Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Maturation of (Regenerating) Degenerates: Deadpool Assassin #1

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


When it comes to gratuitous violence and genuine heart, Deadpool is in a class all his own. In fact, it's not unreasonable to say that Deadpool, as both a character and a concept, goes out of his way to stand out and isn't afraid to be obnoxious about it. Regardless of whether his name and design was derived from Deathstroke, he's someone who does more than most to stand out in a sea of Wolverine, Superman, and Batman rip-offs.

Thanks to two successful movies and the inherent likability of Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool's star has never burned brighter. It's safe to say that in his efforts to stand out, he has succeeded. His mask, his tumor-laden face, and his propensity to break the fourth wall are now every bit as iconic as Wolverine's claws or Captain America's shield. He has nothing left to prove. He's earned the right to brag and gorge on all the chimichangas he wants.

As much as he's achieved, Deadpool always finds ways to stay busy and entertain. Most of those ways still involve the kind of destruction and vulgarity that would get most characters fined by the FCC, but he never does it out of pure malice. He's not Sabretooth, Norman Osborn, or Dexter Morgan. He's crazier than a sack of ferrets, but he still maintains a code of conduct that sets him apart from less scrupulous mercenaries. Those who undermine that code are likely to be on the wrong end of Deadpool's guns, katanas, and toilet humor.

That's both the setup and the appeal of Deadpool: Assassin #1. Cullen Bunn and Mark Bagley put Deadpool in a position to further set himself apart by showing that there is merit to having a code of conduct as a mercenary. That process involves a hefty bit of bloodshed and mayhem, but anything other than that just wouldn't be true to Deadpool's increasingly powerful brand and he does plenty to maintain it in this story.

Bunn and Bagley don't try to reinvent the regenerating degenerate. They just put him in a situation where he can do what he does best, which means being in close proximity to far less ethical mercenaries and evil ninjas. For Deadpool, that's like mixing chocolate and peanut butter, but with several extra sides of carnage and bloodshed. It's every bit as potent as it tries to be.


These crude, but colorful basics give Deadpool: Assassin #1 plenty of entertainment value. However, there are some other side-plots thrown into the mix that keep it from being a generic story about a Deadpool-centric shooting spree. One involves Deadpool's old friend Weasel, whose life has taken a far more domestic turn. He still works with Deadpool and still provides him with plenty of opportunities to shoot things, but he's got other priorities. In revealing those, Deadpool himself reveals something striking and potentially profound.

Being so unhinged and eccentric, Deadpool never comes off as one of those guys who plans for a simpler future that doesn't involve as many explosions. Between his skills as a mercenary and his fourth-wall breaking awareness, he rarely shows interest in settling down, retiring, or taking up a hobby that doesn't require heavy firearms.

He operates on a moment-by-moment basis, going from one job and/or wisecrack to the next. While he may occasionally mix things up by joining the X-men or marrying a succubus, Deadpool still acts primarily on an impulse. Even with the limited ethical standards by which he operates, he's not known for his foresight any more than he's known for his choice of underwear. Wherever there's violence to be had, he tends to gravitate towards it. With an unstable mind and a body covered in tumors, that's kind of how he has to be.

That's what makes his admission that he's getting bored with mercenary work so striking. He still makes clear that he loves killing unscrupulous mercs and ninjas, but that's not enough for him anymore. He claims he's only doing a few more jobs before he moves onto something else. It's not clear how serious he is. It's like Peter Parker saying he doesn't want to be Spider-Man anymore, but that sentiment goes away the second he has an excuse to change his mind. Unlike Peter, though, Deadpool isn't known for responsible decision-making.

That makes the plot surrounding Deadpool's changing priorities seem tentative, at best. Nobody, fictional or otherwise, can buy that he wants to retire to his own tropical island and sip margaritas for as long as his healing factor allows him to live. He gets bored too easily, enjoys dangerous surroundings too much, and makes too many impulsive decisions. While that makes his antics fun to watch, it also makes any effort to settle down less believable.

To some extent, Weasel's situation reflects that. He's no longer a former Hydra agent who just happens to be friends with an unhinged mercenary. He's got a stable job, a wife, and an overall easier life that involves less killer ninjas and more credit card bills. It's less hectic, which Deadpool claims to want, but Weasel never gives the impression that it's very fulfilling.

If anything, he sends the message that settling down can make a man feel domesticated. This doesn't impact Deadpool's intentions or his ninja-fighting skills, but it does throw shade on the idea that seeking a less damaging occupation comes at a cost. It also establishes that if Deadpool really does attempt to hang up his katanas and guns, he'll end up changing his mind faster than Peter Parker ever did.

Long-term intentions aside, still provides plenty of value in terms of giving Deadpool fans what they want. Bagley's artwork makes it colorful while Bunn's dialog makes it witty. It checks all the necessary boxes for a fun, engaging Deadpool story. It tries to do more and while it lays a foundation, it doesn't offer much in terms of clues. He's still doing mercenary work, as only he can, but what does someone like Deadpool do when he wants to move onto a new endeavor?

That question goes unanswered in Deadpool: Assassin #1. More than anything, it puts Deadpool in a position to mix things up again. It probably won't result in him getting a job as a tax attorney or a janitor, but if it leads him to novel forms of violence, then it can only help the potty-mouthed merc in his never-ending struggle to overshadow Deathstroke.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, June 15, 2018

X-men Supreme Issue 170: High Evolution Part 2 PREVIEW!


One of the biggest appeals of the X-men, whether it’s comics, movies, or cartoons, is how their fight for peace and understanding a global impact beyond saving the world from invading aliens. Sure, the X-men deal with plenty of aliens and I’ve included that in this fanfiction series with arcs like Outer Limits, but some of the X-men’s most compelling struggles occur when humans and mutants alike are impacted. X-men Supreme has had plenty of conflicts like that, Dark Legacy probably being the most profound. However, High Evolution may end up being even greater.

X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided has just begun its final major arc. The culmination of the divide that began in X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide is starting to unfold. What started as a bitter disagreement between Charles Xavier and Cyclops has become a huge liability for both the X-men and X-Force. They’ve been clashing and arguing, leading to some pretty damaging results that played out in events like Drug War and Crimes Against Inhumanity. The potential damage this time, though, is unprecedented for this fanfiction series.

Magneto is back and he’s not alone. After an absence that began at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear, the Master of Magnetism has returned alongside the mysterious Dr. Wyndham, whose name should be familiar to X-men and Marvel fans, alike. He’s brought with him the ultimate failsafe to ensure the survival and prosperity of the mutant race. He calls it Asteroid M, carved out of the same asteroid that almost doomed the whole world in the Overlord arc. It’s not just a safe haven like Genosha. It’s a whole new world for mutants.

However, Magneto has never been one to limit his vision. That vision fell short with Genosha. He has no intention of making the same mistakes as Asteroid M. This time, however, he’s not looking to wage total war on the human race. He claims his vision for humans and mutants has evolved. He’s now opening that vision to other humans, provided they evolve within this new world and not just in their thinking. It’s the kind of act that promises to complicate the efforts of the X-men, General Grimshaw, and President Kelly.

It certainly doesn’t help that the world is still in a very vulnerable state, due to the events of Crimes Against Inhumanity. The damage to global defense systems have left humans and mutants alike feeling unsafe. They can no longer trust their government or the X-men to protect them anymore. Now, here comes Magneto offering a chance to escape. Given their experience with him, though, expect Professor Xavier and his X-men to be skeptical, even in their divided state.

The situation is evolving and devolving. Expect it to get worse before it gets better. Like the final arcs of every other volume in this fanfiction series, I intend to leave the world X-men Supreme forever changed by the end of this arc. I’m not just talking about a resolution to the schism between Charles Xavier and Cyclops, either. There will be huge changes, heavy losses, and massive upheavals. Once again, I’ve provided a preview of some of those changes and how the X-men will attempt to confront them.

Wanda Maximoff had a lot riding on her shoulders. She was leading both the X-men and X-Force into a trap on a planetary scale. Like many others, she heard the reports of the chaos her father’s announcement had caused. She didn’t have time to hear all the stories of determined people fighting for a spot on Asteroid M while equally determined people tried to thwart them. She assumed the chaos was part of a larger plan.

‘Once again, I’m caught in the middle of your madness, father. This time it may not even be your fault. I hope it isn’t because this is getting old. I can’t keep doing this for you. Something has to give this time. You must decide…your madness or your family.’

Wanda maintained her strength as she, the X-men, and X-Force were transported to the designated coordinates for the transport pod. They arrived in a series of Chinook helicopters. The ride aboard was tense.

A group of MSA operatives continued to surround Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Domino, and Nightcrawler. Phoenix, Beast, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Psylocke, and Colossus remained close as well, but remained silent. The tension between the two teams was still apparent. Captain Freeman made it a point to sit between them so they didn’t worsen any lingering wounds. Everyone needed to prepare themselves for what they may face on Asteroid M.

Once the helicopters landed, they were greeted by a military convoy that had already surrounded the area. In a clearing near the lake, they could see the metal transport orb waiting for them. The MPs had already cleared out every civilian within a five-mile radius. Once X-Force and the X-men stepped out of the helicopters, the MSA operatives pulled back. That left General Grimshaw to lead them to their destination.

“Looks like everything’s in place,” announced General Grimshaw, “This is where we cut you loose and expect you to do your jobs.”

“You sound like you’re expecting us to blow you off, General. Do you really think we’re that dishonest?” said Cyclops.

“I hope that’s a rhetorical question, Summers,” said Captain Freeman under his breath.

“Once you’re up in Asteroid M, you’ll be a long way away from our jurisdiction,” said the General, “If I was in your position, I’m sure I would be tempted.”

“You’ve got nothing to worry about, General. We consider ourselves honest deviants,” said Emma Frost.

“As if hanging out on a floating rock with Magneto is that appealing,” said Domino, “I don’t care how enticing he made it. So long as he’s running the show, it ain’t paradise.”

“Keep in mind we don’t know if he’s running anything,” added Professor Xavier, “That’s part of what we’re supposed to uncover.”

“Yet we have no idea on what that other part may be,” Psylocke stated, making it clear that this didn’t sit well with her.

“Guess we’ll have to play it by ear and cut up anything that gets in our way,” said Wolverine, “If there’s something or someone out there tough enough to pull Magneto’s strings, I’d love to meet him. So would my claws.”

“That makes two of us,” said Wanda strongly.

There were certainly plenty of issues to resolve on Asteroid M. Both teams were eager to uncover the turth as they stood ready to depart. General Grimshaw signaled the military personnel to clear out. The MSA operatives had already returned to the helicopters and the convoy that had arrived before them was starting to leave.

Upon reaching the pod, they encountered one large military jeep. As they approached, the doors opened and two familiar figures stepped out. One was Abigail Brand of SWORD, who had been in the driver’s seat. The other was James Proudstar, now back in his X-Force uniform and looking ready to join the battle.

“James!” exclaimed Storm as soon as she saw him.

“I see you got paroled, Warpath. You get off for good behavior?” teased Domino.

“They flew me here in a fancy jet and let me ride in the front seat. Guess I was good enough,” said Warpath with a grin as he was greeted by X-Force.

“It’s good to see you back in action, Warpath,” said Nightcrawler as he shook his teammate’s hand.

“Before we go any further, I think we owe you an apology,” said Cyclops.

“For what? Leaving me behind after I did something insanely reckless?” the Native American scoffed, “There’s nothing to be sorry for. You did what you had to do. I did what I had to do. And I’d do it again.”

Warpath turned towards Storm as he said this, shooting her a brief smile that made her blush. It looked as though prison hadn’t embittered Warpath. It didn’t make what he did any less reckless. Chances were, they might end up having to be reckless for again.

“Even if you do, don’t expect to get this lucky again,” said Abigail Brand, who was carrying a large metal case, “Your buddies may have spared you months of legal rambling, but the fine print on your pardon says you still have to earn your freedom.”

“You really have a grudge against other peoples’ self-esteem, don’t you?” said Warpath dryly.

“In this line of work, we can’t afford to be all touchy feely,” said Agent Brand sternly, “When the world is turning to shit, we need to be a little harsh.”

“No wonder you’re so dang good at your job,” muttered Rogue.

“It also helps to be resourceful,” added General Grimshaw as he approached Agent Brand, “Did you bring it with you?”

“You think I would have left my office if I hadn’t?” she said as she held up the large case, “SWORD is already undermanned and overworked. I didn’t have anyone I trusted enough when I retrieved this little gem.”

“What is it this time? You expect us to carry a bomb with us?” said Phoenix dryly.

“Do not give them any ideas, Phoenix,” said Colossus.

“As if you’re the first to suggest that,” quipped Agent Brand, “Lucky for us, there are those with functioning brains. Those brains tell us that certain symbolic gestures leave more of an impact than any bomb.”

Without going into further detail, Agent Brand set the metal case down on the hood of the jeep and opened it. When the X-men saw what was inside, they could already feel the impact that Agent Brand had described.

“Is that…” began Beast.

“My father’s helmet!” exclaimed Wanda.

“I thought it was stolen from Genosha,” said Gambit.

“It was. I was there,” said Wanda as she took the helmet from the General, “Some masked man calling himself Renegade took it. My father tried to track him down, but he never found him.”

“Yes, I remember hearing about that,” said Professor Xavier, who had to hold his tongue since he already knew the details.

“How did you even…” began Nightcrawler.

“I can’t tell you and you don’t want to know,” said General Grimshaw, “How we obtained this helmet is irrelevant now. The important part is using it for your mission.”


One of the biggest challenges in developing X-men Supreme involves maintaining a commitment to world-building on the scale of the X-men comics. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been incredibly rewarding. As a life-long X-men fan, I understand that it’s not enough to just focus on the many uncanny characters within the X-men. It’s important to treat the world they live in as a character as well. That’s what I try to do with this fanfiction series and it’ll be even more important with the High Evolution arc.

To date, I’ve gotten plenty of wonderful feedback on how I’ve handled certain characters, including a few I’ve significantly changed compared to the X-men comics. To all those who send me that feedback, I am forever grateful. I hope it continues as X-men Supreme enters another critical stage, but I still need more to ensure that this latest effort at molding the X-men’s world is sufficiently awesome. Whether you’re a fan of the character or the world they live in, I want to hear from you. Please send me your comments via by contacting me directly or post them in the issues. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Friday, June 8, 2018

Justice In Its Totality: Justice League #1

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


In a perfect world, justice isn't a fluid concept. What's heroic today still holds up a hundred centuries from now. In that world, teams like the Justice League don't need to agonize over too many decisions. Those tried and true standards answer all those hard for them. Even during the family friendly golden age of comics, though, the imperfections of the real and fictional world keep finding their way into the story.

Between the events of DC: Rebirth #1 and Dark Knights: Metal, the Justice League undergoes plenty of upheaval, both as a team and among its individual members. Timelines get re-written, marriage proposals occur, and secrets of the DC universe reveal themselves in ways that would make any hero's decisions much harder to render. It can get confusing, at times, but it still reflects the evolution of the Justice League and the nature of justice itself.

For many of these complications, Scott Snyder is both an architect and a catalyst. The events of Dark Knights: Metal don't just throw in another upheaval, which the DC universe faces every other week. It requires the Justice League to regroup and reorganize themselves. A universe full of talking gorillas and homicidal clowns is chaotic enough. Even demigods, aliens, and billionaire playboys need to adapt along the way. In Justice League #1, Snyder carries the team into a new era of chaos.

From the very beginning, the scope and scale of the chaos is on a level that requires the full strength of DC's heavy hitters. There's no subtlety or steady build-up. The crisis is already at a level that involves Lex Luthor, Vandal Savage, and a hole in the Source Wall. The situation couldn't be more dire without an army of Darkseid clones invading every planet in the universe.

For any one individual hero, including Superman on his best day, it's a level of over-the-top action that is hard to keep up with. For the Justice League, though, it works perfectly. It starts out as an elaborate, albeit generic plot by Vandal Savage involving a race of subterranean creatures called Neoanderthals. While even a simple plan by Savage usually calls for the collective firepower of the League, this conflict is only a precursor to a much greater threat.

It's not enough to just throw powerful villains and their nefarious plots at DC's most powerful heroes. Snyder brings in forces that don't necessarily have a face, an identity, or an evil laugh. It's not just a threat to law, order, and justice. It has the potential to undercut the very nature of the DC Universe itself. The Martian Manhunter calls it the Totality. It's somewhat esoteric, but it presents the Justice League with a unique threat. Conversely, it presents someone like Lex Luthor with an opportunity.

The challenge in any era of Justice League, going back to the pre-Crisis era, is establishing a predicament that requires more than a simple team-up or crossover. Superman can team up with Batman and Wonder Woman can team up with Aquaman ever other week to take on a unique threat that may just be too tedious to handle individually. The primary difference between a casual crossover story and a full-fledged superhero team involves forging a collective identity.

Throughout the history of the DC Universe, the League assembles when there's more than basic justice at stake. Whether it involves infinite Earths or a full-scale invasion from Apokolips, there's a point where heroes can't just be heroes. They have to come together to keep the world, the universe, and every notion of justice intact. Snyder channels some of that Crisis spirit, but stops short of breaking the timeline again.

In the case of Justice League #1, it's not the threat posed by Vandal Savage that's the main catalyst. It's the hole in the Source Wall that pushes the League into a difficult spot. That hole, another byproduct of Dark Knights: Metal no less, creates something the Martian Manhunter calls the Totality. It's somewhat esoteric, but it still carries that ominous aura that reflects DC's commitment to never-ending world-building.

Parts of the Totality reference other aspects of DC lore, but the underlying concept is simple. The fundamental nature of the DC universe is changing and Lex Luthor knows about it. As such, he and others like him are sure to exploit it. Justice, once again, isn't a perfectly consistent concept that always reverts back to a particular form like Superman's iconic red underwear. Given enough time and stress, larger forces will disrupt it.

That theme and its implications are nicely documented through the powerful mind of the Martian Manhunter, who acts as a messenger to the rest of the League. They're not really in a position to do much about the Totality, which for a team as powerful as the Justice League is really telling. They're basically left to brace themselves while Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage get ready to make the most of it.

It's here where the strengths and weaknesses of Justice League #1 really show. In terms of strength, it builds seamlessly from recent upheavals in the DC universe. Even for those not familiar with events like Dark Knights: Metal, the narrative never comes off as too sudden or contrived. As for weaknesses, though, the overall nature of the Totality falls flat and that keeps the story from having a major impact.

Even with a basis in the Source Wall, the Totality comes off as this impersonal chaos that isn't contingent on Lex Luthor's plans or Darkseid's ruthlessness. It just feels like one big disruption within the overall DC universe, one meant to undermine the Justice League's efforts in a way they can't stop. Too much time is spent just trying to make sense of it, which renders the battle against Vandal Savage as somewhat of an afterthought. Seeing as how that battle literally broke the surface of the Earth, that almost seems unjust.

Justice League #1 still does more than enough to carry the League into a new era. Snyder's usage of high-level threats and evolving challenges give the story an appropriate scope. It doesn't entirely fit together just yet, but the pieces are there and Snyder gives himself plenty to work with. The nature of justice and the DC universe may change in accord with every Crisis-level event, but so long as the spirit of the team remains intact, justice still finds a way to prevail.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Red Queen Chronicles: The Lost Son Chapter 1 is LIVE!


When it comes to sexy side-projects, some ideas are difficult to work into a story that's both sexy and compelling. It's one of the things I struggle with most in crafting these stories. On the flip-side, there are also some ideas that work a little too well because of their inherent sex appeal. It doesn't seem like a problem, but it can be. An idea that's just that sexy can sometimes make maximizing the story a real challenge.

Daken is one of those rare characters who embodies that idea to the letter. It's not just that he's unapologetic in how he exercises his sexuality. He will literally fuck anyone and anything for any reason. Since he also happens to be Wolverine's son, complete with his healing factor and all the sexy benefits that come with that, he actually can fuck on a level that elevates his sex appeal into uncharted territory. In a world that still has characters like Emma Frost and Mary Jane Watson, that's saying something.

Shortly after I finished, "The Red Queen Chronicles: The Phoenix," one of the most frequent requests I got from readers was to bring Daken into this story. In a world where Jean Grey is uninhibited sexually, there are just too many reasons that appeals. I certainly don't deny that and I had many long conversations with passionate readers on the subject. The challenge was crafting the right story to ensure maximum sex appeal.

After working long and hard, including a few setbacks along the way, I feel like I've finally found that story and I'm ready to tell it. I'm ready to bring Daken into the world of the Red Queen. It's not a story that I can tell within a one-shot or just two chapters. This is one of those stories that needs to be a bit longer to contain all the sexiness. It's hard work, but worth the effort and the first chapter should help set the tone.


I hope that gets everyone excited for this story, in more ways than one. I've yet to decide how many chapters this will be. It depends on how the events I've planned play out. Rest assured, though, there will be plenty of sexiness to go around. That I can promise you. Nuff said!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Overdue Resurrections and Heartfelt Reflections: X-men Red Annual #1

The following is my review of X-men Red Annual #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


When death and resurrection are so common that it becomes indistinguishable from an extended hiatus, it’s difficult for either to have much impact. Even if the death remains a powerful moment within a larger narrative and the resurrection finds a evoke the necessary drama, it’s not always possible to explore the more personal effect it has on a character. That’s why the resurrection of a non-time traveler, non-alternate universe Jean Grey presents such a rare opportunity.

Her return in the pages of Phoenix Resurrection succeeds in ways few resurrection stories achieve in an era of never-ending death and rebirth. It doesn’t just bring back a character whose death had a far-reaching impact and whose rebirth has equally profound implications. It takes a character who hasn’t experienced or influenced the course of the X-men or Marvel universe for over a decade and puts her in a setting that may as well be an alternate universe. In the world she knew, Spider-Man is still married, the Maximoff twins are mutants, and Nick Fury looks more like David Hasselhoff instead of Samuel L. Jackson.

A character that dies and comes back after just a few years is bound to experience some culture shock, but it’s rarely jarring to the point where clones start to make sense. For Jean Grey, so many world-changing events have transpired, including the deaths of some loved ones and the resurrection of others, that she may as well be in another universe. It’s not possible or even in character for her to just brush off how much the world has changed, especially for those close to her.

X-men Red Annual #1 gives her some time to take in this world. It also gives Tom Taylor and Pascal Alice a chance explore the emotional depth of a character whose passions have a long reach. In doing so, they capture some of the most important elements of Jean Grey's character, a few of which may have been overlooked or forgotten during her prolong absence. However, the story that unfolds is much more than a refresher course on a beloved X-woman.

The narrative pics up almost exactly where Phoenix Resurrection left off. Jean Grey is alive again, having severed ties with the Phoenix Force and had a heart-wrenching goodbye with her dead husband, Cyclops. She's surrounded by the friends, family, and teammates who mourned her for so much over the years. It's one of those situations that can be either intensely emotional or incredibly awkward, but Taylor pursues the former over the latter. For Jean Grey, who is defined by her passions and the predicaments in which she expresses them, it's very fitting.

Naturally, Jean has a lot to catch up on. Being dead for a couple years is hard enough. Alien invasions, Hydra-led uprisings, and deaths of other characters can occur within that time and still have room for holiday specials. Being dead for nearly two decades means Jean has to catch up on schisms, extinction plots, and even an upcoming wedding between Kitty Pryde and Colossus. There's a lot to take in, if not too much for a cohesive story.

Taylor isn't tedious with all these revelations, but he doesn't gloss over them either. There isn't a word-for-word retelling of major events, which would've made the plot as interesting as a physics lecture by Reed Richards. Instead, the primary focus is on Jean's inner musings. Her thoughts and feelings emerge through a series of well-designed thought-bubbles, a feature that Chris Claremont utilized to give characters like Jean Grey so much depth in the past. It proves just as effective in this instance and helps set Jean on a new course for the future.

This also helps provide some connections to her role in X-men Red, another one of Taylor's books. However, X-men Red Annual #1 doesn't attempt to be a prequel. It's not an extended epilogue of Phoenix Resurrection either. More than anything else, it bridges the gap between the past that Jean missed and the future she hopes to build now that she's back. In doing so, it also provides some needed closure to one of the most jarring details of Jean's return.

That has to do with Cyclops, namely the adult non-time traveling version, being dead due to the events of Death of X. It's something that evokes an especially powerful reaction in Jean, one that prompts her to confront Black Bolt and the Inhumans, who are indirectly responsible for his death. It helps inject some conflict and action into an otherwise emotional journey. It's one of those situations where it could easily devolve into another Punisher-style vengeance plot. However, that just isn't Jean Grey's style.

At her core, Jean is a woman of great power and compassion. She has the power to make those who hurt others suffer for their transgressions, more so than Ghost Rider or all the Batman rip-offs ever made. That's not her preferred recourse, though. True to the teachings of Charles Xavier, which she has championed since the Kennedy Administration, Jean opts for understanding and forgiveness. If someone is willing to apologize, then Jean Grey is willing to forgive.

At a time when heroes and villains alike define themselves by seeking revenge, Jean brings something different to the table. The rift between mutants and the Inhumans after the events of Inhumans vs. X-men cannot be understated. This conflict is what kills the man who held Jean in his arms when she last died. For her to confront those responsible and not seek retribution doesn't just establish the breadth of Jean's heart. It shows that is possible to mend these wounds.

It also indirectly establishes just how much the world needs Jean Grey. At a time when Captain America can be a secret Hydra agent and Spider-Man can have his mind swapped with his greatest enemy, there needs to be a voice that conveys a message of forgiveness. Since Jean's voice carries more weight than most, the impact of her return feels that much more relevant.

X-men Red Annual #1 has Jean do plenty more besides reminding others that it's okay to accept a heartfelt apology every now and then. She gets to spend time with characters who've missed her dearly. She also gets to meet others who she have a chance to interact with before she died. These moments are brief and leave plenty to be desired. The issue itself is extra long, but Taylor and Alice could've made it several hundred pages and it still wouldn't have been enough to fully explore every aspect of Jean Grey's resurrection.

As such, the plot does come off as rushed in a few areas. There are plenty of other characters with which Jean could've had a moment. There are also other unresolved details surrounding her death and absence, namely those involving Emma Frost and Magneto, that are never addressed either. Even with these oversights, Taylor gets the underlying message across. Jean Grey is back. The world didn't just miss her. It missed everything she stood for.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

X-men Supreme Issue 169: High Evolution Part 1 is LIVE!


Every volume of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series has a particulate theme that I build around a defined narrative. Before I even write the first issue, I establish how I want it to begin, how I want it to end, and what sort of major events I want to occur along the way. Sometimes that involves introducing new characters like Mojo, Sinister, and Stryfe. Sometimes that involves putting certain members of the X-men through a certain bit of drama, like I did with Wolverine and Mystique in X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths. The end goal is always to have it converge into a fitting culmination that takes this fanfiction series from one era to another.

That final goal is in sight for X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. I set the tone of this in X-men Supreme Issue 149: Law Abiding Bind. That’s where I established to division between Professor Xavier’s X-men and Cyclops’ X-Force. The events of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation drove a huge wedge into the X-men. Even after defeating the likes of Magneto, Sinister, and D’ken, they were torn apart by Xavier’s choice to pursue the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. I established that wedge with a particular endgame in mind.

Both Cyclops and Professor Xavier believed that the X-men had to change the way they operated after dealing with the Mutant Liberation Front. Xavier favored a more formal partnership with General Grimshaw and President Kelly. Cyclops favored keeping the X-men out of political entanglements. He argued that Professor Xavier, as smart as he is, wouldn’t be able to control how that entanglement would affect the X-men. Since he couldn’t convince his mentor, he quit the X-men and started X-Force. The fact that Wolverine agreed with him is pretty telling.

This division has incurred a heavy cost on both the X-men and X-Force. The events of Drug War and Crimes Against Inhumanity have left them wounded, vulnerable, and uncertain about the future of their respective visions. Neither Cyclops nor Charles Xavier can say who is right or who is wrong, but they won’t have the luxury of staying divided much longer. Magneto is back and he’s bringing his most ambitious plan to date. If the X-men and X-Force don’t unite, then they don’t stand a chance.

They know as well as everyone else, enemy and ally alike, that Magneto seeks revolution rather than peace. He has tried on multiple occasions during events like Uprising, Overlord, and the Cambrian Explosion to upend the established order for humans and mutants. He’s come very close to succeeding, but his repeated failures have only made him more desperate. Now, with the world more vulnerable than ever after Crimes Against Inhumanity, he’s ready to strike.

Magneto has already re-assembled his Brotherhood of Mutants, who have been fractured since his disappearance during the Time Bomb arc. He’s even revealed that he has reunited with his former mentor, Dr. Wyndham, to implement what he believes is the ultimate failsafe for the mutant race. He has turned Asteroid M, the same asteroid he almost used to destroy the world in Overlord, into a whole new world for mutants to inhabit. With Earth being a lost cause, he believes the future of the mutant race is in this world.

However, there’s more to Magneto’s plan than refuge, as is always the case. What he has in store for the X-men, X-Force, and the entire human race will completely upend the foundation of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series once more. It marks the beginning of the last arc of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. Don’t expect Magneto to hold back this time. What he does will leave the X-men and the entire world forever changed.

X-men Supreme Issue 169: High Evolution Part 1

The last arc of a volume in X-men Supreme is always extra challenging, but extra rewarding as well. I’ve been developing this fanfiction series for over eight years now. It’s amazing to think that I’ve kept it going that long, but I remain as committed as ever to making it as awesome as possible. The moments I have planned for this final arc are sure to get X-men fans of all kinds excited, nervous, anxious, and everything in between. I hope to deliver on a story that I’ve been setting up for quite some time.

The payoff of these stories is always especially rewarding. It makes for some of the best moments within the X-men, their friends, and even their enemies. I hope to deliver on all fronts. In order to do so, I still need feedback from the wonderful readers who support this fanfiction series. As always, I encourage everyone to send me their comments. Either contact me directly or post them directly in the issue. Either way is fine. Be mindful of the spam though. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hunting Party: Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #1

The following is my review of Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.



In the same way there are some characters whose death will always stick to a significant degree, there are others for whom resurrection is pretty much assumed before the funeral even concludes. In the same way Uncle Ben's death has to stick for Spider-Man, the death of Wolverine can't possibly stick for the X-men. No matter how his death occurs, be it callous, tragic, or heartfelt, he's still one of the X-men's most popular characters. Him remaining dead is about as likely as Marvel and Disney growing tired of money.

While Charles Soule did a commendable job making Wolverine's death feel meaningful in Death of Wolverine, the X-men comics never try to function without him for too long, as evidenced by the continued presence of fill-in characters like Old Man Logan and Jimmy Hudson. The X-men need Wolverine just as much as Captain America needs his shield. He doesn't have the luxury of staying dead for over a decade like Jean Grey. At a time when time travelers and alternate reality versions of other characters are running around, the time for Wolverine's inevitable return has never been better.

To that end, it's only fitting that Soule set the stage for Wolverine's full return in the Hunt For Wolverine #1. However, that only acts as the start of a much larger story. Jim Zub and Thony Silas are set to build on that story with Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #1. It's not enough to just get Wolverine out of his grave so his healing factor can do the rest. Given his colorful history, involving ninjas, clones, cyborgs, and living weapons, there's plenty of resources to work with.

Zub and Silas are targeted with those resources, specifically those involving Wolverine's time in Madripoor as bartender/operative/eye-patch enthusiast, Patch. It's a part of Wolverine's history that isn't as prominent as those involving adamantium bonding or blood feuds with Sabretooth, but it still reflects some important insights about the man and not just the claws. When he's not a raging, snarling death dealer, he's a man who has lived a more colorful life than most.

In that sense, it's somewhat fitting that those hoping to track him down after learning of his return are X-men with which he's had a close personal connection. The fact that those X-men all happen to be prominent female characters as well is a nice bonus and also revealing, in and of itself. It shows that when Wolverine isn't lusting after married women or on the wrong end of a love triangle, he's capable of forging close personal connections.

Kitty Pryde, Storm, Rogue, Psylocke, Domino, and Jubilee are among the most prominent personal connections that Wolverine has forged over the years. They are a dream team of sorts, one uniquely talented and motivated to find their friend and learn what happened to him. These are some of the most resourceful, resilient, and loyal friends that Logan has ever had. The fact he only ever got romantically involved with one of them, namely Storm, says a lot about his character.

This is a team that's capable of tearing Madripoor apart, digging deep into Wolverine's past to find out where he is. However, they don't get many opportunities to do so and not just because Magneto is currently a prominent presence in Madripoor, as has been documented in X-men Blue. They're still on the runway of the airport when they encounter who they think is Magneto and from there, this team of prominent female X-men are basically stuck reacting to everything from that point forward.

That makes the sequence of events in Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #1 somewhat predictable. Whenever the X-men, or any superhero team for that matter, are stuck reacting to a situation, it tends to limit the impact of the story. Whether it's ninjas attacking, killer robots attacking, or Hydra agents suddenly entering the picture, it follows a similar script. The team walks into a trap, the fighting begins, and the situation becomes inherently more dire.

That narrative in Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #1 follows that script fairly closely, but that's not to say there aren't dramatic elements that add a little complexity to the mix. Before that situation devolves, though, there are some quiet moments among Wolverine's closest friends. Storm, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, and Psylocke all have an opportunity to remember and reflect why Wolverine matters so much to them.

Granted, he can be a violent, cynical, beer-loving brute, but he can also be insightful and sincere. Those reflections help establish why these characters care so much about Wolverine in the first place and why they're willing to risk a messy trip to Madripoor to help him. That helps make Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #1 feel less like a generic rescue mission and more like a team of loyal friends seeking to help someone they really care about. Superheroes rescue people all the time. This is personal and that's an important theme throughout Hunt For Wolverine, as a whole.

Those quiet moments among the all-female cast make for some engaging insights that establish the emotional stakes. However, it doesn't end up having much impact when the chaotic violence erupts, as is often expected in any story relating to both Wolverine and Madripoor. While the source of that chaotic violence also has a personal connection with Wolverine, there's not much insight into the how or why they get involved. Even though Wolverine has a list of enemies that'll always be longer than his list of friends, those enemies usually don't just attack for the fun of it.

It still moves the plot forward and puts the cast of female X-men into a difficult spot. It's not yet clear whether that spot will have any bearing on events unfolding in related Hunt For Wolverine titles, but the personal connections to Wolverine are still there and are on full display, at least for those trying to find him. Those connections just don't do much to complement the chaos that they inevitably encounter along the way. They just walk into a trap, get caught by surprise, and try to manage from there.

There's still plenty of room for more insights that further reveal the reach of Wolverine's impact. For such a prominent character with such prominent friends, there's more potential than most with respect to connections and conflict, especially in a place like Madripoor. Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor #1 does plenty to give Wolverine's closest female allies a chance to show their strength while helping a friend. For someone who claims to be the best there is at what he does, though, there's still room for improvement.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Friday, May 25, 2018

X-men Supreme Issue #169: High Evolution Part 1 PREVIEW!


The end is in sight. The final stages of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided are set. Every time I end a volume of this fanfiction series, I try to do so in a way that really reverberates for the X-men, their allies, their enemies, and everyone in between. That’s why I often reference arcs like Uprising, Overlord, and the Phoenix Saga. These were all huge turning points for the X-men, which went onto influence how this fanfiction series played out.

The final arc of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided will be no different. The overarching theme began with X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide. That was when Cyclops split with Charles Xavier, creating the divide between the X-men and X-Force. When I crafted that story, I did so with a definitive end in mind. This isn’t going to be one of those schisms that just lingers. The division that has been at the heart of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided will have a definitive end with definitive consequences.

Those consequences have been accumulating a lot lately. Going all the way back to Volatility Sensibility, Charles Xavier and his X-men are learning time and again that the Mutant Monitoring Initiative that helped foster peace came at a price. That price just keeps getting higher and higher as malevolent forces keep trying to exploit the flaws. Sometimes, it worked to their advantage, such as the battle against Sebastian Shaw in Drug War. However, it proved extremely detrimental against someone like Romulus in Crimes Against Inhumanity.

Now, Magneto has re-entered the picture and the X-men can’t afford to be vulnerable anymore. Every time Magneto has attacked, he’s triggered a massive upheaval that has forced Charles Xavier, the X-men, and mutants everywhere to adapt to harsher conditions. Events like Overlord and the Cambrian Explosion left deep scars, some of which never healed. Those efforts were ambitious, but they’re nothing compared to what Magneto has planned for this final arc.

In many ways, this was his plan of last resort. Since the very beginning, Magneto has had a simple goal. He seeks a world where mutants are dominant, safe, and free. If humans got in his way, then he wasn’t afraid to fight back. Unlike Charles Xavier, he believes peace is not possible. For mutants to survive and thrive, they must subvert humanity rather than coordinate with them. He tried to do that with Genosha, but it failed. He hopes to succeed with Asteroid M.

This is not going to be a localized battle with localized stakes. Don’t expect Magneto to simply try and succeed where he failed before. Asteroid M is going to be even more ambitious. What he does won’t just complicate things for Charles Xavier, the X-men, or X-Force. It’s going to send shockwaves throughout a world that is still recovering from the events of Crimes Against Inhumanity, but not in the way you think.

If there is a wild card in place here, it’s his old mentor, Dr. Edgar Wyndham. If you’re a lifelong X-men fan, you should know that name and why it’s so troubling. Professor Xavier and his X-men are about to know it well, as are many others. The first issue of this final arc of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided will set a high bar for high stakes. I can’t promise much without spoilers, but I can promise that what began in X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution will be completed by the end. As always, I’ve provided a preview that should tease the next and most critical part of that revolution.

“You’re lucky we have very few options, Miss Maximoff. Otherwise we would exhaust them before trusting you with this,” said President Kelly begrudgingly.

“I hope that wasn’t as coarse as it sounded, Mr. President,” said Wanda strongly.

“You’ll have to excuse us. We’re all a little on edge here,” said General Grimshaw, who silently urged President Kelly to hold his tongue, “You say you want us to be part of this backup plan you mentioned. What exactly does that entail?”

“Well for one, I need assurance that no one will launch an attack of any kind on Asteroid M,” said Wanda, “If you don’t trust me on anything else, trust me when I say that it will only make everything worse.”

“That’s asking a lot. You want us to throw in a gold-plated Hummer while we’re at it?” asked Captain Freeman.

“I’ll also need you to absolve X-Force of their role in this and all previous exploits,” said Wanda as she gestured towards X-Force, “I know they’re criminals under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, but they can’t have that label if we’re to move forward.”

“Does that include Warpath?” asked Professor Xavier.

“It includes all of X-Force,” said Wanda strongly.

“Sounds like they made quite an impression,” commented General Grimshaw, “Is this your way of thanking them for hiding you?”

“I have my reasons,” she said as she briefly glanced towards Kurt, “Right now, I trust them more than I trust any of you because they have much more to lose.”

“We’re also more likable. You people have become far too hostile since the Mutant Monitoring Initiative passed,” commented Emma.

“Be careful with your words, Miss Frost. Your presence here has already cast plenty of suspicion on the Academy of Tomorrow,” said President Kelly sternly, “I’m starting to question the role we’ve had your school play in the initiative.”

“If you continue to belittle us, you’ll have far greater worries,” said Wanda, “These are my terms. I’m willing to be flexible in some areas, but for any plan to work we need to draw a few lines. Is that clear?”

President Kelly and General Grimshaw stared down this powerful young woman. She definitely had her father’s poiseShe also sincerely believed that something was wrong with her father that went beyond his usual megalomania. They had to give her the benefit of the doubt if they were to have any influence in this conflict. President Kelly turned towards the General, who merely nodded to convey his sentiment.

“We’re clear, Miss Maximoff,” said President Kelly, trying to hide his bitterness, “I’ll call the Attorney General. He’ll pull some legal wizardry to get X-Force off the hook.”

“Really? It’s that easy?” said Domino.

“Could’ve saved us all a lot of trouble if you pulled your head out of your ass sooner,” said Logan.

“Don’t push it, X-Force! This deal is contingent on your ability to cooperate. So it’s in your best interests to be professional,” said the President firmly.

“By professional I hope you don’t mean submissive,” said Emma Frost dryly, “That would defeat the purpose in more than one way.”

“Vould you be careful vith your choice of words, Emma? You’re not helping,” said Kurt under his breath.

“Call it whatever you want. You’ll still be on a very short leash,” added General Grimshaw, “I think I speak for all our global guests when I say the tolerance for slip-ups here is extremely low.”

“More like non-existent,” said the President of Egypt, “Do not assume we won’t consider alternatives even as we’re agreeing to this madness.”

“We all expected more from the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It is in all our best interest if you and your friends in X-Force pick up the slack, Miss Maximoff,” said the President of Russia.

“We fully intend to do our part,” said Scott, addressing all the world leaders through a video link, “We only ask that you give us a chance so we don’t have to improvise.”

“Is that a warning, Summers? Because usually you’re a lot more subtle about it,” scoffed Captain Freeman.

“Seeing as how we can’t fully trust one another, we should expect a certain level of paranoia,” said Wanda, “I’m hoping that Charles Xavier and his X-men will keep that to a minimum. Whatever your history, recent or otherwise, I trust that he’ll make those improvisions Cyclops mentioned unnecessary.”

The attention turned to Charles Xavier, who would be in the most awkward of positions with this endeavor. Not only would he have to work with Wanda Maximoff again, he would also have to work with some of the students he alienated with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative.

Scott, Emma, and Logan avoided eye-contact with him. Xavier could sense them closing off their thoughts as well, showing that they did not trust him with their minds anymore. He would have to earn back that trust and this mission would be the best way of doing so.

Turning back towards his X-men, Xavier sensed that they had already set the politics aside. Jean, Ororo, Rogue, Remy, Betsy, and Piotr were all eager to work with their friends again. They felt better about confronting this threat as a team, even if there were still bitter divisions to contend with.

“I hope you’re not overthinking this, Charles. Policies aside, our choice is clear,” said Ororo.

“A clear choice is often no different than limited options,” sighed Xavier.

“Hope you don’t hold it against us, Chuck. We didn’t come here to put you on the spot...not entirely anyways,” said Logan with a smirk.

“None of us can afford to be petty right now,” he said, “If this is Magneto’s ultimate backup plan, then we must assume he’s leaving nothing to chance. If there are other forces involved, then we’ll need all the manpower we can get to counter it.”

“What kind of other forces could we be dealing with here, Professor?” asked Piotr.

Xavier and Wanda exchanged glances. That was the burning question that they had both been contemplating. They didn’t agree on much, but they each believed that something was amiss with this situation.

Before they could begin to speculate, the whole room was overcome by a wave of interference. All the video links and communications equipment became awash with static. It was so loud that many of the technicians and officers had to take off their headphones.

“Ahh! The hell happened to the feed?” exclaimed one of the communications officers.

“Link…can’t hear…something overriding,” said various video links all over the screen.

“Oh dear. I’m getting a very ominous sense of déjà vu,” said Hank as he looked over some of the terminals.

“You just had to jinx it. Didn’t you, Pete?” said Betsy with folded arms.

“Does this mean what I think it means?” said the President.

“I’m afraid so, Mr. President,” said Hank as he worked with the communications team to make sense of the interference, “It appears Magneto is preparing to make his presence known. It’s just like the feed he used the last time he announced the incoming asteroid.”

“Where is it broadcasting from?” asked General Grimshaw as he and Captain Freeman rushed to the terminals.

“The same place anyone with an ego and a message go to send a message…Times Square,” said Hank as he quickly deciphered the data.

The activity in the control room quickly became more urgent. Officers scrambled to filter out the interference while President Kelly worked with General Grimshaw to get a line open to their allies. The X-men surrounded Hank at one of the terminals, hoping to get a view of what Magneto’s latest message entailed.

The MSA and NORAD MPs kept a firm eye on X-Force, not letting them move from where they were standing. Professor Xavier lingered close by, still separated by a barrier of armed personnel. He maintained a close visual on Wanda, Scott, Logan, Domino, Emma, and Kurt. They each seemed to expect this moment. Now they had to confront it together despite bitter divisions.

“It appears we’re about to find out how right our suspicions are, Xavier,” said Wanda.

“I sense you’re hoping we’re wrong, at least in part,” Xavier pointed out.

“It would be a lot easier if we were. If not, then my plan to confront my father will only become more dangerous.”


The last arc of a major volume in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series is always the most challenging, but often the most rewarding. If you’ve been following closely since the start of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided and even a little before that, you’ll appreciate the extent of that reward. Even if you haven’t been following this fanfiction series from the beginning, I have a feeling X-men fans will appreciate the breadth of what Magneto looks to accomplish here.

I’m going to do my best to ensure that the culmination of everything I’ve built with this fanfiction series pays off in a big way. The only way I know I’m doing it right is if I continue getting reviews and feedback. As always, I strongly encourage everyone to take the time to send me your comments. Either contact me directly or post them in each issue. I’m always happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Friday, May 18, 2018

Next Sexy Side-Project: Enter Daken!



Every now and then, a character comes along who is just destined to find his or her way into one of my sexy side-projects. It may not happen immediately, but at some point, it's a given that it will happen. Of the many characters who have come along over the past couple decades, only a handful of characters fit that profile. At the top of that list is Daken Akihiro, also known as the son of Wolverine.

When he first showed up in the pages of Wolverine Origins, I didn't know what to make of him. I didn't even know if he would be a successful character. For all I knew, he was a Skrull agent, a failed clone, or Mystique in disguise. Failed comic book characters are notorious for disappearing inexplicably or being retconned into oblivion. Daken escaped that fate and it wasn't long before I realized that he would one day make it onto my sexy stories.

Like his father, Daken is a very sexual creature. In fact, he's probably a lot more sexual than his father and not just because he's confident enough to sport a mohawk without being in an 70s punk band. Where as Wolverine reserves his sexual energy for sexy redheads, African goddesses, and cute Asian women, Daken will fuck anyone or anything. The man is durable, reckless, egotistical, and not afraid to use his penis and his claws to win a battle.

It was never a matter of if I would incorporate Daken into a sexy side-project. It was only a matter of when. Well, that time is almost upon us. He's already an unapologetic sex fiend in the comics. That means he'll fit seamlessly into the world of the Red Queen. For someone with his capacity for deviance, though, a one-shot just isn't enough. That's why I'll be bringing him in with a multi-part story, one that's sure to raise the bar for sexiness in the Red Queen's world.

The story will be entitled "The Red Queen Chronicles: The Lost Son." I don't know yet how many chapters it will end up being, but the first one will come out three weeks from today. It will build on some of the plots I've crafted in previous stories, but I want this one to stand on its own, primarily to give Daken plenty of room to work his deviance. If you're a fan of Daken and his knack for being sexually flexible, you won't want to miss this. It all starts in three weeks. See you then!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Musings on Mutant Matrimony: X-Men: The Wedding Special #1

The following is my review of X-men: The Wedding Special #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.



In real life, weddings are supposed to be a joyous, momentous occasion for couples, friends, and family. In superhero comics, weddings tend to have more mixed connotations. That's not just because deals with Mephisto have established that the world of superheroes is extremely unforgiving for couples who think their love can handle retcons, time travelers, and clone conspiracies. Most never even make it to the bachelor party. Only a handful ever establish themselves as a romance that even Mephisto can't corrupt.

Kitty Pryde and Colossus may not be on the same level as Reed and Sue Richards, but they're daring to make the effort. Considering the on-again/off-again nature of their relationship over the years, it carries more risk than most. That chaotic history includes moments where they've seen each other die and in relationships with other characters. It also includes instances where Kitty dates other men named Peter and even comes close to marrying one. That kind of history makes it difficult to elevate their love to the same level as other iconic superhero romances.

Despite all the inherent complications surrounding marriage in superhero comics, Kitty and Colossus enjoy a relationship that is one of the most sincere, genuine romances in comics. It doesn't try to be perfect. Their growth, as characters, isn't dependent on their relationship with one another. They're capable of holding their own as individuals. That makes them more prepared than most to take the matrimonial plunge.

X-men: The Wedding Special #1 acts as the last round of preparations before the big day. It's a giant-sized rehearsal of sorts, utilizing creative contributions from Marc Guggenheim, Kelly Thompson, and even the X-men's most famous scribe, Chris Claremont. There's no massive battle against an army of Sentinels. There's no surprise attack by the Shi'ar, the Skrulls, or the Purifiers. More than anything else, this issue makes the case that the marriage between Kitty Pryde and Colossus is worth rooting for.

Through three self-contained, character-focused stories, X-men: The Wedding Special #1 makes that case very well. It's a testament to the past, present, and future of Kitty Pryde and Colossus. One story shows where they came from. Another shows where they are in the present with their engagement. Another offers promise and hope for the future, albeit through strippers and karaoke. When presented together, it proves to be a potent combination.

The first story, written by the X-men legend Chris Claremont, acts as a slide-show of Kitty Pryde's journey to this monumental moment in her life. For those who haven't kept up with Kitty's eventful life, from training alongside Wolverine to getting trapped in a giant space bullet, this offers a comprehensive insight into who Kitty is. For those who know her story, it won't reveal anything too groundbreaking. There are no dark secrets or Skrull agents in this emotional recap.

However, it will add some extra personal insights that are worth adding, especially for a character who's about to get married. Kitty muses about how being a mutant has effected her life, from joining Excaliber to losing her father. These are all things that feel like something a young woman thinks about before her wedding. She doesn't approach it like some fairy tale princess, thinking everything is all rainbows and sunshine. She takes the good, the bad, and the hopeful all at once and she's stronger because of it. That's what makes her Kitty Pryde.

The second story, written by Marc Guggenheim, offers some insight into Colossus. It's not quite as comprehensive as Kitty's story in that it doesn't recall the journey he took to get to a point where he's about to marry the love of his life. It does provide more entertainment value, though, in the form of Colossus beating up a renegade demon who just got fired from a Las Vegas casino run by demons. It's as colorful and entertaining as it sounds, even if it is somewhat short.

It acts as a tie-in story, of sorts, to the ongoing events of X-men Gold. It also provides a closer look at the kind of person Colossus is and the kind of man Kitty will be marrying. He sets himself apart from his more free-spirited teammates, like Gambit and Nightcrawler. He establishes himself as the kind of guy who isn't into bachelor parties or the Las Vegas lifestyle. He's just a gentle, soft-hearted guy who can still beat up a demon when he has to.

Given how many men named Peter that Kitty Pryde has dated, it's worth making clear that Colossus is the right Peter for her. He isn't the kind of character who will impress a woman with his attitude, charisma, or style. He's a man of action. Whether he's fighting a demon or spending a night in Las Vegas with his fellow X-men, what he says and does lets everyone know the kind of person he is. Gambit may have more personality and Nightcrawler may have more charisma, but Colossus shows that he's the kind of man any woman would be proud to marry. Kitty Pryde just happens to be that lucky woman.

The last story, written by Kelly Thompson, follows Kitty on her bachelorette party. Unlike her future husband, hers doesn't involve Las Vegas or attacking demons. It does, however, involve a visit from an old friend/enemy from an iconic moment in X-men lore. It makes for a brief fight, but one that isn't meant to derail Kitty's night or her wedding. In a world where time travelers and clones are known to interfere in romances, that's almost seems strange.

Instead, the fight only acts as another reminder of sorts, one meant to inspire Kitty to make her marriage with Colossus work. It's something that's worth fighting for. It's something that's worth all the loss, heartache, and struggle they've endured. It also reminds her that loving someone means being vulnerable and not just to Mephisto. She can either recoil in fear or become stronger. Being one of the X-men and having Storm plan her bachelorette party, Kitty certainly comes out stronger.

In terms of a prelude, X-men: The Wedding Special #1 achieves something important for Kitty and Colossus. It may very well be the most important thing it can possibly achieve for a superhero wedding. It reaffirms why these two iconic characters are getting married and why they're worth rooting for. The love between them may not be as famous, but it's every bit as genuine.

It acts as a reflection of the emotional journey these characters have taken together. While there's some attempt at conflict, it's fairly minor and somewhat forgettable. There's an effort to tie these stories into other happenings in recent X-men comics, but those ties are fairly loose and not really critical to the overall story.  

X-men: The Wedding Special #1 still succeeds in the most important way for Kitty Pryde and Colossus. It gives emotional and dramatic weight to their upcoming wedding. In a world where every marriage is a few deaths, resurrections, and retcons away from destruction, that counts for a lot. These are two characters who are strong as individuals, but when they're together, they become something truly special. That bodes well for any marriage, superhero or otherwise.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dark Connections and Darker Divinity: Wonder Woman #46

The following is my review of Wonder Woman #46, which was posted on PopMatters.com.



When it comes to the ancient mythologies, the major themes often reflect distinctly human traits. Gods, demigods, and everything in between tend to highlight extremes and embellishments of these traits. The modern superhero genre frequently utilizes the same approach, forging heroes that embody powerful traits that reflect the best and worst of humanity. In that context, Wonder Woman reflects the best of mortals and gods alike.

Unlike the traits embodied in Superman or Batman, Wonder Woman's story is closely tied to that of the Olympian gods that she and her fellow Amazons worship. Much of her power, persona, and heritage stem from the stories of these gods that go back to ancient times. Sometimes, they empower Wonder Woman and drive her forward. Other times, they present her with adversaries and conflicts. In recent times, her struggles under James Robinson utilize a little of both.

There are a great many upheavals going on in Wonder Woman's life, both as high-profile hero in the DC Universe and on the personal front. After being reunited with her long lost twin brother, Jason, she goes through a bit of an adjustment period, having lived much of her life under the assumptions her mother, the gods, and her Amazon sisters instilled. More and more of those assumptions are now coming into question. The events of Dark Nights: Metal and her recent dealings with Grail have Wonder Woman at another crossroads that may result in more than just shocking family revelations.

While secrets and lies are a frequent catalyst in mythology, ancient and contemporary alike, Wonder Woman #46 lays the groundwork with conflict more relevant to Wonder Woman's recent personal struggles. Between discovering her long-lost brother and watching Barbara Minerva transform into Cheetah again, she's already familiar with divine melodrama, albeit on a smaller scale. James Robinson keeps the scale small at first, but it steadily escalates.

It starts with Cheetah's escape. It's sudden, violent, and brings her face-to-face with Veronica Cale, the woman most responsible for Barbara Minerva becoming Cheetah again. On the surface, it presents itself as simple revenge scheme in the mold of John Wick. That's how Wonder Woman approaches it when she enters the picture, but it gets distinctly less simple from there. That tends to happen whenever gods, new and old alike, get involved.

Parallel to Cheetah's story, Diana's twin brother, Jason, follows his own plot that reunites him with his adopted father, Glaucus. Like Cheetah's blood-soaked revenge story, his starts out simple. Rescuing his adopted father from people intent on studying the biology of immortals doesn't break much new ground. As with Diana, though, that changes once some divine details emerge.

Unlike Diana, though, Jason's story is still new and has a few lingering plot holes. Robinson doesn't overlook them, but doesn't give a full answer either. Jason's emergence within Wonder Woman is already heavily influenced by the Olympian gods. His connection with them is a bit less certain compared to his sister, if only because he's shown a tendency to be far less responsible. The hints dropped by Glaucus also indicate that they've influenced Jason more than he thinks.

This provides an ominous backdrop once the impact of Dark Nights: Metal catches up to the story. It's somewhat abrupt, hitting Diana both literally and figuratively as she tries to deal with Cheetah. Most stories involving gods and god-like beings tend to evoke powerful passions throughout the mortal masses, especially among those expected to provide worship. Anything that disrupts that worship is an attack on their very soul.

The passions, in this case, have little to do with piety. True to ancient mythologies that highlight the importance of the gods, their absence or lack of influence leaves the world of dangerous and prone to chaos. This is where Dark Nights: Metal starts spreading its influence and Wonder Woman is on the front line. Being a demigoddess, herself, it's fitting that she finds herself drawn into the chaos. An agent of that chaos even ends up being a familiar face who bears a familiar red cape and symbol on her chest, which further raises the stakes.

Wonder Woman #46 takes its time to set up a new plot involving the Old Gods, the emerging Dark Gods, and how it all effects Wonder Woman, someone's whose story involves battling divine chaos every other week. The connections between Diana's recent clashes and Dark Nights: Metal are subtle, but relevant. However, they're too subtle to generate much impact, aside from the last couple of pages. While the story is full of bloody battles and divinely-fueled chaos, it still moves too slowly to really test Wonder Woman in a meaningful way.

It still makes the necessary connections and establishes a foundation for a divine conflict that will bring new, but familiar contributors to her struggle. Whether they'll help or hinder her efforts remain to be seen. One of ancient mythology's most common themes, aside from gods impregnating mortal women, involves how determined gods are at maintaining their godly status. Those who worship them can be just as determined and if Wonder Woman #46 is any indication, she'll may end up fighting both.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

X-men Supreme Issue 168: Open Heart Perjury is LIVE!


You don’t always need a prelude or a prequel to make a story great. The first X-men movie didn’t start from the beginning of the beginning. It hit the ground running, introducing Wolverine, Charles Xavier, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm all at once. It was done well enough to kick-start the X-men as a movie franchise. I took a similar approach to the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. In that fateful first issue, X-men Supreme Issue 1: Generation X, I brought in a mature group of familiar X-men that helped lay the foundation for the future of this fanfiction series.

After 167 issues, I’ve done a lot to build atop that foundation. X-men Supreme has grown, evolved, and shifted considerably over the years, often through major arcs like Overlord, Outer Limits, The Phoenix Saga, and The Cambrian Explosion. I try to structure this fanfiction series around major turning points like that, putting the X-men in a position to make difficult choices and fight major battles that often come at a cost. I think the X-men pay a higher cost for their victories than most superhero teams. Even after seeing Avengers: Infinity War, I think their appeal and strength draws heavily from their willingness to pay that price.

During the events of Crimes Against Inhumanity, the X-men paid a higher price than usual. It certainly didn’t help that they’ve been a divided front, thanks to an ongoing schism between Charles Xavier and Cyclops. By not being united and fighting that battle together, the entire world incurred a heavy cost. Everyone is vulnerable now. The world’s defenses are damaged or destroyed. The X-men and X-Force are still divided. It’s the worst possible time for them to take on someone like Magneto.

It’s also the best time for someone like Magneto to make his move. He’s been missing since the events of Time Bomb, which capped off X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear. However, he’s been hard at work behind the scenes as the X-men battled the Mutant Liberation Front and found themselves divided over the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. While his mental stability was in question, Magneto’s ambition has never changed. He remains as intent as ever to protect the future of the mutant race. He failed in his efforts with Uprising, Overlord, and The Cambrian Explosion. He has no intention of failing this time.

I’ve been working my way towards Magneto’s ultimate vision for quite some time now. The plot that’s about unfold has been in the works since the end of the Time Bomb arc. I’ve had an over-arching plan for Magneto, one that will once again demonstrate why he’s such an iconic villain and character for the X-men. This issue is very much a prequel, of sorts, to that story. It’s not in the same mold as X-men First Class, but it’s critical to the overall breadth of the story.

Magneto is already making his moves, as are those close to him. The remnants of the Brotherhood of Mutants, as well as the former citizens of Genosha, have been desperate since the passage of the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. Magneto’s return couldn’t have come at a better time, but he didn’t come alone. The full scope of his plan, as well as the hidden forces behind it, are about to be revealed in a way that will set the stage for the final arc of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided.

X-men Supreme Issue 168: Uncivil Disobedience

For those who have been following Magneto’s story and this fanfiction series, as a whole, this issue will set the stage for what I hope will be one of the most powerful moments to date for X-men Supreme. So many things have been building towards this moment. I’ve been working hard, setting it up so that it’s in a position for memorable, satisfying conclusion. Even after all the memorable moments I’ve crafted in this fanfiction series to date, I want to top them all with this one.

As always, these moments are only as powerful as my ability to craft them. That’s why I always urge readers to provide feedback on this and any other issue of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Either post your comments directly in the issue or contact me directly. I’m still trying to deal with the big spam issue in the comments section, but I can always be reached by the contact page. I’m always happy to chat X-men Supreme or X-men in general. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Friday, May 4, 2018

X-men Supreme Issue 168: Open Heart Perjury PREVIEW!


The clock is ticking for the X-men and X-Force. X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided is about to enter the final countdown to the culmination of all the divisions, agendas, secrets, and subversion. What began in X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide will reach a definitive end when all is said and done. When that moment arrives, this fanfiction series will be in a bold new place. Charles Xavier, Cyclops, Wolverine, President Kelly, General Grimshaw, Magneto, and every other character who has played a part in this event will see their efforts pay off and/or falter.

These are the moments in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series that get me extra excited. Every volume of this fanfiction series, going back to X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution, begins with a major culmination in mind. I never start a new volume without a good idea of where the big moments will be for the X-men, their enemies, and the world as a whole. I make it a point to build towards those moments, whether it’s with dramatic arcs like Sinister Intent or even some more light-hearted arcs like Impossible Odds. Ideally, they all help contribute to the moment I’m trying to build.

Building such a moment in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided has been extra difficult, especially at a time when plenty of X-men fans have been burned out on superhero civil wars and schisms between characters like Cyclops and Wolverine. While I can’t always plan around what happens in the X-men comics, I try to make sure this fanfiction series does something to set itself apart. In this case, it means establishing the schism between Cyclops and Charles Xavier.

From the very beginning of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, this has been the driving force behind these tense times for this fanfiction series. On one side, we have Charles Xavier, who believes in working with the likes of General Grimshaw and President Kelly to promote a more secure peace between mutants and humans. On the other side, we have Cyclops, who believes that working within a system that has already proven itself to be corrupt with programs like Weapon X will only result in disaster. At one point, Xavier’s side seem vindicated when they took down Sebastian Shaw in the Drug War arc. Then, Cyclops’ side got some vindication after the destruction wrought by White Cell in Crimes Against Inhumanity.

So far, it’s hard to say which side is right and which is wrong. The impact of recent events has cast doubt on both sides and with the prospect of Magneto returning for the first time since the end of X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear, nobody has the luxury of being wrong again. Something has to give. Either X-Force has to join up with Charles Xavier’s X-men or the X-men have to resort to Cyclops’ less-than-legal tactics. It’s a tough situation for both sides, but one that’s about to become more urgent.

I’ve already mapped out the last major arc of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. Parts of the foundation were already laid in the events of X-men Supreme Issue 167: Uncivil Disobedience. The true scope and scale of with the X-men and X-Force face is about to become clearer as Magneto hatches a plan that has been brewing behind the scenes for quite some time. I’m treating the next issue as a prelude of sorts, one that will prepare the X-men and X-Force for some very hard decisions. As always, I’ve prepared a preview that should offer some hints at the hard decisions that lie ahead.

“Errrrrr! So that’s how you wanna play it?” snarled the feral mutant.

“You were asking for it, Logan! I can do much worse if you keep testing me!” said Wanda menacingly.

“Bring it on, Maximoff!” snarled Logan.

“Why don’t you sober up, Logan?” quipped Scott.

Before the hostility could get any worse, Scott adjusted his visor and fired a stun-level blast at Logan. It struck him right in the chest, knocking him back against the refrigerator. Kurt got in front of Wanda so he couldn’t come back at her if he tried. It left the former living weapon sore as well as angered.

“Hnn…you’ll beat yourself up after shooting Warren, but you won’t flinch a muscle when you shoot me?” he snarled.

“Wanda was right. You were asking for it,” said Scott strongly, “We get it. You think Magneto is crazy. I admit I’m skeptical as well when she says something is wrong with Magneto.”

“You mean aside from a long list of issues?” grumbled Logan as he pulled himself up.

“We can debate that another time, but for the moment…I believe Wanda.”

“So do I,” said Kurt strongly, making it clear that he wasn’t going to let Logan attack her.

“As disconcerting it may be, she may actually be our best ally. Keep in mind we have precious few,” Emma pointed out.

“You’re out-voted here, Logan. So why don’t you give it a rest and listen?” said Domino, “We won’t do ourselves any favors by fighting each other.”

“Speak for yourself,” grumbled the feral mutant.

Logan kept muttering curses under his breath as he rose up from Scott’s blast. The rest of X-Force turned back towards Wanda. On some levels, Logan had a point. They were relying an awful lot on Magneto’s daughter. They were in a vulnerable position and their only hope of confronting this crisis was through her.

“Let’s skip the part where we speculate why Magneto helped create Asteroid M. Right now, I’m more curious about why the Brotherhood would send you this package and just leave without a trace,” said Scott.

“Well after what happened the last time they paid a visit, I’d expect them to be more reluctant,” said Emma.

“That’s never stopped them before,” said Wanda as she looked distantly into the snow globe, “They could have easily knocked me out, drugged me, or just shoved me into one of Blink’s portals. But they didn’t. That says to me that Pietro wasn’t the one that sent me this package.”

“No surprise there,” shrugged Kurt, “Pietro can never resist making a scene.”

“Then that probably means Magneto sent it,” Scott surmised, “The question is why.”

“I already know why,” said Wanda, “He’s expecting me to understand that Asteroid M means this world is about to fail in a significant way. He wants me to rejoin him. Moreover, he wants me to come of my own volition.”

“And are you?” asked Kurt in a worried tone.

Wanda paused for a moment. She turned away from the snow globe and back towards X-Force. She didn’t choose to be stuck in Nova Roma with X-Force. However, she had chosen to stay and doing so had been quite an experience. That experience greatly complicated this seemingly simple decision.

“If this came to me a few days after the Genosha exodus, I wouldn’t have hesitated. Now I’m not so sure,” said Wanda, “Aside from Logan’s juvenile personality, I’ve learned a lot from X-Force. I’ve seen you do things that make me wonder what I should do given my position.”

“Does that mean we get to say you’re welcome?” said Domino.

“Don’t get ahead of yourselves,” said Wanda, rolling her eyes, “You may not like it, but I still care about my father. I still care about the Brotherhood and what we once stood for. I may have changed my stance on a number of issues, but I won’t change my stance on the future of our kind. That’s exactly why I can’t just go to my father. Something just feels…wrong.”

“I believe you. I also believe that you can’t ignore this,” said Scott.

“I know I can’t. But what am I supposed to do? You said it yourself. X-Force is decimated. The X-men can’t be trusted. If I turn out to be right, then it doesn’t matter what we do. We’re not in a position to stop it.”

Wanda set down the snow globe and hugged her shoulders. Kurt offered to console her. Scott, Emma, Domino, and Logan shared in her frustration with little hope of such consolation. Asteroid M was Magneto’s ultimate stand. On the surface it seemed like a viable if not excessive solution.

A heavy silence fell over the room. It was a given that Magneto controlling a massive space station would cause a major panic once word got out. For that reason, the X-men and the authorities weren’t going to let it stand. Such a move could make an extreme situation much worse. Scott, who was still reeling from the scars left by Romulus, understood this more than anyone. X-Force had to do something about it.

“In this instance I don’t believe you, Wanda. We are in a position to stop this,” said Scott in a stronger tone.

“We are?” questioned Logan, “You sure you ain’t been drinking again, Cyke?”

“Near as I can tell, he’s sober,” said Emma dryly, “Although I can’t help but be dubious.”

“I know my credibility has taken a hit lately. I don’t blame you for doubting me, but we can’t doubt our mission. Magneto is making a move. We can expect the X-men and the MSA to make a move of their own. If White Cell was any indication, we can expect that move to be mired in complications. We can’t afford that this time. We need to be in a position to deal with them and Magneto.”

“Why don’t we do some Korean algebra while we’re at it?” scoffed Domino, “Seriously, Scott. Are you sure you’re not still drunk?”

“I’m not drunk, damn it! And like the rest of you, I’m not going to stand by while our already vulnerable world is threatened,” said the X-Force leader, now sounding stronger than he had since the White Cell affair.

“I agree vith you, mein friend. No one here intends to ignore zhis, but ve can’t do anything meaningful vithout a plan,” Kurt pointed out.

“I know that, Kurt. Which is why I have a plan,” said Scott.

“Is it a plan like the one we had for White Cell?” said Logan dryly, “Because you handled that so well.”

“Since I’ve learned some harsh lessons from that mission, I’ll skip the part where I shoot you with another optic blast, Logan. But unless anyone has a plan of their own, we need to act soon. Neither Magneto nor the X-men are going to give us much time.”

Logan, Kurt, Emma, and Domino studied their leader. Scott sounded a lot more like the competent tactician they placed so much trust in when they joined X-Force. Yet there was still an unmistakable doubt in his tone. It left them plenty of reasons to worry, but since no one had a plan of their own they decided to hear him out.

“Since no one is asking if I’m drunk anymore, the rest falls on you, Wanda,” said Scott, “You helped us in a tough situation against White Cell. Now let us help you in a tough situation with your father.”

“I’m not going to refuse help in this matter,” she told him, “However, I’m worried about what this help will entail.”

“Give me a chance to put those worries at ease,” he urged her, “When we’re done, help me make a few calls. For this plan to work, we’ll have to put ourselves right in the line of fire. But unlike the White Cell mission, we will maintain control.”

“How can you be so sure this time?” said Emma skeptically.

“Because we’re not going to stay in the shadows,” Scott replied, “We’re laying everything on the line this time. There will be no room for ambiguity. That’s how we’ll maintain control. And that control will be our greatest edge.”

The X-Force leader never took his eyes off Wanda. Regardless of how confident the team was with him, everything fell on her shoulders. Plan or no plan, she was responsible for whatever damage her father incurred. Turning towards Kurt and then back towards Scott, she made a fateful decision.

“Okay Cyclops,” said Wanda, now sharing his strength, “What’s the plan and what do you need from me?”


For the X-men fans still burned out on schisms and superhero civil wars from the comics, I urge you to hang in there. I intend for there to be a major payoff for X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. That payoff, though, requires me to play the long game and take a few risks. I know I’ve already taken plenty, going all the way back to how I ended things in X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. Rest assured, I wouldn’t have taken that chance if I didn’t think the payoff would be worth it.

With the end of another volume of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series once again in sight, it’s more critical than ever that I continue to get feedback. These are tense times for many beloved X-men characters, some more than others. I know some fans of certain characters have been anxious. I want to hear from those fans and every other type of X-men fan, as well. Please, in the name of making the payoff of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided as big as possible, send me your feedback. Either post comments directly in the issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine and I’m always happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack