Friday, February 24, 2017

The Red Queen Chronicles: The Weapon is LIVE!


There are some characters whose sex appeal is too powerful to ignore. Sure, radical feminist types and the men who are overtly whipped by these types hate it. Some will even protest it, claiming it perpetuates misogyny and emboldens the tyrannical patriarchy that exists only to subjugate women. To those people, I say go fuck yourself and turn yourself in for harassment. My work is not for you.

To everyone else, namely those with semi-functioning genitals and a fondness for the sexy side of life, I come bringing another sexy side-project to heat up your loins. Once again, this project involves Mary Jane Watson, who is very much the alpha to Emma Frost's omega in terms of characters with uncanny sex appeal. I'm convinced that this woman can scratch her ass while scarfing down chopped liver and still give men a boner. It's that kind of sex appeal that makes her so appealing to these projects.

That appeal has already made for some incredibly sexy stories. Both "Spider-Man and the Prostitute" and "The New Red Queen" wildly exceeded my expectations in terms of the response I got. I know it shouldn't be that big a shock that an extra sexy Mary Jane Watson gets peoples' attention, but here I am.


Now, having generated an audience that seems hungry for more sexy Mary Jane Watson stories, I'm ready to kick off my new line of spin-off stories. Like "The New Red Queen," these stories will take place in the same continuity. In this world, Mary Jane Watson never knew Peter Parker in high school. She then became a prostitute, but eventually crossed paths with Spider-Man and that led her to becoming the new Red Queen of the Hellfire Club. If you want the sexy details of this story, just read "Spider-Man and the Prostitute" and "The New Red Queen." Your genitals will thank you.

This story is the first that will explore Mary Jane Watson's new role as the Red Queen of the Hellfire Club. Her first challenge is pretty daunting. She'll be dealing with none other than Wolverine of the X-men. Seeing as how he's got a major movie coming out in a few weeks, I figure the time is right for him to get acquainted with the new Red Queen of the Hellfire Club. Given Wolverine's fondness for redheads, expect shit to get pretty hot. So you might want to put on a dry pair of panties before you read this.


As I said before, this is the just the first. I already have several other spin-off stories in the works. They'll have Mary Jane cross paths with other notable characters from various parts of the Marvel universe, often in the sexiest way possible. Stay tuned for more previews and updates. In the meantime, it's probably wise to stock up on dry panties as well. These side-projects are only going to get sexier as they go on. Nuff said!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Long Road From Infamy: Infamous Iron Man #5

The following is my review of Infamous Iron Man #5, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


When a hero crosses a line, it's rare that they stay over that line. There are times when Batman kills. There are times when Spider-Man acts irresponsibly. There are times when Deadpool skips Taco Tuesday. For the characters and the stories around them, these moments can be agonizing and compelling. At the same time, however, the outcome is frustratingly predictable. At some point, they'll do something to absolve themselves. If it's really bad, it'll often get retconned via time travel, clones, or several extra orders of tacos.

That predictability isn't quite so obvious in the narrative surrounding Infamous Iron Man. Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev aren't sticking to tried and true formula in making Victor Von Doom the new Iron Man. They've set up a story where it's easy to see Doom going in any direction.

He could either use his new outlook to become Earth's greatest hero, showing up both Tony Stark and the entire Fantastic Four in the process. He could just as easily cross those old lines again, becoming that devious villain who would sucker-punch the Hulk if it made everyone acknowledge his superiority.

It's not at all clear which direction Dr. Doom will go and that's why Infamous Iron Man carries so much intrigue. There are still many questions surrounding Dr. Doom's motivations and his approach to being the new Iron Man, some of which have only been hinted at since Secret Wars. Infamous Iron Man #5 finally attempts to answer some of those questions. Those answers are still incomplete, but the story does make one thing clear. Doom is serious about this new role as Iron Man. He really wants to do something other than subversion, conquest, and megalomania.

It's clear he's serious because the narrative to this point is built around a world that still sees Victor Von Doom as the alpha and omega of villains. SHIELD, Ben Grimm, Tony Stark, and pretty much everyone with access to Wikipedia aren't convinced that he has turned a corner and for good reason. Doom's record of honesty is right up there with Loki, Thanos, and tobacco lobbyists. It's perfectly understandable that those tasked with protecting the world are inherently skeptical about Doom's intentions.

 
The events and subsequent aftermath in Infamous Iron Man #5 act as major tests of Doom's resolve. Everyone expects him to revert back to the mustache-twirling villain he's always been. Maria Hill, Thing, and everyone in between are bracing themselves while, at the same time, provoking him into uncrossing that line. That doesn't happen though. Doom, despite being treated like he's a ticking time bomb in need of preemptive defusing, remains serious about this new heroic path.

This leads him to a confrontation that would be very difficult if he were just plotting another scheme to one-up Reed Richards. Unlike the beginning of this series, it doesn't involve some C-list villain that nobody minds seeing used as target practice. It's Dr. Doom's mother, Cynthia Von Doom.

Her presence alone is revealing. Few who don't possess the omnicians of the Watcher can understand the importance of Doom's mother confronting her son. In terms of Victor Von Doom's motivations, both as villain and a man, his mother is right up there with showing up Reed Richards. For a good chunk of Doom's history, one of his primary motivations was saving his mother's soul from the clutches of Mephisto. It added even more incentive for him to master science, sorcery, and everything in between. If only Peter Parker could be so motivated.

Having succeeded in that primary motivation, meeting his mother here gives the story in Infamous Iron Man #5 a great deal of weight. Naturally, he's not too keen on believing outright that his mother is alive and just wants a hug. Victor Von Doom may be serious about not being a villain, but that doesn't mean he's gullible.

With Thing having already picked a fight on SHIELD's behalf, it leads to one of the most meaningful clashes to date in Infamous Iron Man. It doesn't exactly end in a moment ripped from a Hallmark card, but it doesn't end with Doom wanting to burn the entire planet to a crisp either. If anything, it further affirms Doom's resolve for this new path as Iron Man. In that sense, it's a clear victory for him.

That's not to say there aren't losers as well. Infamous Iron Man #5 will not go down as one of Ben Grimm's proudest moments. The same can be said for Maria Hill and the rest of SHIELD. As for Dr. Amara Perera, someone who only crossed paths with Doom because she had the misfortune of dating Tony Stark, she loses the most. To his credit, Doom tries to apologize. However, she makes clear that she still doesn't see him as a hero. She may not see him as a villain, but he's no hero.


This is the most relevant theme in Infamous Iron Man #5. Bendis and Maleev are putting Doom on the longer, more arduous road to being what he wants to be. They're not just tempting him to revert to his old ways. They're showing him that walking this path is a lot harder and he has an uphill battle, to say the very least. There's even a teaser at the end hinting that this path is going to keep tempting him into fits maniacal laughter once more. It promises plenty more intrigue for a story that still seems so strange on paper with Victor Von Doom being a hero.

While the themes and content are strong in Infamous Iron Man #5, there are times it still feels lacking in some details. In some respects, the story feels condensed and truncated. It gives the impression that the conversations needed to be longer and that certain characters didn't get to say what they needed to say. Bendis and Maleev try to do a lot and they succeed for the most part, but some parts of that success still feel incomplete.

This doesn't make Infamous Iron Man any less engaging as a larger story. It may very well be one of the most engaging stories of the post-Secret Wars world. The story is still in a very nascent stage, but it's maturing rapidly and in a way that would make any mother proud.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sexy Side-Project Announcement: MORE Mary Jane Watson (With Wolverine)


Sometimes, you just find a winning formula that works. You don't expect it to work so well. I'm sure the man or woman who first put peanut butter and jelly together didn't expect it to be that good when they tried it. We never know just how awesome something is until we realize it.

That leads me to Mary Jane Watson and my sexy side-projects. Do I have your attention now? Or, at the very least, do I have the attention of certain parts of your body? I'm going to assume I do because, in what has been an unexpected and welcome surprise, my recent projects involving Mary Jane Watson have been quite successful. I've gotten more positive feedback from them than I have with any project, sexy or otherwise, in quite some time. Apparently, there's an audience for Mary Jane Watson being overtly sexy. Go figure.

After "Spider-Man and the Prostitute" and "The New Red Queen," I think it's official now. I've found a winning formula and I want to build on it. That's why I'm proud to announce that this world I've created where Mary Jane Watson is both a prostitute and a queen in the Hellfire Club is getting more content. And yes, it's of the very sexy variety.

This isn't just going to be a single one-shot either. This will actually be a series of stories that expand on what I've established in "The New Red Queen." After I finished that story, I just couldn't leave it at that. I just had to expand on the concept of Mary Jane Watson being a queen in the Hellfire Club. What sort of sexy, debauchery can she get into now that she's in a position like this? Who else can she share this sexy debauchery with? Peter Parker shouldn't be the only one who gets to participate. Who else can she entice? Or maybe a better question is who can't someone like Mary Jane entice?


These are all questions I'll be exploring in the sexiest way possible. It'll start with a spin-off that will cross the paths of the new Red Queen of the Hellfire Club with Wolverine. Given Wolverine's fondness for redheads, expect it to be sexy as hell. However, expect this to be just the first of multiple entries in this new world that is driven by Mary Jane's sex appeal.

I'm calling this new series "The Red Queen Chronicles" and I'll be posting the first story one week from today. After that, more will follow. Some will be one-shots. Some will be multi-chapter. All will be sexy as hell. That much, I can promise.

Now for those of you who follow X-men Supreme, don't worry. I've no intention of delaying my plans for that and I will be making an announcement in the coming weeks. For now, I'm going to get the ball rolling on this new string of sexy side-projects. I've found something that works so I'm going to run with it.

So that means you have a week to clean your panties, stock up on tissues, and prepare yourself for more of Mary Jane Watson's omega-level sex appeal. Take all the time you need. I hope to make it worth the wait. With Mary Jane, it usually is. Nuff said!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Amazing Appeal of Family Fun: Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4

The following is my review of Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Some unwritten rules are made to be broken. Some rules don't deserve to be written or unwritten in the first place. For whatever reason, there's this prevailing sentiment in superhero comics that heroes can't be heroes and have loving families. Maybe it's because of the extended absence of the Fantastic Four, as well as the abysmal failure of their movies, that this mindset took over. Whatever the reason, it still isn't a good reason because heroes being heroes with their families has a real appeal.

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows embodies that appeal in a form every bit as pure as the Fantastic Four, minus the flying cars and silver surfboards. After spinning out of Secret Wars, this series builds a story around a version of Peter Parker that's actually easy to root for. He's a husband, a father, and an all-around likable guy. That means he's not someone who ever has to justify making a deal with Mephisto.

This Peter Parker stands in stark contrast to current constructs of male superheroes. He doesn't always have to be the underdog. He doesn't always have to be looking for a new love interest or trying to protect another. His family doesn't have to be an obstacle. In fact, they can be vital assets. That's the spirit of the story Gerry Conway and Ryan Stegman forge in Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4. Superheroes can not only have families. Those families can be fun, compelling, and dramatic. No deals with Mephisto are required.

This issue caps off the first major battle that the Parker family encounters as a family of spider-themed vigilantes. It acts as the polish on a narrative that begins as an uncut gem, still needing to prove that the Fantastic Four aren't the only ones who can make this work. When all is said and done, the Fantastic Four may need to worry because there's a new superhero family in town and they have an adorable redheaded girl on their side. Even flying cars and silver surfboards can't compete with that.

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4 caps off the prologue, of sorts, to Spider-Man becoming a family affair. It's not enough that Peter Parker's wife and daughter wield superpowers now. While the Secret Wars tie-in did show that they can stop a powerful threat like Regent, it doesn't sell Peter on the idea that his wife and daughter should share his responsibilities. He can barely handle the responsibility of having J. Jonah Jameson as a boss. It makes perfect sense that he would worry about his family sharing those burdens.


Conway makes it a point to highlight Peter's reservations about the concept. Just because the Fantastic Four can make it work doesn't mean the Parker family can do the same. Plus, the Fantastic Four have their own building, steady jobs, and robot assistants. The Parker family has an apartment, credit card bills, and no flying car. They have a lot of factors working against them, but it's in those kinds of situations when Peter Parker, Spider-Man, and his family are at their best.

The situation isn't quite as dire as it was against Regent. The main villain in this family conflict is Mole Man and on most days, he's not even as menacing as J. Jonah Jameson. A simple fight between Spider-Man and Mole Man has limited appeal. Throw a super-powered Mary Jane Watson and a mischievous Annie Parker into the mix and the appeal shoots up to Galactus-level proportions.

This is where Stegman's art really shines, creating colorful, action-packed scenes that never lose the light family tone that brings new energy to the world of Spider-Man. This isn't just Spider-Man whining about being late for work or cracking jokes about Mole Man's body odor. It's Spider-Man and his family working together, outwitting Mole Man as a team, and making it feel fun and entertaining every step of the way.

That's not to say it lacks maturity. There are some more powerful moments that help Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4 feel like a serious Spider-Man comic and not some diet version reserved for Saturday morning cartoons. The defining moment of the issue, and the first major conflict of the series, is the debate Peter has with Mary Jane on who gets to be a hero in this family. The fact it takes place in the middle of Mole Man's lair only adds more weight to the moment.

It's a very relevant issue, turning Spider-Man from a solo act to a family affair. Peter's reluctance is understandable. People tend to get hurt when they try to get involved with his superhero life. Gwen Stacy is the greatest example of this. However, Mary Jane Watson is not Gwen Stacy and Annie Parker is too young to worry about falling off bridges.


In many respects, it's an issue where there's no one responsible recourse. If Spider-Man is a solo act, then his family is still vulnerable because it means he has to protect them and be a hero. If Spider-Man works with his family, then his family does face more danger. However, they can confront that danger together and one person doesn't have to bear the full burden. It's a tough decision for Peter and Mary Jane to make as parents and lovers, but in the end it's a decision that eventually makes itself.

More specifically, Annie is the one who makes the decision obvious. She really steals the show in this first major battle as a Spider-Family and it's not just because she's amazingly adorable. Like many kids, she sees adults arguing and finds it to be hopelessly pointless. Instead of thinking and worrying, she just acts and she helps her family win the day. There aren't many ways to make parents more proud that don't involve college scholarships.

The way things play out in Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4 make clear that Spider-Man can work as a family. They still argue, worry, and frustrate each other along the way, but that's what family does. That's what makes a family stronger. More importantly, that's what makes a superhero family amazing.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, February 10, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide is LIVE!


Today marks a pivotal moment in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. What happens today will have major ramifications for the past and present for the X-men, their allies, and even their enemies. Given all the conflicts they’ve faced, the X-men have had plenty of defining moments. The Phoenix Saga, the Overlord story, the Cambrian Explosion, and the election of Robert Kelly all impacted the X-men in a profound way. However, what they’ll face at this point in X-men Supreme will hit them in a way they’ve never experienced before.

It’s a moment that has been building since the beginning of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. When the Mutant Liberation Front began their attacks, and especially after their major victory in X-men Supreme Issue 127: Terror Sell, they forced Charles Xavier and his X-men to rethink their tactics. It wasn’t enough to just take down their enemies, as they had done with Magneto on multiple occasions, going all the way back to the initial recruitment of the Brotherhood of Mutants. The world, including President Kelly and General Grimshaw, demanded a different kind of X-men.

With Charles Xavier stepping down for a time to deal with his crippling addiction to pain killers, Cyclops took over. For a time, he tried to lead the X-men in a way that would meet these new demands. His efforts had mixed results, but he did have his share of successes. The Impossible Odds arc demonstrated that the X-men could function in this chaotic new world that the Mutant Liberation Front had created. Then, the Outer Limits arc happened. The events of this story didn’t just heal Charles Xavier. It gave him back the use of his legs. Now stronger, bolder, and more determined than ever before, Xavier is determined to lead his X-men in a new way. This, however, has put him at odds with his first and most dedicated student.

For nearly the entire history of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, Cyclops has been Charles Xavier’s most loyal student. Even in the X-men comic, Cyclops often defines himself as being the one most dedicated to realizing Charles Xavier’s dream of peace and understanding between mutants. However, recent events in X-men Supreme have caused a rift between teacher and student. For the first time, Cyclops is genuinely doubting his mentor’s ability to lead the X-men into this new era. The Mutant Liberation Front may be defeated, but the impact of their attacks, coupled with the destruction of the Xavier Institute, has led Xavier to make a difficult decision.

The X-men, as many know them, will never be the same. Charles Xavier’s dream will never be the same. He’s taken bold steps, moving the X-men’s base of operations to Washington DC where he intends to work with President Kelly and General Grimshaw on the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. This initiative is meant to be the foundation for a new era of cooperation between the X-men and the authorities. In many respects, it’s a necessary reaction to the chaos caused by the Mutant Liberation Front. In others, it’s a gross departure from what the X-men stand for.

At around the same time when I began working on X-men Supreme, the X-men were undergoing a major schism in the comics. That schism was for the future of the X-men. It played out between Cyclops and Wolverine. The ongoing division in X-men Supreme is very different. This time, it’s Cyclops and Charles Xavier who are at odds. The very concept of what it means to be X-men are at odds. In this monumental issue, the last of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation, that division will forever change the future of the X-men.

X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide

This marks the end of another era of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. As has been the case at various other times in X-men Supreme’s history, the end of a volume marks a major transition point for his fanfiction series. For some, it’ll be a jumping on point. For others, it’ll be a major shake-up. I don’t doubt that the events of this issue will cause great concern among certain X-men fans. Some may even be turned off by these events. To those X-men fans, I say trust in the story. There is a plan in place. What I do in this issue, and what I intend to do in future issues of X-men Supreme, is all meant to make for a more awesome X-men story.

These are tough times, both for X-men Supreme and the X-men comics. I still want X-men Supreme to be a viable outlet for X-men fans who are dissatisfied with time travelers, sterilization, and extinction plots. I know this issue is still going to worry many readers, but that’s exactly why providing feedback is so important. Please tell me what you think so I can be sure that this vision for X-men Supreme is the right one. Either contact me directly or post your comments in the issue. Either way is fine and I’m always happy to chat. Stay tuned for more announcements about the future of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Original Kingpin: Kingpin #1

The following is my review of Kingpin #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Before Walter White, before Tony Soprano, and before Dexter Morgan, there was another criminal mastermind who set the bar for fictional crime lords. He's big, he's tough, he's ruthless, he's intimidating, and he's cunning on a level that frustrates every prosecutor from Hell's Kitchen to Harvard Law School. His name is Wilson Fisk, the original Kingpin. He is to crime lords what Captain America is to patriots. He is the standard by which all others are measured.

At a time when superheroes are more prone to fighting cosmic tyrants and/or each other, criminals like the Kingpin tend to fall to the wayside. In a sense, that creates a perfect environment for a competent and cunning crime lord to make a bold move. Wilson Fisk put himself in a position to make such a move during the events of Civil War II. Now, with the superhero community in a state of division and disarray, Fisk stands ready to make that move.

This is the narrative Matthew Rosenberg and Ben Torres forge in Kingpin #1. In many respects, their timing couldn't be better. This is an era where Lex Luthor is a member of the Justice League, Dr. Doom is the new Iron Man, and Donald Trump is President of the United States. It's an era defined by heroes becoming villains and villains becoming every bit as interesting as heroes. This creates a perfect opportunity for Wilson Fisk and if there's one thing crime lords know how to do, it's exploit an opportunity.

If Kingpin has a weakness, it's that he can only be so complex as someone whose entire persona is build around being a crime lord. The challenge for Rosenberg in Kingpin #1 is to add those layers of complexity without making Wilson Fisk something he's not. He can't turn him into Walter White. He can't turn him into Tony Soprano either, if only because that would be redundant. Despite these challenges, Rosenberg manages to give Fisk the extra complexity he needs while still making clear that he's the same ruthless Kingpin he's always been. Walter White can rest easy.


The story itself is told through the eyes of Sarah Dewey, a reporter in a city where the J. Jonah Jamesons of the world tend to stomp all over the souls of those who try to write objectively. She also happens to be down on her luck, divorced, and in need of money to mend an unbalanced custody arrangement with her son. In any other context, she's low-hanging fruit for someone like Wilson Fisk.

However, Rosenberg does not paint Sarah as the kind of character who will look at Fisk through rose-colored glasses. He makes a concerted effort to establish that this character has a point of view and that point of view is basically the same as anyone who has ever read Fisk's Wikipedia page. She knows his reputation. She knows his history, both the public persona as Wilson Fisk and the private persona as the Kingpin. She understands that getting involved with someone like him puts a target on her back and it doesn't take the skills of Bullseye for someone to hit it.

Despite knowing full-well that this is a dangerous man who tends to attract both drug dealers and costumed vigilantes, Sarah chooses to explore this world. She chooses to learn about this man. Along the way, she shows a fair amount of reluctance. She's still very much the average person who knows enough about Wilson Fisk to understands that it's good for her long-term health that she stay away from him.

This is where Kingpin #1 reveals its greatest strength. In addition to not hiding the obvious dangers that come with being around Wilson Fisk, Rosenberg creates a situation where Sarah Dewey make a believable, understandable decision to enter his world. She never gives the impression that she's overlooking that danger. She's taking a chance at getting to know both the man and the crime lord. It may still be hazardous to her health and lead to one too many encounters with costumed heroes, but it's a chance she's willing to take.

In doing so, Kingpin #1 also sets a different tone for Wilson Fisk as a character. He's not trying to redeem himself. He's not trying to make the public love him. He's not even trying to gloss over his crimes. Through Sarah Dewey, he's trying to present the objective, bias truth about who he is. There can't be a J. Jonah Jameson influence on the story. There can't be any alternative facts either. He wants to put his story out there and let it speak for itself.


It's an intriguing concept, one that creates a tone and theme for the series as a whole. However, while the intrigue is there, the substance is lacking in some areas. Other than Sarah Dewey's constant reluctance, there aren't a whole lot of memorable moments that make the story stand out. Kingpin #1 is more of a pilot episode in a sense. It doesn't try to do too much, but it doesn't necessarily do enough to tell a complete, self-contained story.

There are some moments that highlight the new layers of Wilson Fisk. They take him from fancy parties to donut shops. It's not exactly Latveria or the Savage Land, but it does fit the context of the story. There is also a moment that makes clear that Fisk isn't looking to change his Kingpin ways anytime soon. Given his uncanny ability to avoid Spider-Man's webs and the Punishers bullets, why should he?

Kingpin #1 sets up plenty of intrigue and creates a great deal of long-term potential. Not much of that potential is realized, but there's enough there to make the story feel engaging. This is a story that doesn't try to fit into the mold of Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, or House of Cards. It really does try to be its own story. Even if that story is centered around an unapologetic crime lord, it's still a story worth telling.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Friday, February 3, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide PREVIEW!


The end is upon us. I’m sure a lot of people have been saying those words over the past couple weeks. I say it only because it applies to upcoming conclusion of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. For the purposes of this fanfiction series, I hope to keep it in that context. I want X-men Supreme to be a reprieve from the harshness of reality and not a reminder. Given the recent events in X-men Supreme, going all the way back to the initial attacks by the Mutant Liberation Front, that’s going to be a challenge.

The X-men are in the midst of the greatest upheaval since the Uprising arc back in X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution. The Brotherhood of Mutants is gone. The entire nation of Genosha has been abandoned, courtesy of a fateful decision made by Havok during the Proactive Regression arc. The X-men, President Kelly, General Grimshaw, and everyone in between are scrambling for answers. There’s so much uncertainty about what this means for humans, mutants, and the world as a whole.

It was during this extremely vulnerable time that Stryfe launched one final attack on the X-men. In many ways, X-men Supreme Issue 147: Vengeful Anarchy marked the final victory for the Mutant Liberation Front. While he didn’t succeed at unleashing his attack on an anxious world, he did manage to work with Avalanche just enough to destroy the Xavier Institute. Now, the X-men aren’t just without answers. They’re without a home as well.

This puts Charles Xavier in a difficult position, but one that he’s uniquely equipped to confront. Unlike past upheavals, Xavier can do much more than just act as a mentor and a guide. The events of the Outer Limits healed both his legs and his mind, which had been ravaged by various health issues from aggressive cancer to crippling addiction. He now has as healthy as he’s ever been in both mind and body. This means he has the energy to do more than he ever dared before. This is what will set the stage for the biggest upheaval to date in X-men Supreme.

Professor Charles Xavier is about to make a decision that will change the X-men forever. He’s prepared to cross lines and compromise principles to an extent that he’s never dared before. In doing so, he will risk alienating his X-men in ways once thought unthinkable. He’s already on shaky ground with some, namely Cyclops and Wolverine, who aren’t too thrilled with his recent shifts in rhetoric. The rest of the X-men have their own concerns. They know to some extent that there will be changes. The question is just how profound will these changes be?

The final issue of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation will start to answer some of those questions. I don’t doubt for a second that some X-men fans aren’t going to like those answers. Charles Xavier is putting his credibility as the visionary behind the X-men on the line here. I expect some X-men fans, especially those who haven’t been thrilled with recent events in the X-men comics, will be quite anxious about this. Rest assured, I intend to proceed carefully with this latest upheaval. It’s going to shake the foundations of X-men Supreme, but in a way I feel will make this fanfiction series better. As always, I’ve prepared a preview that should offer a hint as to what kind of upheaval the X-men have before them.

Scott turned to this middle-aged holy man, amazed that he could smile at a time like this. He gazed up at the stain-glass window that dominated the front of his church. It was the window with an image of a crucified Christ imposed over a pair of DNA strands. He seemed to understand how bad it was for mutants. Yet he showed no reservations about his role in this struggle. It was a certainty that Scott couldn’t help but envy.

“You almost sound optimistic,” said Scott, “Or did you not see that graffiti on the front of your church calling all mutants the anti-Christ?”

“It’s nothing a new layer of paint can’t fix,” shrugged Father Hansen, still in good humor.

“Do you think there’s an easy fix for what’s happening with mutants right now? I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Professor Xavier is merging the X-men with the Mutant Security Agency. He’s ditching the whole teaching-confused-mutants-to-use-their-powers part of his dream and focusing entirely on policing mutants…although I doubt policing will be the only duty.”

“I’m well-aware of what Charles Xavier has announced. I had to cancel my sermon this morning because my congregation was so eager to discuss their uncertainties.”

“Wish I could have been around to listen. I’m sure a lot of people were angry about it.”

“Anger wouldn’t be the right word. Fear wouldn’t be appropriate either,” said Father Hansen, “I don’t think any one word describes the current state of affairs. This change in policy is more a source of confusion. I don’t think anyone knows what to make of it.”

Scott’s demeanor sank again. It seemed nobody had a firm grasp of what was going on. The X-men as they knew it was falling apart. The mutant conflict was changing in ways that nobody could keep up with. It put Scott in a very difficult position.

“That’s where I get stuck,” sighed Scott, “The problem is I do understand where Professor Xavier is coming from. The X-men have been fighting against all these threats. We never needed government authority. Just being heroes was enough.”

“Overcoming great obstacles is rarely that simple,” said Father Hansen.

“I didn’t buy into it because it was a quick fix. I understood there would be hardships. I was always willing to endure them because Professor Xavier taught me to never lose sight of our principles. At times, I did have concerns. But I never doubted the man. He always did the right thing even when it wasn’t easy or popular.”

“It sounds like what he’s doing now is quite difficult,” Father Hansen commented, “What makes you think it isn’t right?”

“Because he’s compromising his principles for the sake of politics!” said Scott, getting more worked up, “He’s giving the X-men over to the people who have been a big part of the problem!”

“You don’t think that working with the authorities will make them less a problem?”

“I think working with the authorities will negate much of what the X-men stand for,” the X-leader clarified, “This plan is arrogant, risky, and potentially dangerous…turning the dream into a wing of the government. I can take risky and dangerous, but arrogance? From Charles Xavier? I just can’t accept that!”

Scott was almost shouting at this point. The church was empty so his voice echoed through the pews. It reinforced the frustration and doubt that had consumed him. He was so worked up that he had to stand up and step away for a moment. Father Hansen remained seated, his compassionate gaze never leaving the X-leader.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” he said in a calmer tone, “I’ve tried talking to the Professor, but he’s already made up his mind. He’s going through with this Mutant Monitoring Initiative.”

“What about your fellow X-men? Do they feel the same way?” asked Father Hansen.

“They have their concerns, but they all seem to agree. The Professor has convinced them that this will work out. Even my girlfriend is starting to buy into it.”

“But you are not,” said the priest, “You know it to be wrong. Of this, you have no doubt?”

“I wish I did. It would be easier,” groaned the X-leader.

“It would be easier, yes. But it wouldn’t be right now, would it?” he reminded.

“Guess we can never know that,” grumbled Scott, “Not when everything is this complicated.”

“I disagree. I’ve never bought into the notion that circumstance changes what is right and what is wrong. That isn’t just because I’m a man of God. That’s because I’ve experienced enough circumstances to see that no matter how blurred certain lines become, they never completely disappear. They’re difficult to grasp for a reason. You can’t always use logic to identify them. It takes real heart to see what others cannot.”

Scott was still silent, gazing off into space while he mused over these problems. Father Hansen got up and approached him. His spirit was being pulled in so many different directions, yet it was still intact. That told Father Hansen everything he needed to know about Scott Summers.

“I know my opinion on this matter is not relevant,” he went on, “I have my place in this conflict. I already know the role my church will play. I can tell you don’t know your place yet, but perhaps that’s because you haven’t considered every option.”

“What do you mean? What other option could there be?” asked Scott.

“That’s something you’ll have to figure out. I’ll only add that the options we tend to overlook are the ones that require the most sacrifice. Jesus understood that. Abraham, Moses, Mohammed, and the Buddha all understood it as well. That’s what makes them holy. They know the true value of sacrifice. When you know what’s right in your heart, it’s the only option that has meaning.”

It was a powerful and distressing prospect. Scott had already sacrificed a lot. He sacrificed control of his abilities. He sacrificed his life for the woman he loved. He lived a life that constantly required sacrifice and now he was trapped in a dilemma for which there was no clear solution. He could either compromise everything he came to embrace or sacrifice his place in a world he had come to love.

Father Hansen left him to his thoughts, having nothing else to say. Scott soon found himself alone again. The church was dark and quiet, like the calm before a major storm. The X-leader looked up at special statue of the cross. The idea of sacrifice was starting to sink in. It opened the door to an option he once never dared contemplate.

‘Sacrifice...maybe that’s what I’m missing. I can’t be a holy man or call upon divine powers, but I can still lead when there’s a mission on the line. I can’t keep waiting for Professor Xavier to come to his senses. This is one mission I’ll have to take care of on my own. I know I said I wouldn’t resort to praying, but I’ll say it anyways. God help us all.’


I’ve said before that I want X-men Supreme to be an outlet for X-men fans who are dissatisfied with the current direction of the X-men comics. I still mean that. I still have every intention of developing the X-men Supreme fanfiction series with that sentiment in mind. However, I know I’m taking a chance here by putting X-men Supreme through this kind of upheaval. For a while, it may not sit well with some fans. I would ask those fans to trust that I have a plan in place for this fanfiction series. I have every intention of making that plan work. It’s a plan that I believe will make X-men Supreme more awesome down the line.

As such, I still want to hear from my readers. I want to reassure them as best I can without spoiling the future of this fanfiction series. Please take the time to send me your comments and feedback. Either contact me directly or post comments in the comments section of each issue. I’m always happy to chat with X-men fans, anxious or otherwise. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Truth Hurts (and Astonishes): All-New X-men #18

The following is my review of All-New X-men #18, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


The truth is supposed to hurt. The truth is supposed to set us free. Lies are supposed to be cockroaches that run into the cracks of the wall the second a light is exposed. That's the narrative the real world tries to convey, if only to convince children not to lie when they've taken one too many cookies from the cookie jar. It's not an entirely false narrative, but it is incomplete.

Lies can be every bit as harsh as the truth and the X-men comics have been demonstrating this since the conclusion of Secret Wars. So much of the narrative surrounding the X-men and their struggles against the Terrigen Mists is built around certain assumptions that helped give the story weight. Those assumptions included the understanding that Cyclops committed this horrible, heinous atrocity that made mutants more hated than whoever came up with Deadpool's mouthless design in Wolverine Origins.

Both the X-men and the readers share in these assumptions for most of the X-men's narrative after Secret Wars. Then, Death of X comes along and reveals the truth that these assumptions are inaccurate. The so-called crimes committed by Cyclops aren't his crimes. They aren't even his idea. They are an elaborate ruse, one only known to a select few individuals. It's not a conspiracy theory on the same level as Captain America being a Hydra agent, but it still has major implications.

Now, as Inhumans vs. X-men unfolds, this effects of this ruse are getting harder to conceal. All-New X-men #18, which directly ties into the events of Inhumans vs. X-men, sets the stage for undoing this ruse. Dennis Hopeless has a chance to explore the breadth of teen Cyclops' torment, being reviled for what his older self did and stuck in a future where every horrible thing anybody does exists forever on social media. Hopeless doesn't squander that chance and crafts one of the most dramatic issues of All-New X-men since Secret Wars.


It's not just that the truth finally comes out. Teen Cyclops does learn about the elaborate ruse surrounding the events of Death of X. That's actually the simplest part of the story. It's how Hopeless sets it up that gives it so much dramatic weight. The fact that this drama has nothing to do with Jean Grey, clones of Jean Grey, or a Shi'ar sneak attack makes this all the more remarkable.

Most of the story takes place in between the panels of the main Inhumans vs. X-men series. Teen Cyclops is part of the main attack on New Attilan. However, he doesn't contribute too much to this attack. The fact that he's an inexperienced teenager who has yet to become the man who will one day hook up with both Jean Grey and Emma Frost certainly shows. This is actually important to the structure of the story.

Hopeless makes it a point to show just how unpolished this version of Cyclops is. He's not the master tactician who fights Sentinels for breakfast and takes down Apocalypse before brunch. He's still a kid who's struggling with the legacy his older self left behind. That legacy, however skewed it may be, torments him in ways that have guided his story since the conclusion of Secret Wars. To this point, it's a burden he carries and one he thinks he can never escape. This helps make the Death of X spoilers all the more powerful.

It's not one of those reveals that's akin to Morpheus offering a teenage Cyclops the red pill. If anything, the reveal is a byproduct of another plot unfolding between the panels of Inhumans vs. X-men. Specifically, this plot involves Mosaic, the Inhuman who can possess other bodies. This ability is key to balancing the scales of the conflict, which to this point has played out in the X-men's favor. Part of this process involves him possessing teen Cyclops. While it's not entirely clear why this needs to be part of Mosaic's plan, it does have an important impact, even if it's unintended.

Mosaic's actions may very well be critical to advancing the main plot of Inhumans vs. X-men, even if the particulars are unclear, but what he does in All-New X-men #18 may end up having much bigger implications for Cyclops and the rest of the time-displaced X-men. Unintended or not, he helps teen Cyclops uncover the truth about what happened to his older self. More importantly, he finds out who is really behind the burdens, the self-loathing, and the angry flame wars on message boards.

This knowledge threatens the X-men's plans and motivations in Inhumans vs. X-men. Emma Frost is a major driving force in these plans and only a select few know of her role in Death of X. Now teenage Cyclops knows and is in a position to react with a level of extreme melodrama that only a teenager can appreciate. It doesn't just create a major turning point in teen Cyclops' overall narrative. It may very well change the entire outlook that he and his fellow time-displaced X-men have on navigating the future.


This dramatic shift is the biggest selling point of All-New X-men #18. Hopeless doesn't get too bogged down in the various nuances of the Inhumans vs. X-men conflict and, given the various flaws surrounding this conflict, this helps keep the story concise. However, some of those flaws do manifest at times. The whole concept of Cyclops being a war criminal for attacking a cloud still feels exceedingly contrived. It makes some of teen Cyclops' various musings seem forced, even by the lofty standards of teenage melodrama.

It leads to some parts being choppy and chaotic, but it doesn't take away from the impact of the main plot in All-New X-men #18. Mark Bagley's colorful renderings of the various moments helps to move things along as well. Whatever flaws there may be in the over-arching narrative of Inhumans vs. X-men, it doesn't undermine the big reveal that gives this issue so much weight.

It's not just another tie-in where a teenage character mopes and whines at being so overwhelmed. This story digs deeper, achieving an impact that goes beyond an ongoing crossover. For a tie-in that focuses on an anxious teenager, that's quite an accomplishment.

Final Score: 7 out of 10