Monday, January 31, 2011

X-23 #5 - Sinister Caliber Awesome

This past week has been for X-men comics what a trip to Thailand is for a pedophile, a rare and wonderful wealth of material that puts a smile on your face and gets you off (albeit in a less messy sort of way). I know I usually only make two reviews a week. I sort of have to because God was too lazy to make the days longer than 24 hours and too cheap to devote one day exclusively to comics. So I've had to work within the limits imposed on me. I've already gotten a hand-written thank-you note from the CEO of Starbucks after keeping myself wired and alert longer than my body allows. Several organ systems are on the verge of failing, but it's all for a good cause! So many great books came out this past week and I just can't leave some of them unreviewed.

One of the issues that came out this week is X-23 #5. Now anyone who has been following this blog or sneaking peaks when their boss isn't looking at work knows I have a lot of love for the new X-23 series. I would put it right up there with Uncanny X-Force as one of the best series to spin out of the events of Second Coming. Marjorie Liu has done more than just picked up with X-23 where Craig Kyle and Chris Yost began. She's added a level of depth to Laura Kinney's character that hasn't been seen before. Not only that, in the last issue she put Gambit in a role that made him seem like less a douche-bag. That's an accomplishment worthy of presidential medal right there.

The last issue began a new arc with Laura on the road, basically wandering aimlessly like Jules said he would at the end of Pulp Fiction. It wasn't exactly productive in any sense. She met a young girl named Alice, who ended up getting killed. She then met up with Gambit who tried to offer her some direction. Then they had an encounter with the local police, which led them to an old west style town where they confronted Miss Sinister who was dressed in a way you won't see outside a Nevada brothel. She claims to know about Laura's mother and that's where this issue picks up.

Now the meeting is more than awkward. X-23 hasn't crossed paths with Sinister before. Gambit has and he knows that anyone with the Sinister surname is trouble in the same way getting in debt to a Russian loan shark is trouble. The boob-clad Sinister still carries herself as though she's a different person who happens to have Sinister's memories. It's hard to really tell how much bullshit or lack thereof is in that statement and that's what makes the scene so compelling. Laura wants answers and of course the only way she's getting them is if she follows Miss Sinister. That's like following a creepy 40-year-old into a windowless van because he says there's a puppy that shits candy inside. Gambit pulls her one way. Laura doesn't listen like the arrogant teenager she is at heart, which may have been Marjorie Liu's point. Whatever it is, it works well even if it is trouble.

Miss Sinister and her boobs leads them into the proverbial windowless van, which in this case is an elevator to a vast subterranean facility that would make Kobra Commander proud. It may sound a little cliched, but it's Sinister. If it wasn't this elaborate than I would be bitching about how out of character it is. Miss Sinister explains that after she was on the receiving end of Daken's claws in what can only be described as an act of extreme foreplay, her memory was jarred and she recalled this place. When she returned she found a lab full of children locked in suspended animation. It's not the sort of thing you would expect from a guy like Sinister unless he was planning to dissect them for a meal with Dr. Doom. This being a guy who is known for fucking around with clones, it actually makes a fair amount of sense.

The details of the story sound like something a politician would pull out of his ass after someone finds him with a dead hooker in the trunk of his car. Miss Sinister explains that her penis-wielding counterpart experimented on these kids during World War II. She claims not to know what he did with them, which is sort of like someone claiming that Elvis never did drugs. Whatever he did, he kept the children alive so when Miss Sinister found them she let them out and just let them live. She didn't do any experiments herself. She didn't invite MODOK and Magneto to join him in a game of real-life operation. She just became their caregiver, creating a little nursery for the kids to live their lives. It's like a world with Mr. Rogers if he had been a schizophrenic. She's still claiming she had no choice in this and that it was all Sinister, but most readers will find this about as convincing as Mel Gibson's apology to the Jews.

X-23 seems to ignore the finer details like a kid sleeping through first period algebra class. She questions Sinister about Alice, the girl who she thought was killed. She was told that she was sold or cast out somehow. Miss Sinister claims she was taken. Again, it's like OJ Simpson claiming he wasn't in LA when his wife was killed. She also questions her about her mother. On this subject it seems to be somewhat glossed over. She claims to know of a man named Malcome Colcord, who is trying to resurrect Weapon X. Granted, someone tries to do that in the X-comics ever third Tuesday, but she claimed Sinister worked with that man at one point and kept journals on the facilities that were the basis for the one that made her. So essentially, Miss Sinister has nothing on Laura's mother. She has information on the information the people Laura's mother worked for that made her. If that doesn't sound confusing then lay off the LSD.

Now this comes off as a little contrived because at the end of the last issue, Laura's mother was offered as a major hint to lure X-23 into Sinister's clutches. It was also a lure for the reader, offering promise of more insight into Laura's history. Now we get to this issue and the link Sinister claimed is indirect at best and esoteric at worst. It seems like it's been glossed over, something Marjorie Liu hasn't done with major details to this point. You could overlook it as just a way for Sinister to get Laura into her grasp, but it still comes off as a bit contrived. Maybe more will be revealed later, but there isn't even a hint that there's a deeper link here and that's disappointing.

So Laura gets her explanation and learns more about Alice. A normal person's reaction to getting all the answer in a nice package with a bow presented by a woman with a great rack would be content. Keep in mind Laura isn't just an abnormal person with an abnormal life of violence and mind-control. She's a teenage girl. Thinking straight is very low on her list of talents, listed just below using a credit card responsibly. That mean she decides to stay and find out if Miss Sinister is bullshitting her. Gambit stays too, knowing as well as any sane person that Laura is ill-equipped to handle this on her own. Already they get some clues. Apparently Miss Sinister isn't as healthy as she lets on and not in the sort of way you would expect a woman dressed like a hooker to be. They find that she left a trail of blood in her wake and it isn't because of a paper cut. For someone who was trained to shed blood from anyone who got in her way, that's a red flag.

Laura follows the trail of blood and it leads her back to Alice, the girl who led her into this mess in the first place. She finds out that Alice is a little unbalanced in a way you might find in a Tim Burton movie. She's actually reading books to a row of clones hovering in bio tanks. It's not like having tea time with stuffed animals. These are clones. X-23 is a clone and even she isn't that unhinged. She talks to Alice and she goes on about how she has memories of her past clones. That means she has memories of dying, which in and of itself would incur the kind of therapy that Charlie Sheen would find excessive. But she does offer one useful tidbit to X-23. She says she has memories of a man who liked to inject her with stuff and not in the kind of way you would find at a gay club in Amsterdam. She says the guy looked similar to Miss Sinister, which would be another red flag. It's usually at this point that the retarded heroes in the story start piecing it together.

Somehow while this is going on, Gambit slips away to what appears to be the facilities cafeteria. It's a little creepy, but still is the Ritz compared to the cafeteria at my old high school. It really isn't clear when Gambit and X-23 got separated. It's another one of those ambiguous transitions that were in the last issue. It's a bit confusing because it seems like Gambit just stopped following X-23 for no apparent reason and went wandering around like brain dead hamster in a maze. He makes small talk with the children and the women who help care for them (which may imply he wants to bone them). Then X-23 shows up again and says she needs to talk to him. Again, it's very confusing pacing and does somewhat disrupt the flow of the story.

Confusion aside, this little talk Laura insists on having with Gambit isn't much of a talk. That's not to say Laura puts on a corset and tempts Gambit in a way that he usually gives into like a fat guy in a donut shop. She brings up his past dealings with Sinister again. She starts giving him that puppy dog eye that teenage girls tend to give their fathers when they ask if they can go to a rock concert with four tattoo laden football players who were just released from prison on sexual assault charges. This somehow keys Gambit in (maybe because he's slept with so many girls of that nature) and finds out that Laura isn't Laura. It's actually Miss Sinister, trying to deceive him with a little shape shifting that would make Mystique sue for trademark infringement.

Gambit tries to fight her off, but is subdued in a way that is opposite to what scantily clad women usually do with him. She's immediately in position to give Gambit the Lorena Bobbet treatment. She reminds him that she's as resilient as Sinister. Killing her is like trying to nail jello to a tree. That doesn't stop X-23 from coming in and taking a stab at it. Remember that hint Alice dropped? Well that gave X-23 all the reason she needed to come in and give Sinister the business end of her claws.

It's a pretty bloody spectacle and it knocks Miss Sinister down for the count. She's undaunted even if she's bloodier than Tom Hanks at the end of Saving Private Ryan. Then she throws in a twist that even she doesn't seem to expect. Out of nowhere, her body shifts again. This time it isn't to deceive. In a rather gruesome transformation, her body reforms and she grows a penis to become none other than Mr. Sinister himself. That's right, old pasty face is back and looking more bad ass than ever. And when he see's Laura, he smiles in a way that will ensure that anyone who reads this issue will not sleep soundly for the next month or so. It's a sadistic yet awesomely fitting way to end the issue.

So the last issue ended with Miss Sinister showing up in a surprising yet disturbingly sexy way. This issue ends with Mr. Sinister showing up in a way that's just plain disturbing. It's a fitting follow-up that continues a theme, using Sinister to taunt and disturb both the readers and the characters. Marjorie Liu times this one perfectly, offering more ominous hints at the mystery that still surrounds this issue. It may not have been an epic brawl the entire issue, but what may be lacking in spectacle was more than made up for with mystery. Marjorie Liu brings Sinister into the X-23 series in a way that's compelling and believable. It also gives enough clues while concealing others to makes readers want to dance naked on a leash for the next issue. If Liu's goal was to hook readers for more issues, she definitely succeeded.

While this ending is compelling and well-done, this issue still continued the pacing troubles that the last issue had. It was a bit more apparent this time. From the moment X-23 and Gambit separate to the moment they converge on Sinister, it's a bit choppy at times. Some may find it a bit confusing. I had to read over it again just to make sure I understood the timing in which these events were occurring. It wasn't like trying to understand an episode of Lost, but it was still confusing in a way that distracted from the overall awesome of the issue.

Everything else was spot on for X-23 #5. Marjorie Liu is still great, breaking new grounds with X-23 and telling a compelling story filled with mystery, character, and boobs. X-23's story continues to become one of the most compelling X-stories on the racks right now. For this issue, however, I'm unable to give a perfect score. The whole pacing issue was just too much to overlook this time. So I'm left to give X-23 #5 a still respectable 4.5 out of 5. There's a lot to love about this issue and if you're an X-23 fan, you need to get it or get that tattoo of X-23 on your ass surgically removed. There's a long list of reasons to pick up the next issue. It all boils down to this just being a purely awesome series. Nuff said!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Uncanny X-Force #4 - A+ Awesome

Michael Bay discovered a winning formula for movies long ago. The equation was so simple that even Sarah Palin could understand it. Take a bunch of badass guys, a few hot chicks, and include a variable degree of space, explosions, and bloodshed and that all adds up to a kick-ass movie. Now unfortunately, Michael Bay forgot to add a little something called depth in his equation. That's what separates good movies like Transformers 1 from not-so-good movies like Transformers 2. Uncanny X-Force does follow this equation to some extent, but Rick Remender one-ups Michael Bay by adding the kind of depth that separates a quicky in a bathroom from some forty-year-old whore from a waffle house from a porn star orgy at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas.

Uncanny X-Force has taken the X-Force concept that was established by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost and turned it into one of the best X-books on the shelves using this model. This book spun right out of the events in Second Coming. Cyclops may have disbanded X-Force, but Wolverine still saw the need to have a team that will go out and kill the assholes who don't care for the whole mercy concept that heroes often impose. Their first target is no lightweight. X-Force's first mission involves none other than cherry lips himself, Apocalypse.

For the first three issues, Rick Remender has avoided the temptations that Michael Bay would have otherwise given into like Lindsey Lohan at a Colombian dance club. He took some time to develop a dynamic between these characters. Apocalypse isn't just an enemy. He's someone who has ties to Angel, who wrestles with his Arcangel persona constantly. That's led to a renewal of his relationship with Psylocke, who has to wrestle with the idea of fighting him should Arcangel overtake the Angel. It added extra motivation for her when X-Force traveled to the moon in search of Clan Akkaba, who were believed to be giving Apocalypse the Jean Grey treatment. Psylocke left Arcangel, Wolverine, Fantomex, and Deadpool behind to deal with Apocalypse's horsemen while she went after the mac daddy of Ancient Egypt. When she finally found him, she was shocked to see that the Apocalypse they were looking to put six feet under was just a kid. Even if you're part of a kill squad, the stakes change when you have to kill a kid. Not everyone can be as comfortable with it as Ted Bundie in a sorority house.

Uncanny X-Force #4 doesn't start with Betsy though. It goes right back to Wolverine and the others, who were on the receiving end of Apocalypse's horsemen. That's like being tackled by James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers without any pads and no referee to throw the yellow flag. Wolverine ends up having to drag Fantomex's French ass out of a pile of rubble, which must be a metaphor for World War II in some respects, and politely reminds him that Clan Akkaba's ship is about to teleport away with Psylocke inside it. And by politely remind I mean to say he calls Fantomex and I quote "a faux French son-of-a-bitch." This is about as polite as Wolverine can be so Fantomex kindly obliges and uses EVA to stop the ship from teleporting away.

Wolverine's manners aside, Fantomex bought X-Force some time. With that time, Arcangel and Deadpool are still trying to get back in the fight. In the last issue Arcangel was wounded and Deadpool pulled him away so he could get his act together. Now Deadpool doing first aid is like Ray Charles doing brain surgery. He's not someone you would want to trust with your health. However, Arcangel is no condition to contact his insurance provider so they can screw him over. Deadpool is helping Arcangel recover by making him eat. What's he feeding him? How about bits and pieces of his own flesh? No, that's not a typo or some lame setup for a dick joke. Deadpool is actually cutting off slabs of flesh and force feeding it to Arcangel. I'm not sure if this counts as cannibalism, but damn it if it isn't badass. Only Deadpool can make something as taboo as cannibalism funny as hell.

While X-Force is getting their act together and channeling their inner Jeffery Dahlmer, Clan Akkaba is getting more pissed off than MC Hammer's accountant. Fantomex tricked the ship into thinking it already teleported away. It didn't. He did the equivalent of fucking up their GPS while they were stranded in the middle of Rapeville, Texas. The residents in this case are worse than hillbillies drunk on moonshine. Fresh from their dealings with the four horsemen, Wolverine and Fantomex dive in and give Clan Akkaba the Charlie Sheen porn star treatment. After getting their asses served to them with a side of fries in the last issue, it's a thing of beauty.

Clan Akkaba doesn't take it like Saudi housemaid though. They call in reinforcements and they seem to do the trick. At one point it seems Wolverine and Fantomex are reenacting the Alamo or something because they're outnumbered and outgunned. No amount of badassery can overcome sheer numbers. Just as no amount of faith can stop a bullet. Just ask the Pope (the old one). Wolverine and Fantomex get their asses handed to them again, this time with a side of shrimp cocktail laced with Devil Spit hot sauce. That's because they conveniently forgot about the Four Horsemen, who so thoroughly beat them up in the last issue.

However, Wolverine and Fantomex actually employ a little strategy this time. Michael Bay should take note. Remember how Fantomex used EVA to hot wire the ships teleportation systems? Well that wasn't just some contrived plot to buy more time, which is why I didn't make a poop joke about it earlier. That little trick was part of a tactic and with it, Fantomex uses Clan Akkaba's own ship to teleport them to a distant planet where they'll be about as much a threat as David Hasselhoff's at the Oscars. It's a snide trick and one that demonstrates a solid twist in the action. It's like getting a free hand job from a masseuse and not nearly as messy.

Some witty dialog later and we catch up with Deadpool and Arcangel. While Wolverine and Fantomex take out the horsemen, these two take out Clan Akkaba's head hancho. While he's boiling in his own piss at how he just got pwned, Deadpool and Arcangel rub salt in the wound by taking him out of the fight in the same way Manny Pacquiao takes out people in a boxing ring. Except Deadpool and Archangel are a little less violent. There's only so far a mutant kill squad can go sadly.

Now that Clan Akkaba is as inept as the Tunisian government, Arcangel and Deadpool meet up with Wolverine and Fantomex. They've taken out the horsemen. They've beat down on Clan Akkaba like an Eastern European housewife. That only leaves Apocalypse. Now keep in mind Psylocke went ahead of them and tried to take him out earlier. Well when the others catch up to her, they're understandably confused when they find a creepy looking kid who could easily win himself a role in a direct-to-DVD sequel of The Shining. Almost as creepy is Psylocke is defending him.

Now granted, it takes stones to defend a kid so creepy he looks like he belongs in an Anthony Hopkins horror flick. But Psylocke makes it clear that no one is going to harm him. To her he's a child who is being influenced by Clan Akkaba. He's like a kid who had to grow up with Michael Jackson. Even if he is Apocalypse, killing him wouldn't be proactive. It would just be an act of douche-baggery. This does not go over well with Arcangel, who Psylocke ironically said she would protect from Apocalypse. He's still royally pissed at Apocalypse for the whole evil body mind control. I know, some people just can't let certain shit go. So in an act that's sure to earn them some couple's therapy and banishment to the couch, Arcangel attacks Psylocke in an effort to get to Apocalypse.

He's not the only one either. While Arcangel has Psylocke occupied, Wolverine is in a position to finish the job. He's killed plenty of people before so why should killing Apocalypse, a guy who once turned him into a horsemen, be worth losing any sleep over? Well Wolverine may be a dick at times, but he's not without honor. And for some reason killing a kid isn't that honorable. So he stands down. Psylocke also gets the better of Arcangel, which should indicate who gets to be on top during sex. She still stands down before giving her lover the ultimate face piercing. She's not about to kill her boyfriend for some kid who may or may not be an evil tyrant in the making.

Then Arcangel does to his teammates what Fantomex did to the horsemen. He pulls a fast one and basically shoves his girlfriend and Wolverine aside. He then goes for Apocalypse, looking as pissed as the Catholic Church towards that new Skins show on MTV. He's in position to put him in permanent time out. Nothing is stopping him. Then at the last minute, he goes from roid rage to soaking pussy. Arcangel may be pissed, but he's still got some Angel in him. That Angel is enough to pull him back from doing the ultimate move in being a dick. Psylocke consoles him, hinting that he might not be banished to the couch after all. Wolverine discusses plans to take Apocalypse back with him. They may be able to do what Ted Williams couldn't and rehabilitate him.

It could make for a very interesting story, X-Force trying to make Apocalypse something other than the alpha douche that the X-men have always known. Imagine what it would be like, Apocalypse on the side of the X-men. Magneto changed his tune. Why not the X-men? They would be unstoppable!

Well as you may expect, that doesn't happen. Since Wolverine, Psylocke, and Arcangel won't do it, someone else has to step up and be the asshole. Now you think Deadpool would be that guy. Well he's crazy, but not an asshole. Fantomex on the other hand...well, he's French. So he's okay with being the dick that no one else will be. How big a dick is he? He shoots kid Apocalypse right in the head. That's right, Fantomex executes a kid. Granted, it's an evil kid who looks too creepy for Brad and Angelina to adopt. But he's still a kid. It's a powerful moment and one that would silence an entire world if they weren't already on the freakin' moon.

It makes for a striking and ominous ending. X-Force leaves Clan Akkaba and kid Apocalypse behind. They then fly back to Earth. Nobody says a word. It gives the impressing that the ride back is wrought with the most awkward silence in history. It's hard to really tell here what the characters are feeling. I think that's the point for Remender. By not saying anything or even showing any thought bubbles, you get a feel for just how conflicted X-Force is. They began this series resolved to the fact that they were going to kill threats before they screwed them over. Apocalypse is a pretty big threat so you would think that they wouldn't have to worry too much about moral implications of killing that asshole. Well in the face of a chance to kill him, most of them couldn't do it. When someone did, it was awkward as hell.

It's a very conflicted yet fitting ending for the first arc in this series. Rick Remender could have easily just had X-Force storm in like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando and mow down Apocalypse like he was a Nazi in a World War II video game. That would have been too easy. Instead, he revealed that maybe this team of killers aren't as mentally equipped to be killers as they let on. They're painfully human. When confronted with a situation, they're not always able to do what needs to be done. Bear in mind this was their first mission and it was against freakin' Apocalypse of all people. If they can't be proactive and kill him without it being awkward, then how are they going to handle future missions?

It's a profound ending and one that goes beyond the action within the issue, which in and of itself is pretty damn awesome. Rick Remender is working with a team of hardened X-men, yet he doesn't portray them as such. In the end he doesn't show them to be part of a kill squad. He shows them to be painfully human, which makes them more X-men than X-Force in a sense. That made Fantomex giving kid Apocalypse the mafia neck tie feel all the more profound. It strikes the team and it strikes the reader. Normally a story that involves X-Force or Apocalypse isn't that complex, but Rick Remender pulls it off beautifully.

So the first arc of Uncanny X-Force is over and with this issue, I have a hard time finding something to criticize. Everything about it was flawless. The dialog was great, the action was great, the characterization was spot on, and the ending was deep and profound. I hate to keep bringing up Michael Bay, but Rick Remender should sign and mail him this first arc of Uncanny X-Force with a note saying that this is how you do over-the-top action stories with killers, hot chicks, and aliens. Of all the new series to emerge in wake of Second Coming, this is by far the best. So for Uncanny X-Force #4, I give it a perfect 5 out of 5. If you buy only one X-book a month, Uncanny X-Force is the way to go. Nuff said!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Uncanny X-men #532 - Bargaining For Awesome

It's that time again! A new issue of Uncanny X-men has come out and I know many here are expecting me to make no fewer than three poop jokes about it and Matt Fraction's writing. As I've said before, I have nothing against Matt Fraction. I think he's a great writer. If he showed up at my door right now I'd invite him to come in, smoke a few joints, and watch my 80s porno collection. My problem with his run in Uncanny has been his handling of certain characters and being painfully bias in his writing. Now that it's been confirmed that he's leaving Uncanny and co-writer Kieron Gillen is taking over, I'm inclined to cut him a bit more slack. However, that doesn't mean I'll overlook some of the recent issues with this title.

The last few issues have been marked by some marginal improvements. The Quarantine arc has several major plots going on at once. Once involves John Sublime creating his own version of the X-men in the same way Wendy's created it's own version of the Big Mac with the Wopper. A plot that is somehow related to this (albeit in an overly vague manner) is some mysterious outbreak of flu that has come over Utopia, hence forcing a Quarantine to protect against spreading it to humans. Okay, so the title might not win points for originality, but it's been more than your random cough. This disease is actually suppressing the powers of those it infects, including Wolverine. Never mind that the virus sounds suspiciously like the Legacy Virus which was done over a decade ago. It's caused the few remaining X-men that are off the island, which consists of Dazzler, Storm, Angel, Pixie, and Northstar to pick up the slack. They have their work cut out for them because at the same time Collective Man has been doing to Chinatown what Ricky Gervais did to the Golden Globes, fuck it up and make it more exciting.

Then there's the Emma Frost story. Boy have I been beating up on the Emma Frost story and not in the way that involves a box of tissues and a bottle of baby oil. One of the biggest knocks I've had about Matt Fraction's run is how he's handled Emma Frost. After seeing her development under Grant Morrison and Joss Whedon it's been pretty infuriating. Ever since he took over, he's made Emma Frost the blond Jean Grey. She's lost her edge, now essentially playing the role of Cyclops's arm candy. Every time she talks it's only to coo over Cyclops or make witty comments about anyone around her. She doesn't have that same snide persona that made her so interesting and every time a plot comes along that has the potential to make Emma interesting (namely Namor wanting to navigate her ocean), it's pretty much ignored. Fraction seems allergic to doing anything that will make Emma less palpable as Cyclops's girlfriend and has essentially neutered her in the same way Lorena Bobbet neutered her husband.

Now that I've got that rant out of my system, I'll tack on that Fraction has at least been trying to make Emma's story more meaningful in the last few issues. Her story involves Sebastien Shaw, the guy who pretty much made her who she is. She's been keeping a secret from Cyclops and the X-men. She's had Shaw locked up in the brig as a prisoner and only a handful of people know about it. She enlisted Kitty and Fantomex to help her deal with it by getting Shaw off the island and away from Utopia. That idea was about as good as the idea for New Coke. The last issue ended with Fantomex dropping him out of the sky from their UFO-shaped aircraft. This issue begins with the direct aftermath of that decision, namely Shaw demonstrating his absorption powers and how he can use it to ruin your day.

The story then shifts from one guy who will fuck your shit up to another guy who can do it five times over. The story with the Collective Man has been unfolding in a rather spotty manner for the past few issues, but here he's taken his role as top (uneaten) dog in Chinatown. So the X-men not currently puking their guts up from the flu take it upon themselves to give him the Korean restaurant treatment. Storm, Northstar, Angel, Pixie, and Dazzler are tasked with the job and somehow between this issue and the previous, they found the guy. Now I looked back over the last issue and was confused. How the hell did they catch up with him? Did I miss something? If you're confused, don't change your meds. Assume Marvel is just trying to combat the rising price of ink and get right to the action. There's nothing wrong with that other than it makes the scene feel a little contrived.

Since the regular X-men aren't doing much to reign the Collective Man in, the new X-men take a shot. In the last issue John Sublime took five randomly chosen teenagers that he probably found on Craigslist and gave them powers so they could be the new X-men. He pretty much ripped off the Original Five, giving the same powers and costumes of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, and Iceman to these kids. They've been carrying on like a bunch of groupies who just got a backstage pass to a Justin Bieber concert. Now they have a chance to prove their worth.

They quickly prove they're worth about as much as MC Hammer's finance skills. Collective Man rips into them the same way Ike Turner rips into a new girlfriend. They don't even get a chance to use their powers. They're taken out like school kids being robbed of their lunch money. It's a pretty weak scene. You would expect these kids who are all giddy to use their powers to at least try. I get that they're inexperienced, but Fraction and Gillen pretty much glossed over them. It was quite a let-down.

The other X-men help make up for it though. They also make up for their early ineptitude by actually using a little strategy for once. Pixie uses her teleportation powers while Dazzler channels the spectacle of a million Lady Gaga concerts. She essentially beams Collective Man a hundred feet into the air so that he has to recollect himself to survive the fall. Then Angel comes in to knock him out. It's a simple strategy, one that's so effective it makes you wonder why they didn't try this in the beginning. Then again maybe they just needed a team of X-men knock-offs to show them how NOT to kick ass. Whatever the case, they retrieved much of their dignity. The same can't be said for Collective Man, who ends up as decimated as Jim Carey's Oscar chances.

So that's it for the Collective Man story. It's a little rushed, but if you expected Collective Man to beat even a reserve team of X-men then you need to turn over your X-men fan-card along with one of your testicles (or butt cheek if you're a girl). There's some nice banter amongst the team as they stand over Collective Man in the same way hillbillies stand over a keg of moonshine. They prove that the X-men can be effective even when some are too sick to kick ass. By beating Collective Man, they're also able to focus on this new team of X-men. They're still out cold and come off as menacing as a box of kittens. So now they have to figure out what to do with them and who they need to rough up next. I'm sure the X-men have copyrighted their image and have a brand to protect.

Part of protecting that brand brings the story to the X-men's new PR crew. This is a side-plot that began in the previous arc and to this point it's been like the national debt, kept on the back-burner and barely mentioned in passing conversation. Now the PR team that Iceman hired a few issues ago finally starts to pull their weight. They hold a press conference with a bunch of reporters and their lead spokesperson, who happens to be a pretty blond because who can belittle someone that's pretty enough to bone, informs the public that an outbreak of flu has come over Utopia. The island is on quarantine and she reassures everybody that the virus can't infect humans.

Naturally, the press is about as fair as Fox News on the subject. They grill her for essentially doing what all media people do, which is bullshitting the public. So to shut these people up and give Glenn Beck one less thing to cry about, she does something that makes her by far the ballsiest PR person in history. She lets Dr. Rao inject her with the virus. It would be like President Obama's press secretary allowing Bill O'Reily sort through his porno subscriptions. It doesn't get her sick and it placates the public. That or they're just rendered speechless by the collapse of their collective scrotum.

With one less issue to worry about, a very sick Cyclops has a teleconference with John Sublime. Now again, it's not clear how they figured out it was the Sublime Corporation that made these new X-men. It's not even clear if they've figured that out yet and Sublime is just calling the X-men on a whim. This lack of clarity seems to be a theme among the Sublime plot. At least with this scene, the big picture is laid out.

Sublime comes off as the most evil person anyone can imagine...a greedy businessman. To hell with Magneto, Sinister, and Apocalypse. Few things are more evil than someone who thinks Gordon Gecko is Jesus Christ. There's a method to Sublime's madness. He wants to profit from the X-gene. He wants 100 percent rights to exploit the X-gene in the same way Apple wants 100 percent of the rights over all it's products. Anyone who can't use Flash on their Iphone knows how fucked up that is. In exchange, Sublime is offering a cure for the mutant flu. All he needs to do is have Cyclops come over and sign some papers to make it official. It's worse than a deal with the devil. At least the devil only takes your soul. He doesn't get filthy rich off it. In that sense Sublime becomes by far one of the most devious enemies the X-men have faced since Bastion.

So not only is Cyclops feeling shitty. He has to weigh the options of signing a shitty deal versus watching his mutant brethren suffer from a shitty plague. It's as no win as you can get without sending your bank account number to a Nigerian businessman. So Cyclops has to figure out how he's going to deal with this. His only lead at the moment are the team of faux X-men that the others captured. Even though they got their asses handed to them by Collective Man, they're still carrying on like Twilight fans in Robert Pattinson's bathroom. They actually think it's cool they've been captured by the X-men. I know they're normal teenagers and all, but at this point that fanboy attitude is getting annoying. It was cute a few issues ago. Now it's wearing thin. So some readers may feel happy when Cyclops decides to scare the living shit out of them by putting them in the same room as a sick Wolverine. Even though he can't use his claws because of the virus, he's still a mean son-of-a-bitch and not above giving these fans the George Lucas treatment.

Sadly, we don't get to see if the new X-men shit their pants. Instead we revisit the Emma Frost plot. If you'll recall, Fantomex made the shitty decision to throw Shaw out of the jet. Now he's powered up with a metric fuckton of kinetic energy. He's still making light of his decision with Emma Frost. That or he's trying to get into her pants. It could go either way because Fantomex tries to nail every woman in the X-men. However, Shaw comes in and demonstrates why his decision was so shitty. He hits him so hard that he may end up landing in a different time zone, leaving Emma without someone to belittle for once.

Then it's just Shaw and Emma. Shaw grabs her in her diamond form so she can't use her telepathy to mind fuck him again like she did before. He then holds her the same way Michael Vick holds dogs, pinning her against the wrecked ship and preparing to give her the drunk Charlie Sheen treatment. Seeing as how Emma kept him a prisoner and twisted his mind, it seems perfectly reasonable for him to be upset. Even so, the mere fact that Matt Fraction is writing this book makes it a pretty safe assumption that Emma Frost is going to come out of this unscathed. In that sense the final page doesn't have much suspense. We don't know what may happen with the Sublime Corporation, but we do know that Emma Frost will find a way to come out of this looking golden. Fraction isn't off this book yet so we're left to expect the least interesting and most eye-rolling ending possible. It's sad, but Fraction has yet to prove this notion wrong.

It's that very predictability that has plagued Uncanny X-men during Matt Fraction's run. He and Gillen did a lot of good work with the story surrounding Sublime, but the Emma story is painfully contrived. Anyone who has followed Uncanny for the past few years knows how this ends. Every time it looks like Emma is going to do something extreme, she ends up being Fraction's golden girl again. Forming the Dark X-men didn't do anything. She ended up back in Cyclops's arms, cooing like a school girl. She's had her moments in this arc, but there's nothing to believe that she'll come out any more damaged than she already is. This won't affect her relationship with Cyclops. It won't affect her status with the X-men. It won't even change how much people trust her. To do otherwise would go against the unofficial policy of making Emma Frost as innocent as someone with her history can be.

The Emma plot may be shamelessly predictable, but at least the Sublime story was engaging and intriguing. It was nice to see other X-men like Dazzler, Northstar, and Storm shine in the battle against Collective Man. It was also nice to see how the X-men dealt with the PR surrounding the flu. It's one of those little things that may not seem like much, but it really gives a sense that Fraction and Gillen are making the X-men more like the superheroes they are rather than part of a dying species. The whole plot to profit from the X-gene is a pretty novel idea and one that is actually believable. Because let's face it, if the X-gene was real someone would try to make billions off it. That's America for you. People find ways to profit off of everything even if it is comes off as horribly dickish. It was still pretty lame how the new X-men failed so easily, but being captured and interrogated by Wolverine holds the promise of a good life lesson coupled with soiled underwear for these youths. That alone makes the next issue worth picking up.

Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen have done a lot of good things with this issue, but there are still some old habits they've yet to escape. The Quarantine arc is almost over. The Emma plot may fizzle, but the Sublime story is definitely more interesting now. For that, I can't help but give them their dues. You don't get the Uncanny writing gig unless you have some talent going for you and these guys definitely showed it here. Factoring this in with the shot list of miscues, I give Uncanny X-men #532 a 3.5 out of 5. This issue is not bad, but it's not great either. It's worth picking up and it'll make you want to read the next issue. That's my take and I'm sticking to it. Nuff said.

Friday, January 28, 2011

X-men Supreme Issue 25: Power Play is LIVE!

It's that time again! No more teasing and no more hyping! The X-men Supreme fanfiction series continues today! The first arc of X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers is complete. Family and Fiends set this next phase in this fanfiction series into motion. Now X-men Supreme continues to unravel the events that have spun from the events of Volume 1: Mutant Revolution. The world of X-men Supreme is differnt now. Magneto is in prison. Genosha is subject to a military occupation. The mutants that Magneto recruited did not get what was promised to them. The only leader they have left is Wanda Maximoff and it's not yet clear if she can fill her father's shoes. The X-men have a new member in Nightcrawler, but they still have old battles to fight. That's where this new issue comes in!

Issue 25: Power Play

X-men Supreme is about more than just the X-men. It's an entire world with political, social, and economic ramifications that go beyond mere heroics. This fanfiction series is on a large scale so I'll be doing my best to cover that world and beyond. I know it's still early for X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers. It's a given that changes will come, but beyond those changes will be a general evolution of the world surrounding the X-men. This one issue should offer a brief taste of that world. There are plenty more to come! Some major events and some new characters will show up. You'll see!

As always, I strongly encourage everyone to read and review each issue I post. There's a lot going on in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series and I want to make it as good as it can possibly be. In order to do that, I need feedback. Please post it in the comments section for each issue or contact me with your questions or concerns. Thanks to all those who have commented thus far! I hope more follow your lead. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

X-POSITION: Nick Lowe - My Questions Asked...Sort Of

As always, I get giddy as a school-girl who skipped her Riddlin dose when my questions get asked in Comic Book Resource's weekly X-POSITION series. I try to submit them as often as I can. I don't just do it because I like having my name shown. I have questions that I need answered, damn it! And Marvel remains the ultimate gatekeeper so I ask away.


This week Nick Lowe is the one answering the call. He's not known for being very articulate or serious. At times he comes off as Jim Carey in the Mask. He may think it's cute and all, but some fans are serious. We're passionate about our X-men comics and we appreciate it when the creators are serious as well (to a point). I originally asked four questions. When an editor is on board, he's usually in a position to know more. Anyone who has ever worked in publishing knows that writers may get their names on the material, but in the grand scheme of things the writers are the hos and the editors are the pimps. Now that Nick Lowe is the top editor in the X-office, he's essentially the X-men's top pimp. Unfortunately, of the four questions I asked only two got answered.

On the topic of the mansion, MarvelMaster616 was curious about the fella whose name is on the front gates of the palatial estate.

1) Are there plans for Professor Xavier? He hasn't been active lately. Will he work his way back into the X-Men sometime this year?

2) How will "Fear Itself" be tied into the other X-Men titles? Will there be tie-in issues, separate miniseries, or will we not see the effects of the event until it's all over? 

1) MM616! There are some plans for Professor X. It's not a solo book or anything, but he's got a role in a few upcoming places.

2) "Fear Itself" will indeed have some X-Men stuff going on, both in the pages of monthly books and in separate miniseries. It's really exciting stuff. (HINT: Warlock is getting a helmet fitted.)

They were short answers, but they were short questions to begin with and Mr. Lowe didn't beat around the bush. I have been genuinely curious as to what the hell Professor Xavier is up to in the X-books. He literally put the X in X-men and he's been doing jack shit in the books for years. The most he did recently was unleash his schizophrenic son on Bastion in Second Coming. You would think the guy got killed off at some point, but he's still alive. He's just taking a back seat to Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magneto, Wolverine, Pixie, and hell even Squirrel Girl gets more attention than him. So it's nice to know he's got a role coming up soon. I hope he delivers.

The second question about Fear Itself was pure logistics. Usually when these events come out I need to have a sit-down with my wallet to discuss which books I want to buy and which books I CAN buy. Since Fear Itself is actually going to bleed into the monthly books that may make it easier. My wallet still hates me though and will probably put shit in my slippers when it gets a chance. Thta's what yo uhave to deal with as a comic fan.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking at this point. "MarvelMaster616, you always try to squeeze in a Jean/Hope question. What gives? Are you high again?" Well only part of those questions may be valid, but I'm not too high to forget the issue I can't stop bitching about. I did actually ask it, but it was not listed in the X-POSITION. That doesn't mean it was ignored though. Apparently, I'm not the only one for who this issue is like a thorn sticking out of my scrotum. A fellow X-men fan named Ramelito asked my question and was a bit more articulate about it.

Hi Nick! Congrats on the big promotion! I've been enjoying pretty much everything the X-office is putting out, so I hope you'll forgive me if my questions sound a bit negative, but I'm hoping you can give me your take on the following:

1) "Generation Hope" #3 dropped another hint that Hope and Jean may be linked. This is something that has been teased since Hope was first born. How long do you think a comic can tease a mystery before fans stop caring? I'm not asking this to be rude, but at some point, something that's over-teased creates unrealistic expectations for fans and the truth can be a let-down (for example, Wolverine's true origin which was teased for 30+ years). What are your thoughts on the sustaining of a tease?

Thank you for the kind words, Ramelito. I couldn't agree more about how good the X-books are right now. They're going to get even better this year once you all hear what we've got coming! To answer your first question, I'm going to have to ask you to turn in your X-Men Fan Club Card. An X-fan saying that we've been teasing something too long? The Summers Brother thing, the betrayer thread and many other story teases went on much longer than this has. As far as Hope goes, there are certainly hints being laid about a certain firey bird-like shaped thing. We definitely have wheels in motion, but I can't give you a target date or anything like that.

There was another question he asked, but this is the one that stuck out most. Rather than try to be as articulate as Ramelito, I'll just up and say it pissed me off. Nick Lowe is essentially making light of dragging out a plot for which the hints and teases have been so horribly blatant that he might as well be hiring thugs from the Sicilian mob to go door-to-door to each X-men fan's house and beat them upside the head with a lead pipe. The hints dropped about Hope and Jean being linked haven't just been teases. They've been painfully blatant. Hope looks like Jean, she acts like Jean (especially her New X-men incarnation from the Grant Morrison run), she dresses like Jean, she has the same hair-style as Jean, and as Second Coming affirmed she has a connection to the Phoenix Force like Jean. Even Rachel freakin' Grey has more features to set her apart. 

The latest issue of Generation Hope #3 dropped another hint, one that might as well have replaced Hope with Jean for a moment because it would be the exact same thing. There's a difference between the teases of stories like the third Summers brother or Logan's past. Those were more subtle. In fact, the third Summers brother was hinted at only once by Sinister in some obscure comic and not mentioned again for years. Hope Summers has been teased at being Jean Grey on a routine basis since Messiah Complex unfolded three years ago. The teases haven't been subtle. They've been so painfully obvious that it's really hard to tell Jean and Hope apart at times. The fact Nick Lowe acknowledges that they've dropped hints is essentially an admission that they're not done teasing yet. The comments about dragging it out only imply they're going to wait as long as possible before they ever sort this out.

Think about that. Another few years of this Hope/Jean shit. You pick up a book and it looks like Jean, it acts like Jean, and if the books could sweat it would smell like Jean too. But they're not saying Hope is Jean. It's like Marvel refusing to acknowledge a 900 pound gorilla taking a shit in it's hand and rubbing it in their faces, yet refusing to acknowledge that anything is amiss. To essentially drop hints that are so blatant yet completely ignore them is not a sign that should be classified as good or even logical.

Then there are the far darker implications. Say Marvel does drag out the Hope/Jean issue for years. Then when they finally get around to it they make it so Hope and Phoenix have a connection, but Jean Grey is completely absent. They essentially ignore Jean completely, pushing her out of the equation and only keeping Phoenix. That would be the last straw. To basically make a character that's pretty much a Jean knock-off, give her the most defining element people associate with Jean with the Phoenix, and then completely separate her from the mix would the comic book equivalent of treason by pedophilia. Hope already has the Phoenix. That's been confirmed so there's no going back there. But Phoenix is and always has been associated with Jean Grey. There's no way around that. To try and use the Phoenix without bringing Jean Grey back is trying to have your cake and eat it too. It's Marvel's way to try and capitalize on Jean's popularity without having to bring her back and do all the hard work associated with it. If Hope is just a Jean replacement, then she's not much of a character. Should Marvel do this, making Hope and Phoenix without Jean Grey, then I'm done. I'm finished. I'm not buying another Marvel comic again and I'm closing this blog. That's not a joke or an idle threat. I will close this blog and never post another review. I'll still work on my website, but I'm done with Marvel comics. I hope they're not that stupid, but I've been wrong before. The mere fact that Hope being Jean makes so much sense leads me to believe Marvel won't go that route. They'll try to pull a fast one and if they do, I'm done. You can wax my chest, cut off my balls, put a wig on my head, and call me Liza Benili. I'm done.

Glad to get that out of my system. I'll keep asking these questions and hope the answer comes soon. I would like 2011 it be the year when I don't have to keep messing up Hope and Jean. I'm willing to wait a bit longer for the answers if necessary, but I have my limits and I'd rather not test them. Nuff said.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

X-men Supreme Update - New Panel for Issue 10: Revenge of Weapon X Part 1

Time for another update! The X-men Supreme fanfiction series is still moving along at it's regular pace, but as always whenever I get a new piece of art for the pics section that I just have to share I make it known! X-men Supreme can't be like regular fanfiction and rely solely on words. That's why I've gone out of my way and spent time and money to commission artwork that captures the awesome of X-men Supreme. Once again, it's Brian Brinlee who contributes to the X-men Supreme fanfiction series with his talent. He's done numerous pieces to date and his latest takes place in Issue 10: Revenge of Weapon X Part 1 from X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution. You can marvel in it's awesomeness in the pics section or see it right here!

This pic covers one of the most pivotal moments of the issue. Weapon X had stormed the Xavier Institute in a surprise attack. At first the X-men were able to hold them off. The turning point game when Storm was shot. It horrifed Beast and emboldened the forces of Weapon X. It was the beginning of the X-men's lowest moments in the series to that point. They ended up being captured and Weapon X demonstrated why they were a force to be reckoned with. Brian Brinlee really captured the spectacle of the moment here and did a fantastic job with the colors. Once again, X-men Supreme is in his debt. Thanks Brian!

As always, I encourage anyone else who wants to submit artwork to this site to do so. Please contact me at any time if you wish to contribute. I'll be happy to post it, give you credit, and praise you as I have done with Mr. Brinlee. Also, don't forget to comment on past, present, and future issues of X-men Supreme! There's plenty coming at the end of this week and the weeks that follow. Until then, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Wolverine and Jubilee #1 - A Not-So-Hidden Gem of Awesome

When I finished reading the Curse of the Mutants story (also known as Mutants vs Vampires or shamelessly-cashing-in-on-vampire-craze), I felt like someone who paid top dollar to see Eminem live in concert only to get Vanilla Ice instead. It was a real downer. I ended up stuffing the book in my collection between the Spider-Man Clone Saga and some old Playboys featuring Anna Nichole Smith before she got fat. However, this book was not completely without redemption. There was some lumps of gold within the piles of shit.

At the end of Curse of the Mutants, Jubilee was left a vampire. She was essentially cast out by the vampires that recruited her and the X-men took her into custody. Because she's got a new thirst for blood in the same way Twilight fans have a thirst for Robert Pattinson's semen, she was deemed too dangerous to be left to her own devices. So they imprisoned her in the brig, leaving Jubilee's character in a completely different and much more interesting state. Since House of M, she's been powerless and pretty much marginalized. For anyone who was fond of the feisty teenage girl that captured your heart in a non-pedophilic way, it's been a rough go. So seeing her back with the X-men in any capacity and in a somewhat more badass state is more welcome than a stripper at a Nickelback concert.

This is where the Wolverine and Jubilee mini-series comes in. This new series picks up right where Curse of the Mutants left off with Jubilee. Her life is now at a crossroads and no one is really sure what to do with her. Since Wolverine has always been a big part of her life (again, in a non-pedophillic way), it makes sense for him to be the one that helps her. It brings back that old side-kick dynamic between Wolverine and Jubilee that the X-books have seriously been missing since Bill Clinton was still in office.

Wolverine and Jubilee #1 begins shortly after the last pages of Curse of the Mutants, which had Jubilee imprisoned in the brig. She's not very thrilled about it and it's hard to tell if that's because of her new vampire side or if she's just generally pissed about being a prisoner. It could go either way. Basically what they've been doing is use Wolverine's blood and infused it with Jubilee's so her vampire side could be suppressed. That doesn't make her any less a vampire though so Cyclops and Emma are hesitant to let her out.

The one who does want to let he out is Wolverine. He's the one vouching for her. So he and Jubilee have a little chat. It's the kind of chat they used to have, except Jubilee is now fuming with vampire rage. That makes her a bit less bubbly and a lot more badass. For some, that's actually an upgrade. For others, it's a little out-of-character. But naturally, she convinces Wolverine that they can let her out. Since Wolverine is like an annoying salesman/date rapist who doesn't take no for an answer, he pretty much bullies Cyclops and Emma into letting her out.

So Jubilee is let out and gets some more comfortable surroundings. However, her vampire urges are still pretty strong. There's a nice moment where she's looking at a bunch of bottles of blood, knowing that this is how she has to sustain herself now. She's basically gotta live the True Blood lifestyle minus the hot sex with Stephen Moyer. Wolverine shows up to remind her to behave herself. She makes it clear that's not going to be easy. Not only is she a teenage girl, she's a vampire with a shit ton of new urges.

She attempts to keep herself busy. So she goes for a workout in the gym. This leads to a pretty funny moment with her and Rockslide, which is clearly blatant sexual innuendo. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but you just knew at some point someone was going to throw in some vampire style sex. It gets heated in a different way (sadly no girl-on-girl innuendo here) when Armor comes in to work out. She's among those who doesn't believe Jubilee has enough self-control to be a vampire. She may be right because Jubilee ends up flashing her fangs. It's a pretty hostile gesture from a girl who isn't known for being hostile. Then again, she's a teenage girl so it's not that big an upgrade. It's also a sign that she's not in control as much as Wolverine would hope.

Jubilee's next encounter is with Emma Frost, who has about as much faith in her as Richard Dawkins has in voodoo healing. Although when you think about it, Emma is probably the one who understands her best. She's not known for her self-control or her modesty. She's been known to give into her baser instincts and enjoy the shit out of them in ways that men everywhere can masterbate to. She's also killed people and enjoyed it. So being a vampire for her isn't much of a stretch.

For Jubilee, it's more than a little overwhelming. This scene helps reinforce the notion that Jubilee isn't dealing with a mutation. Being a vampire and being a mutant are very different. She struggled enough being a mutant. Now she's struggling to be a vampire and not doing a good job at it. Everyone is wary of her and she's wary of herself. In other words, it's basically a metaphor for pretty much every teenager who ever went to public school. I had a few night terrors after reading this so I too have a bit of empathy for Jubilee. Except instead of vampire, I had acne. I almost would have preferred being a vampire.

Emma's solution if you can call it that is to surround Jubilee with people who she really doesn't want to bite. That means surrounding her with friends like Pixie, who if you had the misfortune of reading Curse of the Mutants know was the last person Jubilee was with before she got turned into a vampire. Pixie is all bubbly and upbeat, very much like how Jubilee used to be. She tries to remind her that they're still friends and she's still in the X-men fraternity (minus the keg parties). However, Pixie can't seem to resist doing the things that make some fans want to strangle her like Ted Bundie on a meth binge. She tries sparring with Jubilee, which is like coating your dick with honey and trying to get a blow job from a hungry bear. Jubilee doesn't react well to it. She demonstrates nicely that as a vampire, she's a lot stronger and a lot more dangerous to fuck with.

That's the last straw for her. So without so much as a Hallmark inspired note, she leaves Utopia and finds the nearest place a teenage girl can be herself...a bar in a hotel. She might as well go skinny dipping in the lake at Camp Slash 'n Maim. There she does some reminiscing of the old times and even scares off a creepy old guy who equates a teenage girl being alone in a bar with winning the lottery. She has a few flashbacks of her life as a mutant. There's even a nice reference to the first time she encountered the X-men when she was living alone in a mall. For those familiar with Jubilee's history, it's a nice reference to the past for a character that hasn't had the spotlight in quite some time.

Then it gets creepy again. An attractive woman in a white dress shows up and sits down next to Jubilee. Maybe it's not so creepy, but a situation like this involving an older woman and a teenage girl tend to be plots for pornos that aren't legal in certain jurisdictions. As such, Jubilee shows here that she's never seen an after school special about the dangers of talking to or listening to strangers. This one happens to be a vampire like her. She makes some decent points about how being a vampire is very different from being a mutant and the X-men aren't equipped for it. Then she asks her to come with her, which is like giving your bank account information to a Nigerian businessman. It can only end in someone getting screwed over and in this case, it isn't a very sexy kind of screwed over either.

Naturally, Wolverine finds out Jubilee is missing and goes out looking for her. He enlists help from Santo, who may or may not have been trying to bang her. They trace her to the port of Oakland, which in and of itself is a bad sign. Between crime and Raiders fans, it's not a place for a teenage girl even if she's a vampire. When they find her, it ain't pretty. And by ain't pretty I'm not talking about what happens on the toilet when you eat two burritos and a bowl of chilli. I'm talking ain't pretty in a way that happens when you give Freddy Kruger the keys to a daycare center. Jubilee and her new lady friend apparently went on a feeding frenzy and it got messy to say the least.

Wolverine is understandably disappointed. He vouched for Jubilee. He trusted her. Now there's a ton of dead bodies to deal with, which undermines pretty much any kind of trust. Jubilee tries to resist, but Wolverine ends up doing what every parent of every teenage girl probably wishes was legal. He sticks Jubilee with a needle to knock her out. It's a somewhat weak ending. It's not clear what this entails or what Wolverine's angle really is here, but it does offer a compelling series of events regarding him and Jubilee. If that was the goal of the mini to begin with, it's already succeeding.

By the time you finish reading this book, you feel sort of like Indiana Jones. You found something rare in a place you wouldn't expect to look. Curse of the Mutants ended with such a fizzle that most rational people probably wouldn't bother with anything else associated with it. Yet here's a new series that spun right out of it and somehow it's awesome. It seems to defy the laws of physics, but it managed to take the one big positive that came out of that series and build on it. It also reconnected two characters, Wolverine and Jubilee, who haven't had much time to capture that old magic that made them so much fun to read before. Anyone who enjoyed Jubilee and her quirky relationship with Wolverine has plenty to enjoy here. It offers a very new perspective on Jubilee and brings her back into the X-books in a way that's dramatic, compelling, and well-developed.

However, some Jubilee fans may be a bit turned off here. Jubilee has undergone a significant change. She's a vampire now and that's changed her. She's not as bubbly or upbeat as she used to be. She doesn't have the same charming attitude she did before. In some ways it's overly drastic. In other ways, it's very compelling. It's much more compelling than it would have been had her powers just been restored. There's a lot of potential here, but Jubilee as a vampire does fly in the face of her personality. So that out-of-character element may not jive with some readers.

Whether you accept the new characterization or not, Wolverine and Jubilee #1 is a great comic. It's a great beginning to a new series and does everything possible to make the reader want to pick up the next issue. The ending is a little weak and the characterization issues could rub some the wrong way. Overall, it's definitely worth picking up. It just begins to make up for Curse of the Mutants, but still has to play out before we can begin to say it was worth it. For Wolverine and Jubilee #1, I give a final score of 4.5 out of 5. If you're an X-men fan and looking for something refreshing and compelling, this is your book! It won't blow the world of the X-men apart, but it will tell a damn good story about a burly Canadian and a conflicted teenage girl. Can't go wrong with that! Nuff said.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Brightest Day #18 - Heartbreakingly Awesome

As anyone who got too drunk at a party to think straight knows, when you shake up a beer can to build up pressure it's bound to get messy when you try and open it. Depending on how drunk you are, this will either embarrass you or you'll get a cheap laugh and wait until the pictures hit Facebook to be embarrassed. Brightest Day has been like that in a sense, minus the whole getting sprayed with beer before passing out on your best friend's kitchen table and using an uneaten cake as a pillow. The past few issues have pushed the series back towards what made it saw awesome to begin with. It's also been building a number of plots that have been unfolding erratically through many books, shaking that proverbial can to the point where the can may explode Mythbusters style without the assistance of C4.

The central source of the entire Brightest Day saga is the White Lantern. This decorative piece of decor has been the driving force behind the stories that have been unfolding in Brightest Day. It hasn't always been clear how it affects each plot. At times the damn thing is so esoteric it might as well be an opposing viewpoint of teenage sexuality in a Stephanie Meyer novel. However, Geoff Johns has made it a point to remind readers that this thing is the pimp and all the other characters are the hos in the grand scheme of things.

The last issue marked an important development for the White Lantern. Rather than lay around and look pretty, the damn thing started charging like an Energizer Bunny commercial. Boston Brand, who is still trying to get used to the whole living concept again, was re-connecting with his past. He paid his 94-year-old grandfather a visit and had a Hallmark worthy moment that gave pussy boners to anyone who read it. Then towards the end while giving his grandpappy a ride on his motorcycle (not innuendo for a Catholic Priest mind you), the white ring that hasn't left his hand since the first issue started charging. He didn't plug it in or anything. It just started charging. I'm pretty sure if something starts charging itself when it isn't plugged in, then it's either signs of a haunting or someone was lucky enough to get their hands on Apples latest gizmo to charge their i-toys.

Brightest Day #18 opens up with a somewhat random scene. Captain Cold and Digger are beating the shit out of each other. We can only assume they're drunk, someone lost a bet, or the internet is down and they've lost their pipe-line of free viagra ads and porn. It's not completely meaningless though. It's a reminder that there were a lot of characters that came back to life after Blackest Night. Not all of them have had a plot in Brightest Day, but they are still somehow connected to the White Lantern in the same way Hippies are connected with LSD.

The White Lantern is the topic of conversation for more than just pissed off villains. Picking up directly from the final page of the last issue, Deadman is still with his Grandfather and looking at his fancy new ring as it keeps charging. He calls Dove, the hot chick he managed to get into bed a few issues ago, and gave her a quick rundown of what happened. It's sort of an indirect way of summarizing the last issue, but as Boston is talking other plots of Brightest Day are cited. Mera shows up, who has been MIA since Aquaman told her to piss off when her family tried to kill him. The Black Lantern Firestorm shows up, who still has the White Lantern as a result of Ronnie and Jason's bickering from the Firestorm arc. All is connected to the White Lantern and Deadman laments that he has that feeling that all men get when their girlfriends drag them to Twilight movies. The next few hours are going to suck and someone is going to die.

Then we get a glimpse of the plot going on with the Hawks. And this time, it isn't just some random scene to remind readers that it hasn't been resolved yet. In the last issue, Hawkman and Hawkgirl teamed up with the Star Sapphires to stop Hawkgirl's mother from fucking the entire realm of Zamaron with her hawk army. It may very well be the single worst instance of a girl introducing her boyfriend to her mother in the history of the universe. That and Hawkgirl's mother pretty much sealed her nomination for worst mother of the year next to Britney Spears and the Octomom.

What happened in the last issue is Mama Hawk fought her way to the lantern that powers the Star Sapphires. Once there she found this enchanted predator which is kind of like a Unicorn if it fucked the aliens from Independence Day. That beast is an entity of Love (likely one that draws it's powers from Hugh Grant movies) and now it's playing magic needle to Hawkmama's Lance Armstrong. That means Hawkgirl not only has to fight her own mother. She has to fight her mother while she's doped up on some magic superbeing. There isn't enough therapy in the universe to work through that shit.

Mama Hawk shows she knows how to wield the power of love better than Hugh Hefner at a shelter for blonds with daddy issues. She not only uses her powers to encase the Star Sapphires in...a sapphire (okay, so having cosmic powers doesn't boost creativity). She uses it to beat down Hawkman, likely fulfilling the fantasy of every mother whose daughter brought home a guy who reeked of booze, STDs, and police records. She reminds Hawkman that when they killed Hath Set in an earlier issue, they broke the curse that had him and Hawkgirl getting reincarnated again and again. So if they die this time, they don't get reincarnated. It's like being on the last level of Contra with no lives left with only one sliver of energy left. You know your fucked, but you keep playing.

Mama Hawk forgot one tidbit though. Since that curse is broken, that means she only has one life left as well. Sure, she has the power of a lantern going for her. But seriously, when has that ever been able to hold off the grim reaper? To make it even more humiliating, her own daughter is the one that delivered the death blow. It's the ultimate temper tantrum that if utilized in real life, could earn any teenage girl a new convertible and unlimited dates with Lawrence Taylor.

When Mama Hawk is hit, the whole scheme starts to unravel. Remember the portal she used to get to Zamaron? You know, the one made up of all the bones of Hawkman's and Hawkgirl's past lives? Well, it turns out even dead people don't like being made into a gateway to a realm that's driven by the same force that drives Robert Pattinson's acting career. So once control over the lantern and Mama Hawk is broken, those dead bones are free to take out their frustrations over being dead on her.

As a result, Mama Hawk is more screwed than an underage Japanese school girl in a den of tentacle monsters. The army of dead hawks pull her back into the Sapphire Lantern where she'll likely be forced to relive ever zombie movie ever made. She begs her daughter to help her, but even Dr. Phil couldn't mend the rift with this family anymore. You just don't come back after cursing your daughter to endless cycles of birth, death, and heartbreak and using the dead bones of her ancestors to make a fancy door. It may make mother's day a real drag, but at least Hawkgirl will save money on cards from now on.

While Hawkman and Hawkgirl and relishing in Mama Hawk's suffering, they get a message from the White Lantern. To this point their story has had next to no connection with the White Lantern aside from some momentary flash on Hawkworld. Now the White Lantern is sending them a message and it isn't you've got mail. It says they're mission, whatever the hell it was, is accomplished. You would think seeing Mama Hawk getting carried away kicking and screaming by the bones of dead ancestors sent enough of a message.

They're both understandably confused and so are the Star Sapphires. But since there's nothing left in Zamaron to destroy, Star Sapphire agrees to send Hawkman and Hawkgirl home. For her, the power of their love was enough to defeat Mama Hawk. It sends a message to every teenage girl and boy in the world. If your love is strong enough, it will kill your parents. Great message, DC!

While they're mission is ending, the focus moves back to Deadman and Dove. Dove had to cut class, using the old my-boyfriend-is-having-a-problem-with-his-magic-ring excuse. She heads over to meet up with Boston, who is still with his grandfather. Unfortunately, she must have stayed to flirt with her professor because by the time she gets there the ring is fully charged. Once charged, Deadman becomes glowing Deadman and the ring does the equivalent of throwing Boston into the trunk of his car and then taking him on a joyride through downtown Detroit.

While he's as confused as a baby in a titty bar, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are transported back to the same museum they started out in. It's where they were when Blackest Night began. It's where they were when Brightest Day began. So now that they're back, what do they do? Well they're in love and just killed Hawkgirl's mother so they do what anybody would do. They start to get down and dirty on the floor, ready to get it on in a way that earn them a guest spot in HBO's next season of True Blood.

It's beautiful and tender, the kind of love that isn't pornographic enough for comics, movies, and TV shows to use out of fear that it might actually trigger some emotion from the audience. Anyone who has been following comics in the past 10 years knows that the only idea comic companies can manage for couples in love is to either break them up, taint their love, or make a deal with the devil. Ask Spider-Man and Mary Jane or Cyclops and Jean Grey just how well love stories in comics turn out.

Before they can show any tits or ass, Deadman shows up to cock-block them. He's still just along for the ride. The White Lantern is controlling everything. They're looking at him like he's a creepy pervert hiding in a closet trying to get a peak. Then he points the white ring at them and sends them a message the essentially boils down to "This is ain't no Asian Massage Parlor. So no happy endings, motherfucker."

Then it happens. Hawkman and Hawkgirl resist the will of the White Lantern, which is a lot less understanding than even Mama Hawk. If they won't listen and live their lives separately, then they won't live at all. They essentially have to choose between life or love. Since love is so hopelessly irrational, they choose love. So the White Lantern, like Larry King's prenups, screws them over and reduces them to dust.

That's right. The White Lantern is not only being the asshole this time. It didn't even have the decency to let Hawkman and Hawkgirl squeeze in a quickie before it killed them. Worst of all, Deadman couldn't do shit about it. He's still locked in the trunk of that proverbial car, yet he was still able to see as that car ran two people over who just escaped from the wrath of Hawkgirl's mother and just wanted to get a little humping done before fate caught up to them. The White Lantern wouldn't even grant them that. It's a powerful ending. It's like Dorthy dying at the end of the Wizard of Oz. There's nothing uplifting about it. Hawkman and Hawkgirl succeeded. Then the White Lantern killed them. It's by far one of the most powerful moments in Brightest Day thus yet. If your heart is hardened by decades of MacDonalds and MTV and you didn't shed a tear when Deadman reunited with his grandfather in the last issue, you sure as hell felt something here. If you didn't, then go back to your Satantic rituals and sacrifice a goat because this shit is deep. Rather than being a source of salvation, the White Lantern is becoming somewhat of a douche and it's a douche Boston no longer has control over.

In terms of endings, this is by far the best yet in the Brightest Day series. Few issues or comics for that matter hit you in all those fuzzy feeling areas that several decades of bad TV has conditioned us to suppress. Unless your the mayor of Philadelphia and agree with the whole wussification of America stance, you'll feel the impact of this story. It essentially brings a dramatic end to one of the major stories that Brightest Day has been developing since the beginning. Since the end of this series is in sight, some of these plots are going to come to en end. The Hawks was just one of those plots and while it's not exactly fitting, it's pretty damn profound.

For some it may seem underhanded. Hawkman and Hawkgirl go through all the trouble of revealing the curse that has plagued them since before Brightest Day began, only to be snuffed out in the end. It goes back to that whole anti-Disney shit where there's no happily ever after. It may rub some people the wrong way because the dosage for Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil only goes so high. However, a happy ending wouldn't have had the same impact that this one did. Hawkman and Hawkgirl having to choose between life and love is a powerful moment. Not everybody is going to like their choice, especially after their struggle against Mama Hawk was written so well. But like it or not, the impact is undeniable and was masterfully done.

Now I'm of the mind that killing characters is never a good thing. It's not clear if the White Lantern killed Hawkman and Hawkgirl, but it has definitely done something to tear them apart. It's the first time the White Lantern has really made a serious impact on the many plots that Brightest Day has been juggling. By touching on the other plots with Firestorm and Mera, there's a greater sense of unity with this issue. It's the kind of unity that hippies sing about and that Coke Cola does commercials about. Aside from conflicting feelings with the end, it's a perfectly developed comic from every angle.

I really can't find much else to complain about and I'm the kind of guy who stands in line to complain in the airport about luggage I haven't lost yet. That alone should show just how awesome Brightest Day #18 is. I can give it no less than a 5 out of 5. If anyone out there even has the slightest appreciation for DC comics or comics in general, you'll pick this issue up and learn to feel again. Fuck all those MTV ads and macho movie messages! This shit will make you feel in all the right ways! Nuff said.