Saturday, November 26, 2011

Astonishing X-men #44 - Deceptively Awesome

Look at that cover. Just fucking look at it. Not since Madonna swapped spit with a pre-meltdown Brittney Spears has a kiss caused such an uproar. Somewhere out there a bunch of Neo Nazis and KKK members are banging their heads against the walls in between biting the heads off live puppies. But fuck them! What does this cover mean to comic fans? Why the hell are Storm and Cyclops, two of the X-men's most iconic and popular characters, kissing? Storm is married. Cyclops is boning Emma Frost, a woman who would probably rip his dick off and throw it in San Francisco Bay if he caught him cheating on her. Granted, those relationships aren't exactly popular, stable, or even healthy for that matter. But this goes further than asking why they're kissing. I think the real question is why the fuck didn't they do this sooner?

This cover is that of Astonishing X-men #44. That's right, I'm actually reviewing an Astonishing book. It bucks a recent trend of ignoring the Astonishing X-men books the same way the GOP ignores Ron Paul for making too much sense. It's not by choice, I assure you. It's not my fault that the Astonishing books have been boring, contrived, and utterly disconnected from the mainline X-books. But this cover got me and pretty much every other X-men fan with access to a message board and a capacity to bitch wondering. It's the first issue of a new run from a new writer. Greg Pak, who is best known as the last writer who actually told a decent Jean Grey story with Phoenix Endsong, has been kicking ass on Hulk for the past few years. Well now he's taking the plunge back into X-men and he's tasked with making Astonishing awesome again. It's a pretty daunting task when you think about it because this is a book that fans have given fewer and fewer shits about since Joss Whedon left. To make it awesome again, Greg Pak has to essentially beat fans upside the head with a baseball bat to distract them from all the action that's going on with the other Regenesis books. It's not easy, but the cover definitely helps.

Now before I begin, I'd like to point out one of my many pet peeves. Right up there with waking up hung over in a Chicago crack house, I have a slight aversion to covers of comics that are deceptive. What you see on a cover isn't always what happens in the actual book. That's okay to a point, but when the cover is deceptive I call foul. Maybe I'm weird in addition to being a drunk, but I don't like deception in my comics. If I wanted deception, I'd watch the presidential debates. So when a cover of Cyclops kissing Storm is prominent, I'm left with mixed feelings. Is this shit just that proverbial baseball bat to the head I mentioned earlier? Or is it real? Well that's what this comic is supposed to answer and I'll have to see if I end up in another crack den once it's over.

Astonishing X-men #44 does something that previous Astonishing books haven't from the get-go. It actually ties into the continuity of the other X-books. The issue takes place shortly after Schism. Wolverine and his crew have given Cyclops the finger and left Utopia. Cyclops's wounds from the ass-kicking he endured from Wolverine still haven't healed. Physically, he's fine. But as Dr. Rao narrates, inside he might as well be Lance Armstrong's surgically removed testicle. It's a great moment because we haven't seen Cyclops really deal with the emotional aspect of seeing his friends leave. Contrary to what his detractors my say, he's not a fucking statue. He has emotions and when he shows them he does it in a very badass way.

So Cyclops is in a shitty mood, so much so that he even shuts Emma Frost out and risks never seeing her naked again. But let's face it. Even the power of Emma Frost's pussy has it's limits when the mutant race has been divided and Cyclops holds himself responsible. So while he's moping like the whiny prick he tends to be at times like this, Storm shows up. And she shows in a way that even Lady Gaga would envy. She doesn't give much reason other than she goes where she's needed and right now Cyclops needs the company of a caring woman that doesn't belittle him or dies whenever shit gets heavy. She's also sporting Janet Jackson style abs and a mohawk. That may or may not be a bad sign, but it looks awesome so who gives a shit?

But Storm doesn't show up just to give Cyclops a Dr. Phil style pep talk. She actually shows up to pick a fight. It seems random, but keep in mind Storm was once co-leader of the X-men before Marvel shacked her up with Black Panther. It surprises some observers, but Cyclops reacts as you would expect the X-leader to react. He fights back and even while she explains to him that she stayed because he asked/begged her to. That means it's her job to put him in his place when he needs it. And unlike Emma Frost, he can't use the power of his penis to placate her. In many ways that makes her the only one who can truly stand up to Cyclops and measure up on every level.

The fight continues, but it has a very different tone compared to say the fight where Wolverine and Cyclops beat the shit out of each other in Schism. It actually gets creative with Cyclops using his blasts in unique ways to block Storm's lightning. At some point Cyclops even starts laughing. You almost get the sense their either flirting or this is their version of foreplay. Either way is sufficiently awesome, but it does seem to make a point. It kick starts Cyclops initiative, reminding him that moping about losing Wolverine and his team doesn't solve jack shit. He's still the leader of the X-men and he needs to pick his balls up all the floor, stuff them in his scrotum, and lead the X-men again.

Once Cyclops's balls are secure, Storm asks for his assistance on a mission. So I guess that means she didn't just arrive to give his ass a much needed kick. It doesn't matter because a mission is usually the best distraction for someone like Cyclops and Storm probably knows that. Well that and Emma Frost's tits, but those only go so far. Storm and Cyclops hop in the X-jet and travel to Santo Marco. They don't take a whole team. This is supposed to be Cyclops's healing mission. Assuming Wolverine doesn't kick his ass again, it can only go up.

When they arrive it doesn't look all that unusual. It's your typical sentinel battle. It seems overly basic, but it's not completely random. Keep in mind that this happens shortly after Schism. During that event, sentinel plans were leaked all over the world and aggressive countries were waving them around like assless chaps at a gay pride parade. So it's completely reasonable that there would be a few lingering around certain areas. This may not seem like a big deal, but seeing as how Astonishing X-men has always been so disconnected from the other X-books it's nice to have some connections with this series.

The fight unfolds as normally as you would expect. Cyclops and Storm turn the sentinels into the equivalent of the Zimbabwe economy. It ends pretty quickly with a few nice shots of Storm making Mother Nature her bitch and Cyclops showing why he's more than just the uptight leader that cock-blocks Wolverine around Jean Grey. All this fighting must have gotten Storm in the mood because when it's all over, she grabs Cyclops and plants a big wet one on him. She doesn't ask. It was somewhat built up towards after all the coy remarks from earlier. And it perfectly matches what is described on the cover. So in that sense it isn't a deception. This shit does happen. Cyclops and Storm kiss. Take a moment to enjoy this scene because it's a rare moment for the X-men. Cyclops and Storm haven't been involved in this kind of emotional upheaval before and it's truly a sight to behold.

Then the hangover sets in. That kiss...well, there is a touch of deception after all. Because once Cyclops stops thinking with his penis, he realizes something is up. And as soon as he realizes it, the truth is revealed. This shit didn't actually happen in a literal sense. It was all in his head. That's right. It was just a telepathic dream, not unlike the role playing shit he did with Emma Frost during Grant Morrison's run. When he wakes up, he's in a glass tube and so is Emma Frost. She doesn't seem to bust his balls over him kissing Storm so I assume it's not a big deal. It really does sort of take away from the cover and the moment we just witnessed. Not only that, there are other familiar faces in nearby tubes, but they appear to be from alternate universes as is implied by a kid Nightcrawler and a Wolverine who looks like an 80s porn star. So not only was the kiss not real, it may be with a completely different Storm.

Now this is disappointing in a big way. It's one thing if Cyclops kisses 616 Storm. But when he just swaps spit with a Storm from another dimension, it loses all impact because it means that 616 Storm will be completely unaffected. The shitty marriage she has with Black Panther is still intact. Cyclops can basically use that excuse on Emma Frost and while I suspect she'll still punish him with candle wax and handcuffs, it really won't change anything. And that's what really brings down this issue. The drama that was promised by the cover, while not entirely deceptive, ends up having little meaning. It's like going to a rock concert and getting Justin Bieber. It's underwhelming and pretty damn frustrating.

While Cyclops is trapped, we get a glimpse of what appears to be either an alternate dimension or a remote area that's under the thumb of your typical corrupt tyrant. The tyrant looks suspiciously like Brad Pitt before he cut his hair and beside him is Storm. He doesn't go by a name. He just calls himself and Storm the savior of these people. Now usually the savior is just a matter for for a cult leader's penis, but not much else is given here. It ends the book on a confusing and disappointing note. For an issue that was so promising in the beginning, it's yet another instance of Astonishing being the third non-football playing Manning brother of the X-books.

Going back to my pet peeve from earlier, I'm left with mixed emotions here. On one hand the cover wasn't completely deceptive. Cyclops and Storm did kiss. However, it doesn't seem to have happened in the real world. It seemed to happen completely in Cyclops's head. And it's not even clear if this is the Storm from 616. It may be yet another alternate reality version, which would be okay if we didn't have that shit going on in other books like Uncanny X-Force. It's starting to feel like that baseball bat again. It's just a blow to the head to get the reader's attention. It worked, but what it delivered inside was only so-so at best. It's like going into an expensive whore house and only getting a hand job.

Aside from the cover, there was a decent story here. Greg Pak's style is very character focused, not unlike Mike Carey's. He actually takes the time to show Cyclops with a little emotion. He also puts together an interesting plot that has Cyclops and Storm teaming up on a mission that may or may not be just a figment of Cyclops's imagination. It twists perceptions in a way that keeps the reader guessing. However, at times it does too good a job of it because by the end it's downright confusing. At what point did all this happen in Cyclops's head? At what point did a Storm from another dimension show up and flirt with Cyclops? At what point did they end up in glass tubes awaiting anal probes? It's very confusing and while I assume that those answers will come in future issues, it just comes off as sloppy at the moment.

Now I like Greg Pak and I like his writing style for this issue. There's definitely some potential here. This is the first time I actually give half a shit about Astonishing and I look forward to seeing more. However, my enthusiasm is very tame even when I'm drunk. The premise is good, but it's just sloppy without knowing any additional details. It would have been nice if Pak squeezed a bit more in. It also would have been nice if the whole cover didn't come of as somewhat deceptive. But it's still the best Astonishing X-men comic to come along in quite some time. So for that I give it a 3 out of 5 with the potential to improve based on future issues. Astonishing X-men needs someone like Greg Pak to kick it in the ass. He's got a lot ahead of him, but he definitely has the tools to make it work. In the future I just wish he would keep the baseball bat in his closet and avoid relying on crazy covers. Nuff said!

Friday, November 25, 2011

X-men Supreme Reflections: Warren Worthington III is LIVE!

The family dramas in the world of X-men Supreme continue with Supreme Reflections. This fanfiction series has dug deep into the personal affairs of the X-men on many occassions. Previous entries with Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Beast have brought out many revelations that will have a significant impact in the future of X-men Supreme. One character that endured some serious personal hardships towards the end of X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers was Warren Worthington III. He's rich. He's handsome. He has wings that allow him to fly. Yet he has a huge problem with his family name. Why is that? Some major clues have already been laid out. Now Supreme Reflections adds more layers to that cake. I worked long and hard on it so I hope you all enjoy learning more about everyone's favorite winged X-man!

Supreme Reflections: Warren Worthington III

So there's only one entry left for this volume of Supreme Reflections. After that, I have something very special planned for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. It's not quite time for Volume 3 to begin yet. Before this fanfiction series can move forward, it's important to flesh out the past. Supreme Reflections can only do so much. I have something much larger in mind that will add to it! Stay tuned for more updates. Since the holidays are upon us, additions to the pics and bios section will be slower. Rest assure, they will come. But for now, my focus is on completing Supreme Reflections and setting the stage for X-men Volume 3.

As always, I strongly urge everyone to review each entry of this fanfiction series. You can do so either by posting comments on each issue or by contacting me directly. Either way is fine. Thanks again to all those who have supported this fanfiction series. There's still plenty more to come! Until next time, take care and best wishes! Excelsior!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wolverine and the X-men #2 - Horror Show of Awesome

Pop quiz. What contains homicidal 12-year-old kids and gives you nightmares about school? If you answered your average Baltimore public school, congratulations! You're both right and emotionally scarred just like yours truly! But Wolverine and the X-men is also an acceptable answer. This new X-men series by Jason Aaron that spun out of the events of X-men Schism stole the show of the X-men Regenesis event the same way hair metal bands stole the 80s. It was by far the freshest, most complete X-men comic in a good long while. It wasn't just a story about the X-men returning to Westchester. It set the stage for a completely new world of X that combines the horrors of school with the awesome of X-men kicking ass. On the surface it looks like nitro and glycerine. But with the way Jason Aaron put it together, it was more like strippers and cocaine. It's a match made in comic book heaven.

Wolverine and the X-men #1 was all about setting up this new environment for Wolverine's new team. He had ended his bromance with Cyclops. He spit in his face and convinced a good chunk of Utopia's residents to follow him rather than hang out on a hunk of rock in the middle of San Francisco. With them, he formed the Jean Grey Institute for Higher Learning. It's a new school named after the woman Wolverine desperately wanted to bone, but never got a chance. So already it's on shaky ground. Jason Aaron spent much of the issue showing Wolverine and Kitty Pryde giving a tour to a couple of humorless bureaucrats from the New York Department of Education. It ends as well as you would expect with the institute being attacked by a giant Earth monster at the hands of the kid Hellfire Club. I still don't think it's quite as bad as my first day of high school, but it's in the same ballpark.

Enter Wolverine and the X-men #2. Whereas the last issue give the readers a good feel for the Jean Grey Institute, this issue is dedicated to blowing it the fuck up. The kid Hellfire Club may be annoying as hell and the only real eye-rolling detail of this new series, but they know how to bring the heat. It's not enough to just throw killer robots at the X-men. They have to summon a giant fucking Earth monster. And it's pretty effective. Wolverine is poorly equipped to handle shit like this so the issue actually starts off with little flashback from Iceman. It was a short little recollection of just before the school was built. Wolverine encouraged Bobby to be to this institute what Tim Tebow was to the Florida Gators. That means he has to amaze the other students without channeling Jesus. And on the very next page he does just that by kicking the giant Earth monster's ass.

Now a giant Earth monster is all well and good, but the X-men have faced that shit before. This is Wolverine and the X-men. How can Jason Aaron raise the stakes here? How about one of the Hellfire kids revealing that he poisoned those two humorless bureaucrats I mentioned earlier so that they turn into monsters when they encounter pants-shitting terror? I admit it actually makes the bureaucrats slightly less humorless and possibly more respectable, but it's still a hell of a touch. And keep in mind these are the people the X-men have to get approval of if they want their school to function. So it renders the X-men that much more screwed, but it does so in a very creative way. It's like being fucked by a dominatrix that's triple jointed. There's just so much you can do with it.

At this point I'm starting to get a funny feeling and it's not that same feeling I got the first time I walked into a strip club. That feeling is that the Hellfire kids are actually starting to get kind of awesome. Sure they're utterly random and completely fucked up on a level that really upsets the premise of the story, but they actually are starting to show their worth here. How do they do that? An army of Frankenstein monsters equipped with flame-throwers. I'll repeat that just so it sinks in. They sick an army of Frankenstein monsters armed with flame throwers on the X-men. It's as awesome as it sounds.

Now don't think for a second that this overwrites the fact that the Hellfire kids are still a fucked up concept that came out of nowhere during Schism. The idea of 12-year-old sociopaths suddenly becoming the Hellfire Club and carrying themselves like competent super-villains defies all sorts of physics both real world and comic book alike. And yet they are capable of delivering some level of awesome. Frankenstein monsters with flame throwers may sound like something you come up with passed out drunk on a toilet in mid-shit. But the way Aaron puts it together just works.

By works I mean it allows Wolverine to throw himself into an army of monsters and just start kicking ass. Iceman and Rachel Grey join in as well, making for an action sequence that has all the right elements for an X-men comics. You have super-powered mutants fighting monsters under the control of homicidal kids. It's wonderfully choreographed and every bit as chaotic as you would expect. Wolverine shines, but he's not the only one. Just because his name is on the title doesn't mean others can't step up. Iceman remains a prominent contributor and even Beast joins the show. That's right. For once Beast isn't a whiney little bitch! Thanks, Mr. Aaron. Beast was getting too easy to hate.

But in the midst of all this fighting, there's still a chance shit can get bland. I know that sounds impossible when an army of Frankenstein monsters armed with flame throwers are involved, but it's still possible. Thankfully, this issue isn't just mindless action, although it wouldn't be a total loss if it was. There's still some room for drama. That drama comes with the students who are doing their best to get away from shit like this. A couple of those students were pretty prominent in the last issue. Idie was one and so was Broo, a Brood with a face that looks like it's composed of hippopotamus shit yet is amazingly cute for someone that belongs to a race best known for senseless slaughter. Now you would think that these two would have about as much chemistry as ammonia and bleach. But during the midst of the carnage, Idie saves Broo and he makes his appreciation (and affection) apparent. I'm not sure if Brood get boners, but I'm pretty sure that Idie gave him one.

Now aside from this being disturbingly adorable, it highlights another element of the series that has played out in other X-books. Regenesis has brought about a realignment of sorts with all the teams. As such, it's also brought about some new relationships. Some of those appeared in Generation Hope. Well Aaron is doing the same here and it adds just the right touch. Granted, Broo and Idie are an unusual choice, but it's X-men. If you want normal romance, go see a Hugh Grant movie.

The drama is still minor. The attack by the Frankenstein army is still going strong and the X-men just never trained for Frankenstein monsters with flame throwers. So someone has to step up and this time that someone is Iceman. Remember, the issue started with a flashback that had Wolverine saying Iceman needed to make a big ass statement of sorts. Well he makes that statement in a way that almost as awesome as Frankenstein carrying a flamethrower. He uses his ice powers to create Multiple style clones of his. Now this may sound like a power that comes from nowhere, but Iceman himself narrates the scene. He describes how despite being the only guy in the Original Five not to get a fucking saga named after him, he has all sorts of untapped potential. Remember, he's an omega class mutant. Those mutants can do some pretty amazing shit and an army of Icemen is amazing by any measure.

The Iceman army turn the tide of the battle. He even finds a way to sneak in a kiss with Kitty. What? You can't say you wouldn't do that too if you could make an army of clones. But the Hellfire kids, fucked up a concept they may be, are resourceful. If an army of flame-thrower wielding Frankensteins aren't enough, there's still that pesky Earth monster they led with. But that monster didn't come from just anywhere either. That monster is actually a very old X-men villain from back in the day of the All New, All Different X-men. That monster is Karoka, a living island with an appetite for flesh and is more ugly than Ron Jeremy's anus. It leaves the X-men and their school pretty much at the mercy of a land monster.

In the midst of this attack, many confused students and staff remain inside hoping they don't get eaten. But one student that is somewhat unconcerned is Quentin Quere. Now this kid has done quite a number on the X-men. Keep in mind, he's the one that set Schism into motion. He's also an omega class mutant and he seems to know he has the power to stop this shit before school becomes a pile of rubble...again. But he's not doing anything. Why would he? Well, aside from the fact that he's pissed off everyone and has nowhere else to go. It ends the book with a bit of intrigue as to what role Quentin is going to play. The X-men need an omega level psychic and Quentin is the last guy they would pick. But then again that's part of the appeal!

Since the X-men Regenesis event took shape, every book has taken on it's own identity. Some aren't too different from their predecessors. Others have had only minor tweaks. But Wolverine and the X-men is by far the most unique and the most refreshing because it brings an element of fun to the mix. It doesn't attempt to be too deep or explore really complex dramas. It's not overly basic either. It's a guy and his buddies trying to run a school that a bunch of killer kids are trying to destroy. It's a simple concept that is made fun, exciting, and charming. In that sense it's somewhat like Justin Bieber, but with a less annoying voice and less paternity suits. This issue continues that same theme while throwing in plenty of amazing action sequences as well while even squeezing in a little basic drama. Jason Aaron covered every possible base and even made Iceman more awesome in the process. He couldn't have done much more if he juggled flaming swords while making sweet love to Hallie Barry while writing this issue.

These simple yet fun elements along with the overall tone of the book help give Wolverine and the X-men the charm that really sets it apart from the rest of the X-books. The addition of old enemies like Karoka adds a nice touch of connection between this book and the X-men's rich past. For some, however, the army of Frankenstein monsters may have been a bit juvenile. Almost as much as the entire concept of the kid Hellfire Club. But I've already belabored that point and it hasn't really taken away from the issue. It's like being pepper sprayed countless times for trying to sneak a picture of a girl's underwear. After a while you develop a immunity. Since most of this issue is all action, that may be a bit too basic for some. However, the overall presentation and the way it's put together is still a thing of beauty.

Two issues in and I can safely say that Wolverine and the X-men has surprised me. I thought I knew what to expect with this series. Jason Aaron has not only proven me wrong, he's given me a metaphorical kick in the nuts that may be a bit jarring at first, but like a masochist in a bullfight it quickly grows on you. This series isn't just setting up a new school and a new set of relationships between the characters. It's making the X-books fun again. In an era where everything is so grim and serious, this is like an enema to a constipated elephant. It releases so much pent up material that it's a spectacle to behold but in a not shitty way. I give Wolverine and the X-men #2 a 5 out of 5. I could make another poop joke to further reinforce my point that this is an awesome comic, but I'm hoping that people will just take my drunken word for it. Nuff said!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

X-men #21 - International Incident (of Awesome)

There are very few things in this world that mixes well with politics. It's a standard law of the universe that if you really want to fuck something up, throw politics into it. It'll do more damage than inviting Charlie Sheen to your bachelor party. Politics fucks up with religion. It fucks up the economy. It fucks up society. So why wouldn't it fuck up comics? Well politics is like nitroglycerine. It doesn't take much to set it off, but if properly administered it can make the awesome explode off the page. Civil War proved this. So Marvel actually has some credibility when it comes to mixing politics with their books and after the events of X-men Schism, there ought to be some political undertones. I can only imagine the kind of rants Glenn Beck goes on when he discusses mutants. The drawings on his chalk board would probably make most people gouge their eyes out in disgust.

Victor Gischler's adjectiveless X-men kick started their new venture into Regenesis with a pretty solid issue. I gave it a 3.5 on this blog and made it clear somewhere within my drunken ramblings that it had the potential to be much better. Well X-men #21 must realize that potential as my attention span has been shredded by years of LSD use. It builds on a political conflict that was set up in the previous issue. It's not so convoluted that readers need a shot of adrenaline to follow it. The fictional countries of Latveria and Symkaria are in a dick-measuring contest over a region called Puternicstan. I don't even want to know how that's pronounced or what it refers to. I'll assume Marvel is making a poop joke of sorts. The X-men get involved when Domino discovers some of the dick-measurees jack a sentinel from the black market. Since they just experienced the business end of one too many sentinels during Schism, they have plenty of reasons to stop this shit before it starts.

This is the first mission for the X-men's new security team. Storm leads Colossus, Psylocke, Warpath, and Vampire Jubilee on a mission to locate Domino and unplug the sentinels. Along the way they encounter War Machine, who is acting as the dick measuring tool trying to keep the peace in the area before it turns into Saddam Hussain's old backyard. He tells them to back off. They don't. So they start fighting. At the end of the last issue, War Machine blasts Colossus a couple of football fields down. In the beginning of X-men #21, he returns the favor by ramming him in the back. That's perfect continuity right there folks!

A superhero slap fest always benefits the assholes behind the curtain. In this case that asshole also has breasts. In the previous issue, we were introduced to the governor of Puternicstan. She's basically Hillary Clinton if she became a dictator (which I'm sure is on her to-do list). She's the one that swiped the sentinel from the deal Domino eavesdropped on. She's also the one that ordered the attack on Domino that ended with her getting more roughed up than a stripper at Pacman Jones's bachelor party. She's now a prisoner and an asset because they're not out for using these sentinels for fighting mutants. I mean seriously. They're giant freakin' robots and they're a country surrounded by other asshole countries. Surely, even the government can come up with more creative ways of using them.

The prospect of a country hacking sentinel tech is pretty serious so it's a good thing that War Machine and the X-men decide to kiss and make up. It is a team-up series after all. It happens a bit abruptly though. After shooting at each other and beating the shit out of each other, now they're practically roommates in drug rehab. War Machine, despite being a more no-bullshit and non-pussy obsessed reflection of Iron Man, overlooks the many international laws the X-men are breaking and decides to work with them. It's not terribly contrived, but given how by-the-book War Machine usually is it seems somewhat glossed over.

The one getting screwed over most by this scuffle is Domino. She's supposed to be the lucky one yet she still wound up on the business end of a sentinel's wammo blast. And no, that's not a prison rape joke. The underpaid government scientists that retrieved her think she's dead. They describe how they're going to perform an autopsy, presumably after they loan her out to a few necrophiliacs. I'm sure there's a market for that in Europe somewhere. But while Domino wasn't lucky enough to avoid getting plastered in a way that doesn't involve Russian vodka, she does survive. That usually means the guys that want to cut her up are in deep shit.

With War Machine's help and Psylocke's telepathy, the X-men track down Domino's signature. They encounter the kind of random guards you would expect, the ones who always get their ass kicked in every superhero comic. It's a pretty standard flow of action so we'll take a moment to honor their sacrifice. It doesn't get dragged out more than it needs to because the X-men eventually find what their looking for.

Actually, I'm just fucking with you. Seriously, when does it ever go that smoothly? They find a whole fucking army of sentinels. And this after just one nearly killed Domino. This time the governor ditches the underpaid security guards and brings in her version of Seal Team 6. They're the same guys who managed to steal this tech in the first place and now they have it at their disposal. So it's really a much fairer fight than usual. It forces War Machine, Storm, and Colossus to try an air assault and hope NATO doesn't mistake them for weather balloons and try to cover up their wreckage.

While these fireworks are going off, Domino surprises her would-be morticians. She's not too fond of their eagerness to dissect her so she grabs a scalpel and plays the role of psycho bitch. She even manages to tie up one of the doctors. Now usually when a beautiful woman ties you up, that either means you paid extra or you're about to get screwed in all the wrong ways. In this case it's the latter because Domino breaks free and even takes their coffee as an extra fuck you. For someone who was nearly killed in the last issue, it's a great way to redeem her badassery.

All this action is being closely watched by Hillary Clinton wannabe from your standard observation deck. She actually goes into a little history surrounding this fictional country to show she's not quite as evil as Hillary Clinton. She was a little girl in a country that was essentially a whipping boy for other countries with bigger guns. Even Poland probably fucked them up a bit when they got bored. Well she decided that they weren't going to take that shit anymore. And who can blame her? What country wants to be the international equivalent of a semen encrusted sock underneath a 16-year-old boy's bed? Giant killer robots actually seems viable as twisted as that sounds.

Now some may think this background info is a useless waste of ink that could be otherwise utilized for more action scenes. But this is actually something Gischler hasn't done much of in the past. He's been good with providing style, but not a lot of substance. This is the kind of substance that may have saved Curse of the Mutants. It's overdue, but it was worth the wait!

It helps bring the next scene together in a perfectly harmonious way. As Storm, War Machine, and Colossus come in to aid Jubilee, Psylocke, and Warpath the sentinels are activated. This time they don't go on their usual 'destroy all mutants' schtick. Well, they do except their programming has been tweaked so that when they see War Machine, they think he's a mutant. Granted, there are probably mutants out there that look like men in a suit of armor, but it sets an ominous precedent. Now this country that's been everybody's bitch for so long has sentinels that will attack whoever they tell them to attack and that includes War Machine. So we've got a small robot versus a big robot. Unlike certain lies women say about penises, size does matter and War Machine is left in deep shit as the sentinels start to flex their muscle in preparation for the next issue.

Earlier in this review, I talked about unrealized potential. The last issue threw a lot of pieces into place, but this issue really brought them together in a way that even politics couldn't fuck up. It's not often I'm this impressed by Gischler's narrative, but I'm okay with saying he didn't just realize that potential. He made it his personal bitch. The political undertones with Puternicstan using the sentinels worked perfectly with the themes that were already set up in recent stories. It almost makes you wonder why some corrupt government didn't think of this sooner. It seems so obvious! Tweaking sentinels to attack non-mutants and testing it out on War Machine. Then again, anyone who has ever been ignored at the DMV knows corrupt governments aren't known for being proactive.

There was plenty of action and suspense to go around. Domino showed once again that she's more than a little lucky and not just because that uniform of her is able to contain her breasts. The X-men displayed a more subtle type of badassery as they attempted to rescue Domino only to find out they had yet another sentinel army to deal with. They did manage to make up with War Machine, albeit in an overly convenient sort of way. It was light on drama, but practical when you get right down to it. When killer robots are on the louse in a politically sensitive area, you really don't have time to be too elaborate. Gischler understood this and focused on setting the stage for another killer robot assault. I know it's been done before, but if it keeps working why change it?

This is the most complete issue of the adjectiveless X-men series in a long time. I knew Gischler was capable of this kind of awesome. He just never reached it. Well with this issue, he's made good on many promises and delivered the kind of story that you might not expect to be engaging on the surface but still is very enjoyable once you actually sit your ass down and read it. There's not much keeping it down other than some erratic pacing at times, but it still works in the end. That's why I give X-men #21 a 4.5 out of 5. You've proven yourself, Mr. Gischler! I know I already owe Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron a lot of beers for their recent work. Don't worry! I'll make sure I save some for you when the time comes. Nuff said!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

X-23 #17 - Teen Drama Awesome

I usually don't need an excuse to drown my sorrows in booze, but when I have a damn good one I milk that excuse for all it's worth. If I sound like I'm hung over, then congradulations. You just won the award for understatement of the century. Right now I feel like Superman and the Hulk are having a tap-dancing contest inside my skull. That's the kind of hangover you get after you find out a quality comic book series like X-23 has been cancelled. That's right. It was made official earlier this week. This series, which happens to be the only series Marvel has going that features a female lead, is ending at issue 22. Way to strike a blow for feminism, Marvel!

There's no way around it. This news sucks. Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows that I'm a big fan of X-23 under Marjorie Liu. It's a different kind of X-men comic with it's own unique blend of awesome. It isn't all about women in skin-tight outfits fighting killer robots. It's a coming of age story for a teenage girl who happens to be Wolverine's daughter/clone. It's a story that won't have the same theatrics as Schism or Fear Itself, but it'll develop a character that deserves developing. Now it's ending and I'm left saddened, hung over, and maybe a little emotional. Excuse me while I question my masculinity.

But hung over or not, I'll still review this series! It's not over yet so the women of the world can enjoy a Marvel comic with a female lead for just a bit longer. Marjorie Liu has a story to tell to the testicle-driven world of comics and she sure as hell is going to tell it. She's coming off an arc where X-23 made some new friends with the FF and some new enemies with interdimensional tyrants. It was one of those out-there type stories that was confusing at times, but an entertaining spectacle not unlike watching your uncle with a spastic colon light his own farts. Now X-23 has new allies that happen to have a lot of awesome connections and a new appreciation for cosmic forces. Where could she possibly go after shit like that?

X-23 #17 begins by using a similar tactic that the previous arc used. It revists a plot that was touched on early in the series. This one involves our old friend Julian Keller, aka the tempramental teenage boy that wants to bone Laura. Now I can appreciate having such a death with, but he's undergone some changes since that early arc. First he lost his hands and now has to slam the ham with telekinesis-driven prosthetics. Then in Wolverine and the X-men #1 he was shown to be part of the newly found Jean Grey Institute for Higher Learning. Apparently, he's not all that friendly with his new surroundings. He's a reclusive dick cheese and Wolverine doesn't like that. So he decides to sit down with him and have a chat because the institute is fucked up enough without hostile teenage boys. Wait a minute...that makes it no better than my old high school! WTF?

Since Wolverine doesn't appear to be making any progress with this kid, he brings in the only force capable of reaching the stubborn mind of a teenage boy...a teenage girl. Suddenly, Hellion realizes that living like a pig and acting like an ass makes a guy stink in the eyes of a girl that may or may not be willing to bone him. Wolverine seems confident that X-23 can get Hellion to open up, if for no other reason than to inch his way closer into her panties. But this isn't just a case of Wolverine pimping his clone/daughter to one of his messed up students. Anyone who followed X-23 in the early arcs knows that X-23 and Hellion have a history. By history I mean they seem to want to bone each other, but shit keeps getting in the way. X-23 fought Hellverine to save Hellion (does that count as irony), but she didn't even say goodbye to him before she left. So there are some unresolved feelings here that are finally getting explored.

They finally start talking and Hellion stops talking as if his penis is seven feet long. He essentially tells X-23 about why he's been so pissed off lately. Never mind that he had his hands blown off. He had to to seriously hurt people (see the post-Second Coming arc of X-men Legacy) when no one else was willing to. He admits he does some lousy shit and he's a bit of an asshole, but he sees himself as a necessary asshole. He's also not so self-absorbed that he think he would last long outside the institute or Utopia by himself. Everyone thinks he's a danger and even he seems to believe it now. But if anyone can understand what it's like to be dangerous, it's X-23. It makes you sense that if there's anyone who would shack up with him in a way that isn't out of pity, it's X-23.

Unfortunately, X-23 doesn't offer much input on her own. In fact, she doesn't offer much of anything. Once Hellion finishes venting, she turns around to leave. So she goes through the trouble of coming back to the institute to see the boy she never said goodbye to that wants to bone her and then she just leaves? That's two WTFs. I honestly don't see the point of her showing up if she's not going to say anything. However, that doesn't excuse what Hellion does in response. Granted, he has somewhat of a right to be upset, but when he grabs in in a very Ike Turner sort of way he crosses the line from sympathetic asshat to just plain asshat. His only saving grace is that Gambit shows up to tell X-23 that she has a call from the FF. He also makes it a point to tell Hellion that if he touches X-23 or any other woman like that again, he'll need an electron microscope to find what's left of his penis.

Now some those who have been following the X-23/Hellion soap opera may be taken aback by this. Hellion is an ass, but he seems to cross a line here by getting rough with X-23. Never mind that X-23 could probably kill in ten times before his body hit the ground. This is a low for him that really comes out of nowhere in the context of this relationship. Earlier in this series, he went out of his way to save her. Now he's getting outright hostile with her. I get that he's been fucked up since then, but that's no excuse and it just doesn't seem to fit.

X-23 leaves Hellion to ponder his collapsed scrotum while Sue Richards of the FF ropes her into babysitting Franklyn and Valerie. Now you would think hiring a teenage Wolverine clone with a long list of issues sounds like shitty parenting, but seeing as how X-23 earned the FF's trust in the past arc and Sue exhausted all their options they give her the benefit of the doubt. So she and Reed don't come off as complete assholes. Gambit drives X-23 to the FF building on his way to a date. I have no idea where the date came from, but it's Gambit. For some reason women can't resist the urge to throw their panties at him.

When she arrives, it's very simple in the Marvel sort of way. Reed and Sue give X-23 the standard rundown and lecture his kids on not causing any trouble. Of course for them, trouble can involve a science experiment that blows up several time zones so it's not as typical as it seems. Knowing X-23 has handled inter-dimensional tyrants, you would assume she could handle herself. But when you really think about it in a less than sober mind, she's probably more safe taking on the inter-dimensional tyrant.

Babysitting the Richards children sounds as twisted as you would expect. By some accounts X-23 is a cool babysitter and not because she wears skin-tight clothes. She lets Franklyn and Valeria use their patented time window so they can see into the past. It's their version of picking a movie to watch. Then Franklyn says he wants to go into the past and pet the dinosaur, but to do so would require the energy of a half-megaton nuclear bomb. This is where X-23 draws the line. That doesn't make her less cool. It just makes her sane.

As was the case with my old babysitter, X-23 gets a call from her brooding boy toy. Unlike my old babysitter, she doesn't run up the phone bill by having phone sex with him. It's Hellion and he's trying to apologize for being a total dick-cheese. He also happens to be standing outside the FF building because he's the kind of guy that would follow a girl he got rough with, further adding to his douche-bag factor. X-23 resists the urge to fall into every babysitting trap ever made. She's still not saying much to Hellion other than he didn't hurt her and she doesn't want him to come up. You get the sense that she has more to say, but like Wolverine words are not her foray. Cutting shit up with her claws is.

Well luckily or unluckily, her chat with Hellion gets cut short because the Richards kids insist on being mischievous once more. They just can't resist tampering with the FF's technology. This goes about as well as you would expect. And if you expected that the tampering would cause the time window to rupture and free an angry dragon, then congratulations. You're both correct and you clearly got into my stash. At this point X-23 has to cease being a babysitter and start playing guardian. She also gets a chance to work off any anger she may feel towards Hellion without cutting off more of his limbs.

We get a nice shot of Reed and Sue, who appear to be having a nice time on their date. For once, they don't have to be in the thick of the shit storm when monsters from other dimensions emerge. For once, they can leave it to the babysitter that used to be a former living weapon. Needless to say, the dragon quickly makes a mess of things. It grabs both Franklyn and Valeria and X-23 grabs onto it's tail for a ride. There's a lesson about babysitting superhero kids in here somewhere. Or maybe it's just a lesson about dragons being douche-bags. Either way, it makes much more sense than the whole cosmic storyline from the previous arc and it's that much more enjoyable.

So I guess it's safe to say that this issue was a return to basics. When you can't tell a convoluted story about cosmic forces and inter-dimensional tyrants, just go with killer dragons and babysitting mishaps that could fit into any 80s teen movie. It's a simple contrast that's not too down to Earth by Marvel standards. And once again, Marjorie Liu demonstrates remarkable coherence in having the previous arc fuel the events of this arc, even if it is just the FF looking for a babysitter. That ended up being more relevant than X-23's unresolved drama with Hellion. Although between Hellion and the dragon, I would still say X-23 is better off dealing with the dragon.

That leads me to the main crux of this issue and it has nothing to do with dragons. The relationship between X-23 and Hellion has been poorly developed, but the chemistry was certainly apparent. Marjorie Liu had a great opportunity to really develop it, whether it brought them together or tore them apart. She opened up some old wounds with Hellion, but it seemed somewhat inconsistent with his recent developments. If you read Wolverine and the X-men #1 where Hellion showed up and then read this issue, you would have a hard time identifying them as the same character. In addition, Hellion came off as a wife-beater in training. Against someone like X-23, that's tantamount to waving your dick in the face of a hungry grizzly. Even he has to understand that it doesn't work and it paints the relationship between the two characters in a very unsavory way, which in my drunken opinion doesn't fit as it currently stands. But it looks like that problem is going to be worked out somewhere between babysitting and dragon slaying in the next issue.

Issues involving relationships are always somewhat messy. It's like being a maid at Gary Busey's house. You'll run into some fucked up things. But everything else around it was nicely developed. Using the FF again and setting X-23 up to face the horrors that the Richards children can unleash was done in a charming manner. Fans of the Hellion/X-23 relationship will definitely want to stick around to see what happens with them in the next issue. Fans of seeing X-23 beat the shit out of snarling monsters will want to see it as well. See! Everybody's happy! Congress can learn a lesson from comics, amongst other things. That's why I give X-23 #17 a 4.5 out of 5. It's not missing too many pieces. But it has a dragon in it so that's more than enough to deem it awesome. Nuff said!

Friday, November 18, 2011

X-men Supreme Reflections: Warren Worthington III PREVIEW

I wasn't able to update within a week this time, but that doesn't mean I'm still not hard at work on the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Volume 2 of Supreme Reflections is past the halfway point. I've had a lot of fun developing the Original Five X-men that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made so endearing nearly a half-century ago. They've help me set the stage for what I have planned in X-men Supreme Volume 3. But that's still a ways off. I have much more I want to explore with X-men Supreme Reflections. I've had a great time developing Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Beast. However, none of them went through quite the same turmoil at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers as Angel. He not only confronted issues with his father. He came face to face with his ex-girlfriend, who broke his heart yet again. What's the story behind this? Well that's what Supreme Reflections is going to explore! I've prepared a preview here to show what can be expected of this latest entry into the mind of everyone's favorite winged mutant.

Warren Worthington III may very well be the most sarcastic and cynical person on the face of the planet at the moment. Considering the planet just made it through a close call with mass extinction, this was really saying something. But if Warren was a betting man, he would wager his entire family fortune that he harbored more bitterness than anyone could ever hope to match.

It was a tragedy and not of the Shakespearean kind either. He just found out the last two years of his life had been tainted by one big lie. Even though he had grown used to lies from the world outside the X-men, this one hurt. It hurt in ways no words could describe. His heart, his soul, and his very will to continue was shaken. While the X-men and the rest of the world worked to undo the damage done by Magneto, Warren Worthington III had some more personal repairs of his own to take care of.

He needed to get away from it all. He needed a clear head and a quiet place. In his experience there was nowhere on Earth quiet enough to wrestle with these issues so his only sanctuary was up in the sky within the clouds. It was probably the best use of his powers. Every day he would just step outside and go on a nice flight, taking refuge in the calm surrounding of the clear blue skies. Today happened to have the perfect weather. The winds were light, the sky was clear, and the temperatures were just right. For the past hour he had been flying around the mansion and the lake, trying to get away from everything on the ground that had caused him so much pain.

I wish I could live the rest of my days up here in the sky. It’s so much simpler up here. There’s no conflict, no heartbreak, and aside from the occasional jet fumes it smells a lot nicer too. It would be so great if I could just leave it all behind. Lord knows I’ve tried before. Even if I look like an angel, there are times I feel outright damned.

It’s pretty ironic because there aren’t many people who wouldn’t hesitate to switch places with me. I’m young, I’m handsome, I’m rich, and I can fly. It’s like I won the lottery three times in a row the day I was born. Who wouldn’t want to grow up in that kind of environment? The Worthington family isn’t just rich. They’re obscenely rich with billions of dollars of wealth. We have so much money that even the most reckless human being in the world couldn’t spend it all in one lifetime. You don’t just get a silver spoon when you’re born. You get a diamond encrusted, platinum plated, gold molded arsenal of eating utensils that you use to shovel the most expensive cuisine in existence into your mouth as if it were chocolate.

That all sounds nice on paper, but there is a long list of caveats. The cynics are right in this respect. It is lonely at the top sometimes. Money really cannot buy away problems. As if that weren’t enough, more money tends to attract more problems. Throw a family legacy and a multi-billion dollar enterprise that five generations of Worthingtons have built and you’ve got the kind of enigmas that Einstein himself couldn’t crack.

None of these problems are clear at the beginning. I sure didn’t feel that way when I was young. I had damn near everything a kid could want. My room was like a miniature toy store. If I ever wanted something, I would just ask and within a day or so I would have it. One time I wanted the latest Nintendo game, my father’s people actually called Nintendo up in Japan and had them fly the game over to me personally before it even hit the shelves. That’s the kind of wealth we’re dealing with here and I didn’t give it much thought. What kid would? But it became painfully apparent earlier for me than it did with other rich kids and it wasn’t just the burden of a family legacy.

Warren picked up speed as he flew higher into the sky, reaching an altitude just above the cloud-line. He could only fly so high before the air got too thin and or too cold. Whenever he was really upset, he often tested the limits and today was more than appropriate. He was almost at his record for altitude and a fresh stream of blistering cold soon swept over his wings and body. The winged mutant cared little for the shivers that followed. He was willing to do anything at this point to take his mind off his troubles. But even at this altitude, the conflicts of his life still followed him.

As the X-men Supreme fanfiction series prepares for it's thrid volume, it's even more important that I get plenty of feedback. I've noticed the web traffic tapering off with X-men Supreme lately. I know it may be because it's in between volumes, but I would love to find ways to keep this fanfiction series and this website strong. I plan on doing a major special after Supreme Reflection is done. I hope it helps boost this website and this fanfiction series. But if anyone else has any suggestions or feedback, I'd love to hear it! Please contact me at any time and I'll be happy to listen. Until next time, take care and best wishes! Excelsior!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Generation Hope #13 - Generational Awesome

Don't mistake my drunken rants as evidence of my political affiliation. I treat politics in a way similar to my penis. I don't whip it out in public and I don't force it down peoples' throats. I try to do the same with religion. That's exactly why I think it's an appropriate approach for a series like Generation Jean-Ripoff. It's a series that involves a messiah figure that doesn't involve crazy people from Texas running for President. Yet at the same time, it's been more erratic than Rick Perry's brain farts. Some issues have been awesome in ways that blow the mind and shrivel the scrotum. Others have been more fucked up than an Lady Gaga's dresses. So when a new writing team enters the fold, they're coming into an orgy that has just as much potential of being awesome as it does gruesome.

James Asmus takes over for Kieron Gillen at a time when all the X-books are undergoing big change. Schism has passed. Lines have been drawn. Sides have been taken. Balls have been busted. Every series is adjusting a mutant race that can no longer go clubbing in downtown San Francisco during gay pride week. Among the teams most effected were Jea-I mean Hope Summers's lights. Their so-called rescue team couldn't rescue their heads from their asses as Idie became a killer. Yet they still proved that they could kick ass against the Hellfire Club's fancy new sentinel so with Pixie joining in to take Idie's spot (and swapping spit with a few members already) the new team is set to move forward in the new world of Regenesis. I would hope that they along with Asmus treat it as well as I treat my penis.

Generation Hope #13 presumably takes place after the dust has settled from Schism and everybody is getting their butt-cheeks unclenched. Now with a depleted island, Cyclops sees fit to make sure that Je-I mean Hope (sorry, daylight savings fucked me up) are still capable of kicking ass. Sure, they handled a sentinel, but for X-men that's like saying you banged Madonna. It was something to brag about a few decades ago. Now it's no big deal. So to test their wits, Cyclops pits them in an exceedingly lopsided battle against Colossus, Psylocke, Namor, Magneto, Storm, Illyana, and Meltdown. So I guess Cyclops was that unimpressed with their performance in Schism. That roughing up a bunch of teenager mutant wannabes is their way of spending an afternoon.

Overmatched or not, Jea-I mean Hope (daylights saving plus booze does not a coherent brain make) and her lights hold their own. In fact, they do better than hold their own. They actually make the X-men regulars look like they belong in the minor leagues with JaMarcuss Russel and Ryan Leaf. Gabriel is able to outrun both Psylocke and Meltdown. Pixie teleports Colossus to what I assume is a crack den in Moscow while casting a spell on Namor that doesn't involve him fantasizing about another hot blonde. Teon even manages to diss Cyclops by saying Namor is the alpha male.

Now this is a little unbelievable in some ways because these Lights are all still very young. In fact, they haven't been X-men for the comic book equivalent for more than a few months. Yet they're able to go toe-to-toe with the regulars? It's one thing if they were holding back, but it's a bit too competent for a bunch of young mutants getting instruction from someone who may or may not be housing the "city in Arizona" as Cyclops calls it.

Eventually, the regulars get tired of this shit. When Kenji takes on Magneto and uses that Akira rip-off body of his to face-rape the master of magnetism Aliens style, he stops holding back. He pulls a few magnet tricks to rip Kenji's malleable body apart in a way so graphic that even Quentin Tarantino wouldn't put it in his movies. Needless to say this stops the exercise and Magneto gets a good lecture from Cyclops. Magneto reminds him that he's fucking Magneto. He used to want to make meat coats out of humanity. He's not going to go easy on a Japanese kid who tries to face rape him. Yet he still manages to be a douche about it, but again it's Magneto.

What follows next is some potentially interesting insight into Kenji. There really hasn't been much done with him other than show just how creepy he is. But after he pulls himself together, Kenji begins to speculate the more philosophical aspects of being a mutant/living glob. He says every form of his body is linked, but if he separates it does that means he's separating his soul? It's the kind of shit only a stoned artist would make after he found out he's being evicted. But Kenji IS an artist. That's part of his character and this is the first time it's really being explored. I applaud Asmus for this. I'm tempted to applaud how he touches on Gabriel and how using his powers seems to make him age, but Gabriel's been such a douche-bag lately with how he lets his dick do all the thinking that it's hard for me to give three tenths of a shit.

As if Kenji hadn't proven himself creepy enough, he decides to take a page from Gabriel's playbook and do some flirting. But who would he go after? Maybe Surge, another fellow Japanese mutant? Fuck no! That would make too much sense. He goes for Martha Johanssen. Who is Martha Johanssen? Well she's not Scarlet's cuter, more accessible little sister. She's a brain in a jar. No, that's not a lead-in to a Sarah Palin joke. That's what she is. And for some reason, Kenji is attracted to it. I'm tempted to go into elaborate details about how fucked up this is, but Kenji is from Japan. This is the country that gave us tentacle rape porn and panty vending machines. A brain fetish is actually pretty tame for a teenage Japanese artist.

There's so much horniness going around that even Teon gets in on the action. He decides to tempt the Stepford Cuckoos. Let's face it, three hot blond triplets in school girls uniforms will have every man's instincts going into overdrive. But once Hope (there, take that daylight savings!) arrives to spare the Cuckoos one too many semen stains, she finds out they were tracking a mutant in Pakistan that she didn't know about. This pisses her off because she's leader of the rescue team. She's supposed to know about every mutant signature in case they need rescuing. This is one the Cuckoos kept from her and since they won't give her details, she does what any reasonable teenage girl would do and pretty much blows them off in a completely non-porno way.

Now for those of you who haven't kept up with recent events in the X-books, this isn't coming from nowhere. That mutant signature is a result of a fairly recent arc of Uncanny X-men. In that arc, Emma Frost went through a great deal of trouble to slip Sebastian Shaw under the radar of everyone including Cyclops and Namor. She managed to ship him out to Pakistan where she mind-wiped him and hoped she would never have to deal with his sorry ass again. Well now Hope Summers, who just a few issues back threatened to burn Emma Frost to a cinder, has found out about him. You can imagine why this would fuck a lot of shit up.

After using the Cuckoos's own powers, she assembles her lights. Kenji even brings along Martha for good measure because a brain on a stick is just SO useful on a trip to Pakistan. Now Laurie tries to explain to Hope that in this time period Pakistan is about as welcoming as a horny pit bull at a daycare center. But she doesn't listen. She doesn't care if there are terrorists in this part of the world that routinely bomb girls schools for just showing their eyes, let alone walk around naked like Laurie. She doesn't know that this is Sebastian Shaw they're dealing with. She thinks this is another mutant that needs to be stabilized. So she splits the team up to look for him, even putting Gabriel with Pixie just because she needs to keep his penis confused. If you've read Uncanny, you know Hope is walking into a metric fuckton of trouble.

We finally get a chance to dig deeper into these hormone issues. At this point there's mostly talking and not much action. There's a moment where Hope hints that Laurie is attracted to Kenji, but that's so random that even in Pakistan it would be considered fucked up. It's just random talking and it's not the kind of talking that hasn't been done in previous issues, so it kind of drags here. Then Gabriel just talks about how he's a fucked up teenager in a body that's rapidly aging every time he uses his powers. He tries to justify his hormones as being part of his bone-headed decision making when it comes to flirting with anything that even resembles a pair of breasts. Pixie basically tells him off for trying to make her the skank. It isn't until they encounter some guys with guns that the conversation actually starts to get interesting. Really, that's all they do. They talk until people start shooting at them.

It eventually does pick up when Kenji's new squeeze, Martha, finds the signature they're looking for. It's their old buddy Shaw, but they don't know it's Shaw and it's not even clear of Shaw knows he's Shaw. Confused yet? It gets a lot simpler. As the Lights all converge around him, he does something that would be extremely unexpected if it were taking place in any other part of the world. He reveals that he has a bomb strapped to his chest. And since he's Sebastian Shaw and he's in a part of the world known for that sort of thing, it's not terribly surprising when he blows himself up. Now he doesn't give a reason. That's essentially left for the next issue, as are most of the plots revealed in this issue. But it's an explosive way for the issue to end. It finally shoots an enema of action into a comic that didn't really have much and this is the kind that you don't have to lie to your proctologist about.

Now I can already hear the ACLU and the Community for Islamic Relations suing Marvel. It's one thing to have a mission in Pakistan. It's quite another to cater to all the stereotypes about shanty towns, goat farms, and suicide bombers. Please, Marvel. Let's not give Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity anything else to jerk off to when the cameras are off on Fox News. So what if they're accurate. This is the age of political correctness! Truth be damned!

Political correctness aside, this issue was a solid setup issue at the very least. At the most it was one of those charming stories that starts with a mistake and turns into a fiasco that's just awesome to unfold. It's like watching Mike Tysons beat the shit out of Darrel Strawberry. You're not sure why they're beating each other to a pulp, but you're pretty sure they deserve it. James Asmus shows that he has a good handle for these characters. He even dug a little deeper with some elements that Kieron Gillen only touched on like Gabriel's aging and his flirtation with Pixie. He even introduced some new elements like Kenji having a strange fetish (at least by non-Japanese standards). It all culminated in the encounter with Sebastian Shaw at the end, which quickly turned explosive. The man doesn't know who he is, but he's the kind of guy that will blow shit up whenever he gets a chance and that always makes for great X-men stories.

While the setup was nice, it was just that...a setup. I get the feeling that Asmus spent too much time setting shit up and not enough time moving shit forward. There's only so much shit you can set up before it's starts to smell. Now the stench wasn't overpowering here, but it was apparent. Some elements like Gabriel's assessment of his attraction to Hope and Pixie seemed a bit contrived. Laurie's attraction to Kenji just came out of nowhere. I'm not sure if those were setups, but they felt a bit random and that had me scratching my head a few times. Luckily, the picture of a big ass explosion at the end made it all worth it!

Now I try to avoid scoring books on a curve. Setup issues are hard to overly praise because they only put the story in a position for action. At the same time they're a necessary part of every story. Not every issue can start with the characters neck-deep in shit. It's necessary to show them wading through the sewage. In that sense Generation Hope #13 is more than sufficiently awesome. There's a bit too much talking at times, but it succeeds in making the reader want to see the next issue and since Marvel is in the business of selling shit last I checked I can safely say they succeeded. That's why I give Generation Hope #13 a 4 out of 5. Hope and her team have stumbled ass backwards into a fucked up secret that certain people in the X-men don't want revealed. At the rate this story is going, it looks like Jerry Springer will need to make a comeback in order to assess it. Nuff said!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

X-men Legacy #258 - Homecoming Awesome

There are some things in life you don't mind being late. Your tax bill, your alimony payment notices, and the first day of school come to mind. Normally, I would add unresolved plot holes from my favorite comics to that list as well. There was a time where the X-books had a large 900-pound-gorilla in the corner of a room throwing shit in the face of every X-men fan. That gorilla was the absence of Rachel, Havok, and Polaris. These characters were launched into space way back when the old Bush Jr. was still in office and before the housing market collapsed. After they were left to rot in space for a few years, Mike Carey finally polished his large brass balls and took up the challenge of bringing them back in the picture. And wouldn't you know it? He's turned it into a damn good story.

What's made this arc so incredible is that the more you read it, the less pissed you become that it's taken this long for Rachel, Havok, and Polaris to show up again. Now maybe I'm in the minority or I'm just more drunk than usual, but when a decent story emerges from a plot hole that offers a viable explanation for why they weren't around sooner then I'm more willing to overlook the gap. Mike Carey has turned this arc into an epic, sci fi struggle that would give George Lucas a boner.

In a daring rescue effort Rogue, Magneto, Gambit, and Frenzy traveled to the Gul Damar space station where they get caught up in a civil war between the Shi'ar and the Insectoid Gran Nan Holt. They're alien races and not heavy metal bands so bear with me because these guys are the reason that Rachel, Havok, and Polaris couldn't make it home. They were essentially wrecked along the Jersey Turnpike and abducted by the cast of the Jersey Shore where they were brainwashed and mindfucked, in some cases literally. The last issue revealed that this whole fucked up conflict was a direct result of an pissed off Insectoid prisoner named Friendless. He's about as friendly as he sounds because his psychic powers kept everyone, including Rachel, Havok, and Polaris at each others' throats. They managed to break his control, but even the vacuum of space hasn't shut Friendless up. While Rogue and Frenzy try to prevent Gul Damar from falling into a stary, Rachel has to unleash some psychic whoop-ass against Friendless. It all sounds good on paper until one of their Shi'ar buddies, Shovel Redhand, screws them over and tries to outright steal the array and for money no less. It just shows that greed is not bound by species.

X-men Legacy #258 picks up right where the screwing over began. Rachel is fighting a losing battle against Friendless while the rest of the X-men are being used for target practice by Shi'ar weapons. Rogue and Frenzy were in the process of fixing the gravity array before Shovel showed up. While he's in the process of fantasizing about all the alien pussy he'll be able to buy, Rogue and Frenzy try to stop him. But wouldn't you know it? The son-of-a-bitch has a personal force field. Alien pirates. Go figure.

Now keep in mind that Sovel isn't just screwing over the X-men. He's screwing over the thousands if not millions of innocent souls in Gul Damar. But does he care? Fuck no! If it doesn't pay, he doesn't give three tenths of a shit. While he's channeling his inner Somali pirate, Rachel is still in a psychic death match with Friendless. But remember that earlier in this arc, Friendless succeeded in knocking Rachel out cold for days. So who do you think is winning this battle? I'll give you a hint. It's not the one that readers don't masturbate to you unless seeing grotesque, slobbering aliens give you a boner. I'm sure that kind of shit exists in Japan somewhere.

Someone has to turn the tide on Sovel. Since Rachel won't do it, Rogue does as is Mike Carey's tendency. Remember that little teleportation gizmo that Sovel used to transport himself to the gravity controls? Well Rogue swiped that and guess what she does with it? She uses it to call in a little backup. Keep in mind they were in the line of fire of a massive Shi'ar super weapon. Being transported to the top of a space station that's falling into a sun is actually an upgrade, but not by much. They waste no time in taking down Sovel. He's outnumbered and pissed a lot of people off. He really didn't have a chance and that's a good thing. Assholes like him don't get screwed over enough. I don't know if this is a hidden message to the occupy Walls Street crowd, but it's a bit too subtle.

So Sovel goes down quicker than Ricky Martin at Elton John's birthday party. They effectively stop him from swiping the gravity controls and bathing in alien hookers for the next six months. However, he still fucked the thing up so they can't fix it as easily as they hoped. While they're wondering how they can get in touch with a Shi'ar repair man, they finally lend Rachel a hand. She's not going to beat Friendless so there's no shame in retreating. To get her mind back in place and prevent anyone from drawing dicks on her face, Magneto puts his helmet on her head. Since it blocks out telepathy, it effectively ends her psychic battle before Friendless roughs her up to Rick James levels. It's a creative way to win a battle and a nice reminder that Magneto's helmet isn't just a goofy looking prob that hides what an old fuck he is.

What follows next is a grim assessment of how fucked they are. First off, Friendless is still out there and has access to the same Shi'ar superweapon that he fired at the X-men earlier. Also, Sovel busted up the gravity drive that they need to save Gul Damar. This means they're not going to save the space station in a nice, clean manner. It's an X-men comics. Since when is it that easy? Instead, Rogue starts tapping some of the knowledge she absorbed in previous issues to overload it. Now anyone who didn't sleep through a physics documentary knows when you amp up the gravity too much, you get a black hole. Well that's what she's preparing to do to the star they're falling into. Rather than burn up, they'll be crushed into a singularity. Hey, I don't have a preference, but for obvious reasons the Shi'ar weren't cool with that. The X-men just tell them to trust her because making it through a black hole is no big deal for them. It's no worse than having to sit through the first hour of the Catwoman movie.

Now there's a lot of talk and not much action here. I get that Mike Carey is detailed, but there was a bit too much techno-babble at times. Not saying I don't mind a cliff notes version of how this alien tech works, but it was a bit overdone here. It doesn't get too boring though. While Rogue is using the gravity drive for her own little physics experiment, Friendless shows up again. This time he's packing heat. And by heat I mean that Shi'ar superweapon I mentioned earlier. So yeah, the action comes back in a big way.

Since Rachel has already had her pretty little ass handed to her on two different occasions by Friendless, she makes it a point to use different tactics this time. Those tactics involve tag teaming with Rogue in a way that could probably make for a good lesbian porno in another more awesome universe and launching a dual psychic attack on the ugly son-of-a-bitch. Friendless is pesky, but when two beautiful women are attacking you there's just no way around it. You're screwed in the exact opposite way that you hope. It's yet another instance of Rogue shining, but since this is the next to last issue for Mike Carey I'm more than happy to let him exercise his Rogue love while he can.

Rogue isn't done being awesome just yet either. Thanks to her psychic battle with Friendless, she picked up a touch of his brilliant alien mind as well. That mind allows her to make the necessary calculations for her little experiment with Gul Damar's gravity drive. Then with help from Magneto and Polaris, she throws the gravity drive into the sun. She compares it to lighting a cigarette in a room full of gasoline on a cosmic level. You might ask why the fuck they're doing something this dangerous on a space station with countless innocent lives? Well that's part of the fun of comics like this. You don't know how anyone can be that blatantly reckless. You just know it's going to make for an awesome moment.

That moment comes in the form of a massive fucking wormhole. That's what Rogue used her knowledge of alien physics to create and wouldn't you know it? She used it to solve another problem as well! Using Gul Damar's gravity drive, she opened a wormhole using the star they were falling into and had it bring them and the rest of the space station back to Earth. So it's official now. Rachel, Havok, and Polaris are home! They're home and they brought an alien space station with them. It's a wonderfully creative way to get them back to Earth while solving the whole falling into the sun problem in the process. It's the kind of multi-tasking that only Mike Carey can pull off and he does in a way that will be sorely missed when his run ends.

The Shi'ar on Gul Damar are safe. The X-men's Shi'ar buddies are safe and promise to make Sovel's life a living hell for betraying them. There's still a matter of a Shi'ar space station now being in orbit of Earth, but that's a problem for another time. It makes for a nice goodbye between the X-men and their Shi'ar buddies. It also finally leads to the moment we knew was coming from the second this arc began. Rogue, Gambit, Magneto, and Frenzy ship Rachel, Havok, and Polaris back to Earth where they haven't been in quite some time. They're understandably confused when they find out that Rogue is taking them to San Francisco rather than Westchester. There's even a nice bit on the final page that shows Rogue knows just how much catching up these three will have to do.

All I can say to that is damn! Havok, Rachel, and Polaris will need several hours to pick their jaws up off the floor when they find out all the shit that went down while they were gone. Let's see what they missed. They weren't around when the institute blew up (again). They missed Professor Xavier being shot in the head. They didn't get to see the birth and return of Jean Gre-I mean Hope Summers (like Rachel won't make that mistake too), the mutant messiah. I'm pretty sure Rachel may be unnerved by what she sees, but knowing Marvel they'll never touch on that because that would make too much sense. Then there's the whole move to San Francisco and Utopia. That's a lot to catch up on and at some point I have to believe that Havok, Rachel, and Polaris will just throw their hands up and say "fuck it."

Whatever their reaction, Mike Carey has once again astonished in his last arc for X-men Legacy. Everything came together with this issue. If the point of the arc was to get Rachel, Havok, and Polaris back into the fold then he succeeded. If the point was to make it a great story, then he succeeded in that too. It's not enough to just pick these three up and teleport them back to Utopia. He has to make it so they collapse a whole fucking star and travel in a wormhole across the fucking galaxy. I don't know if Mike Carey was shooting for overkill, but he sure as hell succeeded! There were a few areas where we didn't get a full resolution of the Shi'ar/Insectoid conflict and there was a bit too much techno-babble in certain areas. But overall, it was as solid an arc as anyone can ask for. If this is Mike Carey's swan song, he's going out in style.

The end of this issue was a bitter reminder that Mike Carey's run is almost over. He's made X-men Legacy one of the most consistent series for years and now he has one issue left to tie up all the loose ends. While another writer is already set to take over, the series just won't be the same without him. In many ways that makes this issue all the more meaningful because it really highlighted the kind of writing that Mike Carey does so well. As such, I give X-men Legacy #258 a 5 out of 5. This is Mike Carey at his best and you had better enjoy it now. Because when he's gone, I foresee many X-men fans going into the worst kind of crack withdrawal. But once the vomiting and shivering stops, I'm sure we'll all look back on arcs like this and say it was worth it. Nuff said!