Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brightest Day Aftermath #1: The Search For Swamp Thing - Awesome Mixed with Uncertainty

I'm going to stop hiding it. I miss Brightest Day. By Odin and Cthullu, I miss Brightest Day so very much. Since it ended, I haven't really reviewed many DC comics. Please don't bust my balls. DC has been mixing crystal meth with Red Bull on their huge Flashpoint event followed by a massive fucking reboot. It's a little hard to review just a handful of comics in that sea of awesome when I can only do a couple of reviews each week. I'm not the fucking Flash. I can only work on so much before my fingers go numb and my brain starts melting. Aside from Batman Beyond, I haven't been able to show much love for DC lately. While I can't dig into the massive glut of continuity known as Flashpoint, I can still tap the remaining awesome from Brightest Day.

If you remember way back when I was only somewhat less of a drunk, I reviewed every single issue of Brightest Day. It was by far one of the best things DC has done since Power Girl's boobs. There were few occasions when I finished an issue of Brightest Day with my mind unblown. It had a powerful beginning and a satisfying end that brought DC comics in line with Vertigo, matching DC heavyweights with cult classics like Swamp Thing and John Constantine (the non-Keanu version). Well that final issue didn't completely close the book on Brightest Day. Since when have you known a comic company to miss out on a chance to cash in on a runaway hit? The story from Brightest Day continues in the less-than-creative follow-up Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing. It's got a mighty tough act to follow and it's trying to stick it's dick in a hole that was already fucked by Flashpoint. But since Brightest Day has left me sicker than half the addicts in Portland, I'll give it a shot.

This new stage of Brightest Day doesn't utilize Deadman, Aquaman, or pretty much anyone that was central to Brightest Day. Instead, it focuses on John Constantine. He made an appearance on the final page of the last issue of Brightest Day. He has a bit of a history with Brightest Day in the same way 80s rock bands have a history with heroine. When he hears that Swamp Thing has saved the world, he's about as relieved a whore in the same room as the pope. While he's busy blackening his lungs, he gets that sneaking sense that Swamp Thing is after him in the same way Glenn Beck things black people are after America only it's slightly less crazy.

For those of you who aren't schooled in Constantine's history with Swamp Thing (and for once I won't belittle the uninformed), he offers a nice synopsis. In simplest terms, he taught Alec Holland to be a good elemental and not fuck everybody over by losing his mind. They weren't exactly friends, but there was a mutual respect. At least as respectful as a chain-smoking drunk like Constantine can manage. Now that Swamp Thing has returned, it seems to have realized just what a dick Constantine was. Because during Constantine's investigation, Swamp Thing decided to attack in a way that can only be likened to Japanese tentacle porn minus the cute school-girl.

At this point, John has concluded that Swamp Thing has been sniffing too many swamp fumes. The attack leaves John with a mysterious wounds you won't find outside of Courtney Love's pussy. Given this disturbing turn, he steps up his investigation. He decides to make a trip to Gotham where he hopes to track down the world's greatest detective. Seeing as how Swamp Thing saved the world and Batman is used to doing that every other Thursday, he figures he's the best one to help him look into this. Swamp Thing is not something he can beat back with his crass British accent or tobacco smoke. This means the crossover between Batman and John Constantine can officially begin! I smell a buddy-cop show!

Batman, as is often the case, has his hands full with matters that don't have much room for a foul-mouthed British asshole. Life in Gotham is still as miserable as ever. The end of Brightest Day didn't put a stop to all the crazy shit that happens on a weekly basis. This time it's not the Joker or Ra's Al Goul that's causing trouble. It's ecoterrorism and no the kind that involves hippies going on hunger strikes. This involves some corrupt schmuck working in the sanitation business who got a little too greedy. Because forget shit like supervillains, aliens, and mass murderers. It's those underpaid trash junkies that you gotta worry about! Since tree huggers aren't usually this extreme, Batman takes an interest in it.

While Batman is making himself a target for Fox News, Constatine arrives in Gotham. His first challenge is actually finding Batman. The man doesn't exactly have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed, John has to rely on more creative methods. And by creative I mean he gets in a taxi and tells it to follow the bat signal. He fucks some guy up who tries to mess with him along the way, but that acts as a reminder that Constatine can hold his own in a place like Gotham. However, it does seen horribly inane that in a city where so many would love nothing more than to confront Batman, just following the bat signal shouldn't work so damn well.

Now I feel as though this was a missed opportunity. Constantine arrives in Gotham and in just a few pages, he's on his way to meeting Batman? This is a guy who is supposed to be the most cunning son-of-a-bitch in Gotham and Constantine finds him this easily? Without even resorting to one of his spells? Hell, you could make a whole issue or two about Constantine trying to match wits with Batman in just trying to find the guy. Instead, it's basically glossed over. Constantined just shrugs his shoulders and does what anyone with a diploma from Arizona State could figure out. So much awesome and it's pretty much lost. It's so tragic I'll need a fresh bottle of whiskey to finish this review.

So I guess readers have to use their imagination and create a story in their minds as to how Constantine tracked Batman down. Not only did he find one of the most elisive and cunning figures in the DC universe, he actually broke into the batmobile and started smoking. Not that it doesn't take balls, but even for a guy like Constantine that's pushing it. You would think that Batman would have enough locks on that thing to secure Bill Clinton's Cyrus's porno stash, but he just lets himself in. We don't even see if he uses a spell or anything. Even when Batman shows up, he's not overly concerned. He just yells at Constantine for smoking in his car. Now I hate lung cancer as much as the next guy, but when someone breaks into your car and the first thing you notice is a cigarette then your priorities are fucked up.

Between carjacking and smoking, John Constantine and Batman don't exactly hit it off. By that I mean Batman is inclined to kick his ass back to Britain where he can be further assaulted by angry soccar fans. Given Constantine's sod-off attitude, nobody would blame him. But John doesn't bother trying to beat Batman in combat. He knows he has a better chance at a three-way with Megan Fox and Natalie Portman. So he brings up Swamp Thing, which catches Batman's attention because it may relate to his ongoing case of hulked out tree-huggers.

Once Batman is interested, it gets messy. Constantine shows Batman the wound he got from Swamp Thing's attempted tentacle rape. When Batman sees this, it triggers a more severe reaction that is like a mix between poison ivy and magic mushrooms except the rashes don't taste like chocolate when you lick them. Somehow just showing this thing to Batman is all it takes to trigger some bizzare hallucination that may or may not be Swamp Thing trying to fuck with Constantine more than he already has. It makes for great visuals, especially when you're stoned. But it's also confusing.

This is yet another instance of something being glossed over. In Brightest Day, Geoff Johns was not too conservative with the details. When something happened, he made damn sure there was an explanation. Here, shit is just happening and the explanation is left up to your own imagination. Now maybe I'm a little lazy here, but there's a fine line between leaving things open-ended and plot holes. I read over this scene a couple times and I still couldn't figure out the nuts and bolts. Does Constantine just have a bad trip from too much nicotine or did Batman trigger something? I don't know and I'm too drunk to come up with something.

Before the story can take readers down a drug-induced trip that would knock Keith Richards on his ass, Constantine wakes up with Batman and Zatanna. Unfortunately, it's not on the set of a gangbang porno. Zatanna is Batman's go-to girl for all things magical and for a good view at a pair of nice legs. For some reason, magic requires beautiful women not to wear pants. She's able to cast a spell that takes Constantine out of his drug trip. He still has the wound on his hand, but it's not turning him into one of Dr. House's unsolvable cases. It's a somewhat contrived resolution, but then again Constantine deals in magic so it does make sense to bring in one of DC's magical characters. It also helps that she's a hot chick. Hot chicks help every comic.

While he's explaining himself to Batman and Zatanna, he drops a potentially Earth-shaking revelation. Keep in mind that Swamp Thing's exploits are pretty recent. As far as everyone is concerned, he's a hero despite the swamp fumes. He saved the world in Brightest Day. However, Constantine questions whether that Swamp Thing was really Alec Holland. He may just be a Swamp Thing that thinks he's Alec Holland. That means if the real Alec Holland is out there, it may fuck up Swamp Thing in the same way the Clone Saga fucked up the Spider-Man comics. It's a surprising and intriguing possibility. You know when something has the potential to fuck shit up like the Clone Saga, there's potential for plenty of bullshit (the awesome kind). There's a nice shot of Alec at the end to show that Constantine may be onto something and it's bound to blow up in his face.

So in the end we've got a book that has John Constantine clashing with Batman and Zatanna. We're met with a potentially mind-bending twist at the end that's not quite Matrix caliber astonishment, but still pretty damn awesome. So what's the problem? What's keeping this from being a worthy successor to Brightest Day if anything? Well as happy as I was to read another DC book with Brightest Day in the title, I was still left underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong. I still enjoyed the book, but it didn't have the same feel as Brightest Day. I understand this was the first issue and there is still plenty of room for this story to expand. The problem is the circumstances in which this book is occurring. Flashpoint has pretty much sucked all the air out of the DC comic realm. This along with the news surrounding the reboot makes me wonder if what happens in this book even matters. It's not clear and it probably won't be clear for months. By then, the relevance of this series may be a moot point. Part of what gave Brightest Day such a great appeal was that it felt like an integral part of the unfolding DC mythos. Here, it just seems like a side-story at best.

There's still a lot to like. John Constantine is a refreshing if not brutish addition to the DC universe. Pairing him up with Batman and Zatanna was a solid and workable combination. The story about Contantine and Swamp Thing added some depth to what was already revealed at the end of Brightest Day. It's a worthy continuation that follows a solid progression. The end also added a potentially startling revelation to the mix. Was that being that saved the world really Swamp Thing? Or was it something that just thought it was Swamp Thing? It's the kind of mystery that makes the next issue worth picking up even if it lacks the same impact of previous Brightest Day installments.

There's nothing terribly wrong with this issue. However, the underlying premise of the book is still it's biggest flaw. It's not billed as something epic, but it's not developed as something more profound. It's somewhat hard to make out just where this book fits into the greater DC universe. That and it only feels like part of the DC universe towards the end when Batman and Zatanna enter the picture. So for a final score, I give Brightest Day Aftermath #1 a 3.5 out of 5. This book has a lot of stuff working against it and wasn't able to overcome everything. It's still worth picking up, but you'll still miss Brightest Day at the end. Damn, I'm depressed again. Nuff said!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

X-men Supreme Pics Update - New Commission For Issue 20: Uprising Part 4

The X-men Supreme fanfiction series is entering an important phase. No X-men series is complete without a story about Deadpool. I'm well on my way to bringing him into this fanfiction series and I hope everyone enjoys it! Before we dig deep into the insanity that is Deadpool, I have a quick update for the pics section. Once agian, Brian Brinlee has submitted another amazing contribution. This time it's for Issue 20: Uprising Part 4. It covers one of the biggest moments in X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution, depicting the fight between Wolverine and Magneto. I think he's capped off his run with Volume 1 in a big way! So please take the time to thank him if any of you get a chance.

X-men pics - Commissioned Panels

Thanks again, Brian! So this leaves only one issue left of Volume 1: Mutant Revolution without a commission. My goal is the same. I want to have a pic for every issue of X-men Supreme, past and future. I want X-men Supreme to be more than just a fanfiction series. I feel the art helps bring out what my words aren't enough to muster. Please remember that I'm always open to posting new art. So if you're interested in doing something for X-men Supreme or just want to get your art out there, please contact me and I'll be happy to discuss posting it! There's still plenty more to come. Deadpool is poised to make his big entrance into X-men Supreme! Hope you all enjoy it! Until then, take care and best wishes!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

X-men Legacy #251 - Multiple Awesome Syndrome

When the Marvel marketing machine is in full gear, it's hard to so much as think straight let alone enjoy the little things in life. With events like Fear Itself, Schism, and Death of Spider-Man it's like a Mardi Gras float parading around through your head minus the topless women and free booze. It can be annoying as hell. Sometimes you gotta make the effort to enjoy the Marvel books that get overlooked, not for a lack of quality but more for a lack of Marvel trying to etch it's awesome on the face of the fucking moon. Sometimes those books are hard to find, but they're worth it. That's how I view X-men Legacy.

Now I know I've had my share of criticisms mixed with dick jokes. I still stand by them, but that doesn't mean I've lost faith in X-men Legacy or Mike Carey. A lot of it has had to do with the Magneto/Rogue pukefest. It's been pointed out to me by a number of commenters that these characters do have a history. I'm aware of that history and I'm also aware that it doesn't get touched on for a reason. This is Magneto we're talking about here. The whole concept of him being a loyal soldier to Cyclops is completely new. It's not even three years old. Magneto's history is much longer and full of some pretty fucked up shenanigans. My position is that Rogue being able to overlook that is just fucked up and completely out of character.

But I don't want to keep ranting about Rogue and Magneto when I talk about X-men Legacy. There's a lot more going on than an old guy trying to stick his penis into something one forth his age. That shit is best reserved for GILF message boards. In recent issues of X-men Legacy, Mike Carey has been assembling a new team from the ashes of Age of X. Before much of the story was centered around Rogue and a fairly random cast of characters. Since the end of Age of X, Cyclops and Charles Xavier have been putting together a team to help clean up the mess left by that reality warping clusterfuck. This involves helping Legion get his schizophrenic mind back in one skull. In the last issue, they began that mission by hunting down one of Legion's rogue personalities named Time Sink. They ended up succeeding only after he fucked the team around a bit. In X-men Legacy #251 they have to hunt down another personality. This one isn't so unique. He's actually a knock-off of Jamie Madrox, but it's Legion. Being schizophrenic doesn't mean being original.

It starts with Rogue and Magneto. I know, I'm legally obligated to make a old dick joke here. There's nothing too nauseating here. Magneto does find a way to make a pass at her when they show up in London to a deserted street. He seems inclined to make out with her, but Rogue doesn't fall for it this time. So he can put the bottle of extra strength viagra away (see, there's your dick joke). But he doesn't get a chance to make another attempt. They're both quickly ambushed by Legion's next personality, Chain. And it turns out he's not a total knock-off of Multiple Man. He doesn't just snap his fingers and make clones of himself in a way that would make the pro-life crowd shit themselves. He touches random people and basically hijacks them into being the template for his duplicates. It's like hijacking a car and throwing the driver in the trunk. Only this time it's not a mob hit or a practical joke gone horribly wrong. It's just the random manifestation of a schizophrenic mutant.

So Magneto won't get his chance to trick Rogue into another pity fuck. Legion's fucked up and fragmented mind is sure to keep them busy. The rest of the team is just starting to see how fucked up this new Chain personality is. Legion explains it to Frenzy, Gambit, and Xavier as they prepare to enter the shit storm. He also reveals that they have another personality that's nearby. Keep in mind Time Sink really worked them over in the last issue and he was just one personality. So they have reason to keep their bowels tightened for a battle like this just as Jamie Madrox has reason to sue Legion for copyright infringement.

The battle on the ground with Rogue and Magneto escalates quickly. The art here really shines as it depicts an epic, 300 style onslaught. But unlike 300 there's no historic stand or homoerotic innuendo. Chain proves that he's not a mindless army of dupes. He adapts himself to the battle and for some reason using bows and arrows is pretty effective against Magneto because it ends up wounding him. Seriously, how can the guy call himself a superior being when he can still be wounded with technology from the fucking Bronze Age?

Legion and the rest of the X-men show up. They quickly decide that being this outnumbered with a wounded old man who still wants to bone girls who could still star in co-ed pornos isn't a good position to be in. So Legion teleports them away from the attack. He also revealed that to stop Chain and save all the people he's hijacked, they have to find the original Chain who is labeled 1A. So it's like fighting a psychopath and trying to find a book in the library. It sounds like the most inefficient case of multi-tasking in the history of the world.

The team ends up in a parking garage of all places. Rather than throw themselves at an army of pissed off dupes, they decide to wait for Professor Xavier to locate 1A. Since Magneto is wounded, nobody has too big a problem with that. Well except for one. Frenzy is still the new girl and she hasn't quite adapted to the X-men's policy of patience and strategy. She's like Wolverine except with boobs and she keeps the NAACP off Marvel's ass. She's like Janet Jackson with superpowers and as I've stated in previous reviews, she's been one of the best additions to X-men Legacy since someone decided to make Rogue's cleavage more visible.

Helping her cope with these strange new rules that don't involve randomly destroying shit, Gambit confronts her. They take a moment to talk about some of the drama that's been unfolding along with Legion's schizophrenic mind. Gambit says he wanted Rogue to fight by Magneto's side because that would help her see that he hasn't changed. He's still the same fucked up tyrant who used to look at humanity the same way Ted Nugant looks at a wounded deer. It sounds reasonable, but letting the girl he has the hots for hang out with Magneto? That's like setting her up on a blind date with Ted Bundy. He suggests that Frenzy do the same with Cyclops, hang around him and find out that he doesn't make her panties as wet as she thought. Then again that means dealing with Emma fucking Frost so I think Gambit's career as a counselor is fucked.

This moment takes a turn for the random when in the midst of this argument, Frenzy and Gambit just up and kiss. No, there weren't sharing a moment. In fact, the way Frenzy was talking she seemed to want to circumcise him with a butter-knife. It looks like some sort of crazy counter to the Rogue/Magneto kiss that I droned on about in previous reviews. However, this one isn't quite as fucked up. Remember that other personality that Legion mentioned? Susan? Well she has this crazy ability to take emotions and turn it into the equivalent of a bazooka. Since Frenzy is about as emotionally stable as Joe Pecci in Goodfellas, this gives her plenty to work with. Also, she looks like a five-year-old girl. And she was in Legion's mind. If you doubted how crazy he was before, this should lay any lingering concerns to rest. If not, then you're just being difficult.

As for Legion himself, the battle against his personalities takes an unexpected twist. Once Gambit and Frenzy are out of the picture, Magneto reveals that he's under special order to take Legion out if his personalities become too much of a threat. It's not clear if it's an order. He was just told that if the decision was between the world and a schizophrenic reality warping mutant with daddy issues, use common sense. Legion doesn't take kindly to this. Neither does Magneto. They end up fighting, keeping in mind that Magneto is wounded. Then Rogue steps in and puts a stop to it by absorbing them. She has this strange pet peeve about turning on one another before the fight is over. She's weird like that. It also shows that this team aren't the Superfriends. Occassionatly, they do want to kill each other.

So thanks to Rogue, they still have a moderate chance to hog tie the rest of Legion's personalities. This gives Frenzy yet another chance to shine, as if she hasn't already blinded readers with her awesome in X-men Legacy. This time she does it in a way that's as cruel as it sounds. She walks up to Little Susan, grabs her stuffed doll, and rips it's head off. She might as well have snatched a lollypop from a toddler, but there was a reason behind this. To stop Little Susan's rampage, they had to make her cry. It's cruel, but it work and Legion is able to re-absorb her.

Again, I'm compelled to point out how big Frenzy's impact has been on this title. She's not like any of the other character's featured. She's mean, she's tough, she's impatient, and she does it with an attitude that even Wolverine could respect. Mike Carey has really given her a voice and a personality. Her attitude alone makes X-men Legacy worth getting. Without her, this is just another typical fight between the X-men and some psychotic out-of-control mutant. They do that sort of shit every other Thursday.

With one personality down, the team gets their swagger back. Legion brushes off Magneto's earlier attempt to kill him and proves himself by hunting down 1A, which Charles Xavier was able to track. Now this convenient revelation comes at kind of an awkward moment. When Magneto tried to attack Legion, that implied it was too late. It had gotten to a point where Legion's personalities were too much to handle. Yet Xavier is able to find Chain and Legion is able to take him out with minimal effort. It could have been a much more epic struggle. They seemed to overlook Magneto jumping the gun on plan B. It doesn't make the comic incoherent, but it does hurt the flow. It's just one of those little things that hurts a comics ability to be top-tier in terms of awesome.

So they've taken down a Multiple Man ripoff and a psychic little girl. Well I guess when you put it like that, it doesn't sound like much. But the team followed up what they did in the previous issue. Whereas in X-men Legacy #250 they took down one stray personality, here they took down two. Not bad, but before they can get too confident they find out they may have fucked up. When they get back to the X-jet, they find out that Professor Xavier has been abducted. It wasn't mysterious either. Legion says outright that it was one of his personalities, namely Styx. Now it may be hard for some to feel too threatened by a villain with the name of some classic rock band from the 70s, but it definitely changes the shape of the arc. It was just starting to get bland with the whole hunting down personalities and absorbing them into Legion. Now the next issue promises to do something different. It's a great way to mix it up and adds a new marketing ploy for Marvel to exploit. Whether it can pierce the glow set by Fear Itself and Schism remains to be seen.

So that's two more personalities down in this issue. The next one looks like a reject from the last Mummy movie. The stage is set for the next mission and this time it's turned into an abduction. So instead of carjacking jokes, I'll have to start making jokes about kidnapping. I may need some time with that one if I'm not going to draw the wrath of Bill O'Reily. It promises to be different than the way this issue is constructed. If there's a weakness in this issue, it's that the core of the plot isn't much different from the previous issue. The X-men go after a personality by Legion, they get roughed up a bit, and then they beat it. This time they just beat two instead of one. Mike Carey did mix it up a bit, but for the most part the premise wasn't too different. So the end helped change it up by putting Charles Xavier back into mix. Let's face it, the man's not a fighter. He's a visionary who in recent years has become more manipulative than New Jersey loan shark. It promises to make for a different battle in the next issue.

Aside from limited variation, the issue was solid on every other level. There were some twists and teases. Magneto's flirting wasn't overdone in a way that made you want to puke. The kiss with Gambit and Frenzy seemed random until a twisted explanation from Little Susan was given. It wasn't a complete free-for-all over-the-top battle against a couple of crazy mental fragments. There was some strategy and tact, which Mike Carey has historically done very well. He also did a great job of giving Frenzy more face time. She's becoming a bonified star in the X-books when less than a year ago if you quizzed the average X-men fan they couldn't even point her out in a line-up let alone imagine her kicking this level of ass. It's a beautiful thing when a character comes out of nowhere and injects a fresh dose of awesome into a book. For this, Frenzy has earned her spot amongst the X-men and does it with the kind of grit that Wolverine probably jerks off to.

X-men Legacy #251 is a great book that's been on the upswing since the end of Age of X. It started off shakey, but it's quickly returning to the kind of consistency that once made Legacy one of the best X-books on the racks. Granted, it's been getting overshadowed by developments in Uncanny, X-Force, and Fear Itself. But with an issue like this, it shows that there are just some forms of awesome you can't get with overhyped events. That's why I give X-men Legacy #251 a 4.5 out of 5. It has everything you want in an X-men story without Marvel trying to force feed it with a shovel. It's awesome on it's own accord and that I think it something special. Nuff said!

Friday, June 24, 2011

X-men Supreme Issue 36: Deadpool Part 1 PREVIEW and Pics Update

It's been a very busy week for me and I'm working hard to ensure that the X-men Supreme fanfiction series continues to deliver. I'm very excited about this upcoming arc. I know I say that about every major arc in X-men Supreme, but this one is extra special! That's because it involves Deadpool, everybody's favorite 4th wall breaking mercenary! He's been mentioned before in X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers. In this upcoming arc, his story becomes more clear. Expect it to be every bit as insane as you would hope for a guy like Deadpool! In X-men, he leaves quite a mark with his wit and propensity for blowing things up. Expect an equally major impact in X-men Supreme. As such, I've prepared an extra special preview!

It was three in the morning at the fancy Ritz Paris hotel. On the rooftop Deadpool casually waited for his latest contact. Leaning back against a nearby air conditioning unit, he casually twirled some bullets around his fingers. This was one of the worst parts of being a mercenary, the waiting. Being a hired gun wasn’t like being a day laborer. People couldn’t just answer an ad or call a hotline. It was necessary to go through various channels to ensure the authorities didn’t get wise to them. It was especially tedious to get to someone like him, who did the kind of jobs most were sane enough to avoid.

So far this contact made it through those channels. He must have been very well-connected or knew people that were. Whoever he was, he picked unusual hours to conduct business. Most of the people he dealt with were secretive in their own right, but they had to be especially paranoid to set up a meeting at a place like this at this time of night. But Deadpool didn’t mind. So long as the job paid well, that was all that mattered.

He continued twirling the bullet and humming to himself as he waited. In a few minutes the contact would officially be late. That would mean extra fees. Grinning under his red on black mask, the colorful mercenary took out one of his guns and started twirling it.

“Somebody’s getting a tardy slip on their report card,” he mused, “Thirty more seconds and someone’s gonna get a spanking.”

More time ticked by. But just before the late mark passed, the door to the stairwell opened and new figure emerged.

“Aww, maybe next time,” he sighed, “Guess I brought my paddle for nothing.”

Deadpool continued leaning casually against the air conditioner as the figure approached him. It turned out to be a familiar face. The short, stocky physique, bearded face, graying hair, and thick glasses gave him away. It was Dr. Abraham Cornelius, a man closely tied to his past.

“Good to see you again, Wade. It’s been a while,” said Cornelius.

“Wish I could say the same, Abey, but last I checked you weren’t on my friends list. You tried to invite me on your Facebook page, but I rejected it and for a damn good reason.”

“Is that going to be a problem?”

“That depends on how many zeroes you put at the end of my paycheck. It also depends on how good a mood I’m in after I hear about this job you got for me. You must be desperate or senile to hire me. Like that guy in Goodfellas. Ever see that flick?”

“I assure you this is a very serious venture,” said Cornelius, ignoring his idiotic comments, “And I will make certain you are well compensated. I’ll even throw in a bonus if you can do this quickly and efficiently.”

“Then you’ve come to the right place!” Deadpool proclaimed, “We guarantee every act of sabotage, arson, or assassination is carried out with the utmost care or your money back! Certain conditions may apply and results will vary.”

“Good, then I’ll keep this brief. You should already know some of the details.”

Dr. Cornelius then took out a folder from his coat and handed it to the merc with a mouth. The masked figure grabbed it and opened it up. To his surprise, he did recognize a few details. The picture of a teenage girl quickly jumped out.

“Her name is Amanda Sefton,” he explained, “She is of particular interest to me and my work.”

“Amanda Sefton? This is the same chick the Hand paid me to abduct three years ago! What the hell is it with her? She got beer flavored nipples or something?”

“Yes, I’m aware that other organizations who have taken an interest in her. And she does have an unusual talent for escaping. That’s exactly why I’m interested.”

Now I've been meaning to make a few additional updates. Since I started the X-couples section in the pics section, I've had a few requests to add additional couples. I'm hesitant to add those I haven't touched on in the series yet. Now that I've got Cyclops/Jean Grey out of the way, I can add a few more. One that I had the most requests for was Jean Grey and Wolverine. Since there is plenty of art for those two, I've officially added them ot the X-couples section!

X-couples - Wolverine and Jean Grey

I know there are other pairings that some fans want posted. Some will have to wait longer than others. Please know that I've heard your requests and I will use them to make X-men Supreme all the more awesome!
So hold on, Deadpool fans! The story you've been waiting for in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series is almost here! If at any point you have questions or concerns regarding this fanfiction series or X-men in general, feel free to contact me! I'm always willing to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ultimate Spider-Man #160 - The Ultimate Death Knell

Here we go again. I'm reviewing another Ultimate book. I know I've already brained my damage after reviewing books like Ultimate X #4. I still haven't gotten over how any comic book could be so horribly fucked up that any just and loving deity would allow it to be created. Ultimate comics has scarred my brain more than all the cocaine, pot, LSD, DMT, shrooms, PCP, and prescription pain pill in South America. For Ultimate X I had to have a blood alcohol level no lower than .20 to get through it. For this, however, I will stay sober. This isn't Ultimate X. This is Ultimate Spider-Man, one of the few Ultimate books that was still worth a damn after Ultimatum.

Now in case you're more brain damaged than Forest Gump after inhaling paint fumes, you've seen that Marvel recently got in bed with the mass media lately. Before the new comics for this week even came out, the media spoiled the ending of Ultimate Spider-Man #160. Why was this more newsworthy than Iraq, Afghanistan, the shitty economy, or Lady Gaga's latest dress? Because Spider-Man died in it. No, he didn't quit. He didn't retire. He didn't vow to never put the people he cared about in danger again. He fucking died. In most other circumstances, that would be shocking. In Ultimate Marvel where people die all the time by getting eaten, decapitated, or having their brains blown out with a fucking bullet this sounds about as shocking as finding out Snookie has herpes. Marvel decided to make a big deal of this, even though Ultimate is an AU. 616 Spider-Man is still spinning webs. Granted, he made a fucking deal with the devil to do it, but he's still out there.

With all the mass hysteria surrounding Ultimate Spider-Man #160, I felt compelled to offer my take. I knew every major comic outlet and reviewer would praise this book as if it was written on the tomb of Jesus Christ with the menstrual blood of the Virgin Mary. It's easy to praise something that is so overhyped. It's even easier to overlook the flaws in the background that leads up to this overhyped story because seriously, who has the time to catch up with over a decade of backstory? God only made the days 24 hours and the weeks seven days long. We got shit to do so for all those looking for an alternative take on this media frenzied bullshit, here's a take from a drunken comic book fan who followed Ultimate from the very beginning and used to love it unconditionally. I already made it clear in my Ultimate X review that I'm a jaded drunk after Ultimatum. But that book was shit. This is Brian Michael Bendis. He's got more credibility than pretty much any comic writer. So while I may sound harsh, I'll still make an effort to be fair and honest. And no, that's not the booze talking.

Ultimate Spider-Man #160 follows up on an arc that has been based around the premise that all of Spider-Man's old enemies thought their lives would be much better if they just killed Spider-Man. So they banned together with the help of Norman Osborn, hunted down Peter Parker (because his identity in Ultimate is so poorly kept that his face is more recognizable than Britney Spears's pussy) and fought him. It's about as interesting as it sounds. It's not new. It's not novel. Somewhere along the way Spider-Man crossed paths with the Ultimates and got shot. Then he finds out his neighborhood is under siege and he goes after them, bullet wound and all. It's not completely without heart, unlike a bullshit story like Ultimatum. Bendis does make it more personal by highlighting the effects felt by Peter's loved ones. When Mary Jane realizes that something done gone horribly wrong in the fucked up world of Spider-Man, she does what any rational comic book character does and runs right into the shit storm. Yet somehow her mother lets her. Okay, so the standards for parenting in Ultimate are lower than Arnold Schwarzenegger's credibility on marriage fidelity. But that's besides the point.

While Mary Jane is lying to her mom, Peter is busy trying to prevent a fully goblinized Norman Osborn from using Gwen Stacy and his Aunt May as marshmellows in a human smoore. Keep in mind he's doing this after having been shot. This isn't adult Peter Parker. He's still a teenager, 16 to be precise. At that age most buys are bitching and moaning when they get a pimple on their face. This kid got fucking shot and he can still save his loved ones. So no one can say that Ultimate Peter Parker isn't a tough motherfucker.

One caveat though is he's still without his mask. Ultimate Spider-Man isn't known for his tactfulness. Usually even semi-competent super-heroes know that it's a good idea to keep your face covered so no one makes a youtube video about you when you're getting your ass kicked. Then again, he's been shot. Worrying about a mask with a bullet in your gut sounds like someone has fucked up priorities.

After he gets Gwen and May away, he says in some somewhat obscene ways that they need to stay back. He even authorizes Gwen to knock her out if she has to. It sounds like the Tony Soprano way of doing things, but when a green monster is attacking you manners are the second thing to go after the contents of your rectum. Once they're out of the way, Spider-Man lays into Gobby the same way I lay into a bottle of imported whiskey. To this point Osborne has been pretty flashy, flaunting all his firepower against everyone Peter cares about. So it's nice to see him get laid out like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. He's hit so hard that he doesn't even get a chance to say "I will break you!"

With Gobby down for the count, Spider-Man goes for some much needed backup. Both Johnny Storm (he's not dead in Ultimate) and Bobby Drake are still there, but apparently they're a couple of whiney little bitches because they got knocked out. Spidey's still going and he has a fucking bullet wound. What's that say about those two aside from their laughable scrodal capacity? He manages to get Johnny burning again. He flames on and attacks the Green Goblin. It's like fighting fire with gasoline. The Human Torch has fire powers. Ultimate Green Goblin has fire powers. It can only mean something is bound to explode.

Once again, the Human Torch proves he doesn't even have a twentith of the balls that Spider-Man has. The resulting fireball doesn't exactly stun Green Goblin. It essentially supercharges him like Barry Bonds without the bulging head. Johnny Storm gets taken out of the fight again, forcing Spider-Man to once again bring Osborn down a peg. This time he does it with a mailbox instead of his fists. This means I can't make another Rocky reference, but I'm pretty sure Ivan Drago would be just as pissed. Peter takes it a step further, cooling him down with a fire hydrant that always seems so convenient in comics. The only thing they seem to be good for in the real world is getting yourself a parking ticket. So it's nice to see them being put to better use in comics.

The Green Goblin remains pretty damn peksy. Even while cooled down, he keeps going after Peter. It's mostly spectacle. Anyone who read the previous issues will miss seeing Osborn with a bit more personality. Bendis is usually good at mixing the Michael Bay style action with David Fincher style dialog. I get that this fight is supposed to feel epic. It would help if there was some more of those classic witty exchanges that Bendis has demonstrated time and again in most of his comics. Instead he's just relying on action. Unless you're stoned, it's not going to wow readers as much as previous battles.

However, you don't need to be stoned to enjoy the next part. Just as the fight is starting to drag, Mary Jane enters the picture and proves that she's more than eye-candy in Marvel. She proves to be a much more capable girlfriend than 616 Mary Jane, who was okay with making deals with Mephisto. She actually hijacks a truck and crashes it into the Green Goblin. This girl is still jailbait in Ultimate and she shows more balls than Human Torch or Iceman. I don't want to make any more comments about what that implies towards their manhood, but it's refreshing to see Mary Jane doing more than just screaming or giving readers something to jerk off to. She drove a fucking truck into a monster for her boyfriend. That's love there!

Fittingly enough, Peter and Mary Jane have a nice moment while Green Goblin is getting frisky with a truck radiator. It's not too long. It's not too emotional. They just kiss and that's about it. It's sweet and all, but then Peter has to go and do what may be one of the most unromantic things he could do short of farting in her face. He takes Mary Jane and throws her away from the scene, using his webs to create a soft landing. He doesn't ask her nicely. He doesn't urge her. He just throws her. It sounds like a dick move, but then again he may have been trying to spare himself from her nagging about fighting a monster after having been shot. In that sense, I can't blame him.

Having copped a nice feel with his girlfriend, Spider-Man turns his attention back towards the Green Goblin. By now he's had enough of his bullshit. He's ready to end his ass in a way he more than deserves. It's a nice time for Osborn to finally show a little personality. He goes on about how he'll torment everyone he cares about. He drones how Peter's going to suffer. It's nothing he hasn't said before. In fact, Bendis could have probbaly copied and pasted some of previous lines from other Ultimate Spider-Man stories and it would have said the exact same thing. Again, Spider-Man takes it like a man. He points out how Osborn's obsession with making him miserable won't undo all the bullshit he's done to himself. It won't bring back his son and it won't make him a respected money-grubbing billionaire (even if that is an oxymoron). He doesn't seem to give a damn. He just wants to kill Peter Parker. So maybe it's not that much personality after all.

Whatever the case, Spider-Man has run out of fucks to give and he (presumably) finishes off the Green Goblin by lifting the truck Mary Jane just stole and crushing him with it. I will repeat that for any of you ADHD folks. Spider-Man lifted a big ass truck and crushed the Green Goblin with it. It's every bit as badass as it sounds. He didn't need to make a fucking deal with Mephisto. He didn't need to be an adult either. He just had to be the Ultimate Peter Parker we all know and love. That's what makes the next scene such a letdown because as badass as that stunt is, there's a drawback. Big ass trucks contain metal and gas. According to comic book physics, that means that if you look at it cross-eyed that shit will explode. Peter being a science geek should probably know that so it's not too surprising when it blows up in his face.

Now this wouldn't be a problem if the title of this story wasn't "Death of Spider-Man." The death of Spider-Man implies that he's giving his life to save the world. This really doesn't seem to fit. He fights the Green Goblin, but not to the point where he has to die and take Gobby with him. He makes crazy move that just blows up in his face...literally. He didn't have to do it. Goblin himself didn't kill him. It was just him forgetting that when you do that sort of shit to a truck, it tends to explode. That or Goblin ignited it, but that isn't clear. For all we know, Peter just fucked up at the end of a fight and it killed him.

And no, that's not a metaphor. This really does kill him. After getting blown back by the explosion, he's basically down for the count in and doesn't pull a Rocky Balboa. Keep in mind he's still got a bullet wound. That sort of shit adds up. It's now at the point where he's just lying on the grass, dying while his loved ones hover over him. Other people in his neighborhood show up as well, but they don't say shit. You would think a fight between Spider-Man and a big fucking goblin would be a converstaion starter. They don't even take pictures with their phones. In this day and age that's pretty outrageous.

So in what's supposed to be a touching moment, Peter says goodbye to his Aunt May and everyone he loves. He managed to save them. Granted, he may have overdone it by triggering a big ass explosion that he couldn't avoid, but he did save them. Bendis claimed he had tears in his eyes while writing this. I was yawning at this point. Death in Ultimate Marvel has become such a joke that even a big name like Spider-Man dying is about as exciting as watching a dog lick his ass. At least Bendis put some real heart into it. That's something that isn't always shown with major deaths so I applaud him for going the extra distance.

And so Peter Parker dies. I know the Associated Press reported that shit before this book was even out. But it's worth stating again for the sake of the review. It goes over about as well as you would expect. Everyone starts crying. Everyone's sad and upset. Between the title and the media, it's not too surprising. It just signals the end of something that for 160 issues has been one of the best Spider-Man sagas ever created. It's an inglorious way to end it. There aren't any other stories that could get people this worked up so they kill Peter Parker. I won't say that's fucked up logic, but it is pretty damn lazy.

Ultimate was supposed to be a fresh take on Marvel's iconic characters. Now it's a graveyard/playground for writers to live out their perverse fantasies of killing their favorite characters. I've said this shit before and I'll keep saying it until the booze kills all my brain cells. Just because Marvel CAN do a story like this doesn't mean they SHOULD. There's a reason why they don't do stories like this in 616. It's not that they can't. Marvel owns the rights to Spider-Man. They could make him gay and have him bone Richard Simons if they wanted. There's nothing stopping them aside from common sense. The reason they don't is because it's a dumn idea. Just as killing 616 Spider-Man would be done, killing Ultimate Spider-Man is just as dumb. It's the kind of shitty gimmick that you see in What If comics or bad fanfiction. Well I write bad fanfiction and prefer this kind of bullshit be left to fanboys like me with drinking problems and too much free time.

And so Spider-Man is dead. Well, not really. ULTIMATE Spider-Man is dead. That's an important distinction to make. As heartfelt it may be, the fact that it happens in a world like Ultimate Marvel is a big fucking problem. I wanted to feel something here. I really did. Contrary to what my excessive drinking may imply, I do get emotional about comics. And I still have a soft spot for Ultimate. It was once my favorite Marvel outlet. I looked forward to it every week. Ultimatum killed my love for it faster than an adamantium needle laced with cobra venom. But Ultimate Spider-Man was the only title that maintained it's awesome aura. Granted, it was the only book that really didn't lose much, but Brian Bendis kept it interesting. I found it a lot harder to be passionate about after Ultimatum, but I still enjoyed it within a context. So when only three years after butchering the Ultimate universe, this story basically does a way with it's most iconic character then that's pretty fucked up.

Here's the problem with Death of Spider-Man. It's taking place in a world where reckless death is so routine that it's a fucking joke. Spider-Man died in a battle with the Green Goblin with some help of an exploding truck. It sounds pretty intense, but when you take into account that in Ultimate characters have died in so many grotesque ways it just seems bland. Bendis tried to put emotion into the story. He might as well have been trying clean up the oceans by pissing in them. There's just no emotion in a series that was already fucked in a billion different ways after Ultimatum. Killing Spider-Man is just like stepping on another ant. Marvel knows they can get away with it because they have 616 Spider-Man to fall back on. By having this fallback, they have an excuse to be reckless. I'm sorry, but that's a fucking lousy excuse if ever there was one. That's like saying it's okay to break someone's leg because they have spare crutches in the trunk of their car. This was Bendis's baby. Ultimate Spider-Man put him in the upper echelons of the comic pantheon. So when he decides to kill his character, it does carry some weight. But the context in which he does it lacks any real impact. It comes off as if he just wanted another spectacle, which was the main premise of Ultimatum. It was a big ass spectacle, but big ass spectacles aren't always good. They're like a bong hit with some dirt weed from Arizona. The buzz lasts mere seconds and then you feel like shit again.

That's not to say that Ultimate Spider-Man #160 wasn't a good comic. I'll say outright that it was a billion times better than Ultimate X or any Ultimate book within the last three years. Bendis took his time, showing the emotions of characters like Mary Jane, May, and Gwen. He showed Peter Parker at his finest, kicking Norman Osborn's ass and doing it with an attitude. It's a great moment, but it's not too different from his previous fights with the Green Goblin. The only difference here is that he dies in the end. It's a big difference, but once again the fact that it happens in Ultimate really makes it hard to feel anything more than half-hearted bemusement. So Ultimate Peter Parker is dead. He died fighting. That's fine. It's not awesome or great. Just fine in the sense that it did so without making readers want to throw up.

I don't feel the same outrage with Death of Spider-Man that I did with Ultimatum. For one, only one major character really died and the death was done fairly tastefully. But given how asinine Ultimate has become, it's hard to really feel anything for this story. I can't be outraged anymore because Ultimatum and Ultimate X have fried the wiring in my brain that allows me to give too much of a damn about these books. I'm glad Bendis was able to tell a story that essentially completed what he started in 2000. However, I'm disappointed in him for continuing with a new Ultimate Spider-Man, thinking he can replace Peter Parker. Did he not read the original Clone Saga? He should be smart enough to know that you can't replace Peter Parker with anybody. Even someone with his talent can't make everybody forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man and that's it. Just as Superman is Clark Kent, you can't twist it any other way. So I have no confidence at all in the new Ultimate Spider-Man.

That said, Ultimate Spider-Man #160 is a nice ending. If only it ended every Ultimate book because the series went out of style when George W. Bush left office. I can only give it a 2 out of 5. It has good writing and good art, but it's bland. It pretends it has the importance of 616 when it doesn't. Ultimate died years ago when Marvel allowed Ultimatum. This just feels like it finished what that bullshit story started, albeit more tastefully. For that, it's not awesome. It's not even really good. It's just another gimmick. If that doesn't bother you, I'm sure you'll enjoy this even if you didn't like Ultimatum. But once the gimmick wears off, it'll be hard to give a halfway decent fuck about anything with Ultimate in the title anymore. Nuff said!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ultimate Spider-Man #160: Death of Spider-Man SPOILED

I've made no secret of it. I fucking hate Ultimate after what was done in Ultimatum. This once great series has since become a sandbox for creators to get drunk and fuck over the characters that make Marvel their money. The stories they did after Ultimatum sucked so bad that after only two years, they're fucking rebooting the damn thing again! That's a gimmick, no matter what sort of bullshit they say to justify it. Leading up to it, they decided to kill Spider-Man. Because their logic is just so fucked up. "We killed off all these characters in Ultimatum, but fans didn't like it! I know how we can fix it! Let's kill someone else! How about Spider-Man? Yeah! Let's do that!" That shit makes about as much sense as it sounds. I could rant for hours about all the crap surrounding Ultimate and the Death of Spider-Man. I'm too drunk to do so. But thankfully, the associated press already spoiled the fucking issue so now people don't have to buy it unless their masochistic. So here it is!

Newsarama: Death of Spider-Man Spoilers

Here's the big secret. Peter Parker dies. That's it.

I wish I could say that it affected me. But after Ultimatum, any death in Ultimate is a fucking joke. In this same article Marvel has the balls to say that fans will embrace a new Spider-Man just as much as they embraced Peter Parker. I'm sorry, but in what fucking universe do fans embrace anyone more than Peter Parker as Spider-Man? They tried this bullshit with the Clone Saga back in the 90s and fans hated it so damn much that Marvel ended up retconning it! So what the fuck makes them think they can get away with it a second time? What the fuck are they smoking and where can I get some? Seriously, if you have any love for Ultimate, you're fucked. This is what they've been reduced to. They just kill the characters they can't get away with killing in 616. If that's all they can come up with, then what the fuck are they doing writing comics for a living? Doesn't that job require fucking creativity? Stay tuned. I may fully review this book just to really flesh out the bullshit. I'll borrow it from a friend. I won't give Marvel my money for this shit. After what they've done to Ultimate, they deserve nothing but a broken bottle of whiskey and a million middle fingers from every Ultimate fan that ever gave a damn. Nuff said!

Monday, June 20, 2011

X-men #13 - A Little Retcon Makes For Major Awesome

In the lawless world of comic book message boards, there's little everyone agrees on. You would have a better chance of convincing Sarah Palin to give $100 billion to Planned Parenthood than try to convince posters on message boards that they're full of shit. One of the exceedingly rare subjects that comic fans seem to agree upon involve retcons. The average joe doesn't use this word very often. It sounds like a trendy prisoner or some sadistic procedure your proctologist does. For comic fans, it involves that annoying tendency for comic creators to completely rewrite the past. There are fans who still have nightmares about the Clone Saga, One More Day, or DC's elaborate Crisis saga. Even on a small scale, retcons will get fans more worked up than a hit of meth at a Tijuana cock fight.

Now the X-men comics are no strangers to retcons. When it comes to retcons, the X-men comics are the New England Patriots. They're retconned the Phoenix, Madelyn Pryor, Emma Frost, and Wolverine so many times that only a schizophrenic off their meds could keep up with it at times. So whenever a story promises to do a little scribbling on 616 Marvel's history books, it makes readers more nervous than Snookie's gynecologist.

X-men First to Last, which started with Giant Size X-men #1, hasn't exactly been a big retcon. However, it does involve the distant past of the X-men. It goes back to one of the X-men's first fights with Magneto and the Brotherhood. However, it doesn't change how it unfolded. It doesn't change the outcome either. It essentially tacks on a story that is tied to the present. I guess that would count as a light retcon, but sooner or later when you start dealing with the past a retcon of some kind will sneak in. The question remains. How much will this cause the message boards to bitch and moan? Well that's what I hope to uncover in this review.

X-men #13 continues the First to Last story that underwent some significant developments in the previous issue. The Evolutionaries were intent on helping the mutant race. Somehow that involved killing every last human, which is like weeding your garden with a flame thrower. They believed in ensuring that evolution took the proper path. Xavier tried to reason with them in the past and failed. In the present, they found out that Cyclops and the X-men deceived them back then (although it's not clear how). Now they're pissed and trying to finish what they started. The issue starts out by further exploring how the Evolutionaries work. They did this once before with humans when they were still evolving. From the looks of it, their methods are about as pleasant as having your teeth pulled by a horny cobra.

Back in the non-caveman days where fig leafs aren't a fashion statement, Cyclops is still being guarded by the New Mutants. Under order of Emma Frost, they must protect her boyfriend or face her wrath. In that sense they would probably prefer the Evolutionaries. He tries to argue with them, but they aren't having it. What's remarkable here is that Cyclops says Emma's wrong in her methods. She's only making things worse. She does the same for marriages and feminism so I doubt she would lose much sleep over it.

Right or wrong, the battle against the Evolutionaries hasn't settled down since the last issue. Storm is getting pissed and so is Magneto. Between the two of them, you would think the Evolutionaries would be a bit more cautious. However, they seem to be taking every hit with the same stride that Rush Limbaugh takes fat jokes.

This isn't lost on the rest of the team. The Evolutionaries easily wiped out the Neo just a few issues ago. There's no reason they couldn't turn the X-men into the equivalent of a semen stain on Flavor Flav's futon. But they don't. They keep trying to explain that they're trying to help mutants. They're like the abusive father who beats the shit out of his kids as a way to express love. It makes no sense and it fucks with your mind. At least this doesn't require therapy. There's a nice assessment for every major fight, which helps demonstrate the scale of this battle. It's not just between a certain collection of X-men. It's effecting the whole team. Yet the mystery remains. The Evolutionaries aren't fighting back and they don't understand why.

While the X-men of the present are busy scratching their heads, in the past the Evolutionaries take their cause to Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants. At the end of the last issue, they confronted Magneto after Xavier proved to be an insufficient leader for mutant kind. It turns out they don't need to do much of a sales pitch. They had Magneto somewhere between death and all homo sapiens. The rest of the Brotherhood aren't quite sure what to make of it, but Magneto is ready to sign on the proverbial dotted line without reading the user agreement. There's just one caveat. He has to prove that he can lead all of mutant kind. They're not just going to bend over like Amy Whinehouse in a crack den. He has to show that he can assemble all of mutant kind. Keep in mind that this is before M-Day. That's like having to conquer Russia for the rights to use an Ipod.

While Magneto is hatching his new plot, the First Class X-men are trying to track down the Evolutionaries. They're also trying know, actually find out how to stop them. That hasn't actually been touched on yet believe it or not. It's not as surprising as it sounds. Hank explains that like any super-powered evolution gods, the Evolutionaries are radiating some exotic cosmic energy. So without explaining any of the physics behind it, he tries to construct a device to counter that. Let's face it, Marvel does comics well. They don't do physics textbooks.

While Hank is hard at work, Cyclops is busy kicking himself over what happened earlier. Again, this is pre-M-day Cyclops. He's still the reserved, nerdy teenager who hasn't yet banged Jean Grey or Emma Frost. Jean does her best to console him, which she did a lot of during those days. It could have been such a sweet moment, but then Quicksilver has to come and ruin it. He might as well have walked in on them while they were going down on each other. But he's not there to fuck with them for once. He actually shows up because he and Wanda think the Evolutionaries are bad news. Unlike their father, they don't trust glowing space creatures to kill every human on the planet. He's weird like that.

Quicksilver saves them from having to track down the Evolutionaries with Cerebro. He gives them a clue that leads them to a fancy rehab clinic/hospital/insane asylum. It's basically like the resort Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan go to when the media keeps bitching about their party habits. The reason they're here is because Magneto needs a psychic in order to track down every mutant. And as it just so happens, this looney bin has a psychic. Her name is Emma Frost.

No, I'm not high. Well, maybe a little. But this is why I mentioned retcons earlier. Every so often, comics tweak their timeline. Now Emma Frost's history is pretty established, but there are some blank spots. At one point she was deemed the grant prize winner in the crazy sweepstakes by her asshole family. It's revealed that Xavier tried to reach out to her at one point, but her family didn't give one quarter of a shit enough to listen. Now Emma Frost is a drooling, drugged mental patient. Sort of like Gary Busey. It's a new twist on the history of X-men and one that actually does fit without fucking too much of the continuity to hell.

This helps tie the story more deeply into the present. As this story is unfolding in the past, Emma Frost starts to remember in the present as well. Let's face it, guys like the Evolutionaries are hard to forget no matter how drugged you are. While she's finally sobering up, the Evolutionaries finally show a little back bone. They give Wolverine a good beating even after they offer to leave him alone in exchange for Cyclops. Given the upcoming Schism event, Wolverine is probably going to really regret this decision.

Even if he did give in, Magneto shows up and unloads a quick dose of magnetic ass-kicking on the Evolutionaries. Now keep in mind that he hasn't remembered any of this yet either. Only Cyclops remembers and Emma Frost has just started to recall. So now the Evolutionaries are facing Magneto again, only this time he's with the X-men. We don't know how they were deceived last time. So there's a chance they could make Magneto another offer. Would he take it? Emma Frost seems to imply that they're going to bring out Magneto's old school douche-baggery again.

There's a lot being set up here in both the present and the past. It really comes together nicely. If you're foaming at the mouth eager to see what happens, don't worry. That just means the comic is awesome and you may have rabies. But before the story goes deeper, there's a slight divergence. Before anything is done with Magneto in the present or the past, we visit the X-men's science team. They're trying to recreate the same psychics-defying device that Beast made in the past. Before it gets too repetitive, some mutants come in and rough them up. Now they didn't come from nowhere. They were only slightly hinted at in the last issue, but it's so small it's easy to forget. Then in Cerebro, Toad and a few other mutants sneak up on Celeste. Keep in mind she's wearing a school-girl outfit. This is a scenario that is the premise of a lot of Japanese pornography and it's slightly implied that there's something much sicker going on. It's all under Toads direction. Keep in mind he was with the Brotherhood when everybody seemed to have their minds wiped. He wants Celeste to help him figure it out and if he doesn't, then even Japan wouldn't turn the crap they'll do to her into a porno. It's a bit of a tangent. It seems out of place and a little disorganized, but it gets more characters involved. So you can't blame Chris Yost for not thinking big. However, it still feels like an odd way to end the issue.

Now the final page may not leave the reader with the same impact as the last issue, but it doesn't make the book feel any less complete. It's not as ominous or exciting as seeing Magneto rub shoulders with the Evolutionaries. It is somewhat refreshing to see lesser characters like Toad get involved. These characters get written out faster than the minorities in slasher movies. However, they really don't seem to know what they're doing so their involvement just seems random. The book could have easily ended with Magneto confronting the Evolutionaries in the present. The scene at the end with Cerebro is a bonus albeit unnecessary.

Overall, the issue is still as good as ever. Chris Yost once again demonstrates that he has a great feel for these characters. The plot flows evenly and it is very well-organized, which is saying a lot since it deals with two different time periods. There's a lot more action this time, but the way the Evolutionaries fight is unique. It makes for something a bit more meaningful than a Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat beat-em-up. The reveal of Emma Frost in the past before she was a snarky, surgically enhanced sex queen will probably divide some fans. It is a bit of a retcon, but I think it's a good retcon. It plays into some of the revised history of Emma Frost and further ties the events of the present with that of the first class days. I'm sure some will find a reason to complain about it. But let's face it, this is not the most severe retcon Marvel has even done this year let alone ever.

There are still some legitimate criticism. The action was great, but the plot didn't seem to move forward as swiftly as the other issues. There was some repetition from the previous issue with the Evolutionaries stating and restating their case for helping mutants. It was nicely balanced by the leadership struggles with Cyclops being unable to take command. It's everything you would want in an X-book of this scale. Chris Yost continues to set high standards with this story, using both classic and contemporary plots in a beautifully coherent piece. It's still awesome and one of the best X-men stories in recent memory, but this time I can't quite give it a perfect score. I don't think enough happened to warrant it this time. It's still plenty awesome so I'll give it the next best thing, a 4.5 out of 5. With Schism and Fear Itself dominating the X-books, X-men First to Last is a great way to get a quality X-men story without having to blow up the comics. Nuff said!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Uncanny X-men #538 - The Politics of Awesome

Wow, it feels kind of strange to be reviewing Uncanny X-men. And not strange in the way I get when I wake up in their backyard spooning their dog. In case you went on a cocaine bender in Costa Rica, Marvel announced that they're ending Uncanny X-men at issue 544 as a result of the Schism event. I have mixed feelings about it. I admit I got a hand-written thank-you letter from the old Ukrainian who runs the liquor store closest to my house. I needed a few stiff drinks after hearing that, but let's face it. Reboot fever has overtaken comics and it's more contagious than chlamydia back stage at a Motley Crue concert. I'll be content if Marvel doesn't fuck up Uncanny to the point where it needs to go into rehab with Lindsey Lohan.

With all this news surrounding Uncanny, it's easy to forget that there's an actual story going on that's been unfolding for the last two issues. Kieron Gillen has the misfortune of shining a flashlight next to nuclear bomb because much of his inaugural arc has been overshadowed by this news. It's been a pretty awesome arc as well. It revisits the story of Breakworld and Kruun, which first developed under Joss Whedon in Astonishing X-men. Now even without the Uncanny news, that shit would be hard enough. That's like trying to dress more outlandishly than Lady Gaga. The odds are not in your favor. But Gillen has proven that he can take the elements of the Breakworld story and craft a quality arc around it. Now it hasn't been anywhere near as epic as what Joss Whedon did, but it's been pretty fucking sweet. It involves aliens stabbing mutants. There aren't too many ways that can't be awesome.

Before the dreaded Uncanny announcement, Gillen's Breakworld arc hit on some powerful moments. Kruun's balls were at an all time high level of hardness. He de-powered Magneto and Colossus. He paralyzed Cyclops and Emma Frost and he didn't even need roofies to do it. He also forced Kitty Pryde out of that stupid space suit she's been stuck in. That alone is enough to make me want to send a bottle of vodka to Kruun. Then she tried to get help, only to end up getting stabbed by Kruun's better half while Kruun himself tried to screw over Wolverine. In the beginning of this issue, we don't see what happens to Kitty. But we do find out that Kruun's plan to subdue Wolverine isn't going very well. Seriously, when has it ever been a good idea to try and sneak up on Wolverine? An alien of any sufficient intelligence should know that's dumber than walking into the den of a grizzly and sodomizing both her cubs.

Whether he's stupid or just has balls, Kruun does give Wolverine a good fight. He proves that he can hold his own against Marvel's most overexposed mutant. He takes some claws to the chest, but to the aliens in Breakworld that's like a shaving cut. You make a big deal about it, they probably call you gay. Kruun doesn't miss a beat. Despite some flesh wounds by Wolverine, he manages to get a stab of his own in the mix. It's not even close to being the most deadly wound Wolverine has ever endured. But it's enough to at least make him stumble a bit.

Just as this fight's getting gruesome, we get an unexpected revelation. Think back beyond any blackouts or acid trips you may have had to the last issue. It ended with Kitty Pryde getting stabbed by Kruun's alien shag partner. Well while he's getting his ass kicked, Kitty shows up next to the wounded Colossus (who got his ass kicked in the last issue mind you). And get this, she's not ghost anymore. She can talk. She can control her powers. Henceforth, she doesn't need that ridiculous space suit!

Now before we offer sacrifice to Odin and Kieron Gillen for doing this, I still have to scratch my head. Even Kruun was confused by this. Out of nowhere, she's back to normal and we don't know how or why. She offers a cryptic hint, but it's so vague that for all we know she could have found a genie and had it grant her a wish. Or she could have channeled the Phoenix Force (she wouldn't be the first one under Gillen) to fix her up. We don't have a fucking clue. Gillen's avoided being to contrived with his stories so far so this is pretty disappointing. However, the blow is softened by the promise that we won't see that damn space suit anymore.

Whatever the case, Kruun is pissed. He looks to rough Kitty up the same way like Joe Pecci on a cocaine binge. Unfortunately for Kruun, Kitty Pryde isn't completely retarded. She didn't come alone. Kruun only took out Cyclops and Emma Frost in the last issue. He didn't take out Storm, Iceman, Psylocke, Namor, Angel, or Jean Gre-I mean Hope Summers (damn it, you would think after all my Generation Hope reviews I would get that shit right). These are not characters you can just brush aside. You fuck with their friends and your asshole better be covered by your health insurance.

Kruun shows he's not completely retarded either. He doesn't even try to take on all these X-men. He basically raises his hands Bernie Madoff style and says he's caught. He even reveals that the 'cure' he injected Colossus and Magneto with were basically like New Coke. It'll disappear and go back to their classic versions fairly quickly. He knows he's in deep shit. He gets even more pissed when Kitty brings up Heleena, who if you recall stabbed Kitty in the previous issue. Rather than turn himself in, Kruun decides to pull a ninja trick and run. He's not retarded, but he's not a little bitch either.

Kitty goes after Kruun while the others help Colossus. He's still in combat mode so he threatens Kitty with nerve gas if he doesn't allow him to take Heleena and leave. Just because the X-men now have an excuse to kick his ass doesn't mean he's going to drop his pants and bend over the nearest chair. There's just one problem with his terrorist demands. Heleena isn't exactly in a state to do anything. In the same place where Kitty got stabbed, now she's basically doing a Nichole Simpson impersonation in the middle of the lab.

Now it's still pretty damn confusing at this point. We know something happened, but it just keeps getting more vague. A flashback here would be nice. It would be a hell of a lot easier than trying to pick out from these words what the hell happened. But we get no such thing. So even though Kitty is out of the damn space suit, we don't don't know the how and why. I'm all for mystery, but without clearer hints it just becomes an incoherent mind fuck. It's like the anti-Matrix.

When an explanation does come around, it's just told. It's not shown. Kitty explains that Heleena did actually kill her, but then she used this machine that he was going to use on Cyclops and Colossus. Heleena brought her back to life, fixing her powers in the process. Kruun is obviously not pleased. He's prepared to use the nerve gas again, pulling the equivalent of an alien Shakespeare play. Then Kitty gives him reason to stop and think before he subjects himself to nerve gas that will burn his skin off like the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones. She gives him a letter that Heleena wrote for him. It basically explained what she did and why she did it. Long story short, their world is gone. They shouldn't keep tying themselves down to the bullshit traditions and taboos that got them kicked out in the first place. It makes a lot of sense, but considering there are still religious cults who sacrifice goats it's a little outrageous that a simple letter could change his mind.

Kruun could have been a complete douche-bag here and just dropped the nerve gas. But as Gillen has shown throughout this arc, he's not the kind of insane psychopath who would just randomly fuck himself when the going got tough. He actually shows that he has the alien equivalent of a heart when he sacrifices his own life force to save Heleena. In Breakworld culture, that's the act of ultimate submission. That's like willingly becoming someone's prison bitch to the point where you never take solid shits again. But Kruun goes through with it. He saves Heleena. Either he loves her that much or he's really that whipped.

Now here's where there's even more ambiguity. Did Kruun sacrifice his life? Or did he just sacrifice enough to save Heleena? If you read this over having already read the spoilers online, you would be confused. Because it really isn't clear. Just as the reasons behind Kitty Pryde's return to form isn't clear, some of this stuff is just left to a reader's imagination. The problem is some readers killed a lot of brain cells in college. It hurts the story when shit isn't clear. Kieron Gillen hasn't had that issue to this point so it is a disappointing moment.

Minor spoiler alert, Kruun lives. However, there's still a problem. Just what the hell are they going to do with these aliens? Flash forward a bit and Cyclops tells Abigail Brand (who has been completely detached from this plot) that the refugees they have are doing okay. Since Kruun's little breakthrough, the X-men have gone about teaching them such radical ideas as peace, co-operation, and not solving problems by stabbing them. Brand reports that the conflicts on Breakworld have magically lessened, meaning there are fewer refugees and they won't have to worry about another influx. Seriously, where the fuck was that story? Also, the mayor of San Francisco agreed to allow the Breakworlder's to stay. That's right, a mayor of an American city is allowing an alien race to set up shop. Somewhere in the Marvel universe, Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs just blew their brains out in protest.

It's a hell of a transition. Kruun went from vengeful exile to California tax payer. It's a strange way to resolve an issue, but it has a touch of novelty. The way it works is the mayor gave them access to a part of town that no one really give a shit about in the city. In a town full of mutants, gays, and S&M clubs it's probably the only place in the world besides maybe Japan where their weirdness helps them fit in. Kruun even goes so far as to stop his own people from harassing a homeless lady. From crazy alien warrior to a West Coast liberal. It's a transition that's utterly fucked up, but not as messy as the usual resolutions in X-men. I give Kieron Gillen credit for doing something different.

As for Kitty and Colossus, they finally have their moment after Colossus heals up. They meet on the same cliff where they started, except Kitty isn't wearing that stupid space suit. That means they can touch again and cuddle in all the ways that make the Catholic Church (or orthodox Jews in Kitty's case) cringe. It's a simple, sweet moment between two characters that basically got shafted for nearly five years in the books. In a world where guys make deals with Mephisto to undo their marriages, it's nice to see a happy couple for once. Hopefully Marvel gives them some time before they decide to fuck it up.

And so we're one issue closer to the end of Uncanny X-men. I'm still mixed about it. I admit it was hard to read this issue without dwelling on this series ending in a mere six issues. I read it while drunk and while sober. I just couldn't get around that. Never-the-less, I was still able to enjoy this story. It did exactly what I hoped it would do. It got Kitty Pryde out of that stupid ass space suit. I know I've made a big deal about that on multiple reviews, but it really was an annoying little plot that needed to be resolved. Details aside, it's been resolved now. Kitty is back to her old self. She and Colossus can now pick up where they left off. I'm sure Colossus will enjoy petting his pretty Kitty in her full tangible form from now on.

While I enjoyed the overall resolution of the issue, I did find some elements a bit overly confusing. It just took too long from the moment Kitty showed up fully healed to the moment where it was explained. Now it was certainly a given that Kitty wasn't going to die after the final page of the previous issue. Otherwise Marvel would be hyping that story up like Mike Tyson comeback fight. But it would have been nice to get at least a flashback or some hint as to what happened to get her back to normal. In addition, the moment with Kruun at the end a little off. His dialog implies that he's sacrificing his life. Then a few pages later, he's wearing a T-shirt from the Gap and hauling wood like a day-laborer. It's confusing and it limits the overall impact. The whole resolution with Breakworld does seem a little underwhelming. It's a novel idea to have Kruun and his people set up shop in San Francisco, but I would expect that to be a much more tricky solution. It seems too convenient and too complete.

Despite the resolution, Kieron Gillen's writing is still spot on. Terry Dodson's art is still solid. His first arc has been a great exploration of the Uncanny world. It's somewhat reassuring that he'll be the one guiding this series to it's end and inevitable relaunch. He definitely shows that he has the writing skills. However, the end of this arc and the structure of this story hold it back. Gillen's writing isn't the problem. It's the organization of the overall plot that hurts this arc. I can't give too low a score, but I can't give it as high a score as I did the other issues. In the end Uncanny X-men #538 gets a 3.5 out of 5. It's slightly above average in terms of writing and characterization. It suffers from a disorganized plot and shaky resolution. It's still awesome, but there's so much more potential that can and should be realized before the final issue. Nuff said!