Sunday, October 31, 2010

Uncanny X-men #529 - Redemptive Awesome

I admit, I've been pretty harsh on Matt Fraction despite my fondness for his work. Not harsh in the same way Michael Vick is fond and harsh on dogs, but I don't deny setting a pretty unreasonable standard for him. It's hard not to. This guy is in a position every X-men fan would surrender a left nut to have. He's actually in a position of power to determine the course of the X-men comics. For the most part, he's steered that course pretty well. He led the X-men to San Francisco and he set up Utopia. He did this and made it pretty freakin' awesome in the process. For that he deserves some credit.

Where my panties start riding up my ass crack is his blatant and often unmistakable flaws. As a writer, he's about as objective as Fox News. He wears his bias on his sleeve and I admit it bugs the living hell out of me. We all have biases, but when we're in a position of power like Matt Fraction is we have a Spider-Man inspired responsibility to keep those biases from affecting our work. Matt Fraction for whatever reason seems to view that responsibility the same way Homer Simpson views his job as safety inspector at a nuclear plant. He's in it for the donuts and an excuse to get out of the house. In that he's written some fairly contrived stories and made no secret about which characters he loves (Cyclops, Pixie, and Emma Frost) and which he could do without (Storm, Beast, Hope, and damn near every other X-man).

Few have suffered under his pen more than Emma Frost. Since she left the comforting embrace of Joss Whedon, she's turned into a walking punchline with big tits. Under Fraction's pen she lost her edge faster than Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. She has become Emma-lite/the blond Jean Grey. In Uncanny X-men #527 she took six steps down and became a flat, unfeeling, irrational bitch. She was essentially a young Madonna. It was so blatant it took away from the ongoing story with the Five Lights, which involved Hope seeking out the five new mutant signatures that emerged after Second Coming. It has limited my enjoyment of Uncanny in a big way, but I've always given Matt Fraction a chance because no matter how many missteps he takes in his books he always manages to pull together a surprise helping of awesome to set him apart as one of Marvel's most exciting scribes. Uncanny X-men #529 gives him a chance and he makes damn good use of it.

The book starts like the previous two in that it introduces a new mutant. This one goes by Teon and he's about as complex as a dog...literally. This guy somehow ended up in Miami Beach where he's prowling for women like a dog in heat. In other words he's blending in perfectly. He has no inner monologue or inner musings. He's very basic in a fight, flight, or mate sense. Again, he blends in perfectly with the Miami night life except he has the strength and temperament of Kanye West on PCP.

Hope enters the scene with Rogue and her growing team, which include the other new mutants. Here Fraction throws in some old fashioned stereotyping, having the younger mutants get all giddy and upbeat about being at the beach. They talk about swimming and malls the same way Japanese school girls talk about Hello Kitty. It's not very inventive, but it does help remind the readers that these mutants aren't X-men. They're kids and they're still learning how to be X-men. The burden falls on Hope to teach them.

We leave that less than mature moment and get into a much more mature issue with Emma Frost. In the last issue she was in an especially bitchy state and plans to take it out on Sebastian Shaw, a guy who in many ways made her who she is. Few are deserving of a wrath like Emma's, but Shaw is the exception that proves the rule. At the end of the last issue she enlisted the help of Kitty Pryde for reasons that would confuse the Watcher on an acid trip. Now she enlists the help of Fantomex, who is not only excited at the challenge. He uses it as a chance to hit on Emma Frost. I would say this is another lame stereotype, but honestly...pretty much every guy in his position would do the same.

Now somewhere at this point is a transition. Fantomex goes to get Madison Jeffery's help at getting Danger to let her guard down by seducing her. Apparently he has a robot fetish. I would have a joke about that, but let's face it that's not the craziest fetish anyone can have in the X-men comics. There are Japanese anime series that make that seem like an animated Disney movie form the 50s.

That's not the strange part. What is strange is that there's some scene in Chinatown that involves men dressed like slightly cooler agents from the Matrix and they sport Jamie Madrox type powers. Now there's no clue as to which plot this relates to, if any. It's confusing and seemingly unnecessary. But it's there and it doesn't take up too much ink so it (barely) serves as somewhat of a bridge.

The focus goes right back to Hope. She, Rogue, and the three other lights get a hotel room and discuss what they know about Teon. They offer a nice rundown without it sounding too much like narration. Apparently Teon is like a predator, going after alpha women who are rich and well-educated while beating the shit out of their boyfriends. Basically, the people Paris Hilton doesn't have listed as Facebook friends. He's got superhuman endurance and healing that allowed him to hop a plane to America where he kept going on his prowl. He sounds like an easy guy to catch since he goes after the kind of women that make it onto TMZ every other night. He takes it a step further though. He saves Hope the trouble of finding him and basically seeks her out, but isn't sure whether to fight her or fuck her. It's like what happens the first time every guy sees Lady Gaga.

There's a brief scene in between where Madison Jefferies distracts Danger by asking her out on a picnic. It's a sweet and only slightly disturbing scene, but it is what it is. It's just filler for the fight scene that's about to unfold with Hope. Not saying it's a bad thing. It still works, but just isn't subtle. Very little of this book is. If you're reading it for the subtlety then someone has played a cruel and hilarious joke on you (unless you too have a robot fetish, in which case you would be masterbating rather than reading this review).

We go right back to the fight with Hope and Teon, which is done pretty damn well. Whilce Portacio's artwork really shines here and for the first time we see the Five Lights (or three at the moment) work together with their new powers. It's sloppy as one would expect and Teon doesn't go down easy. He shows just how inexperienced Ida, Gabrial, and Laurie are in how he makes them look as inexperienced as their age. It's Rogue and Hope who show them how it's done. Like the other lights, Hope needs only to cop a good feel to complete their mutation. This turns Teon from a raging animal to a domesticated dog. He essentially goes from rampaging college student to a domesticated husband in the span of an instant. All the women on the View would soak their panties in seeing this scene. It accomplishes the equally impressive task of bringing together the next to last of the five lights.

With this plot almost ending, Fraction already sets he stage for the next arc. It seems to come out of nowhere. Cecilia Reyes reveals that there's a strange little epidemic striking Utopia. An illness is spreading like the flu among the mutants. There's already talk of a pandemic. Again, not so subtle. It doesn't even drop any hints about whether or not this is connected to those wannabe agents of the Matrix that showed up earlier. But it is another plot that seems to be pulled out of nowhere. At least like the previous contrived plot, it only lasts a page and does offer some new promise for the next issue.

We finally get back to Emma Frost, who is looking as snide as she should be in the face of another somewhat contrived plot. Apparently, Kitty Pryde is now able to walk and talk again. The X-Club concocted a special suit for her to wear. It looks just like her old uniform with a Mysterio style fish bubble on top. Again, it comes from nowhere. Seriously, how long has the team been working on this? Did they really make that many breakthroughs off panel? It's starting to feel like Fraction is rushing the plot and it doesn't feel right. Even so, it's nice to see Kitty Pryde up and running again. She's also back to her witty exchanges with Emma, which is always a plus.

With Madison Jefferies now fully distracting Danger, they meet up with Fantomex after he abducts Shaw. The strange thing is Danger knows he's been taken, but she doesn't do anything about it. Her reasons are actually somewhat compelling. In trying to rehabilitate the X-men's prisoners, she reasons that they need to be given a chance at redemption. Some are beyond it, but she's not sure Emma Frost is one of them. By letting her take Shaw, she's giving her a chance.

And she seems to make good use of it. The next scene finally gives Emma a moment she hasn't had under Fraction in a long time. Instead of being a cold-hearted bitch or just filler for Cyclops's random displays of awesome, she shows some personality. She finally talks about how she feels on those she's lost like Nightcrawler. She mentions how all this stress caused her to have two gray hairs. It doesn't seem like much, but the way she talks about it makes it something very symbolic. It shows that for all her callous attitude, this sort of mess is getting to her. It's striking her on a personal level and she doesn't seem to know how to process it. This is the kind of Emma Frost that's a far cry from her outright bitchiness that dominated Uncanny X-men #527 and it's very welcome. It seems fitting that this is where the issue ends. There's no hint as to what they're going to do with Sebastian Shaw at this point. Except now there's more of an underlying reason behind it and it makes the next issue all the more worth picking up.

It really happened. Matt Fraction did it. He wrote an issue where Emma Frost was nicely characterized. For once I can't bash him for this flaw that has dominated so much of his run. He took a story with Emma that was really going nowhere and made it interesting again. That's really saying something. This on top of the Teon makes for a pretty solid issue. There were still the same irregularities and inconsistencies that the other books had, but they were much less apparent here. The story is moving forward. The plot is progressing. You can't ask for much more of a writer and for once I kneel before Matt Fraction's greatness.

That's not to say there isn't room for improvement. He still has a long ways to go before he can prove that he's capable of writing balanced characters like Emma Frost. He also has to work on the little things so that when Kitty Pryde suddenly has a suit that allows her to walk around without phasing, it doesn't feel contrived. He's not the only writer who struggles with this. Most do, but his is to a greater degree. He puts together a decent plot that does work on most levels. It simply lacks the refinement to make it truly awesome.

I want to give this book a higher score because Fraction really brought something back to Uncanny with this issue. Yet I can't place it in the same league as other books just yet. I need to maintain some perspective here so the best score I can give Uncanny X-men #529 is 3.5 out of 5. It's above average, but not by much. It has potential to be truly awesome. It just has to be realized. Fraction has a lot to work with here. It's not clear if this story is going to truly progress, but with issues like this Matt Fraction deserves a chance! Nuff said.

Friday, October 29, 2010

X-men Supreme Update - Supreme Reflections: Ororo Munroe

It's been a busy week for me, but I still managed to complete a new and hopefully worthy addition to X-men Supreme. Supreme Reflections has been off to a good start so far. I didn't as much feedback as I hoped for it, but that's to be expected. This mini isn't on the same scale as Volume 1 was or Volume 2 will surely be. It is still a vital component to the X-men Supreme fanfiction series and I'm committed to making it awesome. As promised, I've updated the story with a new entry within a week instead of the normal bi-weekly schedule. This time Storm gets her moment. As the X-men's most famous African goddess, she's more than deserving of some supreme level reflections!

Supreme Reflections: Ororo Munroe

Now as always, I implore everyone to post comments and provide feedback on this and any portion of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series they may read. Please post it in the chapter or contact me directly. I want to keep updating weekly with this mini, but there are forces in the outside world beyond my control that are making that difficult so if the demand isn't there I'll have to push it back to biweekly. Stay tuned for more updates regarding my decision. Despite this I've prepared a preview of the next entry, which will be for Rogue. You may see it below.

Ah’ve officially divided mah life into two phases. Before the X-men Ah was Anna Marie Darkholme, the problem child with an eccentric foster mother whose idea of bonding time involved teaching advanced kung-fu techniques. Ah was livin’ the life of someone who had no future. Ah was angry at the whole dang world. Guess that qualifies as an overreaction of sorts because Ah really didn’t start lashing out until mah mama jumped ship. But even before that, Ah knew something was seriously wrong.

Professor Xavier once told meh we’re all products of our parents in some ways whether we like it or not. He never said if that applied to adopted kids, but he doesn’t really have to. Ah got the answer first hand. So much of mah childhood was spent training. Mama and Irene went out of their way to make sure Ah was the toughest, strongest kid in Mississippi. Ah don’t know if every parent wants their kid to be tough, but even if they do Ah’m pretty sure Mystique overdid it. She didn’t just teach meh to defend mahself. She taught meh to fight the whole world. Nobody could be trusted and everybody could be a potential enemy. That kind of mindset will scare the heck out of an eight-year-old girl and make her pretty dang paranoid in the process.

Ah don’t know if it was Mama’s intention. Heck, it could’ve been for all Ah know. But all that trainin’ had meh fighting back at a world that didn’t understand meh. Problem is, Ah didn’t understand it either. It ain’t like I didn’t try. For reasons Ah still ain’t sure of, mah Mama cut meh off from the world. Ah wasn’t allowed to have friends. Ah wasn’t allowed to put mahself out there. Ah wasn’t allowed to be normal. By the time she left meh with Irene, it was too late. There was no goin’ back.

Irene thought Ah earned a little independence. Ah bet she regrets that decision every day of her life. The woman can see the future, but even she can’t predict how an unstable teenage girl is gonna thrust herself into the world. It sure didn’t help mah first taste of the world was Mississippi public school. Ah might as well have run naked through a mine field. Ain’t no way that was gonna be anything less than a disaster. The sad part is public school was almost as rough as mah Mama’s parenting. Only this time Ah wasn’t afraid to fight back. It sure got meh in trouble. Heck, the only good that came out of it was Ah met people who introduced meh to smoking, drugs, and clothes that weren’t hand-picked by a blind woman.

It was an endless cycle. People tried to control meh so Ah fought back. They tried to control meh even more so Ah fought back even harder. Ah really didn’t have a chance. Everybody just assumed Ah was angry, but the truth is it wasn’t like that. Anger is easy. Any fella can lash out at something they don’t like. Hell, Wolverine practically makes it an art form. Mah problem was never anger. It was isolation. All mah life Ah wanted to reach out to people, but there was always something in mah way. First it was mah Mama. Then everybody else joined in. When she got out of the way, Ah couldn’t find anybody who understood meh. Ah couldn’t relate to anyone on damn near anything. Ah wanted to and for a time Ah was ready to give up. Then Ah entered the next phase of mah life.

Thanks again to all those who have suppored X-men Supreme thus far. There is still plenty more to come. Excelsior!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Brightest Day #12 - Consistent Awesome

Things come and go all the time in comics. There are very few consistencies. Superman will save the day. Spider-Man will make a wise-crack. Deadpool will blow some shit up while breaking the 4th wall. But nobody is surprised at that shit. It's about as startling as Ricky Martin coming out of the closet, as Lindsey Lohan being arrested again, or as Sarah Palin revealing she never paid attention in high school. When something becomes consistent that you don't expect, now that's something to take notice of. That's like discovering the secret pass code to Michael Jackson's hidden stash of pills. Very few comics can ever remain consistently awesome over a long period of time, especially those that come after big events like Blackest Night. But someone at DC must have sold their soul to Satan because Brightest Day has become the exception that shits all over the rule.

The series has been awesome. Every book feels like it was crafted with the same care that Rush Limbaugh employs when he crafts his bullshit. It has been one of those rare series that encompasses so many characters and tells such an intriguing story that there's a little bit of everything. You get action, drama, aliens, dead people, sci fi, and hot naked chicks. You couldn't make it more awesome if you tattooed it onto the legs of a 12 high priced strippers. The last issue was somewhat sub-par, but that's like saying a a Playboy centerfold has a small mark on her left butt-cheek. It doesn't take away from the appeal and enjoyment of the whole package. And since this series is biweekly, it doesn't take long for Brightest Day to get another chance.

The past few issues have been a lot more focused with respect to the many stories that Brightest Day balances. Aquaman and Firestorm took center stage with their stories dominating the pages of the book. Their story like that of so many others is tied to the White Lanterns and so far that has been established as the binding force that draws every one of these characters together. The last issue ended with Firestorm giving rise to Deathstorm, who brought back a team of resurrected Black Lanterns. Aquaman's story has him searching for the guardian of the White Lanturn. This search is leading him back into the story of the Martian Manhunter, who a few issues back went on his own search for the last Green Martian. If you're a little confused, that's okay. That's just your brain telling you that appreciating a certain level of awesome requires the activation of more brain cells than you may be comfortable with.

J'onn J'ozz gets things going in this arc. He returned to Mars the last time he showed up, only a few issues back mind you. There he meets the Green Martian that he's looking for. While I'm not an expert on Martian culture, I'm pretty certain that this one has psycho bitch side to her. She wants to both kill J'onn and fuck him, all while sounding more wacked out of her mind than Charlie Sheen on crystal meth.

J'onn finds out the hard way that this bitch has been a left a bit off-key from being alone for so long. It's sort of like locking Michael Bay in a windowless room and feeding him only shrooms and water laced with DMT. So it's hard to really blame her (aside from her being completely fucking crazy) when she tries to seduce if that's the right word the first Green Martian she's come across in decades. Not only that, she seems to believe that his connection to the White Lantern will bring Mars back to life. It leads to a sort of twisted infatuation that probably doesn't qualify as love except for maybe in Ancient Greece, Ancient India, Soviet Russia, and Texas. But it does have that underlying Adam and Eve theme too it, except in this Eve was made by Satan while strung out on a three-day cocaine bender.

This Martian wants J'onn to bring Mars back to life and maybe get a cheap hate-fuck out of him in the process. They wrestle in ways that may qualify as Martian porn. It's not clear who is winning, but it does seem that J'onn gets the upper hand. Then it gets stranger, as if a battle between two Martians with one of them being more unbalanced than Van Goh without his meds. Out of nowhere the Justice League shows up and attacks J'onn because he's supposedly trying to terraform Mars at the expense of Earth. Now if this were true it would give a reason for J'onn to be subdued just a little, but the Justice League appearing out of nowhere comes off as one of those contrived elements that only seem to appear in lesser comics where writers pull 99 percent of the material out of the recesses of their colon. But this is Brightest Day. It's a book that earns the benefit of the doubt and it's not something that means eyes should start rolling just yet.

There's already a sign that this fight is a result of J'onn eating too many Martian shrooms because Firestorm, who appeared in the sudden assault, is already engrossed in his own battle. In the last issue, the Black Lanterns made a comeback with the Black Lanter Firestorm (now going by the must more badass sounding name, Deathstorm) leading the charge. Ronnie and Jason (the non-badass Firestorm) still haven't stopped arguing despite Professor Stein warning them that it could cause another Big Bang. They're pretty much flying around with two thumbs up their ass trying to figure out what they're going to do. Then the Black Lanterns beat them to it, saying they need to find the White Lantern. It's not clear where this idea comes from, but they make a very fashionable escape and the previously mentioned thumbs are now even deeper in Ronnie and Jason's ass.

We finally get another glimpse of Boston Brand again, who hasn't shown up for a few books. His last appearance had him actually picking up the White Lantern and trying to use it to get some answers. It led him to cross paths with Aquaman. Now he's trying to find everyone who crossed paths with the White Lantern. He also has a hot chick helping him, so that's a plus. Although it also seems that he's sensing what the Black Lanterns are doing so that's probably going to kill the mood faster than an incontinent stripper with a spastic colon.

While the Black and White Lanterns are on the mood, J'onn is still in the middle of his psuedo-battle with the Justice League. They try to basically bury him, but at this point he figures out that the whole thing isn't real. It's not too surprising. It would make a lot less sense if the Justice League actually had shown up to contain J'onn, even if it may have been more awesome. Once again, a psycho bitch proves to be even more disorienting than a shot of tequila laced with paint thinner. At this point J'onn finally pushes back. He fights off the other Green Martian and finally flashes a little White Lantern bling, which he seems to believe will resurrect Mars. It's also a bit disorienting because wasn't this the same shit that psycho chick warned him about? And he's going through with it? It almost feels like that part of Inception when you're not sure if the dream was just a dream or if the dream is just meant to look like a dream. Fuck, now I'm confused too!

Confusing or not, there's no denying that J'onn looks pretty bad ass using his White Lantern power. What's even more disturbing yet uplifting is that he sort of succeeds. The same White Lantern powers that brought him back to life have now brought his planet back to life. So in this case the psycho bitch was right. Somehow that doesn't seem to bother J'onn, but it still makes for a pretty neat montage.

So it seems that J'onn has finally succeeded. He has his home back. Could this be the rare and beautiful thing that comic book fans so rarely see? That strange old thing called a happy ending? Most aren't familiar with that term outside an Asian massage parlor. Yet here, everything seems right. J'onn used the White Lantern power to resurrect Mars. That's a happy ending, isn't it? One without the mess you have to clean up with kleenexes and baby wipes. Well seeing as how this is Brightest Day we're talking about, it's not that easy.

Remember that psycho bitch? Well it turns out she may have won this fight after all because after a tearful reunion with his wife and children, it seems as though J'onn has been basically tricked by the earlier psycho bitch. He basically stops fighting her and starts loving her. It's disturbing and grotesque, but like a donkey show in Tijuana you can't look away. It basically means J'onn is now pussy whipped and mind-fucked, which if he's connected to the White Lantern is going to seriously fuck shit up with Firestorm and Boston Brand. It's a nice setup at the end and one that fully respects the tradition of awesome that Brightest Day has established.

So the story moves forward, now with a psycho bitch in charge. It's yet another element that makes Brightest Day awesome. This issue was a lot easier to follow than the previous issue. While it was a little disorienting at some points with the whole Justice League showing up to fight J'onn, it all made sense at the end and didn't try to be too mind-blowing. Not every story can have a Matrix feel to it and Geoff Johns didn't overshoot. It moved J'onn's story forward while also moving the story of the White Lanterns forward. You really can't ask for much more of a book.

Now some elements were lost in the details. What happened with Aquaman wasn't clear and the whole struggle with Firestorm and Deathstorm was somewhat underdeveloped. There really wasn't much hint of what was guiding these guys and why they were doing what they were doing. It's clear this is J'onn's story, but how it ties into the other stories isn't as well-crafted as it could have been. At least some connections were made. The White Lantern remains at the center of it all so there is that binding force with each story. Even if they aren't fully developed, they still make plenty of sense.

Going back to my points about consistency, Brightest Day continues to show that it can deliver the goods issue after issue. It's like a quality hooker that never charges extra for the same great service. You can't ask for much more in a book like this. It's a compelling story with compelling characters and compelling twists. Plus it has a psycho bitch now! That seals the deal for this book. Brightest Day #12 gets a 5 out of 5, another perfect score to add to it's trophy case. I know it has many, but like Tiger Woods this series is never satisfied. Only in this case, everyone can share in the orgasmic awesome! Nuff said.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

X-23 #2 - Selling Your Soul For Awesome

The whole Wolverine Goes To Hell arc that Marvel used to launch the new Wolverine series has been spanning many different titles the same way Pamela Anderson fucks many different genres of rock star. There's the 80s romp with Brett Michaels, who could count as Wolverine. There's the 90s scandalous sex tape with Tommy Lee, who could count as Marvel's new uber-douche Daken. There's also the 2000s and the less than exciting fling with Kid Rock. But is it fair to associated X-23 with a hard-living, heavy drinking, badass who can't resist using his God-given talent to live big? Actually, it's perfectly fair! Kid Rock is essentially Wolverine without the music and linking X-23 with this less egregious footnote in pop culture history is more than appropriate.

Now if nobody cares for Pamela Anderson references (I'm assuming the gay crowd doesn't approve), I'll try and be a bit less esoteric. Compared to the other Wolverine books, X-23 sets itself apart by not coming off as a slave to Wolverine's story. Yes, it's tied to the whole Wolverine Goes to Hell arc. But it doesn't feel that way. If you were unfortunate or unmedicated enough to read Daken's new series, you saw that this arc essentially dominated the plot. Daken was subordinate to Wolverine's story, which given his sexual fetishes might be perfectly in character. X-23, on the other hand, was subordinate to nobody and with her new series it didn't feel like some fluff piece meant to glorify Wolverine. It felt like a real story and X-23 was the star, not Wolverine. X-23 #2 continues that story while still tying into the Demon Wolverine story. Going back to Pamela Anderson, it's still unclear if this will be another fling or if this is something that's going to produce a new boner-inducing spread of awesome (that was another reference to sex tapes by the way).

The issue starts off in the past, setting aside the Wolverine Goes to Hell arc for something simpler. Simple in this case means Wolverine and Laura spending time together at a carnival. Quality time for them means shooting stuffed bears in the head with a bebe gun. It's not what you think. It's a carnival game. Granted, it's a fucked up carnival game, but that's about as normal as characters like these two can manage.

This makes for an important and long overdue scene. Wolverine and Laura finally talk about them being family. Now X-23 has been in the comics since 2005 when Chris Claremont was still writing Uncanny. In all that time X-23 has had her story told and she's been part of the X-men. At no point has Logan or Laura sat down and talked about what the hell they are. Is she his daughter? Is she his sister? Or just a clone? This is like that giant pink elephant in the middle of a room ass fucking a giant pink donkey yet somehow no one notices. Fucking fanfiction writers have been addressing this for years now. And they're just getting to it?! I know better late than never is a fond saying, but late still sucks ass. It helps that Marjorie Liu does a damn good job, finally having Logan talk about how he wants to adopt Laura as his daughter. It still seems like this should have happened sooner though.

As touching as this moment is, we get a much nastier moment once the scene fast forwards to the present time. In the previous issue Cyclops sent Laura into the city of San Francisco to work at a shelter for former mutants. It seemed like a good way to connect to other people her age and be more of a kid. Then it went to hell...literally.

It's part of the visions Laura has been having since the first issue. The whole being bred to kill sort of fucks you up and now trying to get away from it doesn't exactly come naturally. Now it's not entirely clear what happens here. This demon drones on about how she's about to be reborn and how she's the perfect killer. It's a bit more vivid than the dreams she had before. However, this time when she wakes up she finds out the shelter sort of burst into flames and everyone around her is suffering. That makes for a rude awakening if ever there was one.

This incident of a homeless shelter burning down makes for a great fluff piece that the local news can run to get ratings, but it doesn't do Laura much good. Despite being able to heal from being dumped into a river of molten lead, she goes to the hospital. Redundant that may be, she's still pretty fucked up and gets some treatment. Storm also pays a visit, who is doing more in this series to be the weather goddess we all know and love than any other (it also helps they don't mention a douche-bag named Black Panther). She's always quick to reach disturbed teenagers in just the right way, sort of like Dr. Phil only hot and with boobs. However, Laura's still having fucked up visions. Even when Cyclops arrives, she's in her own little slice of hell that is sort of appropriate given the context of this story.

Then Wolverine shows up, which is kind of confusing because isn't he supposed to be in Hell? Does this take place in any discernible time-line that goes along with the other two Wolverine titles? Did someone take too much LSD when planning this shit out? Well it's not quite that confusing. It only starts out that way, sort of like the first half-hour of Inception. There's already a strange vibe that this Wolverine is not a normal Wolverine. For one, he doesn't call Cyclops a prick. That should be a red flag.

It only gets worse. Wolverine talks to her the same way a pedophile talks to kids once he gets them in a windowless van. It almost gets too disturbing to read, although I'm sure NAMBLA members would be jerking off to it at one point. Then Wolverine shows his true forms. This isn't the normal Logan. This is the demon Wolverine who has been spreading chaos in the books the same way Courtney Love spreads VD. He taunts Laura about being a killer. She lashes out, but that is about as effective as donating money to a North Korean charity.

Then Hellion shows up, who has been X-23's on-again/off-again teen crush. Demon Wolverine plays this one in a very slick way. He makes it seem as though Laura has gone berserk again. Hellion being the naive young douche-bag he is believes the guy and uses his telekinesis to restrain her. This turns out sucking for him because Demon Wolverine does what demons do best, which is fuck people over and he stabs Hellion right in front of Laura.

This leads to Laura making a fateful choice. She can either let Hellion die or offer her soul to the demon Wolverine to ensure he survives. Now normally when a teenager is faced with difficult decisions like that, they'll gladly exchange their first love for a shitty car or a fake ID. Laura outdoes over half of the teenage population and goes with her teenage hormones, selling her soul to bring Julian back to life. It means she'll end up being a Demon X-23. I think it goes without saying that when you put a demon in the weapon of mass destruction that is a teenage girl's body, you're essentially making yourself prone to no fewer than five unilateral invasions by the United States.

So now Laura's dreams turn into shit that's real. She's literally in Hell now and this time that's not a metaphor for algebra class in high school. Her body is still in the real world, but her soul is in Hell and like Wolverine she has to fight back. It sets the stage for X-23 to go on her own road to hell and in this case hell really doth have no fury like that of a pissed off teenage girl. While Wolverine may be shit out of luck in his book, X-23 has raging hormones on her side. In that sense Hell and every demon within it is officially screwed.

The stage is set! It's X-23 vs. Hell now and the potential for a demon X-23 running around in the real world opens the door to all sorts of possibilities. While a demonic teenage girl may not be easy to discern from your typical hormonal beast, it should still make for some bloody and hellish action. Marjorie Liu once again shows that she has a great grasp of X-23's character. The family moment at the beginning only made the bloody hellish scenes at the end more profound. It may only be the second issue, but it feels like this is a series that has been unfolding for much longer. I don't know if that's because of that crack I smoked earlier or if the story is just that awesome, but I'll take it!

Now this issue isn't perfect. The content is top notch, but the organization is a little spotty. It's not entirely clear where the first scene in the past takes place. It's only labeled as "Then" by the book. Is it before Second Coming? Before Wolverine #1? Before Uncanny X-Force? That's not clear. It's also not clear what happened at the homeless shelter that caused so much damage. It implied Laura was the cause, but it also implied that there was some gas leak. But seriously, when is a gas leak ever the cause of anything in a comic book? That's like an episode of House ending in a diagnosis of Lupus or Transverse Mialitus. It's never Lupus or Transverse Mialitus.

Confusion aside, the quality of the book is undeniable. Marjorie Liu is setting herself up nicely as the X-23 writer and is well on her way to defining her character for generations to come. There's a lot to love about this series so far. You don't have to be reading the other Wolverine titles to enjoy it. You just have to have an appreciation for messed up teenage girls and stories involving demons. That's why I give X-23 #2 a 4.5 out of 5. This is an awesome book with an awesome character and an awesome writer. It's awesome all around! There is no excuse not to find some awesome in this book. Nuff said!

Friday, October 22, 2010

X-men Supreme Update: Supreme Reflections - Logan

The X-men Supreme fanfiction series is ready to move forward! Volume 2 is still in the works, but as I work out the details for this portion of the saga I'm ready to present my generous readers with something that I hope will be the icing for Volume 1: Mutant Revolution. As I announced previously, I'll be releasing a small mini-series called Supreme Reflections. This series of character vignettes are meant to compliment the stories told in Volume 1. It should also fill in a few blanks for those who haven't read over the bios page. Hopefully this is more interesting and today the new series begins with a little insight into the X-men's most famous Canadian, Wolverine.

Supreme Reflections: Logan

I hope the many rabid Wolverine fans are satisfied with this little insight into his inner workings. As always I encourage everyone to review each new issue or provide comments by contacting me. Either way is fine as long as I get feedback. This fanfiction series thrives on feedback and based on what I've received so far, I'm going to try and make Supreme Reflections weekly instead of biweekly. That means readers won't have to wait long for the next installment. As such, here is a quick preview of what you can expect:

Nature is paradoxical force. It’s unpredictable, chaotic, and destructive. Yet at the same time it’s ordered, rational, and nurturing. It’s one of the few facets of life that nobody can take for granted even if they tried. One way or another, nature will impact the world and the lives of everybody on it.

Nature for me takes on a very different meaning. Ever since my powers manifested, I’ve had this profound connection with nature. I feel it in a way that no words can describe. I can manipulate it in a way that seems nothing short of miraculous at times. I liken it to reaching out and grasping the untouchable. It’s a feeling every mutant experiences with their powers to some degree. Whether it’s power of mind, body, or environment what we do gives us the ability to interact with a world so few have access to. Mine just happens to be the elements of weather.

I hope to continue this mini in rapid succession, but if feedback is light or the outside word starts applying too much pressure it might go back to biweekly. For now, this is the beginning and I hope it wets everybody's appetite for Volume 2!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

X-POSITION: Nick Lowe - My Questions Asked

Comic Book Resources had another X-POSITION earlier today and since my questions were asked, I'm compelled to post them as I always do. I know I shouldn't keep getting so giddy about it, but I can't help it! It's fun to see one of the Marvel big-wigs actually clear up some of the crazy thoughts that are going through your mind. Today, Nick Lowe drew the wrong straw and answered some questions about various X-titles.


The news wasn't too big, consisting mostly of teasers for upcoming issues and a general restating of what was already announced at the New York Comic Con. The next big event appears to be Age of X, which starts in January 2011. Not much info has been given, but details are supposed to come out with future solicits so the thinly veiled answers should start coming in. I didn't bother asking these questions. Mine were more specific, including one about my favorite shape shifter.

Speaking of Mystique, MarvelMaster616 is wondering if she feels the pain of motherhood in light of recent events:

1) Does Mystique know that Nightcrawler died during the fight against Bastion? Will her reaction (and necessary revenge) become an issue at some point? I can't imagine she would be too happy with Cyclops, Hope, or Wolverine at the moment…

Mystique knows, certainly. As for if anything will come of it, you'll have to keep reading.

2) What is the status of Storm's marriage to Black Panther? If he's now taking on the Daredevil mantle, what does that mean for them? Will this necessarily lead to marital drama?

As a long-married man (one Herculean year), I need to answer this questions with another: what doesn't lead to marital drama?

3) Is Namor going to remain with the X-Men on a long-term basis? If so, how much does Emma Frost influence that decision? The man can't seem to resist blonds…

Namor is with the X-Men for the long haul. And Emma definitely weighs heavily into that fact. Haven't you been reading "Uncanny?"

There was another question I posted. It was about the status of Mr/Mrs. Sinister. I don't know why that got cut, but I was especially curious about that one. Sinister has been MIA since Messiah Complex and the promise of new mutants must have some appeal to a guy like that. Perhaps he'll show up in Age of X. Perhaps they'll wait for when Generation Hope heats up and the Jean/Phoenix/Hope storyline is finally resolved (which was mentioned BTW).

I'm cautiously optimistic. I really do want to to see what happens with Generation Hope, Age of X, Namor, and Mystique. There's a lot of potential here, but there's also a lot of potential for horrendous disappointment and I'm always trying to prepare myself. That's why I'm keeping things with X-men Supreme going. Without that, my spirit would be an empty shell. Hopefully it doesn't come to that and my optimism and past frustrations will pay off.

In the meantime, stay tuned for Supreme Reflections! That's coming up at the end of the week. Also keep your eyes out for new artwork! I'm always looking to expand it. Until next time, take care! Excelsior!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Superman #703 - Walking the Line of Awesome

It's been a lot easier to love Superman comics lately. Since the War of the Supermen arc, readers haven't had to have their heads in the deepest virginal recesses of the bitch known as deep space to connect with these stories. Before, DC seemed to be of the mind that those reading Superman would appreciate stories that were so out there and so overly Sci Fi that they could only come from a stoned Joss Whedon. Well that was fun for a while, but anyone who has ever taken too many shrooms knows the head can only stay in the clouds for so long until it detaches. So for the past few issues, DC is taking a different approach. They've made Superman walk the streets of normal, non-alien infested Earth on foot rather than flying over it like an oil tycoon on his private jet standing near a window waving his dick at the poor masses below. The stories haven't been quite as mind blowing, but they've been pretty damn awesome.

The whole essence of the Grounded arc is that Superman is being the hero he's always been, but he's doing the little things. He's helping people not by killing aliens or destroying giant robots or making Lex Luthor look like a bigger douche than he already is. He's helping them with problems that are actually believable, some of which people who are reading this comic may have themselves. It's a very different take on Superman and one that has really helped reconnect him with his humanity. But like the space arcs of War of the Superman, how long can that continue before a readers nanosecond attention span gets bored?

Superman #703 picks up where the last two issues left off with Superman continuing his stroll through middle America. This time the little things he's doing to help involve scaring the shit out of stalkers who don't take no for an answer. Now any feminist, waitress, or ex of a jealous boyfriend reading this should get a pussy boner at the mere presence. But Superman isn't exactly as nice as he's been in this case and there are those who notice that.

One who does notice is Batman, the one guy on the planet who has no superpowers but can stand on Superman's level without being intimidated or daunted. He takes Superman aside for a pep talk to voice his disapproval over this new "helping the little guy" act. Now arguing against what Superman is doing is like arguing against giving toys to orphans, but Batman does make a valid point. Superman is basically walking around average people and in doing so he may be able to relate to them better, but he'll also attract more attention from his enemies. And if those enemies attack him, how many innocent people would get caught in the crossfire? In essence Batman is trying to get Superman to realize what he's known for years. Heroes like them can't walk amongst the people and do the little things. Not without paying a very high price.

Despite Batman's valid concerns, Superman continues his journey. Although it's safe to assume the buzz has been killed faster than it would if his mother walked into his room while he was slamming the ham. If that weren't enough, Superman gets a call from Lois that a report just came in about how debris from New Krypton found their way to Earth. Seeing as how when pieces of old Krypton found their way to Earth, it ended up becoming Superman's ultimate weakness it would definitely be cause for concern. So now he has to become the flying hero again and find these piece. Unfortunately, someone else already has and it isn't Luthor or Darkseid who found them either. It's a few regular people and in some ways that's even more dangerous.

Superman now has to play detective like Batman. And like Batman, he enlists some help from the local authorities to help track down the stones. What he doesn't know is that those stones have already switched hands and the power within them found it's way to the town drunk. In that sense Superman should feel somewhat lucky it didn't reach the town rapist or his ass would be in worse shape than Krypton. That's because by touching these stones, these ordinary people now pack the heat Superman packs and have none of the conscious that he has. It's essentially like giving a pyromaniac the keys to nuclear weapons.

It gets worse. The town drunk armed with Superman's powers puts up the kind of fight that gives Lex Luthor wet dreams. He doesn't just match Superman's strength. He can fly like him as well. This adds several dimensions to this fight that Superman isn't prepared for. In a way it would be easier if this was someone like Luthor because Superman wouldn't be afraid to let loose on him. However, this isn't Luthor. This is a regular guy who just happened to come across his power. It doesn't make him evil. It just makes him a bigger asshole and that can be even more dangerous than a super-villain. Unlike big baddies, at least you know the kind of shit that comes out of assholes like Lex Luthor and Darkseid.

The fight escalates and leads to some heavy property damage that would give insurance companies heart attacks. Since Superman is the experienced fighter, he eventually does gain the upper hand. It also comes to no surprise that the powers the town drunk attained were only temporary. Eventually he goes back to being the whiney asshole drunk he's always been. Except now he's pleading ignorance. He claims he doesn't know why he attacked Superman. That comes off as pretty contrived given the man seemed pretty coherent when it all began. His goal was as simple to understand as any. With this power he felt his balls were now too big for his boxers and he wanted to test them against the Man of Steel. It doesn't even fall under the old "it seemed like a good idea at the time" or "and then we started drinking tequila" category.

After the fighting is over and the damage is done, the real story starts to unfold and it's a story that seems to prove Batman right. The destruction caused by the fight between Superman and the drunk really messed a few people up. This is another incident of those little things being the key to this arc. After a big fight between Superman or any hero and a bad guy, the story of the people caught in the crossfire is never told. The people whose streets, property, and businesses are damaged never get a chance to speak up. Here they make their voices heard on a news report. A man loses his wedding photos. A woman with failing health loses her house. It's the kind of aftermath that is so rarely covered in comics, but makes the story so much more compelling.

In the midst of it all there's this one woman, who happens to be the woman who found one of the shards of New Krypton from earlier, that chews out Superman as being completely responsible. Never mind the fact that it was the drunk who started it and the drunk who couldn't control himself. It was because Superman was walking around in these small towns like this that assholes like a superpowered drunk were drawn to him. As a result, people got caught in the crossfire. It's a profound statement and one that probably hits Superman harder than anything that drunk could have pulled off. Batman himself watches the news reports and isn't inclined to say "I told you so" even though this is an instance where he was proven right in a painfully obvious way.

The book ends with a profound statement. Superman has lost two worlds, old Krypton and New Krypton. He never had a chance to call those worlds home. He calls Earth his home, but after fights like this where his presence brings destruction and pain to those who will never be able to relate to him it would seem he's as much an alien there as he is to both Kryptons. It's not like it's his fault that his worlds keep blowing up. However, by whatever bad luck that follows him is it worth putting Earth in that kind of danger? It's a big question and one that strikes at the heart of what the Grounded arc is all about.

While the fight with the drunk was somewhat contrived, Batman's presence in this issue really gave it a new layer of complexity. This issue didn't just show Superman doing the little things. It showed how these little things had unintended consequences that even Superman can't see. People suffered because he was walking amongst them. Danger seems to follow him as it does with every superhero. The issue never shows his reaction to this, but it goes without saying that it would mess him up more than seeing Lex Luthor star in a gay porno with Zod. That lack of reaction is probably being saved for the next issue, but it not being present makes the issue seem somewhat incomplete even if it is awesome.

The past few issues of Superman have been a testament to his ability to deliver awesome longer than any other superhero. However, this issue was different and it had some shortcomings that the other issues didn't. The story didn't feel quite as coherent even if it was well-developed. The whole premise of a drunk fighting Superman with his powers is not a bad one, but it was underdeveloped here. Even so, Batman's presence and the promise of a new kind of conflict adds plenty of potential for this arc to keep it exciting.

So for the first time since I started reading the Superman comics again, I can't give Superman #703 a perfect score. I can come pretty close though. This issue gets a very respectable 4.5 out of 5. It has opened the door to new story potential, but not without stumbling a bit. It's still an awesome comic that acts as a testament to the Man of Steel. Any DC fan who isn't a complete douche-bag would be wise to at least consider this book for their collection. Superman is and always has been a standard for which all superhero comics are measured and issues like this show why.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

X-men #4 - Style Over Awesome

The latest adjectiveless X-men series has been quite a ride in it's brief history. It started out with the bar so low that Gary Coleman could have vaulted over it were he still among the living. But in the issues that followed, the series grew and became something that was truly and believably awesome. It's not just that this series is another series where the writers are too lazy to give it a distinguishing name like Uncanny, Astonishing, or Supreme (I know that's mine, but I'm just saying).  This series is something very unique. It tells bigger stories of the X-men being involved in the greater Marvel universe. It has led to some nice spin-offs and taken some interesting twists. Now whether or not you can tolerate endless Twilight and True Blood jokes is irrelevant. There's little denying that this series has been pretty awesome so far and Marvel is sticking their balls out into the prevailing wind in pushing this series.

The last two issues have been all about the bloodsuckers and showing how the pussy vampires of Twilight and True Blood wouldn't stand a snowballs chance in hell with a flame-thrower wielding Mike Tyson with the Marvel vampires. The son of Dracula, Xarus, has set up shop in San Francisco and made himself right at home. He turned Wolverine and Jubilee into vampires and has a much larger plan to unite mutants and vampires together so they can stand against the rest of humanity. It's not completely evil, but it's still pretty badass and it's gotten the X-men in a pretty nasty mood.

X-men #4 begins with a grim assessment. The vampires are basically overwhelming the city, using the night as the vampire equivalent of happy hour at TGIF. They're terrorizing the people and having a damn good time from the looks of it. Needless to say, this doesn't sit well with Cyclops who has been trying to manage the whole thing from afar George W. Bush style since it began. So it shouldn't come as too big a surprise that he's failing miserably so far.

The strategy he employs isn't much better than old Dubya either. He basically sends teams of the X-men out into the city to stop isolated vampire incidents. This is basically like like shoveling the shit away from a pack of elephants suffering from explosive diarrhea. Not much detail is given, but it's still pretty clear that they're up shits creek without a paddle, a boat, or an air freshener.

The only strategy that seems to have some semblance of competence is sending Blade, their visiting vampire expert, to the front lines in search of answers. The front lines in this place is some underground rock concert, which when you think about it is the perfect place for vampires to hide. If they really don't want to stand out, they just need to hang out amongst people who dress like freaks anyways. It's even easier for Blade to pull off some of his classic bloody stunts because an audience full of people whose parents and mothers didn't hug them enough just write it off as special effects. There's a statement about how shitty public schools are in some of this, but it's lost in all the violence and blood (as redundant that may be).

Blade ends up chasing a runner away from the angsty teens and meets up with Angel. Now to this point it still isn't clear why this qualifies as being on the front lines. Chasing a new vampire in a school girls outfit is only the front lines for a Japanese hentai anime, but in this case there's no tentacle rape or butt-ugly guys jerking off behind the scenes. Then it becomes a bit more clear why this would qualify because when Blade and Angel follow the girl they sort of run into a part of Xarus's vampire army. And sort of running into an army is like sort of shooting yourself in the head. There's nothing minor about it.

This goes terrible in a very short period of time. There isn't as much vampire killing this time. Blade and Angel basically run the same way Christine O'Donnell runs from pressers about her history with witchcraft. While not many can say they would stick around and fight an army of vampires. Even Blade's balls aren't that close to his knees. The fact they run so quickly and there's so little struggle makes for a pretty weak scene.

It only picks up when Wolverine finally shows up. Now usually at this point in any X-book Wolverine would have been mentioned no fewer than five times. So for those who feel he's overexposed, start exercising your bitching muscles because he takes center stage here. He's a vampire now and loving every minute of it, already enjoying all the blood and boobs he can handle. It's not really that big a change for him so it doesn't come as too surprising. If he weren't a vampire, his presence wouldn't turn any heads and that's somewhat of a shortcoming. At least with Jubilee, she went through a clear transition. This Wolverine just has fangs and that's about it.

While Wolverine's behavior is about as surprising as a family friendly republican senator giving a blow job to a gay prostitute, Xarus continues to revel in his success. He's still a bitchy little brat whining about how his daddy never gave him a chance to be great, but compared to Cyclops at the moment he's a far more competent leader. In other words, he's the vampire equivalent to Karl Rove. He's got everything going for him. His people are ready to strike at Utopia directly. Moreover, he doesn't want to kill them. He wants casualties to a minimum so they have plenty of fresh mutant vampires to aid them. Again, that makes him the kind of guy George W. Bush only fantasized about when he was still drinking.

But here's where it gets a little contrived. While Xarus is planning this shit out, Cyclops gives him a phone call. I shit you not, Cyclops fucking calls Xarus as if he were calling to order a pizza. Now how he got the number of the means isn't even touched on. It's not even hinted at. This may be one of those little things that a lot of comics tend to overlook that aren't written by Geoff Johns, but this is not little. Did Cyclops have Xarus's number the whole time and simply not use it? It's a plot hole so big it makes Pamela Anderson's vagina look as tight as a snake's anus.

As for the call itself, it's nothing new. Xarus actually comes off as less the asshole here and makes his pitch to Cyclops, calling vampires and mutants brothers. It makes a sick amount of sense too. Both mutants and vampires have been persecuted, hunted, and hated for their entire existence. They've tried to fight back on their own and they've made next to no headway. United, they could finally get the powers that be to lick their balls and smile while doing it.

Of course, Cyclops doesn't see this. His answer is the diplomatic equivalent to "suck it" and threatens a huge slaughter of vampires the likes of which Xarus has never known. So one guy wants to minimize casualties and the other wants to use the Joseph Stalin method and latter is supposed to be the hero. It's a confusing and lame dilemma. I know the whole trend now is for heroes to not be heroic and shit, but that doesn't mean heroes have to be douche-bags. Right now, Cyclops is coming off as the douche-bag while Xarus is coming off as the visionary. If this was meant to set up an interesting contrast, it fails miserably and just makes everyone involved seem out-of-character.

It's not just Xarus who spits out this sort of twisted rhetoric. Wolverine gets involved as well and basically chews Cyclops out. Again, that's nothing new. Wolverine has been chewing out Cyclops so much that his teeth are laced with ruby quartz. There's not much new here. Wolverine just goes on about how becoming a vampire is awesome and how he's responsible for making him like this. And he'll repay the favor by leading the charge to fuck him up. It would be so compelling if Wolverine hadn't made that same threat to Cyclops on no fewer than fifteen occasions.

Now the X-men have to brace themselves for a battle that Cyclops himself provoked (yet for some reason they're still following him). There's some talk about Dracula, who is completely out of the picture since the previous issue. There's Emma acting all sweet and supportive as if Matt Fraction is somehow mind-controlling Victor Gischler. Then there's Xarus making the move, basically calling Cyclops's bluff and assembling every one of his forces for an all out assault. And wouldn't you know it? He promotes Wolverine to lead the charge. It sets the stage for a pretty major battle, but not in the way that makes anyone want to root for either side. Both the X-men and Vampires come off as douche-bags in this issue so when they start assembling their forces, it's like watching a pile of shit and a vat of vomit prepare to mix. It'll be a spectacle, but one that may make you more sick than excited.

Now as an X-men fan, this is the sort of issue that brings me back down to reality. I was so high on this new X-men series that I was close to trading variant issues for weed. Now this issue comes along and it's like a bad hit from some dirt weed a guy mixed with paint thinner to add flavor, but only ended up ruining the buzz. The gaping plot holes and the horribly underdeveloped battle scenes were a huge blow to a series that had more momentum going for it than Apple stock. Now it's turning into Enron and spoiling what should be an awesome clash between mutants and vampires.

That's not to say this issue is terrible. It's still readable, but it stumbled and fell from the high level it ascended to with the previous two issues. It doesn't completely destroy the series. It's not enough to make the average reader want to just rip it up, toss it into a bon fire, and piss it out the way books like Ultimatum did for the Ultimate series. This book just takes this new X-men series back into mediocre territory. Now it could very well redeem itself in the next issue, but at this point it's getting too predictable. There's nothing here that the average X-fan hasn't dreamed up himself either in the middle of an economics lecture or through mixing DMT with cocaine. It still hasn't established itself as the X-men comic that deserves it's name and that's a tragedy because it was so close to doing so.

Since the book isn't completely irreparable, I can't give it too low a score. I didn't flat out hate the book and it doesn't give me enough reasons to completely pan it. So for X-men #4 I give it a final score of 2.5 out of 5. It's a downgrade, but there are two issues left. If this series wants to be the series the editors are boasting it can be, it needs to pull it's dick out of the toaster and start stroking the golden shaft of awesome. Nuff said.