Saturday, April 30, 2011

Generation Hope #6 - Ripping Off Awesome

I try to be a gentle soul when I review comics. I'm only human. Sometimes I'm in a bad fucking mood when I rant about the books I read. A bad day at work, a skunky bottle of booze, or some transvestite hooker calling me up at one in the morning bitching about how I stole her/his thong will make me seem meaner than I really am. Well when it comes to comics like Generation Hope (or Generation Jean Ripoff as I can't stop calling it), I have to be a little drunk or I have to have just dropped a few grand on a hooker to be in the right mindset. I know the whole issue with Jean/Hope was an annoying, drawn out gimmick that made some fans feel like they had their balls shoved in a toaster. It still tarnishes this series like a shit stain on a male model's underwear.

Now I'm going to try and be fair with this review of Generation Hope. I like Kieron Gillen's writing. He's done a kick-ass job in Uncanny X-men and he's had his moments in this title as well. However, I'm not going to stick my fingers in my ears and gouge my eyes out at the obvious flaws that have plagued Hope since before Gillen even touched an X-book. I know I sound like a raving lunatic who never should have left rehab half the time, but I actually do try to be objective in all my reviews. So I'll do my best with Generation Hope #6 and let my liver kick my ass later. Will that make everybody happy?

Generation Jean Ripoff #6 is billed as "The story that will have fans shitting their pants for the next five years!" Or something to that effect. We hear that sort of thing from a comic series ever other week or so. Given that this series is still in it's infancy, we shouldn't be surprised that it's being billed as the best thing since Emma Frost's breast implants. This series is coming off a rather gripping (yet uneventful) one-shot in the previous issue where Jea-I mean Hope confronts Cyclops along with many other X-men about her role. She basically sets up her Five Lights as a rescue team for new mutants. It's very much like what the X-men were in the early days. Now it's official. It's a new niche for this title, but does it work? That's what this issue is supposed to show.

It starts off with Cyclops giving fans more reasons to call him a prick. He basically takes Kitty Pryde (who is still wearing that ridiculous space suit) and demotes Rogue. This isn't too unexpected because Rogue has done jack shit and a half-piss as Je-I'm sorry Hope's so-called chaperon. So Cyclops promotes Kitty as the one to watch over this so-called messiah as she goes through a bratty phase with a bunch of fanatically loyal cult members. Not a very good role, but he coddles Kitty into accepting.

As for Jean Ripoff and her lights, they're basically living their normal lives on Utopia. It's actually a nice insight into how these young teenagers who have about as much X-men experience as the people reading the book actually live. Surprisingly, they're still basically teenagers. They study, they draw, and they sing lousy songs that become extremely embarrassing when someone hears them. Plus one of them is naked in Laurie. I'm pretty sure being naked and not feeling shame is also part of being a teenager, although it reminds me there are certain videos of me on the internet I need to delete.

This care-free moment is also mixed with some of the more unique aspects of being mutants who can do shit that can only be mimicked on very powerful drugs imported from Cambodia. For one, Idie actually says something. That's right. Idie, the bastard love child of Firestar and Iceman, talks. Kenji, the Akira rip-off, is back to painting and does it with the kind of intensity that most teenage boys put into masturbating. And Gabriel ends up having to explain his lousy singing to Jean-I mean Hope while not coming off as an asshole. Okay, that last one has nothing to do with powers, but it might as well be a mutant power for a teenage boy to save face in front of anything with breasts.

Then all this happy-go-lucky teenage mutant crap goes to hell when a new mutant, a sixth light, is detected by Cerebra. It's a big deal because it isn't just Cerebra that sees it. Jean Ripoff and all her other lights feel it too. Not only that, Little Miss Red Hair and Green Eyes flashes a familiar fire creature in the background. Just like the last issue, we get another Phoenix tease.

Now I understand that the Phoenix is a big part of the whole mutant messiah story. But if Marvel really wants fans to stop bitching about Jean Grey, they need to stop dropping these fucking hints. They're more annoying than rectal warts and explosive diarrhea. Nick Lowe spilled the beans already. Jean Grey is dead and Hope is her replacement. Never mind that this shit is like a kick in the nuts and an ice pick to the kidney, but a little subtlety wouldn't hurt. Can someone at least pretend that this bratty little redhead isn't a total Jean ripoff?

But I digress. Like compulsive eater at an all-you-can-eat buffet, the Five Lights heed Hope's (there, I got it right. Happy now?) call. They suit up in their uniforms, which by the way don't look like X-men uniforms but that's not a bad thing. These are kids still learning to be X-men. They should have to earn the right to wear that X. Along the way, Rogue says she's staying behind. Hope doesn't seem too broken up about. Remind me again why they were supposed to have a bond of sort? Is that like President Obama's cigarette stash and just being swept under the rug? As if this series needs other overused plots, Kitty Pryde takes over and she puts some humor into it. It's a nice change-up from Rogue, who didn't anything memorable in all the time she was Hope's unspoken prison bitch.

Hope basically tells Kitty that they're a team and get out of her way in a way that's only somewhat bitchy. Then they arrive at their destination, which happens to be a hospital in Germany. Because when has anything bad happened in Germany? While my sarcasm is digested, it's worth noting Kitty is STILL in that lousy space suit. Now it may be the case that this happens before the current arc in Uncanny. If so, then that's bearable. But if that arc ends and she's still in this damn suit, that's just fucked up.

Hope shows once again that she's as irresponsible as she is a ripoff. The hospital is locked down. Everybody inside seems to have raided Michael Jackson's medicine cabinet and passed out. So first she sends Gabriel into the hospital. He passes out before he even gets to the door. Then she sends Laurie like a rat into a maze of chainsaws. She passes out too. It's a little pathetic that these teenagers are actually listening to her when I can't get a teenager to pull their fucking pants up. Eventually Teon goes in and since his mind is akin to a well-trained dog that hasn't been neutered yet he gets the lights out. This leads them to conclude they're dealing with a telepath. They have the most powerful telepaths on the planet back on Utopia and they can't figure that shit out? Really?

Then to move in, Kenji pulls a new trick out of his ass and not in the traditional Japanese way. He says he can use his power to protect them from telepathy. However, it involves him sticking a slithery tentacle into the back of their necks (which I guess is better than what tentacles usually do in Japan). Wait a minute? When the fuck did he have the power to protect against telepathy? Gillen tries to explain it here, but it's flimsy as hell. Moreover, they leave Idie behind. Will that girl EVER have a role in this series? The NAACP will be on Marvel's ass by the time you finish reading this sentence with the way Marvel is treating young black girls.

So armed with this contrived telepathic protection, Hope leads four of her lights into the hospital. At first they find just a bunch of unconscious bodies. Teon channels his inner Scooby Doo and leads the Lights to their target. He does it in a much less dorky way as well. But at the same time, those unconscious bodies come to life and somehow their eyes were turned inside out. Don't know when telepathy ever gained that ability, but it's a nice way to show that their brains are about as useful to them as their wisdom teeth now. Unlike the zombies in The Walking Dead (a comic you seriously should read by the way), these guys don't eat brains. They walk around, drool, and try to eat random shit. They're sort of like Snookie, minus the herpes.

The lights navigate the hospital until they locate the source of the telepathic disturbance. It comes from what may be the most dangerous source of all, a pregnant woman who looks like her water just broke. It would have been easier if the telepath had been a paranoid schizophrenic who had his meds switched with crystal meth. But it's not the woman that's the telepath. It's the baby. It's a new twist on this new generation of mutants. Babies can now have powers before they're even born. I can see the anti-abortion crowd making protest signs of this shit already.

The problem is the baby, the aspiring telepath, does not want to leave it's mother's womb. Why would it want to? It's got everything it needs. Food, shelter, and it's already in a pussy so I guess that counts as sex. Never mind how pissed this would make the mother, the baby is doing something any baby would do. It fights back by taking control of everybody in the hospital. This puts the lights in a very awkward position. They have to fight back against a homicidal baby and an army of mindless zombies. It's like Chucky meets Night of the Living Dead. It sounds cliched, but it works pretty damn well and is enough to make readers crave the next issue.

It's a strong ending to a book that had many eye-rolling moments early on. Kieron Gillen's writing is still strong, but it lacks the refined touch of his Uncanny X-men books. There's still a solid story behind this mess. The whole point of Generation Jean Ripoff was to tell stories about the new generation of mutants. The first wave of lights followed a different path compared to mutants of the past. This issue took it a step further, using that same theme of instability that the other lights experienced and applying it to a much more difficult situation. They're not just dealing with confused teenagers. They're dealing with a baby that doesn't even know up from down at the moment. It's not a ground-breaking concept, but it does work nicely and leaves just the right impact.

The main theme of the book works much better than the last issue. The last issue just had Jean Ripoff telling everybody that she's her own brat and they need to stay out of her way. This issue actually has her trying to be the messiah that she's been billed as. While it works well, the little things are still lacking. Idie is still not doing jack shit. The Hope/Rogue plot has been completely overlooked and underdeveloped. Kenji basically pulled this new telepathy resistance out of thin air. Kitty Pryde's presence really hasn't changed anything either. Plus there was yet another Phoenix tease and for most fans that shit is old. It's one thing to hint at things to come, but to use teases that have long since lost their impact isn't good storytelling. It's just annoying.

I can't say this issue lived up to the hype that the summery claimed. It isn't the kind of story that makes you grab a vacuum cleaning to pick up the pieces of your mind after it's been blown. It's still an improvement over the last issue. Kieron Gillen has a solid handling of these characters, but the lack of refinement that makes his Uncanny books so strong just isn't here. If you can ignore the little things, it's a solid book. If you can't, at least the main theme is more coherent. I can't give it too high a score, but I can't tell readers to avoid this book like the plague. I give Generation Hope #6 a 3 out of 5. There's plenty of room for improvement, but this book will keep getting hampered so long as there are annoying Jean Grey/Phoenix teases. If Marvel is trying to make Hope her own character, they're doing a lousy job because every time she flashes her Phoenix flare she gets that Jean Grey vibe. When someone has red hair, green eyes, and the Phoenix Force they don't think Hope. They think Jean. Until that changes, this book will continue to have holes. But those holes can be filled with solid storytelling. Nuff said!

Friday, April 29, 2011

X-men Supreme Issue 31: Sinister Intent PREVIEW

This past week was an important milestone for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. This humble X-men website has officially passed 10000 hits according to my hit counter. For a site that has been around for less than two years, that's a major feat. For all those who supported X-men Supreme, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I really appreciate all those who take the time to follow this fanfiction series. I put a great deal of time and effort into making X-men Supreme awesome and I love it when I get to share it with others.

As much as I want to savor this accomplishment, the X-men Supreme fanfiction series goes on! I've been hard at work on the next chapter. It will mark the beginning of an important new arc. It's an arc that I've been building towards for quite some time. Everything from the Cajun Chaos arc to the recent story with Juggernaut and John Proudstar, have been sewing the proverbial seeds. Now X-men Supreme takes a major step with this new arc, Sinister Intent. The first issue is set for release in a week. As always, I've prepared a preview:

He made a good point, something not many people got from Remy. Given Rogue knew more about his history than others, she could see why he would think this way. She could also relate because she experienced family issues as well with Mystique. Compared to some of the other challenges she faced here at the X-men, she would take a hundred fights with Juggernaut rather than deal with her mother.

“Can’t believe Ah’m sayin’ this, but that makes a heck of a lot of sense,” she said.

“Remy can be insightful when he has to be,” he said with a playful grin.

“And yet you still ain’t taking any classes,” she pointed out, “You really should. If this is the kind of stuff you’re good at, why not take philosophy classes or something? The Professor did say you gotta take something if you’re gonna be part of the institute.”

“Philosophy huh?” he said with a touch of intrigue, “What good would that do a guy like Remy in the real world?”

“Try not to think of it like that. Heck, Ah’m takin’ liberal arts. But think about it, philosophy fits a guy like you. Remember how you told meh back in New Orleans how your mama taught you about right and wrong? Well maybe it doesn’t have to stop with her. It won’t be as exciting as stealing that priceless jewel you mentioned. But it would be something.”

It sounded reasonable. Thinking back to his foster mother and what she taught him, philosophy seemed right up his alley. And a guy as morally guided as Professor Xavier would have plenty to say about that issue.

“Remy will give it some thought,” he said as she took another puff of his cigarette, “But if Remy be in classes, he may not have as much time to spend with you.”

“Ah’m sure you’ll find any number of ways to catch up with meh,” grinned Rogue, “Who else are you gonna share a cigarette with on a nice sunny day like this? Heck, Logan’s the only other one who smokes.”

“And Logan ain’t as easy on the eyes,” he teased as he flipped a queen of hearts her way.

“Again with the flirting?”

“You’re still smiling,” Remy pointed out.

“And you’re still annoying meh,” she said, despite her smile, “Why can’t we just share a nice pack of cigarettes without the drama?”

“Now where be the fun in that?”

“Unlike some people, Ah do have classes,” sighed Rogue as she leaned back against the fountain and stared at the sky, “Ah can only have one more cigarette before I gotta go. So let’s just skip the flirting, look at the clouds, and relax.”

“Aw, don’t get tired on me, cherè. Besides, there ain’t even any clouds in the sky to look it! Remy would much rather look at you.”

“Ah’m sure,” she said, rolling her eyes, “Look all you want, Cajun, but at this point in mah life Ah want a break from the drama. Ah’ve had so much goin’ on lately that…”

Suddenly, Rogue froze in mid sentence. Remy noticed her expression become more urgent. She slowly rose up, tossing aside her half-finished cigarette in the process, and gazed up at the sky with dread.

“What is it, cherè? Was it something I said?” said Remy in a worried tone.

“Remy, look up at that cloud!” she said pointing into the sky.

“What cloud? Remy told you there ain’t a cloud in the sky.”

“Just look, damn it!”

Not arguing with her tone, Remy looked up and to his surprise he did see something. There was a strange cloud forming overhead. It was small, resembling the trail left by a plane when it flew by. But it was moving and shifting fast. It was unlike anything Remy had seen before, but Rogue seemed to know what it is.

“What the hell kind of cloud is that?” wondered Remy.

“It ain’t a cloud!” said Rogue strongly, “We better get the Professor! We’re about to be in a world of trouble!”

In addition to the preview, I've also updated the bios section. I wanted to wait until after the previous issue, Memory Musings, to post the bio for John Proudstar. He's a character that is substantially different compared to his comic counterpart. As such, his background is different as well. His bio should shed some light on who he is in X-men Supreme and where he came from. It will also offer hints to other potential stories in this fanfiction series.

Bios - Thunderbird

Once again, I deeply appreciate all those who have supported X-men Supreme and helped it get to 10,000 hits. Thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy the stories this fanfiction series has to offer. There is still plenty more to come! If ever you have any questions or comments, please contact me and I'll be happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Uncanny X-Force #8 - Double Awesome

Not all of us are lucky enough to be spoiled as kids. Some of us don't have last names like Trump, Rockfeller, or Sheen. We don't grow up with a diamond encrusted spoon in our mouth or the spiked dildo of fate jammed in our ass. There are times being spoiled makes you a douche-bag. Then there are times where being spoiled makes life worth living. It usually isn't something like a million-dollar car or a six-thousand dollar toilet that warms your ass while shooting water at you. It's the little things like a hit of weed, a bottle of Jack Daniels, or a five second orgasm. Well now you can add two issues of Uncanny X-Force to that list between the orgasm and the weed.

Less than a month ago, Uncanny X-Force finished off the Deathlok nation arc. It was a short yet delicious story that involved cyborgs, time travel, bizarre pocket dimensions, and decapitations. Basically your typical Tuesday for Uncanny X-Force. It's this unique blend of comic book awesome that has made Uncanny X-Force arguably the best overall X-book on the racks. Now after only a few weeks, the next arc of Uncanny X-Force begins. This in a month already filled with ass-blasting blockbusters like Fear Itself. If Marvel and Rick Remender is trying to spoil it's fans, then they deserve a pat on the back and a blow job from Natalie Portman.

Uncanny X-Force #8 doesn't miss a beat from the last issue. There's no sitting around with a group therapist, discussing all the crazy shit that happened in the World with the cyborg heroes from the future. Therapy is for pussies, not X-Force. That means they get right back to work doing what they do, finding out who needs to be killed and coming up with creative ways to kill them. The next potential victims for X-Force come in the form of a bunch of faceless shadows that Deadpool is spying on. There's no clue as to who they are. Deadpool makes a few jokes about dropping a piano on them while revealing that they're looking into this because Psylock detected some psychic disturbances. That or Charlie Sheen was projecting his thoughts again, but in either case it's worth investigating.

At the same time, Deathlok is still hanging around X-Force. Seeing as how he helped them against the cyborg Avengers from the future, X-Force is letting him stick around. That or he has some kick-ass weed. It's actually a nice moment for Deathlok. Even though his cyborg surgery looks more botched than Michael Jackson's last nose job, he does have some personality and Rick Remender is finally giving him some props.

While Deathlok debates the merits of keeping the World intact with only a light glass box to contain it, one member of X-Force is actually getting some therapy from the recent shit that they've encountered. Since the first issue of this series, Angel has shown that balancing his Angel and Arcangel persona is like trying to kick heroine while having bipolar disorder and an anger management problem. He's been getting help from his girlfriend, Psylock, who aside from looking great in skin-tight outfits is quite possibly the ultimate therapist. Then again, Angel is rich so it's no different than a billionaire hiring a supermodel to wash his balls.

It also provides insight into the Angel/Psylock relationship. It's easy to forget that before this series, these two were barely in the same room with one another. In only eight issues their relationship has taken center stage in a way that hasn't been done since Monica Lewinksy was teaching kids new ways on how to use cigars. In another scene that twists the perceptions of the readers, it shows Angel trying to be a good person by helping the poor in a setting that looks like an old Christmas special that turns into a slasher movie. It's the kind of combination that can only be pulled off in Uncanny X-Force.

Psylock demonstrates here that in addition to being a hot Asian chick who wears hot Asian uniforms, she's also a damn good telepath. She's able to guide Angel through the pampered yet fucked up network of brain matter that is his mind and find Arcangel. Once they do, she shows that Emma Frost isn't the only one that can do psychic acrobatics and cages him. It could have set the stage for a nice post-traumatic psychic sex session. Then Wolverine has to show up and reveal that Deadpool's mission went to shit. I still don't see how that justifies being such a buzz-kill, but then again Wolverine was never known for his manners.

The team jumps in their fancy UFO style jet and travels to a top secret nuke facility that was developing stealth nukes during the Cold War. Fantomex describes it perfectly as a cross between Tom Clancy and Stephen King. In comic terms, it's as general as the two pieces of bread that make a sandwich. It's not the most mind-blowing setting Rick Remender has put together with this series, but it's still a chance for X-Force to kick some ass so I'll take it.

They don't just storm in like Rambo on a crack binge though. They do attempt to use a little stealth. They take out the chain-smoking Russian stereotypes lingering outside while Psylock shows off her psychic talents yet again to scout ahead. At this point readers might feel that Remender is going out of his way to make Psylock too awesome as if that's even necessary for a hot Asian ninja chick. But it's hard to complain when it's done in such a deliciously awesome way.

It does go to shit pretty damn quickly. Remember that psychic disturbance that was mentioned on the first page? Well it came courtesy of Ahmul Faroke, which sounds like the name of a moody cab driver. But he also happens to be Shadowking, a psychic criminal who loves to fuck over his enemies ALMOST as worse as the IRS. He actually sent those disturbances to lure Psylock Into his lair. And she fell for it like Pamela Anderson falls for abusive rock stars half-covered in tattoos.

Not content to mess with a hot ninja telepath, Farouk uses his powers to take control of Deadpool, Wolverine, and Arcangel. The only one who is spared this mind-fuck is Fantomex, but that's not necessarily a good thing. Under Shadowking's guidance, they beat the living shit out of his faux French ass. For a moment it looks like Psylock is screwed, but once again Remender does a little mind-fucking with the readers and Psylock disappears. Once again, it shows that a comic book can screw with your mind almost as well as a hit of LSD and being strapped to a chair to watch the last two Matrix movies.

This deception leaves Psylock open to battling Shadowking. She's just fine with this as she takes a page out of the classic X-men books by dawning her old Psylock uniform. Anyone who has followed Psylock's character back to the beginning when she was just an up and coming ninja assassin will either shit themselves or run naked through the streets (or both). In this classic form, she takes on Shadowking who takes on a more novel form. By novel I mean it looks like a rhinoceros fucked a knight from the Lord of the Rings movie. It sounds goofy, but it looks pretty badass.

Shadowking appears to have a pretty solid plan. He traps the telepath, takes control of X-Force, and guides Arcangel to launch the nukes from the facility at Utopia. Oh yeah, they're still in an old nuclear weapons facility. That's easy to forget amidst all the psychic ass-kicking, but that's not a bad thing.

Shadowking also starts fighting dirty. It isn't enough to look like a badass monster that World of Warcraft fanboys would love to have in their guild. He starts using his powers to fuck with Psylock's mind even more. That means manifesting her brother and people from her past, taunting her about being on a team that employs cyborgs from the future and kills kids. It's a dick move, but it works and throws Psylock off guard.

After a while, Psylock comes to a "Fuck this!" conclusion. While she battled Shadowking, Fantomex tried to protect her from the mind-controlled Wolverine and Deadpool. He was able to fend off Deadpool despite getting a few katanas in the gut. In X-Force that's like a shaving cut. Then Wolverine finds her and is about to give her the ultimate body piercing with his claws. She manages to break out of Shadowking's psychic grasp and fight him off. Apparently she would rather stop a nuke that fight a giant psychic orc. It's surprisingly reasonable in a comic about a mutant kill squad.

She does find Arcangel and manages to tuck him into bed with a little psychic nudging. However, she's not the only one that went looking for him. Shadowking picked up on him as well and as soon as Psylock enters his mind, Mr. Orc is there waiting for her. They're right back in that crazy twist of "It's a Wonderful Life" that was playing out in Angel's head earlier. Shadowking goes right in and tries to undo all that therapy Psylock put him through. It's another dick move, but damn if it isn't clever.

Unfortunately, this is one dick move that backfires and that's not a masturbation joke. By freeing Arcangel, he doesn't take control over him. He seems to forget that freeing a mentally unstable guy with metal wings is like covering yourself in the blood of baby seals and waving your dick in the face of a hungry polar bear. So it isn't Psylock who stops Shadowkings psychic shenanigans. It's Arcangel and he does it in the classic X-Force way, which is bloody and grotesque. X-Force fans should feel a slight twinge of ecstasy from seeing Billy Tan's graphic depictions.

So first Fantomex got to kill someone. Then Deadpool got to kill Father in the last arc. Now Arcangel gets to bust some heads and he does it in a way that's not only very badass, but it saves the day. However, it doesn't quite end with stopping Shadowking.

Once everybody has their brains in working order again, Arcangel finds that there's still someone at the nuke controls. It's not Shadowking. It's just some random guy in a uniform that you would expect James Bond to shoot on sight. Well unlike those other random guys, he looks as confused as everyone else. He doesn't threaten to launch the nukes. He doesn't raise his gun. But he doesn't step away from the launcher so Arcangel overreacts in a way that only Deadpool could appreciate. He kills the guy. This time, he's the one who made the dick move. It's not clear if it was necessary, just as was the case with Kidpocalypse in the first arc. This guy may not have been a threat to anybody, but in X-Force they couldn't take the chance. It's a tough moment for Arcangel, even when the others catch up. Could this be because Shadowking released Arcangel from his cage? Or are his problems deeper than anything a hot ninja telepath can solve? It's an open question that caps the issue off with mystery to go along with the awesome.

So in the same month, Uncanny X-Force delivers a solid conclusion to one arc while providing a delicious one-shot. Going back to my rant about being spoiled, this is a wonderful time to be a fan of X-Force. Great comics are hard to come by. Comic series that consistently deliver solid issues month in and month out are like finding a Playboy playmate who's into Warcraft and runs a comic shop in her spare time. A comic series that delivers said issues more than once a month...well, that's like finding a mermaid going down on a unicorn. It's so rare and so awesome that it makes you proud to be a comic book fan. Uncanny X-Force has been so awesome that X-fans are getting spoiled and it feels so good.

Even though this issue was a one-shot, it didn't feel terribly rushed. It worked beautifully. It was a simple, self-contained story that involved nuclear weapons, psychic psychopaths, and a few needless murders. It's an issue that really helps sum up what makes Uncanny X-Force an awesome book. It gets right into the next round of action while still keeping a sense of continuity form the previous issue. There are elements of drama as well, especially with Arcangel as he struggles with his homicidal persona. Plus, Psylock got to shine in a way that she hasn't done since Mel Gibson was still relevant. There's so much packed into one issue that it's hard to believe it's just one issue.

If there is any flaw in this comic, it's that some elements from the previous arc weren't really used even if they were acknowledged. Deathlok is still with X-Force, but he wasn't even with the team when they went on the mission. Did they just leave him behind with all that valuable hardware back at their base? This is a guy who has the cyborg equivalent of a botched boob job. Nothing really comes of him and it feels like too big a loose end.

Even so, it's not a big enough loose end to bring down the awesome of this book. Uncanny X-Force #8 is still top notch in so many different ways that it more than makes up for any little flaw. That's why I give this issue a perfect 5 out of 5. I don't just give Uncanny X-Force these scores because I'm in a generous mood or had a few too many shots of tequila. This book earns every bit of praise it gets and seeing it deliver twice in a month shows just how special this series is. If all books delivered like this I would need ten blogs to properly describe it. But with this issue, I feel plenty spoiled and am content to wait for the calendar to turn for the next issue. Nuff said!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wolverine and Jubilee #4 - Tying Awesome Together

Every so often, you find a diamond covered in shit. It stinks and it's dirty, but it's still a diamond and it's as valuable as any other if you can ignore the smell. That's how I would have described the Wolverine and Jubilee mini after the first issue. The whole mutants vs vampire story sputtered towards the end like the last season of Heroes. It ended on such a down note that you could have popped a few Tylenol PMs and fallen asleep before the damn thing was over. Wolverine and Jubilee is a story that spun out of that wad of shit and it started off pretty damn good. Then after a few issues, it sputtered a lot like Curse of the Mutants did. As much as I love Jubilee and as happy as I am to see her back in action, there's no getting around comics that are so disheveled they look like the women that come out of Bill Murray's house after a party.

But since this was a simple mini, I didn't feel inclined to completely drop the series. While issues #2 and #3 were sub-par and confusing at times, I had every intention of picking up #4. If by any chance you can skip the last two issues, that should help with this review. All you need to know is that in those issues Wolverine took Jubilee to the safety of Siberia (because a place cold enough to freeze the balls off a polar bear is SO safe) where he encountered the vampire that messed with Jubilee in #1. Somehow she used some mystical crap to trap Jubilee in some fucked up pocket dimension where the laws of physics were written by Homer Simpson. Wolverine set out to find her, only to get attacked by a irradiated zombie in a cave under Chernobyl. Somewhere along the line Rockslide is trying to help as well. If you're confused, you won't get much clarity by reading those issues. That's why I gave them sub-par scores. Wolverine and Jubilee #4 has the potential to redeem those last two issues. Does it measure up? Well I've got some time to kill and a fifth of tequila flowing through my veins, so I might as well offer my take.

The issue starts with Jubilee exploring this strange pocket universe that seemed to be spawned by a bad acid trip. She actually does a little narrating this time, helping to offer some insight into what goes through the head of a teenage vampire. It's the kind of insight the previous issues haven't really touched on and it's a nice touch. It sounds like Jubilee and not someone who got hocked up on Twilight fanfiction. Wolverine is still in the cave trying to figure out what all the floaty necklaces do. He's able to keep in touch with Jubilee, but they're more lost than Linsey Lohan when she blacks out.

While they're trying to figure this shit out, Rockslide is getting the shit kicked out of him by a dragon. That's what you get when you start getting the hots for a vampire chick. Anyone who watches True Blood knows this. In the first issue he clearly wanted Jubilee to jump his rocky bone. Now he's trying to help her, probably in hopes that she'll let him cop a feel. That or he's a closeted Twilight fan. He traced that crazy vampire chick that framed her to some strange dry cleaning place in Oakland. The old lady running it turned out to be a dragon, which is a lot like the cranky dry cleaners in my area. Except this one breathes less fire and doesn't call me a cheap asshole.

Rockslide takes the punishment until the dragon notices the symbols on his hand that got stuck there a few issues ago. Then the dragon turns from a fierce monster into one of those annoying bellhops at a hotel that pretends to be so nice to you in hopes that you'll give them a twenty-dollar tip without them having to blow you. It leads Rockslide back into the dry cleaner and like a disorganized clerk at 7-11, it retrieves a box with another flashy glowing thingy. That's the only way I can really describe it since that's basically what all the mystical objects in this mini have been. A little variety wouldn't hurt, but what are you gonna do?

Back inside the fantasy land that Walt Disney DIDN'T build, Jubilee finds what looks like a hotel that only hookers and guys too cheap to splurge on a Holiday Inn would consider staying in. She tries to bully her way against some creepy guy who looks like he spends way too much time cleaning the girls' locker room at an elementary school. So it really comes as no surprise when he turns into a giant killer dragon intent on using Jubilee to pick it's teeth.

So Jubilee starts running for her afterlife. Even a crazed teenage girl that was recently turned into a vampire only stands so much of a chance against a dragon, although you could argue it's a pretty fair fight. In the non-crazy world, Wolverine is trying to figure out how he can go in and help Jubilee. He finds out that crazy zombie guy he decapitated in the previous issue had the answer buried in his brain all along...literally. Somehow he had this glowing ring stuck in his head, like it was a facial piercing that went horribly wrong. Like the other glowy thingy that Rockslide encountered, this one transports Wolverine into fantasy land better than magic mushrooms and a shot of Jack Daniels.

In the world that only a retarded crack baby with poor hand-eye coordination could conceive, Jubilee is still running for her life. She ends up on top of a plane where the dragon continues to chase her. It's here where Rockslide finally joins in. Keep in mind he dropped hints that he wanted to bone Jubilee in the first issue. His way of worming herself into her panties involves punching out a dragon. Somehow that has to be a metaphor with how hard women are to satisfy these days. Take heed from Marvel, ladies! Quit making us punch out dragons to get win your approval!

While Rockslide is earning brownie points with Jubilee, Wolverine shows up. They have a nice reunion. This after things between them were so rocky in the past two issues. If you read this part you may forget that Wolverine was a massive dick cheese in the last two issues with her. He wouldn't trust her and kept belittling her in ways you just can't do to a teenage girl without her getting bitchy. Somehow after finding her in some twisted pocket dimension, all is forgiven. It's a little contrived, but again it may be a message towards the women of the world to mellow the fuck out. It's a message I fully support.

Jubilee is relieved and emboldened. Enough that she shows off her vampire strength by throwing a fucking train at the dragon. It's pretty bad ass for a girl who for most of her comic history was known more for her bubble-gum chewing than her strength.

The dragon doesn't take too kindly to being humiliated by a teenage girl, much like Billy Ray Cyrus. And much like Miley Cyrus, Jubilee gets a little full of herself. She taunts the creature into coming after her. Like a parent that still believes in corporeal punishment, the dragon strikes back. It chases after her and like any teenage girl who doesn't think her shit through, it goes horribly wrong. Jubilee trips over herself (really, that's what happened) and gets torched by dragon breath. You see all your hormonal bitches out there? This is why humility is so damn important!

As you could expect, Wolverine and Rockslide are pissed. They think the dragon just roasted Jubilee like a marshmallow and take their anger out on her. Well this being a comic book and all, they're wrong. It turns out Jubilee survived in a way that's totally believable in the Marvel universe. She just happens to manifest a new power. It may seem contrived, but it helps that it looks pretty damn awesome. It involves Jubilee becoming a ghost-like mist. So now she's part vampire, part ghost, and a former mutant. Put some bolts in her neck and she's a walking horror cliche!

Not content with just manifesting a new power, Jubilee has to show that she can do a lot more than make fireworks for stoners. Whereas Wolverine and Rockslide think they can beat a dragon by just punching it like a kid trying to get a free coke out a vending machine, Jubilee takes it a step further. She grabs a nearby pole that just happened to be next to her (I know, pretty damn convenient) and uses it to impale the dragon through the brain. It's probably the most badass thing Jubilee has ever done. Even for a teenage girl who is doomed to endless Twilight jokes, it's a very satisfying moment.

Defeating the dragon is basically all it takes to end this trip through Kieth Richards' drug-soaked brain. It makes for another abrupt transition, much like the last few issues have had. Somehow killing a dragon solves everyone's problems. Wolverine meets up with Emma Frost, who somehow got talked into flying out to Siberia. Emma is her usual bitchy self (which is actually saying something since she's been so watered down lately). She goes on about how they need to test Jubilee's new powers and how much bullshitting they'll have to do in order to explain that crate of dead bodies she was found in. Wolverine doesn't have it. He's good at seducing women and driving them crazy, which is pretty appropriate here. It means Emma Frost won't get her way for once and there's not enough dicks for her to suck in order to change it.

As for Jubilee herself, there's another abrupt transition that shows her back in San Francisco with Rockslide. The two share a nice moment together, watching the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge. Having come to her rescue, Rockslide has earned his place in Jubilee's heart and hopefully her panties. It's not clear how they got here or what this means for Jubilee. Wolverine says his healing factor has stabilized her vampire condition. She shouldn't be going on as many blood benders now, at least that's what they think. It's still not entirely clear, but it's still a satisfying ending that should leave Jubilee fans licking their chops for more stories with her.

So the Wolverine and Jubilee mini is over, which officially ends the last spin-off of the whole Curse of the Mutants arc. It doesn't make the first six issues of the new adjectiveless X-men suck any less, but it sure helps. Making Jubilee a vampire has been a boon for her character. She's been so marginalized and so underdeveloped for nearly a decade that even a less-than-stellar mini is enough to make her awesome again. This issue had far fewer flaws than the previous two issues. The first was still the best, but Wolverine and Jubilee #4 did a decent job tying everything together and setting the stage for Jubilee as a new contributor to the X-men.

The biggest problem remains pacing. This mini flowed about as well as a constipated bull. At times it was difficult to follow what was going on. This issue was a bit more coherent, at least until the end. It feels as though the issue was cut off at times, like there could have been more scenes to tie up the loose ends. However, what was printed still works. It doesn't end with an utterly unsatisfying feeling. It doesn't fill in the plot holes left in the previous issue either. There's also the issue of certain elements being contrived, like Jubilee manifesting a new power at just the right time and conveniently finding a sharp metal object to defeat the dragon. It seems like an overly simplistic way of ending the story. Even if it works, it leaves too much potential behind.

As a whole, the Wolverine and Jubilee mini is a decent series. It's not the best X-men mini that Marvel has come out with in recent times. It's not the worst either. It could have been much better, but it succeeds in it's original premise. It brings Jubilee back into the fold with the X-men and it helps make her awesome again. Now she's poised to be part of the team again. She's already shown up in solicitations for the X-23 series so that offers plenty of promise. This final issue helped set the stage and for that I deem it awesome. Wolverine and Jubilee #4 gets a 4 out of 5. Your prayers have been answered Jubilee fans! Jubilee is awesome again! Nuff said.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Uncanny X-men #535 - Breaking Down Awesome

There are many special moments in a man's life. There's graduating from college, getting his first job, getting married, and discovering internet porn for the first time. These are all big steps, but few ever get to take a step like writing Uncanny X-men. For countless humble comic fans, that's like getting a job as a personal gigolo to Natalie Portman. Kieron Gillen recently got that job (writing Uncanny, not the Natalie Portman gig). He got his first taste of action with Uncanny X-men #534.1. It may or may not count since it's a point-one issue. Anyone who ever had to do fractions in grade school knows that making anything a fraction is like lacing it with the deadly poison of blowfish mixed with oddly colored discharges from Courtney Love's pussy. Gillen made reliving the horrors of sixth-grade math class a bit less traumatizing by making the issue awesome. Now he's done with fractions and ready to get back to whole numbers. That means I can finally stop sending hate mail to my old math teacher.

Kieron Gillen takes over an Uncanny X-men series that's been in decline for the past few years. The previous writer, Matt Fraction, set the bar pretty high when he brought Uncanny to a prominence not seen since the days before the Chuck Austin run scarred fans for a decade. He had many great moments in his run, but he also had some major flaws that I've pointed out in pretty much every review I've done form him. I won't list them again. I'll just say they're pretty apparent and will wear on you more than Kathy Griffin's singing. Kieron Gillen has already set himself apart with his work in Generation Hope. Now he's set for his first arc in Uncanny and he's chosen a plot that was more overlooked than Dennis Kucinich in the last presidential election. I'll give you a hint. It begins with B and rhymes with Breakworld. Okay, I'm too lazy to come up with a cleaver match. Sue me.

It was a story that dominated Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-men. It's a run many X-men fans place right up there with Emma Frost's fake tits as one of the greatest contributions to the world of X-men. It ended with Kitty Pryde being stuck in a giant bullet. Then Joss Whedon left the X-books to direct the Avengers movie. That's like leaving a three way with Megan Fox and Scarlett Johanseen to join a gang-bang with 25 Playboy Playmates on top of a mountain of blow. For a while Kitty was out of the picture and the story was basically ignored. Then in Uncanny X-men #522, Kitty returned when Magneto brought the bullet back to Earth. But for reasons not entirely explained, Kitty Pryde was stuck in phase mode and now has to walk around in a fucking space suit. She played a minor part in the Quarantine arc, but for the most part she hasn't done squat.

Uncanny X-men #535 starts off with her and Piotr having a nice picnic on Utopia. Kitty is still wearing that ridiculous space suit, but at least she is finally getting some private time with her Russian stud. It's another element that was overlooked after Joss Whedon left. Kitty and Colossus's relationship took a big step in Astonishing. Not only did they bump uglies, they had some pretty emotional moments. It hasn't really been fleshed out except for a few panels. Here they're just carrying along like a normal couple, trying desperately to ignore the fish bowl Kitty's wearing on her head.

As is often the case with X-men, this tender moment is interrupted by a killer robot. I'm out of jokes for that so I'll just skip it. Namor offers a brief explanation. He says it's some Atlantean tech that his old frienemy, Krang, was tinkering with. In the Marvel Universe, tinkering is synonymous with programming it to go on a murderous rampage. It looks badass, but seeing as how the X-men have been fighting giant robots since hippies were having mud-orgies during the first Woodstock concert it's not a terrible cause for concern.

To take it down, Colossus and Kitty pull a classic Fastball Special. Since Wolverine is off humping news reporters, Kitty plays the role of the ball. She phases through it, the ugly bastard child of the Terminator and sentinel starts to go ape-shit, and Colossus and Namor finish the job. It's so routine that Namor doesn't even shout his trademark "Imperius Rex" attack. It's the Atlantean equivilent of "Fuck you and every generation of your family," but this robot was so lame it didn't even warrant it.

Now on the surface it seems like just a shameless effort to squeeze some action into the pages, but reading through the scene it really doesn't feel like that. It's just an entertaining moment between Kitty and Colossus. It has the appearance of filler, but doesn't read like filler. So I'm not going to call it filler. I'm just going to call it a public service announcement by Marvel explaining why destroying killer robots is awesome no matter what the story. Message received, Marvel! Thanks for the reminder.

When all is said and done, Kitty emerges from her ridiculous space suit. She's still wearing the same uniform she wore in Astonishing, not that it's a bad thing. But when Colossus goes to embrace her (or cop a feel, it's hard to tell), he still phases right through her. So that means she still has to wear that fucking space suit.

This prompts Colossus and Kitty to pay another visit to X-men's science team. Dr. Rao doesn't offer a very promising assessment. She likens Kitty's condition to having a cramped muscle that keeps her in phase mode. I'd rather liken it to having a baby alligator biting down on your nipple and not letting go, but that's just me. I suppose Rao's metaphor is more scientific. She still boils it down to a simple "I don't have a fucking clue how to help your girlfriend" and that can't bode well for a guy who hasn't had any sweet Kitty loving since the last Breakworld arc.

Colossus and Kitty aren't the only ones seeking help from the science team. Magneto has his own curiosities. It began in Kieron Gillen's first issue, Uncanny X-men #534.1. In that issue Magneto was carrying around a piece of the Breakworld bullet that Kitty was trapped in like Paris Hilton carries around a chihuahua in her purse. He wants Dr. Nemesis to look into it. He says in so many words "I don't have time. Fuck off." He was a bit more polite about it, but given his history of being a douche-bag (see Generation Hope for a few examples) it's sort of implied.

Magneto's fascination with the Breakworld bullet isn't completely random though. Keep in mind, Matt Fraction isn't writing this book anymore. While Nemesis is basically writing off the bullet material as a glorified paper-weight, another old Breakworld plot enters the picture. This one has boobs. Abigail Brand, who hasn't had much happen for her since Kieron Gillen's doomed SWORD series was canceled, has a fresh otherworldly problem that requires people in spandex to solve. Now she's no Nick Fury. Aside from having boobs, Brand proved herself to be a cross between an angry grizzly and a super-intelligent fox. After a few genocide jokes, she decides to ask for help. She's about as thrilled about it as a guy who recently got his herpes test results.

Back on Utopia, Magneto still won't let the whole freaky metal issue go. He's like Donald Trump who refuses to believe Barack Obama wasn't a secret Kenyan agent sent to destroy America by instigating a tax on all stupid hair styles. So he goes to Cyclops, saying that because he doesn't understand this metal that they should be concerned. It's the first time readers have been reminded that Magneto has an ego that makes Trump look like Mother Teresa.

He doesn't get a chance to flex that ego because Brand shows up via Star Wars style hologram to gravel to the X-men. There are some witty remarks in between about how reality TV is the comic equivalent of the Legacy Virus and whether Breakworld is one word or two. You can tell Kieron Gillen is trying to flex his literary muscle and doing a pretty good job of it. When in doubt, mock reality TV. Yeah, it's an easy target. But if it wasn't true it wouldn't be so damn funny/tragic.

Brand tells the X-men to get their asses into space. They agree and Brand is nice enough to provide a space shuttle. It's probably the nicest she'll be through this entire arc. Only the main Astonishing team goes, minus Beast. He's instead replaced by Magneto, which may or may not be an upgrade. It only means that Brand has no one to exercise her fur fetish around. Unless Wolverine dyes his hair blue it's a pretty safe assumption that Brand's panties will be bone dry for the rest of this story.

The goes through the whole "Where's Beast?" conversation, which in a ways is a nice reminder that Beast is still at odds with the X-men. Why he's not stalking Brand is still a mystery. Even a man/beast can only do so much when his desired mate it so uptight that she could be used to prop up Sarah Silverman's TV career. They get down to far more pressing needs, namely a big fucking alien ship from Breakworld that's heading right towards them. This time it looks a lot fancier than a bullet. Brand describes it as having enough fire power to turn entire countries into Larry the Cable Guy's backyard barbecue pit. Terry Dodson's art certainly helps reinforce that notion.

The ship is currently in stealth mode, not showing any signs of aggression. To Agent Brand there might as well be an army of Breakworld warriors standing in front of her waving their dicks in her face. She goes onto explain that Breakworld underwent the same shit that Egypt and Tunisia went through recently. Their economy went right down the shitter and as is a common theme amongst all societies, people started blowing shit up. Now they want to spread that shit to Earth and Brand wants to tell them to piss off in the nicest possible way. To do that, she needs the same X-men who helped her do it before.

The X-men don't need much convincing. They agree to help Brand mount an assault on the ship before it can do to Earth what Barry Bonds did to Major League Baseball. There's a nice little montage with the X-men preparing for the fight. Anyone who read Joss Whedon's story about Breakworld (If you haven't, may the shame of a thousand Millie Vanillis corrupt your soul) knows what a crazy battle that turned into. It was a critically acclaimed story for a reason. Any alien race brazen enough to use a giant bullet as a weapon is not to be fucked with lightly.

Then when they arrive, something unexpected happens. There's no big fight. There's no alien gladiators dressed in thongs to greet them. Brand and the X-men enter the ship unopposed to find Kruun (the asshole that fired that bullet) looking about as threatening as a drunk squirrel. He lost his arm and announced outright that the ship he's on is decommissioned. It's about as threatening to Earth as an incoming feather duster. They're not looking for a fight or for sweet vengeance as so many deranged comic villains do. They seek political asylum.

That's right. These badass Breakworld aliens that gave the X-men such a run for their money in Astonishing don't want to fight. They're basically displaced Cubans looking to set up shop and sell sombreros on a planet that's only half as fucked as theirs. It's an unexpected twist. Some may think of it as a let-down because there's little struggle shown here. But it puts the story into a new light and sets the stage for something different. You may have a WTF feeling after reading the last page, but it won't make you yearn for the next issue any less.

Kieron Gillen got his foothold in the X-men only a year ago with Generation Hope. Now he has one of the top jobs. It's like an mail-room manager becoming a CEO. Not everyone can make that shift and not come out looking like an ass, but Gillen proved he has the talent and the vision. Reading this book along with the point-one issue, it's easy to see that Matt Fraction isn't writing this anymore. This is Kieron Gillen's book. He's already putting his stamp on this series and if this issue is any indication, it's a stamp that's been certified awesome.

This issue wasn't heavy on action and it didn't try to do too much. It wasn't pulled out of any particular ass either. It actually played on previous events, some of which had a few loose ends that have gone ignored since the George Wonder-Blunder Bush was in office. Gillen didn't just tap the Breakworld story. He continued his own little plot that he began in #534.1 with Magneto having an unhealthy fascination with the metal from the bullet. The focus on this issue was a lot different than the Uncanny issues that came before it. For once, Cyclops and Emma Frost were not paraded around like homoerotic floats at Carnival in Brazil. In fact, Emma Frost had only one line in this entire issue. If Matt Fraction was still writing, his head would have exploded at such a thought. But Kieron Gillen pulled it off, giving the spotlight to someone else for once. Colossus and Kitty Pryde haven't had this kind of attention since Joss Whedon's run and it's a beautiful thing. Right up there with a bottle of whiskey and drunk college girl.

While Kieron Gillen did make a solid statement with this issue, it wasn't perfect. While this issue didn't feel like it had a lot of filler, it definitely had the feel of a setup issue. The only real action was the battle with the robot between Namor, Colossus, and Kitty. There were plenty of solid scenes in between, but at times those scenes dragged a little. It felt as though there could have been more conflict. The dialog was a little wordy at times, but definitely more refined than Matt Fraction. The issue was good enough to get you excited about the next issue, but not excited enough to want to read the issue again and again. Unlike Uncanny X-men #534.1, it didn't have any really memorable lines like that ball-busting line from Namor. It was still solid and sets the stage nicely for this new arc.

Overall, Kieron Gillen's first arc is off to a great start. Matt Fraction left a tough act to follow, but also left plenty of room for improvement. Gillen is well on his way to improving. It's still early and there hasn't been an issue that I can rant about just yet. That may change, but for now Uncanny X-men #535 is as solid a book as X-fans could hope for. I give it a final score of 4.5 out of 5. For the moment, Uncanny X-Force is still the top X-books. But Uncanny X-men is definitely in the conversation. Kieron Gillen can make a big statement with his first arc. He's well on his way. Now if he would get Kitty out of that damn space suit, that alone would make his first arc a booming success. Nuff said!