Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Inferno #5


There are certain kinds of stories that are just impossible to fuck up because the premise alone is inherently awesome. That's not to say they can't be fucked up. If the Wachowskis have taught me anything since 1999, it's that there are far more ways to fuck something up than there are to make something awesome. And I'm certain if they were given control over a story that involved the X-men teaming up with the Goblin Queen to fight a demon army led by Illyana Rasputin, they'd find ways to fuck it up. But I feel comfortable in trusting Dennis Hopeless to make that story awesome.

There's a lot to love about Inferno and I'm not just talking about the Goblin Queen's obscenely revealing choice of attire. It's a story built around Colossus' struggle to save his sister from becoming the alpha and omega of demonic bitches while finding time to bang Domino on the side. It's the kind of story that I don't think Colossus fans ever thought they would get. But like getting a free blowjob from a Megan Fox on Christmas morning, it's a story that has been full of epic mutant/demon conflicts. And now, with Colossus ready to accept that there's no way to save his sister's soul from an eternity of demonic gangbanging, he's ready to finish this fight once and for all. However bad it turns out in Inferno #5, I think it's pretty safe to say that it's going to make the Goblin Queen horny at some point.

At the moment, however, I don't think any psycho bitch in Battleworld is hornier than Magik. Her demon armies have successfully invaded this realm, beat back the X-men, and forced them into the sewer. Her attack was so successful that she even managed to find the time to grab a couple of hot dogs. She couldn't have more swag at this point if she was starring in a Nike commercial with LeBron James.

Swag aside, she still can't just put her feet up and start masturbating on top of a pile of corpses just yet. One of her demon minion, minus his head, informs her that her pissed off older brother is still kicking and still has a burning desire to make her less horny and not by posting embarrassing baby pictures on Facebook either. But being so powerful and fueled by hot dogs, she's not worried. Hell, she still looks pretty damn horny.


What she doesn't know, however, is that the X-men have a new ally with which to combat her demons and her horniness. And while it's hard to think of Sinister as anyone who shouldn't show his face outside of a bad Halloween party, he does seem to be concerned about the possibility of a psychotic teenage demonic bitch destroying his world. So he meets up with the surviving X-men and offers them a chance to team up. And since their base is currently a fucking sewer, it's a chance they have to take.

The problem is that Sinister is good at being a diabolical douche-bag. He's not good at being an ally to the X-men. His contribution to this battle isn't a giant demon-killing gun or a demon plague. It's an army of Boom Boom clones. Yes, that's all he has at this point. More clones. I'm pretty sure if Spider-Man were there, he would say, "This won't end well."

It's one of those plans that sounds like it came from burned out college student who ran out of Adderall. He can't think of anything more creative so he resorts to clones. He thinks clones, combined with Colossus' soul sword, gives them a chance. I want to say it sounds reasonable, but I can still hear Spider-Man yelling in the distance, "Don't do it! It'll fuck everything up!"


And wouldn't you know it? He's right. Sinister learns once again that relying on clones is a quick and easy way to fuck everything up and I'm not just talking about bullshit retcons. He seems to forget that he's standing in the same room as Madelyne Pryor, another clone he screwed over and not in a fun way either. While not the same omega level psycho bitch that Magik has become, she's still a psycho bitch and she's not exactly fond of Sinister. So it surprised pretty much nobody when she up and attacks Sinister before he could even begin his allegiance with the X-men. And fittingly enough, she manages to end his pasty ass by turning one of his own clones against him.

This sudden turn surprises absolutely no one. Cyclops, Jean, and the rest of the X-men couldn't have been less surprised without someone telling them that Snoop Dogg got busted for weed. While it's not at all surprising that Maddie turned on Sinister, it effectively derailed the whole concept of Sinister helping the X-men fight Illyana. So anyone hoping for a final climactic battle between Magik's forces and the combined might of the X-men and Sinister should put their dicks back in their pants.


Not only does it derail their allegiance, it creates yet another problem that quickly becomes chaotic and disorganized. Like wearing a Han Solo costume to a Star Trek convention, it completely fucks up the situation. With Sinister dead, the clone army of Boom Boom attacks the X-men because that's what clone armies do. They turn on everyone and go fucking crazy. Seriously, when was the last time a clone army actually did something awesome?

This battle is nowhere near the epic struggle that unfolded in previous issues. It's not even on the same level as the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones. It has some nice visuals, but all it really does is show that the X-men are screwed. Not only do they have to battle Magik's armies. They have to battle another one of Sinister's fucked up cloning experiments. The X-men are good, but they're not that good.


And because this situation isn't fucked up enough, Magik decides to show up at the worst possible moment to screw the X-men over even more. Because why not? If you're going to be a psychotic demon bitch, why wouldn't you fuck over your enemies when they're in the process of fucking themselves? That's just common sense.

She unleashes her demon minions into this unfolding clusterfuck, making everything even more disorganized. The X-men fight, but they basically get lost in the clusterfuck, as often happens in the case of clusterfucks. There's no epic struggle with them. We don't see who lives, who dies, and who escapes. We're kind of just left to assume that they've all been horribly maimed by demons. It's a shitty assumption to make, especially when it's effectively glossed over because of the extent of said clusterfuck. But that's pretty much all we're left with and that's pretty damn disappointing.


One detail that doesn't get glossed over, thankfully, is Colossus' dedication to ending his sister's demonic ass. It took him way too fucking long to realize over the course of this series that his sweet little sister is beyond saving. She let a demon gangbang her soul and there's no coming back from that. Now, he has to be the one to stop her and he's got a big fucking sword with which to do it. So he has the tools, the incentive, and the hot girlfriend on the side in Domino. He should be able to end this. Right?

Well, it would've been an even bigger clusterfuck if it had been that simple. The battle that unfolds is not nearly as chaotic. It's very visceral and personal, one that has all the details of a climactic final clash. It's like Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker if Darth Vader was a demon bitch with nice tits and Luke Skywalker wasn't some puny lightweight with an oversized glow stick for a weapon. Colossus has a big fucking sword and big fucking muscles. That makes for a pretty awesome battle.

And despite his muscles and having a big fucking sword, he still can't finish off his sister at first. She still fucks with his mind and his heart in a way that only a psycho demon bitch could. It's a harsh moment, but one that maintains the strong emotional undertones that have fueled Colossus' story since this series began. He still loves his sister, even though she's become a demon-loving psycho bitch. Ending her psychotic ass isn't like turning the garden hose on a couple of Mormons.


Colossus eventually manages to see through Magik's ruse and her fucking with his heart. He starts going in for the kill, but even that isn't enough. Magik isn't just good at taking a big steaming piss on the emotions of her enemies. She's also fast, powerful, and enjoys tormenting her enemies way too fucking much. Colossus tries to get in a few kill shots. He even stops hesitating. But Magik manages to brush it off and put him in a position to end his metal ass once and for all. Chances are, she'll pleasure herself with pieces of his corpse just as an added fuck you. It's a tough moment for Colossus, but he's dealing with a crazy psycho demon bitch. There's no shame in getting overwhelmed at times.


It only finally turns against Magik when she gets too horny for her own good and decides to go after Domino, who enters the battle in an effort to help her man. That makes her both an awesome girlfriend and an easy target. Magik, deciding that jerking off on one corpse just isn't enough, tries to end Domino first. Colossus doesn't appreciate this. It's one thing for his sister to be a powerful demon-loving psycho bitch. It's quite another for her to fuck with the woman he's currently banging.

This leads to the final moment where Magik's panties are dried forever. Before she can end Domino and lick up Colossus' tears, he uses the soul sword to fucking cut her in half. And no, that's not me making another porno joke. That's actually what happens. He uses that big fucking sword to cut Magik in fucking half. Darth Vader only lost an arm. Magik got cut in fucking half. There's just no contest is what I'm saying.

And considering the unapologetic demonic rampaging that she's done, Magik's defeat is extra satisfying. It's probably one of the most satisfying moments involving demons that don't one clawing out of Donald Trump's chest. It's the end of an emotional struggle for Colossus. He wanted to save his sister. He accepted she couldn't be saved and had to be the one that killed her. I think the big guy has earned both respect and a hot girlfriend.


That's exactly what he gets in the end. He and Domino share a nice moment. I'm sure if the original Boom Boom wasn't present, they would've boned right then and there. They end up just getting the fuck out of there, hopefully finding a better place to fuck overall. Boom Boom says that all the demons and the X-men are dead. We don't get any further details about that, nor do we know the extent of the battle that took place. While that oversight is disappointing, it's none-the-less fitting that Colossus finishes his mission and is able to escape with a friend and sexy girlfriend by his side. It's not the happiest of endings, but who can expect such an ending in a story that involves crazy demon psycho bitches?


Speaking of psycho bitches, one of them does end up getting a happy ending. It's not the same happy ending most get in a Thai massage parlor, but it's close. Madelyne Pryor and toddler Cable somehow managed to survive the clusterfuck earlier because of course they did. Psycho bitches, especially those that look good in thongs, tend to survive. And with Magik dead and Colossus ditching this wasteland of a world, she figures the power of the Darkchilde is up for grabs. Since a psycho bitch rarely lets that kind of tormenting power go to waste, she takes it for herself. And Cable, being the wide-eyed toddler, just thinks it's cool. I usually don't agree with toddlers on issues that don't involve ice cream, but I agree with him here. Madelyne does look pretty damn cool as the new demon queen. So in the end, she got what she wanted and probably got pretty damn horny as a result.


Anyone who has seen or read the spoilers of Old Yeller had a pretty good idea of how this was going to end. But unlike Old Yeller, nobody is going to get choked up over seeing Colossus disembowel his demon-loving bitch sister, especially after she laid waste to an entire realm and slaughtered the X-men. If anything, seeing Colossus end her demonic ass was the most satisfying part of the story. It was still an emotional clusterfuck for Colossus, having to kill his sister. But in the end, it had to be done and he got to do it while banging Domino on the side. That's a win if ever there was one.

While Colossus got the win and the hot girl, the rest of the details were a more classic clusterfuck. Sinister's contributions to the story after his unexpected arrival at the end of the previous issue ended up contributing jack shit. And the contributions of the rest of the X-men ended up being jack shit as well as they got wiped out off-panel. There was no last stand or chaotic battle. It's not like Brett Ratner was directing it either. It just got glossed over and like depictions of Jennifer Lawrence's ass, that's just not something you can gloss over.

The emotional component of the story succeeded and that was the most important part. But every other part was disorganized to the point of being fucked up and not in the classic Deadpool way either. At the very least, the story did not lose sight of its main priorities. That's something the Brett Ratners of the world can rarely claim. It's just the little things that it missed and like watching pixilated porn, it's not nearly as satisfying. I still give Inferno #5 a 7 out of 10. Colossus got to slay a demon queen and make out with a hot woman. I'm pretty sure that makes him the most badass Russian who never starred in a Rocky movie. Nuff said!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Broken Worlds and Common Threads: Years of Future Past #5

The following is my review of Years of Future Past #5, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


If the success of Walking Dead has taught us anything, it’s that an apocalyptic future brings out the best and worst in people. In addition to making executives at AMC obscenely rich, it reveals a part of human nature that is often muted by the comforts of civilization such as fast food, cheap internet, and Candy Crush. Some people become heroic freedom fighters that get major roles in a Mad Max movie. Some people become deranged dictators fueled by fear, greed, and no fewer than three distinct personality disorders.

Being one of the most famous apocalyptic futures of the past 30 years that doesn’t involve zombies, Days of Future Past set a high bar for stories about human nature in the face of the apocalypse. This is a future that’s one part Terminator and one part The Stand. Mutants aren’t just stigmatized. They’re forced into internment camps and hunted by Sentinels that shoot first and leave due process to morticians. And in Years of Future Past, these same themes carry over. It’s a world where mutants are both interned and hunted. It’s also a world where Dr. Doom is a god so it’s sort of a double apocalypse.


But what makes Years of Future Past a compelling story isn’t the extent of the apocalyptic nature in this world. It’s how the remaining X-men confront it as a family. This is best reflected in Christina and Cameron, the children of Kitty Pryde and Piotr Rasputin. They spent much of the series following the remnants of the X-men, fighting a conspiracy that would give the post-Apocalyptic government everything they need to use mutants as target practice. And while this struggle has been entertaining, leading to moments that involve giant dragons fighting giant robots, it’s the family drama that has given weight to the conflict.

In Years of Future Past #5, that drama reaches its climactic and tragic peak. The struggle has been built around preventing a plot by President Kelly to turn humans against mutants to such an extreme that anything other than Nazi-style death camps would be akin to French kissing Kim Jong Un. It’s a plot that has led Christy, Cameron, and the X-men through some pretty intense battles, but none are as intense as the one that takes place in this issue. And remarkably, it doesn’t involve a Sentinel or a giant dragon.


In a clear indication that living in an apocalyptic future can be hazardous to someone’s mental health, Cameron breaks under the strain. After spending most of his life with Wolverine, something else that is known to be hazardous to mental health, and fighting this never-ending battle against human hatred, he comes to one inescapable conclusion. Mutants deserve extinction.

While this sounds overly nihilistic, it’s uncomfortably reasonable from the perspective of someone who has spent his life as a moving target for Sentinels. He sees the conflict that mutants like him create and this conflict has left the world in ruin. This isn’t the kind of ruin that politicians warn about when someone accepts same-sex marriage either. This is a full-blown collapse of civilization caused by mutants who couldn’t get along with humans.


It’s a tragic yet powerful turn for a character who, up until this point, had been aiding the X-men in stopping President Kelly’s plot. It’s no longer just a generic oppressed minority vs. tyrannical government type struggle. Instead, it becomes a struggle within a family in addition to a struggle against a tyrannical government. It’s basically Red Dawn meets the Goonies.

Cameron’s betrayal and his fight against Christy and the X-men create the emotional weight that makes this story work. There are still elements more befitting of a traditional apocalyptic struggle. The X-men still battle Sentinels and they still try to stop President Kelly’s plot. This battle is somewhat rushed. It’s not a spectacle on or near the level of Red Dawn, but it gets the job done. It could’ve just ripped off the last three Transformers movies and made it a fight against giant robots, but even with Megan Fox involved, it wouldn’t have gotten the message across.

That message in Years of Future Past is perfectly in line with the themes of the original Days of Future Past. This isn’t a Lord of the Rings movie. This isn’t the kind of conflict where they just take down some big, evil creature and all is right with the world. Saving President Kelly didn’t immediately make everyone hug the nearest mutant. It didn’t make the ruins of civilization any less an eye-sore. It just helped the X-men and mutant kind survive. In an era where Hugh Jackman is hanging up his claws and movie rights are a huge source of conflict, that’s the best they could hope for.

The culmination of the struggle and the drama in Years of Future Past #5 makes it feel like a complete story worthy of being tied to its predecessor. There are still elements in the narrative that are lacking. The resolution of the story, while tragic, doesn’t feel entirely complete. There are some loose ends, but not to an extent that would hinder the story. It still has the impact that a story about a dystopian future should have, especially in the absence of a time machine.

More than anything else, Years of Future Past tried to incorporate a distinct sense of heart into the narrative. While there’s only so much possible in a story featuring dystopian futures and internment camps, the heart conveyed through Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Christy, Cameron, and even Wolverine help make it endearing. Not every story about a dystopian future should have the undertone of a Linkin Park music video. It can have heart along with killer robots and giant dragons. When put together, it can be a potent combination.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, September 25, 2015

X-men Supreme Reflections: Mystique PREVIEW and Pics!


When it comes to villains, the X-men have more than their share of iconic characters. A big part of what makes X-men so special and so relevant is that their villains never come off as wholly evil. Sometimes, they even come off as painfully rare, as is often the case with characters like Gryadon Creed or Cameron Hodge. The X-men Supreme fanfiction series has used a number of major villains such as Magneto, Sinister, Hodge, and Creed. I've made it a point to capture the essence of what makes them so compelling as villains in the X-men mythos. But there's one X-men character whose villainous past is much harder to capture and that character is Mystique.

Of all the great X-men villains that have emerged over the past 50 years, Mystique holds a special place for me personally. It's not just her shape-shifting cunning or her natural sexiness that appeals. She's another one of those X-men characters who likes to navigate that gray area between good and evil. Sometimes she favors one side more than the other, as is often the case when she has to deal with her children in Rogue and Nightcrawler. I always had plans to use her in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. However, it wasn't until X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers that I came up with a plan that would set Mystique completely apart from her Marvel Comics counterpart.

There's no quesiton that Mystique is an iconic X-men character. But as iconic as she is, she's somewhat of an anomoly in the X-men mythos in that Marvel hasn't really made much effort to refine her character. Whereas the background story for Magneto, Sinister, and Graydon Creed are all well-documented, there's absolutely no story for Mystique. There's no clue as to where she grew up, where she came from, what her family was like, and what led her into a life of deviance. Despite decades of clashing with the X-men, Marvel has not really answered any of these burning questions. With X-men Supreme, I dared to try and answer.

It began with a subtle hint in the Overlord arc that Mystique knew Wolverine from a previous life. Through numerous volumes of X-men Supreme that followed, I dropped more and more hints that there was a connection. Then, in X-men Supreme Issue 120: Sinister Revelations, the secret finally came out. Mystique wasn't always Raven Darkholme. In a life she no longer remembers, she was Rose, who was Wolverine's first love. That revelation completely shook her world and Wolverine's as well. It was, by far, the biggest revelation to date in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. And of all the major twists I've done in this fanfiction series, this revelation with Mystique is something I'm very proud of.

Right now, the Mystique in Marvel Comics is not a very deep character. Since the mid-2000s, she hasn't had any real depth. She's just been an unapologetic sociopath whose only purpose is to torment the X-men. Well in X-men Supreme, she now knows her true past. She knows how she became Mystique and how she ended up on her current path. The question is where will she go from here? What will she do? That makes the next and final entry of X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 5 one of the most important entries to date. For fans of Mystique who aren't getting anything out of the comics, you won't want to miss this. I've prepared a preview into the mind of the X-men's most famous shape-shifter.

During one of my first missions, I infiltrated a small town in Italy where Nazi spies were passing freely through safe-houses. They were relying vital intelligence on the North African front for the Axis. I went in undercover and got the locations of the neighborhoods where these networks were based. Team X came in and rather than weed out the spies, they torched every town. James led the charge, lining up the civilians and shooting them with Creed. There was this one woman who tried to attack him with a kitchen knife. He decapitated her and looked like an animal doing it.

When I first saw this I was disgusted. I know I had been hardened to this sort of thing, but I couldn’t help it. For a time I kept my mouth shut. Then for reasons I’m still not sure of, I found myself drawn to James. He was the one who conducted my Team X training and it was during that time I gained insight into this man. He was a battle hardened killing machine. However, I didn’t sense that he took the same satisfaction in it that others like Victor Creed had done. That resonated with me. So against Team X protocol, I reached out to him. I’m not sure if that was a mistake or a blessing.

We would talk for hours, sometimes getting into heated arguments. James would talk about the atrocities he committed and the people he killed. I would try to convince him that it bothered him more than he let on. He was so hardened by his work in Team X that he accepted that he had become a monster. I didn’t believe him. I remember looking into his eyes and seeing a different person from the man who committed those atrocities. I’ve never been known for my empathy, but as Rose I had a knack for reading people. The more I read James Howlett, the more I was drawn to him. The more I reached him, the more he was drawn to me. It quickly escalated from there.

We continued to conduct missions. I would spy and Team X would do the fighting. Yet over time, I noticed James pulling back a bit. He wouldn’t commit the same level of atrocity that he once did. He would actually show mercy, something that did not go over well with Victor Creed. It began the epic falling out those two would undergo. It also began a much deeper relationship between me and James.

We came to trust each other so implicitly that I don’t think it’s possible to quantify. I was showing him that he wasn’t a monster. He was showing me that I was more than a deceiver. He saw through all my deceptions. He knew the real me. He and I would fight side-by-side, carrying each other through the horrors of war. The bonds formed on a battlefield are unlike those formed anywhere else. To hell with idealistic notions of true love. A love that’s formed on the battlefield is one that defies classification.

It’s not romantic and it’s not the sort of thing Hollywood makes movies about. That doesn’t make it any less profound. I remember after Team X was part of the Normandy invasion, James and I made love for the first time. That was a powerful moment. That was the first time I gave myself to someone without any deception. It was…different. I think that sealed our fate together. We committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of Team X. We fell in love. It’s because of that love we ended up committing the ultimate act of betrayal…one that would haunts us for multiple lifetimes.

And in the spirit of giving Mystique the development and story that the comics won't, I've given her pics section an overdue update. I know I've been negating that section lately. I hope to change that because I have been collecting plenty of pics on the side. So for Mystique fans, I hope this makes your week.

Mystique Pics

Mystique's story is one of the major details that sets the X-men Supreme fanfiction series apart from the current X-men comics. It's a story you can't get anywhere else and one Marvel will likely never tell. This means I have even more incentive to make it as awesome as possible. Since I have decided to continue X-men Supreme into Volume 6, expect to see more of Mystique in this new role. And I want to make her awesome in a way that can't be found in the comics either. To do that, I still need feedback from readers. So please take the time to contact me with your kind words or post your comments directly in the issues. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!

Jack

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Years of Future Past #5


If shitty sitcoms, and even a few good sitcoms, have taught us anything, it's that siblings don't need much of an excuse to be assholes to one another. From the Brady Bunch to the Simpsons to the Bundys, entire seasons can be built around siblings being at each other's throats over reasons as petty as borrowing a toothbrush. In an apocalyptic future full of mutant internment camps and Doom-powered Sentinels, there are more pressing matters aside from toothbrushes. But that didn't stop Christina and Cameron Rasputin from turning on one another once they entered the eye of President Kelly's mutant-bashing conspiracy. Now, they're in the midst of a bitter sibling dispute and for some reason, the threat of Doom-powered Sentinels is secondary.

It has made for a tense and at-times disorganized narrative in the Years of Future Past series. However, it's a narrative that has captured all the right themes of Days of Future Past. It's not just about surviving internment camps, killer Sentinels, and whatever other shit the Terminator franchise has since ripped off. It's about the impact on the X-men and their families. That's what gave the original story so much emotional weight. That's what this Secret Wars tie-in has been trying to match. For the most part, it has done an admirable job. And in Years of Future Past #5, it attempts to put a cherry and an extra layer of bacon bits on top.

And a good way to add those bacon bits is to pour napalm on the rapidly devolving sibling relationship between Christy and Cameron. This isn't just a brother and sister fighting over who uses the bathroom more in the morning. This is a real, heartfelt clash of ideas between two family members who just found out they're family. It was one of the most dramatic moments of the previous issue and seeing as how that got everybody's panties plenty wet, why not run with it?

Christy and Cameron have already exchanged blows. Sometimes that's the most productive argument that a couple of siblings can have, but Cameron keeps trying to make his point. He cites tigers and how they were endangered at one point. Then one species decided to shoot itself in the foot and they made a comeback. So maybe if mutants did the same, humans would benefit. And on some levels, it makes a strange bit of sense. Sure, it's still a dick move to an entire species, but I can see the PETA and Greenpeace crowd siding with Cameron, provided they serve Kale and soy in the afterlife. It helps add further weight to a clash that was already pretty fucking intense to begin with.

Being a good annoying sister, Christina doesn't buy into Cameron's nihilistic bullshit so he gives up trying to convince her. He then ditches her and tries to go after President Kelly to finish giving the biggest middle finger to his species since pandas decided to stop fucking.


As for the rest of the X-men, they still have no idea that Christy and Cameron are taking their new sibling rivalry to meth-head status. They're still focused on saving President Kelly from the elaborate conspiracy meant to make genocide an socially acceptable option. This involves Rachel and Storm guiding Air Force One into a nice, safe landing where the President and everyone on board don't shit their pants too much. But even they seem to suspect something stinks and it isn't the typical stench associated with politicians. They still think that if Christy can save the President, everything will be all cake and blowjobs. Because that somehow nullifies killer robots and internment camps apparently.


However questionable the X-men's reasoning might be, their plan goes to shit the moment Cameron shows up. At first, they don't suspect that he's dining on paint chips and LSD. He even passes by Colossus, who has no idea his son just tried to kill his sister, which would warrant way more than a timeout and a spanking. They all think he's on board with this plan to save the President and the entire mutant species. Then, he breaks onto Air Force One and grabs President Kelly by the throat, presumably with a huge fucking boner, and prepares to fuck his race in ways that a German bondage porn company would find offensive.

At this point, Cameron Pryde is beyond redemption. It's one thing to fight with his sister. Now, he's ready to kill the President and doom an entire species. Hell, even Dr. Doom himself would say that Cameron is a total dick. And in a world where Dr. Doom is a god, that's saying something.


Cameron's douchebaggery is poised to fuck everyone over. That's why it's pretty satisfying when his plan gets fucked over as well, courtesy of his mother and a giant fucking dragon. Yes, this story brought a giant fucking dragon back into the mix. I'll give everyone a minute to change their panties.

Having left his sister behind and extremely pissed, Cameron probably should've expected his sister and mother to go to extreme measures to punish his treacherous ass. And I don't know how much more extreme you can get by throwing a giant fucking dragon into the mix. This would be obscene overkill had they not already used a giant fucking dragon earlier in the story. That's exactly what makes it so fitting. If a giant fucking dragon worked well before, then why not use it again?

Lockheed, who was only down for the count after battling a Doom Sentinel earlier, fucks up Cameron's plan and scares the shit out of any racist henchmen the President might have on his staff. Hating minorities is common in the upper ranks of power, but that shit tends to take a back seat when giant fucking dragons enter the mix.


It's at this point the less heroic parts of the X-men's plan get exposed. Kitty Pryde finds out that Rachel and Magneto intended to have Christy sacrifice herself to save the President, hoping that would somehow change his stance on mutant genocide. As much as she's against mutant genocide, she's also against plans that rely on her daughter getting killed. So naturally, Rachel get a good punch in the jaw.

This begins one last epic clash between the President's forces, the X-men, and the douche-bags who betrayed the X-men. That naturally attracts more Doom Sentinels. But this time, the X-men have both Storm and a big fucking dragon on their side. It's not a fair fight is what I'm saying and unlike watching the Patriots beat up on the Oakland Raiders, it makes for a damn satisfying show.

It also allows Christy to confront President Kelly and in a way that doesn't require her to get killed. She tells him she's the last official mutant birth and despite the plots and internment camps, she's here to save his ungrateful ass. Will that make him less a racist? Maybe. Maybe not. Will it at least give him pause before he adopts Nazi-style policies on minorities? Probably. Plus, she saves him by letting him ride a big fucking dragon out of the battle. I'm pretty sure if Elton John gave Pat Robertson a ride on a big fucking dragon, he'd attend a gay wedding that same day.


Once the President is secure, Christy turns her attention to Cameron. It effectively skips over the other epic struggles going on between the X-men and the Doom Sentinels. While that is a disappointing oversight, we at least get to see the final clash between two embittered siblings. This isn't a clash between Thor and Thanos. It's not meant to be on that scale, nor should it. It's mean to be a bitter, personal struggle between two siblings. And that's exactly what we get.

It's a little rushed. Cameron basically says the same bullshit he said earlier about mutants deserving extinction. He even makes clear that he'll keep working towards this goal because every teenage boy needs a hobby. And since they don't have cell phones or the internet in this apocalyptic future, why not take up a hobby in self-inflicted genocide? This makes the final resolution inevitable. Christy has to kill her brother.

It's a moment that's exactly as intense and dramatic as it needs to be. Not long ago, these two characters were both part of the same struggle. They both were part of an X-men team trying to save their species from extinction. Then, one of them just dove head-first into the wrong end of the pool and lost his fucking mind. It's tragic, but it's also fitting and it captures all the right emotions.


This powerful moment generates a pretty intense reaction. Kitty Pryde and Colossus are understandably horrified. Sure, it saves them the trouble of lecturing their son on why self-inflicted genocide is wrong, but it's still a tragic loss. It leads to a solemn moment in the Rasputin/Pryde family that anyone who didn't make it through Toy Story 3 with dry eyes can appreciate.

At the very least, this solemn moment does have some positive benefits. A couple of President Kelly's henchmen are in a position to take out Christy and her family because seeing a mutant family in a state of sorrow just makes some people too horny. But President Kelly, showing that being saved by a mutant and given a ride on a giant dragon can affect even asshole politicians, orders them to stand down. So in the end, the X-men did succeed in getting President Kelly to ditch a more genocidal policy towards mutants, at least for now. Anyone who works for Planned Parenthood can tell you that even major victories don't make certain assholes go away.


The rest of the X-men leave the scene, having fought enough politicians and Doom Sentinels for one day. They end up back at Nightcrawler's church where Christy and her family share another solemn moment. They even let Rachel Grey join them, despite her willingness to let Christy become a mutant martyr in the worst possible way. She at least apologizes. That's way more than assholes like Magneto ever do. So at the very least, nobody decides to follow Cameron's douche-baggery.

It's a sad moment despite their triumph. They stopped President Kelly's plot, but they also lost someone dear to them. And in many ways, that's fitting. The whole Days of Future Past concept isn't meant to be a fucking Prozac commercial. It's a dark, sad world full of tragedy, loss, and creepy killer robots. The fact that this story was able to make the tragedy and loss so dramatic is a pretty awesome accomplishment.


While in Nightcrawler's church, the X-men also meet up with the other mutants they freed in the previous issue. They saw Christy and the X-men save the President. They figure they have a better shot at surviving by hanging with them. Plus, they have a giant pet dragon. How can you not trust someone with a giant pet dragon?

But as they're coming together, they hear sirens outside the church. I guess it would've been hoping for too much to think that just saving the President would be enough to make the rest of the world not want to use them for target practice. So the X-men get ready to fight again. However, we don't get to see that fight. This is where the story ends and we're left to fill in the blanks. It's overly vague, not unlike the ending to the last Matrix movie. But this ending is a lot more satisfying and doesn't suffer from Keanu Reeves' shitty acting.


So in the end, did Years of Futures Past add that final cherry on top of all the layers of awesome it worked in earlier? If I took the time to sober up, I could probably make the argument that at least part of that cherry found its way onto this concoction of classic X-men themes. But where's the fun in that? This issue kept all the high drama it had built up over the past several issues with Cameron and Christy. And the resolution had plenty of tragedy and feels, right up there with a typical Youtube video featuring a cat and a baby.

While it got the drama and feels right, the story itself still felt incomplete and a bit uncoordinated. But for an apocalyptic future, it's not like they could go from the Walking Dead to the Jetsons. At the very least, the X-men stopped a plot by President Kelly's lap dogs to screw mutants over a little more. That's basically like a tax hike on the poor dying in committee. It's not the most satisfying resolution, but it's far from the most disappointing. Anyone who endured the original ending to Mass Effect 3 would agree.

Years of Futures Past #5 told a solid, drama-filled story, complete with a giant Sentinel-fighting dragon. That makes for a pretty fucking awesome story. That's why I give this comic an 8 out of 10. I don't know when we'll get to see giant dragons fighting killer robots in an apocalyptic future again. If using the Inhumans to screw over mutants because of the movie rights doesn't work out, I'm sure Marvel will use something else and dragons are definitely on that list. Nuff said!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Feminine, Sexy, and So Much More: Starfire #4

The following is my review of Starfire #4, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Comic book fans are known for a lot of things, including elaborately detailed costumes and a love of writers with thick English accents. There are also a number of unspoken commandments such as thoust shalt not retcon needlessly or thoust shalt not tolerate delays of the Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch variety. However, as unreasonable as many fans can be, they can also be pretty forgiving.

It wasn’t that long ago that Starfire became the buxom symbol of everything DC Comics did wrong with the New 52 reboot. She went from this overly immodest yet inherently likable alien girl to a walking sexbot with the personality of Jessica Rabbit. Her role in Red Hood and the Outlaws was so crude that even the most ardent anti-feminist would roll their eyes. More than any other DC character, she needed a fresh start. That’s exactly what Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti gave her in the new Starfire series.


As a concept, a Starfire series sounds antithetical to the recent surge in female-friendly comics that are trying to do more than just pander to every male fantasy imaginable. However, Starfire at her core still embodies many powerful feminine traits. Those traits have often been lost because of her overt sexuality. And what has made this series work is that it doesn’t try to circumvent that sexuality. It tries to build a personality around it. And in Starfire #4, the formation of that personality feels complete.

A big part of rebuilding Starfire in a more likable, less pornographic context has been dedicated to establishing a new life in Key West. Given Florida’s capacity for tolerating both diverse personalities and the Bush family, it has proven to be a fitting home. She’s teamed up with a local sheriff named Stella to establish herself in this unique environment. It’s not Gotham. It’s not Metropolis. It’s not Disney World either. It’s a sunny, tropical environment for an alien girl with orange skin and few qualms about nudity. It’s perfect for her.


With that life established, completes Starfire #4 the process by getting Starfire back to basics. That includes fighting off killer monsters, which tend to pop up in every part of the DC Universe at some point. It sounds pretty standard. A beautiful alien female beating up a monster is nothing new. Wonder Woman has been doing it since 1941. However, Connor and Palmiotti find an interesting way to make it engaging while keeping Starfire fully clothed.

They do this by getting Terra, another Teen Titans veteran, involved in the story. She’s actually the one the monster is targeting in this conflict. That alone is pretty novel because whenever a superhero sets up shop in a new town, their enemies follow them like vindictive IRS agents. The fact that Starfire didn’t attract this kind of danger is somewhat jarring, but it doesn’t stop her from helping Terra out. Starfire isn’t just overtly sexual. She’s still a superhero every now and then.


Terra even offers Sheriff Stella some background as to why monsters are trying to kill her. It’s a bit disorganized in that it interrupts the flow of action, but it helps build on the context. It’s also a context that evokes Starfire’s excessive compassion. That’s another trait that often got lost in her overt sexualization and it’s a trait that helps set her apart from the Supergirls and Wonder Woman’s of the world. She’ll let herself get emotional. She’ll let herself cry and hug someone whereas Wonder Woman would probably tell someone to suck it up.

It’s this trait that brings out the best in Starfire, both in this issue and throughout the series as a whole. She’s a more open and emotional character. She’ll embrace total strangers, be the Terra or some immature guys trying to buy her a drink at a bar. She doesn’t do it in a way that feels fake or insincere. At no point does she ever come off as ditzy in the Kelly Bundy tradition. She just conveys the personality of someone who is loving and affectionate to everyone around her.


It’s a trait that’s distinct to her character and distinct to feminine themes. She doesn’t try to be tough enough to fight alongside the Supermans and Batmans of the world. She doesn’t try to be too much like Supergirl or Wonder Woman either. Starfire is her own person and even when she keeps her clothes on, she’s lovable and friendly in a way that Jessica Rabbit will never match.

While Starfire #4 does a good job of conveying Starfire’s toughness and compassion, there are times the narrative gets a bit chaotic. Terra’s inclusion in the story overshadows Starfire at some point, but it’s only temporary. In addition, there are hints about other conflicts emerging that don’t involve monsters that look like they were ripped from a Resident Evil game. However, these hints are overly vague and don’t offer much insight into the complications that Starfire faces.


It still doesn’t take away from what this story has accomplished. Connor and Palmiotti have done something truly remarkable here. They took a character that once embodied everything that was wrong with female characters in comic books and turned her into someone that appeals to curious women as much as it does horny men.

Starfire is still a sexual person by nature, as shown in her love of bikinis and casual nudity. But now those sexual traits are in the context of a character who is open, emotional, and affectionate to everyone around her. She’s like a movie that is only bad if the wrong scenes are emphasized. But when the right scenes are given proper focus, it makes for an entertaining and compelling narrative. Starfire #4 is proof that a female character can be sexual, feminine, and likable while still beating up monsters on the side. She’s not going to become a feminist icon anytime soon, but she’s already proven that she doesn’t need to be in order to be special.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, September 18, 2015

X-men Supreme Reflections: Sage is LIVE!


There are certain characters in the vast X-men mythos who have never been sufficiently developed. In the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, I’ve done as much as I can to develop some of these characters. Some of these characters are essentially blank slates in that Marvel never really put a lot of energy into giving them a past and future with the larger X-men world. That’s entirely understandable. Given the popularity of characters like Wolverine and Storm, there isn’t always enough time or energy to develop all these characters. But sometimes, potentially great characters slip through the cracks. In X-men Supreme, however, I don’t want that to happen with characters who have the potential of Sage.

In the early 2000s, Chris Clarmeont and Grant Morrison were the primary architects of the X-men comics. They were also the last major X-men writers to give Sage major roles. There was a time when she rubbed elbows with Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm, and Wolverine. Then, she just fell to the wayside for reasons that were never explained. That’s not to say she was thrown away. That tends to happen in the X-men comics with certain characters. But I always had a soft spot for Sage and when I started the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, I had a plan for her.

That plan began to unfold in X-men Supreme Issue 54: District X Part 3. In that issue, Sage became more than just a string of emails that had been communicating with Beast. I didn’t just want her to be the woman who broke up Beast and Storm. I wanted her to have her own unique backstory. It’s something the X-men comics haven’t really explored that much. But in order to best tell her story in X-men Supreme, I need to offer insight into who she was before she was ever involved with Beast, the X-men, or the Inner Circle.

I gave a major clue to that backstory during the Civilization No Longer Lost arc in X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths. In that arc, Sage revealed some of her sordid history with Sebastian Shaw and the Inner Circle. She revealed that she had once been cold, calculating, and ruthless in her ambitions. She was once the kind of woman that the X-men would’ve fought against. It was a difficult test for her relationship with Beast. That dark period in her life even came back to haunt her and the X-men in the Fantomex arc.

But what led Sage into this dark world? How did she end up becoming so ruthless and cold? And how did she escape that world? That’s a story that requires more insight into a character that hasn’t been prominent in the X-men comics for over a decade. But it’s an important story to the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. I know Sage does have a loyal contingent of fans, as many X-men characters do. This entry of X-men Supreme Reflections will give her a story that shows who she is and how she got to this point. It’s a story I look forward to exploring in later issues.

X-men Supreme Reflections: Sage

The X-men Supreme fanfiction series has given me many opportunities to develop characters that wouldn’t otherwise be developed in other mediums of X-men. As a fan, it has given me an even greater appreciation for these characters. It has also given me a greater appreciation of the sheer breadth of the X-men mythos. There’s so much to explore and it continues to expand every month. I doubt I’ll ever be able to encompass every area of the X-men’s universe, but I’ll certainly do my best to make the areas I do explore as awesome as possible.

And that’s why getting feedback from readers is so important. Like I said, Sage has a loyal contingent of fans. I really do hope to hear from them and every other X-men fan with this entry of X-men Supreme Reflections. Either contact me directly with your comments or post them directly in the comments section. Either way is fine. I’m always happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!

Jack

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Star Wars #9


Every iconic romance is kind of like a twisted form of porno. But instead of sex and nudity, it’s full of these crazy passions that are about as unrealistic as Jenna Jameson taking it up the ass from a pizza delivery boy. And like porno, it’s because it’s so unrealistic that it’s appealing. And it’s for that very reason that the romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia is so refreshing, even over three decades later.

There was no instant attraction with these two. In fact, they hated each other’s guts when they first met. It was a long, strange process that took them from hating each other to bumping uglies. It involved carbonite, exploding battle stations, and chain mail bikinis. But we already know how it ended for Han and Leia. They do eventually have their moment at the end of Return of the Jedi. However, Marvel has decided to make the journey to that moment a bit more difficult and fucked up.

Enter Sana Solo, who claims to be the wife of Han Solo. She entered the picture in Star Wars #8 and for pretty much that entire issue, Han kept denying it. We don’t know if this was just some drunken romp in whatever the galaxy’s equivalent of Las Vegas is or if Sana is one of those creepy stalkers that only Justin Bieber fans can understand. Well, Sana is making it exceedingly difficult to rely on a restraining order because she basically get the Empire to get Leia out of the picture. Now, in Star Wars #9, this rather fucked up complication in the eventual romance of Han Solo and Princess Leia takes another turn. It’s a complication that fans of both romance and porno can appreciate.

But fucked up romance isn’t the only plot of this story. There’s something else for those who are less interested in swapping body fluids and more interested in watching Luke Skywalker navigate Nar Shaddaa, a planet-sized version of Mos Eisley. So yeah, there’s something for everyone. Rather than fighting an ex-wife, Luke is just fighting to get his light sabre back after some thief in a bar swiped it. Is it as tense as fighting with a pissed off ex-wife? No. But it’s the basis of nearly every James Bond movie ever made so it’s still awesome.


Luke shows in his pursuit of this thief that he’s not so much a Jedi at this point as he is a reckless space redneck from a desert planet. And this thief just stole the equivalent of a redneck’s truck so of course he’s going to chase him down in the most reckless way possible. Reckless or not, he still succeeds. He manages to catch up to the thief before he can get on a ship. Sure, he ends up doing some property damage and falling into a pile of garbage. But he saved his light sabre. I think that’s more than worth sacrificing a little dignity, hygiene, and self-preservation.

Moreover, it’s a nice reminder that this Luke Skywalker is nowhere close to being the Luke Skywalker who defeats Darth Vader. Sure, he can use the Force to help him destroy the Death Star. But he’s still a long ways away from being a legendary Jedi and that’s how it should be at this point. A big part of what made Luke Skywalker an iconic character was the process he went through to become a Jedi. Right now, he’s at a part in the process that lands him in piles of garbage. I think that’s as fitting a context as any.


While Luke did get his light sabre back from the thief, he did find out he’s more screwed than he previously thought. What kind of thief would be crazy enough to steal a light sabre anyways when it would surely attract the attention of the Darth Vaders of the galaxy? Well, how about someone hired by Grakkus the Hutt? And yes, these are the same huts that enjoy extorting smugglers and putting women in chain bikinis. This one in particular is interested in Luke’s light sabre. So yeah, Luke is just that fucked at this early stage of his Jedi training.


As much fun as it is to see Luke obsess over retrieving his light sabre, I’m sure there are way more people interested in the bonerific love life of Han Solo. He probably hates his penis right now because his ex-wife called the Imperials on his future wife to collect the bounty on her head. That’s more than enough reasons for Leia to add another lock onto her panties. It’s all part of an elaborate plan for Sana to collect the bounty and get Han back, presumably so they can start making Solo babies or consolidating their debt with the Hutts.

There’s just one major problem with that plan. Han is also wanted by the Empire. Shooting at Darth Vader’s tie-fighter and helping someone destroy the Death Star will do that. Apparently, Sana didn’t get the memo, which effectively derails her plan because the Imperials start shooting at him as much as they shoot at Leia. Naturally, Leia fights back, probably by picturing Han’s face underneath those helmets.

But it now forces Sana to help them both. If she gives enough of a fuck about Han to marry him and piss off his future wife, then she cares enough to get him away from the Imperials. It’s a coherent yet hilarious twist of fate, one that forces Han to be stuck in close quarters with Leia and Sana. And honestly, who wouldn’t want more of that at this point? Two pissed off women and a man dumb enough to try and bone both of them? That might make for shitty reality shows, but it makes for awesome Star Wars comics.


The tension for Han and Leia couldn’t be worse right now. While Han’s dick probably hates him, I imagine Luke hates the Hutts almost as much at this point. One ruled his home planet with an iron fist and bikini-clad women. Now one wants to take his light sabre. He’s got plenty of motivation to tell him to fuck off like the piss-stained snail that he is. But again, this is not the same Luke Skywalker who can take on Darth Vader. This is a Luke Skywalker who will still get his ass kicked. He can beat Stormtroopers, but advanced droids paid for by a Hutt with enough money for bikini-clad women? That’s more of a challenge. And while he makes a noble effort, he still loses.


But when Luke wakes up, he’s not in a prison cell or in the digestive tract of a Sarlac. He’s not in a metal bikini either. He’s still a prisoner, but Grakkus the Hutt reveals he’s a different kind of Hutt. Sure, he’ll send thieves and thugs to fuck with people, but he actually has a different reason for doing so other than to find more women to put in bikinis.

It turns out he’s a collector of Jedi artifacts, so much so that he’s gathered everything that remains of the Jedi temple. Grakkus still freely admits that he enjoys the company of bounty hunters, smugglers, and corrupt bureaucrats as any other Hutts. However, he’s got more sophisticated tastes. That alone makes him more likable than any Hutt in the galaxy. But don’t add him to any Christmas list just yet. He still proves that he honors the Hutt tradition of being ruthless assholes.

The whole reason he hired someone to steal Luke’s light sabre was to lure him to his collection. That collection includes a holocron, something that any Star Wars fan who endured the prequels can recognize. It can only be opened by a Jedi and since the Hutts repel the Force like a nun from a gay bar, he needs Luke to open it. And he’s not willing to ask politely either.


It puts Luke in a difficult position. Either open the holocron or get shot. And he still hasn’t passed Jedi 101 yet so he’s not even sure he can do it. But as inexperienced as he is at this point, he still destroyed the Death Star. That more than qualifies him to open a fucking holocron. And that’s exactly what he does. He succeeds in opening not just one but every holocron in Grakkus’ collection. He gets his first real look at Jedi relics and records. It’s not complete. None of them contain a warning about how his father is kind of an asshole. But it’s a nice feat that shows this is the same guy who is destined to beat Darth Vader.

But despite this success, Grakkus is hardly content with Luke’s contributions. He’s still a Hutt and it’s been more than 10 minutes since he screwed someone over. I imagine that’s like me going a month without booze. While he doesn’t threaten to put Luke in a bikini, he makes it clear that Luke is now his prison bitch. And he intends to find other ways to make money off the last remaining Jedi. It’s cruel and sadistic, yes. But it’s also a smart business decision. If people come far and wide just to see a few baby pandas, how much do you think those same people would pay to see the last Jedi?


So Luke is still pretty screwed at the moment. Han, Leia, and Sana are slightly less screwed. They’re on the run, being chased and shot at by Imperials. For Han and Leia, that’s basically Tuesday. For Sana, I’m sure that’s the kind of shit she usually goes out of her way to avoid. None-the-less, they are able to avoid getting shot down. And the two women even manage to tell Han to shut the fuck up. At this point, I’m certain Han’s scrotum has collapsed on itself.

While there’s plenty of tension and danger, not much else is added to it. The story with Han, Leia, and Sana really doesn’t move forward all that much. It’s just the Imperials show up and they have to run. That’s about it. There’s no further insight into who Sana is and how she ended up married to Han Solo. Granted, they don’t have much time to chat because Imperials are shooting at them, but there’s not much else that happens here other than making Han feel more awkward.


There might be nothing more that can be done with that plot until the Imperials stop shooting, but there’s still plenty that can be done with Luke. He’s not in a position to do much as a prisoner of a Hutt. However, he still has R2-D2 with him and R2 tends to find a way to help his master when he’s done too good a job of screwing himself over. This time is no exception. He gets a distress signal out to the Rebel fleet. While they claim they can spare no resources to save one kid from a Hutt, they do leave the door open for volunteers. But who would possibly volunteer to go a planet of smugglers to rescue just one guy? Who could possibly be daring/crazy/ballsy enough?

Enter Chewbacca. That’s right all you Furry fetish folks. Chewbacca happens to not be doing anything at the moment. And since I doubt he wants to be around Han when he’s bickering with his ex-wife and future wife, why not kick some ass on a planet of thugs and save Luke in the process? Hell, that’s probably Chewy’s idea of a fun Saturday night.


Well I think it’s safe to say now that both Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are having a pretty typical Monday. Get chased by the Imperials? Check. Get caught up in crime syndicate run by the Hutts? Check. Unlock ominous secrets of the Jedi? Check. Stay stuck between an ex-wife and future wife? Okay, that’s not on the list, but it damn well ought to be. Every element in this story fits perfectly within the greater Star Wars mythos. It doesn’t try to do anything too crazy. It doesn’t introduce any Gungans. It doesn’t try to make Hayden Christiansen likable. It just sticks to what makes Star Wars awesome.

As a result, this issue is awesome. It effectively continues the ongoing plot involving Luke and Han Solo. Granted, it doesn’t move the plot forward a great deal, but it never becomes chaotic or contrived. It remains consistent in every important area and in an era where little consistency exists outside of a Big Mac, that counts for a lot. There’s still not much that is going to blow anybody’s minds or soil anybody’s panties, but it’s still as fun as a Star Wars comic can be. I give Star Wars #9 an 9 out of 10. But if anything can lead to brain stains and wet panties, it’s throwing a Wookie with a blaster into the mix. Nuff said!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Age of Apocalypse #4


Anyone who takes something too literally is bound to cause trouble or fuck something up in a wholly fucked up way. Between organized religion and political correctness, the world has endured more than its share of shit storms caused by these people. The entire Middle East and the Deep South is a testament to this phenomenon. But there are some people who will take something overly literally just because they have the power to and couldn't give one tenth a shit about what anyone else thinks. Televangelists are one good example. Apocalypse is another.

Apocalypse has a very simple philosophy. Either you're strong enough to survive or you go extinct. He builds his entire existence around that principle. He's basically a creationists worst nightmare. And in Age of Apocalypse, that's the kind of principle that has turned his world into the kind of sweat-stained shit-hole that almost makes downtown Detroit look appealing. Well, in a world where Dr. Doom is a god, this isn't enough for him.

After three issues of mutants and humans fighting for possession of a virus that could wipe out mutants, Apocalypse decides to just shrug his shoulders and cut it loose. If it kills everybody, fine. If some survive, that's even better. That's how he does business. An apocalyptic plague gets unleashed? Walk it off, pussy! That's what he's told his entire domain in Age of Apocalypse #4. It sounds only slightly less cruel than Nick Saben's coaching style, but nobody has the luxury of dropping out or getting expelled.

It doesn't take long for the effects of this virus to show up either. Before anyone even gets a chance to call in sick, Cannonball gets infected and he explodes. No, that's not a diarrhea joke. That's what actually happens. He just fucking explodes. I don't know if a virus has ever done that in a way that didn't result in a clogged toilet, but it's a pretty brutal way to show that this isn't the common cold they're dealing with. It creates a great "Oh shit!" moment that Doug Ramsey narrates. He still hasn't done anything other than cower and shit himself, but he's been the lens through which this story has unfolded. So it makes sense that he shares in the "Oh shit!" moments that follow.


Needless to say, unleashing a deadly plague has the X-men very concerned. They came to the Flatscan Ghetto to stop this shit and now they've officially failed. In their defense, they had no idea Apocalypse would be the one to unleash the virus. They didn't think he could be that deranged, but I guess they underestimated what being a mutant demigod does to one's mental health. I'm pretty sure even Tom Cruise would recommend that Apocalypse see a psychiatrist.

The X-men try to fight back against Apocalypse's forces, as if that somehow counts as good hygiene. They might as well sacrifice a goat at this point to stave off the disease because that would be just as effective. They still have some semblance of stragegy. Emma Frost, aka Mrs. Magneto, attempts to probe the mind of Peter Corbeau to figure out where he got the virus. His memories have been conveniently erased though. And like a personal email from Hillary Clinton, that should be a red flag.


This doesn't stop the X-men from fighting back. The details of that fight are actually pretty solid. There's a real sense of desperation now. The X-men are fighting for answers, even if they can't stop the virus. I guess that way they can die with a sense of closure. It also gives the chance for some X-men to step up and be awesome in ways they haven't been able to in Battleworld to date, probably because Doom and Marvel lawyers agonizing over movie rights wills it.

Iceman is one of those X-men who gets to step up. He unleashes a cold wave that might as well have come from Ann Coulter's soul, freezing Apocalypse solid. He even tries to freeze the virus. It's still like putting an ice pack over malignant tumor, but it's pretty badass and Iceman has to take these chances while he can, lest the Kim Davis' of the world deny him.


As this fight is unfolding, there's another sub-plot that has been building behind the scenes. This one involves Wolverine, Cyclops, and Burner. Keep in mind, Cyclops is technically a prisoner who the X-men captured. So this is already consistent with at least half of Wolverine's fantasies that don't involve Jean Grey or naked Japanese hookers. But instead of Wolverine kicking Cyclops in the balls, they're investigating a lab in New Cairo that's supposed to have ties to this virus.

It doesn't reveal anything too shocking, other than Dark Beast had a sense of medical ethics that would make Dr. House himself cringe. That shouldn't shock anybody at this point, especially as even non-Dark Beast has evolved into a such a douche. It also reveals that Burner was among the test subjects that decided being a lab rat for Dark Beast sucked worse than being OJ Simpson's wife. It's not much, but it adds some additional connections to a story that badly needs it.

It's actually the first time this sub-plot or any sub-plot has effectively tied in with the overall story. One of the major shortcomings of this series as a whole is how it has all these side-plots involving different characters, but there's not much glue holding them together. Now, it actually feels like this shit is linked, albeit barely. It's more scotch tape than duct tape, but it's better than nothing.


It's during this investigation that more connections are dropped, this time involving Jean Grey. Yes, in this world, Cyclops and Wolverine still bicker about Jean Grey. That's probably the least shocking thing that doesn't involve finding a bottle of whiskey under Wolverine's bed. But this is important because the last issue showed her as a test subject in this facility. So naturally, Wolverine picks up on her scent the same way Tommy Chong picks up on an unsmoked blunt.

That's when Havok enters the picture. He sees his brother working alongside X-men and he does not approve. And no, this isn't an inverted Havok either. The Havok in Age of Apocalypse is just an all-natural asshole. There's a brief clash, but it doesn't last long and for good reason. They find out the virus has been unleashed and Apocalypse is battling the X-men. They even find out it works by sending their powers into overdrive and causing them to either burn out or explode, whichever comes first. There are worse ways to go, but it still sucks. And apparently Jean Grey is the key to stopping it because beautiful redheaded psychics are the key to stopping every mutant crisis it seems. See Hope fucking Summers.


While they keep searching for Jean Grey and Wolverine keeps trying to hide his boner, the battle against Apocalypse continues. And despite Iceman having a chance to be badass for once, he might as well have been pissing into the wind. Apocalypse breaks free from the ice shell and probably earns himself a marriage proposal from Kim Davis in the process. However, the battle at this point still isn't all that epic. And for a series that emerged in the 90s, a time of Power Rangers and Nicholas Cage action movies, that's somewhat disappointing. But at least by today's standards, it's still fairly intense.


Keep in mind, as this battle is unfolding, there's still a cloud of a killer virus hovering around them. Fighting in the middle of that is like playing a game of football while a nearby volcano is erupting. At some point, that's going to be a factor, even if Aaron Rogers were the quarterback. Other mutants on both sides start getting infected, including Wild Child. But of course Sabretooth doesn't hesitate to snap his fucking neck and end him before he can explode like Cannonball. And the amount of fucks given is barely measurable. I mean it's not like this virus would infect Apocalypse himself, right? Right?!


Well wax my balls, slap makeup on my face, and call me a Backstreet Boy because that's actually what happens. That's what effectively keeps this battle from becoming the 90s era epic clash that desensitized a generation of kids from violence. Apocalypse gets infected from this virus. Yes, the omega-level asshole/demigod who unleashed this, assuming he was fit enough to shake it off, gets infected and he succumbs. Let that sink in for a moment, especially if your name is Oscar Isaac.

Apocalypse is supposed to be one of the most obscenely overpowered villains in Marvel. Him succumbing to a plague is like Wolverine succumbing to alcohol poisoning. It's by far the biggest "Oh shit!" moment that could've happened in this story. Usually these kind of moments are full of so much WTF it derails the story, but that doesn't happen here. If anything, this is so fitting and satisfying it might as well be a premium condom at Jenna Jameson's house. In his final push to make his segment of Battleworld the most fit, he gets himself killed. I can already hear Doom laughing his ass off.


It doesn't just stop at this shocking "Oh shit!" moment either. Apocalypse dying doesn't stop the virus from spreading. There's still a big fucking cloud of it hanging over the area. And its next victim, fittingly enough, is Magneto. So both Apocalypse and the leader of the X-men, arguably two of the most fit mutants in this world, fall at the hands of this virus. It's also fitting in a strange sort of way, given how so much of the crap that turned this world into a steaming pile of dystopian shit came from their clash.

But what gives it even more impact is how Emma Frost helps comfort Magneto in his final moments. There really hasn't been much drama in this story aside from Doug Ramsey whining and Cyclops bickering with Wolverine about who wants to fuck Jean Grey more. But this is probably the most sincere and heartfelt moment of the story. It's kind of odd, given how Magneto and Emma Frost have absolutely no romantic history in any other X-men medium that doesn't involve obscure fan fiction. And yet, it still conveys a sense of heart that evokes just the right amount of feels. While I doubt there will be any Magneto/Emma fan clubs, this moment proves that there was more to this relationship than Emma having nice tits. And that's saying something.


Between the "Oh shit!" moments and the heartfelt drama, the final pieces finally start to come together. The virus is unleashed and Apocalypse is dead. There's really nothing left to fight over except for finding out which asshole made this virus in the first place. Emma Frost, being heartbroken and supremely pissed, finds out pretty fucking quickly from the guy who claimed his memories were erased. Well in her pissed off state, she un-erases them. How? She's Emma fucking Frost. That's how.

In doing so, she find out that it was Dr. Nemesis who made this virus. He's the same Dr. Nemesis who was doing experiments on Jean Grey in previous issues. And as it just so happens, Wolverine and Cyclops manage to find him in New Cairo. How did they find him? Those details are conveniently glossed over, but I doubt anyone has the energy to bitch about it after seeing Apocalypse get killed so easily. It effectively sets up one last battle, albeit one nobody not working at the NSA could've expected.


In the end, I think it's official now. The Age of Apocalypse is fucked worse than a Bangkok crack whore. This issue took multiple handfuls of "Oh shit!" moments, threw them in a blender, and hit frappe. I'm not going to lie. Even I was pretty shocked with what happened here and I didn't think Marvel could do that anymore after they made Peter Parker into a devil-dealing douche-bag. And yet here I am. I am genuinely shocked by the twists in this issue, but in a good way. No deals with Mephisto were necessary this time and that alone is an accomplishment.

Apocalypse is dead. Magneto is dead. A good chunk of the X-men are already dead and right now, they need to get on their knees and pray to Doom that they can limit the damage at this point. But I'm pretty sure that Doom, like the rest of the Marvel execs who spend their days fuming at Fox over movie rights, couldn't give three tenths of a shit.

And once again, Jean Grey is the key to saving everyone. Granted, that's the least shocking revelation since Elton John coming out, but it's fitting. Let's face it, nobody is ever going to give more fucks about Doug Ramsey than Jean Grey. And Dr. Nemesis may not be Apocalypse or Magneto, but he's definitely flexing his nuts in all the right ways. For all these shocking twists and the utterly fucked nature of this world, I give Age of Apocalypse #4 an 7 out of 10. This world may be fucked and Doom might be jacking off to their misfortune, but I guess that's just one of the many perks of being the god of Battleworld. Nuff said!