Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: All New X-men #26

It doesn’t take much to set some people off. For one person, crashing a shopping cart into the rear bumper will only evoke a scowl and a middle finger. For another, there mere act of tripping over them on a sidewalk is akin to taking a shit on their mother’s grave. These aren’t just people with anger management issues. These are people who are going through a bit of rough shit, be it divorce, shitty parents, or running out of weed. For O5 Jean Grey, it’s more than just a bit. She just got done being put on trial for a crime she hasn’t even done yet. She got so pissed that she somehow managed to upgrade her powers. Hell, if that’s all it took to become stronger, I’d be fucking Superman based on all the parking tickets I’ve gotten. But this power upgrade is only the latest nudge for O5 Jean down the path to becoming either Xorna or dead. Both results suck and with The Trial of Jean Grey Over, she now has to start dealing with it in All New X-men #26. Being a teenage girl who just watched O5 Cyclops take a vacation in space to play Han Solo with his father, I don’t have much faith in her coping skills.

And by all accounts, O5 Jean is off to a pretty shitty start. She finally gets a chance to get some rest and like a hangover that kicks in just before the blackout, she has a nasty nightmare. It’s not the first time either. O5 Jean Grey has been having crazy nightmares since she arrived in the future. Her first nightmare involved a crazy, naked Wolverine stabbing her to death. This one is only slightly less horrifying in that she dreams about going Dark Phoenix, just as the Shi’ar showed her. Everyone around her is either dead or wishing they were dead. She’s drunk on power in a way only matched by Donald Trump’s fantasies. But what really makes it hit hard is that this is exactly what she feared. She admitted to being a monster in The Trial of Jean Grey. She just hasn’t found a way to cope with it yet. I still say it’s more terrifying than being stabbed by a naked Wolverine.

Naturally, the horrified gasp of Jean Grey having a nightmare is a major disturbance in the force for Cyclops. For once his brain, his heart, and his penis are on the same page when he comes for her. It’s more than a little awkward and not just because O5 Jean thought that O5 Cyclops had returned from space. Cyclops just found out about what happened with the Shi’ar and his younger self. He’s probably both pissed and a worried. He knows Jean Grey’s future better than anyone. Hell, he’s seen her naked. And he doesn’t have to be in love with her to know that the shit the Shi’ar showed her can have a nasty impact on a teenage girl. But it goes further than that in a way that both Twilight fans and X-men fans can appreciate.

In terms of the bigger picture, Cyclops is probably the one character in the entire Marvel Universe that understands what O5 Jean is going through the most. And it’s not just because he married her and raised a kid with her, although that definitely helps. He just recently experienced what it was like to go Dark Phoenix. He finally understands what Jean Grey went through when she struggled with this power. He even pointed it out to Wolverine in AvX: Consequences in another act of epic Wolverine pwnage that would only be topped by O5 Jean knocking him out in All New X-men #2. Now without O5 Cyclops around, he’s the only Cyclops she can turn to and it brings out a side of him and O5 Jean that is both refreshing and overdue.

It’s the heart-to-heart they admit they’ve been avoiding. First, Cyclops establishes he knows how much Dark Phoenix nightmares suck. Then he assures her that all their future space adventures aren’t going to suck quite as badly. But then it gets more personal with Cyclops telling her how he would have horribly maimed Gladiator if he had been there when they came to abduct her. It also addressed the new powers O5 Jean used to kick Gladiator’s ass and give Jean Grey fans everywhere a boner they haven’t had since the Grant Morrison era. And Cyclops rightly points out that this is something the old Jean Grey never showed. Like O5 Jean said in the previous issue, this shit is all new. And it reminds them both at how the older Jean didn’t have that tool in her arsenal to save herself.

It’s when their conversation gets so personal that this emotional discussion takes on a rich, profound detail that is so beautifully handled that if it were a diamond, only Lady Gaga could get away with wearing it. It doesn’t just provide profound insight for Cyclops, who admits there are so many things he would have done differently if he had the knowledge O5 Jean now has. It also highlights the powerful chemistry that Cyclops and Jean Grey have. And I’m not just talking about romantic chemistry either, although it is clear at one point that O5 Jean’s teenage hormones get the better of her. Nobody should expect her to be completely immune to the power of Cyclops’s penis. These two characters really do bring out the best in one another. The way they care for one another and the way they learn from one another is what helps make them two of the most iconic characters in the history of X-men, despite what Wolverine fans may say.

That said, Kitty Pryde isn’t all that comfortable with Cyclops being alone in a room with O5 Jean Grey. She understands the power of Cyclops’s penis and his inability to think rationally around all things Jean Grey. But that doesn’t take away from the emotional weight of their interaction. Beyond encouraging O5 Jean to train with her new powers, they worry about the damage Beast has done to the timeline in his effort to troll Cyclops. O5 Jean even admits she likes the kind of man Cyclops has grown up to be. She does overlook that little bit about him killing Professor Xavier. But after the murders the Shi’ar showed her, I think she’s the only one who truly understands how overwhelmed Cyclops was in that moment. So in that sense, they really are pretty much the only ones who really understand each other. And that just gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside that I don’t usually get without whiskey and porn.

On the opposite end of the warm and fuzzy spectrum, X-23 isn’t nearly as inclined to substitute O5 Cyclops for his older counterpart. While O5 Angel is off on his morning flight, trying to forget that his older self has lost his fucking mind, he finds X-23 loaded up with enough gear to cross Siberia. She says outright that she’s leaving. There’s nothing tearful or conflicted about it. She’s just ditching the New Xavier School. With O5 Cyclops gone and the power of his penis no longer present, she has little reason to stay. O5 Angel tries to do exactly what O5 Cyclops did in All New X-men #20 and stop her, but he simply lacks the charm or the penis to do so. To be fair though, X-23 is pissed off in a very different way. O5 Angel is perfectly reasonable and doesn’t say anything really stupid, which teenage boys have been known to do around girls. X-23 is just that determined to tell everyone to piss off.

That also includes angry bears. PETA supporters might want to skip this part of the story, but I think X-23’s state of mind is worth emphasizing here. While O5 Angel is trying to convince her to stay, a curious bear shows up who probably thinks O5 Angel is an oversized chicken wing just waiting to be deep fried. Fuck, I’m hungry now. But lucky for O5 Angel, X-23 scares him away. Let me say that again to get the point across. X-23, a teenage girl with claws, terrified a bear so much that it ran away. I think that says something about both her and the terror inspired by teenage girls that’s worth noting.

But beyond scaring a bear, O5 Angel finds out that X-23 might have had a thing for O5 Cyclops. All those hugs they shared meant something and it didn’t just involve soaked panties. It probably confuses the hell out of O5 Angel. Apparently, he has yet to learn that teenage girls tend to react poorly when a guy they want to dry hump just up and leaves. Boy, he’s really fucking behind the curve. In that sense, O5 Angel has no chance of convincing X-23 to come back so she leaves and O5 Angel is left to contemplate just how much crazier teenage girls can be. Again, he’s got a long ways to go.

X-23 is off and ready to look for someone else to hug her. Then in what looks like her mind and her hormones playing tricks on her, O5 Cyclops shows up. He says he has come back to her. He just missed hugging her that much. Fuck having his own solo series where he gets to cruise around the galaxy with his father in ways that every Star Wars and Star Trek fan only dreams. He would rather stick around and hug her.

Anybody who believes that shit needs to lay off the weed or smoke more of it. Of course it’s a ruse, but it isn’t her raging hormones making her hallucinate either. It’s a shape shifter looking to both fuck with her mind and stab her. And she (or he) succeeds. I say it could be a he because in addition to Mystique, the renegade son she had with Wolverine in the Battle of the Atom future is still running around. And he seems to enjoy stabbing things associated with Wolverine just as much as his mother. He (or she) claims to take no pleasure in doing so, but I get the sense he’s hiding a massive erection after leaving X-23 for dead.

I also imagine mulling over complicated physics equations gives O5 Beast a boner. He’s just way better at hiding it. That’s what he ends up having to do as he’s going over a big ass chalkboard full of the kind of math that gives most high school juniors night terrors during mid-terms. It’s not the first time either. He was working on this board during the first issue of The Trial of Jean Grey. Now he adds some extra equations to the mix, namely O5 Cyclops leaving and O5 Jean’s new powers. This seems to hint that this is a significant change in the way their presence is impacting the timeline. They just keep finding new ways to fuck it up, but this way might actually be productive. It has to be because I don’t think the timeline can take any more new assholes.

Speaking of assholes, the rest of the New Xavier School staff are incredibly douchy when O5 Angel returns to tell them that X-23 left. In fact, some don’t even remember her name. O5 Iceman admits to calling her Wolverine Clone. Granted, that’s what she is, but it’s still a dick move, not even learning her name. The only one who really gets pissed off is Kitty Pryde and rightfully so. She already had one of her students ditch her. She doesn’t need it to become a trend.

But before she can give her students a much needed lesson in not being a dick, X-23 comes back on her own. To be fair, she kind of had to after being stabbed and all. It’s not quite clear how wounded she is or even why she’s so wounded. This is someone who has had all the flesh on her bones blown off before. She should be able to walk this off the same way Brett Farve walks off a broken ankle. But she has already shown that she can be wounded badly. It’s just hard to figure out how a simple stab wound could do this much damage.

That said, there is a pretty telling hint. There’s a good reason why I suspect that the shape-shifter that stabbed X-23 might not be Mystique. The future Brotherhood of Mutants that stuck around at the end of X-men Battle of the Atom are still pissed. They can’t go back to their own future, but they can keep fucking up the present. And as it just so happens, they’ve found the secret location of the New Xavier School. Stabbing X-23 was just a prelude. They’re probably sick of being at a point in time when they have to use outdated iPhones and slower internet. Who wouldn’t be pissed about being stuck with dial up? And if they have a way to wound X-23, they sure as hell have a way to wound the rest of the O5.

This is one of those issues where beautifully developed drama more than compensates for the lack of actions. And it’s not like there wasn’t any action. X-23 got fucking stabbed and left for dead. But just one issue ago, there was a ball-busting epic brawl between O5 Jean Grey and Gladiator. It’s perfectly okay to not have that kind of action in the next issue. In fact, this issue perfectly follows up on the impact of The Trial of Jean Grey. The heart-to-heart with O5 Jean and Cyclops was the real meat of the issue. It’s worth the price for that scene alone. Seeing X-23 scare off a bear is just a nice bonus. This kind of drama is something that has taken way too fucking long to unfold, but like a happy ending at a massage parlor it’s so worth the wait. It sets up a new dynamic with O5 Cyclops being absent and one that promises to actually make progress that doesn’t involve O5 Jean and O5 Cyclops being awkward and pissed all the time. And despite what Glen Beck may say, progress is a good thing and All New X-men #26 has plenty of it. I give it a 9 out of 10. Like a priest at the Little League World Series, there are going to be a lot of uncomfortable feelings between O5 Jean and Cyclops. But those uncomfortable feelings are what make it so much fun to watch. Nuff said!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Breaking Down A Prelude: Original Sin #0

The following is my review of Original Sin #0, which was posted on

Not long ago, the concept of an Issue #0 for a comic seemed about as absurd as an issue that had a decimal for a number. Yet in the past three years, Marvel and DC have done both. But beyond introducing a numbering system that’s more complex than first grade math, these issues have created an entirely new category of comic. They aren’t meant to be part of an arc. And most of the time, they have little impact on the ongoing series. It’s possible to completely skip over these issues and not miss a thing in the main series. That a relief in some ways because some series are complicated enough without decimals and the number 0 being added to the mix. But it also presents a major challenge. If these issues can be glossed over like an extra on Star Trek, how do these issues become meaningful?

The key isn’t to add more complications to the story itself. The real strength of these issues is adding some emotional weight to the impact of the larger story. That’s the task set forth in Original Sin #0. In some respects, this issue has an even greater challenge than most elaborately numbered comics. The first issue of Marvel’s big summer blockbuster has already been spoiled, not unlike a movie trailer that reveals too much too soon. Uatu the Watcher is going to die. Somebody is going to murder him and take his eyes. So him being one of the main character in Original Sin #0 is a bit of problem. It must now get people excited for this event after they already read the spoilers on a message board.

And this issue accomplishes that by making the story personal on multiple fronts. Most of these personal elements come from the perspective of Nova. His life has already been documented, but this issue takes some time to offer a brief refresher course on all things Sam Alexander. It won’t tell anyone anything they can’t find on Wikipedia, but it does help create a more personal tone for the story as a whole. That tone is somewhat lost at times in an overly generic battle against some killer robot pretending to be an Aztec God. It’s one of those concepts that’s as ridiculous as it sounds. But it does help show that Sam Alexander is still a teenage boy with a very immature mentality. Yet it’s this mentality that leads him to confront Uatu the Watcher for an overdue conversation.

That alone doesn’t sound too daunting, but a conversation with Uatu the Watcher isn’t that different from a conversation with a statue. For most of his history, Uatu has acted either as a narrator for readers or a silent witness who only occasionally makes his presence known. He fits the definition of a flat, static character to the letter and he’s supposed to be that way. He’s never presented as anything else. However, Nova’s conversation, as one-sided as it is at times, helps give the Watcher a depth that he was never supposed to have. He finally shows a little personality. It’s not much, but it’s better than a statue.

For a brief moment, Nova gets to see things from the Watchers perspective. He gets to see the breadth of the people and events he observes. He even gets to see the very mechanisms that allow the Watcher to observe the alternate worlds that make up Marvel’s colorful What If line. The meaning isn’t apparent at first and this is where the one-sided conversation gets a little complicated. For all his cosmic powers of observation, the Watcher is painfully inefficient at making his point. But he does eventually make it in a very meaningful way.

This meaning is only fully conveyed when Uatu reveals the history of the Watchers. He shows Nova what happened when his race, led by Uatu’s father, attempted to use their superior knowledge to assist a civilization. And for a time they did. That civilization flourished. But eventually, that civilization used the knowledge and technology given by the Watchers to destroy themselves. It devastates the Watchers so much that Uatu’s father proclaims that the Watchers will never interfere with the development of a civilization again. It essentially lays the foundation for the strict code of non-intervention that the Watchers must uphold. It’s no longer just an excuse. There’s a reason why Uatu only watches and it’s a pretty good reason.

It’s also a reason that has played out on a smaller scale in the real world. There’s a reason why advanced technology seems like magic to primitive minds. By not understanding technology, it’s difficult to appreciate it. By not appreciating this technology, it’s much easier to be misused. The Watchers are somewhat akin to whoever invented the ski mask. They had the best of intentions. Whether it’s helping a civilization achieve greatness or protecting peoples’ heads from bitter cold, these endeavors are noble on paper. But when their fruits are misused, the damage can be pretty bad. The burden for whoever invented the ski mask is probably hard enough, but the Watchers must deal with the burden of full blown genocide.

To further add to this burden, Uatu also reveals that no matter how many realities he uncovers, he doesn’t find any of them that show his father’s endeavor succeeding. It shows that the abuse and misuse of knowledge is akin to the law of gravity. He cannot escape it. And given the stated premise of Original Sin, it paints a more dire picture for all those involved. Nova only got a taste of what the Watcher sees and he never got a chance to misuse it. What will happen when someone has that chance?

That’s the daunting question that readers are left to ask at the end of Original Sin #0. While the details tended to drag and were sometimes obscured by Nova’s immaturity, the emotional stakes are definitely raised by this story. It may not be necessary in the overall Original Sin event, but it gives a great deal of emotional weight to the story. It’s like adding chocolate sauce to a hot fudge sundae. It may get lost in the mix, but it still improves the overall product.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

C2E2: The Death of Wolverine - Why It Does (And Doesn't) Matter

I probably should have done a post like this earlier. I probably shouldn’t have mixed sleeping pills with cocaine either, but I stopped having visions of my old algebra teacher so I’m going to make this post, damn it. It’s an issue worth discussing if only because I know it has everyone as frustrated about it as me. It happened this past weekend at the C2E2 Convention in Chicago. Marvel and all the other comic book companies traveled to the Windy City to gorge on deep dish pizza and soak everyone’s panties about upcoming summer events. And this big announcement this time around had to do with yet another death gimmick. This time, Marvel is really swinging for the fences. They’re going to try and kill Wolverine. Offing Peter Parker wasn’t enough. Now they have to kill the guy who is without a doubt one of their biggest characters, right up there with Spider-Man.

Now absolutely nobody’s panties should be soaked for this big announcement. This has been a rumor that has been floating around the internet like a bad case of rectal warts for quite a while now. Bleeding Cool reported way back in April 2013 that Marvel had plans to kill off Wolverine. I didn’t doubt it for a second. But now fuck me with frozen twinkee, they turned out to be right. And believe it or not, I’m not outraged or upset. At most, I’m inconvenienced. At worst, I’m just ashamed.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. We all know why Marvel is doing it. It’s the same reason drug smugglers are willing to stuff a dozen bags of heroin up their asses and why lobbyists are willing to suck every dick in Congress: MONEY. Many fans bitch and moan about these events in ways that can only be matched by a spoiled six-year-old at a toy store. But the fact remains we still pay for this shit. We still willingly fork our money over to Marvel, knowing that the story they tell is going to piss us off and exploit our love of these characters.

They’re not assholes for doing this either. They’re just good businessmen. They know they need to make money and sadly, this is what makes money. If tomorrow they found out that a million people were willing to pay 100 bucks for a comic that consisted only of Wolverine kicking Sabretooth in the balls, they would make that shit yesterday. But right now, killing characters and pissing off fans seems to be the only way to get more people to fork over their money. That alone isn’t what’s pathetic. The fact it still works so damn well is what makes me feel shame as a comic book fan, a consumer, and a human being.

Now don’t think for a minute that Wolverine is going to stay dead. This isn’t Uncle Ben. This isn’t even Jean Grey, whose major purpose in comics is to die and be reborn. This is one of Marvel’s most popular characters. Keeping him dead is just going to be bad for business. And anyone with half a brain can expect Marvel and their Disney overlords to do whatever they think is going to make them money. They all saw the sales of Blackest Night. They know bringing characters back to life can be just as lucrative as killing them because we consumers are a bunch of trained lab rats who will sprint through a sea of piss and liquid shit to get their pre-packaged cheese.

Add to that the movies. We just saw it with Peter Parker. Does anyone here who isn’t a JFK conspiracy buff believe that it’s a coincidence that Peter Parker is coming back to life just as another Spider-Man movie is coming out? Fuck no. And there’s both another X-men movie planned for 2016 and another Wolverine movie planned for 2017. Both will most likely suck ass, but that doesn’t matter. There’s simply no way that Marvel is going to keep a character that makes too many people enough metric fucktons of money dead. It’s not a matter of good stories. It’s just fucking economics. The best anyone can hope for is that it doesn’t suck too badly. Nuff said!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Unheroic Inspiration: Sinestro #1

The following is my review of Sinestro #1, which was posted on

The line between hero and anti-hero isn't always clear. But like racist undertones in old movies, fans know it when they see it. There's usually a spectrum of sorts for heroes and anti-heroes. On one side, there are the heroic ideals like Superman and Captain America. On the other, there are the darker anti-heroes like Wolverine and Lobo. Yet while these characters may have vastly different methods and personas, the narratives are usually fairly similar. A hero or an anti-hero has a moment that triggers their journey. Then they go on that journey, often struggling to overcome the challenges along the way and not lose sight of their role. It's a journey that's so common that it might as well have its own wi-fi. But the journey for a character like Sinestro goes a completely different route and that's what makes Sinestro #1 both jarring and compelling.

On the spectrum of heroes and anti-heroes, Sinestro is one character who has historically not remotely qualified for even anti-hero status. For decades, he was just a typical villain. He was to Green Lantern what Lex Luthor is to Superman. He's supposed to represent everything that the Green Lantern Corp and the Guardians of the Universe are against. This succeeded in making him a formidable foe that constantly frustrated the Green Lantern Corps, but it didn't make him that interesting. He lacked the Joker's charisma or Darkseid's imposing presence. He might as well have been a humorless bully who was only a few bland traits away from being a robot.

Then in recent years, the emergence of the Sinestro Corp and the detailed history of Sinestro's home planet, Korugar, gave Sinestro some much needed depth. He went from being the obligatory villain that must frustrate the Hal Jordan and Jon Stewarts of the DC Universe to being an arrogant, headstrong warrior who sought only to protect his homeworld and his people. He's no King Arthur. He's more like an alien version of Vladimir Putin. He's willing to use the power of fear to instill order. And for a time, he used that fear to great effect. But like many strongmen, this fear inspired hatred from the people he was trying to protect. In the end, Sinestro's efforts to protect his world ended up destroying it. That's something that even the Joseph Stalins of the world can't boast.

The loss of Korugar essentially stalled Sinestro's journey. He no longer had a reason to keep fighting. He didn't care about being in the Green Lantern Corp, the Yellow Lantern Corp, or any corp for that matter. He relegated himself to lonely exile like a disgraced Congressman after a major scandal. And he probably would have skipped the part where he tries to pull a Bill Clinton and make a comeback, content to live out his lonely existence on some isolated planet. But a visit from Lyssa Drak, who could be considered Sinestro's version of Hillary, forces him back on that journey.

Much of Sinestro #1 revolves around Lyssa Drak convincing Sinestro to take up the mantle as leader of the Yellow Lantern Corps again. Never mind the fact that both she and everyone in the Yellow Lantern Corp hates his guts. Never mind they have their own agenda that involves them basically doing what they've always done in looking for new ways to frustrate their Green Lantern Corp rivals. But this is where Sinestro creates an entirely new spectrum. He's still not a hero or an anti-hero by any measure. However, it's hard to call him a villain. Lyssa Drak may hate him, but she doesn't deny that Sinestro is a strong leader. He doesn't care if everyone in the universe hates him. He just needs them to respect him. It's an approach that makes him perfectly equipped to bring order to this chaos. It would also make him great American football coach because even great leaders understand that respect can trump hatred and fear.

Yet even the disarray of the corps that Sinestro founded isn't enough to get him out of his rut. Lyssa also reveals that while Korugar may be gone, his people are not extinct just yet. There are survivors out there and they happen to be the target of a new threat that Lyssa Drak claims they fear more than him. And being someone whose power is fueled by fear, that's saying something. This finally inspires Sinestro to start being Sinestro again. And as strange as it may be, it's hard not to root for the guy. That's the biggest accomplishment of Sinestro #1. It doesn't give Sinestro excuses for being the interstellar bully he has always been in the DC Universe. It doesn't try to change him into an anti-hero either. It creates for him a very different struggle with a very different narrative that no hero or anti-hero can boast.

It's a narrative that introduces a number of new threats and themes. But some are only somewhat fleshed out. The threat that the surviving Kurogarians fear more than Sinestro is identified. It just isn't given much depth. However, this doesn't take away from the strength of the narrative because so much is put into just giving Sinestro a reason to be relevant again. It plays heavily to his ego. It also becomes very personal when his daughter enters the picture. There's a distinct emotional undertone to Sinestro's journey and it's not restricted to those of a fallen tyrant looking to salvage what's left of the empire he's destroyed. That's what makes circumstances so difficult to fit into the traditional hero/anti-hero spectrum. At times it's hard to understand what to make of Sinestro's journey, but it's one that is sufficiently intriguing.

Sinestro #1 began with Sinestro being an exiled tyrant and former Yellow Lantern. Sinestro #1 ends with him taking up that mantle again and confronting the harsh circumstances that he helped incur. But he does not apologize for anything he's done. He doesn't seek redemption and he doesn't try to change his ways. He's just back on the same journey he has always been and it's a journey that can't be found anywhere else in the DC Universe. It's still may be jarring to some, rooting for someone like Sinestro. But like a burned out punk rock star, he still has undeniable appeal.

Final Score 8 out of 10

Friday, April 25, 2014

X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 4: Piotr Rasputin PREVIEW!

Part of what makes X-men such a successful mythos is the strength of its characters. When I started the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, one of my top priorities was to treat these characters with the utmost respect. I care deeply about each of these characters and I try to make that show in my writing. All too often, I've seen writers in comics and fanfiction alike write characters that they don't care about. When that happens, the characters might as well be props or tools. I feel that does a major injustice to the characters in the long run and I try to make sure that shows in every issue of X-men Supreme. It's also a big reason why I take a great deal of pleasure in writing X-men Supreme Reflections.

X-men has one of the largest and most diverse cast of characters in all of comics. That is part of what has made it one of Marvel's most successful properties. But since it is very much a team book, it is often difficult to focus on one particular character. No one character makes the X-men in the same way no one player makes a team. And the team I've put together in X-men Supreme has undergone a number of changes. But one of the issues I've often seen in the comics is how the constant flux of the team makes it difficult to follow. I've tried to minimize that in this fanfiction series, but there are some characters that I simply cannot leave out of the mix. One of those characters was Colossus.

I introduced him back in X-men Supreme Issue 26: The Ties That Terrorize. I had every intention of having him join the team. However, I wanted his entry into the X-men to be similar to what I did with Psylocke in that extreme circumstances caused their paths to cross. Those circumstances finally happened in the Cambrian Explosion arc. But before that, Colossus had his own elaborate story in the world of X-men Supreme. I've touched on that story a number of times, but I haven't really had a chance to go into detail. Like Psylocke and many other characters in X-men Supreme, Colossus has a unique history in this fanfiction series that is different from the comics and cartoons. Now with X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 4, I'll be exploring that history in greater detail. It'll paint a more comprehensive picture for Colossus in this fanfiction series. And it's one I think Colossus fans will appreciate. At the same time, knowing his story will help add weight to the role he'll play in X-men Supreme Volume 5. I've prepared a preview of what to expect from the X-men's favorite Russian.

Work in the factory was hard and tedious. It did not help that the pay was just as bad as the coal mine. It’s easy to get frustrated with that kind of work. You start questioning your worth. To put so much sweat into a task and see little come of it tests even the strongest of souls. Being frustrated and desperate, it was not easy keeping to myself. Sooner or later, my true form would come out.

It finally happened when I was 18. I was working a heavy machine press, which even for a seasoned worker is a dangerous task. I was being hounded by the factory manager as well. He was upset with everybody because we had fallen behind in our production. He was running us hard and I tried to keep up. I went so fast I got my arm caught in the press. As soon as this happened, I reverted to my metal skin. Just as it had with the mine, it shocked everyone around me and silenced the manager. But it wasn’t so much my metal skin that surprised him. It was the fact that in doing so, I broke the press.

The man was enraged. His anger usurped his surprise and despite my appearance, he stormed towards me and started yelling every kind of Russian obscenity. He told me how this machine was worth more than ten men of my strength and how I will be working this debt off for the next decade. I held my ground at first. Then he had to throw in that if I did not work off this debt, he would come after my family. That was a mistake both for him and for me because I reacted strongly. I grabbed the man by the neck, held him up as if he were light as a feathered pillow, and squeezed him to the point where his face turned blue. I told him that I did not care who he was or how much power he thought he had. If he threatened my family, he would have to go through me.

Once I got this message across, I let him go. The men around me were now even more fearful. I was a monster once more and there was nothing I could do about it. I scorned myself to no end as I walked out of that factory for the last time. I thought I was done for. Now Illyana and I lost what little support we had left. I failed her and I was ashamed. At that point I was praying for a miracle. I would have accepted anything at that point to help me and my sister. That’s a dangerous state of mind to be in because there are always those who would take advantage of you. I was no exception.

As it turns out, that factory manager had been paying protection money to a Russian mafia family. One of their collectors had been in the factory at the time, picking up his monthly payment. When he saw me, he was probably the only one who wasn’t scared. Where most everyone else saw a monster, this man saw an opportunity.

Before the factory was even out of my sight, he came running up to me. He presented himself as a recruiter and a collector for the Rossovich family, one of the most feared and respected families in the Russian mob. He said he could get me a job. Whereas most would know better than to work for the Russian Mafia, he threw money into the mix…a lot of money. He claimed I could make thousands if not more by using the skills I had just demonstrated with the manager. I was skeptical, but for Illyana’s sake I listened. For her, I was willing to make a deal with the devil himself.

I understand feedback for issues of X-men Supreme Reflections will be lower than that of the main series. But I'm hoping that with each issue focusing heavily on one character that fans of that character will provide feedback on how I'm handling them. The last thing I want to do is really upset fans of a particular character. I too am very fond of these characters and I know how infuriating it is when a story fails to do them justice. I do not want to do that with the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. So please help me ensure that every X-men character I use in this fanfiction series is awesome. Please send your feedback directly by contacting me or posting your comments directly in the issue. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

All New X-men #26 PREVIEW - Time Displaced Awesome

Some shit is just so inherently awesome that it never gets old. Like sex, whiskey, or Terminator 2 there are just some things that can never not be awesome on some levels. Sure, they can be indulged to the point of excess. That’s where hangovers come in. But even the worst hangover won’t stop a committed drunk from getting more whiskey. And in that sense, Jean Grey going Phoenix is the X-men equivalent to whiskey.

I know I’ve said a number of times that the Marvel universe has had enough Phoenix Force for the next decade. After the shit storm of suck kicked up by Avengers vs. X-men, I doubt there are many fans clamoring for more convoluted Phoenix stories. But as fucked up as the Phoenix has become, there’s still something inherently awesome about Jean Grey ascending to that special level of “Holy shit! We’re fucked!” power that is the driving force of so many emotional stories. And after the events of The Trial of Jean Grey, emotions are running higher Jimi Hendrix in an LSD factory.

In order to sufficiently bitchslap Gladiator for putting her on trial, O5 Jean Grey gave herself a power upgrade. But history has shown us time and again that when Jean Grey gets a power upgrade, that fiery cosmic parrot is usually not far behind. The nature of her powers is still unclear. But it’s volatile, dramatic, and dangerous. On top of that, it still involves a teenage girl. I would say it’s overkill, but only as a compliment. And all those factors came into play in a glorious preview posted by CBR. Even for fans that fucking hate the Phoenix Force, they have to admit this is pretty awesome.

• THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE FUTURE IS BACK! And it doesn’t mean good things for the X-Men of the past!

Seeing visions of Jean Grey going Phoenix and loudly proclaiming she is the life incarnate that will kick cosmic levels of ass is very satisfying. Like masturbation, it has yet to stop satisfying after decades of Phoenix stories. But I actually found her interactions with adult Cyclops a lot more satisfying, not to mention overdue.

I know a lot of fans will be making pedophilia jokes about Cyclops with this, but this is actually a perfect opportunity for both of them. At this point in the X-men mythos, Cyclops is the one person who understands Jean Grey better than anyone right now and not just because he married her. He still has fresh memories of what it felt like to be overwhelmed by the Phoenix Force. He knows all too well how much it sucks to deal with the burden of having killed someone when he was drunk on that power. On top of that, his powers are still broken. So he has to deal with his shit while Jean is struggling with these new abilities.

I know it’s impossible to ignore the age difference without feeling too much like a hillbilly in a Jerry Springer rerun. But on the basis of pure circumstances alone, Cyclops is in the best possible position to help O5 Jean Grey. He doesn’t just understand her. He has a lot of incentive to not fuck up. This is the woman he failed to save multiple times. Now he has another chance to help her. He’s not going to pass that up. His heart and his penis won’t let him. Kitty Pryde may have incentive to not screw up her vulnerable student and Emma Frost may have incentive not to piss off her rival again. But only Cyclops has the kind of incentive that involves the love of his life.

With his teenage self on a space vacation with his dad, he can still be the Cyclops the O5 X-men need and the Cyclops that O5 Jean needs right now. That’s not going to stop some fans joking about how creepy it is to have an adult Cyclops hanging around a teenage Jean Grey, especially with Cyclops having been banished from Emma Frost’s panties. But beyond that, it gives O5 Jean a chance to address the issues that she was doing a shitty job of addressing with O5 Cyclops. Nuff said!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny Avengers #19

I’ve made my share of enemies over the years. Most of them involve ex-girlfriends, relatives and family of ex-girlfriends, and militant traffic cops that may or may not be conspiring against me with my ex-girlfriends. So I know the value of being able to stay a step ahead of those who would like to see me publicly crucified in Times Square. I’m not going to say it’s easy avoiding people and being on the run. I’ll just say that in an era where every dipshit with a phone thinks they’re a photographer, it’s getting increasingly difficult. So I can only imagine how difficult it is for Havok in Uncanny Avengers right now. He’s not just on the run from some pissed off father whose daughter now has handprints permanently affixed to her ass cheeks. He’s running from an entire fucking planet of mutants. The Earth is gone and Planet X is all that remains, courtesy of a massive Celestial conspiracy orchestrated by the Apocalypse Twins. Havok is trying to expose that conspiracy and fix the past. And somehow he managed to knock up Wasp in the process. He’s either really reckless or incredibly efficient. Now I have my share of criticisms of Havok. I still think he’s a douche, but any man who can manage to hook up with a beautiful woman while being a fugitive is okay in my book. That’s why I’m going to try and cut him some slack as I review Uncanny Avengers #19. I can’t guarantee that I’ll try very hard, but even a drunk is capable of making a concerted effort.

Effort or not, the circumstances are working against Havok in a major way. After destroying the Tachyon Dam in the previous issue, he has opened the door to undoing Earth’s destruction. And Eimin isn’t too keen on him undoing all her hard work and deceit. So she naturally uses more hard work and deceit to convince the X-Council to go after Havok. Who is the X-Council? It’s part X-men and part old fucks. It includes Magneto, Storm, Cable, Cyclops, Psylocke, and Jean Grey, who remarkably hasn’t gone Xorna on anyone. Guess separating her from all those annoying humans was therapeutic.

There is some good discussion here. Cyclops, Jean, Cable, and the rest of the Council don’t come off as total assholes and jump on the “Let’s kill Havok!” bandwagon. They’re reluctant because the idea that Havok may have a way to save the Earth does matter to them. Almost everyone is intrigued by the possibility, except for Magneto. He has just gotten too comfortable not having to deal with those pesky humans. While Planet X hasn’t turned Magneto into less of an asshole, it does show that the X-Council isn’t aware of what Eimin did to destroy the Earth in the first place. As far as they know, she’s just the one that saw it coming and worked with the Scarlet Witch to save the mutant race before it was too late. They have a lot of reasons to trust her is what I’m saying. If someone saved my house and all my beer and comics from a nuclear blast, I would gladly trust that person to operate on my balls.

Trust is a much bigger problem on Havok’s side. He’s stuck trusting Kang and a bunch of time displaced alternate characters that I wouldn’t trust to wash my car. But they all have something going for them. Their timelines got nullified by the Apocalypse Twins. They’re more than a little motivated to screw them over in ways that would give Rush Limbaugh a boner. But to do that, they can’t just go back in time in a Delorean and avoid boning their mother. They have to rip a page right out of Days of Futures Past and send their consciousness back. And Havok can’t do it alone either. He has to get the surviving members of the Unity Squad together and go back as a team. That way they all basically have a cheat guide with which to beat the Apocalypse Twins.

I’m normally not too fond of blatant rip-offs that aren’t porn parodies. I hope I’ve made that point abundantly clear on this blog with my hatred of Hope fucking Summers. But there are rare cases where I’m okay with certain plots and stories being recycled like a used beer bottle. Sometimes shit just works. In my experience new ideas just for the sake of new ideas is the first step towards some seriously dumb ideas. And when it comes to undoing the shit storm triggered by the Apocalypse Twins, there’s not much room for dumb ideas.

Havok is understandably reluctant to trust a bunch of dimensionally displaced assholes with his consciousness. That’s like trusting a hobo in Rio to do open heart surgery. Even his daughter, Katie Summers, is smart enough to know it’s a shitty idea. Kang even seems to show a little sympathy. It is a tough position, potentially sacrificing his daughter to save the billions of lives that were snuffed out on Earth. It’s an emotional moment that has the potential to make for a very emotional decision. Then Kang remembers that he’s an asshole and makes that decision for Havok.

In a dick move that’s right up there with getting the Earth destroyed, Kang takes Katie from Havok and disappears with her. He doesn’t give him any say in the matter. Havok has to trust these assholes with his consciousness and once the Earth is saved, he’ll return his daughter. I know I throw the term “dick move” around on this blog as much as any dick joke. But this really takes it to another level. It’s not enough that Kang is responsible for raising the Apocalypse Twins and turning them into the kind of assholes that blow up a fucking planet. He has to fuck with Havok’s daughter. He’s officially entered Brett Ratner territory in terms of being an asshole.

Havok is understandably pissed, especially at Thor for teaming up with this asshole. But at least now he’s motivated. He’s now like a pit bull that smells a steak hanging from a female pitbull’s ass. And his first task in unfucking the future is to rescue the Unity Team, which includes Sunfire and Wolverine. And boy does it suck to be these two. Since they know way too much about Eimin’s bullshit, she has kept them imprisoned and immobile. She even has Wolverine constantly being set on fire, probably just for shits and giggles. She even has Banshee and Daken guarding them. It presents more than a daunting challenge. It’s also somewhat of a plot hole.

Let me restate the situation in case anyone missed it. Wolverine and Sunfire survived the destruction of Earth. Eimin said that every mutant was saved that day. And she has kept them in a state of suspended animation and unending torment ever since without the X-Council knowing? I know Cyclops doesn’t like Wolverine that much, but he likes him enough to get drunk with him. He sure as hell wouldn’t appreciate Eimin doing this to him. And Storm has slept with the guy. She sure as hell wouldn’t appreciate it, even if Eimin is the savior of the mutant race. So how the hell has Eimin kept this from the X-Council all this time? Keep in mind, it contains two powerful telepaths in Jean Grey and Psylocke. I’m not saying she can’t keep a secret, but this is something that I imagine had to have crossed their minds at some point.

Eimin seems to understand this on some levels. She even reveals her plans to kill the X-Council won’t bother her about this issue. Not only that, she intends to frame Kang for their deaths so that she can essentially solidify her power on Planet X to a level that has never been achieved outside Donald Trump’s wet dreams. She even makes a very relevant observation when Daken points out that the mutants might not be too happy with seeing their X-men champions murdered. In a speech that would make Apocalypse himself gush with pride, she tells him that these mutants are like humans in that they’ll believe what makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside rather than question it. It’s the primary foundation for every major religion and doomsday cult. It’s a dick move. But as the Pope himself can attest, it fucking works.

Havok goes to work trying to fuck up Eimin’s plans in the worst possible way and I can’t help but root for him. I know. I’m shocked and a little uncomfortable. But I’ve dealt with worse discomfort. I’ve sat through traffic court on a vacation. His first step is to take a team and free Wasp, who got captured in the previous issue. She’s part of the Unity Team as well so that means she has to have her consciousness sent back as well. It promises to be a dangerous mission. And this isn’t wholly wrong. It just happens in a way that for Havok probably feels like multiple kicks to the balls.

Wasp unexpectedly arrives at their pace, alive and in one piece. So just like that, their first mission is accomplished, right? Fuck no. She’s a human on a planet of mutants. That means she’s either bait or a zoo exhibit. And Cyclops, Magneto, and the X-Council are the ones doing the fishing and it fucking works. With Psylocke controlling Wasp, she leads them right to Havok and his team. They’re still under Eimin’s deception so they don’t know they’re being fucked over as well. They just know Havok is about to fuck up their peaceful mutant utopia.

The battle that follows is visceral, even if it isn’t quite as epic compared to other battles in this series. The bar gets raised pretty fucking high when some of those battles involve Celestials. There’s some nice firepower exchanged by Storm, 2099 Doom, and an asshole version of Psylocke that looks like my old algebra teacher. But the biggest fight is naturally between Cyclops and Havok.

Now this battle had the potential to be the same bullshit that has plagued every Havok/Cyclops battle since Avengers vs. X-men. Havok bitches and moans about Cyclops being a tyrant while Cyclops bitches and moans about Havok’s bitching. It could have easily been another case where Cyclops is made into a villain to cover for Havok’s bitching. But that isn’t necessarily the case here. It’s still there to some extent, but only for those who forget that Cyclops doesn’t know the truth about Eimin’s bullshit. He also doesn’t know that Eimin is planning to murder his ass and everyone else he cares about. That’s why rooting for Havok this time doesn’t make me want to throw up. I can save that shit for hangovers where it belongs.

But Cyclops vs. Havok Round 239 doesn’t go by fast enough for Magneto’s tastes. While Cyclops clearly holds back in fighting his brother, Magneto isn’t so sympathetic and not just because he’s not fond of going back to a time where he has to deal with bigoted humans again. The whole reason Planet X exists and thrives is because of the sacrifice that the Scarlet Witch made. Havok is looking to undo that and while Magneto may be a shitty father, he’s more than willing to defend her sacrifice. That means ripping Havok away from his battle with Cyclops and preparing to murder his ass right and be done with it. While I do root for Havok, I also sympathize with Magneto to some extent. Then I remember that I’m sympathizing with a guy who probably piss on the ashes of Earth and is okay with full blown murder. So that sympathy is more short-lived than Patton Oswald’s stint on Agents of SHIELD.

All the while, Eimin is watching this and probably resisting the urge to masturbate to it. The X-Council is basically doing their work for her and has no idea that she’s preparing to murder their ass. Even I have to admit that’s a pretty good plan, even if it is full with multiple dick moves. That doesn’t make it any less refreshing when Thor, Iron Man, an Abomination/Deathlok hybrid, and a version of Spider-Man with a kickass costume bust in before she can break out her vibrator. Few characters in the Marvel universe are more deserving of an ass-kicking than Eimin at this point. So seeing Thor stand over her, looking ready to hammer her head through her ass, just gives me wonderful feelings in my pants.

The biggest accomplishment of this comic is that it put a plan in place to undo the Apocalypse Twins’ bullshit. Sure, it blatantly ripped off Days of Futures Past. But if this story was going to rip off anything, it might as well rip off the second greatest X-men story of all time. The second biggest accomplishment of this comic is that it made me root for Havok without also making me want to throw up. And it isn’t just because now he has to save his daughter. Now he also has to save Cyclops, Storm, and everyone else on the X-Council from being murdered by Eimin. And the X-Council doesn’t know just how fucked they are. That makes Havok’s struggle sympathetic, but he’s still a douche. It’s not enough to overlook some of the larger plot holes. But I’ve seen bigger holes in Kristen Stewart’s acting. And these are holes that can be fixed easily in future issues. That’s why I give Uncanny Avengers #19 an 8 out of 10. Make no mistake. Eimin is basically becoming a sun-burned Apocalypse with boobs. Nice boobs can make people overlook many flaws, but not in this case. Putting boobs on an Apocalypse wannabe only demeans the sanctity of boobs. Nuff said!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Paradoxical Obscurity: All New X-men #25

The following is my review of All New X-men #25, which was posted on

We learn as kids that showing has more impact than telling. Human beings are visual creatures by nature. Nobody is ever going to be more enthralled by hearing Michael Bay tell audiences about all the explosions in his movies compared to seeing it on a movie screen. It doesn’t matter of Shakespeare himself is the one telling the story. Seeing the story is what will create the greatest impact. This is especially important when trying to make a point to someone that’s too stubborn and pig-headed to realize how badly they screwed up. Like a cantankerous old man who can never be convinced that Vietnam was a bad idea with words alone, they will find any excuse if it’s only words they have to deal with.

For the last several years, Hank McCoy has become the Bill O’Riley of the X-men. He complains, argues, and bloviates against those he doesn’t agree with while contributing absolutely nothing to improve the situation. He’s all talk and no substance. It started with his disagreement on how Cyclops was leading the X-men. There was initial substance to his argument, but it eventually devolved into whining. After the events of Schism and Avengers vs. X-men, that whining finally manifested into actions. But instead of actually confronting the issues, he decided to risk another Age of Ultron style upheaval when he brought the O5 X-men to the present. Since then, he has made plenty of excuses for taking this risk. Nobody has ever convinced him that he has to apologize for it. That finally changes in All New X-men #25.

It’s way too late and it’s almost as overdue as a Wonder Woman movie, but Beast finally confronts the consequences of his actions. And it isn’t just told to him either. It’s actually shown to him in the form of visions of various futures that could take place because of his actions. These many diverse futures help justify the long list of guest artists and the extra dollar to the cost of the comic. It doesn’t just create what amounts to the more horrifying show-and-tell of Beast’s life. It helps provide a context for the impact of the O5 X-men being in the future.

That impact has been a central theme since All New X-men began. It has already led to some pretty destructive complications with events like X-men: Battle of the Atom and The Trial of Jean Grey. The impacts of these complications are clear, but the reason behind it has been glossed over. And without that reason, Beast can continue to justify his actions in the same way Dick Cheney keeps justifying torture. These visions finally give him a reason and it’s also a reason that helps put events like X-men: Battle of the Atom and The Trial of Jean Grey into perspective.

Most of the visions, regardless of the artist drawing them, have a central theme. In a future where the Original X-men never received guidance from Professor Charles Xavier, they lose touch with their humanity. It helps explain why Jean Grey became the sinister Xorna and why Iceman began creating ice monsters in X-men: Battle of the Atom. But it doesn’t stop there. These dark futures show the X-men failing without this guidance that keeps them linked to their humanity. Some go insane, some become heartless killers, and some actually get crucified. That’s how important this guidance is and that’s what Beast undermined when he tampered with the timeline.

Beast has shown that he can take being chastised for his actions. But seeing these consequences with his own eyes is too much for him because he can no longer make excuses. Even a creationist couldn’t deny the weight of the evidence before him. Beyond the impact, it’s consistent with a powerful theme that encompasses all the X-men comics. Whenever someone, be they human or mutant, loses touch with their humanity, they end up walking a dark path. That path might not always be an apocalyptic future where mutants are crucified in public streets, but it’s a path that doesn’t lead to the peace and understanding that the X-men are supposed to fight for.

But it isn’t just the apocalyptic futures that reinforce this point. In his last desperate gasp to cling to even a partial excuse for his actions, he demands to see a few non-apocalyptic futures. Never mind that non-apocalyptic futures in the Marvel universe are the real-world equivalent to unicorns, but he gets to see them anyway. And this is where the narrative gets comparably weaker. There are a few rosy pictures painted that depict mutants being celebrated and the X-men being hailed as heroes. But then there are a few non-sequiter pieces that look like comic strips and pin-art taken from Tumblr. That’s not to say that some of them aren’t entertaining, but it neither gets the point across nor does it help justify the extra dollar in price.

Even though these visions are comparably weaker and make the narrative exceedingly choppy, they do help make one final point in the end. After seeing all these visions of non-apocalyptic futures, Beast finds out that his actions have made it so the possibility of realizing these futures is more remote than satisfying Ghostbusters sequel. This is what effectively shatters any of his remaining excuses. It finally gets Beast to acknowledge that his actions have badly damaged the timeline and he’s now ready to start fixing it. Again, it’s exceedingly late.

But it’s an important realization in the context of All New X-men. There may not be much of a plot to All New X-men #25 and despite the additional length and long list of guest artists, it doesn’t feel all that epic. It was a serious story with a serious impact that tried to get too cute along the line. While it may have failed at being cute, it does succeed at following the themes that make up the foundation of All New X-men’s appeal. It just isn’t worth paying an extra dollar.

Final Score: 5 out of 10

Scanned Thoughts: Wolverine #4

While it pains me to say it, I'm old enough to remember a time when getting lost was a fact of life. If I went on a road trip and got lost, I either had to ask for directions or retrace my steps. These days, nobody has an excuse for being lost. Every fucking smartphone on the planet has a maps feature. Sure, it makes it much harder to get out of an appointment or a court-ordered AA meeting. But it beats having to blow a trucker for directions back to the highway. The first three issues of the latest relaunched Wolverine series are dangerously close to having to blow more than one trucker. It began with Wolverine sporting a new suit, working on a new team, and ditching Storm and the Jean Grey Institute. To say it has been confusing would be an insult to any self-respecting stoner. But this series isn't so off-track that its speeding head-first into a brick wall. There are plenty of compelling elements in this series. They just haven't come together. And Wolverine #4 is supposed to make this shit less confusing. So long as it means I don't have to read this issue sober, I'm all for it.

One of the few details that has been clearly articulated in this new Wolverine series is how he's coping with his newfound lack of durability. If he can't heal when he's had over 79 percent of his flesh blown off, he might as well find a way to not get it blown off in the first place. That's where his fancy new uniform comes in, courtesy of the Superior Spider-Man. He was a major douche, but he made a damn good uniform. It shows when Wolverine tests it out in the Danger Room with Beast guiding him along. But since Beast is a major douche as well, it only succeeds in pissing Wolverine off even more.

This is one of the many details that hasn't been clearly shown. Wolverine has an awesome new uniform that still allows him to be the best he is at what he does. But he hasn't exactly been all that comfortable in it. I know if I had a uniform like that, I would pay a visit to some old high school football players who made my freshmen year a living Hell. But here he finally puts it into words. He points out how he froze in the battle at the previous issue. And Wolverine isn't supposed to fucking freeze. It gives him a valid reason to be pissed off for once and it doesn't involve Cyclops. Excuse me while I document this moment for world history.

This overdue explanation helps make Wolverine's departure, which was already revealed in earlier issues, make sense. It still took too damn long, but there's still a nice emotional scene with him and Storm before he leaves. It's a scene that has happened plenty of times before in some form or another, Wolverine getting pissed off and leaving. Hell, it was the premise of at least half the episodes of the old 90s animated X-men cartoon. But this actually has some decent emotional depth. That's something I haven't been able to say about this book s far.

It still doesn't provide clarity on the status of Wolverine and Storm's relationship. There's still clearly some drama. There's even a hint that there might have been a little going away sex, but then again I see that in every kissing scene to some extent. Beyond the drama, Wolverine says he has a mission to take care of. It's the mission that has been unfolding for the past three issues that has been confusing as hell. But now it makes half a lick of sense. It's kind of like only half a blowjob, but it's better than nothing.

It's not nearly as dramatic when Wolverine rides off on his motorcycle, offering no clue as to when he'll be back. Some of the students are there to say goodbye. They don't say much and it comes off as bland. But it gives Wolverine another opportunity to be pissed off. Sure, it makes him act like a douche to these students that he's supposed to be responsible for. But that's actually consistent with his character, which is something Bryan Singer and Brett Ratner just couldn't seem to get right despite several decades of source material. It adds more overdue details. More would have been helpful, but at this point my standards are just that low. That's what two shitty Wolverine movies will do to me.

Flash forward to Wolverine being part of this renegade new team of his that to date has been about as interesting as a 50s sitcom. This is another part of the story that's badly in need of some details. We don't get much here. We just get a reminder from Wolverine's new Kingpin wannabe boss, The Offer. It still sounds like the name of a gay porn star, but he's giving Wolverine a full wardrobe of fancy new uniforms. He's also giving him a plan to draw out Sabretooth. It's not a very cunning or devious plan. It amounts mostly to pissing Sabretooth off and hoping he'll slip up. This would be a dumb plan with any other villain. But for Sabretooth, it's actually pretty viable. How pathetic is that?

Rather than get some badly needed details on the present, we go back to the past and get yet another instance of Wolverine being a massive douche. This time he doesn't restrict himself to the Jean Grey Institute and his own staff. This time he pays a visit to the New Xavier School where Cyclops is holding up to meet up with Kitty Pryde. But what a minute? How the fuck does he even know where it is? If he knew, wouldn't he have already tracked it down and beaten the shit out of Cyclops on a weekly basis? Just when it seemed shit was starting to make sense, this kicks up a fresh shit storm of confusion.

To make it even worse, Wolverine confronts Kitty Pryde and it gets pretty damn ugly. She points out how he fucked up during the Killable arc by walking right into Sabretooth's trap. And she's right. He did fuck up. His reaction? He fucking pulls his claws on her and threatens her. Now I know Wolverine is supposed to be an asshole to some extent, but there are lines he usually doesn't cross. This is a line that puts him into Hank McCoy level douche-baggery. All it really accomplishes is reminding Wolverine how badly he failed and how vulnerable he is. It's a powerful scene, but one that only makes Wolverine come off as pathetic. And if I want to see Wolverine look that pathetic, I'll watch Wolverine Origins.

Flash forward again and this time we get some more useful information. One of the most defining moments of this new batch of Wolverine stories was how he shot a man dead with a gun. He didn't gut him with his claws or decapitate him like he just killed Jean Grey. He shot him like Samuel L. Jackson did in Pulp Fiction, minus the badass bible quotes. It marked a very different tone for Wolverine's character and that tone is only becoming more relevant. However, that scene wasn't quite as badass as initially seemed.

In this jumbled journey through the timeline, Wolverine actually meets up with his victim before they even meet. The victim isn't even much of a victim. He's some sort of SHIELD meat puppet whose sole purpose is to get shot and die. That way he can endear himself to Offer and be in position to piss off Sabretooth. It seems needlessly elaborate and it sort of takes away from the power of that moment in the first issue. At the same time, it adds more context to why Wolverine is going through this transition. He wants to be in a position to fuck with Sabretooth. That's perfectly in line with his character and it requires him to work smarter, harder, and with a bit more brutality. And that, my friends, is why Wolverine is awesome.

Flash forward again. Wolverine has run out on his friends and ditched both the Jean Grey Institute and their hated rival at the New Xavier School. After getting pissed off at Kitty Pryde, he can expect about as much sympathy as Bernie Madoff. He starts bumming it out, sleeping on park benches like drunks who forgot where they parked. Having done that myself on more than a few occasions, I'm in no position to judge. Eventually, the Offer does show up just as Wolverine hoped. He still looks like a Kingpin wannabe. He seems better suited to be one of the before pictures in a weight loss infomercial. But he gives Wolverine the opportunity he needs and that helps makes yet another overdue connection. As strange as it seems, the story is now starting to feel coherent. And it only took until the forth issue. Not the worst offender, but still worth pointing out.

Flash forward a little again and Wolverine is cocking his gun and for once, that's not a dick joke. The story is finally catching up to the events in the first issue. Wolverine is meeting up with his new team and he's getting ready to prove his loyalty to the Offer. It's not much of a cliffhanger because this shit was already spoiled back in the first issue. But that's part of what makes it work. The dramatic shift in Wolverine's character over the past few issues finally makes sense. There are still some details lacking, but it gives some badly needed weight to the overall story. The time jumping is still confusing as hell. At least now it's coherent. And that kind of coherence can mean the difference between passing a sobriety test and spending a night in jail.

I don't claim to have the best attention span. I freely admit I can barely watch the first 10 minutes of Inception before I go back to watching Michael Bay's latest bit of disaster porn. I really had to push that attention span to bring myself to enjoy this series, but with this issue it finally felt like I didn't need an extra bong hit to enjoy it. This issue essentially explains the circumstances of the previous three issues and does a pretty respectable job of it. I found myself looking back on the previous issues and getting more enjoyment out of them now that I knew what the hell was actually happening. It's refreshing, but overdue. It also has the effect of not moving the story forward that much. In some respects, this issue should have been the first issue. If I want my perception of time fucked up, I'll take a hit of LSD. That's why I give Wolverine #4 a 7 out of 10. It's solid and concise on its own. But in the context of the series, it's like that guy who keeps making shitty cookies until Gordon Ramsey yells at him to a point where he remembers to add the chocolate chips. Damn I'm hungry now. Nuff said!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: X-men #13

In all my experience with comic books, alcohol, and life in general, I've learned time and again that the best intentions are the easiest to fuck up. Think about the guy who invented ski masks. I'm sure he was just a nice guy who wanted to find a better way for people to keep their heads warm in the winter. Did he honestly believe that thieves and muggers wouldn't use it to commit crimes and become the bad guys in every cop movie ever made? I doubt it, but that wasn't his intention. The X-men, and every superhero team for that matter, usually has noble intentions. Even the anti-heroes aren't complete assholes with their intentions. But I wouldn't put Jubilee in the category of an anti-hero. She's too lovable and fun. But earlier in the latest adjectiveless X-men series, she willingly adopted an infant baby who Arkea used to try and wipe out all life on the planet. It's an act that should make her a hero among the pro-life crowd. Sure, she's a vampire and a fun-loving teenager, two things that I'm sure piss off that same crowd. But there's no denying her noble intentions. They haven't screwed her over yet, but that's what's supposed to happen in X-men #13. I almost dread seeing how something so noble can become so shitty. But like major accident involving a Hummer and a truck full of dildos, I can't look away.
Also like accidents involving Hummers, this comic sets the tone by introducing the kind of asshole who would willingly crash into a truck full of cancer medicine. He has no name and he looks like he belongs on a sex offender's list. But he's not just some random guy. He's a random guy who happens to be one of those prisoners that's so dangerous that he has to be transferred from undisclosed locations by armed soldiers and drugged. They must have shitty drug dealers because this same random guy shows that he can beat the shit out of trained soldiers and make it look easy. So he's also the dangerous kind of random guy who probably drives multiple Hummers. But what makes him relevant to this story is that he's Shogo's father. And for reasons I can only assume have to do with not paying child support, he wants to get his kid back.

This random guy is choosing a shitty time to attack the Jean Grey Institute. They just got done beating Arkea and the Sisterhood of Mutants. That makes them considerably more tough than a bunch of soldiers. On top of that, they're all badass women. So they can kill most random guys and look damn sexy while doing it.

Monet is no exception. She recently joined the team and showed that she can kick a fair amount of ass. Yet being the obsessive perfectionist usually reserved for an honor student at a Korean Prep School, she keeps on training and she uses Rockslide as a punching bag. That's right, she considers rocks punching bags. She has to use something tough because the Sisterhood of Mutants are still out there. Arkea may be dead, but Selene and the Goblin Queen are still out there. That means she needs to be prepared to hit hard and break shit. I want to feel sorry for Rockslide, but getting beat up by a beautiful woman isn't the worst thing in the world. Hell, it's one of the ways I hope to die.

There's no question that the X-women are going to be well-trained for any asshole that thinks they can bust into the Jean Grey Institute and take Jubilee's adopted kid. However, the Arkea battle also revealed a bit of a schism in the leadership of the X-women. It's nowhere near as hostile as the schism with Wolverine and Cyclops, but it is a concern.

The divide comes from Rachel and Storm. In order to beat Arkea, they had to let Selene and the Goblin Queen go. Rachel had a problem with that and it's not unreasonable. Sure, they beat Arkea. But that's like killing Hitler, but letting Mussolini go. It was a tough decision and it has the team questioning Storm's leadership. And Storm doesn't like that. She's not hardheaded and stubborn like Cyclops, willing to just suck it up and move forward. Then again, she doesn't have Cyclops's Galactus-sized balls. Psylocke encourages her to take charge and stop being so reserved about her leadership style. It's not bad advice. And if Storm is lucky, maybe she can also make Maria Hill want to bone her.

But it's not all bitterness and division with the X-women. With Arkea gone, Jubilee is basically out of danger and free to rebuild her life as a teen vampire mother of an infant. I sure hope Stephanie Meyer isn't reading this because that might give her some ideas. In previous issues, she already went through the process of officially adopting Shogo. Beast is even nice enough to take a break from being a massive furry douche who fucks up the timeline and gives him a checkup. Shogo is declared perfectly healthy. Jubilee still isn't sure about her role with the X-men at this point. But she's getting free health care, a free room, and all the food Doop can cook. Most single mothers would agree that's a pretty sweet deal.

If only Rachel Grey could share Jubilee's upbeat mood. I honestly wish Rachel Grey could share something because she has basically been an afterthought since she came back from space with Havok and Polaris. She didn't really do dick in Avengers vs. X-men. She has had only a few awkward moments with the O5 X-men. And for some fucked up reason, there was this romantic sub-plot between her and John Sublime that was so subtle that it might as well have been a ninja. For someone of her history and heritage, that's just fucking wrong. But I digress.

Rachel is still a recluse, basically hanging out in the darkest hole of the Jean Grey Institute that isn't related to Beast's ass. She doesn't do much other than add a little closure to the Arkea story, showing how John Sublime left. And this time, there was no romantic subplot. John Sublime just left on a bitter note, becoming an asshole again and Rachel Grey gave him the proverbial finger. If only she could do that more often. The X-men can never have enough badass redheads.

The X-women all have their share of issues. They're all still recovering from the Arkea battle. However, they have no fucking clue that someone is coming for Shogo. And given how Arkea only partially succeeded in attacking the Jean Grey Institute, what are the odds that this new asshole will do any better?

Well he does get their attention in the most graphic way possible. During a seemingly innocent game of mutant baseball, Primal is shot. There's no sound of a gunshot. There's no warning. And none of the omega level telepaths pick it up. Primal just hits the ground wounded. Either the shooter is really fucking good or they're on the kinds of drugs that Barry Bonds would kill for. While I have a soft spot for Primal and I consider this a dick move, it does send the necessary message.

Naturally, Primal gets rushed to the infirmary and the Jean Grey Institute goes into lock down, which seems to happen at least twice a week. Makes me wonder if they ever even bother with fire drills. But Beast and the institute staff are able to save him. They even find out that the shot wasn't meant to kill Primal at all. It was just supposed to wound him. Like I said, it sent the right message. I guess sending a horse head just wasn't enough.

But Primal isn't the only target. Late at night with the Jean Grey Institute still presumably on lockdown, Roxy comes out for a little stroll. I don't know why a teenage girl is out walking the halls late at night. I gave up trying to understand teenage girls in high school when I found out that one had a picture of Mark Whalberg lodged in her vagina. But Roxy is just out walking until she gets a quick drink. Then she collapses faster than an ex-Mormon doing their first bong hit. It's not as bloody as what happened to Primal, but it sends another powerful message. It's really not clear what that message is or how this shit is happening, but it clearly shows that this is one resourceful motherfucker.

The only one who gets a clear message in the end is Jubilee. She comes in her room, rocking out to her iPod like any teenage mother would, minus the regret and self-esteem issues. Then she gets a scary message on her phone from Shogo's father. This time the message is pretty fucking clear. He wants Shogo back or he'll kill everyone in the Jean Grey Institute. And after what he has shown with Primal and Roxy, he's already proven he's capable of doing just that. The nature of this guy's power isn't clear. It's a bit overly subtle, sort of like some of the other details in recent issues of X-(Wo)men. But it's not terribly ambiguous this time. Nobody needs to use their imagination to know what the threat is. To me, that means I don't have to be sober to enjoy it and that's a big win for me.

It would have been fine to end the comic here, even if it was short. But for reasons that I can only attribute to excessive cocaine use, recent issues of X-men have been truncated to make room for these other side-stories that don't do jack shit for the main plot. In the previous issues, it involved a battle against a bunch of rusted Sentinels. It was essentially like watching a fight between Optimus Prime and a Roomba. It wasn't all that compelling. All it did was give a few C and D-list characters some face time.

Well that must have not been enough because now we're getting another side-plot with a bunch of D-listers that include Hellion, Rockslide, Broo, and Anole. They haven't contributed shit to this story and they give the impression that one of their classmates getting shot is no big deal. That shows they have shitty school pride and they're shitty friends as well. So instead of fighting a Sentinel, they choose to do the second most generic thing that X-men do and that's play around in the Danger room. It's as exciting as it sounds.

They just load some random program they found. It happened to be a program that involves fighting a medieval army, most likely ripped from a Sid Meier game. They try to fight the incoming army. The action is predicable and standard. Then Psylocke shows up. She might not actually be there. She might be part of the simulation or a failsafe. It really doesn't matter because it generates about as much intrigue as cat shitting in the desert. So once again, more material that could be used to make the awesome main plot even more awesome is pissed away.

I honestly don't understand the format of this book. This series was billed as a book about at team of female X-men kicking ass and not constantly bitching about men. Isn't that appealing enough? Were the feminazis out there really that hostile? Like the previous issue, this issue had two stories. One was awesome and compelling while the other was unnecessary and shitty. Do we really need to see some of the dipshit students at the Jean Grey Institute fool around in the Danger Room? If someone at Marvel wants to tell a story about these C-list characters, then make another New Mutants or Young X-men series. Don't have it cut into an issue that had such an awesome setup. I want to see what happens with Shogo's deadbeat dad, damn it. But instead, I see some dumb ass teenagers looking for ways to get in trouble. If I want that, I'll go to a frat party. X-men #13 gets a 7 out of 10. I would love to give it a much higher score, but I don't like great stories being cut off almost as much as I don't like having my beer cut off. I can go out and buy more beer. But I can't buy the next part of the story for a fucking month. Nuff said!