Wednesday, May 4, 2016

X-men 92 #3: Nuff Said!

Life is unfair as fuck. Some things never get the respect they earn while other things get way more than they deserve. And I'm not just talking about Bernie Sanders either. It feels like it doesn't matter how awesome X-men 92 is in terms the quality, refinement, and scope of its story. It's just never going to succeed in a market where everyone is lining up to suck the Inhumans' xenophobic, slave-owning dicks. And that's an injustice on par with the cancellation of Firefly, but that's the world we live in I'm afraid. We can only hope to cope with weed and whiskey.

This gives guys like me all the more reason to enjoy X-men 92 while it lasts and make no mistake, it won't. Marvel will look for an excuse to cancel this series early. It's a series that neither glorifies the Inhumans nor hypnotizes readers into buying Avengers merchandise. It's not going to last if Disney's lawyers have anything to say about it. And that's bullshit because this series has brought a new Inner Circle into the mix, complete with an evil communist vampire monster. X-men 92 #3 promises to add more icing on top of a multi-layered cake and without sterilization plots. So please, enjoy it with me because Marvel will cancel something this awesome because it will please their Disney overlords. Extra weed and whiskey isn't necessary, but it certainly couldn't hurt.


Disney overlords aren't the only one watching the events of X-men 92 closely. It has actually caught the attention of the multiverse. Ignoring how one too many of those universe are probably dystopian futures ruled by Inhumans, killer robots, and Ted Cruz, the vampires of this universe see what's going on in X-men 92 with Alpha Red. While I'm sure they're as shocked as everyone that nobody is sucking any Inhuman dick, they're also curious as to what's going on with this latest mutant vs. vampires conflict. I don't know if vampires have anything on par with weed and whiskey, but I'm sure they're ready to watch like a horny meth head watching Game of Thrones.


And like Game of Thrones, stopping an evil incursion of monsters requires an alliance with someone only slightly less evil than King Joffrey. Storm, now the leader of the X-men, has to get help from fucking Dracula of all people to save Jubilee. If this sounds familiar, then don't worry. You're not as high as you think you are. Like the mainline comics, Storm does have a history with Dracula. And yes, that history involves Dracula wanting to marry and bone her. Honestly, who can blame him? He's fucking Dracula. He's in a better position than most to get a goddess for a wife.

That history is still somewhat glossed over in that it was never touched on in the old cartoon. And since the cartoon had numerous variations on X-men stories, mostly to make them more suitable for a Saturday morning cartoon, it leaves a number of blanks. On top of that, this is a fairly similar approach to what the X-men did in the Curse of the Mutants arc. That arc was not exactly obscure. The iPhone existed during that arc so we're in painfully familiar territory here. What could X-men 92 possibly do to make it interesting?


Well clench your asshole fanboys, Chad Bowers and Chris Sims know what tickles your fancy. As expected, Dracula tries to get Storm to marry him again in exchange for his help. Storm's response should make feminists, liberals, and even some republicans squee. Storm basically says, "Do I look like Bella fucking Swan to you?!?!?" and unleashes her weather goddess powers. I'm pretty sure that killed Dracula's boner in an instant and gave me one in half the time. If anyone had any doubts whatsoever whether Storm was qualified to be leader of the X-men, kick those doubts in the balls and spit on their graves.


Storm kicks a lot of ass and she's used to it. Unfortunately, all those new students the X-men took in at the beginning of X-men 92 aren't quite as used to it. They're not quite at that level where they see a killer robot and think, "Ah fuck, it's going to be one of those days again." They're just students trying to live their lives without the threat of killer robots. Is that so much to ask?

Well, now they need to add vampires to their list of shit they want to avoid. Because after waking up from her coma in the previous issue, Jubilee has been busy, hungry, and probably pretty horny. A bunch of young students are running for their lives while others were too slow and got bit. Now they're vampires too. It's like a zombie invasion, minus the smell of rotting flesh. It's not an army of killer robots or an attack by the Brotherhood. But again, it's still a familiar conflict. It's still as fun as before, but not much beyond that.


Before this becomes a slasher movie where all the pretty girls with loose morals get slaughtered, Beast and Xavier step in and try to contain the situation. The institute is equipped to battle Sentinels, not vampires. But that doesn't stop them from contributing, using the institute's defenses to save the students they can. It's probably the most competent Beast has been in over a decade and he's not bitching about Cyclops. That alone should make X-men 92 worth the price.

They should be equipped to deal with this to some degree. Xavier even gets help from Chamber, who has more incentive than most to stop this. He was so close to copping a feel from Jubilee. He can't do that if she's undead. He just doesn't have that kind of fetish. Unfortunately, Xavier gets knocked out once again by some telepathic attack. And this comes after he got taken out by Cassandra Nova in the first arc. Starting to think Xavier is getting rusty in his old age.


That or the situation just got infinitely more fucked when Alpha Red shows up. Well in this case, I guess we'll say it's a little of both. Because yeah, Alpha Red does show up. And he's been even busier than Jubilee. That clash between him, the X-men, and Omega Red's Russian thugs...it didn't go well. Now they're all fucking vampires, including Wolverine. Now add a thirst for blood on top of his insatiable desire for whiskey, violence, and married women.

Even Curse of the Mutants didn't leave them this fucked. In that story, only Jubilee and Wolverine got turned into vampires. This finally gives this arc an extra level of ball-busting impact that it needed. It's still painfully familiar, but it's hard not to clench your asshole just a little bit harder when seeing a team of vampire X-men show up.


Naturally, the students at the institute don't stand a fucking chance. Alpha Red, having both X-men and their enemies on his side, break into the school with the same ease as I break into my liquor cabinet. They make their way to Cerebro, casually brushing off any of the Institute's defenses along the way. It's a lopsided battle, but it probably should be. The X-men are tough enough, but vampire X-men? Fuck, even Apocalypse would slightly shit himself at such a notion.


As things get increasingly fucked at the Xavier Institute, the remaining non-vampire X-men learn something from Dracula that adds an extra level of complicated fucks. It turns out that Alpha Red isn't just a secret Soviet super-weapon. He's Dracula's son. Specifically, he's an anti-Jon Snow type son who thought having an immortal father sucked so he tried to make himself more powerful with the help of Russian scientists. All that did was turn him into a monster and make him smell like cheap vodka. But it still made him pretty damn menacing. He managed to turn most of the X-men into vampires. You gotta give him props for that. It also adds a few extra layers to Alpha Red and in the post-Twilight era of vampires, that's always a bonus.


Now knowing he has a chance to give his asshole son a spanking, Dracula agrees to follow the X-men back to the Xavier Institute. They arrive just in time to see that it's now basically a level of Resident Evil. The X-men are vampires. Most of the students are vampires. The whole institute is just one Sookie Stackhouse away from being one big vampire orgy. Alpha Red certainly has a boner going. He's got daddy issues, but now he's got vampire X-men to help him. Beats the shit out of family therapy I guess.


Storm tries to end this shit before Capcom sues their ass. She once again shows off her badass goddess skills by breaking the creepy cloud cover and hitting these vampires with a nice dose of sunlight. Unfortunately, that doesn't work. It doesn't even make them sparkle. Apparently, Alpha Red used some sort of convoluted magic shit to remove that pesky weakness from vampires. Is it a little convenient and contrived? Yes. But does it set up a much bloodier battle between the X-men and vampire X-men? Fuck yes.


So...is it awesome?

Well if you thought the shitty finale to True Blood had destroyed all possibility of vampire stories, then kick your own ass, bang your head against the wall, and rejoice! X-men 92 #3 just proved you wrong. This isn't True Blood. This isn't Twilight. This isn't some watered down Ann Rice shit. This is mutants vs. vampires and it's as awesome as it sounds. There's no bullshit love story here. And nobody fucking sparkles. It's mutants fighting vampires. Like fighting giant robots, it's just one of those simple plots that just fucking works.

That's not to say it's a perfect plot. If you read Curse of the Mutants several years ago, you'll see plenty of parallels. You might even see one too many. Jubilee being a vampire? X-men turning into vampires? It's been done and done well. X-men 92 #3 doesn't improve upon it, but it doesn't make it worse either. It still kicks plenty of ass and busts plenty of balls. And again, nobody fucking sparkles.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Clones, Drama, and Squirrels: All-New Wolverine #7

The following is my review of All-New, All Different Wolverine #7, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


There are any number of rules with notable exceptions in superhero comics. There has to be in a world where the laws of physics are only as rigid as a writer's fluency in technobabble. However, it also works the other way around. Certain exceptions, so to speak, create rules that become unspoken laws of sorts. Few concepts have as many of those laws as clones.

Thanks to Spider-Man and his infamous Clone Saga, a generation of comics had to function under the unwritten assumption that adding clones to a story is like giving alcohol to the Hulk. It's just going to create a messy situation at best and a migraine-inducing catastrophe at worst. Then, X-23 comes along and these unwritten assumptions and unspoken laws start to crack.

It's still astonishing to contemplate, a character who started out as a side-plot on X-men: Evolution is now carrying on Wolverine's legacy. It only feels less remarkable when Laura Kinney's history is given some extra scrutiny. Unlike most clones, she doesn't look too similar to her predecessor. That might seem easy since she's a teenage girl and Wolverine is a gruff, hairy Canadian that made Hugh Jackman famous, but it's the extent to which she set herself apart that makes her worthy of carrying on Wolverine's legacy. In every way Spider-Man's clone stories fail, X-23 succeeds.

Tom Taylor builds on that success, showing time and again that X-23 deserves to go by Wolverine. However, he takes a chance in the first arc of All-New Wolverine by introducing even more clones into the mix. On paper, it sounds like an idea that would make Peter Parker bang his head against the wall, building a story around clones of another clone. In All-New Wolverine #7, however, Taylor gives valid, concise, and wonderfully dramatic reasons why this story is worth building.

While the premise of All-New Wolverine as a whole might make Peter Parker cringe, even he would smile at the way All-New Wolverine #7 adds an element of dramatic weight that is rare in clone stories. Taylor doesn't just move the plot forward from the first arc, which has X-23 meet her clone sisters, only one of which ends up surviving. He establishes some uncanny parallels between X-23's current situation and the one she faced with the non-cloned Wolverine prior to his death.

These parallels are important. They're also instrumental in the core character of Laura Kinney. Through the use of a flashback that doesn't create more confusion than it resolves for once, Taylor establishes Laura's emotional vulnerabilities during a time when she is woefully under-qualified to be Wolverine. She carries herself less like a clone and more like a troubled teenage girl who doesn't want her father to leave. It's more emotional range than most clones dare to show and for those whose exposure to clones is limited to Star Wars prequels, it's incredibly refreshing.

For Laura Kinney, being X-23 means being tied to James Howlett. However, the former Wolverine treats her less like a clone and more like a daughter. He shows that he learned from Peter Parker's mistakes. He convinces X-23 that she can build her own life and be her own person. Now, she has to do the same with Gabby, her prepubescent clone sister. It's a cloning challenge that even Spider-Man can't wrap his head around.


This is where Taylor keeps the story from becoming too melodramatic. He does this by bringing Squirrel Girl into the mix, who is the Marvel equivalent of warm teddy bear coated with fairy dust. In most circumstances, she seems out of place in any Wolverine story. In All-New Wolverine #7, however, her arrival is downright therapeutic for Laura. For someone whose coping skills consist primarily of growling and stabbing things, it's pretty jarring, but in a good way.

This team-up doesn't lead to the kind of violent, bloody brawls that dominated the previous arc of this series. It doesn't even lead to a greater progression on the overall narrative that has been unfolding X-23 since All-New Wolverine began. It's just a cute little story where a troubled teenage girl helps an adorably cheerful teenage girl. It's part buddy cop and part Disney movie. It's one of those strange combinations that doesn't work on paper, but it works beautifully in All-New Wolverine #7.

Nobody gets stabbed. Nobody gets bludgeoned. In fact, it only gets marginally tense when Squirrel Girl demands to take a selfie with Laura. She does it less begrudgingly than James Howlett would've done, another clear distinction between her and her predecessor. For a clone, those distinctions are important. This sort of light-hearted aside is a genuine rarity for a Wolverine story, but it's also refreshing.


It helps emphasize that X-23 isn't just Wolverine's clone. She's a teenage girl and one who is trying to make the best of a complicated, confusing situation. She succeeds far more than Peter Parker ever did, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. The lack of visceral action is somewhat jarring on some levels, given all the stabbing and growling in the previous arc. At times, All-New Wolverine #7 is a little too light-hearted, but it succeeds in one important facet. It gives Laura greater perspective in terms of helping her new clone sister, Gabby.

In the grand scheme of Wolverine's bloody legacy and Laura Kinney's dedication to keeping those blood-stains fresh, All-New Wolverine #7 provides a kind of dramatic context that is easy to lose in all the stabbing. That context might not be critical in moving the narrative forward as a whole, but it adds layers to X-23's persona and, as the Ben Riley's of the Marvel universe can attest, a clone can never have too many of those.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Old Man Logan #5: Nuff Said!

They say with age comes wisdom. But does it really? Or is it just that as you get older, you stop giving a flying fuck? I guess most of us won’t find out until our hair starts turning gray and we start shitting in bags. For Old Man Logan, he doesn’t have to wait. He knows and despite looking like a walking Just For Men before picture, he carries himself with the kind of wisdom and don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that makes Wolverine awesome.

The first arc of Old Man Logan was a testament and a love letter to everything we love about Wolverine. If I were a woman, I’d return that love letter with naked pictures and a wedding ring. Now, Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino are looking to expand Old Man Logan’s role in the new Marvel universe. He’s finally accepted that he’s not in the past. He’s just in a world where mutants are fucked for a whole different reason. At least it’s a world where he hasn’t killed all his friends and Storm isn’t married anymore. Old Man Logan #5 launches the next chapter in his new life and while I may not be a woman, let’s just say naked pictures aren’t entirely off the table.


The first arc ended with him catching up with the events of Extraordinary X-men. This new arc pics up right after that in as good a transition as we can possibly expect from the X-books these days. Old Man Logan needs to run off and do some Wolverine shit again. This leads a nice moment with storm, one that’s full of drama and emotional undertones and possibly some incredible sexual tension. I know Old Man Logan doesn’t look nearly as hot as his former, Hugh Jackman inspiring self, but I imagine Storm needs to get laid just that much at this point.

It’s not about her busting his balls for running off. It’s about her reminding him how much she and the X-men need him. That kind of fucks with Old Man Logan, seeing as how he blames himself for slaughtering the X-men in his world. But that’s exactly what makes the drama so appropriate and juicy. Not sure he’s ready for Storm to jump his bone, but I imagine even Old Man Logan isn’t too old to avoid temptation.


Once again, Andrea Sorrentino’s gritty artwork fits the tone of Old Man Logan like chocolate frosting atop a pot brownie. It makes for a perfect backdrop as Old Man Logan ventures out into a world he doesn’t belong in. It’s also a world that’s being fucked over by clouds of Inhuman farts, but it’s still an upgrade compared to the wasteland he came from, although that’s certainly subject to change. Even so, Sorrentino’s artwork here, depicting Old Man Logan on a motorcycle, couldn’t be more Wolverine-esque without a bottle of whiskey in the background.


He eventually arrives at his destination. It’s an isolated ice road town where the wolf population is higher than the human population. But he’s not just here to pitch a new shitty reality show for the Discovery Channel. He’s there because he came to this same place in his world.

It leads to another wonderfully appropriate, exceedingly brutal flashback. Just like those in the first arc, this one is perfectly placed and beautifully depicted, providing relevant insight into Old Man Logan’s fucked up story. This one involves his efforts to kill himself after he slaughtered his friends. Having an adamantium skeleton and a healing factor made that surprisingly difficult. He even tried letting a train run over his head. And it still didn’t work. Let that sink in for a moment and then go get some aspirin.


It leads to a defining moment for Old Man Logan, one where he buried his X-men costume and his title as Wolverine. It’s the moment that transformed him into this distinct manifestation of Wolverine that is so different from the whiny pretty boy version we see in the movie or the arrogant, don’t-give-a-fuck-and-flirt-with-married-women version that we see in so many comics. It’s an important moment in its own right and one that is even more relevant now that he’s with a new team of X-men in a new world.


This defining moment has all sorts of dramatic weight. Him returning to Weapon X and hoping to punish himself? Not so much. It turns out only half as bad as you would think. Then again, this is after he tried and failed to kill himself by getting his head run over by a train. So it’s a lot more understandable in that context. It basically sets the stage for Old Man Logan to start stabbing things again after he threw away his X-men uniform. That’s one distinction that every form of Wolverine has to embrace to some degree.


Old Man Logan is only slightly less inclined to embrace it compared to his predecessors. Back in the present, he’s more inclined to stop and feed a dog before he stabs something. That doesn’t just win him points with the animal rights crowd. It wins him points with a cute young woman. She doesn’t look like Jean Grey and she’s not a Japanese hooker so there’s nothing overly pornographic about it. It just makes for a nice moment between Old Man Logan and a girl who loves dogs. It’s not as dramatic as stabbing, but it’s a lot less messy.


Return to the flashback and the potential for stabbing is much higher. However, this is during a time when Old Man Logan swore not to fight. So those assholes that attacked him at the Weapon X facility had an advantage. In most other X-men universes, they would have found the business end of Wolverine’s claws in the first half-second and their entrails would become glorified finger paint. But in Old Man Logan’s world, he never draws his claws. He just gets the everloving shit kicked out of him. It might be woefully lopsided, but it’s perfectly appropriate within the context of his history.


This is when we find out why this flashback is so much more relevant than 99 percent of the flashbacks in other comics. This moment, right after Old man Logan gets the shit kicked out of him, is when he meets Maureen. She’s not Jean Grey. She’s not Mariko Yashida. And yet in the world of Old Man Logan, she’s the one who ends up marrying Logan and survives the wedding. That alone qualifies her to participate in girls nights with Carol Danvers, Wonder Woman, and Black Widow.

It’s an important moment both in this story and in the grand scheme of Old Man Logan because Maureen didn’t get a lot of chances to shine. She was just the woman who managed to give Old Man Logan a reason not to run his head over with a train a second time. Here, we find out how they meet and how their relationship unfolds. For someone who managed to convince Old Man Logan to name one of his kids Scotty, I think she’s earned that level of intrigue.


This is where the ties between the flashback and the present become perfectly aligned. Remember that adorable young woman who loves taking care of dogs? Well, that’s the Maureen of this non-dystopian world where Wolverine hasn’t slaughtered his friends. She’s just a young girl at this point in the timeline. And no, it doesn’t get creepy in a way the Vatican would have to cover up. Old Man Logan flat out admits to himself that she’s not the girl he’s destined to fall in love with and start a family. She’s just a girl he needs to protect. It’s a perfectly Wolverine-like thing to do, regardless of age. From Jubilee to X-23, it’s kind of a tradition. At the very least, he has to make sure she doesn’t end up a vampire.


Old Man Logan’s heart might be in the right place, even if his hair color and prostate aren’t. However, he’s still Wolverine. That means he’s bound to attract the kind of danger that needs stabbing. Even in a remote part of Canada like this, that danger finds him and this is no exception. And who better to fuck with Old Man Logan’s reluctance to stab things than Lady Deathstrike? He may not be the same Wolverine she dedicated her life to killing, but I doubt she gives enough fucks to care. It’s another opportunity to maim and torment Wolverine. Like a free beer or lap dance from Emma Frost, who is going to turn that down?


So...is it awesome?

When a series like Old Man Logan sets the bar so fucking high, that’s a surprisingly hard question to ask. When that same series keeps fighting new ways to raise the bar and punch the guy raising it in the dick, it gets somewhat easier. Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino have made Old Man Logan the imported scotch of X-men comics and Old Man Logan #5 is just as smooth as all the previous issues, minus the dry heaves and hangovers. It once again ties Old Man Logan’s struggles in this world to the world he lost in the most meaningful, visceral way possible. He’s a different kind of Wolverine, but he’s still the Wolverine we know and love. Being a jaded old fuck just makes us love him more.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

All-New Wolverine #7: Nuff Said!

I give clones a lot of shit on this blog and I think Spider-Man fans will agree. They earn it. But there are exceptions to that shit. There are shining diamonds within those mountains of excrement that make clones a concept that doesn't have to be completely ditched. Case and point, X-23. She's the new Wolverine. She's the one carrying on Logan's legacy. While it's debatable just how much a clone she is since she technically has a mother, she is basically the exact opposite of everything Spider-Man fans have come to associate with clones.

The first arc of All-New Wolverine gave X-23 a chance to show that she's worthy of that legacy. Anyone who doubted her probably kicked themselves in the balls after reading it. She showed the heart, honor, and willingness to stab the right people that would've made Logan proud. But, after saving her clone sisters, there are still plenty more people to stab. All-New Wolverine #7 has her take a break from all the stabbing. And let’s face it, she’s earned it. Even Logan needed a break every now and then. Every brewery and redheaded hooker in Canada would probably agree.


It’s not just the stabbing that wears her out. X-23 also has more baggage than most teenage girls and I’m not just talking about some bitch stealing her prom date. She’s still dealing with the death of Logan, her genetic and de-facto father. And Tom Taylor makes it a point to remind us of that in a flashback, one that evokes just the right set of emotions that makes X-23 a great character and the complete antithesis of Hope fucking Summers.

It’s a powerful moment, one where she urges Logan not to run off. She claims she doesn’t belong with the X-men. Everyone is afraid of her, ignoring at the time that an angry teenage girl is barely the 10th scariest thing the X-men deal with. But Logan shows better parenting skills than 95 percent of everyone who ever appeared on Jerry Springer. He urges her to stay and succeed where he fails. And hanging out with him tends to get her shot, burned, and disemboweled and that’s just from when he pisses off Cyclops. She’s better off not making his mistakes.

It’s a great moment and one Hope fucking Summers never learned form.


That moment gets even more feels when X-23 wakes up from the memory, still urging Logan not to leave. Him being dead now should evoke that sad yet fuzzy feeling in your heart that you probably haven’t felt since the first time you saw the Lion King. Having just rescued her own share of vulnerable clone sisters, she could use Logan’s help more than ever. Were he not dead, he’d have dropped the whiskey bottle and put his pants back on to help. But he’s not here and it’s sad in a beautiful sort of way.


So how do you cheer someone like X-23 up? This looks like a job for Squirrel Girl! Seriously, who is more qualified to cheer up a pissed off teenage girl than someone who is a walking ball of warm, fuzzy joy? And unlike whiskey and hookers, she’ll put a smile on your face for all the right reasons, minus the dry heaves.

She arrives with X-23 carrying a wolverine. No, not the one that looks like a bearded Hugh Jackman. I mean an actual wolverine. He even has a name. She calls him Jonathan, which is kind of like naming a grizzly bear Percy. But it sounds exactly like something Squirrel Girl would do. She’s going to seek Wolverine out for help. Why not bring a real wolverine? Did I mention Squirrel Girl is a non-genius teenage girl who hasn’t been emotionally traumatized yet? Hope that helps make more sense of it.


It turns out bringing an actual wolverine was ingenuous. For reasons that only make sense in Joe Quesada’s mind, the wolverine takes to Gabby like a kitten to a ball of yarn. It’s disturbingly adorable and astonishingly fitting. A clone of Wolverine’s clone with a pet wolverine? It’s basically the perfect pitch for a G-rated Disney movie. The soundtrack alone will kick Frozen’s ass.

But beyond getting Gabby a new pet, Squirrel Girl says she’s there to confront X-23. Apparently, she has a mission for her. This being Squirrel Girl, those missions usually involve little stabbing and more chirping. But after what X-23 went through in the first arc, maybe she could use a little chirping.


X-23 agrees to the mission, if only because Squirrel Girl saved her the trouble of buying Gabby a stuffed animal. However, before she leaves, she confronts Gabby in another emotional moment that echoes with the same feels as the earlier flashback. Gabby doesn’t want her to leave, just like X-23 didn’t want Logan to leave. It beautifully parallels the emotions that X-23 has struggled with throughout her history. If this really were a Disney movie, it would be the perfect moment for a Let It Go style song. It also gives Gabby a chance to show that despite being a clone, she’s an adorable young character with plenty to offer. She’s worth saving and adoring.

You hear that, Hope fucking Summers? This is where you done fucked up.


The mission involved isn’t going to raise anyone’s blood pressure more than a Looney Toons rerun. X-23 and Squirrel Girl venture off on a mission to find a missing squirrel that disappeared after a tree got knocked over. Yes, this is the sort of mission Squirrel Girl prioritizes. And you know what? I don’t have a problem with that at all. That’s not just the weed talking either. It’s just one of those cute little eccentricities that the Marvel universe needs in a world full of killer robots, ugly aliens, and Hope fucking Summers.


X-23 employs her Wolverine skills, picking up a scent and tracing the missing squirrel to some upscale apartment where douche-bags and Donald Trump supporters probably live. There’s no elaborate break-in. Nobody gets stabbed, maimed, or even woken up. It’s not as boring as it sounds. It’s just how things usually go with Squirrel Girl. And after all the grotesque violence in the first issue, this is kind of refreshing. X-23 was due for a break in the violence almost as much as she was due a break from O5 Angel’s whining.


Naturally, X-23 succeeds in her mission with Squirrel Girl. Again, nobody needs stabbing. Sinister didn’t capture the missing squirrel or anything. Mole Man didn’t try to turn it into a monster. Some dipshit kid just captured the squirrel and tried to keep it in a box like a pet, as many dipshit kids tend to do at some point in their lives. At first, they worry that the squirrel might be dead, which is like throwing a kid’s Halloween candy in a furnace. Thankfully, the kid who took the squirrel wasn’t a future serial killer or republican presidential candidate. The squirrel is alive, well, and Squirrel Girl is squeeing with joy. I dare anyone to see that and not smile.


They return the grateful squirrel to its family. And, still being a lovable teenage girl, convinces X-23 to take a selfie and swap numbers. X-23 even cracks a smile, something Wolverine doesn’t usually do unless he sees a naked Jean Grey. It’s a beautiful moment where X-23 finds joy in something that doesn’t involve stabbing. It seems downright therapeutic, not to mention refreshing. It also gives me up that this isn’t the last team-up between Squirrel Girl and X-23. They may not be Cable and Deadpool, but they certainly have the potential to be, minus Deadpool’s dick jokes.


Thanks to Squirrel Girl’s adorable influence, it inspires X-23 to share a nice moment with Gabby. She basically says to her what Logan never got a chance to say. She promises she’ll help her and she won’t just ditch her. Yes, I’m referring to Hope fucking Summers again. I’m sorry, but I do feel like that shit is worth emphasizing because this has the exact opposite effect. It’s heartfelt, dramatic, and brings out the best in both characters. It’s the greatest non-lesbian moment two young female characters can share.


So...is it awesome?

Before I answer that, let me just say this. Any story that has Squirrel Girl in it gives me the insatiable urge to hug a stuffed animal. Don't judge me. I have issues. Putting her in a story with X-23 sounds like something that can only work with the aid of really good weed, but I actually read All-New Wolverine #7 sober and I still wanted to hug that stuffed animal. So fuck yes, this was pretty awesome.

It's still a huge fucking shift compared to the last few issues. Nobody got stabbed, decapitated, or bludgeoned in this issue. And this is a fucking Wolverine comic. It's like an episode of South Park without the fart jokes. It seems off, but it still works. I mean, it has an adorable pre-teen girl hugging an actual wolverine. Where else outside of a fucked up beer commercial are you going to get that?

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Upholding and Underscoring a Legacy: Action Comics #51

The following is my review of Action Comics #51, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Imagine for a moment that the iPhone has been around for 75 years. How many updates, reinventions, breakthroughs, and setbacks would it have gone through? How many features would it have added, dropped, or botched entirely? It's difficult to imagine because there aren't a lot of things that last 75 years these days. There aren't a lot of things that last 25 years these days, the Simspons notwithstanding.

Despite the onslaught of time, Superman finds way to endure. He's goes through transitions, relaunches, reboots, revamps, and gimmicks that would've broken a lesser character. From Superfriends to Richard Donner to Batfleck, Superman navigates these shifting eras as few characters can. Sure, he's been cloned, killed, resurrected, de-powered, and overpowered. He still endures as the heroic ideal, one who sets the standards by which all heroes not named Deadpool are measured.

With the New 52 era coming to an end to make way for Rebirth, Action Comics #51 prepares Superman for yet another transition. It's a transition that presents a unique set of challenges and not just those that involve being upstaged by Batman every now and then. Losing his powers and having his identity exposed now forces Superman to reassess his position in the DC universe. He'll always be one of its primary pillars, but even he understands there's only so much Superman can do, even if he can do obscenely more than most.

It's for that reason that Action Comics #51 builds a story around Superman preparing the world for a time when he can no longer fulfill his position as the gold standard for heroism in the DC universe. It's not him being proactive either. Once again, Superman is dying. This should carry a lot of emotional weight, but between All-Star Superman and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, these emotions feel too familiar.

Despite this familiarity, there are important concepts at play here in terms of Superman's legacy. The issue is these concepts are underdeveloped and underplayed. Action Comics #51 puts Superman in a situation where he has to prepare Supergirl for being the last remaining non-clone, non-hybrid, non-alternate universe Kryptonian on Earth. It's a situation that has so many emotional undertones, but few of those emotions are realized.

That's not to say there aren't powerful moments at play. Peter Tomasi makes it a point to have Superman remind Supergirl why he is the pinnacle hero for every era of his 75-year history. He understands that people are afraid of exceedingly powerful aliens and they're perfectly right to be afraid. Someone who can lift mountains, fly through space, and be friends with Batman is bound to make a lot of people worry. That's why what Superman does is so important. That's why it's important that Supergirl carries on this legacy.

This moment, however, is lacking in terms of emotional impact. It's the most defining moment of the narrative in Action Comics #51, but it's a moment that feels rushed and underdeveloped. In addition, the overall setup for the story is rushed. The whole mystery of Supergirl missing is resolved in the quickest, least dramatic way possible.

The details around this mystery are explained in a throw-away flashback that barely qualify as a teaser. It's more like a skippable video ad than an actual part of the story. Nobody will miss anything by skipping it. That might be fine for video ads, but for the overall story in Action Comics #51, it's wastes ink that is better spent refining the emotional undertones of Superman's predicament. Grant Morrison already made a veritable how-to guide for these stories with All-Star Superman so any Superman story that falters with such a story has no excuse.

It's not just the overly rushed pace of the story that derails the drama. There's another side-plot involving Dr. Omen that sets up another conflict that likely can't be rushed. However, it feels entirely disjointed from the primary plot of Superman preparing Supergirl to carry on his legacy. For a story that already feels rushed, being disorganized doesn't. Anyone whose mind doesn't operate on the same wavelength of the Flash is likely to get confused.

Even if the pace is rushed and disorganized, it isn't wholly chaotic. There are still dramatic undertones at work here as Superman prepares himself for yet another death, not knowing how permanent it might be. It feels personal, him reaching out to Supergirl and preparing her for a world where she is the sole bearer of Superman's legacy. For someone whose power levels make solving daunting problems so easy most of the time, it's an important element to highlight. It just isn't highlighted enough.

In preparing for a fresh round of upheaval with the upcoming Rebirth relaunch, there are many loose ends to resolve. Leaving too many unresolved will make printing that all-important #1 on the cover feel like a hollow gimmick. As it stands, Superman has more loose ends than most. Action Comics #51 at least begins the process, but doesn't proceed very far.

Tomasi makes it a point to emphasize the importance of Superman's legacy in the incredibly broad scope that is the DC Universe and rightly so. Superman's legacy is important and passing it off to Supergirl, who has neither his level of experience nor his clout among other heroes, has numerous dramatic undertones. Absent that drama, the emphasis on that legacy feels shallow at best.

Superman dying is a big deal, even if it has been overdone and overplayed since the early 90s. Every major hero gets a death story these days and, being a 75-year-old icon, Superman gets more than most. That doesn't mean that these kinds of stories have to be overly generic. However, this latest attempt is dangerously close to that territory and not even Superman may be able to save it.

Final Score: 4 out of 10