Sunday, October 30, 2011

X-men Legacy #257 - Cosmic Highway of Awesome

Pop quiz, what do you get when you mix vodka with red bull? Answer, insomnia, a DUI, and a toilet bowl stained with reddish-green chunks that well never come off. Second pop quiz, what do you get when you mix the best sci-fi elements with X-men comics? Answer, you get X-men Legacy's current arc. Now some may have been tempted to cite that brief X-men/Star Trek crossover from back in the day when William Shatner was still relevant and when Jean Grey was still alive. But that was a fucking gimmick. X-men Legacy has been a consistent wave of awesome under Mike Carey whose run by tragedy or by losing a bar bet to Chrisoph Gage (who is taking over after Carey) is ending soon. That's why it's so important that X-men fans enjoy the last major arc of Carey's run because he's been pulling out all the stops and throwing in as many kick-ass elements as he can squeeze in. You would think it would get more clogged than Rush Limbaugh's septic tank, but as always Mike Carey makes it work.

X-men Legacy #256 finally cleared up some of the issues that had been lingering worse than Irish relatives. We found out that a butt-ugly creature named Friendless was mighty pissed at the Insectoid Gran Nan Holt because they treated him like North Korean prisoner of war. For some reason, Friendless had a problem with that and used his psychic powers to make them wage war on the Shi'ar. That way he would get payback against his own race while screwing over another race that had a history of oppressing others. It's two birds with one stone, but since this involves the Shi'ar that's probably not a politically correct analogy. He also found a way to control Havok and Polaris in the process. Well thanks to Rachel, Friendless was kicked into the cold vacuum of space and that seemed to free everyone from their mind control. There was just one small problem. The space station they were on (which is as big as a fucking planet mind you) was falling into a star. Wait, did I say that was a small problem? I meant small by X-men's standards. Falling into a star is akin to crashing your car into a parked police cruiser. You're in trouble, but if you're not a pussy you can deal with it appropriately. X-men Legacy #257 shows the X-men dealing with this small problem and much to the delight of stoners everywhere, it involves really shiny pictures.

To fix this whole gravity-is-a-bitch problem, Rogue has to travel up a big ass energy highway called the K'ythri (don't even want to know how to pronounce that shit) that controls the gravity on the space station. It's basically the only way to get to the necessary controls so they can avoid becoming cosmic smores. In order do that she absorbed some of Frenzy's power and tagged along with her as they rode this cosmic roller coaster up through the space station. It looks like it's way better than any of the shitty thrill rides at Six Flags. Along the way Rogue has to drain more of Frenzy's power. I'm tempted to note some lesbian innuendo here, but seeing as how Frenzy underwent such a transformation as a result of Cyclops's penis I'm somewhat dubious.

While Frenzy and Rogue are off to fix the alien gravity gizmo, the rest of the X-men are left behind playing the waiting game. Since no one seems to have an iphone with which to pass the time, they're left to finally address certain questions that have been burning worse than an infection from a crack whore in Bangkok. Keep in mind that Havok, Rachel, and Polaris have been MIA for a long time. They weren't around when the X-men moved to San Francisco, let alone when Magneto joined the team. So Havok finally makes it a point to remind everyone that Magneto has a nasty habit of trying to kill them. It could have made for a much more elaborate discussion, but it was somewhat glossed over. Granted, Rachel couldn't get the details because he was wearing that helmet of his. But at least it was addressed.

Now I'd rather not make a big deal of this, but it sort of is. Havok, Polaris, and Rachel have snapped out of it. They're coherent and they're currently waiting on Rogue to fix the space station. Yet no one takes time to address Magneto, Frenzy, or all the shit they clearly missed back on Earth. Now I'm assuming it's going to get fleshed out in future issues, but you would think that's something that the X-men don't set aside. Then again I guess being stuck on an alien space station will sort of fuck up your priorities.

Instead of asking all these important questions, the X-men follow their Shi'ar buddies to a dockyard where they hope to salvage a ship. I don't know what the point is given that Rogue is supposed to save them, but I guess they don't want to place their faith completely in someone who once swapped spit with Magneto. It sounds pointless until we catch up with Friendless. Remember him? The bug-like alien psychic psychopath that survived being blown out into the vacuum of space? Well he crashed the main deck with the Shi'ar and with a little psychic probing, got them to break out some of their superweapons. Seeing as how the Shi'ar treat their weapons with the same affection that men treat their penises, you know something is going to go boom at some point.

So Rachel, Havok, Polaris, and the rest of the X-men remain blissfully unaware as they make it to the dockyard. As is often the case with the Shi'ar, all that war and bloodshed left quite a mess and a fleet of busted ships. So they have to channel their inner Trekky and start salvaging working parts. Along the way there's a creepy sense that one of the Shi'ar pirates that was so eager to capture Rogue earlier (not that I blame him of course) is starting to grow fond of his alien visitors. I don't know if xenophilia is a recognized disorder with the Shi'ar, but with guys like this it damn well should be.

Fixing alien star ships is fun and all, but not very exciting if you can believe that. You know what's more exciting? Two hot X-women emerging from the K'ythri highway after a long ride of flesh-melting energy beams and slightly implied lesbian innuendo. Like anyone after a road trip where they were stuck riding shotgun in a minivan packed with drunk friends while driving a narrow stretch of highway at three in the morning, Rogue and Frenzy are visibly exhausted. They end up exactly where they need to be, but they're too pooped to do anything. It's basically a setup, which makes the scene feel somewhat unnecessary. But at least we know they made it. Just seems like getting off an alien energy highway would be more eventful. Go figure.

Back in the dockyard, not much is going on. The X-men and their Shi'ar buddies are playing Junkyard Wars putting together a new ship. Like the scene with Rogue and Frenzy, not much happens. There's more implied alien's wanting to bone humans subtext. Well it's not really subtext. One of them compares engineering to foreplay and one of the Shi'ar women is intent on boning Havok. It's fun and all, but again not much happens until the only legitimate alien/human fuck buddies actually do something. Rachel has picked up on Friendless's shenanigans. Seeing as how he knocked her out for days a few issues ago, she's more than entitled to a little payback. So trusting her Shi'ar boy toy not feel her up, she does a little astral projection to check it out.

It doesn't take long for Rachel to find Friendless and a big ass Shi'ar super weapon. It looks like a giant laser placed on a tank. The laser also looks like a penis, but I guess all powerful weapons have to look that way no matter where you go in the universe. Friendless quickly senses her and lashes out with a little astral action of his own. Now keep in mind that these are two powerful psychics that have many reasons to beat the psychic shit out of each other. Friendless knocked Rachel out for two days. Rachel knocked Friendless into the vacuum of space. By all accounts they should be more fired up than Ray Lewis on crystal meth. But again, it's basically glossed over. In just one page they swat each other a few and Rachel goes limp again.

It's becoming a distressing trend for this issue. The stage is set for these great battles, but they don't happen. Rachel vs. Friendless Round 2 was built to be much better, but it wasn't. Granted, it didn't end and chances are Rachel isn't going to get bitch slapped into a coma again. But still, a little extra action would have been nice. Who doesn't want to see a cute redhead beat up an ugly alien? Don't the people at Marvel watch anime porn?

Rachel's inability to stop Friendless has another unpleasant side-effect. It allows the Shi'ar to fire their little superweapon. By little I mean it blows a big fucking hole right in the hull and now the X-men get to know what it feels like to be sucked into space. And no that's not a metaphor for a blow job. It happens just when it looks as though they're ready to take off in their hastily assembled ship. It's the first time something actually starts blowing up in this comic, but it's a hell of a bang and one that threatens to completely annihilate the dockyard. So yeah, that's how fucked the X-men are.

But that's not the most fucked up part if you can believe that. Mike Carey threw a few twists into the story with the last issue. Well he's done it again with this issue. It's getting to the point where this series could be in fucking pornos with all the twisting. Remember that Shi'ar that wanted to bone some of the X-women? Well his name is Sovel and like the IRS, he never misses a chance to screw someone over. Just as the X-men are about to be blasted from the dockyard, he teleports up to the gravity control where Rogue and Frenzy are trying to stop them from falling into a star. He then proceeds to shoot them because falling into a star just doesn't worry him. You know what worries him? Running out of money. He actually plans to take this massive gravity array, lug it across the universe, and sell it for a filthy profit. Now I'm not championing criminals here, but you gotta hand it to a guy who takes advantage of any opportunity. He's essentially screwing over the X-men and setting them up to get vaporized in the next issue, but for him that's just business. He's like Dick Cheny, just not as evil.

There are a lot of ways to rate a comic. On it's own, this issue is mediocre at best. In the scope of the arc it's a part of, it's definitely above average. Unlike the previous issue, there wasn't a lot of meaningful action. There was plenty of setup that may actually lead to meaningful action, but that in and of itself isn't that meaningful. Confused? Well simply put, the pace was just a bit too slow. On some levels I'm glad that Mike Carey took the time to finally address the whole Magneto-is-an-X-man revelation that I'm sure Havok, Polaris, and Rachel would be curious about. However, it was overly glossed over and there really wasn't much else going on aside from the thrill ride that Rogue and Frenzy were on. I won't call this issue filler because the story still moved forward. It just wasn't at a very exciting pace.

Aside from the pace or lack thereof, everything else fit perfectly into the greater story. That's what this issue does best. It effectively builds on what happened in the previous issue and took a little time to show some personal moments between the characters. Not every issue needs to have someone blow up a fucking star ship or beat the shit out of some insect-like alien to be awesome. It helps, but it helps even more to have some substance behind it. There was definitely plenty to go around with Friendless showing up again and the X-men facing the business end of a Shi'ar superweapon. It helped set the next issue up for some thrilling moments that hopefully involve more implied innuendo between Rogue and Frenzy. I'm hoping that when they're done they could get together and fantasize more about the power of Cyclops's penis, but that may be asking a bit too much for Mike Carey's last arc of X-men Legacy.

Overall, this comic plays a significant role in this arc and plays it well. Mike Carey is taking his time here. Since this is his swan song for X-men Legacy, I'm glad he's doing so because he's included so many amazing elements with this arc. The cosmic scale along with the long overdue reunion with Havok, Polaris, and Rachel have made it more entertaining than a piece of string and a block of LSD. This issue isn't quite as engaging as the previous few, but it definitely deserves to be praised, smothered in butter, and poured over a hot stack of pancakes. I give X-men Legacy #257 a 4 out of 5. Like Herman Cain's presidential campaign, we should enjoy X-men Legacy while it last. It's bound to end soon and it will be hard to find something else that's so entertaining. Nuff said!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wolverine and the X-men #1 - Schooling Awesome

With all the new #1s hitting comic stores lately, both Marvel and DC are conspiring to undermine the entire number system. When new #1s come along, it's supposed to be like seeing a deer hump your neighbor's collection of creepy lawn gnomes. It's rare, it's entertaining, and it's something you don't generally forget (even if you try). DC got the ball rolling with their ambitious, massive, fucktacular reboot where they threw 52 #1s onto the racks. That's like seeing a full blown deer/gnome orgy. It's just as rare and entertaining, yet at the same time excessive and a little creepy. Well Marvel is doing some rebooting of their own. This past year they've ended two of their longest running series, Fantastic Four and Uncanny X-men. I was here to review the final issue of Uncanny X-men for all you wonderful X-men fans. It was an emotional, bittersweet, and powerful moment. Well now it's time for X-fans everywhere to stand up and say "Fuck it. Let's see what the future has to offer!"

The future is called Wolverine and the X-men #1. Granted, it's not the most original title for an X-book, but it takes what happened in Schism and the aftermath and builds a new foundation for the X-books. The man behind the madness is the same guy who wrote Schism, Jason Aaron. In that story he permanently ended the epic Cyclops/Wolverine bromance and bitterly divided the X-men over the future of mutant kind. Cyclops won't leave San Francisco. Apparently, the medical marijuana and gay bars are just too hard to leave behind. That leaves Wolverine to return to Westchester and build a new school for young mutants. But it's not the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning this time. That shit got blown up and that name is older than my grandfather's nut sack. Instead, he's constructed the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. Because what better way to usher in the future than to honor the chick Wolverine wants to so badly bone?

Now I could make a whole blog post about Wolverine's choice of name. Much has already been made of it. In some ways it's utter proof that Marvel will never bring Jean Grey back again because her returning would just make it too difficult to write because Marvel would have to go through the trouble of depicting he reaction. And we all know Marvel takes the easy way out when it comes to Jean Grey. In other ways it shows that Wolverine is not above taunting Cyclops. I'm sure it pisses him off, Wolverine naming a school after his dead wife. But I think that's the point. That and it just makes Wolverine all the more creepy with his obsession with Jean. First he's gathering snippets of her hair. Now he's naming schools after her. Is he actually in love with this chick or does he only love her in the same way Mark Chapman loved John Lennon? It's creepy as fuck is all I'm saying.

But enough about Wolverine's unhealthy obsession with certain women. Wolverine and the X-men #1 is a new series for a new era of X-men. It begins in a way that you would expect of a new school. It's orientation day and Wolverine is putting the finishing touches on his new facilities. Now you would think it would take a long fucking time to build a new school, but keep in mind he's just building over top of the ruins of the old school and he has some friends with uncanny resources. Try and remember that. This new future doesn't happen without a quick revisit to the past. Professor Xavier drops by to wish Wolverine well. Since he's become too much of a pariah to start a school again, he just offers Wolverine his support while he goes back to...wait, what the fuck is Xavier in the X-men comics again aside form NOT guiding the team he founded through this difficult time? You know what? Fuck it. This isn't about him. This is about Wolverine and the X-men!

There's a lot that goes into a mutant school with all sorts of mutant-related issues too fucked up for even New York public schools. But one of the real-world issues that Wolverine must contend with is that as a school, his institute needs to be accredited by the New York Department of Education. That's right, Tea Party supporters! Even fucking superheroes aren't immune from the unstoppable force of government bureaucracy. This forces Wolverine to put on a suit and tie (which really doesn't go well with his typical wife-beater and torn jeans) and Kitty Pryde, the chosen Headmistress of the school, has to look like a real-estate agent. They're both in incredibly awkward positions, but that's part of what's so fun about it.

The inspectors from the New York Department of Education are about as snooty as you would expect. They don't look like bureaucrats as much as they do rich snobs who hang out with Prince Charles while drinking wine mixed with the blood of the peasants. They also act like it as well. They make it clear to Wolverine and Kitty that they can shut the whole place down because the state gives them the legal right to fuck with people. You get the feeling that Wolverine and Kitty would rather be arm-wrestling Apocalypse, but if they're going to be a legitimate school this is the kind of shit they have to deal with. So they put on a happy face and try to show them how wonderful a school for mutants can be.

In an effort to combat their snootiness, they gave the two bureaucrats a tour. They drop in on one of the classes that could only be taught at a school for mutants. Rachel Grey, apparently back from space for all those of you following the X-men Legacy story, is now teaching students how to defend their minds from psychics. This is a remarkably pragmatic course because seriously, who wants psychics knowing who you fantasize about when you're waxing your carrot or where you keep your porno stash? Jason Aaron finds time to throw in a little humor as well and for a series that has been so painfully serious with events like Schism, it's a welcome change.

Wolverine and Kitty show the boring ass paper pushers a few other areas of the school. They show them a class that's being taught by Husk, which is kind of like being in a class with a teacher who has a pet grizzly. They also introduce them to some of the students, who make about as good an impression as a date with Andy Dick. Hellion once again shows that he's still a douche-bag and losing his hands is not an excuse. We see him taunting a new student named Sleazoid, which isn't an insult actually. It's his fucking name because he's one of the Brood. But he's not the typical eat-your-flesh-and-shit-out-your-bones type Brood. He's actually a mutant Brood with a little restraint that's why he's in Wolverine's school.

Now this scene seems like a bit of an aside, but it points out something very important regarding Wolverine's school. It's actually a touch of realism because like any school, there will be douche-bags that pick on others. Hellion has long flirted with such douche-baggery. Since X-23 left, he's practically date raped it. But every school needs a guy like him (my old high school had a fucking army). So it's still a nice touch.

Unlike my school, this kind of shit doesn't go unpunished. Wolverine doesn't take kindly to his students acting like douche-bags, especially when brown-nosing bureaucrats are present. So while Hellion and his skeleton-glob buddy are in the bathroom taking care of business, Wolverine takes it upon himself to start up a quick Danger Room session to help both students relieve their constipation. It's quite possibly the most appropriate punishment ever dished out in a school since one of my old principals got back at a bully by sleeping with the kid's mother. It gives the solid impression that there's a sense of justice at this school, which already places it above 80 percent of pretty much every other school in America.

But not all students are dicks. Wolverine and Kitty go out of their way to introduce some of their nicer students. This includes Idie, the only one of the Five Lights to join Wolverine at the school. She comes off as much nicer to the snooty bureaucrats that seem so eager to find shit wrong with this school. Well Idie should be loveable enough to sway their opinions, right? Well, not quite. Keep in mind this girl is still somewhat traumatized by having to kill in Schism. She still refers to mutants as monsters and that really doesn't help Wolverine's case. But still, Chris Bachalo's art makes her look so cute! They can't say no to a face like that, can they? Oh wait, they work for New York Public School? Never mind.

Since they're having so little luck with the students, Wolverine and Kitty show their guests to where the institute gets all the fancy shit that helps it control the chaos. It's all courtesy of Beast, a character that I've found many reasons to despise for being such a whiney dick over the past few years. However, the man is still brilliant and he could probably create a weapon of mass destruction out of a vibrator. So with help from a little Shi'ar tech (a hint at how the arc in X-men Legacy ends?) he's created a school that can power itself, provide all the necessary food, and probably provide high speed internet so that students can get all the porn they so desperately need. He also is wound tighter than Rush Limbaug's asshole. He keeps listing a number of outrageous problems such as an inter-dimensional gateway that's letting in all sorts of sinister creatures, a kitchen that's overflowing with sewage, and mysterious tremors underground. And he's doing this in the presence of the inspectors no doubt. Hank McCoy may be a brilliant scientist, but his people skills suck. How he got a chick as hot as Abigail Brand to fuck him simply defies all logic.

Now with all this Shi'ar tech, you might be wondering how the fuck they could get so much under such short notice. Well that's dealt with as well. Apparently, the school isn't just for mutants. It's opened it's door to aliens too. No, not the illegal kind that Republicans smear in every debate while claiming it's not racist. We're talking real aliens, including Warbird and Gladiator's kid, Kid Gladiator. Okay, so having all that strength doesn't make him creative, but you get the idea. They arrive at the school and add to the douche-bag factor that Hellion has already established. But if they bring the kind of Shi'ar tech that allows Beast to not be such a dick, I'd say they're worth putting up with.

So the inspection from the state is going bad. It's increasingly likely that they'll condemn the whole school as a crime against children. Wolverine's day is going to hell, no doubt about it. How can it possibly get worse? Well how about a homicidal kid? Remember that crazy kid from Schism that became Black King of the Hellfire Club? Yeah, that whole premise bothered me because who the fuck lets a kid take over the Hellfire Club and take over his father's company? Aren't there child labor laws in he Marvel universe? Well apparently not because this Killgore kid (probably a registered Republican and Tea Party supporter) pays a visit to the school and confronts Wolverine. Then in a move that's either ballsy or stupid, he confesses to being the one behind the whole affair that led to the schism. Furthermore, he says he's the one who is making a metric fuckton of money off selling fancy new sentinels to those who fear mutants. So he threatens to destroy the school so they can't work on building peace.

Now aside from this being a real dick move on the part of the kid, it still has the same problems it did in Schism. Seriously? How the fuck does a kid who doesn't even look like he's started shaving become this competent and this crazy to fuck with the X-men? Now I've been willing to overlook the sheer ridiculousness of this premise because the stories have been so solid. I'm willing to do it with this comic too. But at some point Marvel has to address just how the fuck this kid could do half the shit he did. Did Sinister put him up to it? Did aliens abduct him? In Marvel that's not out of the realm of possibility. It's a fucked up plot that at some point needs to be unfucked.

But I do have to give the Killgore kid credit in one respect. He delivers on his threats. Shortly after Wolverine threatens to fuck him up in ways that violent movies could never fuck up a kid, he unleashes yet another monster against the X-men. This time it isn't a sentinel. Remember those underground rumblings that Beast was babbling about? Well the source wasn't your typical Earthquake or a stampede of Apple fans running to get in line for the new Iphone. It was a massive rock creature with a head the size of a fucking blimp. So all the introductions and all the brown-nosing is officially over. Now the X-men must get back to doing what they do best, fighting off killer monsters and running around in skin-tight outfits so fans can jerk off to them. It's as classic an X-men moment as you can get.

Back before there was hair on my balls, I dreaded the first day of school. Wolverine and the X-men #1 is a playful introduction to the very beginnings of a new school and all the ways it can go horribly wrong. For it to end with a fucking monster attacking them, I'd say that's pretty much par for the course. And you know what? It's fucking awesome! It's the kind of X-men comic that X-men fans really haven't had in a while. House of M and the Messiah Trilogy really didn't leave a lot of room for the school aspect that the X-men were founded upon. This comic really gets back to basics, taking major characters like Wolverine and Kitty Pryde and building up a new world with a very different backdrop than what has been done in Uncanny. And Jason Aaron make this shit work in ways that are a pleasure to read.

Even with the influx of #1s, it's a mighty tall order to start a new series like this. Wolverine and the X-men #1 strikes all the right chords. It's a fledgling new school being led by a guy who admits he has no understanding of what he's doing. It has a very different tone compared to Uncanny. By being a school the whole concept of Wolverine and the X-men #1 is more playful and upbeat. For some school is a story about innocent youth learning about the world. For me it was like 6 hours of state sanctioned torture, but then again my school wasn't half as awesome as the Jean Grey Institute for Higher Learning. Jason Aaron did more than just set up the school. He hit the ground running, utilizing real world issues like getting approval from the local education department and completely fucked up issues like some homicidal kid unleashing a monster on campus. It's like the yin and yang of awesome. It's hard not to love it.

More than anything else, this comic is just fun. Wolverine and the X-men #1 takes what happens in Schism and pushes it forward. It's as great a first issue as any X-men fan can ask for. It covers all the right bases, sets up all the right details, and provides plenty of reasons to pick up the next issue. Jason Aaron did something amazing with Schism. Now he's poised to do something just as amazing with this series. For this, he deserves all the praise and booze that New York City has to offer. I give Wolverine and the X-men #1 a very spirited 5 out of 5. It's a great day to be an X-men fan! Hell, even if you're not a fan and you're just curious, this is the perfect opportunity to jump aboard! Wolverine and the X-men brings back all those fond memories we all have of a major change in life. That or it just makes you remember how much high school sucked. Nuff said!

Friday, October 28, 2011

X-men Supreme: Supreme Reflections - Jean Grey PREVIEW

It's a time of transition for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Writing Supreme Reflections is very different compared to writing the actual X-men Supreme story. However, it's rewarding in a very unique way. I love the X-men and I love the characters that Marvel has created. They are rich and engaging in ways that go beyond comics. So writing these issues where I get to dig a little deeper into what makes these characters tick is trilling. I enjoyed how Cyclops's reflection turned out, but I'll have a much greater challenge with Jean Grey. She's a character that divides many fans. Whether you love her or hate her, it's hard to understate her impact on the X-men and on Marvel comics. I've been anxiously awaiting her entry into Supreme Reflections. I hope her addition in this fanfiction series will be accepted by her many fans. I'll work extra hard on this one. I've already prepared a brief preview of what you can expect with this important entry for X-men Supreme.

A cold shiver ran down Jean’s spine. She had to wipe away some of the tears forming in her eyes. Even after all these years these memories caused her so much pain. She didn’t just recall the sights and sounds of that terrible moment. She recalled the feelings as well and in many ways they were far worse.

When I opened my eyes the first thing I saw was Sara looking at me with vacant eyes. She had been crushed so fast it she died almost instantly. Even if she hadn’t, her injuries were pretty gruesome. I’ll never get that image of blood, bone, and skin being warped beyond all recognition.

The sight of my dead sister was bad enough. When I called out for my parents, I found out they were in bad shape too. They were both alive, but out cold. My father’s head was slammed against the side door and his right arm was broken in three places. My mother was even worse. Her side of the car was a twisted jungle of metal and class. They crushed her arm, her leg, three ribs, and a few bones in her back. I was the only one left conscious and to this day I wish I wasn’t. Because in that moment, I was completely overwhelmed. All these emotions came over me. I felt sorrow, fear, despair, grief…pretty much every terrible feeling you would expect of a tragedy. Every aspect of that incident was etched onto my soul. To this day the horrors of that night are still with me. But that were just the beginning of a classic Grey family downward spiral.

Everything soon became a blur. I don’t even remember the paramedics arriving or the trip to the hospital. I just remember crying and sobbing to myself, trying to take control again. Usually Sara was the one who helped calm me down. Now she was gone and I would have to cope with this on my own. The doctors later said she never stood a chance. Her neck had been crushed and if that didn’t kill her than the blood loss sure did. As hard as it was for me to wrap my head around at the tender age of eight, my mom and dad struggled in their own right and not very well I might add.

My father was somewhat lucky if you can call it that. He only suffered a concussion and a broken arm. He was going to make a full recovery physically. Then when the doctors told him about Sara, it became clear that he would never fully recover. I was in the room with him. I saw his reaction. He didn’t break down crying or lash out. His face just became this beacon of sorrow. I honestly don’t think he knew how to react. I think he tried to convince himself that this wasn’t happening. As if that news hadn’t been hard enough, he was hit with another shocker about my mom.

Unlike Sara, she survived. Unlike me and my father, she would not make a full recovery. In addition to the broken bones and bruising, the crash did serious damage to her lower back. It left her paralyzed from the chest down. She was never going to walk again. Not only that, there were a few blood clots during surgery. That meant she was going to be in chronic pain as well. I remember when I first saw her I practically froze. My father had to turn away. I think he would have thrown up if he could. When my mom eventually came too, she looked totally defeated. It was as if somebody reached inside and ripped her soul right out of her.

Our lives were never going to be the same. My parents’ worst fears had come to life. Their fragile world had been shattered. Now they were going to have to be strong and adapt to these grim circumstances. All was not lost. We had the opportunities and the means to move forward without giving into despair. I didn’t want to give into this sorrow. I didn’t want this to be the end. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t feel the same way.

I hope to speed things up with Supreme Reflections. If possible, I'm going to try and update sooner than my usual biweekly schedule. I'm not sure if I'll be able to because fanfiction of this scale is quite time consuming. However, I will do my best to ensure that my fine readers have something to look forward to! Stay tuned to this website and the blog for updates. If there is a change, I will announce it before I follow through. All the support I've received thus far has certainly helped. I hope more comes as I develop this fanfiction series. If you have questions or comments, please contact me at any time. Until next time, take care and best wishes!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Uncanny X-men #544 - An Ending (and Beginning) of Awesome

As a professional drunk, I understand that even the best benders have to end at some point. You could be high off your tits, surrounded by supermodels, doing blow off Scarlett Johanson's ass, and arm wrestle Mike Tyson in an epic weekend in Vegas that you could make a Lord of the Rings style trilogy about. Eventually, you're going to wake up in a dirty motel room staring at the ceiling with your pants around your angles, a strange mucus gushing from your nose, and a hangover that would castrate an elephant. In that sense a bender is like a comic. Some comics aren't meant to last more than a few years or a few months for that matter. Very few last so long that they've been coming out consistently since the time before Kennedy was shot by the CIA in a cover plot with the Illuminati. Uncanny X-men was one of those books and at a time when all the other major titles like Action Comics and Fantastic Four were resetting, Uncanny just kept rolling along. Well today that bender ends and X-fans everywhere must contend with the hangover, although I hope it involves less vomit.

Uncanny X-men has made it to 544 issues, spanning a long list of writers that read like the lead singers in famous bands that tried to do solo albums. It hasn't always been the premier X-men book. Hell, it wasn't until four years ago that it actually became the main focal point of the X-men universe. Matt Fraction helped make it relevant again after Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-men run nearly monopolized all the awesome (and numerous characters) in the series. Then Kieron Gillen took over and solidified the title as the top X-book where all the most important shit went down. That lasted barely a few months because recently, the X-men were bitterly divided by the events of Schism. That created a new lead X-book humbly titled, Wolverine and the X-men. Gee, I wonder what it's about? This moment marked a big change for Uncanny and in yet another gimmick to keep up with DC's new 52, Marvel is ending Uncanny X-men's iconic run and relaunching it along with Wolverine and the X-men. It's not sad as much as it is a WTF type moment, but since relaunching is the trend these days why not milk that tit until it's dry?

Uncanny X-men hasn't played a role in the events of Schism. While that event was going on, Uncanny was mixing it up with the events of Fear Itself. That story ended just as Schism ended. Now Uncanny X-men #544 acts as an epilogue for both. Yet it also has to be an epilogue for the whole fucking series. This book that's been around since my parents were still smoking weed in hippie communes has had a lot of shit happen over the years. Teams have been reshuffled, people have died, come back, died again, come back again, died a few more times, and somewhere along the way the X-men saved the world. How do you end all of that in a fulfilling way? Well, it's as impossible a task you can ask for without trying to jerk off to nude photos of Janet Reno. But Kieron Gillen has proven himself to be an awesome writer so if anyone deserves a snowball's chance in hell against a blow-torch wielding Freddy Kruger, it's him.

This epilogue to this epic series begins from the point of view of a guy who has done more to fuck with the X-men than 26 Chris Claremonts and 34 Grant Morrisons. Mr. Sinister has been MIA for a while, but he's been rearing his ugly ass head in other forms. He showed up in X-23 and he played a major role in Messiah Complex. This guy gets over death like regular people get over hang-nails. Like those creepy narrators from those old horror shows in the 80s, he reads from a book that essentially summarizes who the X-men are and the events of Schism. Granted, it's an extremely bare-bones version, but Sinister isn't a patient guy and neither are most comic readers. He just sets the tone and that tone is creepy as hell.

It's not all doom, gloom, and Linkin Park songs. The events of this issue appear to take place before the very end of X-men Schism #5 before the team leaves. Or they don't. Seriously, I don't get how the fuck time works in the Marvel universe, but it's more fucked up than a hit of LSD and concussion. Whatever the time, Iceman catches up with Cyclops. He's pretty much the only one left in the Original Five that isn't dead, MIA, or a complete douche. Iceman, Ringo Star of the Original Five, confides that he's reluctant to leave behind his friend. He's actually still fond of the days when they were the Original Five. It was a simpler time before the Phoenix Force, Wolverine, X-Force, and the Chuck Austin run. And it's worth pointing out to Cyclops that it's worth remembering fondly. He's not wrong.

When Iceman goes so far as to ask Cyclops if he remembers everything, it's not enough to just say yes. Artist, Greg Land, has to use this as an opportunity to whip his artistic dick out and wave it in the face of the readers. And I'm not afraid admit in an ambiguously gay manner that it looks so awesome. How the fuck do you condense nearly 50 years of comics in a single 2-page spread? It sounds even harder than squeezing nearly 50 years of history into an epilogue issue like this. Yet Greg Land does a damn good job with it. In one image he captures the moments that stand out most. Dark Phoenix is of course front and center. The Sentinels, Magneto, Apocalypse, Emma Frost, and of course Wolverine all show up. It's like a snapshot inside Cyclops's mind that helps capture so much of the X-men's history. It doesn't capture everything, but it captures so much of what matters. Moreover, Cyclops doesn't dwell on it for long. He says outright that he's not keen on the past anymore. He's focusing on the future. Iceman doesn't like it, but then again he's never been the most mature member of the X-men. This scene and the image explains why quite nicely.

Now there's no narration here or any real rhythm to this image. It's basically just Cyclops remembering all the important moments of his life. What makes it all the more remarkable is that it actually flows with how the conversation with Cyclops and Iceman progresses. It doesn't just come out of nowhere. For an image like this, Gillen and Land could have just forced it in and let the pretty pictures captivate the stoned readers and it probably would have worked. But there's substance behind it and in an issue that's trying to end a 544 issue run, that's pretty damn important.

We then go from a visually stunning trip down memory lane to the kind of creepiness that would your skin crawl and your dick retreat into your stomach. For some reason Sinister sees fit to randomly incinerate his flesh in some blast chamber and then be reborn out of what looks like an inside out vagina. It's sickeningly disgusting, plus Sinister comes out naked looking like he just took an amazingly shit. On top of that he's talking to this odd red light as he's essentially narrating his little exploration of the X-men. It's not clear what this is. Hell, he could just be high because I know I've seen lights like that during many a fun trips. They're usually accompanied by lizard people and girls with six breasts, but I guess Sinister just has shittier weed.

While the readers are taking some time to finish throwing up, Sinister essentially lays out where the X-men stand. He describes what Cyclops is doing on Utopia and what Wolverine is doing in Westchester, probably sounding completely sarcastic every step of the way. He then goes over some of the characters and which sides they chose. He doesn't go over everyone, just the major names. He also revisits the Summers/Grey bloodline that's always captivated him. Again, it's basically past reminders for those who got too high and forgot some of the details of Schism. But it's not a complete refresher. He still moves the story along, albeit still being incredibly creepy about it.

One of the names he brings up is Beast. Now if you'll recall, Beast and Cyclops aren't on speaking terms. In fact, I'm pretty sure they've unfriended one another on Facebook. Beast only shows up now to be a complete dick to Cyclops. Now I try to be balanced here. I get there are two sides to every story and Beast has some legitimate reasons for being upset with Cyclops. He kept X-Force from him. He put people in danger. But Beast just finds a way to be a complete asshole about it. He calls Cyclops out, saying that all those hard decisions he make don't end up with him in torture chambers. Well of course they don't, idiot! Hell, most don't end up in torture chambers last I checked! The mutant race fucking survived because of him. It came at a price. Nothing worth having is for free and I refuse to believe that someone as brilliant as Hank McCoy doesn't understand this.

Now I know I'm being harsh towards Beast, but there's just no excuse for being such a massive dick. For one, Cyclops is hardly a tyrant as a leader. He doesn't demand worship or censor criticism. When word got out about X-Force, he fucking ended it. He honed up like a real man should. And what did Beast do? He pissed and he moaned! That's it. He didn't offer any alternatives. He didn't propose any plans of his own. He never at any point put himself in a position to make those hard decisions. All he did was fucking whine. While this issue may glorify the Original Five, Beast still comes off as a complete dick.

As the X-jet leaves like it did at the end of Schism, Sinister takes over again with the narration. He shows that he knows Cyclops pretty damn well because he predicts that he'll do something to help lay the whole Schism affair to rest. And he does. He goes to a room in Utopia that contains all the pictures that show past X-men and he starts taking them down. But Sinister seems unusually gleeful about it, only adding to his creepiness factor. He essentially reviews the entire experience of the X-men and interprets it as a simple data set. It's a dick thing to do, but it's Sinister. You can't expect anything less. He considers the X-men over, which means he's in a position to do a whole new range of dick moves. It may be a dark time for the X-men, but it's a golden era for creepy pasty-faced psychopaths.

So Sinister finishing narrating. We're left with Cyclops and the pictures. He's clearing the walls, putting them in a box along with all the symbolism that goes along with it. Emma shows up along the way because we all know Greg Land never passes up a chance to draw Emma Frost in an obscenely pornographic manner. But she through the power of her pussy is able to get Cyclops to put some words into what he's doing. He clearly feels shitty after Schism, but he makes one thing clear. He's not going back to school or playing the part of a student anymore. He's his own man. If Beast and Iceman want to go back to that, they can do so. That's not his world anymore. He's graduated and that in many ways is the most powerful means of ending Uncanny X-men. Cyclops was the first X-man. He's been with the series since issue one and now he's evolved beyond his role from those early days and become his own man. So when he puts a picture of the Original Five in a box and seals it away, it has meaning to it and that meaning is abundantly clear. This era of Uncanny X-men is over. The bender has passed. The hangover has ended. Now a new bender is set to begin!

Now let us pause for a moment to reflect on what we have just witnessed. Uncanny X-men (at least this run) is over. 544 issues that helped shape the world of comics and set new standards of awesome is now over. I'm not going to pretend to burst out in tears and break empty vodka bottles over my head. This book is getting relaunched in a month. Yet still, this issue is written as if there will be no more Uncanny X-men after the ending. It feels like an ending. It's not just the epilogue to an important arc like Schism. It's the end of a major era in X-men. For a long time there have been major themes within the pages of Uncanny. Some of those themes are still there, but some have drastically changed. What the Original Five started back when most of us were seeds in our father's scrotum has ended and a new kind of X-men has begun.

But enough with the poetic bullshit. This is still a review so how do you rank a book like Uncanny X-men #544? Well if you ignore the issue number, it's a solid epilogue of recent events. Using Sinister to clear the air after all the recent shit that's unfolded was a nice angle because it provides a unique perspective. Sinister had no role in Fear Itself or Schism. He's basically an objective observer. Granted, he's still crazier than a hoard of drunk ferrets, but you can be crazy and objective (so long as you're not working for Fox News). In addition we get some nice input from key members of the Original Five. Angel and Jean aren't there, but the transition is clear. Cyclops is not a student anymore and Beast is just a big, furry dick. The conversations, the musings, and the themes were all masterfully done. Kieron Gillen captured the emotions and the themes of this moment in all the right ways. For that, I can safely say this comic is awesome even if you don't ignore the circumstances surrounding it.

There's still a problem with the whole finality of this issue. Even though Uncanny is ending, this feels more like an end to Schism than it does to Uncanny. I get that trying to condense the stories and themes of nearly 50 years of comics is like trying to summarize Moby Dick in the form of a Haiku. It can't be done, but it doesn't feel as though enough of an effort was made to do so. But I really can't hold that shit against this issue because it still felt complete in the end. Since Uncanny is relaunching, there's really no need to grieve or lament. It's just a transition to a new era and this comic does that masterfully. For that, I give Uncanny X-men #544 a fitting 5 out of 5. If you're going to end a series that's outlived Michael Jackson, disco, and Marlon Brando's movie career then this is how you want to do it. Now I'm ready for the relaunch! For this I raise my bottle of Jack Daniels and lay out a fat line of blow. Thanks a ton for all the good memories Uncanny X-men! Now joint he fucking 21st century, go day-and-date digital, and start kicking ass for a whole new generation! Nuff said.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

X-men Legacy #256 - Upheavals of Awesome

I know there's several metric tons of awesome going on throughout the X-books with Uncanny ending, Schism, and Fear Itself. Given my limited time between drinking binges and hangovers, it's impossible for me to keep up most of time. I do my best to give certain books the attention they deserve, but much like the American education system there will be those that get left behind and screwed over in ways they don't deserve. That's a good metaphor for X-men Legacy. It has been without a doubt one of the most consistent X-books in the past half-decade and Mike Carey has been one of it's most consistent writers. But like a good binge in Tijuana, the end will eventually come and the morning after will kick your ass. That's why it's important to enjoy the high now because when it ends, you may find yourself in a motel room in Columbia with a fat transvestite spooning you.

X-men Legacy has been telling a very important story. It's bringing Rachel, Havok, and Polaris back into the picture after they've been MIA for nearly two freakin' years. It's a story that's been brewing for quite some time, but now we're finally getting an explanation. Mike Carey went to great lengths to tie this story into the events of Age of X and the aftermath. Yet for all his attention to detail what did he get? Well seeing as how this story takes place while Schism, Fear Itself, and Uncanny X-Force are kicking the collective asses of every other Marvel book I would say he's more unfortunate than every Enron stock holder combined. He's been telling a great story with X-men Legacy. It involves the Shi'ar, mind control, and a space station that's falling into a star. Yet it can't help but slip under the radar because of the competition. On top of it all, this is Mike Carey's last arc! So yeah, he should be pissed. But that doesn't mean his stories aren't still awesome.

X-men Legacy #255 we learned more about the civil war that Rachel, Havok, and Polaris got caught up in. As is often the case, the Shi'ar's nasty habits of oppressing other races like the Insectoid Grad Nan Holt (basically cousins of your typical cockroaches in a Brooklyn apartment) has come back to haunt them. Magneto, Frenzy, Gambit, and Rogue finally arrive to mount a rescue. But the space station, Gul Damar, is falling into a star. So it's basically your typical Tuesday for the X-men.

At the end of X-men Legacy #255 Magneto, Frenzy, and Gambit finally have a tearful reunion with Havok and Polaris. And by tearful reunion I mean Havok and Polaris are being mind controlled by the Insectoid Grad Nan Holt and their first instinct is to beat the living shit out of their rescuers. It's basically par for the course for a typical X-men rescue, but it still makes for some awesome visuals. It's Magneto versus his own daughter and Frenzy versus the guy Mangeto's daughter is boning. Sounds like a fair fight.

It's a regular family reunion for the X-men. Meanwhile Gambit is stuck fighting Krovus, the guy that's probably been boning Rachel off panel. Since Cyclops isn't present, Gambit has to be the one to give him the typical introduction that every father gives to their daughter's boyfriend. He's horribly ill-equipped and not because Korvus is bigger and stronger. It's because he's able to call for backup from the massive armies of Insectoid's that are watching the whole battle like a home game for the Philadelphia Eagles. And like a home game for the Eagles, the fans get angry and unruly when shit doesn't go their way or they have too much to drink, whichever comes first. So they join in the fun and attack. All the while the Shi'ar that the X-men were working with watch on only mildly impressed. They seem to accept that they're many different kinds of screwed and start shooting off their larger weapons. And no, that's not a dick joke.

Unfortunately for the laws of physics in this or any other universe, firing big ass weapons on an already damaged space station tends to fuck things up. As soon as the Shi'ar start waving their dicks at the Insectoids and firing off their weapons, they trigger a breach in the area where Rogue, Rachel, and a group of Shi'ar pirates that are not unlike Somali pirates, just less ruthless. Rachel has to once again show that she has her mother's flare by sealing up the breach. Rogue then decides that they should separate so she can go catch up with the X-men and tell the Shi'ar to knock this shit off. I'm assuming she knows they're just going to tell her to suck it, but it's a matter of principle I guess.

Along the way Rogue finds one of the Shi'ar officials that was actually against firing off their high-energy weapons on an already crippled space station. What did he get in return? He got fucking shot. That's basically how the Shi'ar pecking order words. If you try to be reasonable in any capacity, you get fucking shot. But beyond his life sucking royally, he tells Rogue that the particle cannons are fucking up the gravity for the station. Since he's a long ways away from some band aids and Nyquil, Rogue shows a little mercy and absorbs the guy so she can use his knowledge to fix this shit. Of all the ways you're going to go, being touched by Rogue (even in a non-sexual way) isn't a bad exit strategy.

Now you would think that the inhabitants of the space station that aren't batshit crazy would have an interest in assisting Rogue and Rachel. And you would be right, but the problem is there are a few beings that are batshit crazy on this space station. One such being introduces itself to Rachel as Friendless of the Ten-Red-Seed next, which sounds a lot like a gay fraternity ritual. Why is this worth mentioning? This is the asshole that knocked Rachel out with a little psychic douche-baggery. So that means Rachel finally has a chance to not be the target that so many redheads end up being in X-men comics. Just ask Jean Grey. Oh wait...

So in an effort to attack, Rachel does a little psychic douche-baggery of her own. In the process she discovers something pretty fucked up that definitely qualifies as another Mike Carey style twist that I'm going to miss so much when he leaves the series. This Friendless beast wasn't exactly another one of the Shi'ar's whipping boys. He was actually being abused by his own Insectoid brethren. By that I mean his family was killed, he was rounded up like a dog or a woman at Rick James's house, and exploited for his psychic talents. So what did he do? He took control of their minds and made them wage war on the Shi'ar. So in reality neither the Shi'ar or the Insectoids are the assholes. They're just pawns by some pissed off prisoner who actually has more than enough reason to see both races kill each other. I get the sense that if this thing was human, he would be one of those Occupy Wall Street guys with the oversized beard and hipster style clothes advocating that someone firebomb Warren Buffet's house.

This scene really changes up the nature of the story. It finally gives a reason as to why the Insectoids and Shi'ar are fighting. It also shows how Havok and Polaris are being controlled. On every level, it's all part of one exceedingly pissed off creature's plot to screw over the people who made his life miserable. In a sense you really can't blame the guy. If you have that kind of psychic skill, do you just take it and let your own people exploit it? Or do you use it to exploit them and the Shi'ar's tendency to be assholes? Nine out of ten people would probably do the same.

Rachel doesn't show much sympathy for guys who start wars between two races. So while Friendless is preparing to fuck her up, she unseals the breach and lets the vacuum of space shut this asshole up. It's about as effective as giving Robert Downy Jr. some horse tranquilizers. Once he goes silent, the mind-control for Polaris and Havok ends. They're probably visibly confused and are curious as to why the hell Magneto and Frenzy are with the X-men. But they're kind of in the middle of an interstellar war so that gets set aside for the moment. Magneto and Polaris work together to seal the breach with their powers. It's a nice father daughter moment akin to a man taking his daughter to the zoo. Although with Magneto, there always has to be a life-or-death situation or it just isn't heartfelt enough.

Now that the mind control is over and the breach is sealed, there can finally be a more appropriate reunion. Rachel and Rogue join up with Magneto, Polaris, Havok, Frenzy, and Gambit. There's presumably a lot of confused aliens as well, feeling like I do after I start drinking in one city and wake up in another. They obviously have a lot to talk about. At some point they'll have to explain why Magneto joined the X-men, why the Xavier Institute blew up, why the X-men are living on a rock in San Francisco Bay, and why there's a mysterious girl with red hair and green eyes named Hope Summers running around. But all that shit falls to the wayside when they find out that the space station is falling into a star. Some things are just more important I guess. But still, a slight mention just to get some wide-eyed reactions would have been fun.

Now to fix a falling space station, it's not as easy as getting the necessary parts from a Radioshack. This space station is the size of a fucking planet. To get where they need to go, they need something a little quicker than an elevator. So Rogue leads them to a little something called a Flux Array, which despite the bland name would have Star Trek fans everywhere jizzing their pants. It's basically a gravity rail gun that is like an express elevator to the source of the gravity generator. Rogue knows all this thanks to that unfortunate Shi'ar that got shot earlier and she needs to use it to get to where she needs to go and fix it. To do this, she needs help from Frenzy. Now keep in mind that Frenzy is new to being a hero. She's been on the wrong side of so many X-men battles in the past and thanks to Cyclops's penis, she's now on the X-men's side. So she agrees to lend Rogue her powers and a hand in fixing this shit. It's a nice way to show that she's becoming a hero and it's also a nice way to demonstrate just how powerful Cyclops's penis is.

So the X-men have reunited and they're prepared to fix the space station. It sounds like they can finally catch their breath. All will soon be well and good. They can start thinking about how they'll explain Utopia and the presence of Hope Summers. Well if shit were that easy in the X-books, no one would read them. While Rogue and Frenzy are on their way to do a quick repair job, our old friend Friendless reveals that the vacuum of space didn't do a good enough job killing him. He finds his way to an air lock on the station where he takes control of a few more Shi'ar. With them, he plans on further fucking this space station and everyone in it. I'm starting to think the X-men should adopt the same rules as real people do with zombies. Unless you shoot an enemy in the head, assume they'll come back and fuck you up even more.

Mike Carey's X-books have always been just the right balance of style and substance. He doesn't try to blow up the fucking universe with every arc. He tells strong, focused stories that feel much bigger than they might actually be. Well this issue really highlights all the strengths of that style except in this case the story is every bit as big as it feels. The X-men aren't just trying to free their friends of mind control. They're trying to save a whole fucking space station from falling into a star. It sounds like a Michael Bay style plot, yet it has Martin Scorsese style depth. Now the past few issues have been mired in unanswered questions. Like how the fuck did Polaris, Rachel, and Havok get caught up in this shit and why are they fighting their friends? Well this issue answers it. Mind Control may seem simple on paper, but the way Mike Carey develops Friendless and his motivations really make it deeper in all the right ways.

This is by far the most complete issue yet in this overdue reunion arc. The only problem some may have with it is that now Rachel, Havok, and Polaris aren't being mind controlled anymore. That means they have no excuse to react to all the shit that's happened in the past two years since they've been away from Earth. Now granted a lot was going on that prevented them from learning the full story, but still there wasn't even a hint dropped as to what had happened so we didn't get a reaction. Many X-fans including myself would just love to see what Rachel's reaction to Hope Summers would be. Maybe she'll have the same reaction as all angry Jean Grey fans, but we just don't know because it wasn't shown. I'm hoping it gets shown eventually, but that's one major plot hole that can't and shouldn't be ignored (although that's never stopped Marvel before).

X-men Legacy #256 was as enjoyable an issue as any Mike Carey X-book. Yeah, it got a little lost in the midst of so many other X-men events like Fear Itself, Schism, and Uncanny X-Force. I wouldn't say it's as awesome as those stories, but it's still enjoyable. And since this is Mike Carey's last major arc, it's one X-men Legacy fans everywhere should savor like chocolate sauce dripping from Pamela Anderson's breasts. Issues like this will only make me miss Mike Carey even more. That's why I give X-men Legacy #256 a 5 out of 5. This issue gives plenty of reasons why Mike Carey has been such a consistent writer on the X-books for so long and it gives just as many reasons to go on a self-hating drinking binge once it's over. Nuff said!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fear Itself #7 - Fearless Awesome

Get yourself a spare pair of underwear, Marvel fans! The end has come on yet another Earth-shattering saga. Yes, I know that Marvel routinely blows up their world more times than Rick Perry in a presidential debate. Say what you will about it as a shameless marking ploy, but when the stories are awesome who gives a damn? Civil War was awesome. Second Coming was awesome. World War Hulk was awesome. Even if you make an ass of yourself hyping the event, so long as they're good then ass yourself to death! Fear itself is the latest event/ploy/whatever you want to call it. Marvel has made a big deal out of this story, building up the anticipation like a man's first trip to a strip club. For the last six issues it has delivered Fear Itself has been the kind of oversized, explosive, and just plain over-the-top story that will bring a tear to your eye while making your dick hard enough to joust with. But it isn't complete yet. I can't put this event on the same level as Civil War and Second Coming until the end is upon us.

Now when I say a lot has happened, that's not the same as me saying I got a little tipsy last night. The six issues of Fear Itself has spanned the entire Marvel universe. The Serpent arose from centuries of being pissed off at Odin for beating him for the title of All-Father. He distributed an array of magic hammers to form an army of Asgardian thugs that he's used to terrorize the whole freakin' planet. As the fear grows, he gets stronger. He went from looking like Betty White's snatch to a pre-crazy Mel Gibson. He put Thor, Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers on the ropes. He killed Bucky Barnes and broke Captain America's shield. Now he's gathered his army of brutes in the ruins of Asgard in Brokton, Oklahoma where Captain America has assembled the Avengers for a final showdown. A lot of insane shit happened in between, but I'm too drunk to go over every detail. All you need to know is Captain America is leading every hero with the balls to fight against the Serpent to defend what's left of their overly fucked world.

It's basically an Alamo scenario for Captain America. His shield has been shattered. Everywhere around him has been blown to hell worse than downtown Tripoli. All the while the Serpent really doesn't seem to notice. He's more focused on drawing Odin out so he can pay him back for being locked at the bottom of the ocean for so damn long. All the heroes that are opposing him and the people he's terrorizing are just a mild rectal itch to him. He really hasn't been threatened that much since this whole fearfest began. He's come off as both overly powerful and overly douchy. Since this is the last issue, it's about damn time the man's balls get shoved back into his stomach in a completely no-gay way.

But just throwing themselves at the Serpent like they did before would be fucking stupid. He beat their asses worse than every gay S&M club in San Francisco before so they need a little something extra to guard their tenderized asses again. Enter Iron Man, much more sober and wielding his own Asgardian weapons courtesy of Odin's forge. Since it worked so well for the Serpent when he passed out his magical hammers, why shouldn't it work for the other side? Yeah, he's basically ripping the Serpent's idea off, but villains have been doing that shit to heroes for years. It's about damn time someone turned it back on them!

The Serpent remains unthreatened. He still has a hard-on for his brother in a completely non-incest sort of way. He's spent the last six issues trying to call Odin out so that he can take on the role that Odin won so unfairly. Never mind that he has to fill the world with destruction and fear. When it comes to sibling rivalries, pretty much anything is fair game. Sadly, I can see how this would happen between myself and my own siblings if we were gods. If we get pissed enough, then of course you're not going to care about unleashing unholy terror all over the world. It's your siblings fault for being such a douche!

It's heroes vs. god-powered supervillains. It's the kind of brawl you could put on pay-per-view, charge an exceedingly unreasonable fee, and still get plenty of people to watch. Yet at the same time, there's a distinctly human element that doesn't go unnoticed. While this super-powered brawl is going on, the people of Braxton are huddling together just hoping this shit ends before they tear the whole fucking world one too many assholes. Now these are not the kind of people that look good in spandex. These are normal people who most comic fans won't jerk off to. They look like real people, the kind you see driving by at rush hour or the kind you buy pot from. They all start getting sick of being so scared because let's face it, at some point you run out of ways to shit your pants.

Now this is one of the elements that makes Fear Itself so great. It takes time to focus on the effects these massive hero mash-ups have on real people. It's an element that often goes unnoticed in comics. There are ordinary people that actually live in the Marvel universe and their story often gets lost. So I'm glad Fear Itself has taken time to explore that element and not just rely on the senseless destruction, as awesome as that may be.

But if you're already bored by the added human element, you either have ADD or just care about watching superheros fight giant dragons. Now I won't criticize your tastes or lack thereof, but you're in luck! Thor, who has been in the thick of the battle for the past few issues, ends up fighting the Serpent in said dragon-like form. He already beat the shit out of Thor while looking like handsome body double for George Clooney. Why not do it as a real actual serpent? It sounds more practical than it really is, but it makes for some kick-ass visuals and it shows Thor doing what Odin was too chicken shit to do.

During this fight, Thor's hammer literally comes to Captain America's aid. Keep in mind Thor isn't using his hammer. He's using the Odinsword that was given to him in the last issue, once again revealing that Odin has a hell of an ego even for a god because he has to name all his shit after him. In addition, that ordinary guy that reminded the readers that Fear Itself affected real people shows up. While he may look like George Costanza from Sienfeld, he shows more balls than most readers ever will and helps Cap up. It's a great moment that shows the bystanders of the Marvel universe aren't just a bunch of cowardly pussies. They can actually be of help. Inspired by their ballsiness, Captain America takes on Thor's hammer and quickly finds out that it's way more effective than a gun.

What follows next are the kinds of fight scene spreads that makes Marvel fans jizz in their pants. We don't just get gods fighting mortals armed with godly weapons. We also get Sin and her Nazi robots. Because you just can't have a battle like this without Nazi robots! It has every heavy hitter in the Marvel universe taking a stab at the Serpent's forces. Unlike last time, he can't just brush them off the same way Brad Pitt brushes off the panties countless women throw at him. It's over-the-top, it's excessive, and it's very basic. Yet it's still amazingly awesome. That's really all you can say about it.

In the midst of this battle some remarkable changes begin to take place. While Earth's Mightiest Heroes are fighting back against the Serpent, Earth's not-so-mighty heroes are doing their part. We start seeing broadcasts of rescues and stories that are won't make the average joe shit themselves. Why is this important? Well aside from it being part of that human element I mentioned earlier, the event is called Fear Itself, remember? The reason the Serpent is so damn strong is because he feeds on fear. Well when people stop feeling that fear, those massive balls of his start to shrivel.

Now all those Agardian-powered assholes start getting served parts of their own asses for a change. It doesn't just come from nowhere. There's actually a sense that there is a turning point, which can often go overlooked in a big event like this. I admit I expected Matt Fraction to gloss over smaller details like this. He has a track record of doing so in other comics, but he avoided it here. For that I applaud him. It's the little things that separate good comics from the truly awesome comics that rob me of my hard earned money and soils so many perfectly good pairs of underwear. But it's worth it!

So the Serpent is finally weakening, the heroes and non-heroes alike are showing some backbone, and Thor is taking on the Serpent with the kind of brazen attitude you would expect of any god. Finally, Odin decides to join in. Given how late it is in the conflict, this just seems random in addition to being a dick move. Seriously, he couldn't have sent his massive armies to stem the tide of this onslaught when it was just getting bad? Wouldn't that have gone a long ways towards alleviating all the fear that drove the Serpent in the first place? Just after it seemed Matt Fraction was putting all those smaller details together, this one just seems off. I tried wrapping my head around it, but I ran out of weed. Odin is simply without excuse here. Given what was just shown on how the fuck with the Serpent, all the action of the past few issues just seems unnecessary because Odin could have helped put a stop to it in the beginning. It's the first time I've seen an egregious inconsistency in Fear Itself. There are any number of ways it could have been spun, but this just feels like it's missing an important detail.

Now I would say it's better late than never that Odin shows up with an army of Asgardian's behind him, but this is one instance where that's just pure bullshit. Because as soon as Odin gives the order, Thor delivers the finishing blow to the Serpent. It's an awesome moment, one that demonstrates Thor's true badassery. He did what his father should've (and definitely could've) done. He drives the Odinsword right between the Serpent's eyes. With the fear dwindling and an army bearing down on him, the Serpent can't shake this shit off. Yet Odin's forces don't even get to fire a single shot. There's being fashionably late and then there's just being late. Even in a comic, being this late is just fucked up.

As the Serpent falls, all his hammer-wielding minions start to fall. Their weapons and their fear-fueled mojo starts to dwindle. Odin helps throw a little dirt on the fire, but the flames are already out. It just seems unnecessary at this point. Even Thor's fellow Asgardians seem to feel pissed that they're so late to the game because they don't arrive in time to help Thor. So now it's not just Odin that's a dick. All of Asgard is a dick because they didn't do shit to help out in this victory. It was all the heroes of Earth, the people, and Thor for giving his father the finger and disobeying him. It adds to the feeling that they really could have done more at an earlier time and made a difference. It was just Odin being an ass and fucking stupid that prevented them.

His price for being such a dick? His son dies. That's right. In striking down the Serpent, Thor dies. I know. I had the same WTF reaction. Thor wasn't wounded. He wasn't hurt. The Serpent didn't even say he was going to take his ass with him to the end. Yet somehow he just dies in the spectacle? For a series that has been so solid and adding method to the madness, it's not so much a shocker as it is a "Really? They actually did this?" moment. Just as Odin's final entry into the battle, this just seems so needless. There's no reason for this to happen aside from forcing some emotion into the story that really wasn't necessary. It feels as though plenty more could have been done if Thor was still alive. Instead he's just killed to prove once again that Odin was a massive dick-cheese, as if we needed any more reasons in this story.

Now a death in an event like this isn't completely uncalled for. Hell, they killed Bucky (again) earlier in the story. At least his death did have some merit to it. His death led Steve Rogers to become Captain America again. And he was actually wounded before he died. Here Thor is fighting the Serpent one moment and is dead the next. Marvel has handled deaths poorly before. While this isn't as egregious as they way they killed Jean Grey, it's still pretty lame. It takes what has been a truly awesome story and just makes it an "Aw! So close!" type moment. Very disappointing. Excuse me while I take a quick shot of vodka.

So the war that Odin had no excuse in letting get out of hand is over. In the ruins the Avengers prepare a funeral pyre for Thor. The emotions here are somewhat light, but I suppose the characters are just as jaded about the death as I am. Odin, in one last act of douche-baggery, isn't even present at his son's funeral. He's still standing over the body of the Serpent. So rather than stick around and apologize to everyone for allowing their world to be fucked six-thousand ways till next April, he takes the Serpent back to Asgard space and then seals it off. This not only strands the rest of the Asgardians back on Earth, it ensures that the Serpent is trapped. It's not a complete dick move, but if you don't think Odin is a complete ass after this what more does he have to do? Strangle a puppy?

So the funeral commences. We also get a shot of Buckey's funeral as well. Like Thor's death, it's somewhat glossed over. Iron Man also returns the weapons he made, which really doesn't seem to make sense because I have a hard time imagining that those wouldn't come in handy. On the plus side he does manage to fix Captain America's shield, albeit with a Liberty Bell style crack. It's not much, but it shows that this event will have more marks than just needless death. Captain America offers a nice speech to the Avengers and the rest of the world. It's your standard "Let's work together and repair" deal. Seeing as how it's only a matter of time before the world is attacked again, it seems rather redundant. That or the sense of needless deaths just further rob it from it's impact.

We do get one last shot of the George Costanza wannabe, the everyman that seems to represent the human touch of Fear Itself. He helps reinforce that element by offering help to other neighbors that are rebuilding. It's a nice touch that doesn't completely gloss over the deadpanned feeling of the ending. But it still works and it leads to a nice ending scene.

Now after the official end, there are some nice epilogues that cover characters like Sin and Hulk. However, they're really not all that important to how Fear Itself ends so I won't go over them. All they really do is just tie up some loose ends that really didn't need to be tied up in this issue. While it does make the issue feel bigger than it already is, the ending still falls flat. Given how amazing Fear Itself has been up to this final issue, it's a real let-down. It makes me feel like I need another drink, but then again I would probably feel that way no matter how it ended.

Now that this obscenely hyped event is over, I'm left with mixed feelings. I've enjoyed Fear Itself a great deal. It's been a wildly entertaining if not overly basic Marvel event. It doesn't have the same political undertones as Civil War or the same social undertones as Second Coming. Yet it succeeds in creating a vast, complex, coherent battle between the heroes of Marvel and a new villain. The build-up to Fear Itself was great. It followed the events of Siege and the story of Sin. However, the ending comes off as flat. While it feels complete, it also feels light on substance. We don't see at what point the fear stops gripping the people that have been fueling the Serpent. We really don't get a sense of why Odin no longer cares to let the Serpent butcher everyone on Earth. It feels as though he could have confronted the Serpent earlier and not a whole lot was done to change his mind. There was no method to his god-like madness. So when the Serpent is defeated it makes it seem as though this event was longer than it needed to be.

What really hurts this ending is the way in which it killed Thor. Now I know Marvel has made killing major characters a huge selling point for years now. They killed Johnny Storm. They killed Ultimate Peter Parker. It hasn't been the first time that Thor has gone KIA, but the way he died in this story just felt too flat. It was the same problem for Bucky. It wasn't completely callous, but it just felt hallow in the end. I'm not arguing that Thor shouldn't have died. I just think it could have been given more impact. It feels like cheap vodka that only gets you partially drunk while tasting bitter. The death doesn't completely kill the issue or the ending, but it certainly doesn't help either. Regardless of whether or not this death sticks, it is still lacking as an honorable comic book death should. We can make all the jokes we want about comic characters dying and coming back, but the key is and always has been the story surrounding those characters. It doesn't matter if they're killed or revived. If they story lacks impact, it really doesn't matter.

That's not to say this isn't a good comic. The battle between the Serpent and Marvel's massive legion of heroes was a sight to behold. Matt Fraction did a great job making this issue and all of Fear Itself the spectacle it was meant to be. The dialog is solid. He avoids writing anything that can be made into a bad internet meme, but nothing really sticks out either. The sheer breadth of the events and the story as a whole was very nicely done. Fear Itself really feels like a story that involved the entire Marvel universe. And getting ordinary people involved was a nice personal touch.

I was ready to christen Fear Itself the best Marvel event of the last decade. I was ready to make that bold claim and tattoo it on my forehead. Unfortunately, it looks like I'll have to cancel my appointment with the barber and the tattoo artist. Fear Itself is great both in the beginning and for much of the middle, but the end just falls flat. It's not a complete disappointment, but it's not a case study in comic book awesome either. It is what it is, a half-full bottle of booze that won't get you completely high but will still get you plenty of buzz. I give Fear Itself #7 a 3 out of 5. I would give the whole series a 3.5 or 4 out of 5 depending on how drunk I am. Marvel did a great job with this story, but like Tony Romo in the clutch it fell short in the big game. It's still an awesome series and I would recommend it to anyone as a starting point if you're just getting into Marvel comics. In terms of events, let's just say I'm already looking forward to the next overhyped story that Marvel has in their back pocket. Nuff said!