Friday, May 27, 2016

Gods, Justice, Secrets, and Spectacles: Justice League #50

The following is my review of Justice League #50, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Every major comic book event likes to claim it'll shake the foundations of this entire fanciful world to its core. Very few can claim they deliver on a consistent basis. Geoff Johns is one of the few who can make this claim, at least in the context of DC Comics. For the past decade, he has been the architect for many of the important upheavals in the DC Universe. He seems to bring a new upheaval every other year and Darkseid Wars is no exception.

This event is already shaking and shattering the foundations of the post-Flashpoint era of DC Comics. Darkseid is dead. Batman now sits on the Mobius chair. Lex Luthor now wields power, courtesy of the pits of Apokalipse and his unparalleled capacity for deceit. Wonder Woman now knows that Steve Trevor wasn't the first man to visit Themyscira. Johns is putting every character in a position to reassess the fundamental nature of who they are. Some handle it better than others and for once, it's not just Lex Luthor who lets his ego get in the way.

Justice League #50 is the culmination of all these factors on top of being the capstone to the New 52 era. It's a lot to assess, reassess, and reconfigure. Events that started back in the Forever Evil event come into play. On paper, it seems impossible, juggling so many plots and making every outcome feel meaningful. In addition, this all has to be done in conjunction with the world from an inter-dimensional entity that already has one dead universe to its credit and a dead Darkseid as a bonus.

It's the kind of massive threat that brings out the best and worst of the Justice League. In this case, Johns manages to highlight the best, minimize the worst, and complete the Darkseid Wars saga in a meaningful way. He once again proves himself a skilled juggler of all things DC Comics, but with Darkseid Wars, he sets himself apart from any street performer or circus act.

Darkseid Wars is an omega-level DC Comics spectacle and Justice League #50 acts as the finale when all the fireworks goes off, all the dazzling lights shine, and everybody's ears are left ringing in the best possible way. The Justice League doesn't just come together like the scrappy underdog in every sports movie ever made. They navigate a vast, intricate conflict that begins with Forever Evil and ends here.

Like the finale of any great spectacle, it gets pretty chaotic at times. Between Grail using Superwoman's baby to channel the power of the New Gods and the Anti-Life Equation taking a new form, it's like keeping up with the Flash after a dozen cups of coffee at times. However, Johns keeps things concise, using Wonder Woman as a narrator and an anchor for the plot. She provides the context for the emotional and dramatic breadth of the story and its a role she's uniquely adept at.


This context is built around Grail and her connection to Wonder Woman's homeland of Themyscira. The entire catalyst for Darkseid Wars begins and ends with the secrets and lies surrounding Themyscira, which have nothing to do with an illegitimate offspring of Zeus for once. Grail acts as the ultimate disruption to the order these secrets and lies protect, not at all caring that parts of this order kept forces like Darkseid in check.

This helps make Grail the biggest star of this story. For most Darkseid Wars, she carries herself like the antithesis of Wonder Woman. In Justice League #50, she finally demonstrates a level of depth that makes her worthy of being the star rookie of DC Comics' team of premier villains. What she does, how she does it, and how the Justice League opposes her bring out the potential that is undeniably present, but takes longer than expected to realize.

Grail and Wonder Woman help guide the narrative of Darkseid Wars to its conclusion. However, as strong as these characters and the surrounding spectacle are, there are times when it feels rushed. Johns avoids stumbling as he juggles so many plots and themes, but the story still gets ahead of itself, especially at the very climax of the battle. Jason Fabok's art skills seem wasted with how quickly the dust settles. There's a distinct lack of grit that keeps it from having the kind of visceral impact that separates great stories from iconic stories.


This rushed pacing extends to the aftermath and epilogues as well. There are significant implications from the events of Darkseid Wars, but these implications are mostly reduced to teasers. These teasers are tempting and appealing in their own right, but they raise far more questions than they answer and these questions are of the frustrating kind.

This is especially true with the teasers surrounding Batman and Wonder Woman. The revelations they uncover raise more than a few eyebrows, but the impact is muted. This impact can certainly be explored in other comics, but it does little to improve the impact of Justice League #50. There are other developments, like those surrounding Jessica Cruz, that offer a more meaningful and immediate impact. Like most teasers though, it's over too quickly.

The pace and polish in Justice League #50 keep Darkseid Wars from broaching that iconic status. It's still a story that hits all the right notes, evokes the right drama, and balances the right themes. It just doesn't fit together in a cohesive, comprehensive manner in the end. It's a flavorful desert of sorts, being the Justice League story that caps off the New 52 era. It's not completely filling, but it's still very satisfying and previews the menu for DC Comics' next big feast with Rebirth.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

X-men Supreme Issue #136: Stranger Things PREVIEW!


It’s a big day for X-men fans all over the world. Today, X-men: Apocalypse hits theaters. It’s billed as the biggest X-men movie to date. Yes, I know Fox says that about every X-men movie. Yes, I know not every X-men movie can keep raising the bar. But it’s still a big deal for the X-men as a franchise. This is the X-men fighting one of their most iconic villains on the big screen for the first time. I’m sure X-men fans everywhere have been waiting for something like this for years. I can’t quite measure up to a big Hollywood blockbuster with X-men Supreme, but I can do my part to supplement the excitement.

The X-men Supreme fanfiction series has not brought Apocalypse into the picture just yet. And unlike I was able to do with The Lotus and the Warrior, which came out just in time for The Wolverine movie, I am unable to make a similar story involving Apocalypse in time for the release. Some of that is just a matter of planning.

A character like Apocalypse, who can shake the world of X-men to its core, cannot be appropriately incorporated in just a quick arc. As it stands, X-men Supreme just wasn’t in a position to tell that kind of story. That’s not to say Apocalypse won’t show up at some point. If this fanfiction series continues beyond X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Apocalypse will rise. For now, the X-men have more pressing issues in this fanfiction series.

One of those issues might be familiar to those who saw X-men: Days of Future Past. Like in that movie, Professor Charles Xavier has developed a bit of a problem in X-men Supreme. It started at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths. Despite having beaten cancer, Xavier developed a crippling addiction to pain pills. That addiction was a ticking time bomb that went off badly in X-men Supreme Issue 127: Terror Sell. Because of his inability to function without his pain pills, his X-men suffered defeat at the hands of the Mutant Liberation Front. This sobering moment forced Charles Xavier to make a tough decision. For his health and his X-men, he stepped down from the Xavier Institute and left to treat his addiction, leaving the X-men to fend for themselves.

While the X-men did prove themselves capable of defeating the Mutant Liberation Front in the Natural Disorder arc, Charles Xavier is still not healed. He’s still struggling to cope with this crippling addiction that affect so many people in the real world. But now, a new threat is set to emerge and it’s one that isn’t going to wait for Xavier to heal. This threat has roots that began back in the Starcrossed arc in X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear. That arc brought the Shi’ar, Corsair, and the Starjammers into the mix. Now, they’re coming back at a time when Xavier is ill-prepared for such challenges.

Shortly before the release of X-men: Apocalypse, Fox’s producers said they wanted to utilize some of the more cosmic elements of the X-men universe. Well this time, I’m getting out ahead of the curve. The next major conflict in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series will have the X-men confront some very alien, very cosmic threats. Some of these threats are from more obscure parts of the X-men mythos, but their impact on this fanfiction series cannot be understated. I wish I could say more, but I think X-men fans are too busy seeing X-men: Apocalypse to concern themselves right now. At the very least, I can provide a preview about the type of cosmic elements you can expect in the next big conflict for X-men Supreme.

“You’re really pushing it, Corsair. Pissing D’ken off has never been a viable strategy,” said Lilandra, who was sitting in the seat behind him.

“You think I care how much I upset that asshole? Let him be pissed!” said Corsair sternly.

“Need I remind you he has the rest of your crew in custody? Aren’t you worried about him taking out his anger on them?”

“They knew what they were getting into. They hate D’ken as much as I do. Sorry if my manners aren’t of royal caliber, Miss Neramani. But I’m the guy who has to save your ass right now! A little vote of confidence wouldn’t hurt!”

Lilandra had to hold onto her seat as the Starjammer was struck by a series of high energy laser blasts. It triggered alarms throughout the ship, indicating that their shields were reaching critical levels. If they took too many hits, they would be nothing more than cosmic debris.

Corsair ignored these ominous warnings and clutched the controls of the spacecraft. Flashbacks of Desert Storm surged through his mind. He maneuvered the ship in a series of tight turns, pulling off a few barrel rolls and flying in a series of zig-zags. This made it difficult for the R-class interceptors to hit him with their rail guns. They had to keep using laser cannons. The whole time they stayed in perfect formation. Five spacecrafts formed a v-shaped attack pattern while the others swarmed around Starjammer in an effort to divert its course.

“Just hold on a bit longer!” he told the Starjammer, “We’re almost at the star gate!”

“That same gate that D’ken is probably closing as we speak?” questioned Lilandra.

“Raza overrode it to get us here. That same program will get us out of here.”

“How do you know they won’t follow us?”

“I’m working on that,” said Corsair intently, “I have a few ideas, but I’d rather not discuss them until they’ve worked!”

It didn’t sound too promising. It was enough to give Lilandra another pounding headache. Ever since D’ken launched this ambitious endgame of his, her head had been killing her. It wasn’t just stress either. Something was affecting her powers. Unfortunately, she had little time to investigate. Her life rested in the weary hands of this broken old man.

Corsair’s maneuvers grew more daring. They were at the edge of the star system, which meant they were entering dense fields of comets. Corsair flew the Starjammer right into several clouds of these icy chunks. His shields took more damage, but it disrupted the attack formation of the interceptors. Their laser canons started hitting stray debris more than the ship. It bought them some badly needed breathing space. Once beyond the cloud, Corsair kicked the Starjammer into overdrive. The star gate was finally within range.

“We’re almost there!” announced Corsair, “I’m broadcasting Raza’s program on the same quantum frequency! Hopefully D’ken’s tech boys haven’t closed the back door!”

“You’re placing a great deal of faith in Raza’s-AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“Lilandra? Please tell me you’re not having a seizure at a time like this!” he groaned.

Corsair looked back and saw Lilandra clutching her head in agony. It was happening again. Recently, Lilandra had been afflicted by these mysterious psychic migraines as she called them. They seemed to coincide with D’ken’s latest plan. Lilandra suspected there was more to it. Corsair was no psychic expert, but as time went on they got worse. Even the advanced technology of the Shi’ar couldn’t figure it out.

Lilandra’s cries echoed over the alarms warning him about the shields. The interceptors were catching up while the star gate was drawing near. Corsair had to think fast. His original plan was to get Lilandra back to the rebels. That plan was looking increasingly foolish. The interceptors would just follow him and in Lilandra’s condition she may not be able to summon psychic help. That left him with few options, one of which he hoped to avoid at all costs.

“Damn it, Lilandra! You’re putting me in an awkward position!” grunted Corsair, “I didn’t want to resort to this, but you’re giving me few options!”

Corsair activated Raza’s special program through the ship’s computer. He entered in a different protocol, one that would change the destination of the star gate. On his main scope, he could see the gate closing in. The interceptors were closing in as well. They were firing their laser canons again to wear out his shields. Since he had to fly straighter in order to enter the star gate, that meant they could arm their rail guns. It was a race against time and the laws of physics.

“Hnn…my head! So much pain…can’t shut it out!” groaned Lilandra.

“Hang in there, empress! We’re almost there!” said the determined Corsair.

The Starjammer’s shields were almost gone. Corsair pushed the thrusters to their maximum output. He could see the star gate through the forward visual display just up ahead. These gates were designed to transport large cargo across interstellar space. They were tightly controlled by D’ken’s forces. It was up to Raza’s program to send them to the right part of the galaxy.

“Warning. Enemy target lock detected,” said the system AI.

“Quit bugging me! Just keep the shields up a little bit longer!” he urged the system.

“Shield levels down to three percent. A hit from a rail-gun will cause critical damage.”

“Then be a good alien piece of shit and divert all remaining power to the thrusters!”

More turbulence followed. Corsair gripped the controls tightly, watching as the star gate neared. It looked like Raza’s program was working. A glowing portal was forming within a large circular device. He would be cutting it close. If he passed through before it was fully formed, the Starjammer would be torn apart on the sub-atomic level. If he slowed down, he would be obliterated by D’ken’s rail guns. The margin for error was razor thin.

“Hnn…Charles,” groaned Lilandra in the back.

“Come on…just a little bit more!” said Corsair.

The interceptors trailing behind him took their final formation. All ten crafts were in a perfect V-shape. Their rail guns were armed. Their target was locked. With a clean shot ahead of them, they fired.

Just as their rail guns erupted with energy, the Starjammer reached the gate. It passed through just as the portal reached full power. The moment it disappeared, the shots from the rail guns struck the star gate. The impact from the high-speed projectiles was so great that several sections of the circular structure shattered, causing blinding bursts of energy that caused the interceptors to break formation.

“This is Imperial Interceptor One! That is a negative impact! I repeat, a negative impact! The Starjammer made it through the gate!”

“And we just destroyed the gate. Which of us is going to report this do Lord D’ken?” reported another interceptor over a quantum radio.

“It doesn’t matter who reports it. We’ll all be thrown to the Sperkacs if we don’t track where it went!”

“Sensors indicate the gate was reprogrammed by a malicious signal. It wasn’t encrypted so I was able to trace the path, but I don’t think D’ken will want to go after it.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because sir…they’re heading for Earth.”


X-men: Apocalypse is another big moment for the X-men franchise. It is sure to have a significant impact on the future of X-men as a whole. The X-men Supreme fanfiction series will never have that kind of impact, but I still want it to contribute to the greater mythos of X-men. And I want that contribution to be as awesome as it deserves to be. So for those X-men fans who take the time to see X-men: Apocalypse, please take the time to provide feedback on X-men Supreme. I value your input and I am committed to making this a worthy contribution to X-men. Either contact me directly or post your comments in the issues. Until next time, take care and best wishes and check out X-men: Apocalypse in theaters! Excelsior!

Jack

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Role Playing With Cyclops and Jean Grey: A Sexy Side-Project


I like to stay busy in my craft, be it reviewing comics, writing books, or making X-men Supreme more awesome. I’m rarely short of ideas. I’m always motivated to be more awesome. So when I see an opportunity to add a little something extra to my X-men resume, I take it!

That is the purpose of this latest sexy side-project of mine. Those who follow my work know I write them from time to time. I get an idea for something that would never make it past the censors at Marvel, Fox, or the FCC for that matter. It’s my way of exploring more mature, sexier stories that you’re not going to find anywhere else. I try to make the nature of that story relevant. That’s not always possible, but this is not the case for this sexy side-project.

As some of you might know, Fox is releasing this little movie called X-men: Apocalypse and in that movie, a few notable characters play a major role. Those notable characters have a nasty history of being horribly screwed over in the X-men movies. Without spoiling too much, this movie seems to buck history, if only this once.

The less said about this moment, the better.
Yes, I’m talking about Cyclops and Jean Grey. James Marsden and Famke Jansen are out. Tye Sherriden and Sophie Turner are in. They’re entering a franchise that saw Cyclops get killed off-screen and Jean Grey become a dispassionate fuck toy for Wolverine. To say there’s room for improvement for these two in the movies would be a big fucking understatement. X-men: Apocalypse is, I hope, the first of many steps. It promises to be an uphill battle, but this is a side-project I hope will help with that effort.

Out with the old and in with the new!
One of the big problems surrounding Cyclops and Jean Grey as characters is that, despite being the most iconic romance in the history of X-men, they’re perceived as boring and bland. The movies certainly don’t help in this effort, but the comics are guilty of this as well. It’s true that while they can come off as a generic romance at times, that doesn’t hide the fact that these two share a genuine, passionate love story together. There’s a reason why they’re such an iconic romance in the annuls of comic books. I’ve tried to capture that romance in my X-men Supreme series. I’ve also tried to show that they can be fun, sexy, and interesting.

Well, this sexy side-project takes that several steps forward and to the edge of a cliff. In this story, I entertain the crazy possibility that two people in love can fool around and be a little adventurous at times. Shocking, right? What kind of twisted mind could imagine Cyclops and Jean Grey in that kind of situation? Well, my mind is more twisted than most so why the fuck not?

Their thoughts are FAR dirtier than you think.
For that reason, and in celebration of Cyclops and Jean Grey NOT being screwed over in an X-men movie, I present this simple sexy one-shot. You will never see this side of Cyclops and Jean Grey in the comics, movies, cartoons, or anywhere else that the FCC has say over. This is a side that I think is in every passionate love affair to some degree, a desire to do something reckless and adventurous. This is my way of giving these two a chance. I think after all the shit the comics and movies have put them through, they’ve earned it.


With all the projects I have going on, it’s hard to find time to explore the sexy ones, let alone finish them in time for an event like this. I hope that those who see X-men: Apocalypse are primed to enjoy this story. I hope to make more like it down the line. So long as my mind remains both twisted and awesome, I’ll be making the effort. Nuff said!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Extraordinary X-men #10: Nuff Said!

Stuck in an apocalyptic future, facing some evil motherfucker intent on keeping them there, and getting lost at least once along the way. Sound familiar? It should. It's basically the premise of 95 percent of all time travel movies at some point and the X-men do it almost as often as the Terminator. Sometimes, it brings out the best in the X-men, like Days of Future Past. Sometimes, it brings out the worst in the X-men, like pretty much every other story that came after that. It's hard to know where Apocalypse Wars will be on that spectrum, but the odds are not in its favor to say the least.

Extraordinary X-men was the catalyst for Apocalypse Wars. Other X-books are just jumping into this latest effort to make the Marvel timeline even more convoluted, but Extraordinary X-men #10 is several steps ahead and running head-first into the shit storm. They're in the future. They've met Apocalypse's new horsemen. They know they're fucked if they don't get the hell out of yet another dystopian future and unfuck the past. Again, this should all be pretty familiar. I'm just here to get drunk and let you know whether it's awesome, hopefully in that exact order.


A big part of any dystopian future involves the heroes getting their asses kicked and/or turned evil. The X-men have already succeeded in one of those tasks with Colossus having once again gone evil as a horseman of Apocalypse. I'd still argue that his stint with the Phoenix Five was better. At least he got a date with Kitty Pryde out of that shit. Here, he's got an ugly ass costume that Hamberto Ramos' art can't save and the personality depth of someone waiting in line at the post office.

As for the second task of getting their ass kicked, the X-men at least put up a balanced fight. They've got Old Man Wolverine, Storm, O5 Jean Grey, and a fucking Sentinel on their side. It can't be that lopsided. They don't get their asses handed to them, but they do lose that fancy gizmo containing hundreds of mutant embryos, which is kind of a big fucking deal in their time when mutants are being poisoned by clouds of Inhuman farts. So their asses might be intact, but they've still got a sizable boot mark.


As the X-men are getting more shit kicked on them in the future, Magik is trying to make the most of the present. For the past few issues, she's been working with an aspiring new mutant named Sapna. She was among the first to be rescued by this new team of Cyclops-hating, Limbo-based X-men and Magik of all people has taken her under her wing because of her uncanny ability to turn the demons of limbo into domesticated cats, which I guess makes them only slightly less evil. In terms of teachers, she as qualified as Emma Frost in a wet T-shirt contest.

Sapna is one of the few new mutants who is actually pretty likable. She might not have Magik's demon-loving persona and she's no Mean Girls evil blonde, but she's just the right amount of creepy and adorable. That's a fragile balance that isn't usually found outside an old Tim Burton movie. Her ability to make Magik seem less evil and give Hamberto Ramos an excuse to draw more demons makes her relevant for all the right reasons.


It all leads to an unexpectedly sweet moment between Sapna and Magik. Sapna basically becomes Magik's new padawan, having demonstrated an aptitude for magic and demon-taming. She's basically the only one who can be both a student and Magik's BFF. Considering Magik's recent history of being just one bad joke about her tits from unleashing a torrent of unholy hellfire on this world, this is exactly what she needs. What are the X-men, after all, if not those who help young aspiring mutants? Sure, they're still being poisoned and sterilized by Inhuman farts, but they're still helping those in need. That's way more than a race of xenophobic, slave-owning, elitist asshats who shall go nameless can say.


Back in the future, things aren't quite as warm and cuddly. That's not saying much, given that the warm and cuddly moment in this comic came from two young woman who love to play with demons, but that's the state of the X-men these days. Storm goes full emo here, lamenting how the X-men are fucked once again. They tried to survive their second bout of sterilization and they failed miserably. She's basically does what Cyclops never did and throws her arms up in frustration. I can't say I blame her, but I also can't help but point out the hypocrisy. She bitches about Cyclops, but fails miserably to wield the kind of poise and leadership that helped unite the human race and secure a place in Emma Frost's panties.

This time, it takes a full blown halftime speech from Iceman to get Storm's ass in gear. Yes, she needed a pep talk from fucking Iceman to get motivated again. That's not to knock Iceman's speech. It's pretty damn good here. I'm sure it could rally a typical high school football team from a two-touchdown deficit in a game. It just kind of feels hollow because he's giving it in a dystopian future and he's not saying anything that dozens of X-men haven't said before him. Captain America can probably talk in his sleep and give a better speech, but it still does the job. That's really the best the X-men can hope for these days.


With Storm having had the emo kicked out of her, the X-men make their way across Omega World to find Colossus. Along the way, Glob Herman decides to take another chance to get a place in O5 Jean Grey's panties. He probably figures if O5 Beast can have a shot despite being a total douche-bag, then his odds are pretty damn good.

That said, it's a plot that has been overplayed and overdone so often now that I'm sure O5 Jean has an adamantium lock on her panties now. It's like someone with OCD who always needs to have hand sanitize in their pocket. O5 Jean always has to have someone trying to bone her. Glob Herman is just the latest and while he's not nearly as big a douche as O5 Beast, this shit is so old and overplayed that it has no dramatic weight. Glob Herman is a D-lister on his best day. Jean Grey is now tied to Sophie Turner, aka Sansa fucking Stark. It's not a balanced relationship is all I'm saying.

Unfortunately for the OCD crowd, Glob Herman never gets to profess his undying love because they end up getting attacked by Moloids in Galactus' corpse. If that's not a clear enough sign that the universe doesn't want Glob Herman's glowing globby dick anywhere near O5 Jean, then what is?


Naturally, the mole monsters go for the pretty teenage girl. Unfortunately for them, the pretty teenage girl is O5 Jean Grey. Showing she's not in the mood for this shit in a dystopian future, she unleashes a little Phoenix-light ass-kicking. She doesn't faint. She doesn't need anyone to save her, be it Glob Herman or Old Man Logan. Feminists and Sophie Turner fans should fucking love this moment. It acts as a nice reminder that O5 Jean deserves to be with the X-men's heavy hitters. Sure, it makes Glob Herman want to bone her even more, but I can't say I blame him.

That means that this week, Jean Grey fights Moloids in a dystopian future and battles Apocalypse in the early 80s. All points considered, it's a damn good week to be Jean Grey.


In the past, it's not all teaching new students, sharing hugs, and playing with demons. Forge, who has been tracking the X-men in the future, once again gets his balls busted when he loses contact with Cerebra. On top of that, Magik gives him an anti-pep talk about him and Storm, basically telling him that his chances of seeing her naked again are basically the same as my chances of scoring a date with Jennifer Lawrence. There's another Wolverine walking around. Sure, that Wolverine is old, gritty, and jaded as fuck, but he'll still make Storm hornier than Forge ever will.

It's kind of a sad and you can't help but feel sorry for Forge, but he still gets to have his own giant robot. How many people outside old Japanese cartoons can say that? The problem is that losing contact with his prized robot means the X-men in the future are even more screwed than before. That means Magik has to get her demon-loving ass in gear and help them, which puts X-Haven at risk. I say if it's a choice between death by demons and death by clouds of Inhuman farts, I'd go with demons.


In the future, Glob Herman is keeping it in his pants for now. The rest of the X-men finally arrive at Apocalypse's domain. They don't know Magik is on her way or that Forge has completely lost track of them, but I think they're used to being this screwed by now. That's just how the X-men roll these days.

Colossus also knows they've arrived and, being a proud horseman, he's more than eager to screw the X-men over even more. Because why the fuck not? They're already in a dytopian future. It's like taking a piss on a pile of radioactive waste. It can't possibly do anything to make it less fucked, right?


Well surprisingly, Colossus goes the extra distance here. Instead of just kicking the X-men's asses and making Storm in need of another pep talk, he throws Venom at them and gets it to infect Old Man Logan. So now, he doesn't even have to kick their ass. He just has to let Venom take over Old Man Logan, a man who already slaughtered his friends once before, and enjoy the show. That, my friends, is called working smart and not hard.


So...is it awesome?

Well, it's not a filler issue. There's that. Iceman gives an inspirational speech while Storm goes emo. There's that too. O5 Jean Grey kicks ass in a way that Sophie Turner would do well to study. That's always a bonus. Glob Herman wants to bone her. That's not exactly breaking new ground these days. Magik is showing her soft side and her crass side. That's par for the course with an extra birdie or two. Old Man Logan gets a face full of Venom symbiote. Not gonna lie. That is kind of boner-inducing.

So all in all, this issue was all over the place. Some parts fell flat, like Storm going all emo. Others actually move the story forward, but only by so much. There is some awesome shit here that's worth the effort. It's not going to melt anyone's brain matter, but it's not going to put anyone to sleep either. Like half a line of blow, it's not the full high you want, but it's better than nothing. Extraordinary X-men #10 continues the tradition of the post-Secret Wars X-men being too screwed to be more than great, but being screwed hasn't stopped them from being awesome. Hell, if an issue can make Iceman, O5 Jean, and Glob fucking Herman awesome, there's at least some hope. It's best to cling to it before another cloud of Inhuman farts crush it.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Through Loosely Connected Sub-plots, a Foundation Is Laid in Civil War II #0

The following is my review of Civil War II #0, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Any college student cramming for a final exam can attest that procrastination is a common, often unavoidable aspect of human nature. We human beings simply aren't wired to be overly proactive. The caveman in us often refuses to acknowledge the danger until a stampede of wooly mammoths is charging our village at a rate that registers as a small to mid-ranged Earthquake. We try to be proactive. We understand its values and benefits. Despite this, our capacity for foresight is laughable most of the time.

In the world of superheroes, killer robots, invading aliens, and whatever Tony Stark happens to build on an off-day, the stakes are much higher than any exam. Knowing when and how Thanos will attempt to destroy the Earth and spit on its ashes is pretty important. It's the difference between needing another Helicarrier and needing a time machine.

It's a factor that has many real world parallels. Law enforcement, the military, the NSA, and annoying internet ads need a certain level of foresight to function. That's what makes Civil War II such an intriguing concept and Civil War II #0 makes it a point to belabor the importance of this concept. It's a point worth belaboring, as those same procrastinating college students are destined to find out the hard way. The conflict doesn't erupt here, but the mood is definitively established.

The method for establishing this mood in Civil War II #0 isn't necessarily concise, nor is it engaging at times. However, it still conveys the necessary sentiment through the experiences of characters like She-Hulk, War Machine, and Captain Marvel. These characters help shape the mood of the conflict before it erupts. They don't reveal anything about the characters that can't be gleaned from Wikipedia, but they do establish their current mindset within the context of Civil War II.


Through these loosely connected sub-plots, the foundation is laid. On one side, She-Hulk argues passionately for the defense of the Jester, a known villain who most card-carrying members of the Avengers wouldn't hesitate to punch. Her defense, however, is as articulate as it is relevant, both in the context of Civil War II and in the context of the real world where no self-respecting criminal calls themselves the Jester.

The crime in this case may or may not qualify as a crime. The Jester isn't charged with stealing or hurting anyone. He's charged with merely discussing it. For him, the mere act of thinking about a crime is a crime in and of itself. It is, by definition, a thought crime. In the real world, civilized societies find convicting people of such crimes untenable. Maybe it's a little more understandable in a world where telepaths like Emma Frost and Jean Grey exist, but it's still inconsistent with a basic understanding of justice.

Our world might not have telepaths, but it does reflect a real problem, as the original Civil War did a decade earlier. In the realm of justice and security, it's not always clear what constitutes an imminent threat. For some people, a threat only becomes pressing when someone is standing in a doorway dressed as a clown and carrying a knife. For others, a critical tweet constitutes a threat. The line isn't just blurred. It's a constantly shifting, often nebulous concept that rarely keeps up with the needs of society.

She-Hulk ends up losing her case, but her concept of proactive justice is very different from that of Captain Marvel. As a member of the Ultimates, who need to be exceedingly proactive when dealing with threats like Thanos and Galactus, she laments on how many close calls the Earth has had. This doesn't even count all the times retcons and time travel were necessary to save the day. She understands the need for foresight better than most non-psychic characters. Moreover, she expresses a desire to seek means of improving their foresight.

This leads to the primary catalyst for Civil War II, namely the Inhuman named Ulysses. There's really nothing special about his transformation or him as a character. He's as generic and forgettable as most civilians in the Marvel universe with no direct or indirect ties to Peter Parker. He just happens to be outside as the Terrigen Mist sweeps over his college campus. That's really all there is to this key character in Civil War II.

The drama is lacking, but the sentiment expressed by characters like She-Hulk and Captain Marvel are nicely developed. The situations are somewhat contrived, but Brian Michael Bendis does an admirable job crafting the thoughts and feelings of these characters. He sets the right tone and establishes the right mood, ensuring it's ripe for tension and conflict. Since the first Civil War inspired a movie that's on track to make a billion dollars at the box office, this is vital in terms of capturing the spirit of its predecessor.


While this spirit is present and well-developed, the overall story is lacking and disorganized. There are very few connecting threads tying the narrative together. Everything just happens separately and randomly. That's not to say the plot of Civil War II #0 is forced. It simply lacks organization and cohesion. It's the opening credits to a much larger story and not enough is done to make this necessary component of the overall narrative more engaging.

The greatest strength of Civil War II #0 is still the insight of the characters involved. This insight succeeds in the same way the premise of the original Civil War succeeded, creating an issue that has real-world parallels and major implications, especially for a fictional world where planet-eating entities are a legitimate concern. It's bland in terms of substance, but necessary with respect to context. It lacks a larger entertainment value, but such details aren't always possible for a certain narrative, Deadpool being the lone exception.

Final Score: 6 out of 10