Friday, July 21, 2017

Alpha and Omega Mutant Narrative: Astonishing X-men #1

The following is my review of Astonishing X-men #1, which was posted on

Even in a mythos as vast and diverse as the X-men, there's still a place for a definitive A-team of sorts. The makeup and purpose of that team may change over time, but its presence still carries a special impact. Whatever happens to them or whatever path they chart tends to affect the X-men mythos as a whole. Like a major summer blockbuster or the premier of a new Vince Gilligan show, it's an event that sets the bar for others to achieve.

Astonishing X-men has an established history of being that A-team. Under Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, it acts as the gold standard by which all other X-men comics were measured. In other eras, Chris Clarmeont's work on Uncanny X-men or or Scott Lobdell's work on X-men carry the same weight. Creating a series with such an impact is difficult to achieve, but the ingredients are fairly simple. It needs only a cast of top-tier, well-known characters. If they've been played by major actors in an X-men movie or get fans talking about more than who can lift Thor's hammer, they're a candidate.

After the latest round of relaunches that spun out of Marvel's ResurrXion effort, the X-men comics still lack that definitive A-list book. X-men Blue and X-men Gold contain major characters and prominent stories for the greater X-men narrative. However, they still lack a lead blocker of sorts to pave the way for the future of X-men.

Now, Charles Soule and Jim Chung, two of Marvel's most prominent talents, attempt to create that book with Astonishing X-men #1. They have all the ingredients, namely a strong cast full of familiar and prominent faces. They even have major stakes already in play with Marvel Legacy just on the horizon. It's not unreasonable to say that Astonishing X-men is the most critical X-men comic to come along since Secret Wars. The stakes are high and the margin for error is low, but Astonishing X-men #1 really rises to the occasion.

The story hits the ground running like a summer blockbuster movie, complete with a monster attack, random explosions, and snarky remarks from beautiful women. Short of including transforming robots, it's hard to imagine a series beginning with more style. That's not to say it's lacking of substance though. Soule and Chung don't rely too much on spectacle. The structure of the story is built on establishing the stakes and that's where Astonishing X-men #1 shines brightest.

The story doesn't try too hard to build off the events of another book. It does mention some recent events in the X-men comics, but it doesn't try too hard to act as a connecting point. If anything, it avoids the kinds of complicated tie-ins that tend to make some books too confusing. It's presented as a story that anyone can pick up, not be too lost, and be entertained. It's a simple formula, but one that proves potent.

Even those who haven't kept up with X-men comics in recent years won't be too confused. So long as they know that attacks by Shadowking are bad and giant psychic monsters in the middle of London are dangerous, they'll be able to follow the story. So long as they also like fast-paced action, high stakes, and Chung's colorful art, they'll enjoy that story as well.

On the surface, the plot isn't very groundbreaking. Shadowking, a well-known X-men enemy who has been while the mutant race overcame their latest extinction plot, is back in action and attacking psychics. With Charles Xavier dead, he doesn't go for the biggest, most powerful mind first. Instead, he attacks psychics who are isolated and ill-prepared, using them as preseason games, of sorts, to get himself ready for prime time. Then, he gets a little bolder and attacks Psylocke. The spectacle only escalates from there.

It's the kind of plot that can easily fall flat. With Chung's artwork, the visual appeal alone is usually enough to give it value. Soule, however, never lets the story become too devoid of substance. From the first few pages, he uses every opportunity to provide context and depth. He does this primarily through a mystery narrator who provides insight early on, helping to establish the setting and identify the characters involved. The identity of that narrator isn't revealed until the end, but he still serves an important purpose that helps make Astonishing X-men #1 feel like more than just a generic summer blockbuster.

Despite all the action, explosions, and snooty remarks made by Fantomex and Gambit, there's a sense that there's a larger vision for the story and the series. It's not just throwing together all these A-list X-men characters and expecting it to sell itself. That's a tempting trap that many X-men comics have fallen into over the years. Soule makes a clear effort to avoid that by setting up a larger conflict for the characters to take on.

That's not to say those efforts are entirely seamless. There's not a lot of rhyme or reason as to how and why these particular X-men characters are where they are when explosions start going off. There are some small connections between characters here and there. However, the story never tries to overthink certain details. It provides just enough to make the more explosive, action-oriented elements more meaningful than a typical Sentinel attack on a Tuesday afternoon.

Soule and Chung have an rich batch of ingredients to work with in Astonishing X-men #1. They have plenty of chances to overuse one at the cost of the other, but they don't. They still manage to take each element, mold it into a story, and let it cook until it has the look, taste, and feel of an A-list blockbuster. The final result couldn't be more potent without casting Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart.

Even in an age where superhero blockbusters capture a huge chunk of the pop culture market, there's still a place for Astonishing X-men. The story is still unfolding, but if the final page is any indication, there's plenty of potential for astonishment.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

X-men Supreme Issue 154: Reaching Out is LIVE!

Since I began X-men Supreme, I’ve often made an effort to make sure that this fanfiction series stands out in a meaningful way, compared to the ongoing X-men comics. While the X-men were facing yet another extinction plot or another sterilization story, I had them traveling to visit the Shi’ar in the Starcrossed arc. When Jean Grey was dead and the Phoenix Force was just a ploy to get the X-men and Avengers to fight, I was overhauled the concept in the X-men Supreme version of the Phoenix Saga.

Every now and then, however, X-men Supreme lines up with the X-men comics in a peculiar way. When the second Wolverine movie came out a few years ago, it coincided with my Lotus and the Warrior arc during X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear. That kind of synergy isn’t always possible. I couldn’t really do anything for the release of X-men Apocalypse or the Logan movie. However, I try to make use of those opportunities when I get a chance.

That leads me to the awkward situation that X-men Supreme faces now, at least compared to the X-men comics. At the moment, this fanfiction series has the X-men working directly with President Kelly and General Grimshaw in an unprecedented partnership between humans and mutants. After the events of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation, Charles Xavier made the difficult decision to overhaul the X-men, as well as his dream, and team up with the government in what he called the Mutant Monitoring Initiative.

This decision left the X-men deeply divided. After the decision was made in X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide, Cyclops and Wolverine quit the team and formed X-Force. This division is the primary driving force of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. Conversely, the X-men are in a very different place in the comics. Many of them are currently freedom fighters, of sorts, standing against an oppressive world led by Hydra within the pages of Secret Empire. It’s not just different from what’s going on in this fanfiction series. It’s the complete opposite.

Now, I didn’t plan it this way. I laid out the plot for X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided long before I even knew about Secret Empire. However, things just played out that way. The X-men are working for the government in one series and against it in another. It’s a strange confluence of circumstanced between X-men Supreme and the comics, but it’s one I still want to maximize.

At the moment, the X-men and X-Force are dealing with the aftermath of Volatility Sensibility. They struggled to help a single innocent mutant in Nitro. Now, thanks to the efforts of their friends in X-Factor, they know there’s a larger threat on the horizon from a familiar enemy in Sebastian Shaw. If they struggled with Nitro, what hope do they have against Sebastian Shaw? It’s a tense situation, one that will set the stage for the next major clash. It begins here, but make no mistake. It’s a prelude to a much larger storm.

X-men Supreme Issue 154: Reaching Out

I know not every X-men fan likes what’s going on in the X-men comics right now. One of the reasons I began this fanfiction series was to give something for those dissatisfied fans to enjoy until the storm passes. That makes the current situation somewhat awkward. Some of the dynamics in X-men Supreme might not appeal to certain X-men fans, many of whom were already burned out on schisms and team divisions. I totally understand that. Like the comics, though, there is a larger plan in place. I hope to develop that plan in as awesome a manner as possible. As such, it’s critical that I continue to get feedback, despite spammers making a mess of my comments section. Either post your feedback in the comments section or, better yet, contact me directly. I’m always happy to hear from readers and from X-men fans. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!


Friday, July 14, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 154: Reaching Out PREVIEW!

I take it everyone has had a chance to exercise their inner Spider-Man fan with the recent release of Spider-Man: Homecoming. I hope you’re now ready to be X-men fans again with the X-men Supreme fan fiction series. Spider-Man can enjoy his time in the limelight. X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided will continue and, much like Peter Parker, the X-men can’t expect to catch a break. After the plot revealed in X-men Supreme Issue 153: Revolting Youth, the X-men are in for a much greater challenge.

The breadth of this challenge was hinted at just a few issues ago in the Volatility Sensibility arc. That conflict revealed, among other things, that the X-men and X-Force are still struggling to adapt to the Mutant Monitoring Initiative that Charles Xavier implemented at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. Beyond just being divided, there were already signs that Xavier and his X-men weren’t on the same page as General Grimshaw and Captain Freeman.

If the X-men and X-Force struggled to stop a single mutant with volatile powers, something the X-men have done with far fewer complications going all the way back to X-men Supreme Issue 6: Rogue Recruit, then they’re in trouble. How are both teams going to function when they face a much bigger threat? In a sense, the X-men have been pretty lucky since the end X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. There’s no Mutant Liberation Front, Magneto, or Sinister to threaten them. The Brotherhood of Mutants is still at large, but they’ve effectively disappeared since the disillusion of Genosha. It made for a rare moment for the X-men, one in which they lacked a clear and direct enemy.

That’s about to change because some of their enemies have been active, albeit in a very secretive manner. One enemy that has remained unseen for quite some time is Sebastian Shaw. After being severely wounded in the events of the Phoenix Saga, he made a clear recovery at the end of the Dark Legacy arc in X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths. Given his ties to characters like Sage and organizations like the Inner Circle, it was only a matter of time before he entered the picture again.

Well, given the events so far in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, his timing couldn’t be better. Shaw already showed that he’s been hard at work on a new project, a part of which X-Factor uncovered in X-men Supreme Issue 153: Revolting Youth. Shaw and his cohorts have been working on something modern X-men fans should be quite familiar with in Mutant Growth Hormone, also known as Kick. This potent cocktail of mutant chaos has caused a lot of damage in the X-men comics. Now, it’s about to cause even more in this fanfiction series.

This is a bad time for things to get tougher in the world of X-men Supreme. The divisions between the X-men and X-Force leave both sides vulnerable and Sebastian Shaw knows how to exploit vulnerabilities better than anyone. However, he won’t be doing it alone. There will be other threats to aid him, the kind the X-men have faced before. I would love to tease more, but I’ll leave that to the extended preview.

“My son! Is he…” said the woman breathlessly as she ran alongside Jean.

“He’s fine!” assured Jean, “Can’t believe that son-of-a-bitch would…”

“Jean!” said Shiro, who was still standing on the curb, “Vargas is escaping! I’m going after him!”

“I’ll catch up! Feel free to burn his ass off!”

“Duly noted!” said Shiro as he took off running.

Everything happenedvery quickly. As soon as Jean dropped her telekinetic hold on Vargas, he ran full speed down the opposing street. He shoved through some bewildered civilians in the process, intent on getting away no matter who he put in danger. Shiro ran after him to catch up. He was surprised that a junkie could run so fast. Then again, he might not be an ordinary junkie. Someone who dealt MGH was bound to have a few surprises.

The chase ensued for another four city blocks. The narrow roads around Fenway Park soon gave way to congested avenues near the Massachusetts Turnpike. Since it was the middle of the day, there were a fair amount of people on the sidewalks. Both Vargas and Shiro had to shove them aside. Having already shown a willingness to attack a mother and her child, it was a dangerous situation that needed to be stopped.

“I’ve run in the Boston marathon. You will not escape!” yelled Shiro.

Vargas panted heavily as he heard Shiro catching up. He tried knocking over a few trash cans and pushing over some tables around an outside restaurant to slow him down. It wasn’t enough. Shiro just used his fire powers to burn right through it.

He could literally feel the heat gaining on him. His frail body was failing him. His poor physical condition was catching up to him. He was nearing another busy crosswalk where there was no shortage of people he could throw in front of cars. However, Shiro wouldn’t allow it. He literally dived out and tackled him to the hard pavement.

“Argh!” exclaimed Vargas as he fell flat on his face, losing a tooth in the process.

“That’s enough of that, Mr. Vargas,” said Shiro, now holding him by the legs, “You’ve added reckless endangerment to your list of crimes. Do not add any more.”

Vargas groaned as he struggled within Shiro’s grip. He looked back and saw the Japanese mutant flash a few menacing flames around his head. He could easily burn him until he cooperated. Vargas was in no condition to endure it so he made another desperate move.

“I didn’t want to do this, but once again I’m too weak,” he said shamefully.

With Shiro still holding onto his legs, Vargas reached into the pocket in his sweat-jacket and pulled out a small syringe. It was already filled with a reddish fluid. As soon as Shiro saw it, his eyes widened.

“You’re…a mutant?” exclaimed Shiro.

“I wish,” muttered Vargas.

Closing his eyes, the young man jammed the syringe into his abdomen. Shiro tried to knock it away from him, but it was too late. The drug was in his system. The effect was almost immediate.

His once frail arms bulged with new muscle, indicating a new strength. Vargas seethed as the substance coursed through his system. At the same time, he noticed a fire hydrant to his left. Without hesitation, he slammed his arm right into the side. The metal was quickly warped under the sudden, causing a hole that shot out a high-pressure stream of water that engulfed Shiro and several surrounding civilians.

“Ugh!” grunted Shiro, his flames extinguished by the water.

Being blasted with water caused Shiro to release his grip on Vargas. As soon as he was free, Vargas stumbled back to his feet and ran out into the street. He happened to step right in front of a taxi cab, who promptly slammed on the breaks. Vargas showed his new strength by slamming his fist onto the hood of the car, causing the whole car to shake.

“Holy shit! What’s with your arm?’ the man exclaimed.

“Get out!” he told the driver.

The driver didn’t need to be threatened any further. He quickly stumbled out from the driver’s seat and ran as fast as he could across the street. With his muscles still bulging, Vargas got into the driver’s seat. Before he took off, he slammed his fist into the dashboard to knock out the cab equipment and GPS. He didn’t need anyone tracking him to his next destination.

“I’m coming, my queens. I will atone for this,” Vargas proclaimed.

Shiro was just emerging from the still gushing torrent of water when Vargas drove off. The tires screeched as he drove over a curb and out into the main avenue, causing a couple of minor fender benders in the process. Within seconds he was out of sight and there was no chance of catching him. Now soaked and unable to use his fire powers, Shiro could only watch as Vargas escaped.

The civilians around him swarmed around the accidents and the broken fire hydrant. Nearby police officers turned their attention to the cars in the street that had collided in confusion. It was a lot of damage for one junkie to cause. In Shiro’s mind, this man wasn’t a junkie. He was something much worse.

‘Whoever these mistresses are, they must have quite a hold on him. I wonder if they also gave him that dose of Kick. If he wasn’t a mutant, it should have killed him…unless there’s something else we’re messing.’

It was a frustrating outcome. This might have been their only lead to Sebastian Shaw and whoever else was involved. They had a name now, but if Vargas was as determined as he seemed then he would not be easy to find. They would need another approach and another stroke of luck.

Shiro groaned and bowed his head in frustration, ignoring the commotion around him from civilians and police. He was about to contact Jean Grey and see how she was doing. Then something on the ground caught his eye. While he was holding onto Vargas, some stuff fell out of his pocket. Among them was a fancy-looking business card with a distinct logo on the cover. When he picked it up and read the name on it, his frustration turned to intrigue.

‘Shiro! Are you there? The lady and her baby are safe, although the driver of the car is pissed. What’s happening on your end? Did you catch Vargas?’

Jean Grey’s urgent thoughts echoed loudly in his mind. However, Shiro barely heard them. He was too fixated on the card he not held in his hand.

‘Shiro? Please don’t be hurt or something!’

‘I’m fine Jean,’ he replied through his mind, ‘Vargas got away. He proved more cunning than expected.’

‘Damn it! He was our only lead. There may still be time to track him! I can call the Professor and he can get the MSA to…’

‘That might not be necessary, Jean. Vargas has already provided us with another tantalizing clue.’

‘What do you mean?’

Shiro was silent for a moment. This mystery surrounding MGH kept taking unexpected turns. With each revelation, the threat it posed grew more terrifying.

‘Tell me, Jean…does the name Wynegarde mean anything to you?’

Things are going to get a lot tougher for the X-men before they start improving. The X-men Supreme fanfiction series is in a state of upheaval right now. There are clear divisions, obstacles, and complications. It’s all building towards something, that much I can promise. Like previous volumes of X-men Supreme, I want that payoff to be great. As such, it’s important that I continue to receive feedback from X-men Supreme readers. Whether you’re a fan of the cartoons or comics, I want to hear from you. Either contact me directly or post your comments in the issue. I always try to respond to every email sent my day so please don’t be shy. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Convergence of Character and Chaos: Dr. Aphra #9

The following is my review of Dr. Aphra #9, which was posted on

Every now and then, a character comes along that fills a need that nobody even knows is there until it's shoved in their face. It's like there are all these blind spots in the world of popular culture and nobody bothers to look until something jumps out and surprises everyone for the best possible reasons. For a mythos like Star Wars, where endless debates rage over whether Han Solo or Greedo shot first, it's hard to imagine there are any blind spots left. Then, Dr. Aphra and her two homicidal droids, Triple-0 and BT, come along and suddenly everyone has a reason to forget about Greedo.

Ever since her debut in Darth Vader #3, Dr. Aphra keeps finding ways to be the most compelling character in Marvel's evolving Star Wars universe. She's part Indiana Jones, part Han Solo, part Lara Croft, and part Catwoman. For such a new character, relative to a mythos that has been around since the disco era, that's an eclectic mixture, to say the least. However, Kieron Gillen finds a way to make Dr. Aphra work brilliantly. She's a character Star Wars didn't know it needed, but it's that much better because of her.

What helps set Dr. Aphra apart from Luke, Han, Leia, and Jar Jar Binks is her ability to play both sides. She's neither on the side of the Empire nor the Rebel Alliance. She's very much on her own side, as seen in arcs like Vader Down and Screaming Citadel. She has no qualms with changing her allegiance on a whim whenever it suits her. She's downright Machiavellian in her tactics, but somehow finds a way to be lovable.

These tactics are on full display within Dr. Aphra #9. While fans of all things noble and true in the galaxy may have a hard time rooting for her, it's hard to deny her ambitious. Dr. Aphra is the personification of Mos Eisley in that she surrounds herself with the worst thieves, thugs, and deviants in the galaxy. Unlike Luke Skywalker, she's exceedingly comfortable in their company. She gives the impression that she prefers it. For her, the scum of the galaxy are preferable to Jedi or Sith, if only because they have deeper pockets.

That's another aspect of her character that sets her apart. Like Han Solo, Dr. Aphra is more concerned with paying off old debts and turning a profit rather than bringing balance to the Force. Unlike Han Solo, though, she's not as inclined to step up and play the hero when the chips are down. If it means losing a payday or a valuable asset, she'll generally brush it off. She'll even screw over anyone who tries to nudge her in a certain direction. More than anything else, Dr. Aphra prefers to serve her own agenda and will employ any number of murder drones and renegade wookies to achieve it.

The agenda in Dr. Aphra #9 isn't that complex, but the setup is pretty elaborate. For the past several issues, she's been trying to make use of an ancient Jedi artifact that dates back to the Old Republic. Beyond satisfying her scientific curiosity as a renegade archeologist, she also understands that all things Jedi have greater value in a galaxy where most were wiped out. She may be a deviant, even by Sith standards, but she understands market forces.

Knowing the Empire is more prone to blow up planets rather than bargain, she invites some of the galaxy's most accomplished thieves and criminals to bid on it. She even turns it into a party of sorts, one in which puts Dr. Aphra's charisma and cunning on full display. She's not some inexperienced farm boy. She's not even some privileged princess. She's very much in a category all her own. In a galaxy full of Death Stars, smugglers, droids, and Lando Calrissians, she finds a way to stand out.

That's not to say Dr. Aphra is that efficient at pursuing her agenda. In fact, a good chunk of her nascent history is full of ambitious plans blowing up in her face, going all the way back to when Darth Vader first enlisted her help. It's one of the reasons she finds herself in so much debt in the first place. She's great at forging these elaborate schemes to acquire resources. She's just not that good at adapting those schemes when something goes horribly wrong, which tends to happen a lot in a galaxy where even Death Stars are prone to blowing up.

In a sense, she's very much the anti-Rey. Nobody can read Dr. Aphra #9 and claim she's a Mary Sue type character. Dr. Aphra is ambitious and skilled, but she doesn't exactly endear herself to everyone around her. It's also painfully obvious by the end that at least part of her plan is doomed to fail again. Unlike Han Solo and Princess Leia, she can't expect to rely on the love of friends and allies to save her.

Dr. Aphra isn't that kind of person. For her, friends and allies are expensive and potentially distracting. Granted, that puts her in many difficult positions, especially when her schemes go awry, but that's what provides so much of the entertainment value in Dr. Aphra #9 and her story as a whole. She is very much a deviant and a renegade, but she's no Jabba the Hut. She's not cruel or vindictive. She's not the kind of person who will Force choke anyone who disagrees with her. However, she is willing to leave dead bodies and broken droids in her wake.

Those who've grown fond of Dr. Aphra since her introduction in Darth Vader #3 will find plenty to enjoy in Dr. Aphra #9. In a sense, Dr. Aphra #9 highlights all of the traits that make her story compelling and her character endearing. Those who haven't been following her exploits since Screaming Citadel may be lost, though. Dr. Aprha's story is difficult to just pick up and follow. There are also times when the flaws in her schemes seem a bit too obvious. Those hoping for a big revelation on par with The Empire Strikes Back will be disappointed. That's not how Dr. Aphra works. It's the little revelations that make her story so engaging.

That doesn't prevent Dr. Aphra's character from being any less endearing. She's still someone that's easy to root for. At the same time, she's also someone that can slip up and not upset too many people. Gillen's development of her character continues to be strong and Andrea Broccardo's art adds visual appeal with that distinct Star Wars style. Dr. Aphra may not care much for the Force since it can't pay her debts, but she doesn't even need it to be a great character. Debts or not, the galaxy is inherently richer because of her presence.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sci-Fi Cast Away: Star Wars #33

The following is my review of Star Wars #33, which was posted on

In terms of a modern mythos, complete with philosophical, psychological, and cos-playing implications, Star Wars is the standard by which all others are measured. Few other sagas, from Marvel's ever-evolving continuity of reboots and retcons to multiple eras of Star Trek, even come close. It manages to be both incredibly expansive, yet remarkably concise. It's themes, emotions, and drama create a perfect blend that gives it a special place in popular culture.

Given the sheer breadth and scope of Star Wars, it's easy to forget that there are various parts that remain unexplored. Ever since Disney and Marvel began expanding some of those unexplored areas, new elements of that mythos are emerging. Given the iconic status that Star Wars has for generations of fans, it's a careful balancing act. There are only so many ways that Star Wars can be expanded without undermining the larger narrative. Even an iconic mythos cannot withstand the force of too many Jar Jars.

Jason Aaron manages that balancing act better than most, taking full advantage of the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back to flesh out elements of Star Wars that never get a chance on a movie screen. One element that never gets much development is the relationship between Luke and Leia. Even without knowing their secret sibling connection, so much of the drama is centered around Leia's constant clashes with Han. It's easy to forget that her story is closely tied to Luke. Aaron, with the artistic talents of Salvador Larroca, use Star Wars #33 as an opportunity to explore that story.

The setup is simple, if not unremarkable by Star Wars standards. Luke and Leia get stranded on a planet that's mostly water and dotted with a few small islands. The circumstances are fairly generic in that it's not part of some larger story arc. It's just another case of a routine mission going horribly wrong, which seems to happen at least once a week for the Rebellion. There's nothing about it that rattles the continuity of the original trilogy. It's basically the sci-fi equivalent of Cast Away, but with more sea monsters and fewer volley balls.

This bland, but simple setup does serve an important purpose though. It puts Luke and Leia in a position where they have to work together and rely on each other to survive. They know they can survive an onslaught of storm troopers and escaping the Death Star. They've even shown they can survive working with Han Solo for more than two weeks and survive. However, their strength is often defined by their ability to be part of a team. They're rarely in a situation where they can only rely on each other.

It makes for some compelling moments, exploring some of the inner struggles within both characters. It's easy to forget between blowing up the Death Star and falling in love with a smuggler that Luke and Leia are still processing some major upheavals. A part of Luke still sees himself as a farm boy and a part of Leia still sees herself as a princess, complete with all the ceremonial formalities. What stands out in Star Wars #33 is just how uneasy they both feel with their previous roles.

There's a distinct sense that being a farm boy never sat well with Luke. Leia shows a similar sentiment. She reveals that at one point, she ran away to escape some of the formalities that come with being a princess. While this puts her at odds with most traditional Disney princesses, it reveals an important element to both characters.

On some levels, they sense that their situations in life aren't right. They sense that they're meant for something else. Aaron gives the impression that the Force is somehow letting them know that their story is tied with that of Darth Vader and the legacy of Anikan Skywalker. They don't know this, given the story's place in the existing Star Wars timeline. However, they do feel it. If it is a manifestation of the Force, then Yoda himself would be proud.

Beyond the personal exploration, there's also some reflection on recent events, relative to the outcome of A New Hope. Leia is still mourning the destruction of Alderan. The emotions don't get too heavy, though. Leia comes off as more hardened than most princesses. She's no Cinderella, but she's no Elsa either. If she ever broke into song, it wouldn't be very uplifting.

These moments of personal insight and inner character struggles are the highlight of Star Wars #33. While they succeed at providing greater insight into Luke and Leia, as characters, the rest of the narrative falls somewhat flat. Their struggles for survival on the island never create much strain. At most, they only ever seem inconvenienced by their situation. There's never any despair, anguish, or strain. Despite one of them being a princess and the other being a farm boy, their outlook on the situation is remarkably dispassionate.

There are some elements that keep the story from becoming too much like Cast Away. They eventually find out that the planet isn't as desolate as they think. That helps put them in a position to escape and even make a few new allies. However, that story is lacking in terms of detail and insight. It comes off as just a simple, convenient way to get Luke and Leia off the planet before readers can start making incest jokes.

There's nothing about the story in Star Wars #33 that feels out of place, out of character, or inconsistent with the larger mythos. Even if parts of the story lack details, it never comes off as flawed or incomplete. The primary strength of the narrative is the deeper exploration of Luke and Leia, as characters.

When all is said and done, they both come off as more complex characters, which can only give greater weight to the iconic narrative that is Star Wars. While that won't stop some fans from cracking incest jokes about Luke and Leia, Star Wars #33 will give them a greater appreciation for who they are as characters. Anyone hoping for more than that, though, is asking too much of the Force.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Red Queen Chronicles: The Alien is LIVE!

Some concepts have a special, but understated sex appeal. When it comes to characters like Mary Jane Watson, there aren't too many things she can't make sexy. That said, there are certain concepts that are very popular among fans, but somewhat taboo in the comics. You'll see all sorts of fan art and fan fiction about it, but you'll never see it in the comics, at least not to its sexy extreme.

Like it or not, Marvel is owned by Disney and Disney built its billions on creating things that don't horrify and/or titillate anxious parents who don't want their children to know that sexy things exist in this world. They'll never craft the kinds of stories I've told with Mary Jane in my "Red Queen" mini-series.

I understand this. I hope readers understand this as well. That gives me all the more reason to make sure that my "Red Queen Chronicles" stories are as sexy as possible. I like to think I've already accomplished plenty by getting the X-men and Black Widow involved. Now, it's time to get the most obvious and overdue character involved. For Mary Jane Watson, that means getting a sexy visit from Venom.

If you've scoured message boards with loose moderators or browsed any kind of PG-13 fan art, you know as well as I do that Mary Jane Watson and Venom are a popular pairing. There's just something inherently sexy about Mary Jane getting some action from a malleable alien. Given the fanbase surrounding anime porn and sexy redheads, it's as close to a perfect match you'll get without involving Emma Frost's tits.

At some point, my "Red Queen Chronicles" stories were going to get Venom involved. It should've happened sooner, but it's happening now. It's just a simple one-shot, but should maximize the sexy potential of Mary Jane and Venom as only these stories can. Enjoy!

Again, I encourage everyone to take the time to provide reviews of these stories. I've been quite surprised by how well these stories have been received, but maybe I shouldn't be, given the inherent appeal Mary Jane's sexiness tends to attract. I'm not entirely sure of which direction I'll take this series if it continues. I do have some ideas, but whether or not I'll pursue these ideas depends on the feedback I get. If you have other ideas for more sexy stories involving Mary Jane/The Red Queen, please share them. With someone like Mary Jane, there's always potential for greater sexiness.

Friday, June 30, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 153: Revolting Youth is LIVE!

These are exciting times for X-men fans and not just for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. The X-men comics are in the midst of an overdue revamp, one that is not built on an extinction and/or sterilization plot for once. As a lifelong X-men fan who has been pretty disappointed with the direction of the X-men comics in recent years, that counts as quite an upgrade. The timing is also ironic, if not fitting, because it’s happening at a time when there are deep divisions within X-men Supreme. Not since the near-extinction they faced in the Dark Legacy arc has Charles Xavier’s dream been so fragile.

While this fanfiction series can’t always complement what’s going on in the X-men comics, I can still make a concerted effort to make the events in X-men Supreme feel relevant. In addition to Marvel’s ongoing initiatives in the comics, the X-men have been making a lot of noise in the movie business. There’s another Deadpool movie in the works and a movie centered on Jean Grey and the Phoenix Saga. These are all exciting developments for X-men fans and I intend to maximize their impact in X-men Supreme.

One of the other movie projects that’s brewing for the X-men is New Mutants. That movie promises to explore other areas of the X-men mythos. I’ve already done that in this fanfiction series to some extent, although I don’t call them the New Mutants. I call them X-Factor. They made their debut in X-men Supreme Issue 104: School Daze. The team includes the likes of Hellion, Sunspot, Cannonball, Surge, Wolfsbane, and Mirage. They’re all a bunch of inexperienced mutant teenagers, attending a mutant school run by former X-men, Emma Frost. Like their comic counterparts, their story is built around more youthful tales. Unlike the main X-men, they lack the experience to deal with the Magnetos and Sinisters of the world.

In X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, the won’t have the luxury of waiting on the sidelines, hoping to gain their experience with lower stakes. After the events of Volatility Sensibility, tensions are escalating among mutants. Charles Xavier’s X-men and Cyclops’ X-Force endured their first clash and it did not go well for either side. Another clash is already in the works and this time, it’s going to happen within X-Factor’s ranks.

It’s another chance for a team of young, hopeful mutants to prove their worth in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Their ranks have already been bolstered with the arrival of Shadowcat and Iceman, who reluctantly joined the Academy of Tomorrow after the events of X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide. While they have more experience, they’ve never dealt with a conflict like this. They know as well as everyone else that the X-men and X-Force are divided. They know that Charles Xavier’s dream is at risk. What happens in this issue will show that the risk is even bigger than they thought.

X-men Supreme Issue 153: Revolting Youth

Everyone in X-men Supreme is going to have to step up their game. With the division between X-men and X-Force, expect new sides of familiar characters to emerge. Those kinds of divisions brought out the best and worst of the X-men in the X-men comics. I’ve tried to be careful with that process in this fanfiction series, but it’s a necessary process for X-men Supreme as a whole. That’s why I’m so intent on doing it right.

As such, it’s vital that I continue to get feedback so that I know how right or wrong my efforts have been. These are dark times for the world of X-men Supreme. There are a lot of difficult situations for many characters. I imagine I’ve upset more than a few fans with some of the decisions I’ve made, but I urge those fans to hang in there because there is a larger plan in place. I also urge those fans to tell me what they think so I can keep making X-men Supreme awesome. Either post your comments directly in the issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

From Rebirth To Resolve: Wonder Woman #25

The following is my review of Wonder Woman #25, which was posted on

By every measure, Wonder Woman is having a great year. For the first time in her history, it's not unreasonable to say that hers is the brightest star in the DC trinity. Superman and Batman can have their epic battles and bitter disputes, but only Wonder Woman can say she raised her profile while maintaining the heart that makes her so endearing. She's conquered both the box office and the critics on Rotten Tomatoes, something that Batman and Superman's epic clash cannot claim.

Wonder Woman's star is burning so brightly at the moment that it's easy to forget that part of that flame has been regularly stoked by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp in her comics. After the events of DC Rebirth, Wonder Woman goes through a sobering process of sorts. The world she thought she knew is shrouded with lies that she didn't know were plaguing her. The life she thought she had lived has gaping holes in it that she cannot ignore. For a woman used to extracting truth with her lasso and her charm, that's an unfamiliar feelings.

Like many other DC Rebirth titles, the narrative in Wonder Woman is crafted in a way that builds and escalates. At times, it tends to drag. On top of that, Rucka and Sharp explore some of the gaps that emerged while the DC universe underwent its messy rebirthing process. They end up having to retell, reshape, and update Wonder Woman's story, often while trying to tell a parallel story in the present. It's easy to lose track of the story, but it can make for a uniquely satisfying payoff.

Wonder Woman #25 marks the end of Rucka's run on the series. It also marks the epilogue of sorts of all the various plots within Wonder Woman's rebirth-induced history. It's no easy feat, revamping and retelling Wonder Woman's entire history in just 25 issues while a major Hollywood movie is making headlines in the background. Rucka rises to the challenge, providing a capstone of sorts to a journey that balances the hardened warrior, the loving spirit, and the feminine ideal that she embodies.

It's an important balancing act for Wonder Woman. Throughout her history, multiple writers approach her from various angles. For some, she's only that hardened warrior. For others, she's only that loving spirit and feminine ideal. As iconic a character she is, the stories about her tend to segment her character. All too often, only parts of her personality are explored. Rucka dares to use every one of them in Wonder Woman #25 and in many ways, it completes her rebirth process.

The story itself is built around the aftermath of a lengthy arc that jumps between time periods, exploring Wonder Woman's initial arrival into man's world and her latest clash with a couple menacing gods. Along the way, she faces an identity crisis that makes a rebirth all too necessary. She faces a painful, soul-crushing revelation. For someone who's used to getting the truth out of everyone with ease, that's an accomplishment, even for gods.

Entire chunks of Wonder Woman's life are called into question. Her faith in the gods, her heritage, and herself become subject to major doubt. At the same time, she's still trying to help her friends and still be a full-time member of the Justice League. It's stressful, to say the least. It sends the message that if someone like Wonder Woman can crack under the strain at times, then what hope does anyone have?

That hope doesn't stay lost for long, though. Early on, Rucka shows that Wonder Woman can still be Wonder Woman in the midst of so much upheaval. She can arrive on the scene with the Justice League, fight giant monsters, and hardly break a sweat in taking it down. The hardened warrior aspect of her character is rightly preserved. However, that's not the sole focus of the story or Wonder Woman's journey over the course of the past 25 issues. It's never more than a secondary focus because Wonder Woman embodies more than just a fighting spirit.

Much more of Wonder Woman #25 focuses on her heart, which is heavy and wounded. She spent a great deal of her recent journey trying to save Dr. Barbara Minerva from the clutches of Cheetah, but circumstances beyond her control make that impossible. That's pretty heart-wrenching because when something is impossible for Wonder Woman, who regularly deals with gods, monsters, and Batman, that makes clear that some things are just beyond anyone's control.

She still makes an effort to help her former friend. She also makes a desperate plea for help from the last person who would want to help her. Even with all her love and heart, it isn't enough. It shows in the way she fights. Even her fellow friends on the Justice League sense it. When she finally gets around to confronting it, she has to essentially accept what she can't control. The truth may hurt, but that doesn't make it any less important. There are people who go their entire lives avoiding that. Wonder Woman confronts it, even when she's angry and wounded. Given her immortal heritage, that's quite an accomplishment.

Rucka goes heavy on the symbolism, giving Wonder Woman a love/hate relationship with her magic lasso at a time when the truth can hurt even an immortal warrior woman. Sharp's colorful artwork keeps the tone of the story from getting too bleak or dire. In the end, her willingness to take back her lasso and accept the harsh truth for what it is highlights the end of a journey that Wonder Woman needed to take. It's a journey that strengthens every part of her character, as well as those around her.

As fitting an end as Wonder Woman #25 is to that journey, it does gloss over a few issues and rushes a few others. There's never a clear resolution with Cheetah and Wonder Woman's acceptance of the truth feels somewhat rushed. The fact she only needs a pep talk before taking back her lasso feels somewhat unremarkable, if not contrived. There are a lot of arguments she could've and probably should've had with the gods that deceived her. However, those conversations are essentially shrugged off in favor of some sexy time with Steve Trevor. On some levels, though, that's a fair trade-off.

Overall, Rucka's run on Wonder Woman is a remarkable accomplishment. At a time when Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Patty Jenkins are elevating Wonder Woman's star to new heights, her DC: Rebirth journey finds a way to make that star burn a little brighter. Wonder Woman is tough, compassionate, loving, loyal, and beautiful on every level. It's not something that most people need to be reminded of, but some reminders are still worth having.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Familiar and Weaponized Narrative: Weapons of Mutant Destruction #1

The following is my review of Weapons of Mutant Destruction #1, which was posted on

There are some ideas that are just so wrought with failure that the mere act of entertaining them again is akin to giving Deadpool an unlimited supply of napalm. It's one thing to revamp and reconsider a failed idea. Sometimes, ideas are just too ahead of their time or not properly managed. Others, however, are akin to fixing a cracked windshield with a sledgehammer.

When it comes to ideas that fail in the most spectacularly destructive ways possible, the Weapon X program and the gamma experiments that made the Incredible Hulk are basically co-champions. These are experiments with simple, albeit devious goals. One seeks to create the ultimate living weapon. The other seeks to create an unstoppable monster that can be controlled and directed like a bomb that never stops going off.

They are weapons that anyone, be they the Avengers or Hydra, wouldn't mind having in their arsenal. When it comes to developing them, however, there sheer breadth of the failures are so staggering that even the most deranged James Bond villain wouldn't dare attempt them again. Even with the combined efforts of the Scarlet Witch and every good luck charm that ever existed, the odds just aren't in anyone's favor.

That's why the premise for Weapons of Mutant Destruction is akin to waiting for a demolition derby where every car is armed with a machine gun and a rocket launcher. Weapon X and all things gamma related have done enough damage to the Marvel universe to buy Hulkbuster armor for every man, woman, and child. Greg Pak and Mahmud Asrar believe there's still plenty of entertainment value in that level of destruction. Weapons of Mutant Destruction #1 shows that even if that value is there, making it compelling is a challenge that even heavy doses of gamma can't help.

The foundation of the story is built on ongoing stories unfolding in two of Pak's other books, Weapon X and Totally Awesome Hulk. From a structural standpoint, the transition is seamless. A narrative that begins in Weapon X #1 starts to culminate in Weapons of Mutant Destruction #1. The key, with respect to the actual substance of the story, is that the culmination only starts. It just doesn't go very far. It's akin to a drag racer that makes a lot of noise, but stalls just as the race commences.

That's not to say the ingredients are there. Pak makes it a point to give the conflict in Weapons of Mutant Destruction #1 larger implications that go beyond his own books. Mutant-killing living weapons, as overdone as they may be, still pose an existential threat to the rest of the X-men. The use of gamma power poses a similar threat to anyone still affiliated with the Hulk. Every character involved has a purpose and a clear motivation in the story. Nobody ever gets involved in a living weapons program for fun. Even Deadpool isn't that deranged.

As the story unfolds, though, there's a sense that it's trying to avoid the familiar tropes associated with conflicts built around living weapons. There's a lot of exposition, not all of which is necessary. There are some mystery elements, which are organic extensions of the events unfolding in Weapon X. However, the very fact they involve living weapons somewhat limits the mystery.

The obscenely poor and exceedingly violent track record of living weapons programs in Marvel Comics doesn't hint at any major twist. In an era where Skrull agents and Hydra agents are overused, twists like that are limited in terms of impact. There's never a sense that Weapons of Mutant Destruction is going to break new ground. It has mutant-killing cyborgs and gamma-powered monsters. For both the X-men and the Hulk, these kinds of stories are aren't exactly as rare as adamantium.

Even though the story has many familiar elements, Pak does manage to mix in some unique details along the way. Teaming Amadeus Cho up with the likes of Old Man Logan, Sabretooth, and Lady Deathstrike adds some much-needed novelty to the story. Unlike Bruce Banner, Cho is less experienced with smashing mutant-killing machines. At the very least, though, Pak gives him plenty of incentive to learn quickly and not hesitate.

At one point, Cho is a little disturbed at the brutality of living weapons programs. Considering how Lady Deathstrike and Old Man Logan barely bat an eye, that's pretty revealing in terms of how common these stories are and how inexperienced Cho still is as the Hulk. From his perspective, fighting mutant killing machines isn't something he does every other Monday like the X-men. His role creates some new dynamics that help make the story feel fresh to a limited extent.

That extent still isn't enough to make Weapons of Mutant Destruction more than the latest in a long line of living weapons programs that need to be smashed and/or stabbed with adamantium claws. The story's reliance on exposition, as well as its slow pace, isn't going to make anyone hulk out. With the way the events plays out, the story acts more as a teaser rather than a culmination. That kind of structure works when a story is breaking new ground. It doesn't work quite as well when it's relying on the kind of living weapons tropes that have played out any number of ways since the disco era.

The concept of Weapons of Mutant Destruction is still sound. The story is, by no means, bereft of value. By most measures, Pak's handling of the story is competent and concise. The characters are spot on and the plot never gets too convoluted. Asrar's artwork complements these efforts as well, creating the kinds of dark, sinister undertones that are to be expected with any story involving living weapons or anyone who has ever had to deal with Lady Deathstrike and Sabretooth.

There's something to be said about a story that's so familiar that nothing short of clowns and Cosmic Cubes can make it feel novel. The concept of living weapons in the Marvel Universe is still one that will make anyone who has ever had to clean up blood stains roll their eyes. It can still make for a fun story though. Like a cold beer for Wolverine, it's a familiar and comforting experience. There will always be a place for stories like that in Marvel.

Final Score: 5 out of 10

X-men Supreme Issue 153: Youth Revolt PREVIEW!

The X-men Supreme fanfiction series is entering a tenuous period. The first few issues of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided have established a very different, very divided status quo for Charles Xavier, the X-men, and their new competition, X-Force. Led by Cyclops and Wolverine, X-Force opposes the Mutant Monitoring Initiative that Charles Xavier crafted with President Kelly and General Grimshaw. They believe that this initiative means Xavier has compromised his dream and X-Force is trying to preserve that dream. Xavier is just as convinced that the Mutant Monitoring Initiative will benefit humans and mutants alike.

It’s a tough situation, one that has already tested both the X-men and X-Force. The first major arc of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, Volatility Sensibility, had both teams clash over a mutant struggling with a potent combination of bad luck and volatile powers. It’s the kind of conflict the X-men have dealt with throughout this fanfiction series and with much fewer complications. From Rogue’s arrival in X-men Supreme Issue 6: Rogue Recruit to Kitty Pryde’s recruitment in X-men Supreme Issue 16: Pryde and Prejudice, these kinds of conflicts are supposed to be easy for the X-men.

That’s not the case anymore, though. The simple act of helping a troubled mutant has become a lot more complicated. Charles Xavier understands this more than most. Cyclops, Wolverine, and the rest of X-Force understand it as well. They just see vastly different implications for the future of humans and mutants alike. In the grand scheme of things, Volatility Sensibility was a minor conflict involving one unlucky mutant, Nitro. Given how much the X-men and X-Force struggled with that issue, it doesn’t bode well for the larger conflicts that lay ahead. Some of those conflicts are already unfolding and within familiar places.

At the end of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation, the X-men underwent a major shift in their team lineup. Two of the X-men’s youngest members, Iceman and Shadowcat, left the team to join Emma Frost’s Academy of Tomorrow. They made their debut in this fanfiction series back in X-men Supreme Issue 104: School Daze and were supposed to represent a simpler form of heroics, the kind the X-men used to practice during their earliest days. After the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, though, their purpose has changed. The Academy of Tomorrow has become a dumping ground for troubled mutants, much to the dismay of its founder, Emma Frost.

While Emma is fighting the changes to her school with X-Force, the rest of her students are about to take matters into their own hands. As the X-men and X-Force struggle to adopt to the changes imposed by the Mutant Monitoring Imitative, another conflict is emerging within the walls of the Academy. Being veteran X-men, Iceman and Shadowcat are about to don their uniforms again. What they and their younger cohorts in X-Factor uncover will have major implications for X-men Supreme moving forward. Some of the danger will be familiar to X-men fans. Some will be very different. As always, I’ve prepared a preview of just how different/familiar those implications will be.

“Can’t escape like this. I won’t outrun a mosquito, let alone the MSA,” he groaned.

Beak panted heavily, hoping that the discomfort would pass. As it lingered, time was ticking by. For all he knew, Sunfire had informed Emma Frost and Dr. Nemesis. They in turn would inform the MSA. He couldn’t afford to be caught. The only way he stood a chance was if he took another outrageous risk. Looking at the vials of Kick in his suitcase, he could think of only one option.

“Fuck it! Watered down or not, I need a boost,” said the ailing mutant.

With shaky hands, Beak retrieved one of the vials. Through labored breaths, he reached for a syringe that he kept under his bed. Without checking the needle or cleaning it, he drew a full dose. He was prepared to inject it, but he hesitated for a moment.

He remembered what this stuff did to him against Rockslide. He originally took a dose just to make sure it was real. It gave him the strength to lay out a mutant that was bigger, stronger, and tougher than he was. He would need that kind of strength to escape.

“Here goes nothing,” Beak groaned.

He was about to stick the needle in his arm when he heard an ominous snikt behind his door. The next thing he knew, his bedroom door was sliced open and kicked in. It started him so much that he nearly dropped the needle. As he clutched it firmly, he turned to see a very unnerving sight outside his bedroom.

“See how much time we save when we skip knocking?” growled X-23 as she entered the room.

“Point taken. I’ll save it for bathrooms and Emma Frost’s office only,” said Hellion as he followed her.

“I think we got the message across,” said Iceman, his body now covered in an ice shell, “Barnell Bohusk, we need to talk.”

“By talk he means drop the needle be smart,” said Shadowcat, who wore a new variation of her X-men uniform.

In an instant, the Beak’s discomfort was overshadowed by dread. His outburst on the softball field wasn’t exactly subtle. In a school with two former X-men, this made him a target in more ways than he expected.

There was nothing subtle about this intrusion. The team arrived in full force. X-23 led Hellion, Iceman, Magma, Shadowcat, and Colossus right to Beak’s room. Along the way, they linked up with Sunspot, Cannonball, Surge, Mirage, and Metldown. They were all in their old X-Factor uniforms, including their masks. If this was as volatile as they were led to believe, then they were going to confront it as a team. Such a strong show of force put Beak in an even more desperate position.

“Don’t let the costumes fool you, Beak. We’re not here to fight,” said Cannonball as he emerged from behind.

“Listen to him,” urged Iceman, “You’ll save us all a world of trouble.”

“Trust me, you want that,” said X-23 in a threatening tone, “I can already smell what’s in that syringe! It’s Mutant Growth Hormone, isn’t it?”

“How…how do you know about that?” demanded Beak.

“That’s for me to know and you to forget,” she barked, “Now do your limbs a favor and drop the damn needle!”

Her commands were harsh, more so than X-Factor would have liked. Iceman, Shadowcat, and Colossus couldn’t help but cringe. It was exactly the kind of provocation they didn’t need.

“It’s just like working with Wolverine again,” commented Colossus.

“Oye, this won’t end well,” groaned Shadowcat.

“Ten bucks says he doesn’t give up the needle,” said Meltdown.

“No deal. I can see where this is going,” said Sunspot.

X-23 wasn’t about to wait for an answer and Beak wasn’t given much time to consider it. As she clenched her fists in anticipation, Beak closed his eyes and jammed the needle into his arm, injecting the drug in the process. As soon as the reddish fluid entered his system, it had an immediate affect.

“Oh no you don’t!” growled X-23 as she lunged for Beak.

“No Laura! Don’t!” exclaimed Hellion.

There was no stopping her. The former living weapon followed her battle-hardened instincts, lunging towards Beak in an all-out attack. She had every intention of subduing him regardless of the wounds it would incur. However, she wasn’t the only one acting on instinct.

Just as X-23’s claws were within inches of Beak, he got up and revealed that the extra dose of Kick had a more profound effect. He made this effect painfully appearance as he took a deep breath and let out an ear-splitting screech that was coupled with a concussive wave of force.

“GO AWWWWAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY!” he roared through the sonic assault.

“Arrgghhh!” X-23 cried out as she was blown back by the force.

“My ears!” exclaimed Surge.

“That’s a new trick,” groaned Mirage.

“Just like old times indeed,” groaned Iceman.

The powerful noise was incapacitated X-Factor. They were all forced to cover their ears and fall back. In addition, they had to get out of the way of the concussive blast. Beak’s roar was so loud that it blew a ten-foot hole in the wall, breaking lights and shattering his own desk in the process.

Hellion tried to divert some of the shrapnel with telekinesis while catching X-23. This didn’t prevent some from incurring some light wounds in addition to the assault on their ears. It was an impressive show of force from a mutant who wasn’t known for it.

“Damn! That’s more like it,” said Beak upon halting his assault, “No way that shit was watered down.”

“What? Is he saying something?” exclaimed Cannonball, still rubbing his ears.

“I think he just told us to piss off, but I’m not sure,” said Shadowcat, whose ears were bleeding.

Shadowcat, Iceman, and Colossus struggled to reorient themselves along with the rest of X-Factor. Their ears were reeling, but they didn’t need to hear in order to understand what was going on. They could see what was happening with Beak.

In addition to a new skill, the drug he just injected was giving him a new appearance. The veins in his neck and arms weren’t just throbbing. They were growing. His muscle mass increased three-fold, going from a somewhat scrawny teenager to a heavily muscled young man. In addition to his muscles his skin changed in a profound way, forming a thick layer gray feathers. This layer of feathers extending to his face, making it so he looked like a perfect half-man/half-bird.

The once obscure mutant was seething with a new rush of energy. This change in his body and his powers quickly filled him with a new mentality. He was no longer the feeble freak that his parents threw away. He was his own creature and nobody was going to push him around any more. With X-Factor still dazed, he secured the remaining doses of Kick and closed his suitcase.

“I didn’t want to make a scene, but I’m glad you guys made it necessary,” Beak taunted, “You have no idea how hard it was to get this shit.”

“Whatever you’re planning, I’m pretty sure it’s a mistake,” said Iceman.

“Says you!” scoffed Beak, “This stupid initiative gives you guys plenty to look forward to. But for guys like me, I got nothing! I don’t give a damn if it is breaking the law. I’m making my own law from here on out!”

As I develop the story around a divided X-men, there will be numerous plots and conflicts to manage. This may very well be the most complicated this fanfiction series has ever become. I knew in the early days, going back to X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers, that the stories I had planned would add complications. I’ve tried to minimize them so that X-men Supreme doesn’t become as bloated as the X-men comics. It has been difficult and X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided marks my biggest challenge to date.

As such, it’s vital that I continue to get more feedback from readers. I need to know whether I’m managing this challenge well or screwing up completely. Whether you’re a die-hard X-men fan or just a casual observer, I want to hear from you. This site has been subject to an annoying amount of spammers lately. I’d like to hear from actual readers so I don’t have to sift through so much crap. Either contact me directly or post your comments directly in the issue. I’ll try to find a way to filter out the spam. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!


Friday, June 16, 2017

The Red Queen Chronicles: Phoenix Part 3 is LIVE!

It's the beginning of summer. It's hotter than Emma Frost's panties as a diamond exchange. It's the time of sun, beaches, and bikinis. In other words, it's the perfect time of year for my sexy side-projects.

Since the unexpected success I got with "Spider-Man and the Prostitute," I've had plenty of projects to keep me busy. I've since expanded that world with "The New Red Queen" and the various spin-offs I've done from that. With someone as sexy as Mary Jane Watson running the show at the Hellfire Club, of all places, the potential for sexiness is virtually unlimited. There are so many sexy ideas to explore and I'm about to cap off another.

In the latest round of the Red Queen Chronicles, I've had Mary Jane and Emma Frost recruit Cyclops and Jean Grey to their ranks. So far, the process has been a bit messy, but sexy as hell for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who read the first two chapters. The final chapter should help cap things off in the most fitting, sexy way possible. Whether you're a Cyclops/Jean fan or just fans of sexy stuff like this, you'll find plenty to enjoy.

Again, I appreciate the strong response I've gotten with this and all my recent Red Queen stories. The more support I get, the more motivation I have to keep this sexy series going. I will announce right now that I do have another spin-off in the works. After that, though, nothing is set in stone. It depends on the response I get to this story and the next one. If there's still sufficient demand, I'll keep at it. Like I said, the potential for sexiness when it comes to Mary Jane Watson is unlimited. Nuff said!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

United, Divided, and Spited: Secret Empire United #1

The following is my review of Secret Empire United #1, which was posted on

Every tyrannical regime in history usually learns the hard way that governing people is hard. People are erratic, petty, melodramatic, greedy, and every other quality associated with Lex Luthor. United them under a common state, guiding them down what tyrannical leaders think is in their best interests, tends to morph into a prolonged test of unending frustration. In a world populated by mutants, Inhumans, and teenagers that build suits of armor from trash cans, even Captain America is prone to such frustration.

Secret Empire pulls back the proverbial curtain, revealing a conspiracy wrapped in an agenda sparked by a retcon. The biggest secret not related to Tony Stark's biological parents comes out. Captain America has been a secret Hydra agent the whole time and puts himself in a position to take over. He does so with an efficiency that would give hippies and tobacco lobbyists alike nightmares. Short of a grassy knoll, it has everything conspiracy theory enthusiasts could ever want.

However, taking over the world is actually the easy part. The fact it takes Hydra so long and requires a Cosmic Cube says a lot about their efficiency as an organization. It also doesn't bode well for their ability to actually manage what they conquer. The pages of Secret Empire are already setting the stage for a clash to overthrow Hydra's new favorite patriot. Secret Empire United #1 opens a new front in that battle, one that's sure to complicate Hydra's efforts.

Jim Zub and Ario Anindito go out of their way to create some real-world parallels, giving the new Hydra-dominated nation a bitter border dispute. Given the sheer breadth of Hydra's power and influence, there aren't many nations that could actually threaten it. However, a nation full of mutants run by both X-men and their former enemies definitely would give any nation pause, Hydra or otherwise.

New Tian is presented as Hydra's solution for managing a sizable population of super-powered mutants. It's a small, semi-sovereign state where mutants and mutants live in limited harmony. It's actually very limited because the catalyst for the story is basically a script in racially bias police, albeit the opposite of what mutants are used to. It's both fitting and relevant. It highlights issues that are plucked right from the news and hashtag movements. While it's sure to spark divisive political debates, complete with outrage on both sides, it establishes and important dynamic for the issue.

Given how fascist states usually deal with minorities, it's surprisingly pragmatic. The Hydra-affiliated Steve Rogers understands that going to war with mutants rarely works out for anyone. It often ends with heroes fighting heroes and at some point, cosmic forces get involved and Tony Stark will try to shoot it with an oversized gun. That's not good for the stability of any nation, fascist or otherwise.

It's not a perfect solution, but it creates the perfect setup for a story that effectively doubles down on the conspiracy dynamics that guide the narrative in Secret Empire. It's a gamble, but it pays off in a big, satisfying way in terms of actual substance. It's a story that involves secrets, real-world issues, a prison break, and a fight that includes Deadpool. By the ever-changing standards of Marvel, it checks more boxes than most.

At the heart of that story are secrets and agendas. Captain America wants his Hydra-led empire to succeed and he prefers to do it without going to war with mutants. Mutants also want to improve their lot in the world. They've lived most of their non-Hydra lives in constant fear of Sentinel attacks, racial bigotry, and living weapons programs. Under Hydra, they have a chance to live in a state where they're the majority and they get preferential treatment by the cops. Even if it means living in a world dominated by Hydra, it still counts as an upgrade to them.

However, they're still a minority that shares a border with a Hydra-run nation. If the history of the real and fictional world has shown anybody anything, it's that minorities and fascist regimes don't get along. It creates bitter disputes, fosters even greater racism, and even sparks full-blown world wars. As everyone learned in Avengers vs. X-men, a war with mutants has no real winners in the long run.

That backdrop in Secret Empire United #1 helps make the events that play out feel real and dramatic. It's not just that there are parallels to draw between the story and the news that plays out every day on social media. It's easier to relate to the high emotions involve. Seeing characters like Sunfire decry a fascist state or listening to Hydra's leadership rail on strengthening the border carries more dramatic weight.

There are so many other cases of one group of super-powered people whining about another. In fact, that makes up the vast majority of Marvel's major conflicts. Secret Empire United #1 stands out by providing a real, relevant context to the situation. While it may inspire more political whining on social media, it makes for a much more compelling story and in an era where almost anything can spark political whining, that's a fair price to pay.

A story that fosters that kind of dramatic weight is strong enough on concept alone. However, Zub and Anindito really overachieve by crafting a concise, action-packed narrative, complete with a satisfying twist at the end. It's not the kind of twist that involves Cosmic Cubes or deals with Mephisto either. It's just a resolution that feels so perfectly appropriate, given the context of the situation and the over-arching themes of Secret Empire.

By nearly every measure, Secret Empire United #1 exceeds the expectations usually associated with tie-in issues. It's not simply a shameless plug for a larger story that creates one too many holes. It tells the kind of story that offers just the right kind of impact for a specific kind of story. It's essentially a targeted narrative, one that hits its mark in all the right ways. That, in the grand scheme of things, is still worth inspiring more angry political rants.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Friday, June 9, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 152: Volatility Sensibility Part 2 is LIVE!

There’s a difference between the right decision and the prudent decision. That’s something the X-men deal with all the time in the comics, movies, and cartoons. The X-men Supreme fanfiction series is no different. Whether they’re caught in the middle of a war with the Shi’ar or trying to save the lost city of Nova Roma, the X-men have had to made more than a few hard decisions. In every occasion, their guiding principles came from Charles Xavier’s dream of peace and understanding. Now, in the evolving conflicts of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, those principles have become obscured.

It’s a critical and tenuous moment for this fanfiction series. The X-men are divided, but the world still needs them to make these hard decisions. Charles Xavier is trying to pursue a different dream with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. Cyclops and X-Force are trying to preserve what remains of Xavier’s old dream. They cannot and will not compromise their principles. Now, in the events of Volatility Sensibility, they won’t have a choice.

X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided is in the midst of its first arc. It’s also the first major conflict since the X-men split in the events of X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide. A young mutant named Nitro find himself at ground zero of a potentially explosive situation, both literally and figuratively. A combination of bad luck and poor decisions on his part have made him a target of both the Mutant Monitoring Initiative and a group of petty criminals to which he is indebted. It’s up to the X-men and X-Force to try and resolve this situation before it literally blows up in their face.

In previous volumes of X-men Supreme, the decision would be relatively easy. Helping distressed mutants is what the X-men do. Whether it’s someone struggling with their powers, like Rogue did when hers first manifested, or helping a mutant like Gambit, who found himself in a tricky situation back home, the X-men make it a point to protect mutants. Under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, complete with the constant scrutiny of President Kelly and General Grimshaw, it’s not so easy anymore. Helping Nitro might also mean turning him over to the government or sending him to prison. That puts the X-men in a tough position while giving X-Force an opportunity to intervene.

Who is right and who is wrong in this instance? Will Xavier’s new methods win out? Will Cyclops and X-Force prove him wrong? It’s the first major test for the X-men and X-Force in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, but it will certainly not be the last. It is, however, as explosive as it gets. Whether they want to save Nitro or the innocent people he may hurt with his powers, they’ll have to make those hard decisions soon. What they do and don’t do will set the tone for the future of this fanfiction series. Make no mistake. Volatility Sensibility will have significant implications and it starts with this issue.

X-men Supreme Issue 152: Volatility Sensibility Part 2

There’s plenty more to come with X-men Supreme. This first arc of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided is meant to set the tone for the kind of conflict you’ll see between the X-men and X-Force. Now, I’ve followed the X-men comics as closely as most other X-men fans and I know that divided X-men has become somewhat taboo in recent years. I hope to go at it from a different perspective here in X-men Supreme.

As such, it’s very important that I continue to get feedback from readers on this fanfiction series. I especially want to hear from those fans who were as disappointed as I was with how the whole schism issue was handled with the X-men comics. I want to handle it better here in X-men Supreme and I need feedback to ensure I’m succeeding. Either post your comment directly in the issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine and I’m always happy to chat X-men. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Real (And Relevant) Coolness: Iceman #1

The following is my review of Iceman #1, which was posted on

No character ever becomes iconic without doing something to set themselves apart. For years, going all the way back to the Lee/Kirby era of Uncanny X-men, Iceman never gets that chance. Despite being a member of the iconic Original Five X-men, he never gets his own Phoenix Saga. He never undergoes a transformation like Angel or Beast. He never even goes through the twisted melodrama of marrying a clone or have a time-displaced child. In a sense, Iceman is like a capable backup quarterback on a team of pro bowl players. He can hold his own. He just never gets a chance to show his skill.

That all changed after the events of All-New X-men #40. In what is, without a doubt, the biggest upheaval in Iceman's 50-plus year history, Jean reveals that he's gay. Now, there's a lot that can be said about how his outing was handled. Jean's somewhat callous approach to the situation, as well as the circumstances in which it occurred, are somewhat troubling. There's also the issue of Iceman's past entanglements with women. Some of them even count as serious. One of them, namely Mystique, almost got him killed.

However, that only makes the reveal more powerful because it reflects the real-life conflicts that many homosexuals deal with. Sometimes, they spend decades of their lives pretending to be something their not. Adding this on top of the underlying themes of the X-men, which is somewhat analogous to LGBT issues, it puts Iceman's story in a whole new context. It does more than set him apart from the rest of the Original Five X-men, who've already done plenty to distinguish themselves. It puts Iceman in a position to forge a unique path, one that few characters of his status have ever attempted.

Iceman #1 isn't entirely structured around Bobby Drake's homosexuality or how he deals with it. It's not built around him just going on solo adventures either. He's not Wolverine, Iron Man, or even Squirrel Girl. His path has the potential to be both unique and revealing. Sina Grace doesn't try to fit Bobby into another Phoenix Saga, a Dark Angel Saga, or any kind of saga. More than anything else, Grace tries to focus on Bobby's very human struggles while still giving him a chance to be Iceman.

In setting up the story, Grace establishes a distinct difference between Iceman and his time-displaced counterpart. Whether due to recklessness or immaturity, the teenage Iceman does a much better job of accepting his sexuality. He even has a male love interest that he's been exploring in other X-men comics. Ironically, the older, adult Iceman is behind the curve of his teenage self. He's admitted that he's gay, but he hasn't done anything with it yet. He's still more focused on being Iceman rather than Bobby Drake.

Iceman #1 puts him in a position where he has to be both. He doesn't face a cosmic entity or a killer robot. Instead, he faces a very real, very relevant issue with his parents. Unlike the rest of the X-men, they don't know that he's gay. His mother even asks about whether or not he has any girlfriends. It establishes that while Iceman may be out as a gay character, he's not quite out with the world at large.

It's the kind of situation that real homosexuals with real families deal with, not knowing how to talk to their parents about their sexuality. Bobby's parents make it even harder because they're not necessarily proud of his mutant status either. They give the impression that they'd much rather see him holding down a steady job as a garbage man rather than regularly saving the planet from Apocalypse. It's not so much that they have unreasonable standards as much as it is they want a "normal" son.

It's a concept that resonates with both mutants and the LGBT community, the idea of being so not normal that it undermines friends, family, and everything in between. In Bobby's case, he's got a double dose of non-normalcy. He's a minority within a minority, a homosexual man and a mutant. That means he can expect double the hate from every racist bigot, of which there are plenty in both the real world and the Marvel universe.

Fittingly enough, the main conflict in Iceman #1 isn't a killer robot or invading aliens. It's a wannabe Purifier, who are basically Marvel's that anti-mutant version of the KKK. While they don't make their position on homosexuality known, it's hard to imagine that would make them any less hostile to someone like Bobby.

It gives Bobby a chance to be a hero and, strangely enough, that's the most normal thing he does. When he's fighting a rogue Purfier, he's the same Iceman that people have known and loved since the Kennedy Administration. It's only when he has to be Bobby Drake that he faces an insurmountable conflict, of sorts. His parents don't accept him. The world, as a whole, doesn't accept him. Even other mutants seem more "normal" by comparison.

It's a powerful message that makes for a story that feels real and relevant. That's the greatest strength of Iceman #1. Grace tells a story that real people can relate to and Alessandro Vitti's artwork makes it visually appealing. Anyone who is LGBT, an outcast, or just not "normal" in a classic sort of way will find something to appreciate.

While the story may feel real, it also lacks the kind of dramatic impact or emotional upheaval that so many other major X-men characters have enjoyed in their 50-year plus history. That may be too much to hope for in one issue of a solo series for a character who hasn't had one before, but while the plot feels real and relevant, the substance is somewhat lacking. It's a competent, cohesive story that delivers a powerful message. It just doesn't go much further than that.

What gives this series promise, though, is the way Grace and Vitti frame Bobby's story at this point in his history. He's a minority within a minority, still trying to be a hero while trying to find his place. Being a hero is the easy part for him. Trying to find his place is a far greater challenge, one that he's very uncertain about. It's easy to be certain when there are killer robots to smash and evil mutant racists to fight. It's much harder to live a distinctly non-normal life that still feels normal. For mutants and LGBT individuals alike, it's an important story to tell.

Final Score: 7 out of 10