Saturday, December 31, 2011

Astonishing X-men #45 - Multiple Universes of Awesome

I may sound like an overly opinionated drunk three quarters of the time, but I'm actually a fairly reasonable man. I'm more than willing to grant someone a second chance if they give me reason to believe that they won't fuck themselves any further. The same applies to comics. I understand that every now and then a comic will come along that will make me wonder what the fuck the writer was smoking and where the fuck I could get some. When I first saw the cover for Astonishing X-men #44 that depicted Storm and Cyclops kissing in a way that looked like it could lead to the kind of sex that Pfizer would market as a form of super Viagra I was genuinely excited. I thought this could be the kind of story that finally made Astonishing X-men an actual contributor to the other X-books. Turns out I was just more high than usual.

That cover was a ruse. Yes, Cyclops and Storm did kiss. However, it wasn't exactly a true kiss. That Storm wasn't the 616 Storm. It was revealed to be a Storm from another universe, as if Marvel doesn't have enough of those. This after other X-books like Age of Apocalypse did such a great job of establishing a decent alternate timeline. It ended with Cyclops waking up in some containment chamber in a universe where someone calling himself the Savior held more command over the world than Tim Tebow in the 4th quarter of a football game (the game against the Patriots not withstanding). It was random, contrived, and deceptive. All these are the kind of elements that make it worthy to a comparison of food poisoning and diarrhea.

However, the story was not without merit. It was only one issue and it actually did take some time to tie Astonishing into the events of the other X-books in a compelling way. In addition, Greg Pak's return to the X-books were marked with solid dialog and characterization. This was more than enough to make it worthy of praise on some levels. However, it was a long ways away from being awesome. That's why I'm willing to give Astonishing X-men #45 a chance to redeem on the deception of the Astonishing X-men #44 cover.

The issue starts by adding some back story to this other alternate universe. It's not radically different. In this world mutants skipped the whole "let's try and live in peace" bullshit and conquered humanity. It's basically like House of M, complete with Magneto striking his trademark I-now-dominate-your-ass pose. The difference here is this wasn't the result of the Scarlet Witch having a bad case of PMS. Instead, the X-men emerged under different circumstances. They actually rose up and overthrew their fellow mutants because they favored valuing the lives of humans and mutants equally. That's a pretty heroic fight by all measures. It bears an uncomfortable resemblance to PETA's mission statement, but the important part is that the X-men triumphed and the tyranny that made House of M such a shitty place to live was thwarted.

This elaborate documentary that only the History Channel would find interesting isn't just for show. It's actually part of a vision that this crazy Savior guy is projecting into Cyclops's head. He actually tries to convince Cyclops that he's some grand savior himself. He has him wake up in a palace of sorts where he gazes out over loyal subjects praising and begging to dress up as Dark Phoenix and play "rise from the ashes" (ashes being a metaphor for his penis). Cyclops is more than capable of surmising that it's bullshit. He's been burned before by enjoying the fantasies in his mind so he decides not to tempt fate again. It only ends up with him back in the same test tube he was at the end of the previous issue. He should have at least stayed inside fantasy land long enough to cop a feel from Storm, but that's just me.

Now back in much less comfortable surroundings, he's told by Emma Frost that trying to break out of these tubes is like trying to fight a forest fire with napalm. Each bio container is designed to absorb whatever specific energy a mutant radiates. That essentially makes them batteries of sorts, which certainly doesn't sit well with Cyclops. He also finds out that he's not the only one from another world. The Emma Frost telling him this isn't the Emma Frost he's currently boning. The Wolverine in the nearby tube also isn't the Wolverine that beat the shit out of him in Schism. In fact, he doesn't even call himself Wolverine. He calls himself James Howlett and he was the governor of Canada while Emma calls herself Emmelene. Okay, it's not very original or creative. But it shows these characters are different and they're in the same boat as Cyclops in terms of being thrown into a new alternate universe that's more fucked up than the one they came from.

Despite knowing that these aren't the same X-men he trained, Cyclops decides to enlist them in an escape attempt. He shows that he's more resilient than someone with a visor and a full body condom for a costume would imply. It turns out that kiss with him and Storm wasn't just for show. It did more than just fuck with the perceptions of the readers. It revealed to Cyclops that he was dealing with a fucked up alternate version of Storm that wanted to jump his bone. It also allowed him to swipe some of the tools one would find with a former thief. That includes a tool that he can use to break the containment tubes. So with this simple tool, Cyclops breaks out. He then enlists Emma/Emmelene, James, and a kid Nightcrawler who looks only slightly less imposing than the kids in the Home Alone movies.

Now on the subject of the kiss, this scene actually does help the bullshit imposed by the last issue. It makes that kiss more than just some fucked up ruse. It actually had an impact on the story and is playing out in the events of this story. It helps make that kiss less of a ruse and more of a vital component to the plot. Is it still deceptive? Fuck yeah, but at least there's some substance behind it now.

An eventful ass-kicking ensues. This Savior guy that we still don't know shit about sends his neatly dressed goons after Cyclops and his makeshift X-men. They hold their own as one would expect a Cyclops-led team. Along the way they even pick up another familiar face in Kitty Pryde. Except this version of her looks older and has more of a Milla Jovavich feel, so fans should feel less shame when jerking off to her. She calls herself Shadow and quickly proves her worth by showing that in addition to phasing, she's pretty damn good with a knife. She's definitely not the kind of Kitty Pryde that would get stuck on a fucking bullet and be MIA for years on end.

Everything seems to be going well when this version of Wolverine starts getting a bit too violent for Cyclops's tastes. Gee, does anyone else smell the stench of irony or did someone just fart? I guess it's the irony because unneeded violence is just one of the reasons Cyclops and Wolverine ended up clashing in Schism and why Cyclops was so fucked up at the beginning of this arc. Well wouldn't you know it? Cyclops can't even get along with alternate version Wolverines with a background in politics. So he fires an optic blast at him only to have alternate Wolverine reveal that his bones are coated with something called Adamantine. Again, not a very creative sounding name. It's the metal of the gods and it resists Cyclops's blasts. But despite this impressive feat, Cyclops still threatens to blow his brains out through his eye sockets. And in a surprising yet not unreasonable reaction, this alternate Wolverine actually laughs and goes along with Cyclops. Somehow showing a willingness to blow his brains out earns this Wolverine respect.

Now I think this is an appropriate moment that can only happen with an alternate universe. Cyclops just got done with his falling out with Wolverine. Yet here he is facing another Wolverine and he manages to earn his respect. Considering how fucked up he was about losing it in the first issue, that means something. It's like a woman breaking your heart, but then sleeping with her twin sister. It doesn't cancel out the bullshit, but it's hard not to feel better.

Now with the support of Wolverine and his makeshift team of X-men alternates, they fight their way through the rest of the Savior's perverse world of S&M mutant terror. They end up making their way to what looks like a storage area. There the makeshift X-men are able to retrieve some of their personal items including knives, a trench coat, and presumably their porno stash. We can only assume that heroes in every universe never leave home without it. But while in this area they make a shocking and ass-clenchingly disturbing discovery that could only be equaled by Magneto going down on a Wendigo. Emmelene stumbles upon a whole stack of visors and it's not a collection either. They seem to be the visors of other Cyclops's who have gone through this same bullshit. Does WTF even begin to describe it?

Actually, there may be a reasonable explanation...reasonable being a relative term of course. It implies that this Savior figure has been gathering other versions of the X-men from all across the multiverse and so far none have managed to fuck up his plans. Cyclops is understandably disturbed and put off by the revelation that history is not on his side. But then the Savior makes another disturbing revelation. He didn't just do this with other versions of Cyclops. He did this with other versions of himself. That's right. This so-called savior that would make Michelle Bachmann burst into tears actually traversed the multiverse to fuck with both others and himself. It adds a new dimension to this arc the likes of which leave any unprepared minds in a state of blown not seen since the Kardashian sex tapes.

Now I'll take a moment to sober up for a moment before offering my full assessment of this issue. First off, I won't say that this issue completely made up for the bullshit of the previous issue. The previous issue still sucked in the way it used that kiss to deceive the readers. But this issue didn't suck in the same way because that kiss was actually a key part of the story. The previous issue also sucked for bringing yet another alternate universe into the picture. This issue didn't suck because it actually made that universe pretty compelling in a number of ways. It's different enough to not be classified as a House of M rip-off and the final pages show that this involves more than just one universe. There's some pretty awesome shit here despite the flaws. Much more so than I expected. I'll say with as sober a mind as I can manage that this issue is definitely an upgrade compared to the previous issue.

However, there are still some overly contrived elements in this issue. The names of alternate Emma and Wolverine as well as the adamantium rip-off wasn't all that creative. The alternate versions of Shadowcat and Nightcrawler didn't get much depth either. Even Storm, who was at the center of this shit, barely showed up after playing such a huge role in the last issue. This in addition to that whole Storm/Cyclops kiss having no meaning for them or their respective relationships is pretty bogus. But Greg Pak does plenty to make up for it by ensuring that the story is solid and this new world is compelling.

I don't want to get too ahead of myself with this comic. I get in enough trouble with that shit when driving down the Jersey Turnpike at two in the morning. Astonishing X-men is still a pariah amongst the X-books, but it's slowly working it's way into the greater X-men mythos. This issue didn't take it as far as it probably could have, but it did succeed in making the last issue feel much less egregious. There is still room for improvement, but this arc and this series is that much closer to being awesome again. That's why I give Astonishing X-men #45 a 3.5 out of 5. Greg Pak has only one arc to work with before Marjorie Liu takes over. As such, he needs to make it count and he still has a chance with this arc. He'll just have to make the caliber of awesome worthy of creating a whole new universe. That should be fairly easy, right? Nuff said!

Friday, December 30, 2011

X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope Announcement

A new year and a new era of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series is upon us! X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution established a complicated new world for the X-men. X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers took those complications to the brink of global destruction. Both volumes forged a dangerous set of circumstances that the X-men must navigate. That brings us to X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope. The balance of power has been completely reshaped by Magneto's efforts on Genosha. Now mutants have their own country and the governments of the world watch anxiously as this country takes shape. Where could it lead? What consequences has this fragile peace wrought? These are just some of the questions that X-men Supreme Volume 3 will address. In the opening days of the new year, this fanfiction series will pit Marvel's merry band of mutants against a new host of challenges that are literally and figuratively out of this world! I've prepared a brief preview of the first issue of this exciting new era of X-men Supreme!

“Please Jean…I need you to forgive me.”

Jean finally looked her father in the eye again. There was so much yearning in his eyes. It was as if he was begging her at this point. Like her, this man endured his share of pain. He suffered from that car crash that fateful night just like the rest of the family. She could sense in him the overwhelming guilt. She knew how sincere he was being.

But despite this understanding, she couldn’t escape her own pain. Sincerity or not, her father got off easy. He didn’t have to endure mutant powers on top of his grief. He didn’t have to endure the nightmares of the asylum that still haunted her. He was able to numb the pain with alcohol. As compassionate a person as she was, this was too deeply personal for her to look around.

She was about to answer when the restaurant manager walked up to her table and gazed down at her with a harsh glare.

“Excuse me, young lady, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” he said.

“Hey, we’re in the middle of something here!” said a very annoyed John Grey.

“Sorry, but someone at the other table recognized the girl here from the news,” said the manager, pointing over to a table of people who were glaring at them with equal hostility, “She’s one of those mutants. An X-man no doubt. And in wake of recent events I don’t want any mutants in my restaurant. Understand?”

John Grey rose up apprehensively. He and his daughter were having a moment and he had the gall to kick her out?

“Now see here!” he spat, “You have no right to…”

But before he could continue, Jean got up and stopped him.

“It’s okay,” she said flatly, “I don’t want any trouble. I’ll go.”

“No Jean, you don’t have to go,” he said, still clutching her hand.

“But I want to go,” she said, pulling away from his grip, “I think we’ve said enough for one visit.”

John stood shocked and disappointed. He looked back at the manager spitefully, but he showed no sympathy. He wanted this girl out and he wasn’t going to make an exception for their family issues.

With a silent nod, the manager walked away. John remained standing while Jean grabbed her purse. But before she left she had one last message for her father.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” she said solemnly, “It’s taken you too long to come to grips with all the mistakes you’ve made. I’ve moved on. I’ve built a new life that I can be proud of. Until the nightmares stop haunting me and until you fully understand the pain you caused me, I can’t forgive you.”

With a slight tear in her eyes, Jean Grey turned away from her father and left him to contemplate her words. Encounters with her father were never easy. This one had been better than the others, but they still had a long ways to go to make amends.

John Grey could only watch as his daughter disappeared again. In a daze, he held his head low with sorrow. He truly was a broken man. His daughter, the only part of his family he had left, hated him. It was a hatred he rightfully deserved. He spent years hurting her. It seemed fitting he would spend years begging for her forgiveness. He could only hope that one day she would come around before he took his last breath.

Make no mistake. X-men Supreme Volume 3 will be larger in terms of both scale and scope. I plan on introducing many elements into this fanfiction series. Some go beyond the X-men. Some are taken from the greater Marvel universe. As such, it's all the more vital that I receive feedback from the wonderful people who take the time to read my work. I am serious when I say I want to make this fanfiction series the best it can be. The growth of this story means it'll be a greater challenge to write so it's important that I get solid feedback so I can make it work. So if anyone has any comments or questions, please contact me at any time or post it in each issue. Thanks again and here's to a new year of X-men Supreme! Excelsior!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Uncanny X-men #3 - Sinister Plus Celestials Equals Awesome

Every good comic has it's own special formula. It's like a good recipe for pot brownies. If you don't know what you're doing, not only will you not get high but chances are you'll end up eating what amounts to a wad of dead leaves mixed with dog shit. But if you're competent in your craft and have a touch of talent, you'll get so high you'll have dreams of playing chess with Ben Franklin and a naked Carmen Electra while enjoying a damn good brownie in the process. Kieron Gillen has shown on numerous occasions that he has his shit together when it comes to X-men. He takes it almost as seriously as I take booze. While his comics may not get you as high as my uncles pot brownie recipe, they offer a level of high quality thrills that make it among the elite crop of the X-men.

Gillen had to contend with being double teamed in a way that only porn stars understand. He not only had to close out Uncanny X-men after 544 issues. He had to relaunch it after the results of Schism. Marvel might as well have asked him to perform open heart surgery and a colonoscopy on a rapid grizzly. But the first arc of the new Uncanny X-men has hit hard with the kind of threat that only the most powerful mutants in the X-books are equipped to deal with. Sinister has always been more pesky than Andy Dick at a gay bar. But throw a Celestial into the mix and you've got a level of fucked up that's on a cosmic scale. This is the kind of shit that even the Avengers would have problems handling and that is the theme of this new Uncanny team. And Kieron Gillen is set to cement that theme with the final issue of this first arc.

Uncanny X-men #3 begins after the X-men made the unpleasant discovery that Sinister's new army of look-alikes don't exactly die after you kill the one that doesn't shut up. This is not a case where you find the prime host, shoot him in the head, grab some popcorn, and watch the rest of the duplicates meltdown like Herman Cain's presidential campaign. Sinister has made clear that he's evolved beyond being a mere being that's nuttier than a fruitcake and only slightly more useful around the holidays. He's become an entire ecosystem all his own, complete with a variety of fashionable incarnations that can deliver an abundance of politically correct ass-kicking. The X-men continue to tear into him, but they might as well be trying to win a debate with a creationist. There's just no winning when there's an endless supply of clones/bullshit.

But Sinister isn't the kind of guy that stops at beating up on the X-men with an army of clones. When you're as crazy as him, you just have to go the extra mile and kick the kind of overkill in the balls. In the last issue, Hope Summers had to swipe Emma Frost's telepathy to protect the minds of everyone on the team from know, paralyzed. But Sinister quickly catches up with her. Well, at least part of him does and no that's not a porno joke. He confronts her and taunts her about her nature and the aspects of it that's been kept from her. He's not subtle this time. He doesn't call it the "city in Arizona." He flat out says it to Hope. He says the word Phoenix in front of her.

Now this has the potential to be a volatile moment. Marvel already announced that the Phoenix Force is coming back for Avengers vs. X-men and it was revealed that it scorched the future Earth in X-Sanction #1 (a comic you should totally buy). But this is an event that's still building so it's not too egregious when Hope decides to respond to this P-word by shooting Sinister in the fucking head. Now you could argue that this was glossed over, but Hope shooting guys like Sinister in the head is actually quite true to her character when you think about it. She hears something she doesn't like. She shoots it. Just like Cable taught her!

Taunting aside, Hope's propensity for shooting people in the head that bring up the "city in Arizona" does little to stem Sinister's assault. His army of Sinisters continue beating down on the X-men's most powerful forces. The whole time, he maintains the kind of snide look that only Gordan Ramsey could match. It seems like the X-men are trying to clean Led Zepplin's hotel rooms with a toothbrush. Then Sinister is reminded that shooting people with cannons tend to piss them off. No, I'm not stoned. That actually happened in the last issue. Danger was on the business end of said cannon and has been MIA ever since. She finally shows up and pulls off an attack that would make Skynet proud, taking down a good chunk of Sinister's forces by shooting him in the head in a way that Hope can only envy.

Unfortunately, even a walking Danger Room can't take down an army of Sinisters. Remember, this isn't a rip-off of Attack of the Clones. George Lucas can't sue (although he may end up trying) because these aren't clones the X-men are dealing with. Sinister is his own system. Each duplicate is Sinister in every respect, not a clone. Shooting one is like stepping on a single ant in a fire ant colony. Not only will it do nothing to stop the danger, but it'll only piss them off and give them more reason to bite you. And in Sinister's case, these fire ants have guns and overly gay costumes.

But as crafty as Sinister may be, he's not above fucking up. And fuck up he does when he reminds the X-men that he crafted his little Sinister army using Cyclops's brain patterns. Well that may seem like a good idea on paper until you have to fight the woman who is currently fucking Cyclops's brains out on a regular basis. Plus, he blew off said woman's arm. That's not going to help. So in an act that shows that Emma has balls as big as her boobs, she turns into her flesh form again. Keep in mind, she had an army blown off so she gets Namor (who also wants to bone her) to hold her arm in place to prevent her from bleeding to death. Then through pain that is probably more intense than sitting through several seasons of the Jersey Shore, she uses her knowledge of Cyclops's mind (and penis) to rip into Sinister and destroy his so-called system.

This sounds like a somewhat simplistic means to defeat Sinister, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Kieron Gillen has shown on many occasions that he's very attentive to detail. This is the kind of vulnerability that even Sinister couldn't avoid and given Emma's knack for being a cut-throat bitch/omega level psychic, she's more than capable of taking full advantage of it. There are so many other more contrived ways the X-men could have turned the tide, but this just works on so many levels and Gillen deserves credit for thinking things through. It sounds simple, but I've seen one too many comics where the writers plan about as meticulously as a stoned Wiley Coyote.

So Sinister is back to being a one-man army, but he's not all that broken up about it. If anything, he looks amused. He further shows that he's got plenty of power to spare. He actually teleports the whole San Francisco Arts Center away in a flash. He says it'll make a good headquarters and he's right. Beats the hell out of abandoned missile silos and underground bunkers on the moon. Then before he makes his escape, he offers a warning to Cyclops. The next time he'll be more hated than anyone and he'll lose everything he loves. That would be horribly cliched if the recent announcements regarding Avengers vs. X-men hadn't emerged. It actually may be a clue as to what he's about to face. Then he makes his escape by shooting himself in the head. No really. That's what he does. He's Sinister. He's still a system and even if he wasn't, it's still a badass way to make an exit.

Once he's out, that leaves one last loose end to tie up. Sinister didn't just scrap this elaborate ploy together with shit from Ebay. He used a fucking Celestial. Well since the last issue, Magneto has been using his powers to keep that Celestial in one piece before it decides to blow up every atom making up planet Earth. Yeah, Celestials are capable of that. Well when they arrive, the Dreaming Celestial that Sinister hijacked is back to normal. But the knowledge that someone fucked with it was more than a little distressing to the rest of the Celestials. They show up on Earth presumably pissed, even through those expressionless faces of theirs. Even space gods don't like to be fucked with.

Even though these are the X-men's heaviest hitters, they know they're overmatched. So they don't try to fight the Celestials. They try reasoning with them in a way that Johnny Cochran might have used in defending one of his clients. Cyclops explains that they took down the guy that messed with their friend. He also explains that since the Dreaming Celestial was on Earth and Earth was under their protection, the Celestial was under their protection. It was a fucked up bit of logic, but thankfully the Dreaming Celestial vouches for them. Space Gods may not like to be fucked with, but they also aren't so unreasonable that they would take their frustrations out on those that help them.

So the Celestials fly off. The X-men can officially say they stared down Sinister and an army of space gods and both blinked. It's a fitting way to show the power of this heavy hitting team. This is the kind of shit that even the Avengers would have a hard time dealing with. It's here where Gillen reveals that a battle of this caliber does not go unnoticed even in a town like San Francisco where you can chalk most amazing sights to bad medical marijuana. A large number of civilians saw the X-men take on Sinister and the Celestials. They also saw them succeed. It's not like the Avengers. They don't cheer as much as they smile while shitting their pants. Yes, they're alive. But they now realize that they're dealing with a group of X-men that is not to be fucked with. That's just the kind of message that Cyclops wants to send and in the end that helps reinforce the underlying theme of this new saga of Uncanny X-men.

Uncanny X-men #3 is in many ways a mirror of Wolverine and the X-men #3. Both these books are linked because they follow the paths of the schism that Jason Aaron established. Both books spent the first arcs establishing the themes of each series. Wolverine and the X-men succeeded in presenting a book that had a more light-hearted, youthful approach that depicted the X-men as a school with all their conflicts building around that premise. Uncanny X-men presented a very different approach. It established a team of X-men that would set itself apart by being powerful to the point that it would evoke both fear and respect from humans and mutants alike. It's a different kind of heroics that has both noble and nefarious undertones. And I can safely say with this issue that Gillen succeeded in the same way that Jason Aaron had done with Wolverine and the X-men.

It isn't just that Kieron Gillen brought in big threats like Sinister and the Celestials. It isn't just that he had some of the most powerful X-men in the Marvel universe either. The key here is that he developed the story and resolved the battle that ensued in a believable, dramatic, and in some cases graphic sort of way. I mean Emma Frost lost a fucking arm for crying out loud! You're not going to see that kind of shit in a light-hearted book like Wolverine and the X-men. Not only that, he had the X-men deal with the Celestials in a believable way. It worked and came together nicely, even if the end was a bit cliched. So Sinister didn't succeed in killing them as usual, but he made an all-too-predictable escape with an all-too-predictable threat. However, this threat may actually have some merit given what's set to happen with Avengers vs. X-men. So I guess it's not too cliched to be awesome.

Uncanny X-men #3 tops off a solid inaugural arc that succeeds in setting the tone for this next phase of the series. This series definitely feels different from Uncanny X-men #544 and all the issues that came before it. There are some very ominous undertones here. Granted, the first arc was only three issues and wasn't overly epic despite the threat of Sinister and the Celestials. Some may finish this arc feeling it was too short and too underdone. But in the context of this series, I think Kieron Gillen has done something very special here. He's got so much to work with and he's shown that he can be as potent as any pot brownie. With that in mind, I give Uncanny X-men #3 a 5 out of 5. So the X-men's heavy hitters took on Sinister and the Celestials. What could they possibly take on next? Aside from a pissed off Emma Frost that can't give a decent hand job anymore? I don't know, but with Gillen at the helm it's sure to an awesome venture for the world of X!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

X-23 #19 - Heart Shattering Awesome

Teenagers are complicated, irrational creatures. One day they're so frail that the mere thought of taking a quiz in algebra class sends them into crying fits. The next they're so cold that they'll casually tell their parents that they choke small animals in their spare time. As a former teenager with more than his share of poor impulse control, comics like X-23 resonate with me. They don't just remind me that being a teenager sucks ass. They remind me that while it helps to have a healing factor and adamantium claws, you learn how to make tough decisions and live with them before you're too old make up for it.

X-23 under Marjorie Liu has been more a teenager than she has been a mutant or a Wolverine clone. It's been a boon for her character, so much so that it should be a federal crime that this series is getting cancelled. But I'd rather not go on that rant again. I'm still hung over from too much eggnog. Under Liu, X-23 has gone through some tough phases. She left Utopia, crossed paths with Sinister, took on Daken, and went through a self-mutilation phase. She even dabbled a bit in cosmic threats with the FF. Now she's taken a slightly less outrageous mission in the form of babysitting the children of Reed and Sue Richards. Wait...did I say that was less outrageous. Man, I am hung over!

Not surprisingly, this babysitting endeavor goes horribly wrong. The Richards children accidentally open a portal that takes them across the universe where a crazed fanboy with advanced technology and too much free time, abducts Franklin and Valeria. All the while, X-23 is dealing with her on-again/off-again boy toy Hellion. He was a bit of a jerk to her, but in his defense X-23 didn't say shit to him. She just visited him and left. He tried to catch up with her. A dragon and a time warp got in the way. That's pretty much par for the course in comics. However, I would argue it's no more serious than meeting your high school girlfriend's father and finding out he's a rabid NRA supporter whose eye twitches at you every time you stare at him for too long.

But I'd rather not relive memories of my ex. I'd rather focus on how this story continues with X-23 #19. In the last issue, X-23 met up with the Collector in his fancy ship only to find out that the Richards kids are now floating helplessly in space in a couple of bubble-like orbs. They're low on oxygen and time. The Collector, who seems intent on adding a Wolverine clone to his collection, decides to screw with her a bit by giving her a chance to rescue them. He gives her this fancy space suit and dares her to go after them. Hellion certainly doesn't like it, but X-23 is the babysitter if I recall. She's gotta get those kids or she doesn't get paid.

It's X-23 vs. the vacuum of space in an effort to get two pesky kids who got her into this shit by playing with dimensional portals. It seems more fair than it should be, but Hellion doesn't see it that way. He's still inclined to kick the Collector's ass for putting the girl he seriously wants to bone in this kind of danger. He continues to give him even more reasons because while he has him by the neck, he tells him that the fancy suit he so generously lent X-23 had a 'batteries not included' label. So like my ex-girlfriend's vibrator, it doesn't have the juice to get the job done and X-23 is that much more vulnerable.

What happens next is a test in physics. Pop quiz all you wonderful readers. What happens when you put someone in a vacuum? Answer, they suffer and choke in agonizing pain. For anyone else, that's death. But keep in mind that X-23 has lived a good deal of her life in agonizing pain. Hell, she was brought up in a lab where some guys probably jerked off to her suffering. So much to the Collector's chagrin, X-23 doesn't let a little something like a lack of oxygen stop her. Even with her healing, the vacuum of space is going to win that battle and even she knows it.

This is where it pays to be stuck with a guy who is seriously trying to bone you. When X-23 manages to break the air lock and send them both flying out into the vacuum of space, Hellion channels his inner Green Lantern and uses his telekinesis to save X-23. He's even nice enough to get Franklin and Valeria back to safety. Now I'm not sure if that's just nice or if that's his way of inching closer to getting inside X-23's panties, but it's probably the first real honest act of heroism that he's done in quite a while. I think there's a hidden message here. When teenagers are assholes, they're assholes to an amazing degree. But when given the potential for pussy, they'll be as heroic as Superman. Take note, parents! That's definitely something useful.

Once they're back in the ship and in the presence of sweet, wonderful oxygen, X-23 turns her attention back to the Collector. It's one thing to abduct Valeria and Franklin on her first babysitting run. It's another to trick her into flying out into space and then cutting off her air supply. Then he decides to go for the trifecta by attempting to kill Hellion for screwing his plan up. That's a no-no for X-23. Even if this kid is a jerk, he did save her life. While that may not get him into her panties, that will get him a vengeance kill. So even with a body that's still clearly fucked up from getting dangerously close to going down on the grim reaper, she takes on the Collector. At first he boasts how he's superhuman and immortal. She decides to test that claim by chopping off the guy's fucking head. Given all the crap he's put her through, a drawn out battle just wouldn't seem appropriate. When you piss a teenage girl off that much, decapitation is probably the most merciful fate one can hope for. Again, another lesson for would-be parents.

The Collector is dead. They're all still alive and in one piece, despite an unpleasant trip into space. So using the Collector's own gear, Valeria and Franklin program a portal that not only sends them back to New York it also sends the dragon back where it came from. See? Kids aren't completely psychopathic. They make it back to the lab only to see that it's royally fucked up. But these are the Richards kids. They're smarter than the average per-pubecant horrors and can clean up a lab in under 10 minutes. So since X-23 and Hellion were nice enough to save their lives and all, they do just that. So by the time Reed and Sue get home, they're both sleeping peacefully on the couch and you would never guess that they just got back from an adventure in space with a psychotic collector. But given their experience, they probably just assume it and shrug it off as another normal day.

X-23's first stint into babysitting is done. She leaves the FF understandably exhausted and probably jaded about a career in babysitting. But there's one other immature tyke she has to deal with and that's Hellion. He's waiting for her outside and he's intent on talking to her in the way she's been avoiding since this shit began. Now remember, she's the one that visited him at the institute when this arc began and she didn't do shit. She just showed up and left. So it's actually understandable that Hellion would want to talk to her to get some answers. But she still doesn't budge. Then he tries kissing her. It's not a very subtle kiss either. It's not the kind that X-23 is repulsed by. But then when it's over and he tries to get emotional, she just flat out says she doesn't want him. She doesn't care about him. She staying in the city, but not for him. It's probably the coldest, most dickish thing she's done in this comic and that includes the decapitation scene. So Hellion is understandably upset. He calls her out for being a machine that can't feel. It's harsh, but in this case X-23 deserved it.

This scene effectively ends the X-23/Hellion relationship, but in a way that's hardly clean. Marjorie Liu is great at writing teen drama and she does a great job of showing just how conflicted Hellion is. However, X-23 is so utterly stoic that I have a hard time making sense of this. She shows up, drags him along, and then breaks his heart? I know teenage girls can be cruel, but WTF? It's not that X-23 dumped Hellion in the middle of a street that bothers me. It's that she says so little and there's nothing in her expression that says anymore. She doesn't offer an explanation. She doesn't explain or even imply her motivations. She just flat out says "I don't want you. Now leave." It actually makes her seem like more of a douche than Hellion and that's saying a lot.

Now Hellion has even more reason to be emo, but X-23 doesn't seem to give too much of a damn. She just goes out for pizza where she meets up with Gambit. As he's done for much of this series, he offers X-23 some insight into what she's going through. It's not the most insightful bit of advice. To her credit X-23 does admit that Hellion meant something to her before, but it had changed. Gambit says that's normal and it is. Sometimes feelings get stronger and sometimes they don't and you have to move on. It sounds like the kind of message you get from a John Huges movie, but it's kind of hard to believe that coming from Gambit because he's been hung up on Rogue since the fucking Clinton administration. He says it's easier said than done, but that's like saying you can fix a nuclear reactor with a fucking wrench. The man has no credibility in this department and maybe that's the point.

Gambit takes X-23 home where she can do whatever teenage girls do after they break the heart of a teenage boy. I always imagined that they summon demons and swap blood with them so they can enjoy the suffering they inflict. Or maybe that's just my ex or that bitch that said I had too many pimples to go the prom with her. Whatever she had planned, those plans change when she arrives to find that she already has a guest. A few arcs ago, X-23 made her first real BFF in the form of Vampire Jubilee. She's the kind of girl that is such a stark contrast to X-23 that I'm pretty sure that Chuck Lorre is working on a sitcom based around this presence. So even with this series nearing it's end, Marjorie Liu sets us up for one last arc that involves trained killers and vampires. Sounds like fun to me!

So X-23's first venture into babysitting isn't a booming success or an epic failure. She does manage to keep Valeria and Franklin safe, but only after they make it exceedingly difficult for her by getting them caught up with an asshole like the Collector. While that turned out well, her pep talk with Hellion did not. I know there are some rabid Hellion/X-23 shippers out there and this issue is probably a dagger to the heart. X-23 makes it clear. She doesn't care about Hellion anymore. She's not all that conflicted about it either. She said so little to Hellion early on and gave so little indication as to what she felt for most of the story. It's still not clear if there was something else at work or if she was just being cold as teenagers tend to be. Either way, that romance is pretty much dead and given how much of an asshat Hellion has been since he lost his hands it may be for the better.

This was a great issue in terms of action and drama, but the lack of substance to X-23's interactions with Hellion is what really brought it down. Hellion was the emotional one here. All X-23 did was show up, stare blankly, and say she didn't want him in the end. I get that teenage girls have fucked up emotions, but the lack of insight here has me scratching my head. I honestly don't know what to make of X-23's actions here, but it looks like she has other drama in her life with Jubilee entering the picture again. In a way it sounds like she would get along a lot better with someone like Jubilee, a blood-sucking vampire that has to control her urge to kill just like X-23. Whether or not they talk about boys is basically moot at this point because the lack of detail here just makes it seem meaningless.

Everything else in this issue was solid. Marjorie Liu's writing is as good as we've come to expect. The art is beautiful. The action and the pacing all work nicely. It's just that emotional flatness on X-23 that brings this issue down. It ends the arc on a solid note, but it still feels like it's lacking. So with that minor detail, I give X-23 #19 a 4.5 out of 5. If you're an X-23/Hellion fan, you're probably going to hate this with the fire of a billion suns. But if you're just a fan of teen drama mixed with aliens and dragons, you'll have plenty to enjoy. Nuff said!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Generation Hope #14 - Secrets No Longer Buried (Yet Still Awesome)

Sometimes comic books, like shitty football teams, have a lot working against them. They stuck in a crappy division with a lot of good teams or they're like the Indianapolis Colts and were stupid enough to build everything around one player that they thought would never get injured. Generation Hope may not be in the AFC East or have Peyton Manning as a quarterback, but it does have the misfortune of being a title that doesn't feature major X-men characters at a time when the books that do (namely Wolverine and the X-men, Uncanny X-men, and Uncanny X-Force) are kicking so much ass that Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder would mud wrestle each other for the chance to sign them if they were football players. However, that doesn't mean that Generation Hope hasn't held it's own.

James Asmus came in at a pretty fucked up time. Schism was over. Regenesis began. He really couldn't start from scratch or anything. He had to continue what Kieron Gillen established. That doesn't always sit well with certain writers and it's not uncommon for those stories to just fall apart because writers aren't inclined to give a shit about a story they didn't start. But Asmus started off quite nicely with Generation Hope #13. He set up a conflict with Jean-I mean Hope (what did you expect?) and her Lights involving a story that spun right out of Uncanny X-men. They basically stumbled ass backwards into Emma Frost's little secret about keeping Sebastian Shaw mind-wiped and secluded in Pakistan. So without asking questions, the Jean Gr-I mean Hope leads her lights on a mission complete with Kenji's new squeeze, Martha (who happens to be just a brain), and their new member on a rescue mission. Everything was going as shitty as anything else that goes on in that part of the world. Then Shaw gave Fox News something to jerk off to when he played the role of suicide bomber and set of an explosion that ended the last issue in dramatic fashion.

Generation Hope #14 picks up with the ears of the Lights still ringing. They all survive, of course. Marvel may hate redheads that look like Jean Grey, but they aren't that stupid. While everything around them is blown to shit, Je-I mean Hope (get some liquor in me and I'll get it right) is okay because she can tap powers like Velocidad's to make time work in her favor. Kenji did the rest with the Lights, protecting them in a shell that presumably doesn't involve tentacle rape. While I could make more comments about Japanese fetishes, Kenji does have a somewhat more prominent role here. Remember Martha? That brain on a stem that for reasons only Japanese men understand gave him a boner? Well she's been damaged and he's freaking out. The revelation that the bomber (Shaw) they encountered is still in one piece is secondary.

But Shaw isn't the only asshole involved for once. Even if Emma Frost did fuck up his mind, he's not the kind of guy who just blows himself up for kicks. Keep in mind, the Light's newest member, Pixie, got separated from the team in the last issue. And as is often the case with teenage girls in a shitty part of the world, she runs into the wrong crowd. But much to the dismay of Fox News, they don't look anything like the dirty terrorists that Lou Dobbs loves to rant against. They look like neatly dressed thugs who just robbed an Old Navy. Aside from their shitty tastes in clothes, they do have Pixie contained in what looks like giant rock candy. They also have big ass guns so Hope (thank you high grade whiskey!) and her Lights are in deep shit.

Now keep in mind they weren't asked to go on this mission. They basically stumbled into it at the expense of Emma Frost and her Cuckoos. Back on Utopia, Cyclops gets word that Hope has run off into an unforgiving battlefield again. Seeing as how he's sacrificed a lot for this girl that looks strikingly similar to his dead wife, that frustrated him. However, he still doesn't know about Shaw and Emma Frost makes sure it stays that way. She tells him to run off and try to something like stressful, like brain surgery. And like a completely pussy-whipped boyfriend, he does. This leaves Emma and her Lights to deal with Shaw. And Emma is quick to point out that this isn't another secret that they agreed to avoid. This is just shit she hasn't told him yet.

I don't care how hot Emma is, but that's just bullshit. Some of that goes to Marvel as well because for quite some time now, they've let Emma Frost get away with pretty much everything. They dedicated an entire issue after Utopia to Cyclops and Emma coming clean about their secrets. And what's Emma do? She keeps another secret regarding Sebastian Shaw. Now this doesn't bother me as much as the fact that it never seems to affect her relationship with Cyclops. Just this past week, Marvel pretty much threw the Psylocke/Angel relationship into a tailspin. This week, X-23 and Hellion were pretty much ended. Hell, these people broke up Mary Jane and Spider-Man by literally making a deal with the devil. Yet they won't do shit for Cyclops and Emma? Just because their relationship has the depth of a porno? Fuck me with a jackhammer, but that's just stupid. I know I've gone on this rant before, but it bears repeating when shit like this happens. I hope I'm wrong, but like Fox News broadcast without the bullshit I'll believe it when I see it.

Keep in mind that Hope and the Lights are completely unaware of Shaw's history and his capacity to be a massive douche. However, they do quickly realize that there are certain shades of brown in this shit that aren't normal. For one, Shaw isn't young like the other new mutant signatures. In addition, he can't remember who the fuck he is. They don't know Emma Frost has weeded through his brain and rewired one too many neurons. All they know is he's got major blocks on his mind and they need to figure it out because in Hope's experience, anomalies like this usually need to get shot later.

This is where Kenji's creepy Japanese fetishes come in once more. Because they do actually have a telepath on their side now in the form of Martha Johannson. Yeah, she was just a brain in a jar, but Kenji is an artist. He's also a nice enough guy to create an entire body for her using his Akira rip-off form. Is it any surprise that the body he creates is very boneable? Okay, maybe it would require a number of drinks to work up the urge, but still it's no worse than mistaking a hooker for a transvestite. It's another instance of Kenji showing some theatrics, which he hasn't really shown since his first arc. It was overdue and Asmus pulls it off nicely.

With Martha's help and her new body, she's able to reveal some details about Shaw's background. She can't get bast Emma's blocks, but she can confirm that he showed up in Pakistan with no memory and no idea how to ask the locales for the nearest bar. He ended up running into (or being ran over may be a more accurate statement) a guy named Jin Billion. I'm sorry, but not since Johnny Cash has anyone ever used money in their name and turned out not to be an asshole. So while at first Shaw thought he could help him with all his cool stolen tech. He was wrong. And since Shaw doesn't have any memory about what an asshole he was, he decided that guys like this need to be blown up. So that's what he's been doing and doing a pretty damn good job of it for the most part.

There's basically a lot of talking and not many answers. The comic starts dragging at this point. We get it. Shaw doesn't have any memory and he got roped up with people who took advantage of him. That's poetic justice in it's most beautiful form, but all this is happening when Pixie is captured and a bunch of heavily armed badly dressed men are on their way. Even if you hate Pixie, you kind of have to give a damn for the sake of the story.

When shit finally does get heavy, Jin and his boys find Shaw and the Lights. They make it clear that Shaw is theirs and they have Pixie as leverage. Shaw, acting heroic for the first time in his miserable life, tries to defend Hope and the Lights. That goes about as well as you would expect in this part of the world. Jin is about as understanding as a loan shark with impulse control issues and starts shooting at the Lights. They competent enough to defend themselves, but it's an overly basic match. Jin and his toys prove to be nothing special. They just dress flashy and shoot fancy guns. They're kind of like cowboys without the bad accent and Chuck Norris connotations.

Eventually, Shaw gets sick of it and decides it's time to end this. So while the Lights hold their own, he taps that ruthless side of him that we all know and love and taked down Jin. This time it's a bit more flashy even if it's a little late for it. Those fancy guns he was packing turn out to be pretty unstable. All Shaw has to do is break them and they behave as you would expect any poorly made Chinese product to operate. If the blast doesn't kill Jin, the lead poisoning sure will. While this is going on, Martha finds out where Pixie is being held and Velocidad goes after her. Keep in mind this is the same guy that's trying to bone her so it could have been an equally awesome fight. But it wasn't. It was glossed over. He just says that Jin's B-team sucked and he has the girl. So between some parts dragging and others being glossed over, it's not the most elaborate finish for such a conflict. But it's satisfying none-the-less.

So Shaw is back at square one. He has no idea who he is and all Jin did was screw with him. He has some idea that he's not a nice guy, but seeing as how Hope was raised by someone who was never all that pleasant to be around she offers him a chance to come back with them. She doesn't know that Shaw doesn't play well with pretty redheads that look like Jean Grey and have the Phoenix Force. So she's already pissing on an electric fence without knowing it. But that doesn't change Shaw's decision. He agrees to go back.

This goes about as well as you would expect. Shaw arrives on Utopia and guess who's there to greet them? Remember how pissed Cyclops was when he found out that Hope and the Lights ran off to Pakistan? Well take that level of pissed off and multiply that by a billion and that's how pissed off he is to see Sebastian Shaw. A few issues ago, he noted that he knew about the "city in Arizona" as he called it. He also remembers what happens the last time when Shaw tried to set up shop in that city. He doesn't even know that the woman he's boning (who also happens to be Shaw's ex) has been lying to him. So between Shaw's arrival and Emma's secrets, Cyclops is pretty much fucked in all the wrong ways.

So we've come full circle. The events that started in Uncanny have been successfully picked up in Generation Hope and assembled in solid opening arc for James Asmus. There's a lot to like about Asmus's style here. Forget for a moment that Hope and her team have no idea what they've gotten themselves into. Remember how they went about it. Hope just dove right in with her Lights, assuming at this was another distress call like all the other distress calls they had encountered thus far. It doesn't just show that Emma Frost is as good at keeping secrets as she is keeping boners stiff. It shows that Hope's team is still immature and brash. They don't know Sebastian Shaw. They don't know that he's bad news, especially around redheaded girls with the Phoenix Force. It's the first time the youth of this team has really been played up and Asmus plays it well.

While it is a solid issue, it involves a bit too much talking at times. This is one of those rare instances where substance exceeds style, but not by much. I like that Asmus was thorough in explaining what Shaw had been going through and what he had been up against. It just made the story feel stalled at times. In the end it still came together. Asmus did a great job linking this arc to the arc in Uncanny where Emma first mind-wiped Shaw. He also had a very valid reaction from Cyclops in the end, one that could have been glossed over but wasn't. It makes the reader want to pick up the next issue just to see how pissed off he'll be when he finds out what his big-breasted barbie doll girlfriend has been keeping from him.

Generation Hope still has the misfortune of being sort of an Uncanny X-men lite. This feels like a story that could have been told in Uncanny. As this series has progressed, it seems more and more finite. Unlike the other regenesis books, this one doesn't feel like it has a solid future. It feels like with every issue it's nearing the limit of what stories it can tell. For what it's wroth, Asmus makes the most of this issue. He hits all the right gears albeit at a staggered pace and for that I give Generation Hope #14 a 4 out of 5. So now Emma Frost's hypocrisy is exposed, but will anything come of it? Will Marvel ever do anything to undermine their sexiest female character and risk the vital masturbation audience? I'm starting a pool now. I say they won't even try. Then again, I've been wrong before. Nuff said!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wolverine and the X-men #3 - Legally Binding Awesome

Everyone has a different definition of fun. For some people, fun is having a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a joint in the other while your collection of your Japanese anime porn collection is playing on your TV. For other more demented people, fun is what you do to small animals when your school counselor tells you that the spankings your mother gave you were out of love and not because she was a demon sent from hell to turn your ass into the fucking Gobi desert. My point is that fun is something that's underrated and overlooked, especially in comics. Everything has to be groundbreaking and serious these days. There's no room for fun. Everything has to be a political statement that Glenn Beck can bitch about or Michelle Bachmann use in her campaign.

For this reason, Wolverine and the X-men has been special. It's the first comic book I've come across in a long time that's just plain fun. It's not overly fancy. It's back to basics without it feeling too basic. Wolverine wants to create a new institute and name it after the woman he desperately wanted to bone, but never got a chance to. It's simple and could easily become the same, bland crap that always takes place when the X-men's home is blown to shit. However, Jason Aaron proves that rebuilding doesn't have to be the same old crap. It can be new, refreshing, and fun. Throw in a living island monster and homicidal kids and you've got the essence of Wolverine and the X-men.

The first arc depicts the beginning of the Jean Grey Institute and without restating the first two reviews I've done, it's been a fucking disaster. Not only has Wolverine made a really shitty impression on the humorless bureaucrats that are supposed to sanction his school. Those pesky Hellfire kids that came out of thin air during Schism showed up again and unleashed an attack on the institute because it was bad for business. That or it was getting in the way of them watching Spongebob. It could be either for all I know. But it's made for some amazing action and some very fun moments.

Wolverine and the X-men #3 looks to continue that fun. Like the previous issue, it uses a quick flashback to fill in some of the blanks as to how Wolverine put together a school like this. One issue that's hard to escape is Kid Omega. Remember him? He's the omega level psychic that kicked Schism into high gear when he barged in on the UN and compelled all the politicians to actually tell the truth. Now instead of getting the metal of fucking honor, he's become a fugitive that every country wants dead. They only truth they trust is from Fox News so that means Quentin Quere has to go. So how does Wolverine hide him? Well keep in mind he's still an Avenger. That means he knows Captain fucking America and Wolverine is able to convince him that locking Kid Omega up would just create another supervillain. So why not take a chance at his institute? Unlike Congress, Captain America is reasonable and competent so he gives it a chance.

So far, the Kid Omega experiment isn't going too well. He's still an intolerable douche. In the last issue it was revealed that while the institute was under attack by the living island, Karoka, he was just sitting back and watching via video feed presumably laughing his ass off in between jerking off. There's even some inner narration for him (which I think is a first) that hammers home the notion that he's a complete douche. But unfortunately for him, being a douche doesn't protect him from the attack. While he's watching, he gets attacked by a Windigo (the result of those humorless bureaucrats turning into monsters in the last issue). So he can't just it back and laugh. He actually has to put his ass on the line in a non-Catholic sort of way.

Kid Omega's ass is saved (again, in a non-Catholic way) by Idie and Broo, quite possibly the cutest and most disturbing little couple since Mike Meyers and Verne Troyer. Kid Omega naturally shows no gratitude for their assistance. He shows even less when Kid Gladiator, who joined the institute from the Shi'ar, takes down the other humorless bureaucrat that was in the form of Sauron. He takes over, stealing Kid Omega's thunder as he takes on these two transformed monsters that are hard to distinguish from their government stooge counterparts. And this pisses Kid Omega off. Not because his life is in danger, but because they don't know who he is. He's the one that triggered schism, damn it! And his ego demands that he be recognized.

Now it would have been totally out of character for Kid Omega to just step up and play hero as a means to redeem himself for ending the Wolverine/Cyclops bromance in Schism. This kid is a douche and an egotist. He needs another more practical reason to save the day. When his own classmates don't even recognize what an awesome guy he is, he has to do something to impress them. That something just happens to be stopping this attack and saving the day. It's still ridiculously egotistical, but it's perfectly in character for Kid Omega. That's what has been the hallmark of Jason Aaron's work thus far. The book isn't just fun. Every character fits their role and in this case, Kid Omega takes on Karoka and uses those vast powers of his for something other than convincing pretty blondes that he's Brad Pitt's younger brother.

What Kid Omega does has a major impact on all the shit that's going on outside. If you'll recall, Wolverine and his team were getting their asses handed to them by the snotty Hellfire kids that had recruited Karoka to destroy their school before it had even been certified. It was an uphill battle. Then as a result of Kid Omega's ego and douche-baggery, Rachel Grey makes a breakthrough. She's able to sense Karoka's mind and it tells her that the Hellfire kids were controlling it and for reasons it doesn't explain, that really sucks. So it says it wants to join Wolverine's school. This surprises the X-men in an understandable way and shows that even a douche-bag can contribute to the greater good.

Now this may not be the most surprising twist, but it's the kind of twist that really complements the story in all the right ways. The theme of this initial arc was to show how the Jean Grey Institute was a new kind of institute for mutants to flourish. Karoka may not be your typical big-breasted mutant that makes for good slash fanfiction. But making it another victim in need of a place to learn fits nicely with what Jason Aaron is doing here and he doesn't need to make some elaborate scene laced with social commentary either. It's simple, fun, and satisfying. Not unlike masturbation, but not as messy.

The Hellfire kids know they're screwed. So they pack up and leave. The X-men don't go after them, at least not directly. Later on Wolverine sends Matt Murdock after them (who is just as much a lawyer as he is a hero, making it the most twisted combination in all of comics). Wolverine may be an asshole, but he's smart enough to know that the best way to hit rich douche-bags is with lawyers. It's their kryptonite. Some may argue it's fighting evil with evil, but let's face it. Compromise is necessary at times. Besides, how else are they going to pay for repairing their school?

Flash forward past the rubble and the awkward explanation that a bunch of kids attacked them and things are back to the usual fucked up brand of normal that the X-men are used to. Karoka shows that it (they couldn't decide of calling it he or she was appropriate) can be a contributor to the institute by providing shade for students while their school is repaired. All the while it's not entirely clear that Kid Omega helped them, but the mere fact he's lounging around in one of the most disturbing speedos ever created pretty much gives it away.

Now what about those humorless bureaucrats that had been turned into monsters and were threatening to shut the school down? Well this is where homicidal kids and living islands become the least fucked up part of a comic book. They don't remember shit. They're just back to normal, they have no memory of what happened, and they're laughing it up with Beast. So all that bullshit they went through in the last issue was really for nothing. That's not the only thing that was glossed over. In the last issue Iceman made a conscious effort to dispel those gay rumors on message boards and stole a kiss from Kitty Pryde. But when he confronted her about it, she just shrugged it off and that was it.

I can't help but groan a bit here because as great as Jason Aaron is on this series, he does have a tendency to gloss over shit. I get that comics only have so many pages to work with, but these people get paid to be creative. There has to be enough weed at the Marvel offices to help them come up with sufficient ideas on how to tie these plots together or at least hint at where they're going. But they don't and that's disappointing for a comic that is so awesome in so many other ways.

While overall it's a happy ending for Wolverine and the Jean Grey Institute, you can't expect a homicidal kid to give up that easily. Kids are immature. They don't let shit go. Take away their sippy cup and they hold it against you for weeks. So take a kid with way too much money and free time that isn't old enough to masturbate and you've got a dangerous combination. Kilgore wants to destroy Wolverine's school and he needs to find someone who wants it just as bad. In that case he need look no further than Sabretooth. That's right. The guy who had his fucking head chopped off is alive, making him yet another dead character that Marvel has no problem bringing back before Jean Grey. However fucked up it may be, it sets the stage for Wolverine having a much bigger target on his ass moving forward.

And so it begins. The first arc of Wolverine and the X-men is over. It wasn't overly elaborate like the first arc of Uncanny X-Force. It simply told a fun story about how Wolverine gets his school off the ground and how he deals with threats that try to fuck with him. The result is the most fun you'll have with an X-men comic that doesn't involve an Emma Frost blow-up doll. Jason Aaron doesn't just make this an epic struggle that pits the X-men up against Karoka. He actually throws in a few twists and puts a new spin on Karoka, the likes of which is more overdue than the last Duke Nukem game. He even sets up Wolverine's next challenge at the end, which was already revealed at the New York Comic Con earlier this year. Yet it still has an impact because who else besides Sabretooth has a greater incentive to fuck with Wolverine's new endeavor.

Wolverine and the X-men has a very unique style and for some, that style may not jive. This comic doesn't take itself too seriously. In some ways it undercuts the very serious goal it has for Wolverine and the group of X-men that followed him. While the resolution to this first arc was solid, some things were glossed over. The kiss between Kitty and Iceman was pretty much forgotten. Those two humorless bureaucrats were made a non-factor in the end. They're very minor details and the funny bit at the end more than makes up for it. But more than anything else, this arc cements the tone of what Wolverine and the X-men will entail. And you know what? It's awesome. It's one of the strongest new X-books since Uncanny X-Force and Jason Aaron has plenty to work with moving forward.

So how can we gauge this first arc? Well it's awesome. That much is beyond dispute. There were only a few minor hicccups here and there, mostly in this issue. Overall, the arc itself is a 5 out of 5. But this particular issue is a 4.5 out of 5 because of the minor details that were overlooked. Now there's no reason why these details can't be resolved in the next issue. But as it stands, this comic set it's own bar pretty damn high and there's only so high you can go before the thin air kills one too many brain cells. Jason Aaron has done something special here. If you want a comic that's not going to make you think too much about the state of mankind and has Wolverine chasing after bottles of liquor, then this is your book. My family reunions are only slightly less chaotic so since I can't invite everybody, you'll have to settle for this comic. Nuff said!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Giant Sized X-men Supreme Issue 0: Revelation X is LIVE!

Merry Christmas Eve Eve everybody! I hope all you X-men Supreme fans are having a great holiday. I've worked long and hard to make sure I have a gift to give all those generous supporters who have helped make this fanfiction series so uncanny over the past couple of hears. With X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers and X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 2 complete, I'm ready to offer a very special giant sized story to celebrate the progress of this fanfiction series.

As I stated previously, this one-shot is akin to a Giant Sized issue or an Annual the likes of which Marvel occassionally produces. They're larger than most comics, but contain a much denser story. X-men Supreme has quite a history, but I haven't been able to explore it fully since it began. I've had flashbacks and retellings such as Issue 31: Memory Musings. But that simply isn't enough! I'm ready to take this fanfiction series a step further. That's why I'm so excited about this first of what I hope to be many giant sized one-shots. It tells a story about the past, long before X-men Supreme Issue 1: Mutant Revolution. It tells the story of one of the most vital moments in the history of the X-men Supreme universe. So with great pride, I present to you wonderful fanfiction fans my first Giant Sized X-men Supreme Special.

Issue 0: Revelation X

With this giant sized special, the stage is set for X-men Supreme Volume 3. I've been building it up for a long time now and I'm ready to unleash it to the fanfiction world. X-men Supreme Volumes 1 and 2 followed a certain path of conflict. Well X-men Supreme Volume 3 will take the X-men down an entirely new path. There's a lot of story to tell and I look forward to developing it in the year 2012! As always, I deeply appreciate the support of those who take the time to read and provide feedback. If ever you have any questions or comments on this giant sized special or X-men in general, please contact me at any time. Have a very happy holidays everybody! Until next time, take care and best wishes.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Uncanny X-Force #19 - Post-Saga Awesome

In case you snorted a bad line of blow last week, the Dark Angel Saga ended in Uncanny X-Force in cock-smashingly epic fashion. I made it a point to emphasize with as many dick, fart, and poop jokes that this was by far the best comic book arc of 2011 and one of the best stories Marvel has birthed from it's overworked vag in a long time. It was dramatic, heart-felt, action-packed, and nearly brought the world to the brink of destruction. It had everything you could ask for without having Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johanssen go down on each other on an IMAX 3D screen. So if I have any message to the fine folks who randomly stumble across this blog of drunken ravings, I have one bit of advice for you. Get this arc when it comes out in trades! You cannot call yourself an X-men fan if you don't add this shit to your collection.

That being said, however randomly, the Dark Angel Saga is still over. And it's end didn't just represent the culmination of an ass-blastingly awesome arc. It represented the final issue of Uncanny X-Force in it's pre-Regenesis format. It's taken longer than any other X-book, but this series can now finally catch up to X-men Regenesis. Now that Wolverine is running a school on top of leading a kill squad, some shit has to change. In addition, they still have some hold-overs from the Age of Apocalypse. They need to sort some shit out before they move forward. Plus, there's the whole having a cloned Apocalypse that is now a young kid. So yeah, they've got a lot of shit on their plate and they need to work up an appetite if they're going to digest it all without puking.

Uncanny X-men #19 is the always mixed aftermath issue. Now these are the kinds of issues that can be easily glossed over because they don't usually involve a lot of shit blowing up. For some readers, that's a deal-breaker. For them, I recommend less booze and more sodomy. I'm of the opinion that such issues are necessary. Rick Remender left a lot of unfilled blanks with the Dark Angel Saga, chief among them the new Apocalypse, now going by the name Genesis. Fantomex was the one that created him (only after shooting the first kid in the head that is). Now that kid that has been growing up in a fantasy world ripped from Smallville has to adjust to life in the real world. And Fantomex makes it clear to him that he can't be a pussy about it or they're all fucked. It's more compelling than it sounds because this is an Apocalypse that wasn't raised to be the asshole tyrant that we know and despise. So how can he handle it? Well most kids his age go through a period where they're tyrants anyways so I don't imagine it being terribly different.

This Apocalypse-level potential for danger is coupled by the tough reminder that the Age of Apocalypse crew is still in 616. That includes Jean Grey (the non-dead, non-replacement version). She was part of the battle that took down Arcangel and she has her own Wolverine back in her world that had one too many drinks and went batshit. Yet the Wolverine of 616 is still not ready to see her go. Despite having a half-black, half-Mexican woman riding his bone, he's still intent on boning Jean Grey. They share a quiet moment in his room (fully clothed) mind you. He urges her to stay with him. She just wants to use his shower. She makes clear that she's going back to her world, but let's face it. Wolverine probably has a camera in that shower. If he's creepy enough to keep a lock of Jean's hair, he's creepy enough to film her and jerk off to it. This paints his fixation with Jean Grey in a pretty unhealthy way, but then again it was unhealthy to begin with. He's not so much a lost love as he is a stalker without a restraining order. So it's probably a good thing that AOA Jean is going back to her world with her Apocalypse-ladened husband.

Once the AOA crew says their goodbyes, they prepare to leave via Gateway. Wolverine and Jean share one last kiss with Jean making it clear they'll never see each other again. Even Sabretooth comes off as sympathetic. But not everybody is content to just walk away and leave this shit behind. AOA Nightcrawler decides to stay behind. His reason isn't just because Marvel wants to have Nightcrawler involved without going through the trouble of bringing him back (although I'm sure that's part of it). There are still hold-overs from the Age of Apocalypse in 616 and he wants to hunt them down. It makes sense. His counterpart is dead and unlike Jean, he doesn't have anyone that's trying to bone him. So there's an actual function to why he's staying and it adds yet another dimension to the world of Uncanny X-Force. It's not the real Nightcrawler, but it's close enough for now. It's like having to choose vodka over whiskey. They'll both get you drunk.

Once the AOA crew is gone, that leaves Psylocke to confront the key to the whole Dark Angel Saga. At the end Warren emerged from the snow, shriveled balls and all. However, he wasn't Warren. As Psylocke herself explains, Warren's mind and everything that made him who he was died. All that's left now is a man with no memory of who he is and who he was. So technically, Warren is dead. But this is comics. If there's no body, there's no death and this body is still all warm and lively. Yet he's a completely different person. That person is still drawn to Psylocke, but this is one instance where her being psychic is a real bitch. She knows this isn't the man she loves and she has to live with that. It's a powerful moment and one that shows while Psylocke and Angel's story isn't over, it's gained a hell of a complication.

The drama is all well and good, but there are also some logistical aspects to the Dark Angel conflict that took shape long before the story ever began. Over a large stack of beer that looks like something I saw at my last family reunion, Wolverine and Fantomex have a little chat. You don't secretly clone Apocalypse and raise him in a Smallville fantasy world and expect to get away with it. Now they have a new problem on their hand. They have a young Apocalypse who could have the potential to be the same asshole that repeatedly tried to sodomize the world before. Wolverine has a problem with that, but Fantomex has his reasons. He claims that he wants to see if someone like Apocalypse could be made a force for good. It's not just a passing hobby like building model airplanes or jerking off to German fetish porn. He's also the product of some fucked up cloning so this is as much for him as it is for Apocalypse.

Now I know I've made a lot of jokes about how Fantomex is a douche and I'm not changing my stance. He still is. But Rick Remender has shown many times before that he can add depth to a character. Fantomex is one of those characters that got as much depth as the last Michael Bay movie. This is the first time in quite a while that his origins as a guy who was created in an artificial world is addressed. It speaks to a much larger issue that goes beyond comics. It's the old nature vs. nurture conflict. Are evil tyrants born or made? Could you take a young Apocalypse and make him a force for good? Well Fantomex didn't think so the first time so he shot that kid in the head. Was it overkill? Fuck yes. But he's tried to make up for it with Genesis. It doesn't redeem him, but it does add some method to his madness.

What happens next is another first for Uncanny X-Force. Since this series began, it's been completely detached from the other X-books. It's never interacted with another title, but that changes in a big way. Beast and Kitty Pryde show up at X-Force's base. Remember, they're both top officials at the Jean Grey Institute. So it's kind of hard to hide a fact that Wolverine's running a secret kill squad. It makes for an awkward moment, especially when Kitty sees Nightcrawler and discovers the hard way that he's his Age of Apocalypse asshole self. But what's more amazing is Beast's reaction. Keep in mind, he ditched Cyclops for making X-Force. Yet he only expresses mild disappointment in Wolverine.

Now I've gone on rants about Beast being a whiney bitch before, but it bears repeating. Wolverine is doing the same thing Cyclops did. He he's running a secret kill squad that already killed a kid. Yet all he does is chew Wolverine out a bit before shrugging it off. He didn't even give Cyclops a chance when he thumbed his nose and walked out. Remender tries to have Beast offer an explanation, but even his brilliance only goes so far. Beast still comes off as a complete hypocrite. He condemns Cyclops, but he doesn't care that Wolverine not only continued X-Force but lied about it. I can tolerate a lot of bullshit, but I draw the line at hypocrisy.

Beast's attitude aside, this scene does gain some interesting developments. Kid Apocalypse, now calling himself the must less ominous name of Evan, agrees to join the Jean Grey Institute. So he'll have a chance to become something other than a tyrant bent on destruction. It certainly opens the door to new possibilities within the pages of Wolverine and the X-men. Now Wolverine has a heavy hitter on his side in an Apocalypse that's willing to fight for him. I'm pretty sure that behind the scenes he was giving Cyclops the finger. But they leave for the institute on a positive note and one with so many potential stories that you may have to put the comic down for a moment to prevent your head from exploding.

Everything seems set. It's not the kind of happy ending you get in a Bankok massage parlor, but it's more than sufficient. Fantomex seems to understand that. He knows he's been enough of a douche with Apocalypse to understand that he needs to keep his distance. So he stays behind at the base, presumably finishing Wolverine's beer and sharing fart jokes with Deadpool. But as he's reflecting, he gets an unexpected visit from Captain Britain of all people. Yes, the same Captain Britain that is Psylocke's brother. He seems to believe that Fantomex is guilty of a crime and needs to be held accountable. He may not have the same crimes in mind, but he's definitely got the right idea. Seeing as how this is a guy that tried to bone Psylocke, Fantomex and his balls are in some serious shit.

I'm a shitty liar when I'm wasted so I'll just up and say I take a certain level of satisfaction in seeing Fantomex get blind-sided like this. Yes, he did do some things to redeem himself in this issue. No, it wasn't enough to make anyone overlook the fact that he's still a douche. However, it does put him in a tough spot. He has to go on trial and given that he's the same guy that shot a kid in the head, even Johnny Cochran couldn't save his ass. It's a little random, but it was only a matter of time before Fantomex's bullshit caught up with him. It feels refreshing and logical that he finally has to be held accountable.

Aside from Fantomex's bullshit and Beast's hypocrisy, this issue hits all the right sweet spots in terms of an aftermath issue. If it was a vibrator, it would send any woman into fits of multiple orgasms. Is it as exciting as the last one? Fuck no. It can't be. But does it work? Fuck yes. It establishes a new character in Genesis. It links that character and X-Force to the events of Regenesis and the Jean Grey Institute. It effectively deals with the Age of Apocalypse crew in a way that isn't glossed over and sets Warren and Psylocke up for new drama. It leaves no stone unturned from the Dark Angel Saga. It ensures everything is in place both for the past and sets the stage for future stories. You can't ask for much more and if you do then you're just being a dick.

Rick Remender has been firing on all cylinders with Uncanny X-Force since it began. The Dark Angel Saga cemented this book as a pillar of awesome from Marvel's library. Now it is ready to move forward, but not without dealing with the repercussions that the Dark Angel Saga incurred. I could probably be nit-picky and point out that Beast's reaction was bullshit and the attack at the end on Fantomex was contrived, but I'm still high off the Dark Angel Saga (amongst other things) and there are far more egregious flaws in other comics. By and large, Uncanny X-Force #19 continues it's legacy of awesome and I can only give it a cool 5 out of 5 for maintaining such quality. So now the X-books are all caught up! They're all plugged into the post-Regenesis world and it's a good thing too. They're about to be unplugged again in 2012 for the big Avengers vs. X-men event. So here we go again, but why not? Gotta work fast, right? That Maya Doomsday prophecy isn't going to give us much room to work with. Nuff said!