Friday, July 31, 2015

X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 5 Announcement and PREVIEW!


It’s official now. The X-men Supreme fanfiction series will continue. The response I got from the conclusion of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths was overwhelmingly positive. A lot of readers came out and let me know how much they had been enjoying this fanfiction series. Those who had been following X-men Supreme but never reviewed it finally took the time to let me know how much they’ve enjoyed this world I’ve crafted. To those people, I can’t thank you enough. Such support has helped inspire me to keep making X-men Supreme better. I know I left this fanfiction series in a vulnerable state. A lot of that had to do with me making it so I could end the series there if I decided. But that’s not happening. There’s still plenty of story to tell in the world of X-men Supreme.

As I’ve done with previous volumes of this fanfiction series, I’m going to do another entry of the Supreme Reflections mini-series before launching Volume 6. There were a lot of dramatic developments in X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths that affected a lot of characters. But there were some characters that were more affected than others. For all of its 50-year history, X-men has succeed on the strength of its characters. But as over a 100 issues of this fanfiction series has shown me, it’s hard to find time to develop all of them. So a mini-series like Supreme Reflections gives me some time to focus on these characters in a way I couldn’t during the main story.

And the first character I’ll be focusing on is a character that you won’t get to explore anywhere outside of X-men Supreme. Of course, I’m talking about Captain Jack Freeman. He’s one of the handful of original characters I’ve crafted for this fanfiction series. I knew from the beginning of X-men Supreme that I would be making a few characters to call my own, but I understand that the appeal of X-men Supreme would be the more established characters. That’s why I waited so long until X-men Supreme Issue 75: Renegade to introduce him. I don’t expect him to be anyone’s favorite, but I wanted him and General Nathan Grimshaw to act as a catalyst in this fanfiction series. They won’t dominate the plot, as a lot of OCs tend to do in fanfiction. But they will be part of the struggle.

For Captain Freeman, that struggle has taken on dimensions his training as a Green Beret never prepared him for. He hasn’t exactly been on the same page as the X-men or General Grimshaw at times. He’s very much a character who is uncertain of his place in the human/mutant conflict. He wants to be a soldier first and a mutant second, but that’s not always possible. He represents the part of the mutant population who doesn’t want to be defined by his mutant status. But at the same time, he struggles to avoid it. He admits he’s not very smart and he is prone to making the wrong decisions. And yes, he will have a major role in X-men Supreme Volume 6.

But who is Jack Freeman? Where did he come from and how did he get to be like this? I haven’t had a chance to really dig deeply into his world. That’s what I’ll be doing with the first entry of X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 5. This story will give readers a better understanding of who Jack Freeman is and why he’s struggles the way he does. His story is one that’s going to have some major implications later on in this fanfiction series so you won’t want to miss this. As always, I’ve prepared a preview that should offer some insight into a character that you can only find in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series.

In some ways I think I was worse than Magneto. At least Magneto was motivated by his powers. To me, they were just a tool. After I moved out of my mom’s place, I started selling weed full time. I actually used some of her contacts to beef up my business. I set myself apart by coming off as tough and resilient. I would demonstrate my powers to prospective customers, letting them know that if they bought from me they were buying from someone who could adapt. It was a good selling point. I made a pretty decent living because of it. By decent I mean I made enough to ride around in a beat up truck, stay in cheap apartments when I needed to, and have money left over to have fun. Because of my powers, I could be as irresponsible as I wanted.

What often happens to drug dealers and street punks is they get a nasty dose of reality at some point. Someone beats them up, someone shoots them, or someone finds a way to hurt them. I was pretty much immune from that. One time this guy tried to stab me and take my weed. He was pretty shocked when his knife bounced right off my chest. This one other time three guys came at me with baseball bats. They might as well have been hitting me with pillows. I laughed at them before I kicked their asses and took their weed.

It began another trend. With my powers I wasn’t just a degenerate. I was a degenerate that could fight. I pretty much taught myself to fight so I could deal with the competition. My powers ensured that nobody could measure up. I pretty much had the market cornered in my area. I had a steady stream of customers and income. Being a tough guy earned me some respect despite my lousy social skills. It even earned me my share of girls. It’s amazing what a couple of college girls will do for a few bags of weed.

It was a stoner’s paradise. I worked only a few hours a day, I had money in my pocket, and I was both feared and respected. Yet at the same time, I was miserable as hell. I hated myself. I hated my life. I felt like a loser. Hell, I was a loser. I never had anyone come along to give me a good kick in the ass. That all changed when I met up with a grizzly old Vietnam vet named Major Lenny Romita.


Once again, I’d like to thank everybody for their support of this fanfiction series. I still have some big ideas I want to explore moving forward. Once this entry of X-men Supreme Reflections has concluded, I’ll make some announcements on X-men Supreme Volume 6 and its release schedule. Like I said before, it may be different this time. But no matter how it comes out, I’m going to try and make it as awesome as possible. And part of that process involves getting feedback from readers. So please take the time to continue providing feedback for this fanfiction series. Either contact me directly or post it in each individual issue. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!

Jack

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Star Wars #7


How do you make something that’s already awesome even more awesome? It may sound daunting, but it’s the good kind of daunting. Bacon itself is already pretty awesome, but I imagine it only took a few joints or a dull Saturday afternoon for someone to figure out that dipping it in chocolate made it even better. And if that can be done with bacon, why not with Star Wars? Since Disney decided to splurge like Donald Trump at a hair salon, they’ve put Star Wars into the chocolate fountain that is Marvel Comics and attempted to make it awesome in a way that used to only be possible with cocaine and Quaaludes. So far, their effort has been a booming success.

The new Star Wars series under Jason Aaron and John Cassaday has captured everything we love about these movies, minus the incest overtones. It helps fill that virgin gap between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back like a gold-encrusted dildo. We get to see these characters evolve into the icons they’re destined to become and Wookies shoot Stormtroopers along the way. Anyone who can’t enjoy that on some levels needs to check the dosage on their meds. This ongoing orgy of classic sci-fi awesome continues in Star Wars #7, but with a character that some probably feel was explored a bit too much in recent times. Yes, I’m talking about Obi Wan Kanobi, the third most annoying part of the prequels after Jar Jar and Hayden Christiansen. But I’m willing to smoke an extra joint, forget how disappointing those movies were, and give this comic a chance to make him awesome again.

Obi Wan is certainly in just the right place to have an opportunity to be awesome. Tatooine is a lot like the Somalia of the Star Wars universe. It’s a lawless butthole of a planet with few resources except for an abundance of blood-thirsty warlords and criminals. On top of that, this story takes place at a time when he’s still trying to get used to the idea of being one of the last Jedi left. I imagine it takes a long fucking time to get over the kind of butthurt caused by having Emperor Palpatine slaughter the entire Jedi Order. In this context, having a good day usually means not wanting to do the swan dive into a tank of Jack Daniels.

It’s established early on that Obi Wan is living in one of the shittier parts of this armpit of a planet. Jabba the Hutt, most likely low on bikini-clad slave women, decides to impose a water tax on the Tatooine’s residents. And when some poor farmer doesn’t want to pay because he’s not a big fan of dying of thirst, Jabba’s thugs kick his ass and all Obi Wan can do is watch. He’s not a Jedi or a keeper of the peace anymore. He’s supposed to be dead with the rest of the Jedi. It pisses him off and this is beautifully conveyed with John Cassaday’s art. It almost makes me want to do the swan dive into a tank of Jack Daniels.


That’s the main theme of the overall story, Obi Wan struggling to live life as a recluse. Keep in mind, he was once a badass general who fought on the front lines of the Clone Wars. He used to spend his days slicing through droids with a light saber and telling Count Dookoo to kiss his ass. Now he’s just a hermit on a shitty planet full of shittier criminals. He actually makes fighting droid armies sound more appealing.

It’s a more human side of Obi Wan. Too many Star Wars fans know him only as the uptight asshat who failed to train Anakin Skywalker and the wannabe sage who tried to help Luke, only to get himself killed in the process. We never get to see him process just how shitty a turn his life took after the Clone Wars. It’s something that we needed to see, if only to stop telling him he’s a lousy teacher.


We get a glimpse of how he spends his days on Tatooine. He doesn’t fight thugs or aid rebels. He just keeps to himself, occasionally gets supplies at a market, and spends most of his time in some run down hut trying to forget the last three Star Wars movies. It’s a pretty shitty way to live, even by Tatooine standards. Nobody would blame him in the slightest if he started mixing cocaine and Scotch. However, he does have activities other than brooding.

While Obi Wan still has to cope with being the second biggest loser of the Clone Wars after Jar Jar, she still has a mission of sorts to keep him from developing a drinking problem. He’s supposed to watch and protect a young Luke Skywalker who has no idea what a douche-bag his father turned out to be. There’s some nice internal monologue here where Obi Wan’s sorrow becomes more apparent. He wants to train Luke. He wants to make it so he’s not the last Jedi in the galaxy. And who can blame him? It would be a slight middle finger to the Emperor.

However, he still remembers what happened the last time he trained a Skywalker. Creating one Darth Vader is enough. James Earl Jones can only push that legendary voice of his so much. It’s a powerful moment and one that actually makes Obi Wan more likable, something there wasn’t nearly enough of over the course of three big budget prequels.


He can’t train Luke, but he can still protect him indirectly as only a skilled Jedi can. When the same thugs from earlier arrive to try and collect Jabba’s bullshit water tax from the Skywalkers, he just pulls a quick Jedi mind trick and sends them on their way. It’s not a spectacle. It’s not exciting. But it works. It averts a conflict before it turns into another galactic shit storm. If only that sort of thing worked in real life. There would be a Victoria’s Secret and a McDonald’s in Tehran tomorrow.


There’s more inner monologue that documents Obi Wan’s lament. He talks about dealing with Jabba’s thugs. He also mentions how they’re collecting this tax in the middle of a drought. And on a desert planet, that’s like akin to a giant “fuck you and your poor ass” tax. Even Jeb Bush wouldn’t support that shit. He has to protect Luke in this environment. It might have been easier if he had been asked to clean up every strip club in New Orleans after Mardi Gras. It’s a tough gig, but his options are limited so long as Emperor Palpatine’s “Kill Every Jedi On Sight” policy remains in place.

He still tries his best to deal with being a nobody. It’s something no Jedi trains for. It’s not like he can go ask Vanilla Ice for advice or anything. It’s not terribly exciting, but it does offer some important insight into Obi Wan. We see him trying to cope and trying to carve out a living on this galactic shithole of a planet. But there are still times when that Jedi itch needs scratching.

At one point Jabba’s thugs show up again and by now, everybody reading this wants these guys to get a light saber up the ass. They still demand that everyone pay their water tax, even in a drought. This is the IRS from Ron Paul’s worst nightmare basically. Again, Obi Wan has to stop them in a very subtle, very unspectacular way. He uses the Force to break their weapons, which doesn’t really stop them. But it keeps him out of sight and he can go back to his hut feeling less shitty about himself. It’s not a total win, but it’s better than nothing.


It’s still pretty unsatisfying for Obi Wan. Just harassing thugs instead of impaling them where they stand doesn’t sit well with him. It’s not the kind of noble restraint that the Jedi Order preached. However, like Bristol Palin doing abstinence lectures, he can only restrain himself for so long.

One night, Luke wanders off because he’s a kid. Kids tend to wander off and not think much of it. They do it for the same reason they pick their butts, eat their boogers, and ask why a drunk can’t keep his pants on. It’s annoying, but it’s normal. It worries his Aunt and Uncle, but guess who finds him first? Nobody in the galaxy should be surprised when it’s Jabba’s thugs who just happen to be passing by. They probably see little kids as target practice.


Like most kids who like to put on pajamas and pretend their ninjas, Luke says he’s not afraid of these guys. Obviously, his Aunt and Uncle haven’t told him about taxes yet. If so, he would’ve shit himself already. He might as well be a wounded kitten in Jeffrey Dahlmer’s kitchen. Once again, Obi Wan has to step in, but he has to do it indirectly. It’s still not as fun as cutting up an army of droids with a light sabre, but it still gets the job done.

With help from the Force and basic physics, Obi Wan finally has an excuse to ditch the noble restraint bullshit and give these thugs the ass-kicking they’ve done way too much to deserve. It’s not very well-organized and it’s a bit chaotic. All anyone needs to know is Obi Wan channels his inner Jean Grey, minus the part where he destroys a planet, and takes these assholes out. Luke falls on his ass at some point. Again, he’s a fucking kid. Falling on his ass might as well be a required subject in kindergarten.


When all is said and done, the thugs are womprat food and Luke is safe. It may seem like a glorified street fight, but it’s still pretty damn satisfying. After these thugs went through the trouble of making themselves the least likable criminals since the Neo Nazis in Breaking Bad, watching them get their asses kicked was fun even if it had to happen in an indirect way.

In some ways, it works because it shows that Obi Wan can resist the urge to solve problems with his light sabre. That’s something Anakin never quite mastered and it cost him more than Hayden Christiansen’s good looks. It helps him protect Luke without him even knowing he’s being protected. It’s a far more effective method for protecting children than teaching them that Stranger Danger bullshit. It may work for Ralph Wiggum, but not for Luke Skywalker.


It leads to a nice moment where Luke’s Aunt and Uncle find him, not knowing at all that Luke just got a lesson in how big an asshole a tax collector could be. They don’t even meet up with Obi Wan. As far as they’re concerned, Luke just wandered off, got bored, and fell asleep as kids are one to do. It’s a nice moment and one that culminates with Obi Wan putting away his light sabre. It’s another powerful moment that shows he’s serious about staying out of sight and not being the Jedi that got lucky enough to avoid being wiped out. It also effectively sets the tone for the kind of guy he becomes in A New Hope. Except this time, he’s more likable than some snarky old man with the emotional range George Takei.


This story offers a nice insight into a time in the life of Obi Wan Kanobi that isn’t well known. It ends up being an important time because it shows that’s he’s way more likable than a few lackluster movies would have us believe. But it actually offers even more than that. This story wasn’t just part of some random flashback. It came from Luke finding Obi Wan’s old journal back on Tatooine a few issues ago. So this story was basically read through Luke’s eyes. It adds even more weight to the moment, making it even more satisfying. I still would’ve liked to see Jabba’s thugs get a light sabre up the ass, but this is a nice consolation prize.


Now I know there’s a certain segment of Star Wars fans who will never get over the prequels failing to live up to the originals. These same fans will let that hatred prevent them from ever caring about Obi Wan Kanobi’s story because the last time they cared, they got Jar Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen. I can understand that perspective to some extent, but that doesn’t make it any less petty. to use those movies as an excuse to thumb your nose at a story like this one isn’t a mark of sophistication. It’s a mark of being a douche-bag and there are enough of those in the galaxy.

This issue follows the same themes that this series has so skillfully established. It explores some of the unexplored territory in the vast Star Wars universe and does so in an nerdgasmically awesome way. For those fans who aren’t douche-bags, this will make you love Obi Wan Kanobi again. It’s a story that shows him as a broken, lonely, exile from a war where he and every other Jedi in the galaxy got pwned. But despite these struggles, he’s still a Jedi and he’s still capable of being awesome. It may be light on action and details at times, but it’s still more intrigue than Obi Wan ever got from the prequels. I give Star Wars #7 an 8 out of 10. This comic won’t make the prequels any better. It won’t make anyone forget about Jar Jar either. But it puts Obi Wan in a position to do more than whine about Anakin Skywalker and that should appeal to any Star Wars fan in this day and age. Nuff said!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Forging A New Batman: Justice League Gods and Monsters: Batman #1

The following is my review of Justice League Gods and Monsters: Batman #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


What does it take to become Batman? It's one thing to put on a costume, talk like a hung over Christian Bale, and declare a war on criminals. Any kid on Halloween or dedicated cos-player can do that. The actual process of becoming Batman, a dark knight of vengeance, is a lot more difficult. As the Val Kilmers and George Clooneys of the world have shown, not just anybody can step into that role.

This is exactly the challenge that Kirk Langstrom faces in Justice League Gods and Monsters: Batman #1. The vision established by Bruce Timm is pretty bold. He seeks to completely revamp DC's big three heroes, including Batman. But he's not just looking to recast Bruce Wayne with Ben Affleck while Christian Bale retires.

Bruce Timm wants to build a Batman up from scratch and he's using Kirk Langstrom, who has only ever been a poor man's Killer Croc as Man-Bat. If he hadn't been the visionary behind the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, he'd be laughed out of the room for pitching such an idea. But his credentials and legacy have earned him the right to pursue crazy ideas. We give Elon Musk that same luxury so why not Bruce Timm? But even with his impeccable legacy, can he build a new Batman out of Kirk Langstrom?


That's a difficult question to answer, but that's actually a good thing because Justice League Gods and Monsters: Batman #1 makes a genuine case that Kirk Langstrom can carry that title. The narrative doesn't try to make him too much like Bruce Wayne. He's not a rich kid who suffered tragedy. He didn't get bitten by some radioactive creature or anything like that. Timm makes a genuine effort to do something different that still puts him on the same path. Just doing it without the aid of aliens and radioactive animals is an accomplishment.

There are still some similarities. Like Bruce Wayne, Kirk Langstrom became Batman through a tragedy. The main difference, however, is that this tragedy was self-inflicted. And that's a problem right off the bat because a self-inflicted tragedy is like a self-fulfilling prophecy in that it undermines the definition. Langstrom became Batman because he tried to cure his cancer with a crazy, untested treatment using bat venom. Like taking speech lessons from Ozzy Osborne, it didn't turn out well.

It's a shaky foundation, but it doesn't keep Langstrom from being a compelling character who can believably carry himself like Batman. In the same way Bruce Wayne became more detached from the world, Langstrom does the same. The early parts of the story show how he's cut ties with every friend, relative, and associate he's ever known. And he does it without the aid of a cave or a mansion. In many respects, that makes his loneliness more tragic and more compelling.

But like Bruce Wayne, becoming detached allows Kirk Langstrom to focus all his energy on fighting crime. For Langstrom, he doesn't need criminals to kill his parents to make him do this. In many respects, it's how he makes the best of a bad situation. His cancer is cured, but now he has to feed like a vampire and there's no True Blood in this world. So if he's going to survive by hurting people, he might as well hurt criminals. It makes sense. It also makes him more like Michael Morbius than Bruce Wayne, but he does manage to set himself apart.

Vampire or not, Langstrom is still a brilliant man with a brilliant mind. He's able to use this in the same way Bruce Wayne uses his mind to solve crimes. He carries himself like a detective in how he hunts down criminals like Lew Moxon and Rupert Thorn, names that have appeared in Batman stories before. He also uses cunning and disguises in a way any believable Batman would. Langstrom is just much less hesitant to slaughter criminals rather than trusting the Gotham police to keep them locked up. Given how the Joker seems to escape every other week, it could be argued that his method is more efficient.

While this method of doing business is richly detailed and beautifully visceral, it does take away from another key component of being Batman. He fights criminals and he uses detective skills to get the job done. But one of Batman's defining qualities is that he works with the law and tries to arrest criminals. Kirk Langstrom does none of that. These criminals are basically just walking TV dinners to him.

That's not to say it doesn't make for a good story and meaningful character development. In fact, very few parts of the story actually involve Langstrom fighting criminals. Most of the story is spent with him investigating the criminal underworld. At one point, he actually makes a personal connection with son of one of the criminals he kills. This connection helps flesh out the best parts of Kirk Langstrom's personality. It's a personality that keeps him from becoming too much Man-Bat and not enough Batman. It's also this connection that helps flesh out the dark world that Langstrom is a part of, which is wholly consistent with the dark world that Batman has always occupied.

This dark world is full of tragedy and despair, revealing the ugliest parts of humanity. This is what Batman confronts and this is what he represents. He's the guy that runs into this terrible corner of the human condition while most ordinary, sane people will sprint marathons barefoot to avoid it. That's the key theme of Batman as a character and Kirk Langstrom, with all the Twilight and True Blood connotations that come with it, is able to capture this theme.

The biggest challenge of Justice League Gods and Monsters: Batman #1 was making Kirk Langstrom a believable Batman. By the end of the story, he makes a case that would at the very least generate debate. While he does capture the main themes of Batman, the deficiencies in the way he operates are hard to work around. If he were a pro football team, he could qualify for the playoffs as a wild card. He's not championship caliber, but this story firmly establishes that he's a solid contender.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, July 24, 2015

Strangers In Paradise Chapter 16: Front Lines is LIVE!


There are a number of ways for a strong relationship to stay strong, but there are always many more ways to destroy it. Sometimes, those ways that destroy a relationship are outside anyone’s control. Nobody chooses their significant other to have asshole parents, crazy ex-lovers, or enemies at the IRS. Sometimes that’s just how shit plays out. If they love each other enough and fight hard enough, a couple can overcome this. Sometimes it takes money, lawyers, and a significantly bruise ego (among other things), but it can work.

For Superman and Wonder Woman, they’re kind of used to having crazy, fucked up forces working against them. Superman tries to fight for truth, justice, and the American way in a world where Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are serious presidential candidates. Wonder Woman tries for honor, compassion, and empathy in a world where dictators, tyrants, and reality shows undermine every one of those concepts. They’ve been able to fight those battles pretty well on their own. Then, they come together and they have to fight an entirely different set of battles to make it work. But for love, that shit is worth it.

I know it’s cheesy. I know it’s the basis for every song by every boy band in history. But no matter how cynical or jaded someone might be, they understand on some levels that love is worth fighting for. So as I’ve explored Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship in “Strangers In Paradise,” I’ve tried give them a worthy fight. That’s not easy. These are two of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe. Superman can wipe his ass with entire planets and Wonder Woman can bust the balls of every male creature within the same galactic neighborhood. But in this story, they face a threat that no amount of brute strength and cheesy love songs can solve.

Right now, they’re facing a shit storm convergence, courtesy of familiar faces that just love stirring up shit. Lex Luthor, the gods of Olympus, and the Amazons have all coordinated to create the kind of conflict that tests more than just their relationship. Superman and Wonder Woman are basically at ground zero of a divine clusterfuck with Lex Luthor providing extra lube. Ares has subdued his father and taken over Olympus. Apollo has set up shop in the mortal realm. The Amazons are now being mind-controlled by Ares and Lex Luthor is packing divine muscle in the Annihilator Armor. Even by Superman/Wonder Woman standards, this makes for a pretty shitty day.


And it’s about to get worse. Superman and Wonder Woman have already taken the first steps into this shit storm, working together as best they can in an effort to stop it. But even with their power, they can only do so much. And they’re about to find out just how shitty it’s going to get. All I can say is they’re going to need more than a romantic getaway to recover from this one.


This isn’t just about testing Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship. It’s also going to test their resolve and their ideals, as any great struggle against those who stir up shit storms ought to. It’s not enough to test them physically. It’s not even enough to test their relationship. The way they go about being heroes is always being challenged and they have to find a way to rise to that challenge. But this is one challenge they can’t take on as individuals. They have to do it together.

Again, I know that sounds like a lyric from an old Brittney Spears song, but it’s true. Even two of the most powerful beings in comics can be challenged in a way that doesn’t feel bland and contrived. It’s a hard story to tell, but it’s one that’s worth telling. Nuff said!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #35


There are many non-western cultures that believe time is not linear and that it often flows in this chaotic, meandering path. On a partially related note, there are also many non-western cultures that have way better weed. Just think that’s worth pointing out because there are times when I suspect the man or woman who manages the release schedule is drunk, stoned, or getting a few too many blowjobs on the side. That said, I try not to let it stop me from enjoying the substance of a comic. It’s usually something an extra joint or two will help.

We all know that Secret Wars is in full swing. The worlds of 616 and Ultimate were destroyed in a cosmic clusterfuck. Now there’s only Battleworld. That’s where all the action is. That’s where all the fancy new toys and hookers are showing up. So why would a comic that took place before that have much appeal? Well, that’s a rhetorical question because it doesn’t fucking matter. The only thing that matters is whether or not a comic is awesome.

Uncanny X-men #35 was one of the numerous X-men comics that got delayed due to Secret Wars. It’s another comic that’s meant to help set up the triple sized Uncanny X-men #600 uber-party, which also got delayed due to Secret Wars. Either I’m really high or I’m seeing a pattern here. But there’s still a story worth telling in Uncanny X-men #35. Before the Secret Wars clusterfuck destroyed the world, Cyclops disbanded the New Xavier School and pissed off his ex-girlfriend. Admit it, you want to know what comes of that for the same reason you want to know why 50 Cent filed for bankruptcy.

The story is still following the aftermath of Cyclops disbanding the New Xavier School. But disbanding the school doesn’t mean that young, vulnerable mutants will be any less pissed off. One young mutant whose coping skills are only slightly worse than the average teenager is Blake, the wannabe punk rock girl that kick-started X-men: Battle of the Atom. It turns out being attacked by a Sentinel didn’t set her straight. So she decided to do the most logical thing she can do and blames her father, who happens to be a football coach at a high school. I’m pretty sure this is ripping off the last season of Friday Night Lights, but there’s really nothing here that’s quite as compelling. She and her father argue. He blames her and she blames him. It’s basically a Dr. Phil rerun if the teenager was given access to a flamethrower. It’s as volatile as it sounds.


With or without Dr. Phil, this confrontation was bound to become an omega level clusterfuck. Blake does exactly what she did in Battle of the Atom, summoning raging demons to attack hordes of innocent people. But unlike Madelyne Pryor, she doesn’t look nearly as sexy doing it. Again, there’s nothing new here. She’s a pissed off teenage girl with way too much power at her disposal. Make her rich and she’d have her own reality show.

Enter the young mutants from the disbanded New Xavier School. As in the same young mutants who have had next to no training and very limited experience being X-men. They think they can handle one pissed off mutant girl that they’ve faced before. And that’s not an entirely flawed assumption. This isn’t a fucking Sentinel army powered by Apocalypse. This is one pissed off mutant with serious daddy issues. It’s the mutant equivalent of getting a cat out of a tree.


The battle that unfolds is pretty standard. The mutants fight while the humans run, scream, and shit themselves somewhere in the process. The Stepford Cuckoos go on the psychic offensive. Hijack gets some help from a few buses. Goldballs holds off the monsters by throwing balls at them in what amounts to a glorified dodge ball game. Triage just waits for someone to get wounded to heal them.

Overall, it’s fairly well-organized. But it’s not all that epic. It’s still just them fighting a whiney teenage girl that they’ve already fought before. They’re not exactly playing Contra without cheat codes or something. The ending isn’t much of a spectacle. Ben Deeds uses his powers to convince Blake that this is not a healthy way to deal with her problems. Goldballs knocks her out before she can change her mind. It’s not as boring as watching Ben Stein read poetry, but it’s not going to get anyone’s heart racing like a necrophiliac at a morgue.


The day is now saved. These young X-men successfully fought off a pissed off teenage girl that could control demons. In the X-men’s world, that’s basically Monday. But they manage to do it with a little extra flare. They even take some time to chat with a few kids who recorded this shit on their cell phone. Their lack of maturity, a plan, and a team name is painfully clear. And Goldballs still looks goofy as hell in that uniform, but he’s still the most lovable guy in the group. What’s not to love about a guy who is a walking dick joke who dresses like rejected Star Trek villain? I’m serious. That’s the kind of guy I would buy a beer for.


After they leave, feeling pretty damn good about themselves for defeating a bitchy teenager, they crash at the old Hellfire Club building. Let’s face it, there are way worst places a bunch of teenagers could sleep for the night. It’s still way safer than most motels in Tijuana. They’re all aware that this used to be a club of kinky, megalomaniacal mutants who enjoyed the occasional orgy. Strangely, that doesn’t bother a bunch of teenagers. Maybe if they were Mormon they would be iffy about it, but they’re not so they get over it.

They wake up the next morning, probably hoping that they’ll find another whiney mutant girl with demon summoning powers to fight. But to their surprise, the video from their fight yesterday went viral. But it wasn’t because of a demon attack. That sort of shit probably happens on days when Dr. Strange is hung over or something. It’s Goldballs they all love. Apparently, a goofy Hispanic mutant who shoots gold balls out of his body is a novelty in the Marvel universe. Go figure. It gets so popular that his parents don’t call SHIELD to have his ass arrested like last time. I guess that counts as progress for him on some levels.


What follows next is basically a rerun of every Behind The Music and Where Are They Now rerun ever aired. A teenager suddenly becomes famous for reasons nobody really understands. At least in Goldballs’ case, he doesn’t need to star in a movie with Tim Allen or be in a boy band. He just has to fight crime wearing a goofy costume. I’d argue that’s a lot less demeaning anyways.

That’s not to say it isn’t appealing. There’s something inherently fun about seeing heroes in the Marvel universe being treated like celebrities. It’s a story that is rarely explored in the comics. It makes them feel a bit more real, dealing with the fame and attention their actions bring. And unlike douchebags who only become celebrities because of leaked sex taps, Goldballs and other heroes actually do something meaningful.

It’s fun, but it’s also kind of rushed. He’s like Vanilla Ice in his prime, a guy at the top of the charts with everybody eager for a piece of him. And he doesn’t even get shaken down by Suge Knight. It’s a good time for Goldballs and he clearly enjoys it. So do the others. Who wouldn’t? Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame. It lasts only as long as the next Kardashian scandal.


But like Vanilla Ice and every other child star not named Neil Patrick Harris, it all comes crashing down pretty quickly. And it’s not nearly as spectacular either. One day, he finishes roughing up Ulysses Claw, a D-list Avengers villain. Then out of nowhere, some asshole who wasn’t content being a dick on the internet throws a bottle at Goldballs that happens to wound him in the neck. It’s more serious than it sounds. Any time glass shards get involved in necks, even a drunk knows that the bar fight has gone too far.

It’s still a very poorly developed situation. Somehow, a bunch of anti-mutant assholes who probably got tired of protesting same-sex marriage rulings ganged up on these young mutants and attacked them. The Stepford Cuckoos respond with a few debilitating migraines, but the damage is still done. Even though Triage is able to heal Goldballs, the whole team is pretty traumatized. It doesn’t help that the cops harass them and not the asshole who threw the bottle. I don’t know if these guys are the LAPD, but they’re certainly qualified.


This whole ordeal is badly rushed and really kind of stale. These teenage mutants were riding so high and this is all it took to humble them? One anti-mutant riot? That would be like Taylor Swift retiring from music just because a few people booed her at a concert. Granted, these are still inexperienced teenage mutants. They’re not even in Taylor Swift’s zip code and Taylor Swift isn’t even a teenager. So maybe it’s not fair, but it’s still pretty stale.

Their solution is as simple as it is unspectacular. They decide that maybe they’re not ready to be mutant heroes so they go running to the Jean Grey Institute. It’s kind of full circle. They get kicked out of one school and they go running to another. And this is pretty much what Cyclops wanted for them when he disbanded the school. He wanted them to stay safe at the Jean Grey Institute. Being the welcoming and forgiving heroes they are (except for Cyclops), Storm welcomes them with open arms. It’s still pretty bland. If it were a Behind the Music episode, it would suck worse than the Oasis story.


In the grand scheme of things, this issue really didn’t accomplish much. All it did was show that a bunch of teenage mutants with little training and experience aren’t ready to be a full-time superhero team. It also showed that when shit starts trending on the internet, people are a lot more inclined to exercise on their asshole impulses. I don’t think that’s a concept we need reinforced in the era of Grumpy Cat, LonelyGirl15, and Riley Curry. That’s not to say it’s an invalid point, but the story felt more like a PSA announcement than an X-men story.

It still has its charm. It’s still fun watching teenagers try to be heroes and fuck up along the way. It’s also fun seeing teenagers try to handle fame. I’d argue that Goldballs handled it much better than Justice Bieber ever did, but that’s really not saying much these days. It helped set up some more sub-plots for Uncanny X-men #600 to address, but at this point even that milestone is starting to seem like an afterthought. I give Uncanny X-men #35 a 5 out of 10. It’s not going to get anyone high. It’s not going to sober anyone up either. It’s just a fairly typical story about how teenagers tend to get their hopes crushed and who needs that? Seriously, if I need my hopes crushed, I’ll just go back to high school. Nuff said!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Old Man Logan #3


There are some advantages to being a grumpy old fuck. For some, it gets them a regular gig on Fox News. For others, it gives them a valid excuse to get pissed off and take dumb chances. At a certain age, what more does a grumpy old fuck have left to lose? If the process of eating, sleeping, shitting, and peeing has already become a test of will, how much more damage can be done?

Old Man Logan is the personification of being too old to give a fuck and he makes it more awesome than every Liam Neeson movie of the past 10 years. It takes a certain amount of bitterness and balls to act out in a world where Dr. Doom is a god and that’s exactly what Old Man Logan has done. He’s given the finger to Doom’s divine authority. He’s breaching the barriers of Battleworld, which are protected by an army of Thors no less. He’s already taken several lightning bolts up the ass, but to him it’s probably no worse than a prostate exam. Now he’s put himself in a position to piss Dr. Doom off even more in Old Man Logan #3. So grab a bowl of popcorn, open up a bottle of Jack Daniels, and get ready for a show.

Apocalypse is understandably confused by Old Man Logan’s presence. Either one of his cloning experiments went horribly wrong or something really fucked up is at work. Surely, nobody on Battleworld would have the balls to defy Doom like this? I’ll give everyone else a moment to stop laughing because no matter which world he’s in, Apocalypse has a really shitty sense of humor. He’s content to treat Old Man Logan the same way casinos treat card counters. I’m sure he was really looking forward to channeling his inner Joe Pesci. Sadly, he never gets a chance and it’s not because Robert Dinero held him back.


One of the Thors from Doom’s Thor Corp shows up and tells Apocalypse to stand down. In any other world, telling someone like Apocalypse to back the fuck off would be like telling Rhonda Rhousy her ass looks fat. It’s not going to end well for anybody with intact testicles, but it does give Old Man Logan the window he needs.

There’s a tense, but nicely detailed conversation between Apocalypse and the Thor. He’s understandably curious about where Old Man Logan came from and why he ended up in this apocalyptic wasteland among the many apocalyptic wastelands that make up Battleworld. Even the other X-men are curious. They don’t even use this as an opportunity to kick Apocalypse in the balls. It may be their curiosity or it may be that they don’t have the stones to piss off Doom or his emissaries. And when Apocalypse actually tries to be respectful, it shows just what Old Man Logan is up against. But does that make him give even a sliver of a fuck? Hell no.

Eventually, Apocalypse gets too pissed off to be respect Doom’s divine authority. I guess in that sense, he would make a really shitty Catholic. He basically excommunicates his ass, among other things, when he opts to attack the Thor rather than cooperate like the gullible little choir boy that some priests are way too fond of. It won’t make Apocalypse less of an asshole, but it will show that he still has more balls than most of the assholes on Battleworld. It’s not a fair fight though. He’s not just fighting some whiney insurgents. This is an emissary of Doom, who is a fucking god in this world. I think that needs to be reinforced because it shows that even someone like Apocalypse, in his own domain no less, can’t measure up to Doom’s power.


While the fight is as lopsided as it is rushed, it gives Wolverine the chance he needs to slip away. He doesn’t have Apocalypse’s forces, but he still has the balls to keep spitting in Doom’s face. He even manages to get some help from a familiar face in Tabitha Smith, who probably thinks someone put something extra in her drink. I don’t think the residents of Apocalypse’s domain are used to seeing their ruler getting his ass handed to him, even if it is from Doom.

It adds another nice personal moment that builds off the one from the previous issue. These are still versions of the friends and family that Old Man Logan slaughtered in his world so it definitely affects him. His desire to protect Tabitha, along with the emotions conveyed in Andrea Sorrentino’s art, help to remind everyone that this version of Wolverine is more fucked up than most. That just means Hugh Jackman really has his work cut out for him if the next Wolverine movie is going to be his last.


Now at this point, most sane and reasonable beings, including those with obscene healing abilities, would sprint full speed in the opposite direction of a being that just pwned Apocalypse. Most versions of Wolverine would probably do that, if only to get a little backup while his ass is healing. But this is Old Man Logan. He sees strategy the same way I see light beer. This bitch KO’d Apocalypse? He doesn’t give a shit. He’s going to attack her anyways. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why. He’s Old Man Logan.

It’s omega level badass and weapons grade stupidity rolled into one. But Old Man Logan makes it work, attacking the Thor that already fried his ass once. He even guides the X-men to Tabitha so they can help her. But as badass as this is, it also reveals a growing deficiency in the story. What exactly is he trying to accomplish other than being the ballsiest motherfucker in Battleworld? This shit started with an Ultron head falling in his domain. What exactly is he looking for? Does he just really want to stab the body that the head was attached to? That’s an important detail that seems to be negated.


That doesn’t make Old Man Logan’s bravado and badassery any less entertaining. This isn’t even the first time he’s dared to take on a Thor. This time he actually gets a shot in, which makes for a pretty satisfying moment. Sure, he still gets another big fucking lightning bolt to the ass. And sure, this is probably something that’s going to take more than a few bottles of whiskey to get over.

Even so, he still had the balls to do it and given how so many other tie-ins have others shitting themselves as the thought of defying Doom, this is pretty refreshing. It doesn’t change the outcome of the fight, which is also somewhat rushed. But it’s entirely expected. Badass or not, he’s still an old, cantankerous version of Wolverine. He’s not going to take down a Thor. Even in defeat, he still finds a way to make it pretty fucking badass.


Once again, Old Man Logan gets pwned so hard that he gets knocked into yet another domain of Battleworld. Last time, he ended up in Age of Apocalypse. This time, he wakes up in Technopolis, a domain where Tony Stark is the boss of more than just flashy armor and quality pussy. It’s still an upgrade in that it’s not a barren wasteland that looks like a garbage dump in Somalia. The problem is he’s not going to get a chance to enjoy it or even see if this world has a Japanese whore house in it. As soon as he wakes up in Tony Stark’s domain, he’s met with another Thor. This one looks like War Machine after getting a Pimp My Ride makeover. After getting his ass kicked by another Thor, even Old Man Logan needs to catch his breath.

Again, Sorrentino’s art shines here because the emotional impact on Wolverine is clear. These are more familiar faces of people he’s killed. It leads to a nice, but not too tense conversation with Tony Stark. He gives a little background in this world. Apparently, it isn’t all technology and Stark groupies. This world has this tech virus that’s not safe for anyone who can’t heal from multiple blows from Thor. It at least gets Tony Stark interested and Old Man Logan doesn’t even have big tits. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself.


But as much as Stark wants to study Old Man Logan’s healing and find out how the fuck someone survives a Thor blast, the War Machine Thor reminds him that he’s still giving the finger to a god-powered Doom. He’s still outside his domain of Battleworld and in this world, that’s like taking a shit in the Pope’s hat. That means he’s likely to get fucked up by even more angry Thors and even his cranky old ass can take so much.

So how does he go about dealing with this? What’s his first inclination after getting bitch-slapped into two different domains? Well first, he’s probably going to need a case of whiskey. That’s a given. But second, he wants to sit down and have a chat with Doom himself. Seriously, I’m not kidding and I’m partially sober here. He wants to confront a god-powered Doom. Why? Again, I think it comes down to a “fuck you, that’s why” type mentality. It’s as badass as Wolverine can get, but it’s still lacking in terms of details. What does he hope to accomplish by meeting with Old Man Doom? Does he think he’ll feel any less a grumpy old fuck by getting his ass kicked by a god-powered Doom? It’s hard to say, but it does reinforce that Old Man Logan has balls of adamantium.


A tense exchange follows. There’s more insight into Old Man Logan’s torment. He talks about the shitty things he did in his world. It shows that being around the people he killed is really fucking with him. It probably doesn’t make him feel better that Tony Stark doesn’t even know him in this world. It’s still a better world than the one he came from. He makes it clear that he doesn’t want to go back to that world. He doesn’t want to live in a world where he killed everyone he ever cared about. He’s not just a badass. He’s trying to find a place in the world that’s less shitty. In a world ruled by Doom, that’s still a big fucking problem. But it’s one that’s worth fighting for and he’s got the balls to fight for it.

Even with balls and sincerity, Thor isn’t having it. He’s still breaking Doom’s divine decree and Doom could give less of an unholy fuck about how much he hates the world he came from. So for the third time, he gets another lightning bolt to the ass. He doesn’t even get a chance to fight this time. It’s as unceremonious as it sounds, but it sends Doom’s message loud and clear. He doesn’t care how shitty your domains are. You better fucking stay in there and be thankful he allows your ass to live in one piece.


So what happens when someone isn’t content to go back to their domain? They get their asses thrown into the Deadlands. It’s a part of Battleworld that Doom made specifically to make even the shittiest domains seem like a trip to Tahiti. And this is exactly where Old Man Logan ends up. As soon as he wakes up, he’s greeted to an army of symbiote monsters and a zombie Doctor Octopus. On top of that, the landscape looks like a wart on Courtney Love’s asshole. So I’m wondering if maybe Old Man Logan is starting to think his world wasn’t so shitty after all. Even if he does, I still doubt he gives any trace of a fuck.


I would say that Old Man Logan is a glutton for punishment at this point, but I’m not sure he sees this as punishment. He may see it as an overly exotic vacation for all I know. But more than anything else, Old Man Logan #3 established that the man is still deeply haunted by what he did. Keep in mind, he didn’t just drown his asshole son in his timeline. He slaughtered nearly every hero in the entire Marvel universe, including his closest friends. There’s really nothing Doom, Thor, or Apocalypse can do to make him feel worse than that. It puts him in that perfect “Fuck this shit and give me something to stab!” mentality that brings out the best in Wolverine.

There should be no doubt at this point that this is the kind of Wolverine that Hugh Jackman wishes he could play. In the grand scheme of things, this Wolverine is the new gold standard. That said, the story surrounding him isn’t quite as polished and I can’t imagine any rap stars (except for Lil Wayne) wanting to encrust his teeth in it.

This story started off with him investigating some shit with an Ultron head. Since then, it’s become more like a drunken bender where you just forgot why you needed to get drunk in the first place. It lands guys like me in jail cells or crack houses. It lands Wolverine in the Battleworld Deadlands. That’s all perfectly consistent with the physics of a bender, but it’s quickly becoming a plot hole. The characterization and drama here are spot on, but really have no fucking clue what Wolverine’s endgame is here. Does he think having a beer with Dr. Doom will fix any problems that don’t involve wasting good beer? It’s hard to say, but he’s still made his rage bender as entertaining as can be without hookers, cops, and donkeys being involved. I give Old Man Logan #3 an 8 out of 10. At the rate he’s pissing off Doom, Old Man Logan can probably add blasphemy to his list of shit where he’s the best. If Battleworld has a Richard Dawkins in it, he would definitely approve. Nuff said!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Equals in an Unequal Struggle: Superman/Wonder Woman #19

The following is my review of Superman/Wonder Woman #19, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


When things are good, every relationship feels like the opening theme to a 90s sitcom. It’s all smiles, laughter, and terrible music from the Hootie and Blowfish type bands. Even Tina and Ike Turner probably had their good days. It’s only when things get bad that we find out which couples are the Waldens and which couple are the Bundies.

Since DC decided to do the most obvious romantic pairing since Mulder and Scully in the X-Files, the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship has evolved in an astoundingly mature way. There was no beating around the bush, Ross and Rachel style. There was no drawn out melodrama that every reality show ever has tried to capture. Superman and Wonder Woman just came together, embraced the opportunity, and actually made the effort to create a functioning relationship.

In fact, they’ve put more effort into their relationship than every couple that ever got together in 90210. They’ve gotten to a point where they truly carried themselves as equals, making complementing their strengths and confronting their weaknesses. They’re not defined by their romance, but they are better because of it.

Now, Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship is being tested in a way that even the worst romantic comedy has never attempted. Superman’s identity has been exposed. His powers have been severely curtailed. On top of that, someone is intent on destroying the ruins of Clark Kent’s life and spitting on the ashes. If ever he needed the support of his girlfriend, it’s now. If ever there was a hardship for a relationship, this is right up there with a weekend at the in-laws.

Superman/Wonder Woman #19 puts Wonder Woman at ground zero of the ongoing effort to make her lover miserable. She doesn’t have to be part of this fight, but she chooses to be part of it because she cares about her lover just that much. In doing so, we get a story with an engaging, dramatic narrative that never feels overly dramatic. There’s no part of this situation that’s ideal for either Superman or Wonder Woman, but that’s exactly what makes the drama meaningful.

They’ve already had a decidedly bad day since showing up in Smallville. They arrived to investigate the disappearance of its people, which includes Superman’s old flame, Lana Lang. That day gets even worse when they encounter the Suicide Squad. At this point, a tornado and a string of outdated Wizard of Oz jokes would have been less frustrating. It leads to a fairly basic clash that nobody is going to mistake for a war with Darkseid, but it still creates some meaningful moments.

In any other circumstances, this is the kind of fight that Superman and Wonder Woman could brush aside in the same way Bill Gates brushes aside a check from Applebees. But with Superman’s powers being limited, the battle takes on a much more urgent tone. He can’t just cough in a way that’ll blow Black Manta, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot into the next County. He has to get his hands dirty and take a few bullets. It forces Superman to be less upstanding than usual, carrying himself like a hung over Rocky Balboa at times. But it doesn’t stop him from being Superman.


This also doesn’t stop Wonder Woman from being the warrior and lover she’s always been. She’s used to protecting those weaker than her, but she’s probably not used to Superman being among them. Even so, the battle never becomes like an inverted version of Super Mario. She doesn’t have to be his hero. She just has to keep being his lover. She fights by his side, not in his place. It may not make for a good Nintendo game, but it does reveal a mature and evolving relationship.

Beyond their relationship, there’s also a compelling story unfolding behind the scenes. During the battle against the Suicide Squad, we find out that they’re not responsible for the disappearances of the people in Smallville. That means even the Amanda Wallers in the government are clueless as well. It further deepens the mystery. It’s not as simple as Lex Luthor attempting to troll Superman in the worst possible way. There are other forces at work here.

We get some hints as to who might behind this, but not nearly enough. We can only confirm at this point that whoever is behind this, they’re not done tormenting Superman. And for some reason, they think it’s a good idea to mess with a very irritated Superman, who also happens to be Wonder Woman’s boyfriend. Ignoring the death wish behind this plot, it raises a few intriguing questions that warrant further exploration.

It’s also at this point where another important aspect of Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship is exposed. While Wonder Woman doesn’t have to save Superman in the Princess Peach tradition, she still has to treat him when he gets wounded. She also makes it clear that his vulnerability worries her, as it probably should for any caring lover. It makes for a tender moment, but it never becomes too much like a Greys Anatomy sub-plot. Superman doesn’t let it.

Instead, he makes it clear that he doesn’t want Wonder Woman to change how she goes about being Wonder Woman. He does the exact opposite of what the majority of love stories in Disney movies do, telling his lover to not change who she is or how she lives her life. It may be jarring to those used to seeing women upend their lives for a handsome man or men doing the same for a beautiful woman, but that’s what helps set Superman and Wonder Woman apart. It is truly a relationship of equals.

That mutual trust and shared struggle is what makes Superman/Wonder Woman #19 feel like another important step in the development of this relationship. They’ve shared major battles together. They’ve shared the frustrations of being on the same team as Batman together. Now, they’re sharing each other’s personal struggles and even when one of them is weak, it still feels like a relationship among equals. That sort of thing is difficult to find in an era of radical feminism, men’s rights activists, and Kardashian marriages. But that’s exactly what makes it so meaningful.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, July 17, 2015

X-men Supreme Issue #125: Loss and Lament is LIVE and Major Announcements!


Another volume of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series comes to an end today. As I have with previous volumes, I try to make it so that this era of X-men Supreme ends with a major shift. That shift usually entails a profound change in the conflict between humans and mutants, one that has major implications for Charles Xavier’s dream of peaceful coexistence. And after the events of the Dark Legacy arc, I don’t think the change facing the X-men could be more profound.

The world of X-men Supreme will never be the same. I know Marvel says that all the time after a major event or relaunch. But unlike Marvel, the changes in this fanfiction series will carry a lot of weight. There will be no time travel, retcons, or alternate universes to undo the damage done by the events of Dark Legacy, the Phoenix Saga, Overlord, or Uprising. These events are entrenched in the history of X-men Supreme and they’ll affect the very future of the X-men. That also means the death of Thunderbird, who succumbed to the Legacy Virus during the Dark Legacy arc, will not be undone. He will not rise again like Jean Grey has done in the comics. His death and that of the 300 million other people who died will stick.

How does a world even recover from a catastrophe on this scale? Mankind has endured wars, plagues, and natural disasters for centuries. However, it has never endured anything like this. The Legacy Virus was Sinister’s ultimate endgame, a method for him to get what he wanted regardless of how many lives it cost. It’s an endgame that left humans and mutants alike equally devastated. For the many conflicts the X-men face in both X-men Supreme and in the comics, they often struggle with those that effect either mutants or humans. For once, both sides were affected. Sinister even made sure of it. Every world leader from President Kelly to Wanda Maximoff on Genosha have to deal with this same trauma. It has the potential to bring the world together, if only for a while. It also will leave this world very vulnerable.

There have already been a number of instances in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series where a tragedy was exploited. Sebastian Shaw exploited his history with Emma Frost to make her betray the X-men in the Phoenix Saga. Then Senator Kelly exploited the events of Uprising and Overlord to run for President of the United States. Even General Grimshaw used his knowledge of Weapon X’s devious history to earn the trust of Charles Xavier and the X-men. With so many reeling from the Legacy Virus, who will rise up and exploit this moment of vulnerability for humans and mutants alike? All will be answered, at least in part, with the final issue of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths.

X-men Supreme Issue 125: Loss and Lament

With the conclusion of this era of X-men Supreme, I’ve made my final decision on the future of this fanfiction series. I know I’ve been saying for a while now that this could be the final volume of X-men Supreme. I’m still somewhat disappointed with the lack of feedback in recent times, but there are still those who support this fanfiction series. And I still have a desire to keep exploring this unique world of X-men that I’ve conjured. At the same time, I also have a desire to pursue other projects. So with that, I’d like to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, X-men Supreme will not be ending with the conclusion of Volume 5. It will continue. And just as I have with previous volumes of this fanfiction series, I will craft another entry of X-men Supreme Reflections. I also intend to do another one-shot afterwards. But after that, there will be an X-men Supreme Volume 6. However, I will not be updating this iteration of X-men Supreme with the same regularity as I have. Ever since this fanfiction series began, I’ve been very strict about updating on a biweekly basis. This schedule is difficult to keep due to the scope and scale of this fanfiction series. As a result, I will be adding more time in between updates to ensure that I have time to pursue other projects.

However, this decision is subject to change. If feedback increases, I am willing to change the update schedule for X-men Supreme. That means you, the readers, have the power to determine how this fanfiction series unfolds. Doing so means providing feedback on this series. Talk about the characters, the events, the relationships, or anything else that I’ve explored in X-men Supreme. I’m happy to hear it all. Either post it directly in the issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine. But for now, X-men Supreme’s schedule will change. I will announce more details in the coming weeks. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!

Jack

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Superman/Wonder Woman #19


What is true love? My grandfather said true love is being able to throw up in a toilet while your lover holds your hair and sings to you. My ex-girlfriends would disagree, but I'm convinced that some of them don't know the difference between true love and having an neutered dog. This is a debate that has baffled philosophers, emperors, and shitty movies for ages. I sure as hell can't debate this kind of shit when I'm overly sober, but I can at least accept one argument. We know love when we see it.

And right now, anyone who doesn't have a raging hard-on for Lois Lane has to say that the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship is the kind of love that would make a guy like me quit drinking. They're a relationship of equals. Their not defined by their love for each other. They're made stronger and happier because of it. They actually go out of their way to work on their relationship to make it better. Hell, I couldn't get my last girlfriend to order a fucking pizza for me. Superman and Wonder Woman have shown what it takes to make love work.

Now, they're showing what happens when a special breed of asshole goes out of their way to make someone's life miserable. Superman's identity has been exposed. And since it's not enough that he can't live the life he worked so hard to maintain, someone has to go out of his way to desecrate his old home in Smallville. Outside Game of Thrones, there aren't many people who can claim to be that cruel. Someone wants to torment Clark Kent and Diana Prince is ready to stand by her man. That's what makes the setup for Superman/Wonder Woman #19 so intriguing. It also reminds me that true love and navigating shit storms aren't a mutually exclusive process.

I'm not sure what category shit storm that fighting the Suicide Squad in a graveyard falls under, but I imagine it's the kind that would get most people to board up their houses and stock up on duct tape. Superman and Wonder Woman have been investigating a distress call from Superman's old gal pal, Lana Lang. That distress call has revealed that someone has gone to great lengths to troll Superman in the worst possible way. Even the 4chan crowd would be impressed. Now, the Suicide Squad shows up to make Superman even more miserable. I'm not sure this counts as rubbing kryptonite laced salt in the wound, but it damn well ought to.


Under traditional circumstances, a fight between the Suicide Squad and the collective muscle of Superman and Wonder Woman wouldn't be fair. Hell, it's a fight that would be over the moment Superman and Wonder Woman got bored, tired, or horny. But Superman is not at full strength. He's vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. That makes the fight a bit more fair, but he still has Wonder Woman on his side so it's still more lopsided than a drinking contest between a Mormon and a Kennedy.

Fair or not, it still makes for a much more visceral battle. It's not as epic as a clash with Darkseid or Zod would be, but it's still pretty satisfying. Wonder Woman takes on the heavy hitters like Reverse Flash. Superman takes on the dipshits who still think shooting him will solve their problems. Even in his weakened form, he's got to be rolling his eyes. But these aren't typical Bond villain henchmen. They're the Suicide Squad. They have some personality in addition to their personality disorders. So there's plenty of entertainment value, as is often the case whenever Harley Quinn gets involved.


Entertaining aside, there's still one burning question that semi-sober minds are probably asking. Why the fuck would the Suicide Squad attack Superman in the first place? Who honestly thought it was a good idea to attack Wonder Woman's man? I don't know what kind of drugs would make someone think that shit, but even I wouldn't try them.

Wonder Woman makes sure she gets that point across, even to demented minds like Harley Quinn. But this question becomes somewhat moot while Superman is battling Black Manta. During their struggle, he reveals something intriguing. As sane as it sounds, the Suicide Squad's mission didn't involve fucking with Superman and Wonder Woman. They arrived in Smallville because others have noted some crazy shit going on. That means they didn't kick up this shit storm. They just got sent into it.

This adds another layer to the mystery and one that adds a new dimension to Superman's ongoing identity issue. Before his identity got exposed, most people probably couldn't find Smallville on a map, let alone think anything more remarkable than a pie-eating contest would occur. Now that everyone knows it's Clark Kent's hometown, it's attracting all the wrong kinds of attention and that includes the Suicide Squad. It's another testament to just how fucked Superman is in a world where he has no secret identity anymore.


Intrigue or not, the Suicide Squad isn't passing up an opportunity to rough up Superman when he's vulnerable. They might have had a chance to succeed if Wonder Woman hadn't been with him. But she is so they're more fucked than a Greek bank's credit rating. That's not to say Superman still doesn't show some grit. While Wonder Woman protects him from Deadshot's onslaught, he goes out of his way to really fuck up Black Manta. He doesn't try to be nice and friendly about it either. He's still Superman, but he's a Superman in a foul mood. He won't murder Black Manta, but he will make him wish he was dead and sometimes that's just as heroic.

The battle finally ends and as satisfying as it might be to rough up the Suicide Squad, they still need answers. And as it just so happens, Superman left Black Manta conscious. I'm sure he still wishes he were dead, but that just means it sucks even more to be him. He reiterates that the Suicide Squad had nothing to do with the disappearances. They're investigating it too and since this happens to be the hometown of Superman, sending a team of deranged villains just felt right. It still leaves Superman pretty pissed off, but it helps deepen the mystery.


For some, however, they couldn't give three tenths of a fuck about mystery. They have a chance to kick Superman when he's down and fuck, they're going to take it. That's exactly what Deadshot does, who they also left conscious. Superman and Wonder Woman probably regret being so merciful, especially Superman because he ends up getting a full-fledged bullet massage. It doesn't kill him, but just as he did with Black Manta, it makes him wish he were dead.

It's not the worst blow Superman has ever taken by a long shot. It's still probably more of an annoyance on par with a mild rectal itch. But it's a moment that once again reinforces just how vulnerable Superman is right now. He's still strong enough to take a bullet, but now they don't just bounce off him. Now they actually fucking hurt. I imagine it's a lot harder to stand for truth, justice, and the American way when you're sore as fuck, but that's why he's Superman.


And Wonder Woman is still his lover so Deadshot just ensured he'll need to be dry humping morphine for the next three weeks. She does a reverse Princess Peach and limits Superman's soreness as best she could. She also makes damn sure that Deadshot will be way more sore for the foreseeable future. It's yet another mark of genuine love. One person fucks with their lover, that person gets fucked up as a result. It's simple, genuine, romantic, and even a little violent, but in the best possible way. It's not the kind of shit that'll ever show up in a romantic comedy and that's exactly what makes it so satisfying.


What makes it even more satisfying is how Wonder Woman rushes to his aid. But she doesn't try to prop him up and baby him. She's his girlfriend, not his mother. He's sore and wounded, but at least he had someone to take it out on and Wonder Woman was there to share in the fun. I'm pretty sure this counts as a date by their twisted standards. Wonder Woman even finds a way to add some extra sentiment, giving him the old Kent family mailbox as something he can hold onto. It's not the most romantic gift she could've given him. I'm pretty sure crotchless panties would've revitalized him just as much. But it gets the point across. It's the kind of non-creepy romantic gesture that even Twilight haters can enjoy.

Beyond the romance, we get a few more hints as to who's fucking with Superman's life and thinks it's a good idea. While Wonder Woman flies him away, someone else is spying on him. He's not Lex Luthor. In fact, he looks kind of like the principal of my old high school, which means he must have choked a live puppy at some point in his day. He's also intrigued at Superman's vulnerability and probably wants to exploit the fuck out of it. And he makes it clear that he's not done fucking with him. Either he really hates Superman or getting beat up by Wonder Woman is the only thing that'll give him a boner anymore.


Wonder Woman takes Superman back to the bunker under his old house, which is probably the only part of his life as Clark Kent that wasn't hit with a TNT enema. While there, Wonder Woman plays the part of the sexy nurse girlfriend, but in a completely non-porno way. It makes for a wonderfully sweet moment that should still give some people the same boners that sexy nurse porn will. Superman is badly bruised and in a lot of pain. Wonder Woman is there to treat him. It's a beautiful moment. It's intimate without being overly sexy. For once, my heart and my penis are in agreement.

Beyond the sentiment of the moment, Superman says something important that some women only wish their lover's would say. He tells Wonder Woman that they can't go into a battle where she has to worry about protecting him all the time. Even though he's vulnerable, she has to trust him to carry his own weight. Now that might not apply in a battle against Darkseid or a coked up Lex Luthor, but they be an inverted version of Super Mario brothers. They still have to trust each other, even when one of them isn't at full strength.

What makes this moment so special is that it shows how Superman isn't going to let his girlfriend fight his battles for him. Some men might be okay with that. Some might even prefer it. But Superman still has to be Superman. It still worries Wonder Woman because like any genuine lover, she doesn't want to lose him. And some women will wrap their lovers in bubble wrap and duct tape in a very unsexy way to protect them. But she's not willing to be that obsessive. She's Wonder Woman, not some character Jennifer Anniston plays in shitty movies.


Once they make these reservations known, Superman focuses back on the conflict at hand. He's still Superman. He's still determined to save innocent people, especially those from his hometown. To do that, he'll have to do some kind of crazy shit that only Superman can get away with doing. And he has to do it without Wonder Woman. It feeds directly off the conversation they just had. He needs her to trust him to do what he needs to do and she has to believe him when he says she doesn't want to be in this part of the shit storm. It's a test that even mature relationships will fuck up every now and then. With these two, the margin for fucking up is extremely small. It's a powerful moment that conveys its power while fully clothed. That alone helps make it meaningful.


So why exactly would Superman not want Wonder Woman to tag along through this wing of the shit storm? Well, there's actually a very believable explanation for that and one most women, minus those who get reality shows on A&E, would understand. It involves Superman breaking into the White House and having a chat with the President himself. So yeah, this is shit that only Superman could do and not be the target for drone strikes for the next eight years. And bringing Wonder Woman along for this would only make it more awkward. Two of the world's most powerful heroes breaking into the White House doesn't send a very good message. One vulnerable hero who just got attacked by a government-sponsored task force is more palatable. At worst, it'll trigger a few committee hearings and some bitching from John McCain.


In reading the Superman/Wonder Woman comics, I've come to see it as the antithesis to romantic comedies and softcore porn on Cinemax. This series isn't about some quirky way a couple of attractive, model-worthy people hook up and start humping. This is about two people actually building a meaningful relationship. The fact that they're two of the most iconic heroes in the history of comics is actually secondary. Think about that for a moment. The heroics that make Superman and Wonder Woman the icons they've been since the days of FDR is superseded by a relationship. And yet, it's still awesome.

This is the kind of relationship that won't get Twilight fans horny, but it will get anyone who values honest, realistic romance excited. And yes, there are people who do appreciate that shit. They won't admit it and they'll deny it until the day they die, but it's a common theme that binds anyone who has ever been in love in any capacity. So unless you're an emo goth who never stops listening to Linken Park songs, this comic will resonate.

The battle against the Suicide Squad was nicely detailed, even if it didn't do anything overly epic. But more than anything else, it deepened the mystery and put Superman on a more dangerous path. We still don't know who has been making him miserable, but we know Wonder Woman is giving him something to fight for. And she can do it while keeping her top on. That, my friends, is true love right there. I give Superman/Wonder Woman #19 an 8 out of 10. It'll put a smile on your face, but it won't make your hearts explode. Those looking for something more intense should just stick to crack. Nuff said!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Years of Future Past #3


We live in an era where people love to bitch and moan about a story being done and redone to the point of absurdity. There’s now an entire population of douche-bag hipster types who make it their sole mission in life to whine about how there are no original ideas anymore. And for some reason, they have to do it in coffee shops where they insist on taking forever just to decide they want a fucking latte. I admit there are times when remakes and reboots annoy the shit out of me, but I don’t reject the concept outright. It doesn’t matter to me whether something is a remake or a reboot of a story that has been told since the days of Plato making poop jokes. All I care about is whether or not it’s awesome.

An apocalyptic future with killer robots is about as original as a talking cartoon dog. But like bacon and whiskey, there are so many ways to make it awesome. Days of Future Past is right up there with the original Terminator movie as the story that got this concept right. Years of Future Past could’ve taken a piss all over it, but instead it just added more bacon bits to the mix. Within the context of Secret Wars, it’s created an engaging and refined narrative that we hoped to see in the Matrix sequels, but never got. How could it be even more engaging? How about adding a giant fucking dragon to the mix? No, I’m not talking about Game of Thrones. I’m talking about Years of Future Past #3. It has less tits and amputations, but it still has a big fucking dragon in it.

That big fucking dragon has a name too, Lockheed. And up to this point, he’s been the bouncer for Centrum, the last mutant refuge. Well now he has to be less a bouncer and more a John McClane style enforcer. Kate does reveal that he got fucked up by Sentinels before so he has even more motivation to return the favor. That motivation definitely shows in the first wave of attacks. The Doom Sentinels might as well be flying chocolate bars. They’re glorified snacks, minus the processed sugar. It makes for a pretty brutal battle and one that Storm makes flashier when she enters the picture. This keeps the Doom Sentinels occupied while Centrum is evacuated. It’s good strategy. A giant fucking dragon is as good a cover as anyone can get without making a couple of grizzly bears hump in the middle of the road.


It’s a pretty brutal battle, but one that goes to shit way too quickly. One of the Doom Sentinels gets a cheap shot on Lockheed and the battle ends in a decidedly unsatisfying way. It would be like Rocky Balboa getting knocked out in the first round by Apollo Creed. For a big fucking dragon, that’s pretty disappointing. But in Lockheed’s defeat, we get a big fucking revelation that has way more impact than a big fucking dragon, albeit not nearly as awesome.

When shit starts crashing down, Cameron gets caught in the chaos. Kate Pryde saves him, as any X-men is inclined to do, but she reveals something major in the process. Cameron is her son. I’ll give everyone a moment to sober up and check their brains to make sure they haven’t had an aneurism. Take as many cold showers as you want. It’s still true. Cameron is Kate Pryde’s son. Now don’t start making some overly pornographic assumptions that Kate bumped uglies with Wolverine, who Cameron has been Cameron’s de-facto father at this point. It’s made clear that he’s still Colossus’ kid. That keeps Wolverine from becoming excessively creepy, but it still makes for the least satisfying twist since the Seinfeld finale.

It’s not just that there were some hints that Christy and Cameron might have the urge to make another Joffrey Baratheon. It’s the implication that Kate and Colossus basically ditched one of their kids and left him with Wolverine of all people. Seriously, this is a guy who has murdering his own son on his resume and a guy who tends to attract the Sabretooths of the world. It would be one thing if they were just shitty parents, but they kept Christy. So this twist feels less like a twist and more like several shots of tequila with a WTF chaser.


It gets understandably awkward real fucking fast. It also gets chaotic, but not in a very understandable way. We see no more dragons fighting killer robots. Instead, we see the team just separating Scooby Doo style because I guess these people never saw a standard slasher movie. And for some reason, Kate Pryde opts to have Cameron and Christy as part of her group. That’s like Bruce Willis going on a scavenger hunt with Ashton Kutcher. Not only that, it derails the whole dragon-fighting-robot plot that had so much appeal.

They eventually make it to a church since I guess they never saw other horror movies like the Exorcist either. Inside, they meet up with Nightcrawler, which is a nice touch. He’s the kind of guy who can temper the effects of bad WTF. And since this is a world where Doom is a god, his role as a priest is that much more interesting. Hell, if Doom was a god, the bible would be a much more interesting book. It has all sorts of interesting implications. But like a dragon fighting a robot, we are denied once more.


Instead, we get a respectable effort by Kate Pryde to explain why she never told Cameron and Chrissy they were siblings, risking Game of Thrones style incest in the process. It’s not wholly unreasonable. Cameron was born before she and most other mutants got sent to internment camps. When Kate and Colossus got captured, Wolverine escaped with an infant Cameron. Shortly after, Kate and Colossus found time to make another child, but just before President Kelly implemented his no-mutant-baby-making policies. So she was stuck in an internment camp while he was on the outside, roughing it with Wolverine.

In terms of bullshit explanations, this is better than most. But it still fails to satisfy anyone with even a moderate WTF tolerance. Kate and Colossus still ditched their son and even after they found him again, they kept a pretty big secret from him and from Chrissy. There’s just no way this doesn’t come off as a real dick move on some levels. I know parents have to make tough decisions and be assholes at times, but there are too many excuses and not enough reasons here. And honestly, did they really think that Cameron wouldn’t be in as much trouble if he grew up around Wolverine? Hell, they’re lucky he isn’t smoking a pack a day yet.


Cameron is still a bit more understanding than Chrissy. He ends up making excuses for her, but some of that stems from him picking up on Wolverine’s don’t-give-too-many-fucks-unless-it’s-a-beer attitude. But even he calls bullshit on some of Kate Pryde’s reasons and she seems to know on some levels she fucked up. That’s more than a lot of parents do. Just ask the Duggars.

Another awkward moment follows, this time between Chrissy and Cameron. It’s way more awkward than any conversation Luke and Leia ever had in Star Wars. The fact that there’s a funny Star Wars reference doesn’t help, but doesn’t hurt either. They gloss over the hormonal shit and have this jumbled, incoherent conversation about how adult make fucked up decisions and how anyone trying to make sense of the world is doomed to have a seizure. They still have a nice, non-incest hug in the end and it is somewhat sweet that they can get over this awkwardness. But nothing they say feels like they actually dealt with the issues here. I’d much rather be seeing dragons fighting killer robots, but that’s just me.


The awkwardness ends officially once Nightcrawler shows up with Kate. They’re then transported to the top of the church where they can overlook another mutant internment camp. They finally bring up the whole mutant reform package that President Kelly has been pitching, which has been horribly glossed over after being so central in the first few issues. Guess a giant dragon fighting a robot isn’t the only thing that got derailed.

There’s some talk about these mutant reforms and some Soviet style propaganda that’s urging mutants to embrace segregation. Nightcrawler says he’s tried to save these mutants from this sort of Fox News style crap, but he hasn’t been able to. They have big fucking guns. He can teleport and win Halloween contests. It’s not a fair fight.


There’s a brief and boring debate on the merits of freeing these prisoners with the limited manpower at their disposal. Cameron rightly points out that these people are probably not in a good state to battle an oppressive government with the backing of Doom. Chrissy doesn’t seem to really give it more than half a thought. To her, they’re in internment camps. They need to be set free in a world where dragons and Doom Sentinels prowl an apocalyptic landscape. I guess she’s never seen the Walking Dead. It could’ve made for a tense, meaningful discussion. It just ends up being some fairly meaningless whining before Chrissy says “fuck it!” and launches her attack.


The battle that follows isn’t nearly as epic as Lockheed fighting Doom Sentinels. How could it be? How can anyone compete with a dragon? It doesn’t make much of an effort either. They appear, start fighting guards, and storm through the gate. There’s nothing that visceral or satisfying about it. It’s about as spectacular as watching James Bond shoot a few random henchmen. The difference is that these henchmen are prepared. They have gear that would probably keep James Bond from banging whatever bimbo he’s trying to bang. Nightcrawler quickly does his best General Akbar impression and warns that it’s a trap. And without the aid of a giant dragon, they’re pretty fucked.


But it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. They don’t just find themselves playing the part of Rodney King in a bad neighborhood. Once they make it into the camp, they find something surprising. Some of the mutants in the camp are actually working with the guards and they don’t seem to be in a rush to break out. It’s another twist, but one that’s not wrought with as much WTF. There are even a few familiar faces in the crowd as well, like Destiny and Pyro. There even seem to be a few humans in the crowd. It’s a strange development that feels like both a trap and a mind-fuck. But after finding out about Kate and Colossus’ questionable parenting skills, it’s not nearly as strange as fucked up as it could be.


So as much as I enjoyed watching a giant fucking dragon fight killer robots, the excess amount of WTF made this issue feel exceedingly sobering. It’s like dropping some bird shit into a bowl of chocolate fudge. It tries to do the same shit Star Wars did in Return of the Jedi, but it fails while having way too many unpleasant implications. It’s not just that Cameron and Christy might have wanted to dip their toes in the incest pool. It’s that at one point, someone thought it would be a good idea to give one of their kids to Wolverine to raise in a post-Apocalyptic future. Because that’s what responsible and loving parents do, keep siblings apart and trust a hard-drinking loner with anger-management issues to raise a child. There’s only so much WTF I can take when I’m low on weed and I think this came way too close to exceeding it.

All the WTF factors aside, the story did move forward and there was still plenty of drama to go around. While some creepy shit was glossed over, other aspects weren’t. Throwing Nightcrawler into the mix helped and seeing a few more familiar faces at the end kept things interesting. There’s still a battle plan to oppose these Bernie Sanders type reforms that President Kelly is proposing. Parts of that plan are still vague, but the overall struggle is still ongoing. Now it’s gained another complication that has nothing to do with incest. It’s just not nearly as awesome as a robot-fighting dragon. I give Years of Future Past #3 a 5 out of 10. I’m sorry, but a robot fighting dragon can only do so much. Not a lot of stories outside of Star Wars can get away with teasing incest and this just isn’t one of them. Nuff said!