Friday, July 13, 2018

X-men Supreme Issue 171: High Evolution Part 3 is LIVE!


The X-men have a long list of iconic and memorable villains. I’ve utilized plenty in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, including the lesser known ones like Mojo and Bastion. I even created one of my own in The Cambrian Explosion. However, for as long as the X-men are relevant, Magneto will always be the most compelling villain. He’s been a driving force of X-men Supreme since the earliest days of this fanfiction series. From their first encounter in X-men Supreme Issue 3: Competition to Magneto’s disappearance after the Time Bomb arc, his actions have guided the path of this fanfiction series.

That path is almost at its end. The High Evolution mark is set to be the kind of showdown that will determine whether the future of the X-men and the mutant race belongs to Magneto or Charles Xavier. I know that seems to happen with Magneto and the X-men every other week in the X-men comics. Believe me, I’m as aware of that as any X-men fan. That’s why I mean it when I say that this arc is an endgame of sorts for Magneto. What happens here will be definitive, more so than anything you’ll get in an X-men comic.

It’s the culmination of a story that has been folding since I began X-men Supreme back in 2010. From the moment Magneto founded the Brotherhood of Mutants, he has had a plan and a vision in mind. Like Charles Xavier, he sees the future of humans and mutants as a collision course, of sorts. There’s no avoiding it. There’s no getting around it. At some point, someone has to confront it. He knows what Xavier and the X-men want. He doesn’t believe that’s sufficient. That’s why he has teamed up with the High Evolutionary. Already, they’re putting themselves in a position to change the course of humans, mutants, and all life on Earth.

Together, he and the High Evolutionary have already done plenty to disrupt the current situation. They re-emerged at a time when the X-men are locked in a bitter divide between Charles Xavier and Cyclops. They’re also hitting at a time when nobody feels safe. Romulus decimated the world’s defenses in the Crimes Against Inhumanity arc. Neither President Kelly nor General Grimshaw feel like they have the answers anymore. They’re all reeling and Magneto is offering a way out.

However, as is often the case with Magneto, things are never as they seem. His vision almost always comes at a price, one much higher than anything Charles Xavier and his X-men are willing to pay. The nature of that price isn’t yet clear. So far, Magneto and the High Evolutionary have delivered on their promises, welcoming the entire mutant race and one million lucky humans into a new world they carved out of Asteroid M. From this world, they hope to start anew with a new race of mutants and mutated humans.

The only ones who is completely unconvinced of Magneto’s efforts are Charles Xavier and the Scarlet Witch. Knowing the stakes couldn’t be higher, the X-men and X-Force have put aside their differences and come together for this fateful mission. Given the extent of the divide and the mistakes they’ve made throughout X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, they couldn’t be more vulnerable. Now, as the full extent of Magneto’s vision emerges, they’ll have to make some difficult decisions that will come at a price. The extent of that price will become very clear in this issue.

X-men Supreme Issue 171: High Evolution Part 3

This is the point in the High Evolution arc where the conflict erupts and the stage is set for the final confrontation. It’s the X-men versus Magneto, Charles Xavier against his old friend. It’s a classic clash, one that has come to define the X-men over the years. I hope to capture that spirit in this fateful story within X-men Supreme. However, expect a few twists and turns along the way. The outcome is probably not one anyone is expecting, aside from those who have come to know this fanfiction series well.

I’m making the extra effort to ensure that the High Evolution arc is the biggest high point to date in X-men Supreme. It’s by far one of the most ambitious stories I’ve told in this fanfiction series to date. That’s why it’s more critical that I get extra feedback here. This issue is the start of a much bigger clash that’s set to conclude very soon. I need to know that I’m doing it right so please take the time to post comments 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, July 12, 2018

Back To Brutal Basics: X-23 #1

The following is my review of X-23 #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.



On paper, the arc of a superhero is supposed to move forward with progress and growth occurring along the way. In practice, however, there are a lot of setbacks, regression, and pitfalls, but not all of them involve dying and coming back to life every once in a while. Certain characters have an iconic status built on decades of evolution, eventually settling into a particular status quo that best reflects who they are and the breadth of their appeal. To that extent, Laura "X-23" Kinney is still evolving.

Her story can't be considered new anymore, having played a part in a major X-men movie and held down multiple solo runs from the likes of Marjorie Liu and Tom Taylor. She also can't be classified as old, either. Her growth has been rapid since her debut in the X-men: Evolution cartoon, but her story tends to undergo more shifts than most.

There are times when Laura seeks to avoid the violent conditioning she endured under her creators, seeking to build a normal life, to the extent that anyone related to Wolverine can have one. She also goes through periods where she attempts to channel those violent skills for heroic purposes, just like Wolverine has. After taking the mantle of Wolverine for a time under Tom Taylor, Laura is at a point where she no longer hides from her bloody past or her violent skills. However, she still has some growing to do and not just because she has a little sister and a pet wolverine.

This is the situation that Mariko Tamaki and Juan Cabal inherit in X-23 #1. Laura's past is still chasing her and her future is still in flux. She has more to lose now than she did before with Gabby in her life. Even though she's still a teenager, she can't afford to be as irresponsible as most teenagers, as the Peter Parkers and Kamala Khans of the world can attest. Between having the baggage of Logan's legacy and dealing with an overly-energetic sister with a pet wolverine, Laura has her work cut out for her.

Tamaki and Cabal still have her pushing forward. The stakes are pretty standard for any clone/daughter of Wolverine. There are still people in the Marvel universe who think it's a good idea to clone Logan and make living weapons. How anyone can still believe that will lead to anything other than a brutal death is laughable, if not absurd at this point. Nobody even tries to make excuses. They're just willing fodder for Laura's continued evolution.


While the setup is basic, involving a generic threat with ties to Alchemax, Tamaki doesn't focus too much on the slashing and stabbing that's standard for any X-23 series. Those moments are there. There's even a hulking lizard man thrown into the mix, which helps mix things up from the standard hired goons that Laura is known for decimating. However, the real meat of the story is in Laura's personal journey.

As she's navigating the standard Wolverine-styled action sequences with Gabby, she reflects on her upcoming birthday. Being a clone, that brings complications that have little to do with cake frosting. Laura starts out with mixed, but ambivalent feelings on the matter. She initially gives the impression that it's not a big deal. Gabby, as she's been doing since she showed up in All-New Wolverine, gets her to reconsider and is lovably adorable every step of the way.

It also helps that Laura and Gabby aren't the only clones dealing with identity issues and birthday drama. After meeting up with Beast at the Xavier Institute, they cross paths with the Stepford Cuckoos. As it just so happens, they're celebrating their birthday. That helps make birthdays, in general, a bigger issue and one that acts as a catalyst for the story, albeit indirectly.

As is often the case with plots involving clones and living weapons, there's a larger agenda unfolding behind the scenes, even before the stabbing starts. It involves Alchemax, but it also involves the Stepford Cuckoos as well. Tamaki even digs a bit into the Cuckoos' history, some of which hasn't been referenced since the latter end of Grant Morrison's run on New X-men. It helps raise the stakes and complicates Laura's new mission. Unlike lizard men throwing trucks, this isn't an issue she can resolve with her claws.

While the connection between Laura's mission and the Cuckoos is established, things don't get violent that quickly. Things even diverge somewhat as Laura debates the merits of birthdays while the Cuckoos reveal some affiliations that would probably not sit well with any former living weapon. There's a distinct sense of inevitability that emerges once the agenda of the Cuckoos emerge. Even though part of it still involves celebrating a birthday, it seems unavoidable that they're going to clash with Laura and Gabby.

That conflict doesn't manifest initially and that's not necessarily a bad thing. X-23 #1 spends more time exploring how Laura sees herself as she continues to navigate a world where she's technically an escaped lab experiment. Her reservations about making a big deal about her birthday reveal that she still struggles with an identity crisis on some levels. She keeps trying to forge her own path, but can't escape the fact that she's a clone. The Stepford Cuckoos are in the same boat, although their efforts don't come off nearly as healthy.

It's a struggle that has been plaguing Laura since her creation, but the fact that she's at a point where she's uncertain about the merits of birthdays still counts as progress on some levels. While the details surrounding the plot are still fairly standard, X-23 #1 still succeeds in sending the message that Laura is still evolving and she's even making progress. Having a quirky little sister with a pet wolverine actually helps more than it complicates things.

Some of that progress still comes off as only partial, though. While X-23 #1 does plenty to create new conflicts, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. There's no explanation as to why Laura is going by X-23 instead of Wolverine. There's also little in terms of connections to the larger X-men continuity. Even though Laura and Gabby are current members of X-men Red, this affiliation has no real impact.

The story still succeeds enough in terms of putting Laura on a new path, one that will likely affect how she approaches future birthdays. Her growth, as a character, is beyond dispute at this point. She is every bit as entrenched in the X-men comics as Logan, Deadpool, and Doop. She still has plenty of room to grow and if she can just start seeing the world the same way Gabby sees snack food, then she'll be just fine.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, July 6, 2018

X-men Supreme Issue 171: High Evolution Part 3 PREVIEW!


These are desperate times for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Magneto is back with the mysterious High Evolutionary at his side. After disappearing at the conclusion of X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear, he’s returned with both his sanity and his willingness to end the human/mutant conflict once and for all. Whether it’s in the X-men comics or a fanfiction series, this is and always has been Magneto’s ultimate endgame. He doesn’t just seek to confront the issue. He seeks to win it for all of mutant kind.

That has dire implications for Professor Xavier and his X-men. They’ve already had a taste of those implications through clashes in Uprising, Overlord, Kings and Tyrants, and the Cambrian Explosion. At every turn, Magneto has shown a willingness to take bold chances and sacrifice innocent lives. His drive to solidify mutants as the dominant species on the planet is without parallel. Since X-men Supreme began, this is what I’ve built around Magneto’s character.

From the earliest days of X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution, I’ve had an endgame in mind for Magneto. It has changed and evolved over the years as this fanfiction series has developed. I knew that at some point, Magneto would have a chance to either achieve his ultimate goal or suffer complete defeat. The plans he hatched from Uprising to the Cambrian Explosion were stages, of sorts. To him, they were supposed to make the process of mutant ascension easier. Charles Xavier and his X-men made sure they weren’t.

The plan he has in mind for High Evolution is on a very different level. It is, and always has been, his ultimate backup plan. This is Magneto’s final recourse if the rest of his plans didn’t pan out or didn’t achieve what he wanted. That means he has left nothing to chance. He’s done everything within his considerable power to prevent Xavier and his X-men from thwarting him. Don’t expect him to make mistakes this time.

If that weren’t bad enough, Magneto is striking at a time when the X-men are at their weakest. Since the beginning of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, there has been a schism between Charles Xavier and Cyclops. While Xavier still leads the X-men under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative alongside General Grimshaw and President Kelly, Cyclops has formed his own team in X-Force. Their disagreement over the future of mutants have led to great upheavals, culminating in the recent attacks by Romulus in Crimes Against Inhumanity.

Those upheavals left the X-men and X-Force weakened. They also gave Magneto the perfect opportunity to send his message to an anxious, vulnerable world. Despite his past efforts to destroy the human race, many have heeded his calls. Many have jumped at the chance to join his ultimate plan to create a new world for mutants. One million lucky souls even managed to board transports that took them to this world, which he calls Asteroid M. The only price was that they had to become mutants.

However, Charles Xavier and his X-men know Magneto’s history better than anyone. They know that there’s always a higher price behind the promise. That price, combined with the unknowns surrounding the High Evolution, have created a situation that will push the X-men to their limits and beyond at the worst possible time. With the next issue, that time is just about to run out. As always, I’ve prepared a preview that should hint at just how bad it's going to get for the X-men.

“So where are you blokes from?” asked Psylocke to several new mutants as they lounged near the lake.

“Seoul, South Korea,” answered one with bluish-gray skin.

“Rome, Italy,” said a woman with glowing eyes.

“Johannesburg, South Africa,” said a young man no older than 13.

“New Jersey. If you don’t know the country, then how the fuck did you make it here?” said a stocky, middle-aged man wearing sunglasses.

Psylocke rolled her eyes. While many had undergone dramatic changes, some still hadn’t evolved out of their personality.

“And what made you want to come here?” she asked them.

“Life back home wasn’t getting any better,” said the South Korean solemnly, “I never fit in with my family or friends. I was always an outcast.”

“Same here. Plus, I had a criminal record that I could not escape,” said the Italian woman.

“I probably would have had one if I had stayed. That’s why my mother jumped at the first opportunity to get me here,” said the South African boy.

“So where’s your mom now? She get powers that make her invisible or something?” asked the guy from New Jersey.

“Actually…yes,” said the boy with a humored grin.

In a brief flash that caused the man to drop his beer, the boy’s mother appeared in front of him. She had been testing her new powers and returned to her son just in time to startle the immature man. It earned a round of laughs from the others. Even Psylocke found herself laughing.

They all had reasons for leaving Earth. Most of these reasons were perfectly valid. It seemed worth the price of becoming a mutant. So far, there had been no ill-effects of such a choice. That still didn’t mean it wasn’t a possibility and that’s what led Psylocke to probe deeper.

While Psylocke continued interacting with random people, the rest of the group surveyed the lake from afar. They saw few signs of distress. Everyone seemed perfectly happy with their new lives so far. If there was a threat, it wasn’t obvious just yet.

“How much longer is Psylocke going to keep mingling?” asked Domino, “Is this just her way of filling the void while her boyfriend is stuck on injured reserve?”

“You’re compassion for your fellow teammates is impeccable, Domino,” said Warpath dryly.

“It wasn’t an insult. I don’t get what she hopes to gain here. I’m starting to think we’re wasting our time.”

“It’s never a waste to make connections,” said Colossus.

“Sounds like a motto from the Russian mob,” quipped Domino.

“It is,” said the Russian, “These people did not conspire with Magneto from the beginning. They heard his call and they followed it. That makes them potential allies.”

“And enemies,” noted Warpath.

“That is true, but that only makes our efforts more important,” said Colossus, “If Kitty was here, she would point out that by making these people mutants, Magneto has effectively created a million-mutant army for himself.”

“And she would probably tell that right to everyone’s faces as well so maybe it’s a good thing she’s not here,” said Domino, which earned him a look from Colossus.

The team chemistry was still a work-in-progress. Joining X-Force with the X-men so abruptly made for a difficult transition. There was still tension between the two teams. It remained unspoken for the most part as they tried to stay focused on the mission. That was easier for some more than others.

“You’ve been pretty quiet, Storm. What’s your take? Are we wasting our time here or what?” asked Warpath.

“I wish I could offer some input, but I’ve been a bit distracted here,” said Storm, who kept shifting uncomfortably as she looked around.

“Is that because Warpath works up a sweat when he’s paranoid?” joked Domino, earning her yet another harsh scold.

“It’s because this artificial environment feels so…mechanical,” she said.

“Mechanical?” questioned Warpath.

“I wish Beast were here to offer a nine-syllable word to describe it. That’s all I can come up with because that’s how it feels to me,” she said as she gazed out over the lake, “My powers are closely connected to the forces of nature. However, there’s nothing natural about these forces. This lake, the sky, the air, the winds…they’re all so artificial.”

“How is it any different than the Danger Room?” asked Colossus.

“The Danger Room as a certain intricacy to it,” Storm went on, “That’s why it never bothers me. But everything here on Asteroid M feels like it’s guided. Every light breeze feels as though something or someone was placing it there.”

“Magneto always struck me as a control freak,” commented Warpath.

“Not like this,” she said, her voice sounding more distressed, “Magneto is the master of magnetism. Not the master of nature. I just don’t like how this feels. It’s like at any given moment, everything within this Asteroid could turn on us.”

Storm hugged her shoulders as more light breezes swept across the lake. Every other mutant seemed to enjoy it while it sent a shiver up the African woman’s spine. Warpath offered a comforting gesture, which tempted Domino to make another comment. A stern look from Colossus helped restrain her. If what Storm sensed was real, then it may offer some telling clues.

While they mused over Storm’s insights, Psylocke returned from her conversations with these new mutants. She looked just as unnerved as Storm. Apparently making connections hadn’t set her mind at ease.

“What’s wrong, Psylocke? Are the locals busting your chops that much?” asked Domino.

“Not really,” said Psylocke as she looked back at the five individuals she had just met, “In fact, everybody has been very polite. Even the ones who hated mutants before seem to have done an about face.”

“So then why do you look like they just threatened to drown you in this lake?” asked Warpath suspiciously.

“It’s their minds,” said Psylocke strongly, “They all sound like they’re completely in control of their faculties. However, I can’t pick up on any stray thoughts.”

“Could their minds be shielded?” asked Colossus.

“If they were, then I would have sensed it the moment we arrived,” Betsy reasoned, “They may have just gained amazing new powers, but they’re still ordinary blokes. There’s no way that every one of them could effectively guard their thoughts like this.”

“I take this means we may be dealing with a powerful psychic,” said Warpath.

“That’s where it gets even trickier,” she said cryptically, “Their minds may function normally, but the nuts and bolts don’t feel normal. If anything, they feel…”

“Artificial?” offered Storm.

Psylocke looked at Storm with a raised eyebrow. It sounded like she wasn’t the only one sensing this. It added to the mystery as well as the potential for danger.

“Since English is not my first language to begin with, I will assume that this is cause for concern,” said Colossus.

“It may run deeper than that, luv,” said Psylocke, “This whole world has the making of an elaborate circus act. Everything looks like a natural ecosystem. It may even function like one. But there’s definitely some other force at work here.”

“Then I suppose the important questions for us are how is it being controlled and who is doing the controlling?” said Storm.

“Why do we even need to ask who?” questioned Domino, “This is Magneto’s ploy last I checked.”

“That’s one assumption we probably shouldn’t make right now,” said Psylocke, “We know the kind of damage Magneto can is capable of. It’s the High Evolutionary that has me really worried.”


The High Evolution arc is a culmination of a great many stories I’ve been developing over the course of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. The X-men comics make numerous attempts at stories on that scale. Some never come to pass. Others have made for some of the greatest moments in the history of X-men. I want X-men Supreme to capture the spirit of the latter. That’s what I hope to do with this finals showdown between the X-men and Magneto.

The past, present, and future of this fanfiction series is about to change in a major way. Those changes are always risky in the X-men comics. The same holds true for X-men Supreme. As such, it’s more important than ever that I continue to get feedback. Please take the time to send me your reviews in whatever form you can. Either post them directly in the issue or contact me. Either way is fine as long as you review. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack