Friday, November 21, 2014

X-men Supreme Issue #108: Civilization No Longer Lost Part 3 is LIVE!


One of the greatest appeals of the X-men is how they appeal to concepts of humanity. It goes right to the heart of the idea that the X-men are an analogy of minority struggles. They're different in some very extreme ways, but they're still distinctly human. I've done my best to capture that humanity with the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. I've tried to explore many different kinds of humanity that the X-men struggle with. Beyond the major romantic sub-plots, there are also stories about estranged parents, stories about impoverished communities, and stories about mutants being turned into prisoners. These are all stories that have core X-men elements, but they also have core elements of humanity. And even in an arc that involves Sinister, Selene, and the lost city of Nova Roma, there's room for humanity.

Among the most basic cores of humanity comes from the lengths parents will go to in order to protect their children. In the world of X-men, parents have to not only deal with their children being minorities. They also have to deal with them being a danger to themselves and others. What parent wouldn't go to any length ensure their child avoided such struggles? That's exactly the issue that emerged in X-men Supreme. Within this fanfiction series, the hidden nation of Nova Roma has many secrets. It didn't just conceal itself from the world with the aid of magic. It found a way to avoid the whole mutant controversy altogether. Rather than actually deal directly with mutants and their powers, the citizens of Nova Roma used magic to suppress them. It's a concept that would be unthinkable in most X-men stories, but in X-men Supreme there is a context.

Think of it from the position of someone like Lucius Aquilla. He finds out his daughter, Amara, is a mutant. Being a mutant already killed his wife. As a parent, is he not justified in doing anything he can to protect his daughter from that fate? He may be misguided. His actions have already had consequences, thanks to Sinister and Selene's activities. But he did what he did to protect his child. Even the X-men understand that on some levels. It makes for a much more personal struggle in this dire situation. It's a situation that will have major consequences for this fanfiction series and not just for Lucius and his daughter. The destruction is just beginning. The world of X-men Supreme is about to become a much more dangerous place and it begins in this fateful issue.

X-men Supreme Issue 108: Civilization No Longer Lost Part 3

The concept of humanity will continue to be a huge theme in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, just as it has always been part of the X-men mythos. These themes, among others, are about to escalate in a major way. There have been a number of emotionally charged sub-plots that I've been building for a while in this fanfiction series. Some will be coming to a head in this arc. Others will unfold in later issues. It's all going to make for some serious upheaval at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths. All great X-men stories require upheavel, but they need the right kind of upheaval to be awesome. That's why it's incredibly important that readers send me feedback for this issue, as well as future and past issues. Whether they're posted in the issue directly or sent to me via email, I'm always happy to respond. So please take the time to review. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!

Jack

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #28


I used to be one of those fans who wondered why the hell Cyclops was the leader of the X-men. Maybe it was just because I was a gullible kid. Or maybe it was because my teachers and guidance counselors kept experimenting on me with cocktails of ADHD drugs. But I honestly couldn’t figure out for the life of me why he was someone the X-men followed. Then the ADHD drugs wore off and I turned myself onto booze and weed. It all started making sense. After seeing what he was able to do through the Grant Morrison and Joss Whedon era, I could honestly say I would jump his bone if I were a chick, even if it meant getting horribly maimed by Jean Grey and Emma Frost.

What makes Cyclops so charismatic and so controversial as a character is that he’s willing to make hard decisions that nobody else wants to make. Those decisions are a big reason why he’s currently a fugitive from SHIELD and why most of his former teammates have ditched him. But those reasons are also why the mutant race isn’t extinct right now. He’s never shied away from making these decisions and seeing as how Professor Xavier was such a jerk when he was alive, he left Cyclops and the X-men with one exceedingly tough choice with Matthew Malloy. And despite Iceman being a massive asshat and his teammates still busting his balls every step of the way, he’s in a position to do what others won’t. Uncanny X-men #28 probably won’t win over any of his very vocal critics, but it will probably make plenty of women (and even a few men) want to sleep with him even more.

Maria Hill has already revealed herself to be among those women, but I don’t think her panties are very wet while standing in the ruins left by Matthew Malloy. Or maybe they are. Maybe she has strange tastes. I can’t really tell with that woman. But she doesn’t exactly get all hot and bothered when Cyclops confronts Matthew Malloy with the balls and bravado that only he can muster. Matthew is understandably tense and a little upset. He did just kind of wipe an entire city off the map and it wasn’t Detroit. But Cyclops proves to have way better negotiating skills than Maria Hill because he agrees to go with Cyclops to a less morbid location so they can talk. He even offers to buy him breakfast. Because how the hell can anyone negotiate with a volatile mutant on an empty stomach? It would be like me trying to sit through a Martin Scorsese movie sober.


Absent from this exceedingly tense moment are the rest of the X-men. Matthew Malloy already sent them home like a vindictive middle school principal. And since they don’t have someone like Magik on their team who can teleport and look dead sexy wielding a giant sword, they’re not in a position to contribute. Beast attempts to get help from the Avengers and the authorities. They react the same way most people react when a Jehovah’s Witness knocks on the door and asks if they want to hear the most boring people alive talk about Jesus. It makes for a moment that would be so satisfying if it didn’t feel so damn forced.

Hank McCoy admits Cyclops was right. No, that’s not a typo. No, I’m not THAT drunk. He finally admits it. He says Cyclops was right. The problem is he’s a little restrictive in terms of the context of this statement. He admits that humans are way too eager to walk around mutant problems rather than address them. But he doesn’t admit Cyclops was right about the Phoenix or the Avengers being assholes or his hypocrisy in fucking with the timeline when he brought the O5 X-men back from the past. He only admits Cyclops is right that humanity has room for improvement in addressing mutant issues. That’s like saying North Korea has room for improvement in terms of how it treats dissenting opinions. It comes off as a major revelation, but is painfully shallow. All it really establishes is that the X-men at the Jean Grey Institute are fucked and have nothing left to contribute in this conflict.


The only one who can really do anything at this point is Cyclops and he’s certainly not going to pass up an opportunity to help a fellow mutant and piss off Beast. Magik ends up teleporting them to some place remote, yet scenic. Cyclops is up front and honest with Matthew. He’s also not trying to speak to him through some drone or probe like SHIELD attempted because he’s not a pussy. He then does something else that SHIELD never offered. He gives Matthew a chance to read his mind. It probably won’t turn him on as much as it did Emma Frost, but it establishes a sense of openness that certainly helps.

In reading Cyclops’ mind, Matthew finds out that they have something in common. He sees glimpses of Cyclops’ past before he became an X-man. He also had powers he couldn’t control. They were also the kind of powers that could do a fuckton of damage if he was ever in a bad mood. Sure, he never wiped out an entire city, but I’m sure he would have if he made it to his first day of high school. Now there’s nothing in here that most X-men fans don’t already know. Hell, most of those fans can probably skip this part because it’s been told and retold more times than a Friday the 13th movie. But Matthew doesn’t know Cyclops’ story and he’s the one in need of insight.


In addition to details about his life story, Cyclops also shows how his life changed after he joined the X-men. But he doesn’t focus on how many clones he married or how many killer robots he destroyed. He focuses on the X-men’s accomplishments in pursuing Xavier’s dream, or lack thereof. He points out (and rightfully so) that the X-men saved the world enough times to warrant their own Thanksgiving Day parade, but it didn’t change a damn thing. Humans still hated mutants. Sure, mutants like Magneto acting like an asshole certainly didn’t help, but saving the world seems to work for the Avengers. But it doesn’t do a damn thing for the X-men.

This is an argument that has only recently become more important in wake of Avengers vs. X-men. The differences between the X-men and Avengers as heroes used to be like used tampons. Everybody knew they were there. They just didn’t talk about it. Cyclops, having been horribly screwed over by the Avengers, is finally shoving the bullshit in everybody’s faces to smell. He did things Xavier’s way for years, trying to be better and keep fighting for humans even if they hated them. Now, after all the shit mutants have fought for and lost, he’s starting to think that maybe Xavier’s approach had a few flaws. A man who loses two wives and unlimited access to Emma Frost’s panties is going to be a little jaded.


That jaded mentality just comes off a bit bland when he tries to use this to argue the merits of his revolution with Matthew Malloy. But wait, I thought he was supposed to be trying to help Matthew in accord with Charles Xavier’s last wishes? Maybe I am more drunk than I think or maybe this whole conflict has really started to drag. I’m thinking it’s a little of both because this is basically the same argument Cyclops has made before. Humans suck so mutants have to rise up. And somewhere along the way, he wants to help Matthew control his powers. It’s really hard to tell at this point because while there’s plenty of substance, it really doesn’t amount to much.


Cyclops only ends up telling Matthew Malloy more stories that most X-men fans already know. He recalls all the other cases, including the ones involving him, where mutants had powers they couldn’t control. He then points out that with his power, Matthew Malloy could become a vital part of his revolution. Because who the fuck would stand a chance against them if they had firepower like his? He goes back and forth between being Che Guevera and Dr. Phil, which makes for an even messier conversation.

It’s the kind of conversation with the kind of rhetoric Cyclops never would’ve used prior to Avengers vs. X-men. I know the crowd that doesn’t want to sleep with him loves to whine how he’s become too much like Magneto. I still say that’s bullshit. He’s not demanding that humans worship him. He’s not demanding that mutants be made rulers of the world. But he’s still carrying himself like the kind of guy who give the finger to peace in exchange for preserving the mutant race. Not only does it give the anti-Cyclops crowd more to bitch about, but it also accomplishes jack shit because Matthew just starts whining again at how he doesn’t want to be a mutant and he doesn’t want to be part of this shit. I can’t say I blame him, but the lack of progress here makes it about as enjoyable as watching a drunk argue with a wall.


Matthew pitches another omega-level hissy fit. Magik manages to come in and teleport Cyclops away before he can be crushed. But he’s not done having more pointless conversations. Even though Magik herself points out that his use of the world “brother” is too similar to how Magneto spoke when dealing with the Brotherhood. It’s not something that needed to be reinforced, but why the fuck not at this point? The story is doing such a good job of accomplishing nothing. Why stop? So Magik agrees to teleport him back to Matthew so they can waste even more time.


Cyclops appears again and Matthew is still brooding like a 15-year-old emo listening to every Linken Park song ever made. He tries to make the same argument again, using a bit more Magneto-style rhetoric. He talks about how having a mutant like him is going to make the rest of humanity think twice about fucking with his revolution or mutants in general. Matthew still isn’t wholly convinced. That’s probably because he hasn’t experienced his first Sentinel attack or dealt with anyone like the Purifiers, but his skepticism is understandable. And at some point, Cyclops has to realize his ripping off Magneto way too much for anyone to be comfortable.


He doesn’t realize this soon enough though. Because Magneto finally shows up, most likely because he was sick of Cyclops plagiarizing his methods. Hell, I’m surprised he didn’t bring a lawyer with him. He informs Cyclops that he has gone too far and when Magneto says something has gone too far, that usually means it’s just one step behind multiple clusterfucks worth of damage. That’s saying a lot given how Cyclops has said so much and convinced Matthew of so little. All he’s really done is made everyone around him forget that this was supposed to be about Xavier’s last will. In this, he’s succeeded in part, but he hasn’t succeeded in much else.


This issue felt like one of those movies that tries too hard to appeal to the Oscar crowd in that it attempts to abandon style for substance. Tom Cruise seems to try it every three years or so and it never works. I’m not going to say this comic failed as miserably as The Last Samurai, but it tried to do too damn much. At this point, the story is starting to drag and anyone with ADHD probably dropped this book halfway and went back to looking at cat videos. There was a lot of talking, a lot of angst, and not much progress. All it really accomplished was making me really hungry for pancakes. It’s like Cyclops spent the entire issue trying to convince Sean Hannity that global warming was real. It really didn’t amount to much.

I also imagine his Magneto-like rhetoric is going to going to give his critics a rage boner. A lot of what he said had some merit, but he’s starting to sound less like a revolutionary and more like a guy who thinks he’s still banging Emma Frost. I’m sure some women (and those few men I mentioned earlier) still want to sleep with him, but Uncanny X-men #28 doesn’t really do much to change the current state of affairs. I give this issue a 5 out of 10. Not much happens. There’s a lot of substance, but too much of it is more forgettable than Jim Carey’s last movie. What isn’t forgettable, however, is how much I love pancakes. I think this comic, if nothing else, warrants a trip to IHOP. Nuff said!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Avengers and X-men: AXIS #6


There's a reason why asshole douche-bags tend to be the same people who become fortune 500 CEOs, career politicians, and used car salesman. As much as we despise them, these people know how to get shit done. Sure, it often involves blurring and/or shitting all over the ethical and moral boundaries that most reasonable people have. And sure, it often creates the kind of kind of collateral damage that that ruins lives. And sure, it also tends to...actually, I think I'll just stop right there because I don't need to make myself that depressed around the holidays. I'll just say that the traits of asshole douche-bags tend to make an impact and part of what has made Avengers and X-men: AXIS so intriguing is that it's giving the heroes a chance to do just that without resorting to mind-control or evil clones.

We've already seen how far they're willing to go once they shake off those annoying feelings of selflessness and compassion. The X-men have teamed up with Apocalypse and taken over Manhattan. Tony Stark has turned San Francisco into a perverse mix of Candy Crush and never-ending porno. It's been chaotic as fuck at times, so much so that it's hard to remember that the Red Skull is still on the loose. But that's part of what makes this bold new world so volatile. It helps kick up a different kind of shit storm in Avengers and X-men: AXIS #6. At this point, the Avengers and X-men aren't really that far away from getting a job as lobbyist for Goldman Sachs.

Even if the X-men got that job, they would suck at it because they wouldn't have the devious subtlety that is necessary for all soulless lobbyists. It just wasn't enough that the X-men teamed up with Apocalypse and took over Manhattan. They had to go the extra mile and broadcast to the world that they've claimed the Big Apple as a new mutant nation and no humans are allowed, except for maybe Jennifer Lawrence and Channing Tatum. They even go the extra mile, saying they have very little incentive to treat humans nicely. Having just come from a mutant concentration camp, it's hard to pin that solely on the inversion. But that's still not enough. The X-men had to help Apocalypse make a fucking bomb as well. That probably can be pinned on the inversion spell, but at this point it's more of an excuse than a detail. And I know from my experience with traffic cops that excuses are about as valuable as frozen dog shit.


So who would dare take a stand against a team of deranged X-men who have teamed up with Apocalypse and are willing to drop a bomb on humanity that'll do more than get them fined by the FCC? How about Mystique? No, that's not a joke. I know it sounds like one of those ideas I can only come up with after a certain number of bong hits, but that's what actually happens. Mystique is the one to try and confront the X-men and tell them this is fucked up.

Now bear with me here because it makes more sense than it actually sounds, even without the aid of a bong hit. Mystique was on Genosha. That means she was inverted. So were Nightcrawler and Rogue. And Apocalypse being the biblical ass that he is sent those two to deal with Mystique. It makes for a clash that perfectly captures the essence of the whole inversion concept. Mystique is the one saying this is wrong. Rogue and Nightcrawler just laugh it off and try to murder her ass with a smile. It really does sound like something that shouldn't work, but in the context of the inversion, it actually feels right. It finally conveys the kinds of compelling emotions that were so lacking from previous issues. Mystique is now a hero. Rogue and Nightcrawler are now villains. And somehow it's presented in a way that feels genuine and awesome. Maybe the weed has inverted parts of my brain, but it really does work here.


It's almost a shame that Sabretooth has to come in and ruin this overdue family moment. Like Mystique, he's inverted too. However, he doesn't come off quite as compelling as Mystique. That's mainly because there have been a number of cases in the past where Mystique has tried to be a hero. She's tried to help her kids (and failed miserably). She's tried to join the X-men (and failed miserably while sleeping with Iceman in the process). It's only in the past six years that she's become the kind of unrepentant sociopath who would usually masturbate to the idea of detonating a bomb on humanity. But Sabretooth has a long, rich history of being the kind of degenerate asshole who wouldn't just jerk off to the thought of detonating a bomb. He would film himself doing it while dancing to Justin Bieber music.

Nobody is going to ever buy Sabretooth being a hero any longer than a Seinfeld rerun, but again the inversion spell gives him a convenient excuse. That's really all he needs to save Mystique from getting the worst kind of family therapy outside Jerry Springer. He escapes with her into the Morlock tunnels, but the battle still served its purpose. It showed the extent of the inversion and did it in a way that actually felt compelling. And my liver couldn't be more relieved.


The same can't be said about Tony Stark's liver. In addition to launching his new Extremis 3.0 enterprise in the most lucrative and douchebaggy way possible, he started drinking again. We've already seen in the events of AXIS and Superior Iron Man why he had to stop drinking in the first place, but now that he's surrounded by beautiful women and a fuckton of money, who can blame him?

Well how about Daredevil? And unlike Mystique, no inversion spells or bong hits are required to understand this. He takes some time to cock-block Iron Man from his never-ending orgies and drinking to tell him that this new endeavor of his has been causing a fuckton of problems. I imagine the radio folks said the same thing to the guys making TV shows. But this is a bit less contrived and requires fewer lawyers. Daredevil just happens to be one, but it's not necessary for him to point out that charging for the Extremis 3.0 app has caused a crime wave that make the 80s crack wars look like a Sunday School picnic. Tony Stark's response? Meh, that's capitalism asshole. Yes, it's a total dick thing to say. And yes, it's totally true.


It leads to a second clash that actually carries with it some meaningful emotions. Like the battle with Mystique and her kids, the effects of the inversion are secondary in the sense that it reveals a deeper division. Tony Stark likens his product to other expensive goods that people love to steal, like plasma TVs. Sure, plasma TVs don't turn anyone into supermodels. They just let us common folk look at them. But it's not an invalid point. He has something here that is a luxury and like the kid who sold his kidney for an iPad, people will go to fucked up lengths to get it. But when was the last time Apple ever let anyone try a free sample of their shit? Sure, we can question Tony Stark's business practices. And sure, he's still an ass for beating up Daredevil and telling him to fuck off. But he's not entirely wrong here and that's part of what makes the whole inversion concept more compelling than just another excuse to get people fighting. Alcohol does the same thing.


Alcohol might have been a better option for the clash between Dr. Doom and the Scarlet Witch, if only because it would've made for more cursing. But in this case, the more meaningful impact of the inversion is interrupted by the fight. Dr. Doom, now inverted, is announcing to his people that he's been a real asshole dictator and he's willing to give democracy a try. Now at this point, it's clear that the whole inversion spell was pretty fucking potent because no dictator in history has ever, even at their most humble, just thrown up their hands and say, "Fuck it, I'm an ass. Let's do things America's way." Maybe that happens inside George W. Bush's wet dreams every now and then, but it doesn't happen without the aid of fucked up magic. And that's what makes the moment so important. It also makes it disappointing because the Scarlet Witch just randomly shows up and starts pitching a hissy fit.

There really isn't much depth to it. I can't even make a good PMS joke about it. I won't say it's completely random since the Scarlet Witch already hinted at her intentions in previous issues, but it feels like another excuse. She just starts whining about how Dr. Doom used her in the past. But seriously? She needed a fucking inversion spell to do that? She could've turned his asshole inside out without it and still come off as a hero. Like the other fights, it shows how much of an asshole the inversion has made the Scarlet Witch. It just doesn't do so with Tony Stark's swag or Rogue and Nightcrawler's passion. Maybe alcohol would've helped here too.


As helpful as alcohol often is in fucked up situations, Quicksilver is a close second. With help from Magneto, never one to stay out of affairs that allow him to fuck with his daughter's life, they're able to rescue Dr. Doom before he can completely lose all his dictatorial credibility. Sure, it pisses off the Scarlet Witch even more. But that's the kind of shit that happens at least once a week without the aid of an inversion spell. So in that sense, it reveals that not everything is totally fucked up in an inverted world. And we should all take some comfort in that.


We shouldn't take nearly as much comfort in the idea that an inverted Thor (the one with the penis and not the new one with the boobs) becomes a degenerate gambler whose idea of Valhalla is Las Vegas. To be fair, even the most inverted among us would still prefer Vegas as a close second to most versions of heaven, but that's besides the point. Like the other inverted heroes, Thor is taking some time to enjoy himself and piss off every casino owner on the strip. But unlike other degenerate gamblers, they can't unleash Joe Pecci on Thor and hope he walks out with a broken hand and missing testicle. However, I still think Joe Pecci would've fared better than Loki did.

This is another clash that has many of the same undertones as the one between Mystique and her kids. There's a family element to it that makes the inversion feel like more than just another excuse to get them fighting again for our amusement. Like Mystique, Loki has attempted to be less a dick at times. It rarely works out and this is no different. He even goes so far as to tell Thor he loves him like a brother and Thor's response is to punch him through a wall. I want to say that's typical brotherly affection on an Asgardian level, but it lacks the subtle Tom Hiddleston charisma to make more than a glorified bar fight. It still has all the right emotions, albeit inverted. It helps reinforce the effect of the inversion. And I think at this point, it needs no reinforcing. That still doesn't make Thor beating up Loki less satisfying.


Eventually, Loki has to escape because he knows he's never going to beat Thor when he's on a winning streak in Vegas. Too many hookers and fellow degenerate gamblers would have his back. So he's picked up by Spider-Man and what's left of the non-inverted heroes. They meet up with Steve Rogers, who helps get Loki up to speed on why the heroes are acting so fucked. He also adds that most of the non-inverted heroes are no longer in the picture because of the wonders of Pym particles. So yeah, they're that much more fucked.


The solution? First, they need to establish priorities. What's more important? The X-men packing an Apocalyptic bomb capable of wiping out all humans not carrying an X-gene or Thor's gambling streak? Loki would probably argue an inverted Thor on a gambling streak would be way more dangerous, but he would be outvoted because Steve Rogers has already assembled a team of inverted villains that have enough votes to overrule him. These inverted villains, as fucked up as it may seem, are now the de-facto Avengers. It once again shows the extent of the inversion without resorting to another fight. It may sound way too fucked up to work if it were a movie trailer, sort of like the LEGO Movie, but that doesn't stop it from being awesome.


If the point of this issue was to show just how fucked up heroes can be once they stop giving a shit, then it definitely succeeded. The message is pretty clear. When these heroes act like assholes, they're way better at it than ordinary villains. Could Magneto or Sinister have helped Apocalypse take over Manhattan this quickly and this efficiently? Could Loki have scared a casino into letting him win when most casinos would knock out the front teeth of anyone they suspected of counting cards? I think not. This issue finally starts providing the kind of details and refinement that previous issues lacked. The problem is they weren't exactly the details that were most vital.

Now I'm not saying this issue exchanged actual plot for a cupcake recipe or something that random, but it essentially moved the story forward without tying up too many loose ends from previous issues. We still don't get a clearer understanding of just what the fuck the inversion spell did and how the fuck others are reacting to it. But this issue reveals enough to let us know just how fucked everybody is. It still wasn't terribly concise. However, it conveyed all the right emotions and somehow found the time to join the party with Tony Stark. The story as a whole still needs refinement, but it's finally starting to sober up. I give Avengers and X-men #6 an 8 out of 10. Now it just needs to avoid the kind of hangover to be genuinely awesome. And if it's lucky, it won't wake up next to a blow-up doll and a stolen pig. Nuff said!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Aura of Superiority: Superior Iron Man #1

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


What does it mean to be a superior hero? It’s a question that didn’t evoke any controversial answers until recently. It used to be a pretty simple process. Gauging the superiority of a hero was dependent on the response to the question, “How much like Superman is the hero in question?” Then, the Superior Spider-Man came along and the whole concept of superiority became a lot more complicated. Now, in order to be superior, it’s also necessary to be an egotistical jerk to some extent. The Superior Spider-Man raised this brand of superiority to an art form. Now Iron Man is poised to make it its own sub-genre.

The concept of superiority is rapidly changing in an era where nobody expects superheroes to be boy scouts anymore. In fact, it has gotten to the point where the Boy Scout heroes are considered the freaks in that could never be believably portrayed by Robert Downy Jr. For some reason, superiority takes a certain degree of flaws and personality disorders. I don’t know if this constitutes a new meaning for the word or denotes the need for a new word entirely, but the context was certainly there for Superior Spider-Man. Now, thanks to the events of Avengers and X-men: AXIS, it’s there in Superior Iron Man #1.

The whole premise for this new “superior” version of Iron Man is built around two concepts. The first is the tried and true method of working smart and not hard. From the earliest days of human civilization, people realized how much they hated picking food one-by-one and trying to strangle a deer with their bare hands. Naturally, creating better tools allowed them to work more efficiently to get what they want. The second part of that concept involves appealing to the sensibilities behind every successful Victoria’s Secret ad ever made. A superior hero doesn’t just save lives. A superior hero finds a way to make them better, sexier, and healthier.

It’s a concept that, on the surface, shouldn’t be so revolutionary. What good is saving the lives of the innocent if those lives don’t considerably improve? That’s like giving CPR to a deer that’s in the process of bleeding to death. Well Tony Stark noticed that no other hero has dared to try that and since he happens to be the resident billionaire/tech genius, he decides to take a stab at it. And he does it in the most shallow, self-indulgent way possible.

First, he unleashes a new version of Extremis. He doesn’t ask permission or stop to think that this might backfire on him in some horrible way. Then, he grants everybody a free app that allows them to use Extremis to make themselves beautiful, healthy, and sexy. Now everybody has the ability to look like every heavily Photoshopped model to ever appear on Cosmos. It certainly doesn’t exude the merits of a hero. It exudes the merits of every makeup commercial to ever air and Kanye West album ever made. It certainly doesn’t come off as the actions of a hero. Yet somehow, Tony Stark is able to carry it out in a way that feels both superior and awesome.

This bold new experiment isn’t just an exercise in realizing the false promises of every beauty product ever advertised. It represents an entirely new approach to being Iron Man. Tony Stark was already as respected and admired as any billionaire/superhero/Avenger could be. For most peoples’ ego, that’s more than enough. But Tony Stark needed more. By giving the people of San Francisco access to this incredible technology, he endeared himself to these people the same way anyone giving out free doughnuts would endear themselves to Homer Simpson. It creates an environment where he’s more than just a hero. He’s something that is superior in every sense of the word.


This new approach to being Iron Man still leaves room for typical Iron Man duties. When a wholly unoriginal gamma-powered villain named Teen Abomination comes along, Iron Man still deals with it like he usually would. He just does it with more style now. He doesn’t need to get his hands dirty. He can send a remote-controlled Iron Man suit into the field to do his work for him while he sips cocktails and hooks up with beautiful women. He’s like a Navy Seal and Hugh Hefner all rolled into one.

Tony Stark has every reason to call himself superior. But with superiority comes critics, as anyone who ever tried to make a well-reasoned argument on a message board knows. Pepper Potts tries to be the voice of reason for this new superior Tony Stark. The problem is that none of the arguments she makes carry much weight. She derides him for not sharing the app with more people and not considering the consequences. It may leave some to wonder if she would’ve made the same argument to whoever invented breast implants. Her perspective lacks depth whereas Tony Stark’s perspective lacks accountability.

That’s not to say her arguments are completely without merit. Some of the consequences Pepper warns of do manifest, albeit in a somewhat predictable way. But it’s Tony Stark himself who essentially vindicates Pepper’s concerns when he reveals a huge catch to this gift he’s given San Francisco. That catch, like the fine print of a user agreement on an iPhone, is that this wonderful gift is not free. Tony Stark is still a businessman and he’s basically treating Extremis like Candy Crush. He’s given the people a free trial. Now he’s going to see how badly people want to keep playing his game.

In the end, what makes Iron Man so superior in Superior Iron Man #1 has nothing to do with how he conducts himself as a hero. He’s still doing heroic deeds in protecting people from gamma-powered threats. He’s also being a good businessman, giving people a product he knows they want and charging for it in ways that would make Ayan Rand blush. It’s a superiority that’s built on a mix of cunning and ambition. He’s not just content with saving the day. He wants to make the days that come more enjoyable for the people he saves. He’s just not going to do it for free anymore. Like anyone who ever bought a cheap cell phone, Tony Stark understands that superiority in any form comes at a price.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Friday, November 14, 2014

X-men Supreme Issue #108: Civilization No Longer Lost Part 3 PREVIEW!


Halloween might be over, but there's still plenty of horror to go around in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Selene, the Black Queen, is on the loose again, seeking to reclaim her birthright. Sinister is by her side, eager to mix her magic with his science in more ways than one. I know X-men is famous for a lot of twisted and complicated romances, but these two are poised to take it to a disturbing level that haunting can sufficiently match. It's not enough for them to corrupt cosmic forces like the Phoenix or expose the dark secrets of Weapon X. They're poised to turn Nova Roma, the hidden kingdom housing the last vestiges of the Roman Republic, into ground zero for their wrath.

Selene already fired the first shot when she abducted Colossus' sister, Illyana. The X-men have been seeking a way to strike back ever since. They've faced plenty of daunting threats throughout this fanfiction series, but none quite like this. Sinister and Selene aren't the kind of threat they can take on with cunning, power, and tactics alone. They need help if they're to have any chance at beating them. This means teaming up with the exceedingly hostile authorities on Nova Roma. It's a common challenge the X-men face. Throughout their history and this fanfiction series, they've had to team up with less-than-cooperative allies. This includes "allies" like the Brotherhood of Mutants. But in making this alliance work, they were able to forge the Genosha treaty that has kept the world from descending into a human/mutant war. Can the X-men do the same with Nova Roma?

I've gone to great lengths to give context to how Nova Roma functions in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. I've also just begun to explore the characters most associated with it, namely Amara Aquilla. She was among the New Mutants who ushered in a new generation of young mutants for the X-men during an era when the originals had come of age. I've already shown how she has a few traits that set her apart from her comic book counterpart. I've also done the same with Selene and the Seftons, tying their history into that of Nova Roma. That history is instrumental to the conflict the X-men are now facing. It'll be the key to their victory or the site of their doom. The stakes are getting higher and it's about to reach a boiling point. As always, I've prepared an extended preview of the kind of damage that Selene and Sinister have done. So just imagine how much more they can do.

“MY DAUGHTER! SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH HER!”

“THE MUTANTS! THE MOUNTAIN HAS ABANDONED THEM!”

“THE MOUNTAIN HAS ABANDONED US ALL!”

“OUR CITY! OUR REPUBLIC! WE’RE DOOMED!”

It was horrific, hearing so many people lamenting with fear and dread. Even at the heart of the republic, there was no escape. The Nova Roman Senate cowered in the Curia. Their faith no longer rested with the gods. It was the X-men in which all their hopes now resided. If they couldn’t stop the Black Queen, then the last trace Roman glory would be forever lost.

Also seeking refuge in the Curia was Professor Charles Xavier. He, Shaman, and Margali Sefton had to listen to these horrible cries as well. Unlike the Senate, they stayed in the upper levels of the structure, which gave them an unabated view of the city and Mount Anton. This also happened to be the infirmary. There were no doctors or mystics present. Margali was not willing to put her daughter through any more rituals. She was still in a coma and despite all the horrors going on around them, she was Margali’s greatest concerns.

“My precious little girl,” she mused, “So quiet…so lost. I almost envy that she’s not awake to see this madness.”

“That shouldn’t prevent you from trying to treat her,” said Shaman, who never stopped working, “The Nova Roman mystics may have been horribly under-qualified, but one of them gave me the keys to their artifact collection. I found some potent rune stones, a few incantations, and various healing oils. With the right treatment, we may be able to rouse her from this coma.”

Shaman had in his hand a flask of glowing oils. He motioned to pour it over Amanda, who was lying motionless on a special bed. But Margali stopped him, pushing the flask aside and standing protectively over her daughter.

“No Shaman…no more spells. Not now anyways,” said Margali, “I’ve subjected Amanda to so much. She deserves some rest.”

“Margali, do you honestly believe she would care to rest when Selene is on a rampage?”

“She’s my daughter. I’m her mother. I’ll do what I feel is best for her.”

“Just because it feels right doesn’t mean it is right. You of all people should know that,” scorned Shaman.

Margali almost cringed while clinging to her daughter more protectively. Professor Charles Xavier, who had been looking out towards Mount Anton, turned around in his wheelchair and offered a comforting gesture to the desperate mother.

“That’s enough, Shaman. I don’t think you need to remind her,” said Xavier.

“Sorry Charles, but you know I’ve never been comfortable just waiting around for the world to end,” said Shaman.

“The world isn’t ending. Not while my X-men are still out there,” he said strongly, “This whole affair has gone beyond magic. First, I’m told Amanda’s ailment is somehow connected to the power within Mount Anton. Then I’m told that same power is connected to all the mutants here in Nova Roma.”

“You think this is setting a dangerous precedent? Magic mixing with mutation?” said Shaman.

“I can’t imagine two more volatile elements. The confirmation that Selene is working with Sinister opens all sorts of possibilities. Perhaps we’ve only been working with half the story. What if there are mystical elements to mutation? What if there’s a connection between the two that we’re not aware of?”

It was a troubling suggestion. Magic and mutation were complex enough on their own. This was the first time they had to deal with both. The destructive potential was obvious, as indicated by Mount Anton’s current activity. Even if the X-men could somehow put a stop to this, the connection had already been made. Something had to give and there was no telling what form the results would take.

The only one who had a faint idea of the possibilities was Margali Sefton. She didn’t take her eyes off her daughter. She lovingly held onto her lifeless hand, scolding herself with each passing moment for letting it get this bad.

“You’re not the first person to pose that question, Charles. You’re not even the tenth,” said Margali, “Magic and mutation each affect the very fabric of our reality. It’s only natural they have some connection.”

“You sound like you’ve pondered this before,” said Xavier, “Is there anything you can tell us? Something I can relay to my X-men?”

“If I knew, I would have told you at the beginning,” said Margali sadly, “I come from a family of mystics. We’ve never been able to ponder the sciences. I only know that there’s always the potential. One comes from blood. One comes from spirit. I’ve never tried to mix the two, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tried.”

“Do you know anyone who has?” asked Shaman.

“Besides Selene? No,” she muttered, “The closest I’ve seen is Kurt’s father, Aazel. I’ve always suspected that some of Kurt’s mutant abilities had connections to mystical forces. We already know that when he teleports, he accesses a dimension that is thick with mystical energy. However, most of that is still raw science. The real unknowns are in the spiritual aspects.”

“So you’ve never tried to explore it,” Xavier surmised.

“I wouldn’t know where to begin,” Margali sighed as she gently stroked her daughters face, “Amanda has enough burdening her soul. I chose not to push her any further than I already have. I always figured she and Kurt would just…”

Margali’s words trailed off and her expression shifted. Shaman and Professor Xavier looked at her curiously, worried about her dire state of mind.

“Just what, Margali? What did you figure?” asked Shaman curiously.

“Does it have something to do with Kurt’s heritage?” asked Xavier.

“Amanda…” she said distantly.

“Yes, I know she and Kurt were involved, but…”

“No! I mean something’s happening to Amanda.”

Margali was about to explain when her daughter’s unmoving body did the explaining for her. The strange marks on her body started glowing with such radiance that Margali, Shaman, and the Professor backed off cautiously. Then a powerful green light erupted from her eyes and a mysterious halo surrounded her body. There was no spell or ritual to fuel her this time. It was as if everything was coming completely from within.

“By the spirits! What the hell is going on?” exclaimed Shaman.

“Amanda’s mind…it’s still active,” said Xavier, clutching his temple.

“That’s not all that’s active,” said Margali distantly.

The mysterious green halo continued to intensify. It seemed to emanate from her eyes and chest. As it intensified, the greenish light formed a cloudy glowing mist that hovered just over her body. It remained in place for a few moments. Then as if guided by its own whim, it shot out like a rocket through a nearby window and towards Mount Anton.

Once the glowing mist was gone, everything fell silent. Amanda’s body stopped glowing, her eyes closed, and she went back to being motionless. Xavier was still clutching his temple, trying to make sense of what he just sensed. But being experienced mystics, Shaman and Margali didn’t need telepathy to surmise what had just happened.

“Was that…” Shaman began.

“I have no idea. But it looks like it,” said Margali distantly.

“But that’s impossible!”

“It’s magic, Shaman. Nothing is impossible.”


In addition to this preview, I've also updated my ongoing Superman/Wonder Woman story, "Strangers In Paradise." This story has very different stakes compared to X-men Supreme, but it has been a great exercise in developing new characters. In the same way old threats like Selene and Sinister find a way to torment the X-men, old threats like Ares and Lex Luthor find a way to torment Superman and Wonder Woman and that torment begins in this new chapter.


Exploring new places like Nova Roma and giving characters like Amara and Selene different backgrounds is part of what makes developing the X-men Supreme fanfiction series so much fun and such a challenge. I don't want X-men Supreme to tell the same stories with the same characters. I want these characters to stand apart while still adhering to the core of who they are. These are characters that can only be accessed through X-men Supreme and I want to make them as memorable as possible. Amara Aquilla will be the latest, but she won't be the last. And as I develop these characters, it's very important that people provide feedback so that I know I'm developing them in all the right ways. I know I have a lot of reasons for requesting feedback, but this is an especially important reason because the strength of every X-men story comes from the characters. So please let me know I'm doing these characters justice. Either post your feedback directly in the issue or contact me directly. I would love to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!

Jack