Monday, May 30, 2011

Uncanny X-men #537 - Intangible Awesome

Anybody who has followed this blog sober knows I have my biases. Anybody who has read the Uncanny X-men run of Matt Fraction knows he has his biases. He's about a subtle as a brick of C4 going off around your head at times. I'm not exactly subtle either, but I try to be honest even if I can't be sober. That's something you deal with when you read or write comics. You're going to confront biases along the way. Sometimes they make the story better. Sometimes they're annoying as hell. They're like that dog that humps your leg and the only way to get him off is to ignore him until he's finished.

Uncanny X-men was very much the Cyclops and Emma Frost show under Matt Fraction. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Who wouldn't want to read a comic about a kick-ass leader with many crippling personal issues and a hot blonde who goes into a crippling withdrawal if she doesn't show a certain amount of cleavage? I enjoyed it at some points. At others I craved a bit more variety. Cyclops and Emma Frost are major players in other X-books. There are other characters with unresolved stories. That's why I was so glad to see Kieron Gillen address one of those stories, this one involving Colossus and Kitty Pryde.

Uncanny X-men #535 and Uncanny X-men #536 began a new arc. It brought back our old friends from Breakworld, which contains a race of beings who look at slasher films the same way pre-teen girls look at Twilight movies. After their encounter with the X-men in Astonishing, their world went to shit. They came to the X-men for help and like kid who finds a dirty puppy foaming at the mouth, they let them set up shop on Utopia. This ends up being as big a mistake as you would expect it to be. Kruun, still pissed over losing his arm in Astonishing, decided to get his sweet revenge against Colossus and Kitty. To do that he de-powered Magneto and seized a shard of the bullet originally meant to fuck Earth over like Nigerian banker. His rampage continues in Uncanny X-men #537. With Magneto subdued he goes right after Colossus, who is snuggling up with Kitty in bed. It's not as sexy as it sounds. She's still in that ridiculous space suit. I'm sure there's a fetish for that shit out there somewhere. I don't think it works well here.

Now setting aside what a dick move it is to bust in on a guy when he's getting cozy with his girlfriend, Kruun is making it clear that he still blames Colossus for his piss poor lot in life and is inclined to take it out on him. To get him to go along with this alien hissy fit, he threatens to give Kitty Pryde the OJ Simpson treatment with the hunk of metal he swiped from Magneto. This sounds pretty standard for an asshole alien, but remember that Kitty is stuck in phase mode. She can't be cut by anything, but for some reason this metal can affect her. That means she can't escape it and Colossus is left to play Kruun's game and without his powers. Oh? Did I mention that? He did the same thing to Colossus that he did to Magneto. He used the cure (yet another element from Whedon's run) to render him as frail as any oversized Russian farm boy. That's still sounds pretty tough, but then again Breakworld was no hash bar in Amsterdam either.

So without his powers, Kruun leads Colossus and Kitty to a rocky ledge outside. It's not a great place to stage a fight. By Breakworld's standards, it's a jacuzzi suite at the Playboy Mansion. He doesn't just boast at how he's going to fuck Colossus up though. He actually puts a little heart into his douche-baggery and you can't help but respect that. Losing to Colossus on Breakworld wasn't just humiliating. It was a personal dishonor to him as a badass alien. He's not out to avenge his world. He's trying to reclaim his dignity. Let's face it, if someone you considered a weak little boy make you look like a complete ass you would be pissed too. He's also making sure Colossus doesn't weasel out of it by keeping Kitty in play. He uses the metal shard to stab her in the shoulder and since she can't touch it, the only way Colossus is helping her is if he goes through Kruun.

It's here where Kruun does something that I as a Kitty Pryde fan appreciate a great deal. He tells her to take off that damn space suit. I know I keep making comments on it, but I really can't be kind about it. That thing looks goofy as hell on her. Granted, she's wearing a uniform underneath. If she was just in her underwear (which is all Colossus is wearing by the way), that would add another element. Sadly, Terry Dodson isn't able to show that much T&A. I suppose that sort of thing is reserved for Emma Frost, not that it's a bad thing.

Now that Kitty Pryde can't talk to him and has a hunk of metal lodged in her arm, the fight can begin. It goes as well as you might expect. Without his powers, Colossus isn't very colossal anymore. He gets in a good early shot to show Kruun that he doesn't appreciate him stabbing his girlfriend, but even a one-armed badass alien warrior is still a lot stronger. It's a fight that lasts a good two pages. It seems short, but you really wouldn't expect a fight this unfair to be that long. At least Colossus shows he's willing to fight for his girlfriend in his underwear and without any armor. You won't see a fight that messed up outside of old reruns of Cops.

Kruun beats Colossus, but he's not a total dick about it. He still says Colossus fought well and is to be admired. He doesn't laugh like a jackass at how he's superior for beating an underpowered enemy. He's perfectly inclined to kill him with the same shard he used to stab Kitty. But he doesn't. Instead he just stabs him so he starts bleeding out. Now it's not clear why , but it is clear that Kruun isn't just looking to butcher his enemies. He's not that kind of villain. That's what makes him compelling. But once he takes the shard he stabbed Kitty with, he encounters a new problem. Kitty Pryde slips away by phasing into the ground. Now  even though she can't talk because of her phasing (don't ask me why, I'm sure Stephen Hawkings couldn't explain the physics being that shit) she can still summon the entire X-men to give Kruun the same treatment NBC gave the Wonder Woman pilot.

Since Kruun can't have some whiney teenage girl fucking up his victory, he goes after her. Kitty phases all over Utopia, looking for someone to help her against Kruun. She first goes to Cyclops and Emma Frost, who have the authority (and the boobs) to inspire all mutants to rip off Kruun's other arm and shove it up his ass. Unfortunately, Kruun thought ahead. Before he came to Colossus, he paralyzed Cyclops and hit Emma Frost with the equivalent of a roofie martini. He doesn't explain how. He just explains they can't help her.

While this is an unusual (yet still effective) way of taking Cyclops and Emma Frost out of the picture, it is a bit contrived. Kruun already demonstrated his cunning when he took down Magneto. That was a very satisfying part in the last issue. That same cunning allowed him to subdue Cyclops and Emma Frost, but we never see it. That sounds like a pretty important moment. Even if it's just a flashback, it seems glossed over. As a reader, it feels like we missed out. It's like watching scrambled porn. You know what's happening is awesome, but you don't get to see the juicy bits.

So Kitty moves onto Wolverine. Now if Kruun somehow managed to keep Wolverine docile by some off-panel bullshit, that would be a big problem. Pretty much anyone who has tried to hold Wolverine down has either ended up dead or missing limbs. Thankfully, Gillen doesn't push it that far. When Kitty Pryde reaches Wolverine, Kruun boasts that he did something to make sure he couldn't hear them. That doesn't make much a difference because Wolverine is still able to smell his ugly alien ass. So while Kruun is cunning, he's no evil super-genius. He's still plenty ballsy (stupid) for thinking he can keep Wolverine out of a good fight.

So Kitty finally gets some backup and Kruun faces a much fairer fight. Wolverine makes a few nice comments about how he wants Kruun's other arm as a trophy. He also takes a subtle potshot at Cyclops, which I know certain fans will always appreciate. It's a much more intense fight, not nearly as one-sided as the fight against Colossus. This one does seem to last a bit shorter, but it doesn't end. A fight against Wolverine is usually a fight that takes more than one issue to cover so in that sense it's a nice action-packed dash of sprinkles atop the cake already presented earlier in the book.

While Wolverine and Kruun are going at it, Kitty keeps running for more help. Her boyfriend is bleeding to death so she still has reason to be concerned. She runs down to the science team to find anyone who didn't sleep through first aid training or watched more than three seasons of House. She ends up finding Kruun's squeeze. Up until this point, she seems like the less homicidal part of the relationship. At first it looks like she's prepared to help Kitty. Then when she asks if she's willing to do anything to save her boyfriend, she does the most logical thing to help her. She slashes her across the throat.

Now maybe in Breakworld this counts as dry humping, but it's still a nice little twist. Granted, it's not too surprising. This woman did see fit to shack up with Kruun. She doesn't get in bed or whatever they fuck on in Breakworld without having a thing or two in common with the guy. Solving problems through violence sounds like a great commonality to share over a date over. That along with a Pirates of the Caribbean movie and you've got yourself a Breakworld romantic comedy! While it may not be surprising, it leaves both Kitty and Colossus in a dire state. They're both bleeding to death and Kruun is still on the lose. There are a lot of problems left to resolve and a lot of blood stains to clean up, giving plenty of reason to look forward to the next issue!

So the book ends with a bloody twist. Okay, it's not the Usual Suspects. You're not going to get the same feeling you got when you first watched the Matrix or first the skin of an orange while stoned. But it's still a nice twist. It follows an exciting, well-connected plot. It flows nicely and has more than enough intrigue to keep the reader guessing. It's not one of those comics you can just breeze through, note who beats the shit out of who, and understand at the end. You actually have to read over the pages and absorb the damn story to get a feel for what's going on. If you're too lazy to do that, you're too lazy to wipe yourself after taking a shit as well.

Kieron Gillen continues to show a nice, deep style. He provides the kind of rich substance that was hard to come by during Matt Fraction's run. But unlike Matt Fraction, the action doesn't always flow smoothly. The parts where Cyclops and Emma Frost were shown to be neutralized off-panel was a little underhanded. It seemed like a convenient way to get them out of the way. It would have been nice to see Kruun trick those two the same way he tricked Magneto. That would have made him look all the more badass. Unfortunately, that part was glossed over while the part with Wolverine left little to the imagination. I'm still glad that Kitty Pryde finally got to do something more meaningful than run around in a space suit. Even though she couldn't talk, she did more in this issue than she has in years. That alone makes this issue worth getting. The end is surprising without being too over-the-top. The book is mostly a drawn out fight, but it doesn't feel like one. It has just the right mix of action and plot, even if the details are a light at times.

Overall, this was a fun issue. Kitty Pryde fans will probably get drunk off this issue for the next month or so. It had the feel of a classic car chase scene mixed with mutants and killer aliens. Not a bad combination! Kieron Gillen makes it work. Terry Dodson's art makes it visually appealing on every level. There's a lot to love about this book and only a few shortcomings to speak of. They're easy to overlook even if you can't ignore them. So for Uncanny X-men #537, I give it a 4.5 out of 5. Uncanny X-men fluctuated a bit during the final stretch of Matt Fraction's run. Kieron Gillen has brought a great sense of stability to this book. It feels like THE primary X-book. It's right up there with Uncanny X-Force in terms of value and quality. For anyone who has followed X-books for any length of time, it's a sight that should bring tears of joy to your eyes. Nuff said!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Generation Hope #7 - Birthing Awesome With Complications

It's been a busy couple of weeks for the X-books. I know I'm behind on some of these titles, but don't blame me. Blame God for only making the weeks seven days long. Also ask him why Jesus didn't come back on May 21st like that crackpot guy with the billboards said. I'd love to know the answer. But in addition to time constraints, the other X-books have so much going on. X-men Legacy has the Age of X aftermath. Uncanny has Breakworld. Uncanny X-Force has the Dark Angel Saga with Age of Apocalypse. X-23 had the Collision arc with Daken. Somewhere in this mix, Generation Hope is still going on. I haven't forgotten about that book, but the past few issues have been a bit sub-par. They haven't been bad, but the other X-books have been so much better that it's like a someone lighting a match in the middle of a forest fire.

Now I've been trying to remain objective with this book. I still feel the urge to call it Generation Jean Ripoff because that's basically how I see it. I can't look at Hope Summers and not think Jean Grey. When a character has red hair, green eyes, and the Phoenix Force my eyes instinctively roll and somehow the nearest wall becomes a target for my head. Given that I can't sustain much more brain damage, I'm still trying to follow along with these stories. Kieron Gillen's writing has been very solid all around. Even when there are flaws within the characters, he finds a way to make it work. He's like whatever plastic surgeon Joan Rivers uses. He's got a beaten up piece of road that he has to make drivable.

Generation Hope #7 continues the plot that started in the last issue involving a new light. Like the other lights before it, this one's a little fucked up and not fucked up like an all nighter in Las Vegas with Pacman Jones. It's fucked up in that this new mutant is a fucking infant still in it's mother's womb. It's almost time for him to come out, but he doesn't want to. It's nice and cozy in the womb. Who can blame him for wanting to stay inside? He's like Flavor Flav and all his illegitimate kids. He loves being inside women so much that he won't wrap his tool or pull out. So to stay in the womb, the infant does what any rationally minded being would do. It uses it's telepathy to take control of every mind within the hospital and turn them into drooling zombies. See? Perfection rational for any kid that never saw enough Spongebob.

The issue begins with a brief conversation between Kitty Pryde and Idie. Kitty is the one taking point in this mission and yes, she's still in that stupid space suit. But that's secondary to Idie, who has had fewer lines than Rob Schneider in Adam Sandler movies. When she finally does speak, she makes it a point to call Kitty an immoral woman for getting freaky with her Russian stud of a boyfriend without marrying him. Now this is pretty fucked up in that she has to have been on Utopia long enough to know who hooked up with who. She was actually in a classroom with Emma Frost two issues ago and you would expect that she met up with someone like Wolverine, whose dick is more overused than Donald Trump's hairpiece. Yet NOW she's revealing that she has a problem with pre-marital sex? Either she has the worst attention span in the history of comics or she was just in the mood to sound like a bitch.

That scene has absolutely no bearing on what's going on inside the hospital. The baby is directing it's army of drooling zombies at Je-I mean Hope and her lights (sorry, it's been a while). They keep chanting "unself" as if it's the code-word at a secret brothel under Washington DC. Kenji (who may qualify as Akira Ripoff) tries to hold back the mindless hoards without hurting them. Jea-I mean Hope tries to have Teon restrain the mother. The baby doesn't like that. It responds by blowing out all the windows. It seems like an immature way of giving them the finger, but there's actually more to it and it has nothing to do with Dane Cook's stupid "mega-finger" joke.

Since the hospital didn't provide enough mindless goons, the baby decides to add to it's ranks by taking control of Kitty, Idie, and the dozens of other media types who thought a hospital under siege was a safe place to be near. So they all turn into drooling zombies looking to swarm the area. In that sense they really aren't much different from the real media so I honestly couldn't tell if they were being controlled or if they worked for Fox News. But it does present a dangerous problem for Jean-I mean Hope. Idie is among those in the crowd. Aside from her nagging views on pre-marital sex, she also has fire and ice powers. That's slightly more dangerous than annoying media types. To get her out of the fight, she taps her inner Cable and formulates a plan.

The plan involves Laurie (the fish girl as she's often called on message boards), flying out at high speeds and carrying Idie as far away from the area as possible. This way she's out of the baby's range. It's a decent enough plan. Hell, it works better than the last three douche-bags that tried to run for president on the republican ticket. Idie is freed, but there's a bit of a side-effect. Apparently the fish girl is more fish than she looks. While she's flying, she takes on the shape of a winged mermaid. Seriously, that's the only way to describe her.

Now I'm no aerospace engineer, but I do think I'm one when I'm tripping on acid. I'm pretty sure that fish fins don't work too well when flying. So Laurie's design is a bit...well, I'd need a few more tabs of acid to figure that out. But while it probably won't gain any interest form NASA or the Air Force, it does make her look pretty badass. Plus I think she's still technically naked so that's always a plus. Anytime a freaky blue-skinned chick is naked in a comic or porno that usually means something awesome is happening.

While Idie is re-inserting her eyes, the baby summons more drooling zombies. From the outside it looks like she's taking all of Berlin under her control. Last time someone tried that, a big ass wall got built and a lot of nice people got shot. Kenji kindly explains that he can't protect everyone's mind, a trick that was still utterly contrived from the last issue. But he is able to protect Idie and Laurie's mind when they return. Laurie looks a bit more presentable. Her crazy appearance isn't even mentioned, which seems like a bit of an oversight if you forget that they're dealing with a baby on a power trip. But she does offer an explanation which Jean Gr-I mean Hope (I'll get it soon) hasn't seemed to figure out yet. The baby doesn't want to be born. Why would it want to leave it's cozy womb for a world with an NFL lockout, American Idol, and crack-pot preachers who say the world is going to end every few years. The lights have their work cut out for them, but Kenji manages to link up with the baby's mind.

Again, it's another crazy trick he's pulled out of his ass in the past few issues and not in the same disturbing way you see in Japanese anime porn. It's another case of a solution being a bit contrived. Now I know I use that word more than Snookie uses Planned Parenthood, but it's an important concept. If there's no rhythm or reason for something to happen, it disrupts the flow and progression of a story. Kieron Gillen showed a great deal of progression in his Uncanny books, linking one event to the other. So it's pretty disappointing to see it underutilized here.

Once linked in, the lights start trying to convince the baby that it should leave it's cozy womb. Hope (there, I got it!) tries first. She says something that you would expect to hear from any character that looks, acts, and wields cosmic forces like Jean Grey. Usually this is enough to make a point or give Wolverine a boner. For the baby, it just freaks it out. I guess it doesn't like confronting Jean Grey ripoffs as well.

The other lights try and fail just as miserably. Laurie seems to think that a baby might give a damn about how great the education system is in Germany. Idie thinks it's a good idea to scare a baby with the prospect of Hell. It made Jerry Farwell a complete asshole so it shouldn't come as any surprise that the baby doesn't care for it. Kenji tries reverse psychology, which has been known to work on some kids. I remember my first-grade teacher telling us again and again NOT to scratch our butts and it never failed. Then Teon gives if a try. You might think a simple-minded teenager whose only instinct is to fight, hump, and mark his territory like a wolf wouldn't have much to say to a baby. But somehow, being as dumb as a sack of hammers carries some weight with a crazy unborn baby.

He doesn't say anything while at the same time, the drooling zombie army (which I think is also the name of a New York punk band) overwhelms Kenji. There's no contrived power he can utilize to get out of this one. He and the lights are about to be trampled like toddlers at the Apple store during a new Iphone launch. But surprisingly (or laughably depending on how high you are), the drooling zombies just stop. They stop and they step aside so Teon can work. Again, he hasn't said anything at this point so either the baby just creeped out as hell or something's going on here that isn't articulated. It's fucked up and contrived yet again. I feel like I should copyright that word because I use it more than anal lube at Andy Dick's house.

Teon leads the unfortunate pregnant woman to a bed. The lights and the drooling zombie army follow. Teon finally says something to the baby. He just says "No flight. No fight." The baby is scared. For some reason that's enough to make it unscared. I get that most babies don't think logically, but even that's pushing it. So in front of all those people and without the massive amounts of blood and placenta, the woman gives birth.

Now it feels like Gillen missed an opportunity to be daring here. Anybody who has ever seen a live birth knows it's messy as hell and involves more screaming than the last six Wes Craven movies combined. Yet this birth happens so cleanly you would think the woman was just baking a loaf of bread and pulling it out of the oven. It seems to undermine the whole point of a baby entering an ugly and conflicted world as the Marvel 616 universe so often is. It's not like Marvel hasn't shown messy births before. There was a What If comic with Wolverine where it involved an impromptu Cesarian. It's just too...clean a resolution.

It's still a nice moment even if it doesn't really go anywhere. Once Hope stabilizes the baby's powers, they become dormant. So basically, it's not going to mind-control anybody anymore. All those people it controlled are left to wonder what the fuck happened and check to make sure their asses aren't bleeding. That's never addressed, neither is how the baby's powers can just go dormant again and they won't have to worry until it's a teenager. Given how slow comic time progresses, I'll be pooping into bags by the time that character comes back into the picture. It basically means the story ends without it changing jack shit. For a story that was billed as being so ground-breaking, it really doesn't leave much of an impact or make much progression.

But just as the lights are patting themselves on the back, they return to the X-jet to get some news from Kitty. It was hinted at in the last issue. Someone in the Marvel universe just placed themselves below Dr. Doom in terms of sheer douche-baggery and hired a lawyer to sue the X-men. It's actually Teon's parents, who were never mentioned in the slightest after he showed up. They want him back. It sets the stage for a next conflict. So whereas this story involved a confused, super-powered baby, the next one will involve lawyers. I'm pretty sure I would rather be locked in a room with Apocalypse and Sinister.

While the ending is nice in that it sets the stage for the next conflict, the resolution to this story was a bit  underwhelming. Everything was nicely tied up, but again it left no real impact. The new light isn't really much of a light since the baby's powers aren't going to manifest until it's older. At least previous issues of Generation Hope have shown some progression in that the events of the previous issues influenced the events of later issues. In earlier issues Hope argued with Cyclops to make her lights part of a team. They became a team. In this story a new light was detected and now it's basically been swept under the rug. It's not like it's an unhappy ending, but it was too clean and closed. The next story hinted at the end has nothing to do with the baby so it feels choppy in the end and takes away from the overall impact.

There's still plenty to like about this book. The art is solid and each light gets to shine in their own way, although Idie still comes off as a bit of a jerk. Laurie definitely shined here. Her powers continue to develop in unexpected ways. And somehow Teon plays the hero, coming off as the lovable brute that still humps your leg. The overall concept of the baby trying to resist being born is still a novel approach. I credit Kieron Gillen for taking a few risks, but it felt like he only went halfway with it. It could have gone a lot further and that's what makes this issue only partially awesome.

Generation Hope hasn't been a bad series, but it started off so strong. Then the whole Jean Grey ripoff story broke and the subsequent stories have just been mediocre at best. The book hasn't crashed and burned. There's still plenty of appeal. You won't be disappointed by this book, but you won't be blown away either. Compared to books like X-23, Wolverine, Uncanny X-men, X-men Legacy, Uncanny X-Force, and now X-men First to Last it's just completely outgunned. So for Generation Hope #7, I give it a 3 out of 5. I wanted to give it a lower score, but the concept was solid even if it wasn't followed through. Gillen didn't try to shock readers too much or get too messy. In an era where comic characters can't smoke, but can make deals with the devil I credit Generation Hope for trying to have a little substance behind the style. For that, it's awesome in it's own right. Nuff said!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Giant Size X-men #1 - Giant Sized Awesome

Don't look now, but Marvel's playing the nostalgia card again. Like any business running out of ideas, it seems they can't go more than a few months without utilizing imagery from the past to stir up sales in the present. So when some people see a title like Giant Size X-men on the racks, they're inclined to roll their eyes. However, this is one occasion when those who use their eyes in such a profane manner ought to have them gouged out and fed to whatever is keeping the herpes in check for the girls on the Jersey Shore.

Now I admit I was also a bit perplexed when I heard about this. The X-books already had an annual for Uncanny. Granted, it was more underwhelming than a motivational speech on good judgment by George W. Bush. But still, it was an annual and it filled it's purpose while not sucking too horribly. Now Marvel has another oversized one-shot issue and their balls are so big they're willing to use a title like Giant Size. It's like stuffing your pants with a cucumber and asking a few out-of-work Swedish models if they want to ski down your northern slopes. However, Chris Yost is writing it. Given his pedigree for bringing awesome to the X-men includes X-Force, X-23, X-men Evolution, and Wolverine and the X-men it's a damn good reason to look closer at that bulge in Marvel's pants and quit wondering if it's some kind of malignant tumor.

With Fear Itself kicking the shit out of Marvel's main books, the X-men are basically waiting impatiently in the wings until they can whip their dicks out with their big Schism event. In the meantime, there's still room for some kick-ass stories. This one ties directly into the adjectiveless X-men series that gave us Curse of the Mutants. Now I've reviewed this series a number of times. I've never felt the urge to frame it and put it next to the framed panties I stole from Jessica Alba's dressing room. The stories have been billed as big, but they've always fizzled out like an expired bottle of coke (the drink and not the blow). Now Chris Yost has earned the respect of X-fans by delivering consistent awesome more often than a Navy SEAL armed with an M-16 and a metric ton of C4. So if anyone can give respectability to this adjectiveless series, it's him.

His giant sized story begins with a brief lesson in evolution. Now it's a lesson that would probably only fly with the Texas School Board, but it covers an important moment in the history of man. It shows the first few human babies being born. For the ape men of the time, it's like giving birth to two kids with an asshole in their forehead and a middle finger sticking out their ass. The ape men try to kill the newborns the same way the Mafia teaches manners to their rivals. They end up getting whacked by a strange blue light. We don't see what it is, but I'm sure if those ape men wore pants they would be shitting them.

Fast forward to the present day. Cyclops is dreaming. And much to the chagrin of his barbie doll girlfriend, Emma Frost, he's not dreaming of a hot blonde licking chocolate syrup off his balls. He's dreaming of Jean Grey, you know that redhead who Marvel tries to keep dead even though fans bitch about it every chance they get? Yep! It's her! And she's trying to warn Cyclops of something. She's trying to get him to remember. If that's not enough to piss Emma Frost off, she can't even sense it. Usually when Jean crosses his thoughts, she makes a big deal about it. Not this time. She just urges him to keep sleeping. Never mind that Utopia is being attacked by an advanced group known as the Neo. He deserves his rest. That or she gets hot when her home is under attack. It may be a little of both.

Cyclops forgoes the chance to have some morning sex with Emma Frost (seriously, how many other men would turn that down?) and joins up with the rest of the X-men. It's a fight that has numerous X-men involved including Dazzler, Iceman, Angel, Psylocke, and pretty much anyone who doesn't appreciate giant green humanoids stomping over their home turf. It's a classic X-men style fight that Cyclops quickly takes under his command. It's a battle that gets ugly fast, containing all sorts of colorful super-powered villain that for some reason think attacking all mutant kind is a good idea. It doesn't sound so foolish considering all mutant-kind is concentrated on one little island. And whose fault is that? No wonder Emma didn't want to wake Cyclops.

Some amongst the team weren't around to get acquainted with the Neo. I admit I haven't been keeping up with them either. I opted out of their mailing list back when mailing lists were determined to be more outdated than eight-track tapes. They don't have a Twitter feed either so Cyclops gives the team and the readers a general overview. They're basically an off-shoot of mutants. They're like vampires minus the fans, bloodlust, and Twilight jokes. They're stronger and more powerful, but they're also xenophobic. They're like the North Korea of super-beings. They live in clans and for the past few years, they've experienced no births. The reason they give for attacking is they discovered that mutants had one with Hope. That gives them all the reason they need to attack the entire mutant race. It's actually a valid reason. If one group is having new births and the other isn't, then natural selection will eventually kick the ass of the one that isn't.

Cyclops urges the X-men to only use non-lethal attacks even though the Neo have absolutely no problem with fucking them all up. And who can blame them? They're in the same position as the X-men during the Messiah Trilogy. They know their species is fucked and they have to do whatever it takes to get them unfucked. If that means attacking all mutant kind, so be it. It's survival. Cyclops understands this and prefers NOT to be responsible for the further decimation of a species. Let's face it, he doesn't need that shit on his conscious. The rest of the X-men don't quite get it, but the fight continues and it escalates quickly.

Then something unexpected happens. Cyclops goes into one of his famous mental breakdowns/seizures. It seems to come out of nowhere, but it actually relates to that dream he had about Jean earlier. That dream didn't just involve her wearing her old Dark Phoenix outfit with edible panties underneath. It was old memories that had somehow been hidden. Only Jean found a way to preserve them and now Cyclops is remembering and getting a splitting headache in the process. It's basically like anybody remembering their freshman year of high school, but not quite as painful.

These memories take the story into the past. Not just a few years back into the past. I'm talking back into the Kirby/Lee era of Uncanny X-men. You want to talk about shit that gets better with age, there's just no beating the first class no matter what that badly named movie Fox is putting out would have you believe. The events that link to the current crisis on Utopia go all the way back to the X-men's first mission against Magneto and his Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants. They were a lot less subtle back in the 60s I guess, but even in their old costumes they look pretty bad ass.

Now this part of the story doesn't just help add to the story in the present. It's a nice insight into the REAL first class of X-men. Ever since the X-men First Class comic was canceled (a date in which I mourn by sacrificing a goat and three chickens), the stories about the classic X-men have been few and far between. It may sound like bullshit nostalgia, but where else other than shitty fanfiction can you read a pre-Phoenix Jean Grey, a pre-Arcangel Angel, a pre-cat Beast, and a pre-Emma Frost's plaything Scott Summers? I usually make a lot of jokes about nostalgia, but for X-men First Class I make an exception. It adds a whole new element to this story, mixing two different eras in a beautifully organic way.

The battle unfolds just like it did back in the day. The X-men take on Magneto in an effort to prevent him from seizing control of nuclear weapons. Magneto wants to wage war with humanity and for some reason, Xavier and his students have a problem with this. If he could see what his future self has become, I'm sure 60s Magneto would crush his own helmet and fly head first into Richard Nixon's ass. As was often the case in that era, good was poised to triumph over evil. Then a giant robot attacked. Okay, maybe that still happens on a regular basis in 2011, but it still has that solid First Class feel to it.

One classic battle turns into another as the X-men fight their first sentinel. It's like a teenager who finds his first porno. It gets more awesome each time. It's not glossed over. The X-men in this fight were young. They aren't the uber-competent super team that goes toe-to-toe with Apocalypse in between oogling Emma Frost. There are a couple of pages worth of strategy. Just like in the present, Cyclops's leadership skills are still competent enough to take down a giant robot. The Original Five still shines. But just when it seems they're about to cap off their first Sentinel, Xavier tells them to pull back. It's like a parent interrupting the kid after he's found his first porno. It doesn't go over well with the team, but Cyclops is still the same stern SOB he is in the present. He gives them an order and they follow it.

It's probably a safe assumption that Jean, Warren, Bobby, and Hank annoy the hell out of Cyclops all the way back to the institute. Keep in mind, they're still teenagers. If they're not annoying one another, they're either high or dead. Once they get back, Professor Xavier explains himself. His reason isn't entirely rational, even to a teenager. Their mission was to stop Magneto. They did that. To hell with the giant mutant hunting robot. That was enough. Cyclops disagrees. He believes that humanity will hunt them and they have to strike back. It turns into a difficult moment because Xavier mentions that he had a similar conversation with Magneto.

Now it doesn't seem like much, but it is a profound moment. It shows that even during the early days, Cyclops and Xavier didn't see eye-to-eye. Cyclops is a fighter. That's how he's trained. Magneto is a fighter as well, albeit with slightly more genocidal tendencies. Now some may call this retconning because Cyclops in the past was always a loyal follower of Xavier. And he still is here. But that doesn't mean he agrees with everything. He and Xavier start to debate. Hank and Bobby act like it's a fight between parents. Now a fight between parents is either boring as hell or traumatizing. We never find out which it is hear because there's a blinding blue flash, which if you read the first few pages should seem familiar.

From the flash, we go back to the present and we find out who the blue light belongs to. They call themselves the Evolutionaries. They look like a half-rendered agent from the Matrix, only ten times more badass. They come claiming that they want to ensure the survival of the mutant race. Somehow, Jean made him forget about these creatures and stop whatever sort of help they offered. It probably involved shit that explodes or maims. Whatever it was, the Evolutionaries seem to remember it more than Cyclops. When they see him in the present, they say he lied to them. So suddenly the Neo are no longer that pressing. In fact, they're about to become as menacing as a terminally ill chipmunk.

Oddly enough, the Evolutionaries aren't too miffed about being lied to. Their purpose now is the same as it was when they showed up to the first class. They want to protect the mutant race. To do that, they deem that the Neo have ceased to evolve. They also present a clear threat to the mutant race. So with power that's not entirely clear, they do to the Neo what OJ Simpson does to cheating wives. They takes care them and doesn't need Johnny Cochran to clear their names. So all at once and all over the world, the Neo are completely wiped out. They blow up like ants under a magnifying glass. It isn't just on Utopia. Every Neo in every colony all over the world dies. And the Neo don't even break a sweat in the process. That's both badass and fucked up at the same time.

The fight with the Neo ends ugly and the X-men can't do shit about it. They just watch them melt away the same way they would watch a rat drown. It's not every day the X-men watch an entire race go extinct. It hits them a little harder because they've been on the receiving end of a lot of attempted genocides. They're like the Jews in that they're more inclined to feel empathy for the victims. But the Evolutionaries aren't done yet. In both the past and the present, they make the same statement. They want to protect the mutant race. In order to do that, they have to kill all humanity. It sounds cold, but think back to Second Coming and Xtinction Agenda. More often than not, it's humans who try to kill of the mutant race. So while it seems so devious, it has a sick logic to it.

And this, my fellow fanboys, is what justifies the Giant in Giant Size X-men. By the end of this comic you don't just get one long, drawn out story in the present. You get two stories, one of them that takes place in the past and is tied to the present in a profound and insightful way. It's fits together so nicely that you could build pyramids out of it. It feels like two comic in one, an issue of X-men First Class mixed with the current adjectiveless X-men series. Anyone who bitches about the $4.99 price needs to take a finance course and learn the definition of value because this book has that in abundance.

There are new concepts mixing with old ones in a uniquely creative way. The Evolutionaries don't come off as these powerful new foes that the X-men must overcome. They're a much more difficult foe in that they don't think they're doing something wrong. They're actually trying to help the X-men and their kind. In their own twisted logic, they deem it necessary to wipe out all of humanity. It puts the X-men in an awkward position because it's humanity that's often fucking them over. They're the reason they have to live on a tiny island in San Francisco. It's a difficult situation to be in and one that opens the door to so many possibilities. How do the X-men even fight something like this? Past or present? It sets the stage for a great story and one that has elements that old school fans and new school fans can unite over.

I honestly can't find too many flaws in this book. It's very nicely refined from the dialog to the art to the progression of events between the past and the present. If there are any shortcomings it's that it doesn't feel like enough characters are involved. Sure, you get glimpses of some characters in the background, but they really don't seem like part of the bigger picture. It makes the scope of the story seem more narrow than it really is. I know it's difficult for writers to include every character, but in a book titled Giant Size X-men it commands a bigger scope. There are still a few issues of this arc left so there are plenty of chances for Chris Yost to include more.

I still can't dock points off a book for simply not throwing too many characters into a scene. Unless you're really that petty, there's so much more to love about this issue. If you're a fan of the classic X-men, you'll find something to love. If you're a fan of the more contemporary X-men, you'll find something to love. There's so much love to go around it's almost like being in Hugh Hefner's bedroom. With that in mind, I give Giant Size X-men #1 a perfect 5 out of 5. This is one of those rare one-shots that's worth waiting for every year. If you're an X-men fan, past or present, you owe it to yourself to get this book. Nuff said!

Friday, May 27, 2011

X-men Supreme Issue 34: Sinister Intent Part 3 PREVIEW

A very Sinister conflict has been brewing in the pages of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series! For the past two issues, the X-men have come face-to-face with a villain that has a special place in the history of Marvel comics. Sinister has never shied from doing a special kind of damage. He's left a big impact on the X-men and many major characters. That's why I was so excited about introducing him in the Sinister Intent arc. It's taken two issues to unfold. It'll take one more to complete. The final issue of Sinister Intent will bring some major changes to the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. The climactic battle is at hand! Here's an extended preview of what you can expect.

“NO! Damn it, not this! Not now!” cursed an enraged Sinister as he banged his fist on one of his gauges.

His experiment was almost at the critical point. The extraction process had just begun. The special procedure he prepared for Rogue was in full swing, using various chemicals and electrodes to manipulate her powers in just the way he wanted. She had been slowly draining Scott and Jean, who were still fighting the sedatives on the gurneys, but he wouldn’t get the full package until the draining procedure was at full power.

That’s when the power faltered. Just as he was beginning the next round of protocols, the lights started flickering. This old base had an antiquated power system that he had to modify with more advanced generators, but much of the system still had be linked through the wiring in the building. Either they were failing on him now of all times, or someone was disrupting them. Given the way his sentinel was faltering, it was highly likely the X-men were behind this.

As lights flickered and more power gauges showed grim readings, the experiment was in jeopardy. Without power, he couldn’t keep his machines working. And if his machines couldn’t work, the process couldn’t be completed. He was in too early a stage to push for full extraction. If he were to try his systems would be fried along with his specimens and that was something he couldn’t afford.

“Damn you, Charles Xavier!” he spat, literally punching through one of the monitors.

From the gurneys, Scott and Jean were still dazed and in a world of pain. But they could definitely see something was wrong. The flickering lights and the flashing computer screens could only mean one thing. The X-men were getting closer.

“See that, Sinister?” grunted Scott through the pain, “That’s our friends coming to kick your ass!”

“Face it,” said Jean, still in a daze, “You…you failed!”

“I may have underestimated the X-men! But you would be wise not to underestimate me either! I may not be able to complete my experiment, but I can make sure it isn’t a total loss!”

In a fit of frustration, Sinister picked up another computer screen and shattered it with his bear hands. He then stormed over to the area between Scott and Jean’s gurneys and entered a couple of commands on a key pad that was on some computer console behind them. The two mutants then felt a brief sting in their arms where a large IV was in. A quick sample of blood, tissue, and bone marrow was quickly extracted and sent through a series of tubes that led into the console. After about a minute of continuous typing, a panel below the keypad opened and two glowing vials emerged.

These weren’t necessarily what Sinister was hoping for. They were but a part of something much grander he hoped this experiment would grant him. But without the full capacity of his equipment, that was impossible. His major goals had not been thwarted. The destiny of these two very special mutants had not changed either. It was just going to have to wait.

“It’s not much, but it’ll do for now,” said Sinister as he looked at the two vials, “You two still have many secrets in your genetics. I will uncover them all, but not today.”

“So what are you going to do?” grunted Scott, “Kill us?”

“Kill you? Why would I want to do that?” said Sinister with an ominous grin, “Like I said, you two are very special to me. The last thing I would want is for you to perish before your true potential is unlocked.”

The end of the Sinister Intent arc will set the stage for a new phase in X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers. Like the volume before it, War Powers is building towards something big. The many plotlines and stories that have been unfolding are linked to something bigger. You don't need to read Volume 1 to appreciate it, but it'll help give readers a sense of the scale that this fanfiction series has taken on. As I said from the beginning, I want this to be more than fanfiction. I want X-men fans to see this as a legitimate outlet for X-men. That scale will become very clear as Volume 2: War Powers unfolds. From there, some much more ambitious stories lay ahead.

Thanks as always to those who have supported the X-men Supreme fanfiction series through it's development. There's still plenty more to come! I probably won't be able to do a bio for Sinister soon because that would spoil a lot. The man has a long history. There's much I've yet to reveal! I would also like to remind everybody that I'm always open for feedback. Please feel free to contact me any time with questions or comments. If you also own a website, I'll be happy to link to it. If you have art, I'll be happy to post it in the pics section. Until next time, take care and best wishes!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Uncanny X-Force #10 - Awesome Worthy of (Dark) Angels

The world of Uncanny X-Force is like the juicy side-boob of a Swedish swimsuit model in a Vogue photoshoot. The overall picture is nice, but it's definitely the best part! Rick Remender has been on a tear with this title. He's basically given the finger to all the other X-books and said "Ha! I can do it WAY better!" And he's backed up that claim with each issue. Uncanny X-Force has a simple formula (if you happen to have a masters degree from from the Harvard school of awesome). He takes a small set of characters, puts said characters in intense yet unique predicaments, ensures there are ramifications to those predicaments, and gives the characters a very human approach to those predicaments. There's probably some quantum mechanics in there, but I'd rather not get into details while I'm not high. The most important element of Uncanny X-Force is that it takes the concept of a secret X-men kill squad that does missions normal X-men can't or won't do and makes it more than blood-soaked torture porn. Doing stuff like this would fuck a normal person up in ways that would require years of therapy and a shit ton of meds. Even when things have gotten bloody, X-Force has struggled to deal with it at times and that often fuels subsequent stories.

The past few issues of Uncanny X-Force have been pretty basic. Since the Deathlok arc, this series has thrown in a few one-shots. They include such charming stories as hunting down old Nazis and psychic battles against Shadowking. Now Uncanny X-Force is set to begin a new arc and for this, Marvel is breaking out a bug gun that's been gathering dust somewhere between Joe Quesada's porno stash and Tom Brevoort's twinkie stash. That gun is Age of Apocalypse, the alternate reality that Marvel created back in the 90s to cash in on a bloated What If gimmick. Yet it was entertaining and memorable, putting a new twist on characters that take more than a few beers to conjure. Never one to use gimmicks just once, Marvel isn't done with Age of Apocalypse and Uncanny X-Force is their shiny new tool with which to milk it.

Now I have mixed feelings about this. The Age of Apocalypse universe is near and dear to my heart. It was a charming little take on a much darker twist on X-men. So the idea of mixing up the main Marvel universe with this guilty pleasure of a series doesn't sit well. But given the quality and strength of Uncanny X-Force, I'm willing to give Rick Remender a chance. He already set the stage when X-Force faced Apocalypse as their first enemy. He deserves a shot at taking it a step further.

Before the series can take a trip down AOA lane, it begins by touching on another issue that's been brewing for a while. It involves the whole notion of having a secret kill squad of X-men. Secret being the key word. You see, X-Force doesn't really work if someone spills the beans that there are X-men out there proactively hunting people down and killing them. Granted, those people are assholes, but some have a problem with this. Unfortunately, there are too many pussies in the world. Amahl Farouk, who the X-men know as Shadowking, understands this. Having recently confronted X-Force and gotten his psychic ass kicked, he's out for a little payback. So what does he do? Crank call them? Steal their credit cards and use it to buy fifty strippers and a few bricks of blow? How about leak footage of X-Force's exploits to a journalist? I'd still go with the strippers and blow, but I guess that works as well.

While the reporter is in the process of shitting his pants, someone calls Angel and lets him know that someone is about to spill X-Force's secrets. Now this matters a lot to him because being the overprivlidged rich guy of the team, he paid for much of X-Force's resources. If word got out he was sponsoring a kill squad, that can't be good for his family company or trust fund. So he abruptly cancels a Danger Room session that involves a World War II (or World War I, it's hard to tell) scenario to take care of it.

Arcangel is so bent on stopping this news from getting out and protecting his family's billions that he basically tells off his girlfriend in a way just short of telling her to shut the fuck up. This is not a smart thing to do when you have an evil split-personality and your girlfriend is a hot telepath who gives you the privileged of seeing her naked. This comes on the heels of Angel having killed someone during their last mission against Shadowking. So when he flies off without even listening to Psylocke's concern, she gets worried and Fantomex uses it as a chance to flirt with her. Now Fantomex is still a massive tool, this is Psylocke we're talking about here. He can be forgiven for wanting to get into Psylocke's panties.

The only issue that some may have here is that it seems a little...abrupt. In previous issues, Angel didn't show any signs of being one bad phone-call away from becoming of a total douche. He's also never disrespected Psylocke like this. Not that I'm against a little drama, but this just seems to be happening a little fast. It's not terribly contrived, but it makes a bit of a leap in terms of progression.

While Psylocke runs off to warn Wolverine about her boyfriend's hissy fit, Arcangel seeks out the man threatening to play tabloid jerk-off with X-Force. He starts by finding the guy who called him. By find I mean sneaks up on him when he's getting into his car. This understandably scares the shit out of him, but it's implied (and never shown) that he royally fucks him up.

This can't sit well with the guy who actually got the information from Shadowking. He learns on the news that someone killed his editor. That means he's now officially on the top of Arcangel's shit-list. So before he can unload the video Wikileaks style, Arcangel confronts him in a way that would clear the bowels of a constipated elephant.

Arcangel isn't in a reasonable mood. He's not inclined to ask politely for the video files and the name of the guy who gave it to him. He's more in the mood to cut his throat and use his blood as anal lube. You almost feel bad for the reporter, but then again I lost my trust for the media years ago so I can't have too much sympathy. Before Arcangel does a Sopranos style interrogation, Wolverine busts into the scene. His inner musings retell of how he came to respect Angel. Now that respect is as valuable as a Zimbabwe penny.

Wolverine manages to knock Arcangel out a window, forgetting that the guy has fucking wings. You might as well lock a fat guy in a chocolate factory. The terrified reporter doesn't seem to realize this either. Like a good coward in the liberal media, he runs towards the nearest exit. Yet for some reason, he's still surprised when Angel is there to meet him. Seriously, did he really think he could outrun a guy with wings? Even the media can't be that stupid.

Having thrown Wolverine into the nearest pile of empty beer bottles, there's nothing stopping Arcangel from giving the reporter a taste of North Korean justice. Yet just as the reporter is praying to several deities in between shitting himself, Arcangel starts to struggle with his Angel persona. The non-asshole side of his personality is having a hard time subduing his inner douche. He fights the urge to kill him the way some people fight the urge to punch Bill O'Reilly. It's a great moment that shows the inner struggle that Angel has been wrestling with since the beginning of this series.

I wish I could say his good side wins out, he apologizes to the reporter, and agrees to pay a couple of hookers to toss his salad. But this is Uncanny X-Force. That kind of Disney crap doesn't fly here (even though Disney does technically own this shit). Good Angel can't beat out Evil Angel. So rather than risk him giving the reporter the same treatment the Navy SEALS did to Bin Ladin, Psylocke steps in and knocks him out with a little telepathy. That's what you get when you're an asshole to your girlfriend. She fucks up your mind. She doesn't need telepathy, but let's just say if all women did then every man on this planet would be effectively castrated.

Once Angel is forced into nap time, Psylocke wipes the mind of the reporter and they take the deranged Arcangel back to their base. The prognosis isn't good. No one in X-Force is a science geek. All they know is that Arcangel is beating out good Angel and there's nothing they can do about it. Rather than risk taking him to someone on Utopia and having them blabbing their secret, they come up with another approach. Since Arcangel is a product of Apocalypse, they need someone who knows Apocalypse. That someone is Dark Beast.

Now if you'll recall, Dark Beast has been bunking with Bernie Madoff since Dark Reign ended. His stint in Dark X-men lasted shorter than William Shatner's singing career. So X-Force has to spring him loose. It's not clear how they did this. Again, Remender sort of rushed it. Freeing Dark Beast sounds like something that would take a serious operation. Instead, X-Force just hires some cute girls to get the armored car carrying him to stop. Then somehow off panel, they break him free. I'm not sure of the details. It's left to the reader's imagination. Seeing as how I've torched my mind with LSD, it's a little hard to ignore. The point is they have him and for some reason, he agrees to help him. Given he's probably been bored to death since his capture, that's not too hard to believe.

Dark Beast gives a much clearer prognosis. When Fantomex killed Kidpolcaypse, he triggered a sort of succession plan. The loss of Apocalypse means that someone else is set to ascend to his role. That someone is Arcangel. Apocalypse seeded his mind to ensure that if anyone got the better of him, he would find a way to come back and kick their collective asses. This is bad news for Arcangel. The only way to prevent him from inheriting Apocalypse's mantel is to retrieve what he calls the 'life seeds' that were created by the Celestials. Seeing as how the Celestials are somewhat responsible for Apocalypse's bullshit, it makes sense. There's just one problem. The only way to find them is to venture into the Age of Apocalypse. And there, my friends, is how this crossover of world officially begins!

Uncanny X-Force now poised to clash with Age of Apocalypse. This issue didn't just jump right into it. It gave X-Force a damn good reason to take a trip to a decimated wasteland where Apocalypse was once top dog. It plays on one of Uncanny X-Force's strengths. It doesn't just have shit happen as if it was written by someone off his ADD meds. It takes an issue that's been building and cranks it up fifteen notches so that your ears bleed and your brain melts. Killing Kidpocalypse is where it began. Angel's recent struggles with Arcangel was the next step. Now those events have progressed to a dangerous new threat, one that puts Angel in a very grim position. If his friends and girlfriend want to save him, they need to do it in the Age of Apocalypse.

It's a great setup with a great backdrop. If there is any issue, it's that at times it feels rushed. For some, it went a bit too quickly from restraining Arcangel to busting Dark Beast out of custody. Hell, getting Dark Beast in the picture could have been a full comic in and of itself. Not that I'm not eager to get to the juicy Age of Apocalypse type awesome, but given the magnitude of the story it's usually best not to rush it. I also felt as though Psylocke's struggles to help her lover weren't emphasized. Angel really went off the deep end here, this after in previous issues he and Psylocke have shown few signs that it was at that point. I get that he was put in a tough situation, but you would think Psylocke would have a lot more to say about it. Again, it felt a bit rushed when she ended it with a psionic blade to the head, even if that scene was pretty awesome.

But I'm getting dangerously close to nit-picking here. Uncanny X-Force #10 is still an awesome comic. It's a great way to set the stage for Age of Apocalypse story. It progresses nicely even if it feels rushed. It brings Angel center stage in a way he hasn't enjoyed in quite some time. It also brings Dark Beast into the picture! It's a bonus on top of a bonus! Like a two-for-one deal on lap-dances at a strip club. The purpose of this issue seemed to be about getting people excited for Age of Apocalypse. Well after reading this issue, I can safely say mission accomplished without making a George W. Bush joke. Uncanny X-Force #10 gets a 4.5 out of 5. Now bring on the Apocalypse! Nuff said.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

X-men Supreme Update - New Commission and Pics Update

I've already started the next and final issue of the Sinister Intent arc for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. I promise to all you hardcore X-men fans out there that it'll be an ending to remember! In the meantime, I'm overdue for an update to the pics section. I waited until today because once again, the ever talented Brian Brinlee has contributed a new piece to X-men Supreme. His work has been a marvel for this fanfiction series. I can't thank him enough for donating his time and talent to this website. This time, he's done a masterful image for Issue 15: Underworld Part 2. It covers a big moment between Cyclops and the Morlocks. Once again, I thank him for his contributions to the X-men Supreme fanfiction series.

X-men Supreme Official Panels

So long as Brian Brinlee is hard at work, I also made sure the pics section is updated. Namely, the ever popular X-ladies section has gotten a fresh batch of work! I'm always on the look-out for new images to grace the X-men Supreme website. I was able to add some new work to Mystique, Storm, Shadowcat, and the Scarlet Witch. I hope to add more X-women into the mix. By the end of Sinister Intent, I'll finally be able to add a certain X-lady that I've been looking forward to add for quite some time. I don't want to spoil it so you'll have to wait until the end of Sinister Intent!

As always, I deeply thank everybody who has given their support to the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Thank you to those anonymous reviewers who have posted comments on recent issues. Please note you don't have to be anonymous. Feel free to make yourself part of the discussion! Also, don't be afraid to contact me if you have any questions or comments. I'm always open to talking X-men or fanfiction. I'm also open to any art submissions for the pics section. Thanks again everybody! Until next time, take care and best wishes.


X-23 #10 - Making Teen Angst Awesome

After reading the Daken vs. X-23 arc, Collision, I felt like those guys in old pornos who smoke a cigarette after a three-way with a couple of bikini models. Marjorie Liu and Daniel Way did a great job. They told a story about two Wolverine offsprings who are very different and have a great many reasons to chop each others' heads off. It wasn't just a bloody mix of blood-soaked torture porn (although X-23 did get cut up with a table saw). There was some genuine character development in between the blood, the fighting, and the getting blown up by a bomb. Yes, that really happened. It was a story that left X-23 and Daken in an uncertain state. Daken went back to being an egotistical douche while X-23 left Madripoor with more questions than answers.

Now Daniel Way is back do doing his thing and Marjorie Liu is back to doing hers with X-23. At the end of Collision, X-23 had accomplished what she set out to do after she met Sinister's boobalicious counterpart. She found Malcolm Concord, beat the shit out of Daken along the way, and blew up his Weapon X offshoot which actually didn't have much to do with Weapon X (long story). Fighting Daken affected her and not just because Daken's ego was tougher than adamantium. He got her thinking about how they were very much alike. They both inherited Wolverine's legacy, albeit through different ways. Yet Daken turned out one way. X-23 turned out another. That begged the question what's preventing X-23 from becoming Daken and vice versa? Daken has to wrestle with that issue while trying not to be as big a douche while X-23 deals with that in her own way. X-23 #10 picks up on this issue and it starts about as well as you would expect for a messed up teenage girl.

Marjorie Liu has never shied away from the dark side of being a teenage girl. Yeah, X-23 is messed up for being a clone of Wolverine, but anyone who has ever been to high school or had the misfortune of dating a girl who would jam glass shards into her ears for attention knows that just being a teenage girl is fucked up enough. There's a school of thought in the field of anthropology. Some believe that teenage girls and teenage boys is where people are at their most evil and vulnerable. For X-23, this holds true because this comic begins with her doing what my old therapist would call 'lashing out.' It basically involves self-mutilation. Except with X-23, she does it while looking badass.

Once she's done channeling her inner emo, she joins Gambit. He tries to pretend like she isn't some fucked up clone of Wolverine who grew up in a lab. He offers to celebrate her birthday with a cupcake. Laura is about as thrilled a Dr. Phil at a Scientology convention. He tries to instill in her a sense of mystery and wonder that so enamors teenage girls, often over dreams of American Idol. Laura has a very low tolerance for that kind of bullshit after facing Daken. When Gambit sees the blood on her arms, he cuts the act. But unlike the many other messed up girls that Gambit has dealt with, X-23 doesn't stick around. She runs off.

For X-23, cutting herself wasn't enough. She decides to continue her loathing on a bridge. She loathes for so long that the sun starts to set. It shows a passage of time that usually is harder to follow in a comic than a lecture on quantum mechanics by a shuddering retard with Turrets Syndrome. I don't want to make too big a deal of it, but it's one of those little things in a comic that a lot of writers overlook. So kudos for Marjorie Liu for actually taking time to add a sense of pacing.

Also kudos for having X-23 lash out at Gambit when he finally catches up with her, presumably after seducing a few French hookers along the way. What's strange about that is X-23's eyes flash red, which happens in the presence of the trigger scent. Whatever the case, Gambit gets a nasty paper-cut. Not saying he deserves it, but given his history I can't imagine too many readers batting an eye.

X-23 is understandably concerned and freaked out. Even though Gambit doesn't hold it against her (I'm sure he's had girlfriends do way worse to him), it does bother him too. He manages to get Laura back to the hotel, but she's still clearly messed up. Her little emo phase isn't going away that easily. So before tucking her in, he makes a phone call. He could just be calling up more French hookers, but when he's with a messed up teenage girl with a stabbing impulse then certain priorities take precedent.

Another day passes. X-23 and Gambit don't do much. They hang out in the hotel room. Gambit tries reading to her, which seems inappropriate for a teenage girl. The only reading most teenage girls care about involves Cosmo or some magazine with Justine Bieber on the cover, but X-23 is a special case. Something slightly less horrifying would be more appropriate. Despite Gambit's sincerity (a word most would never use in the same paragraph with the guy), X-23 waits for him to fall asleep and tries to run out on him. It seems like a dick move, but having just accidentally stabbed the guy it's not entirely without merit. But when she tries to leave, she's confronted with a familiar face. Remember that phone call he made? Turns out he basically tattled on X-23. He brought Logan, her de-facto father, into the picture.

He didn't come alone either. Since Wolverine can't resist being around messed up teenage girls, he brings Jubilee along with him. Since X-23, like 90 percent of all teenagers, have a tendency to overreact she ends up attacking her. This appears to happen after the Wolverine and Jubilee mini-series, which was fairly awesome by the way. So Jubilee is a vampire and X-23 is a messed up clone of Wolverine. I'm not sure if I'm reading the subtext correctly, but I smell a sitcom! I'm sure Fox is already working on a pilot.

After some initial unpleasantness with Jubilee, Wolverine takes X-23 up onto the roof where they have a little chat. Now keep in mind, this is the first time X-23 has talked to Wolverine since the Hellverine arc. That recently ended so now he's in a less demonic mindset. It turns into a very nice moment. In the early issues of the X-23 series, Wolverine revealed that he officially adopted X-23. So now they're legally family even if biologically, she's a clone. It finally established more of a family relationship between these two characters because technically, that's what they are. It took Marvel a damn long time to really explore that, but Marjorie Liu finally got around to it and this scene does a damn good job of showing them as family.

Even though X-23 is a clone, she's still a teenage girl. She isn't sure of who or what she is. Daken showed her what she could have become. Now she's cutting herself and she has a list of names from Malcolm Concord that she probably will have to kill at some point. Wolverine's been down that same road. It messed him up too, but he was a fucking adult when he went through Weapon X. X-23 didn't go through that whole memory-wipe shit. She remembers all the grizzly details of what happened to her and that really fucks her up. Logan actually offers her the kind of advice you might expect a father to offer a depressed teenage girl. When Wolverine starts showing good parenting skills, you know the world done gone totally fucked up. But it's the awesome kind of fucked up.

After their chat, Wolverine sends X-23 and Jubilee out for a stroll. Now I don't quite understand this logic. X-23 tried to give Jubilee the angry Twilight fan treatment with her claws. So why have them in close proximity to one another? Why have them in the same zip code? If he wants them to get along, there are smarter ways to do it. Perhaps his parenting skills aren't as good as he showed in the previous scene, but I suppose it's a work-in-progress.

While they go off on to see the sights in Paris, Wolverine and Gambit have a little chat of their own. They talk (and argue) about X-23 and Jubilee. Her time in X-Force comes up. Jubilee's new inclination to suck people dry and not in the kind of way that would make her a famous porn star comes up. Gambit believes that he's sheltering Jubilee, but not X-23. He actually makes a good point. Just because X-23 is a trained killer doesn't mean she's as vulnerable.

This becomes apparent in a pretty overt way when X-23 and Jubilee are casually walking along in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Being two pretty teenage girls in a major European city, it's only a matter of time before some Euro-douche comes by to harass them. Normally this is when X-23 tears into them like Homer Simpson with a box of fresh donuts. Jubilee saves her the trouble, flashing her fangs and making the men think twice about asking her for downtown French kiss.

But it doesn't stop there. Even after the Euro-douches run away with their dicks partially shriveled, X-23 draws her claws. At first it looks like she's going to attack Jubilee. Then she does something unexpected. She cuts herself on her neck to draw more blood. In front of a young vampire still learning the ways of bloodsucking, that's like running naked into to a den of Grizzly's with your body covered in raw meat and trying to strangle one of the cubs. The end result is that Jubilee is the one who attacks. Is X-23 trying to make a point? Or is this a more creative way of her cutting herself? It's not clear because this is the fucking cliff-hanger that we're left with. As frustrating as cliff-hangers are, this one is still pretty damn awesome.

It's an intense way to end an issue full of so much teen angst. After the bloody mess left from the X-23 vs Daken brawl, this is a significant change of pace but a fitting way to follow up the story. X-23 was left pretty messed up by her encounter with Daken. Since she's not the same callous douche that he is, it's only natural that she would be pretty messed up about it. Marjorie Liu takes on some pretty serious (and painfully realistic) teen angst here. X-23 cut herself in ways that real people actually do. Except she has a healing factor. She can't cut herself enough to do the harm she probably wants. Meeting up with Wolverine and having some heated exchanges with Jubilee show even more tension. While she and Daken were rivals, X-23 and Jubilee have a lot in common. They're both struggling with a killer inside them. Jubilee adapting while X-23 isn't sure how. In the end, X-23 shows that Jubilee hasn't adapted as well as she may think. It sews the seeds for some interesting conflict between the two in the next issue.

For the most part, every issue of X-23 has been top notch. If there have been any flaws, it's been in the pacing at times. There have been issues where the progression of events doesn't always feel even. In this issue there is absolutely none of that. This issue spun perfectly from the events of Collision and X-23's problems are definitely understandable in the context of the issues that came before this one. The characterization of X-23 was solid and raw. Marjorie Liu went back to focusing on the confused teenager aspect whereas the last arc focused more on her life as a former living weapon. It's done in a way that's so gritty and real, that it's truly unique in the scope of other X-books. Along with solid dialog, great art, and a fantastic finish you can't say too many bad things about this. There wasn't nearly as much action as there was in the previous issue, but Gambit did get stabbed and the emo moments still left the right impact. So unless you're too cheap to rent a Michael Bay movie, you won't have much to complain about.

Marjorie Liu demonstrated her firm handle on X-23 with this issue. She's given the character a kind of depth that hasn't been shown before. She's really left her mark on X-23 and she's done it without making her gut six dozen heavily armed Weapon X soldiers. She's shown the more realistic elements of being a messed up teenage girl and she's used it to craft a very interesting story. Now that Jubilee is involved, there is so much potential. X-23 #10 was one of the most intense issues to date. If you're an X-23 fan or a general X-men fan who is looking for something more grounded than killer robots and aliens, this book is for you! That's why I give it a perfect 5 out of 5. Being a teenage girl is tough. This comic demonstrates why in so many awesome ways. Nuff said!