the issue. Either way is fine. I’m always willing to chat X-men. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!

Jack

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Guardians of the Galaxy #25


Cosmic power in the Marvel universe is like tequila. It’s incredibly potent and can make all sorts of wonderful shit happen. But it’s also extremely easy to abuse and can cause a world of pain. In the same way most people can’t handle tequila, most can’t handle cosmic power either. And something like the Black Vortex is akin to making tequila more potent while tasting as good as a chocolate milkshake with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles on top. There are very few ways that shit can’t be abused to a horrible degree. And so far, the Black Vortex crossover has done plenty to make the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy swear off cosmic power and tequila for the foreseeable future.

However, they haven’t quite reached the point where the nasty hangover kicks in just yet. They’re still in the midst of the kind of cosmic bar fight that usually ends with cracked skulls and multiple concussions. Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel have already caused the kind of mess that’s usually reserved for a Spring Break holiday in Cancun by a bunch of frat boys armed with Donald Trump’s credit card. At some point, the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy have to play the part of the asshole bartender that cuts them off. Guardians of the Galaxy #25 takes them one step closer to that nasty hangover, but it also shows that they would probably make shitty bartenders.

That hangover can’t come soon enough for Hank McCoy. This is a guy who has been drunk on his douche-baggery for way too long. He’s so smart, but he can’t see the omega level asshole he’s become. He bitches about Cyclops, but offers no solutions. He whines about tapping immense power, but fucks up the space-time continuum to bring the O5 X-men back from the past. If his hypocrisy were any worse, Ted Haggard would try to buy meth from him. At some point, he has to see how badly he’s fucked up. Well that time has finally come. It just took cosmic level power for him to do it. That’s both ironic and hypocritical.

He laments to Gamora how he stuck his dick in the sadistic bitch that is hypocrisy, thinking he was doing the right thing. And just like Cyclops, the guy he can’t stop bitching about, he thought he could handle the power and the responsibility. Now that he has the power of the Black Vortex, he realizes he’s fucked. Even with cosmic power, he can’t undo the damage he did. It’s still too late to make him less of an asshole, but that doesn’t make this any less refreshing. Like someone lost in the desert, this feels like a nice cold beer. It’s still not enough, but it’s more progress than Hank McCoy has had in years.


Beast’s overdue humility still doesn’t help the friends he’s screwed over. A team of X-men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nova attempted to get to Hala to retrieve the Black Vortex from Ronan. They arrived on a planet that Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel did a damn good job of fucking up. And Ronan even got in on the act, using the Black Vortex for himself and deciding to give the finger to his home world as well. I guess he understands that he has a lot of catching up to do if he wants to reach Hank McCoy’s level of douche-baggery. The X-men and the Guardians understand this and they want to use the Black Vortex to return their friends to a state that’s slightly less overpowered.

It’s a perfectly reasonable request. It’s in the universe’s best interest to have fewer cosmic-powered assholes running around. So of course the Supreme Intelligence tells them to piss off. He’s okay with just sealing it away and using the Kree’s might to subdue these cosmic-powered renegades. That has some merit on some levels. And by that, I mean it has as much merit as a war plan organized by Dick Cheney. But it’s at least somewhat balanced. That’s something this whole story has been pretty good at maintaining, even when characters like Ronan and Beast are involved. That alone is quite an accomplishment.


Balance or not, the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t inclined to be overly diplomatic. They came expecting to resort to Jack Baur’s tactics, knowing that the Supreme Intelligence was never going to be overly generous. So Starlord decides intelligence is overrated and starts shooting while Nova takes the Black Vortex. It makes for a pretty epic escape, complete with Captain Marvel punching the Supreme Intelligence in the face. For her, that’s like me kicking my old gym teacher in the balls. It’s just that satisfying.

It’s also satisfying to see Nova finally do something meaningful. His presence in this story was a bit forced, but he’s finally found a way to contribute. He’s still an immature kid who has seen Indiana Jones one times too many, but that only makes his battle against the Kree Accusers more entertaining. I’ve never been much of a Nova fan because he comes off as the teenage Peter Parker that Andrew Garfield failed to be, but I will give him credit here. Any kid who can go up against the Kree and pwn them appropriately deserves respect.


Nova’s efforts to escape with the Black Vortex are still dependent on the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s ability to keep the Supreme Intelligence from using Nova as chewing gum. They have to take part in another epic battle in a story that has already had plenty. But like a nap on a beach in Maui, it’s one of those things that’s hard to overdo.

The battle is intense, but brief. However, it’s not rushed because it’s brief for a damn good reason. Even though the X-men and the Guardians are surrounded by Kree Accusers and a very pissed off Supreme Intelligence, they still have O5 Jean Grey on their side. That’s like bringing the Death Star to a knife fight. They have the edge. And O5 Jean even uses this as a chance to exercise the powers she gained during her last adventure with the Guardians of the Galaxy, turning the psychic energy around her into an unstoppable wave of pants-shitting awesome. The Supreme Intelligence is the lucky one here because it doesn’t wear pants, but I’m sure it wished it did.


With the Supreme Intelligence down for the count, the X-men and the Guardians can escape. They just have to trust that Nova found a way to escape with the Black Vortex. That’s right. They trust that an immature teenager who only recently got access to the power of the Nova corps can protect the Black Vortex from the Kree. That’s like trusting Russian teenagers with a crate of grenades and an unlimited supply of vodka. It’s not going to work.

The result is somewhat predictable. Nova eventually does fuck up, but it’s not from the Kree. One of the Slaughter Lords that had been sent to Hala to retrieve the Black Vortex for Mr. Knife finally joined the party. Since the Kree couldn’t get the job done, he decides to show them how it’s done. I hope the Kree took notes. Nova is the one who gets pwned this time and he doesn’t have the luxury of a pissed off Jean Grey to back him up. So while he did show some competence against the Kree, the Slaughter Lords remind us that he’s still a teenager.


But neither the Slaughter Lords nor Mr. Knife are content to just rough up some whiney teenager and take the Black Vortex. That just seems too half-assed. Mr. Knife decides he has to go the extra distance to prove he’s now the biggest asshole in the universe, leapfrogging Hank McCoy and Iceman by several light-years. To do that, he decides to turn his ship on Hala and finish what Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel only started. He destroys the whole fucking planet.

It’s not clean or swift like the Death Star either. Mr. Knife is the kind of asshole who likes to rip the wings off a bug and torture it for a while before he crushes it. He bombards the planet with missiles, so much so that he rips out a chunk of the planet. It’s every bit as epic as it sounds and then some. It forces the X-men and the Guardians, as well as most of the Kree, to get the fuck off that planet as if it were the site of an upcoming Justin Bieber concert. It shocks even Starlord, who already knew his father was an asshole, just not on this scale.


Now it was a given that a few planets would get fucked up during this story. Any story involving cosmic-powered characters is bound to rearrange a few solar systems. But Mr. Knife did this shit without the aid of the Black Vortex. He just had to be a total douche-bag with a big ass ship and a complete disregard for life in general. It’s another example, albeit terrifying, of the balance this story has maintained. But that only adds to the overall awesome.

Mr. Knife has now firmly established himself as the last person in the universe who should have the power of the Black Vortex. He doesn’t just order the destruction of Hala. He takes pleasure in it like a guy jerking off to animal porn. He paints it as a good thing for the galaxy, although he doesn’t hide that he blames the Kree for him losing his world. So there’s also an element of vindictive douche-baggery at work here, as if he needed.

The thought of this guy having the Black Vortex should make the universe as a whole shit itself. And for a moment, it looks like he has it. The Slaughter Lords roughed up Nova and took it. They should be preparing for the party when Mr. Knife takes a big cosmic shit on the ruins of Hala. However, one of them reveals they lost the Black Vortex. It’s not entirely clear how it happened, but it is revealed that it’s still with Nova. Somehow he managed to wrestle it away when he wasn’t busy looking like an immature teenager. It’s a bit of an oversight that could be easily addressed in another issue. Or it could just be one of those cases where an immature teenager gets lucky. If it’s ever going to happen, it should happen at a time like this to keep an asshole like Mr. Knife from getting the Black Vortex.


The problem is the Black Vortex is still out there and it’s still vulnerable for any cosmic asshole to exploit. That’s why Magik and Rocket Raccoon were tasked with finding Gamora, Beast, and O5 Angel and hope they’re not too drunk on cosmic power to help. Even they have to agree on some levels that keeping Mr. Knife away from the Black Vortex is in everybody’s best interest.

There’s some funny moments with Rocket Raccoon, but there’s also a meaningful conversation here. There have actually been many of those in a story that has already blown up a planet so that’s saying something. Magik uses her experience with being Dormammu’s mystica; prison bitch to relate to Gamora’s plight. I won’t say it’s a perfect analogy, but it does speak to the same themes of dealing with overwhelming power. And that’s something they’re all dangerously close to failing at.

Then they pick up on the destruction of Hala and now there’s some fucking urgency to not fail. And since cosmic power wasn’t even used to destroy it, Gamora and Beast decide it’s time to stop waving their cosmic-powered dick around and help their friends. It’s another small step towards Hank McCoy’s long road to being likable again. He still has a long fucking ways to go. If it takes the destruction of a whole planet for him to get his shit together, then it might not be worth it.


Even so, Mr. Knife is already going in the opposite direction and he’s well on his way to surpassing Beast’s douche-baggery at an exponential rate. He might not have the Black Vortex, but he does have a few hostages. The Slaughter Lords were able to take O5 Cyclops, O5 Iceman, and Groot prisoner when their teammates were escaping Spartax. Now Mr. Knife wants to use them as bait to get the Black Vortex back. He also makes sure to inform them that he just blew up a planet and got a big fucking boner while doing it. He then makes clear he’s willing to do that to Earth while the surviving Kree give him a hand-job. It’s a fucked up situation that even Groot can’t sufficiently articulate. I get it, Mr. Knife. You’re a bigger asshole than Beast now. I concede. This issue makes that abundantly clear in the most awesome possible way and ensures more planets could blow up before this is over.


When the Black Vortex crossover started, I think everybody got the impression that this was the comic book equivalent of an NFL preseason game. It was meaningless filler meant to bridge the gap to the regular season, which in this case I guess would be Secret Wars. But somehow, the Black Vortex has found a way to be awesome on a truly epic level. It couldn’t be more proficient without being a star quarterback married to a Brazilian supermodel. This issue truly reinforced the epic scale of this story. A fucking planet got blown up and not in the casual Phoenix Force kind of way either. It was a massive, Independence Day style attack that hit all the right emotions without being derailed by a Will Smith character.

Any crossover story can start strong. I’m sure Battlefield Earth felt interesting to some during the first five minutes. But Black Vortex keeps finding a way to build momentum. It’s getting so many great characters involved. The X-men, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Starjammers, and even Nova are all finding a way to be awesome in their own right. The struggle keeps taking new turns. Some are personal and way fucking overdue, as with everything involving Hank McCoy. Some are just epic in a way that blows up half a fucking planet. Mix that shit together and it’s like Jack and Coke. It’s a beautiful, potent combination that’ll get people fucked up in all the right ways. I give Guardians of the Galaxy #25 a 9 out of 10. Fuck the preseason. This story is a playoff contender now. Just hope that it doesn’t fail to complete the process of making the catch or it can end badly. Just ask Dez Bryant. Nuff said!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #32


For some characters, it's a challenge to give them the benefit of the doubt. Some just don't have a good track record of not finding a way to fuck it up. But if ever a character deserved a mulligan or two on his fuck-ups, it's Cyclops. I know there are a vocal contingent of fans who hate his guts and everything he does. First they said he was boring. Then they said he was a total douche. They basically treat him like Michael Bay, always finding flaws in everything he does despite being an undeniable success. I tend to think these fans are in need of better weed. But come on, this is a guy who lost two wives, a son, and a father figure. Yet he still tries to lead the X-men as best he can, even when everybody hates his guts. How can anyone not respect that on some levels? The Hank McCoys of the world being the lone exception.

The Last Will of Charles Xavier brought out the worst in Cyclops. Sure, it got retconned in the end, but it showed just how capable he is of fucking up when the going gets tough. The problem is that nobody else is willing to offer an alternative so he still gets the blame, no matter what. Now he has Xavier's will and the shit storm caused by AXIS to deal with. So he's already half-screwed before he does anything at this point. But Uncanny X-men #32 is a chance for him to show that he can still be the leader the X-men need him to be, even if it makes the Icemans and Beasts of the world violently ill. Whether he'll fuck that up too remains to be seen.

At the very least, Cyclops can at least say that his own brother isn't in the same camp as Iceman and Beast. One of the many consequences of AXIS that nobody has bothered to address since it ended was that Havok stayed inverted. He didn't go back to being the guy who shined Captain America's boots and lectured people about the politically correct way to use the word "mutant." If we all wanted that, we'd listen to Al Sharpton. Instead, his inversion led him to joining his renegade brother's mutant revolution. It's the kind of brotherly love that we haven't seen from Cyclops and Havok since Brett Favre was still flip-flopping over his retirement. But it's a little too late.

While Havok reuniting with Cyclops does help give a big middle finger to the Avengers and their bullshit unity team, it also happens to come at a time when the shit storm caused by the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier is still settling down. It makes no fucking sense from a chronological and logistical point. First, they were dealing with Charles Xavier's will. Then they were dealing with the Scarlet Witch's inversion spell. Now maybe there was some time between Havok leaving the Uncanny Avengers and him joining Cyclops that would make this slightly less contrived. But nobody likes making assumptions in a world where marriages and family ties can be retconned so it still feels forced. Even so, it's still a meaningful moment in that it re-establishes a connection between Cyclops and Havok.


That heart-warming moment doesn't really last because it happens to come on the same day Cyclops basically shut down the New Xavier School. Just a few hours before Havok arrived to admit that the Avengers are assholes, Cyclops gathered his students and told them about his decision. He calmly and kindly explained to them that he's going to help transfer them to the Jean Grey Institute where they can get the training and education they need. He even assures them they'll be safe there. He probably even mentioned Storm is there to protect them. How the fuck could that not appeal to them?

It sounds so reasonable and sincere. Naturally, they all tell Cyclops to go fuck himself. As with most teenagers who receive reasonable and sincere advice from an adult, they get fucking pissed. Now most of their reactions make no fucking sense. They bitch and moan about how they left their homes to fight alongside him. Sure, they never mention the part where Cyclops never forced them to join, but they're teenagers. That would be too reasonable. But they still have a legitimate reason for being pissed. They agreed to follow this man. They supported him even when he fucked up. Now he's telling them they have to go to another school. And for teenagers, being sincere and having a damn good reason just isn't enough. It's like arguing with a vindictive ex-girlfriend. Reason and sincerity just won't cut it.


Cyclops' inverted brother ends up being much more understanding. And seriously, that should say a lot about the teenage characters in this series. Havok, after sleeping off the effects of being horribly scarred and inverted during AXIS, wakes up to find that Cyclops is planning on turning himself in. He's going to take the blame for the death of Charles Xavier. Sure, the Scarlet Witch isn't going to take the blame for M-Day and Wolverine never took the blame for killing his son. But that's a technicality that only those with overpaid lawyers can afford.

It makes for another nice moment between brothers. It's also a complete reversal for Havok. At the beginning of Uncanny Avengers, he and Hank McCoy were joined at the hip in the "We blame Cyclops!" fan club. Now he's telling his brother that it was an accident. He was not fully responsible. Maybe this can be attributed to the inversion, but even Mitt Romney would be taken aback by this kind of flip-flopping. It still makes for a very nice moment where the two brothers reconnect. It also is a nice moment of humility for Cyclops. And after the shit he did during the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier, he fucking needed it. I won't say he completely balances out, but he comes pretty damn close.


Even so, the students of the New Xavier School don't give a shit. Goldballs even expresses his discontent by knocking Cyclops out. It's only slightly less healthy than bitching and moaning on a message board, but it helps convey the sentiment of Cyclops' students. It's pretty intense, as it should be. Emma, Illyana, and Kitty Pryde even show up. They only slightly more reasonable. And Illyana and Kitty Pryde end up just leaving. I guess that's still healthier than the way Goldballs reacted, but it makes for a chaotic yet dramatic situation.

There's a lot of anger. They keep asking for an explanation, but they don't give Cyclops a chance to give it to them. They'd rather storm off and be pissed. I'd expect that from Hank McCoy a 13-year-old girl whose parents refused to buy them an iPhone, but not from X-men or mutant revolutionaries. In that sense, they'll probably fit right in at the Jean Grey Institute because I'm sure Hank McCoy will help nurture their irrational Cyclops hatred.


Eventually, Emma Frost confronts Cyclops privately and she does it fully clothed. That's how he knows she's serious. She yells at him too, but in a much more constructive way. That alone makes her the most reasonable ex-girlfriend in the history of the Marvel universe. She still reminds him how he begged her to join him even after they broke up and she barred him from ever seeing her naked again. She reminds him how she went along with him, even when she had so many reasons to strap him to a chair, shove a dildo in his mouth, and make him watch her bang Namor until the next full moon. It's a nice little refresher course on the emotional toll these two have taken on one another, but it has a meaningful point and she doesn't even have to flash her boobs to make it.


Emma finally gives him a chance to come clean and explain what he hoped to do with this mutant revolution, which is way more than any of his students gave him. And the answer Cyclops gives is both telling and pretty damn compelling. He lists all the ways that the X-men have tried to realize Charles Xavier's dream. They tried being heroes. They tried fighting alongside the Avengers. They tried starting their own country. They tried damn near everything. And he rightly points out that all that shit has failed.

He's not blowing pot smoke at a sick dog either. First there was Genosha. It became the site of mass genocide and later, it was the site of a Nazi concentration camp. Then, they tried Utopia because Norman Osborne was a massive prick. The Avengers ended up invading that shit and it all went downhill from there. All the while the X-men kept trying to work alongside humans and all it ever got them was a middle finger and a proverbial "fuck off." What else could they have done?

What Cyclops lays out feels like a natural, albeit desperate progression. He made his revolution out to be a threat to tell the world to knock this shit off. One genocide should've been enough, but mutants still keep getting all this crazy shit that leads cops to shoot innocent mutants for no reason, as Hijack found out recently. With Charles Xavier dead, it felt like the dream really was dead as well. And Cyclops' desperation really drove him this time. It wasn't out of anger or malice. It had a legitimate point. At this point, only the Hank McCoys of the world would still give him shit for it.


This explanation does seem to resonate with Emma Frost...for about five minutes or so. The Cyclops/Emma fans might want to look away and get some extra strong weed because this is where the emotions start to take a turn. First, she hints that maybe they should start over. Maybe she should take the lock off her panties so they could start fresh. Cyclops, showing more will power than any straight man in the history of any universe, says fuck no.

This leads to another powerful moment where Emma Frost reveals that, once again, she's been lying to him. She reveals her powers have been fixed and they've been fixed for a while now. It's not the first time she's lied to him. Even when they were together, Emma has had a nasty tendency to lie. She kept lying even after she promised to stop lying. Even if she has the best rack in all of comics, there's only so much lying a relationship can handle. But by revealing this latest lie, Emma breaks Cyclops down in a way that only an ex-girlfriend can. And she even manages to do it without making him feel like his balls have been sucked into a black hole. Somehow that makes her even sexier, although that should surprise no one at this point.


Once these lies are exposed, Emma reminds him that as bitter an ex-girlfriend as she is, she still admires him. She admires his thoughts and his desires. She probably admires his penis too, but she leaves that out because I'm sure it was implied. She reminds him of this because she shared a lot with him and not just her panties. That means Emma Frost probably knows better than anyone the kind of man Cyclops is capable of being. Now he's essentially punching that man in the dick and telling him to piss off. It's enough to make her wish her powers were still broken. It sends another powerful message that only Emma Frost could ever truly get across. She can make her point and look damn sexy doing it.

Emma tells Cyclops outright that he can't unmake the threats he made for his mutant revolution. And if he's going to back down from them, then he might as well shave his balls and get a tattoo of Hank McCoy's dick on his face. If he's not going to understand that, then she's not going to stay. She won't let herself live in an area where there's a chance he could plant a camera in her shower. It's probably the most brutally honest Emma Frost has ever been. And for the White Queen, that's saying something.


While her departure probably hurt Cyclops in a way for which his penis will never forgive him, Havok is ecstatic. This might be the inversion talking, but he's glad Emma Frost is gone. I'm sure he felt that dating the former White Queen was bad for his soul. Then again, he dated Magneto's daughter so he's not one to talk. Then in a very uninverted moment, he inspires Cyclops to do something more productive than turn himself over to the authorities. He urges him to do something that Charles Xavier and Wolverine would be proud of. At the very least, he should do something that'll make Iceman and Beast shut the fuck up. He doesn't say what it is, but it's clear that Cyclops is open to alternatives. In fact, this is probably the first alternative anybody has ever bothered to give him. And it's pretty fucking pathetic that it takes an inversion spell for someone to finally come up with something. Go figure.


This was one of those issues where everyone finally channeled their inner PMS. All these emotions and issues that had been either glossed over or set aside were finally laid out like Bill Clinton's secret porno stash. It was revealing, engaging, and even a little titillating. Or maybe that's just the blow talking. I can never tell. But after the chaotic shit storm caused by AXIS and the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier, this issue finally stopped throwing more shit at the fan and moved the story of Cyclops' revolution forward in a meaningful way. Sure, no SHIELD helicarriers crashed and no Avengers were pwned, but it did succeed in making Havok likable again and that alone is a hell of an accomplishment.

That's not to say the whole flip-flopping on who killed Charles Xavier for what reason was any less annoying. At this point, that whole debate is like a used condom. Nobody wants to handle it anymore and nobody really should. And this whole inversion crap that's supposed to be affecting Havok really didn't come into play like it has with Sabretooth and Tony Stark. So now another detail is getting glossed over. It's not quite as egregious, but it still continues an annoying trend. There's still a lot to like about this issue and what it does for Cyclops' story. He's humbled himself in ways that were overdue. And it feels like he's finally ready to step up and make the Hank McCoys of the world eat a bucket of shit. That's why I give Uncanny X-men #32 a 7 out of 10. It's good and it'll give everyone who has an annoying little brother warm and fuzzy feelings inside. For those who once had hot blonde girlfriends, not so much. So I guess that Hugh Hefner is the only one who should stay away from this comic. Nuff said!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Revealing Strengths and Vulnerabilities: Superman #39

The following is my review of Superman #39, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


The concept of a secret identity is a lot harder to contemplate in an era where identities are only as secretive as a botched instagram post. It was probably a lot easier decades ago when only the CIA, the DEA, and George Lucas utilized elaborate camera tricks. So someone like Clark Kent could get away with having a secret identity, especially with all the skills and powers that come along with being Superman. Over his history, he’s had to elaborate and creative. He’s not like Batman, who has enough money and gadgets to make most of his identity issues go away. But in this era, elaborate and creative just isn’t enough.

This creates a logistical problem of sorts for Superman. He lives in an era where phone booths are as extinct as eight-track tapes and everyone has a camera in their pocket. Yet somehow he’s still able to keep his identity secret from his friends, his family, the NSA, and Fox News. It’s one of those issues that’s easy to shrug off because it’s been part of Superman’s mythos since the 1940s, a time when a camera cost a mortgage payment. But after discovering a new power and keeping all his secrets solely amongst the Justice League, he’s taken a chance and revealed his identity to someone.

It’s overdue and it lacks impact, but it’s still an important development. Superman #39 explores that development in wake of the conflict surrounding Ulysses. It’s a development that didn’t have much of a transition, but it still counts as a pivotal moment for Superman. It even ends up being more than pivotal. It offers a refreshing insight into what makes Superman the ideal by which all heroes are measured.

The revelation itself isn’t the center of the story. It essentially starts a conversation that ends up going way beyond the merits of a secret identity in the 21st century. Jimmy Olson’s reaction is fairly predictable. It’s not overdone or overly dramatic. For a character like Jimmy Olson, that’s appropriate. He’s still this wide-eyed kid who sees the world from the perspective of someone whose spirit hasn’t been crushed by mortgages, bills, and the IRS.

To Jimmy Olson, his best friend being Superman is like finding out his best friend just bought a Ferrari. It’s shocking, but in a good way. Nobody faints. Nobody gets mad. He doesn’t whine about his friend lying to him all these years. He just accepts it and embraces this revelation. It might come off as bland, but it’s not callous. He doesn’t shrug it off or get overly worked up. And it’s because Jimmy’s reaction is so healthy that Superman can offer some perspective about what he’s going through.

In addition to revealing his identity, Superman is also dealing with not having his powers for a day. It’s one of the unfortunate side-effects of his latest Dragonball Z derived ability to generate a solar flare. But not having his powers doesn’t cripple him. He doesn’t tremble with fear and he doesn’t carry himself like he’s not Superman anymore. He actually embraces the opportunity to be fully human and having someone like Jimmy Olson to share the experience with makes it meaningful.


It’s probably the most mature way anyone has ever responded to a loss. Most people have a nervous breakdown whenever they drop their cell phone in the toilet. Superman lost the power that makes him Superman. That’s a lot more serious than simply not being able to Tweet from an elevator. But this loss doesn’t cause Superman to curl up into a fetal position and pray to Rao for the strength. It doesn’t even stop him from being Superman and this is where the true impact of the story shows.

Even though he’s fully human and completely vulnerable, Superman still doesn’t hesitate to help people in need. When a girl falls out of a tree, he helps her. When a crazed gunman takes a hostage, he does something about it. He does it when he’s just Clark Kent in normal street clothes. He also does it while he’s wearing his Superman armor. Not having his powers doesn’t change that in the slightest. He’s still Superman. He can still be the hero everyone needs him to be without his powers. In that sense, even other heroes who might complain about not being able to lift a freight train have no excuse.

The story doesn’t contain much in the form of style, nor does it offer anything decidedly epic like Superman’s final battle against Ulysses. But it does offer a beautiful reminder of why Superman is so iconic. It shows that Superman doesn’t do what he does because of his powers. In fact, his powers wouldn’t even rank in top five in terms of reasons why he’s the ideal by which all heroes are measured. He does the right thing, regardless of whatever power he may or may not have. That ideal is and always has been Superman’s greatest power.

This underlying theme is the greatest strength of the story. It’s a theme worth reinforcing. It’s easy to forget in between clashes with Lex Luthor and battles against alien warlords that Superman is more than the breadth of his powers. There will always be some satisfaction to the stories where he decks Lex Luthor and flies off with Lois Lane into the sunset. But there’s a different kind of satisfaction in stories that show why Superman embodies the ideals of so many heroes before and since his creation. It could be argued that him punching out Lex Luthor is more satisfying, but reinforcing those ideals is definitely more meaningful.

The story in Superman #39 isn’t overly epic. Revealing his identity to Jimmy Olsen doesn’t make for an overwhelming narrative, but it still does so in a meaningful way. It just ends up becoming secondary once Superman gets a chance to be Superman without his powers. It’s easy to be inspired by a man who isn’t afraid to do the right thing even when he can’t punch through a brick wall. But with or without Superman’s powers, it still doesn’t make glasses a viable disguise.

Final Score: 8 out of 10