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

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Defending Old School Avenging: Avengers #1

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



Superhero comics often go through cycles upheavals. There's an accepted status quo that acts as a baseline, of sorts. Then, every once in a while there will be some upheavals that try to shake up the system and introduce new reforms. Some of those reforms stick. Some fail spectacularly. Most just fade into the background. Eventually, though, that familiar status quo returns to maintain the core appeal of a series.

For the Avengers, the traditions established by Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man act as the pillars of Marvel's top-tier heroes. The membership of the team may fluctuate every other week with Wolverine showing up one day while Squirrel Girl shows up another, but the core identity of the Avengers emerges from these three heroes. Every now and then, there's an effort to shake things up by bringing in new characters. No matter who shows up, though, be it a time traveler, a teen prodigy, or a Skrull agent, the Avengers are still built around these three iconic heroes.

In recent years, this core underwent plenty of upheaval with Thor becoming unworthy of Mjolnir, Captain America becoming a Hydra agent, and Tony Stark languishing in a coma. Some of those plots are still controversial and not necessarily for the right reasons. Whatever the controversy, though, it's only ever a matter of time before the Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Thor Odinson regain their roles as the Avengers' trinity of heroes.

Jason Aaron, who was behind some of the upheavals, and Ed McGuiness are now tasked with bringing that core back together and moving them forward in Avengers #1. At a time when the Avengers: Infinity War is topping the box office, the stakes are higher than usual for a new Avengers series. There are still lingering scars from the events of Secret Empire and Civil War II. There are also some extenuating circumstances that bring the Avengers together once more.

Despite these strained particulars, though, the stage for is set for the classic core of Avengers to return and Aaron makes good use of it. The events that kept Steve, Tony, and Thor apart aren't ignored. They even acknowledge the sentiment that the world around them is changing, both in terms of world-destroying threats and with respect to the growing diversity among the superhero community. However, even in musing over such changes, this classic trio finds a way to reaffirm that there's still a place for them.

It certainly helps when new threats emerge in the form of dead Celestials falling out of the sky. It's a threat that's not quite as random at it initially seems. This sudden catalyst for such a classic reunion has a basis in the events from Marvel Legacy #1, which introduced the Avengers of 1,000,000 BC. It's a concept that, even within that single issue, hasn't had much impact on anything in the present time to date. Those connections begin to emerge as the Avengers, new and old, begin to assemble.

While it's a refreshing scene, especially to those still recovering from the end of "Avengers: Infinity War," the spectacle is somewhat scattered. Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor are the driving force of the story, but there's also a supporting cast that's caught up in the same plot. That cast includes Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, and Ghost Rider. It's a potent mix of heavy hitters and a few emerging stars, but there aren't many opportunities for then to contribute.

They're still in a position to assemble, as Avengers do. Their part in the story, though, is somewhat disconnected from the personal drama going on among Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. They don't do much to influence the uncertainties that Tony expresses about the future of the Avengers. Those uncertainties are almost as important as the threat of Celestials falling out of the sky, if only because it keeps the story from becoming another generic excuse to get the Avengers to unite.

Avengers #1 doesn't present itself as a simple reunion. Aaron dedicates just as much time discussing the place of the Avengers' old guard in an era where they're shortcomings and vulnerabilities catch up to them more and more. To some extent, their legacy works against them. New threats learn from old threats, adapting and evolving their attacks. They're now at the point where they can make Thor unworthy, turn Captain America into an agent of Hydra, and render Tony Stark comatose.

None of this is lost on the team. At one point, Tony even expresses doubt that he, Steve, and Thor should be the ones to re-assemble the Avengers. That doubt reflects the sentiment that old heroes need to step aside in order for new ones to emerge. It's a sentiment that has fueled a lot of the controversies surrounding these characters, going all the way back to the events of Original Sin.

While the events of Avengers #1 acknowledge that sentiment, it does little to actually address it. Some of that is due to the unavoidable distraction that comes with Celestials showing up out of nowhere, but it still leaves some questions unanswered. The assorted side-plots that put other Avengers in a position to assemble later on do little to help find those answers. One minute, Tony is pondering some important questions that have real implications for the future of the Avengers. The next, he just jumps back into his old role with his fellow Avengers to confront a new threat.

That threat is still intriguing in its own right, thanks to the tie-in with the 1,000,000 BC story line. It also helps that McGuinness' artwork makes it the kind of cosmic spectacle that warrants having these classic heroes take on their iconic poses once more. There are layers to the story and Aaron does plenty to establish the potential for this latest round of upheaval. It even says something about the extent of recent upheavals when it's just refreshing to see classic heroes reunite and feel relatively confident that it's not due to Skrull agents.

Overall, Avengers #1 does plenty to get the Avengers back on track, but doesn't do much to address why they got off track in the first place. There are important conversations to go along with the major events, both in the present and in the distant past. Most of those discussions remain incomplete, but there's still plenty of opportunities to have those discussions, preferably when there aren't dead Celestials lying in in the middle of major cities.

Final Score: 6 out of 10