Friday, February 27, 2015

X-men Supreme Issue #115: Weapon Plus Part 3 is LIVE!

The basic goal of the X-men is simple on paper. They fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears them. Even in their most basic conflicts, that goal is difficult. I've explored that difficulty in many ways throughout the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Basic conflicts involving Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants were daunting enough. Early on in X-men Supreme, the Brotherhood actually got the better of the X-men at first. Other enemies like Weapon X had similar success. But as the X-men fought on, they overcame these difficulties. They saved the world from a killer asteroid. They even saved it from a cosmic entity in the Phoenix Force. But with success comes more complex conflicts.

Beginning in X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear, the scope of the X-men's conflicts escalated. When Senator Robert Kelly became President of the United States, he made mutants a top priority and the X-men had to be involved. The emergence of new complications like General Grimshaw and Captain Jack Freeman added even greater challenges to the mix. It's not enough to just save the world and show humanity that mutants can be a force for good. The X-men have proven it time and again throughout the comics and the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. It's the growing complexity of these challenges that give their struggle depth. It has helped X-men Supreme evolve. It has now evolved to the point where basic threats like Weapon Plus have far-reaching consequences.

It's no longer enough for the X-men to stop a renegade living weapon like Fantomex. There are larger complexities to consider. The X-men now have to deal witht he Mutant Security Agency, established by General Grimshaw as a means to hold mutants accountable for their actions. They also have to deal with Genosha, which is now under the leadership of the Scarlet Witch. Peace between humans and mutants hinges on maintaining the treaty that has benefited both sides. Fantomex promises to upset that peace in a way the X-men have never had to deal with before.

X-men Supreme has evolved in so many different directions that no conflict is simple anymore. Weapon Plus is the latest conflict that's going to disrupt the world of X-men Supreme in a profound way. It's still personal for characters like Sage, Wolverine, and X-23. However, the bigger picture in this fanfction series cannot be ignored. And now Fantomex is about to scale up his mission in a way that will do a lot of damage and not just in terms of suffering. That mission is going to force the X-men to do a lot more than just stop Fantomex. And that's what this latest issue will reveal.

X-men Supreme Issue 115: Weapon Plus Part 3

The X-men Supreme fanfiction series will continue to evolve as these conflicts evolve. I will continue to work hard in making these conflicts as enjoyable and compelling as possible. I'm also very close to making a decision about the future of this fanfiction series. I've been debating on whether X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths will be the end. I still have plenty of stories left to tell, but it still depends on a number of factors. One of those factors is feedback. As always, I strongly encourage everyone who reads this fanfiction series to provide feedback. Either post it directly in the issue or contact me. I'm always happy to chat. I don't care which method you use. Feedback will certainly influence my decision on the future of X-men Supreme. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny Avengers #2

Deadbeat parents are the source of many Disney movies and rap albums. It’s like the fart joke of stories. It’s classic and overdone, but it can still be entertaining if done right. A fart joke in an episode of the West Wing is not going to work as well as a fart joke in Family Guy. The Seth MacFarlanes of the world have a special talent for fleshing out certain elements, be they fart jokes or talking babies. Those elements don’t always work well in certain circumstances. And deadbeat parents is one of those issues that’s struggling to work in Uncanny Avengers.

Aside from Tony Stark being a drunk again, the big fallout from Avengers and X-men: AXIS was the revelation/bullshit retcon that Magneto wasn’t the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Naturally, this left them pretty curious so the first arc of the newly relaunched Uncanny Avengers series is built around this mystery. It brought Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch to Counter-Earth so they could search for the High Evolutionary. The Uncanny Avengers got dragged into it too because why the fuck not? It’s been an uneven narrative, but it hasn’t completely fucked itself to the point of absurdity. Uncanny Avengers #2 gives it another chance and it’s already dangerously close to not needing too many others.

It certainly helps when a battle between Sabretooth and the High Evolutionary ends with Sabretooth getting a hole blown in his torso. And no, that’s not quite as gay as it sounds. Sabretooth was the lucky/unlucky asshole who managed to show up on Counter-Earth in a perfect position to get his ass kicked by the High Evolutionary’s creations. The High Evolutionary just happens to be there to finish the job. It’s an inglorious end, but one that’s somewhat fitting because it forces Sabretooth to fight in a way that’s as inverted as he is. He doesn’t just go for his typical Plan A of slaughtering anything that moves and fucking anything that’s still warm. Sure, this ends with him getting a hole in the torso, but it clearly establishes the High Evolutionary as the asshole here.

And the High Evolutionary really runs with his assholery in a major way, so much so that he kind of steals the show a bit. Once Sabretooth is down for the count, he reveals that he didn’t just drop by to horribly wound someone. He’s probably as bored of that as Wolverine was before he died. He’s actually there to tell his citizens that they are basically failed lab experiments, just like Sabretooth. He goes on this long, but not-so-meaningless rant about how his brand of evolution goes beyond just surviving and fucking. By that process, there’s not much difference between man and pond scum. And on some levels, he’s not wrong. But this guy strives for perfection and as it stands, these anthropomorphic creations aren’t making the cut.

For anyone who doesn’t know shit about the High Evolutionary and is too lazy to use Wikipedia, this moment perfectly conveyed the personality and motivations of this character. He’s not Magneto, Sinister, or Apocalypse. He’s something else. Sure, he’s still an asshole. But he’s an evolved asshole seeking to achieve the perfect life and he’s not using shitty self-help books to do it. He’s actually trying to create it from scratch. In that sense he’s not inherently an asshole. He’s just ambitious and has some fucked up ways of going about it.

This speech has nothing to do with the parentage of the Maximoff Twins or the Uncanny Avengers. But I’ll come out and say it anyways. The High Evolutionary is now the most interesting part of this story. His pursuit and his fucked up ways of going about it are way more interesting than who knocked up Pietro and Wanda’s mother. He’s no Dr. Doom, but he’s no Walter White either.

The asshole part of his pursuit is that he’s willing to exterminate huge populations of his creation with the same callousness as most people have when they click the undo button in an essay. While Sabretooth makes an attempt to stop him, he fails miserably in a way that probably has Wolverine laughing his ass off from beyond the grave. Then with a shrug and a smile, the Hugh Evolutionary proceeds to wipe out every living creature around him with a burst of power that might as well have been ripped from a rerun of Dragonball Z. It looks every bit as awesome as it sounds. And all this is done in the name of pursuing perfection. It makes me shudder to think how this guy would deal with typos.

After a display like that, catching up with the Maximoff twins feels like a downgrade. Sure, this whole story began with them traveling to Counter-Earth to find the High Evolutionary. That doesn’t mean it’s the most engaging part of this story. Their only accomplishment since showing up in this world is losing a bar fight and getting themselves captured. That’s like getting thrown out of a bar in New Orleans and still ending up in jail because the police had to fill a public drunkenness quota. And they don’t do much more than I did on my last trip to New Orleans.

Once they wake up, there is some nice inner musings from the Scarlet Witch. She talks about how she and Quicksilver have been dealing with the revelation about Magneto not being their father. In a nutshell, they’re still fucked up about it. But they still aren’t doing anything other than getting their asses kicked to deal with it. That doesn’t mean that this ends up being less productive than my last trip to jail.

When the Maximoff twins wake up, they find themselves in a bunker where three Rambo knock-offs are arguing about what the High Evolutionary just did. They seem to have a problem with the High Evolutionary just exterminating millions of lives on a whim. I guess they’re weird like that. It reveals that the High Evolutionary has enemies aside from the Maximoff twins and the Uncanny Avengers. It also reveals that these guys went out of their way to save the Maximoff twins rather than help the lives the High Evolutionary snuffed out. Given how easily he fucked up Sabretooth, they might have done the smart thing. They can’t help anyone if they’re dead or horribly maimed.

These people definitely need help if they’re going to fight the High Evolutionary. The Maximoff twins offer something. But given their issues with family and retcons, they can only offer so much. It’s easy to forget that the rest of the Uncanny Avengers were supposed to get involved with this. But there still isn’t much progress on that front. Only Dr. Voodoo gets to do anything of real merit here and even he’s behind the curve.

In a fucked up realm of the dead, he encounters the souls of all the lives the High Evolutionary just exterminated. They’re not exactly happy about it to say the least. Souls tend to get restless when some douche-bag in purple armor commits genocide on them. But Dr. Voodoo is in a position to do something about it and it has nothing to do with haunting the High Evolutionary in a blatant Paranormal Activity rip-off.

He gets in touch with Doniva, the first daughter of the High Evolutionary. She’s not exactly fond of her father. He treated her the same way most people treat a defective iPhone, casting her aside like a teenage boy casts aside dirty tissues during a porn marathon. She warns that like a teenage boy with an unfiltered internet connection, the High Evolutionary will keep doing this. And she wants to help stop him. There are no specifics, but it continues the trend of making the High Evolutionary the most interesting character in this story. The Uncanny Avengers might as well be guest stars at this point.

The High Evolutionary remains front and center, showing off just how much he’s in charge of this world. He’s still not satisfied after slaughtering millions of lives for the imperfections they’re not even responsible for. So he takes Sabretooth back to his lab and decides to dissect him as only he can. It’s not quite as gruesome as the last three Saw movies, but it is pretty fucking brutal. I wouldn’t be surprised if this shit gave the High Evolutionary a boner because he’s intrigued by Sabretooth’s healing factor. That just gives him another means of pursing his quest for perfection and fucking with those who don’t meet his standards. Now this isn’t a new tactic. Plenty of other assholes have tried to exploit healing factors. The High Evolutionary isn’t even the top 10, but his ability to torment Sabretooth still earns him some points.

As he’s torturing Sabretooth, he ends up getting a call from one of the guys dumb enough to help him in this endless pursuit of perfection. He’s the same asshole who was dumb enough to capture Rogue. While Rogue still isn’t doing jack shit along with the rest of the Uncanny Avengers, she’s still alive and still in a position to fuck things up when she gets a chance. Right now, her creepy old captor is just letting the High Evolutionary know that there are mutants stirring shit up on Counter-Earth. And Sabretooth has already proved that they can be quite a hassle.

The High Evolutionary doesn’t get too upset about this. He doesn’t even look annoyed. He has a, “Oh, that’s happening? How cute,” type reaction. But that doesn’t mean that he’s okay with anyone coming along and fucking up his perfect little world. So he calls in some help to deal with it in the form of Luminous. But who the fuck is Luminous? Well that’s not entirely clear, but the High Evolutionary does reveal that she’s related to Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. It’s set up as one of those “Oh fuck!” moments. But at this point, the impact is lacking. So the Maximoff Twins have some siblings that want to kill them. That’s not too shocking. That’s the next three sitcoms on CBS.

There was a lot going on in this issue. But like watching an episode of Lost without the aid of weed, it didn’t make for a lot of progress. That’s not to say it did nothing of merit. More than anything else, it revealed special breed of asshole that the High Evolutionary has become. He’s the opposite of Spider-Man, so much power and no responsibility. He’ll create and slaughter as many living beings he has to in order to achieve his goal. He comes off as someone who took his OCD way too fucking far, but at least there’s a sense of perspective in terms of what the Uncanny Avengers are up against.

Beyond that, not a whole lot happened. Sabretooth gave everyone attitude in a way that was indistinguishable from Wolverine. The Maximoff twins slept through most of the story, not getting much closer to finding out who their real father is. And aside from Dr. Voodoo, none of the other Uncanny Avengers did or discovered anything of merit. I can’t say the story didn’t move forward because it did. I can’t even say it lacked depth and appeal. There is a story worth telling here, but it’s the kind of story that makes me less and less likely to give a fuck about who Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch’s parents are. If nothing else, this issue still retained just enough fucks to be interesting. It’s just getting way too side-tracked. I give Uncanny Avengers #2 a 6 out of 10. It’s not easy to get over bullshit retcons. Just re-read the Clone Saga and try to let it go. But it is possible to stop being pissed off enough to enjoy the stories that follow. So unless someone is in need of anger management or is Charlie Sheen, they shouldn’t be bothered by it at this point. Nuff said!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #38

Being rich, powerful, and successful is an easy way to become a target. Maybe it's jealous or maybe all life is biologically programmed to be a dick to anyone or anything that's inherently more powerful. Why else would bees, flies, snakes, and spiders fuck with us so much? Sure, we can have the civilization, the skyscrapers, and the space ships. But they can still hide in closets and scare the piss out of us to remind us that we're not much higher up on the food chain. So with that in mind, imagine the kind of cosmic scale target that the Black Vortex can create.

Thanks to Hank McCoy and Gamora, the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy have that cosmic target on their cosmically-powered asses. When whenever cosmic power gets involved, it's way worse than a snakebite or a bee sting. The X-men know from experience how cosmic power tends to complicate shit. Hell, I think Cyclops included a resurrection provision in his pre-nup with Jean Grey. Like the Phoenix Force, the X-men and the Guardians got involved with the Black Vortex with the best of intentions. They were looking to fuck with Starlord's asshole father and maybe get into Kitty Pryde's panties again. Then, like the Phoenix Force, some corruptive shit entered the equation and it really starts hitting the fan in All-New X-men #38.

The stench is already pretty potent because Hank McCoy is the one leading the charge with the Black Vortex. He, O5 Angel, and Gamora now have the Black Vortex in their possession and they have a cosmic-sized boner to use it on the rest of the universe. That might sound good on paper. Then the cosmic-powered Beast starts ranting about what happens when technologically advanced explorers meet native tribes. Ask any Native American how that shit turned out and then add a cosmic twist to it.

Yet this is the analogy Beast wants to use? I'm pretty sure Al Sharpton would be on his ass in a heartbeat if he said that shit on CNN. He thinks he's saving lesser civilizations with the Black Vortex. His heart's in the right place. Even I'll admit that. But for someone that now claims to have cosmic awareness, he should at least be able to check Wikipedia for a history lesson on forcing change on people not ready for it. Hell, he could call George W. Bush for a lesson in that shit. But I guess that would make too much sense for Hank McCoy at this point.

Gamora and O5 Angel only encourage him. Hell, they're totally on board with this. They want to use the Black Vortex to spread its power to the far ends of the universe and maybe tear Thanos a billion new assholes in the process. Again, on paper that sounds like ice cream and whiskey. But all that cosmic power still isn't enough to remind them how badly this shit usually turns out. They still take the Black Vortex to some backwater planet full of Dr. Manhattan wannabes with the intention of using it. They even admit that some of their friends wouldn't agree, namely O5 Jean Grey who is going out of her way to avoid this kind of cosmic-level shit. But this is where their goals start to reek of more bullshit.

Beast and O5 Angel talk about using the Black Vortex to usher in universal peace. That sounds great, like it was ripped right from one of Mahatma Gandhi's speeches. The problem is that they actually ripped it off from someone more recent. And that someone is Cyclops. Just look at the setup. A couple of X-men and an ally get cosmic power. They use that power to piss off their friends. Now they want to prove they can wield this power by creating a universal peace. How is that shit any different than what Cyclops and the Phoenix Five tried to do with the Phoenix Force? It isn't. In fact, I'm pretty sure Cyclops could sue Beast for plagiarism and win, even if I was his lawyer.

I admit that I sometimes go out of my way to give Hank McCoy shit on this blog. But this time, he fucking earns it. He's doing the exact same shit that he whines about with Cyclops. This is cosmic-level hypocrisy right here. He's doing just what Cyclops tried to do, but because he's the one doing it he thinks it's okay. I'm sorry, but there's no excuses anymore. If he still gives Cyclops shit after this, he might as well French kiss Dr. Doom.

And just like Cyclops learned in Avengers vs. X-men, Beast learns that imposing universe peace is a hard sell. Power like the Black Vortex tends to attract a fuckton of attention and some of that attention doesn't care for peace. The idea of now slaughtering others just doesn't resonate with them. Ronan the Accuser is one of those critics. He shows up with a Kree destroyer just as Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel are about to use their cosmic mojo on this unsuspecting planet of cute blue aliens. Instead, they're not caught in the crossfire of the Kree. Somewhere on the other side of the universe, Cyclops is probably laughing his ass off.

Now the appearance of the Kree is a bit sudden, but I won't say it's totally forced. It makes sense that a power like the Black Vortex would get their attention. It was already revealed in the other books that this thing had gotten the attention of other alien races, namely the Shi'ar. So why wouldn't it get the attention of the Kree? This is the kind of shit Ronan would eat a live puppy to get his hands on. So while does make the plot feel a little less concise, it doesn't feel too jarring. An extra bong hit or a shot of tequila is all it takes to not be bothered by it.

Even for those who feel Ronan's appearance was forced, they have to admit the battle that ensues is pretty fucking sweet. It's a bit rushed, but it's wonderfully detailed none-the-less. Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel may have cosmic power on their side, but Ronan brought a fuckton of Kree firepower to back him up. This is one instance where overkill is perfectly logical. It's also logical to not bother trying to kill cosmic-powered enemies. That's like taking a piss in the Hulk's coffee. Instead, Ronan just focuses on getting the Black Vortex. It's still one of those moves that's bound to screw him over in the long run, but that doesn't make short-term victory any less sweet. He may have ended up screwing over even more planets because now Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel are going to be even more motivated to impose their fucked up version of universal peace. Way to piss on that hornet's nest, Ronan!

Now that Ronan is involved, I wouldn't blame the X-men and Guardians of the Galaxy for opting to sit this one out. But they don't know how much more fucked they are. They're still picking themselves up and dusting themselves off after their last clash with Mr. Knife. That clash left a good chunk of Spartax's moon missing. I think it's safe to say a clash with Ronan wouldn't have turned out much better. They still manage to survive, thanks to Kitty Pryde's phasing and Magik's mystical mojo. But they're all in that jaded state of mind where it's starting to sink in just how fucked they are. They can't even entertain a concept of winning the battle at this point. They just need to focus on keeping their asses intact.

The problem is that Mr. Knife wants to make damn sure their asses are in pieces, even though they don't have the Black Vortex at this point. And since they're too shell-shocked to fight and X-23 is badly injured, this is not a fight they care to handle at this point. So rather than risk throwing more shit at the fan, Magik casts a spell to make them invisible. Is it cheating? Perhaps. Would Bill Belichick do it if he could? Fuck yes. But does it work for the context of this situation? Fuck yes to that too.

Being invisible gives them just enough time to call the Guardians of the Galaxy's ship. They're all able to sneak on board and get the fuck out of there before Mr. Knife finds out they lost the Black Vortex. Starlord being Starlord even manages to give his old man the finger as they fly off. There's just something about that which gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. And for once, it's not from a shot of whiskey. It even impresses Kitty Pryde, who makes a marriage proposal on the spot. And if something impresses Kitty Pryde that much, then it's not cheating anymore. It's inherently awesome.

In most other circumstances, launching a full scale attack on Ronan the Accuser after he's stolen a weapon of immense destruction would be inherently awesome as well. However, this attack comes courtesy of a cosmic-powered Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel. So I'm honestly not sure if there's anyone worth rooting for now. It's another battle that's somewhat rushed, but it's still wonderfully detailed in its scope and scale. Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel don't go all Metal Gear in attempting to retrieve the Black Vortex. They go in like Jet Li on a bucket of meth armed with a M60 machine gun. They launch an attack on the Kree homeworld of Hala with a reckless abandon that would impress Rambo. Even though it's hard to root for either side, it's still a nice way of showing the kind of forces at work here. When cosmic power enters the equation, there's no such thing as subtlety. It's either ripping off the Phoenix Five or laying waste to planets. There's no in-between.

Again, this is a battle that the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy have no idea is going on. They're still clenching their assholes at the thought of fighting their cosmically-powered friends. And some, like Gamora, didn't even need cosmic power to kick their asses in the first place. Between losing the Black Vortex and being attacked by Mr. Knife, they're all still trying to unfuck themselves. It nicely conveys a sense of being overwhelmed and under-equipped to handle this shit. I'm pretty sure that if they found out about Ronan and the Kree getting involved, they would adopt Eric Cartman's "Screw you guys, I'm going home" approach. And nobody would blame them.

In addition to this sentiment, there's also a sense that they need some backup. They might as well cross the Avengers off the list. After Avengers vs. X-men, I'm pretty sure they've had their fill of cosmic power for the next dozen lifetimes. But it's not an unreasonable assessment. For next-level cosmic shit like this, they need help. But who the fuck could help them at this point? Who would even have a reason to?

Well it turns out they already know someone who has a big fucking incentive to kick the shit out of any cosmic power within the known universe. And as it just so happens, someone picked up on the Guardians of the Galaxy's ship passing by. Is it also a little random? Yes. But I'm not even going to make a big deal of it this time because that someone happens to be O5 Cyclops.

He signals the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-men just in time to give O5 Jean Grey that "I need to change my panties" look. His arrival isn't just convenient. It's fitting. He originally ventured off into space after the events of the first X-men/Guardians of the Galaxy crossover. Now in the new crossover, he meets up with them again and just in time to take on a cosmic-powered Hank McCoy. It couldn't be more fitting without Emma Frost's tits being involved.

The main theme of this issue and this point in the crossover is to show just how fucked the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy are at this point. In that sense, this issue succeeded in conveying that sentiment. They watched three of their friends get corrupted by the Black Vortex. They then got their asses handed to them with a side of fries. Now they have to deal with their cosmic-powered teammates and Mr. Knife's douchebaggery. By all accounts, that's a cosmic level of screwed. And they don't even know about Ronan and the Kree sticking their dicks into this mess. So in some ways, they're even more fucked than they think they are.

But they don't spend the entire issue with their thumbs up their collective asses. They don't go all goth and start moping like a teenager who has listened to one too many Linkin Park albums. They do get their shit together and start making an effort to fix this shit. They're still pretty fucked, but at least they know what they have to do. The pacing was still a bit sluggish. The most meaningful thing they did was ditch Mr. Knife and slip away in the Guardians' ship. Sure, it was necessary. But nobody's panties are going to get too wet from this struggle. It's still another meaningful part in the process and it moves the story forward. I give All-New X-men #38 a 7 out of 10. It even deserves a little extra praise for having Starlord give his asshole father the finger. It's almost symbolic of the scale and scope of this crossover. It's only a glorious coincidence that it's the same symbol I use to convey my emotions in a traffic jam. Nuff said!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Weaving A New Web: Silk #1

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

Not too long ago, strong female characters were like unicorns. Everybody had a concept of them, but nobody could honestly say they had seen one. It feels like comics, movies, and TV shows have only recently figured out the successful formula for making good female characters. They don’t have to be overtly sexual like Catwoman. They don’t have to be overly tough like Michelle Rodriguez in every movie she’s ever been in. They just have to be interesting in their own unique way. That really shouldn’t be such an alien concept. And yet, successful female characters still feel like an anomaly.

Characters like Kamala Khan, Princess Elsa, and whatever character Scarlett Johannsen plays in a movie have finally set the bar for what a successful female character should be. In that context, the jury is still out on Cindy Moon. She was one of the best concepts to come out of Original Sin. So far, she hasn’t been revealed to be a clone so she still has the potential to be in the same league as Kamala Khan.

Since her story began, she’s been a supporting character for Spider-Man and Spider-Woman. At times, she’s been a lost soul trying to find her place in a world she missed out on. Then there are times when she exists to make Peter Parker’s life more awkward, as only a cute young woman can. She’s not exactly a feminist icon, nor is she a character ripped from one of Hugh Hefner’s fantasies. Now she has her own solo series to show that she can be more than cuter version of Joe Pesci. And the results in Silk #1 show that Cindy Moon is still a work-in-progress.

In terms of being a hero, Silk is still a toddler who can’t stop spilling her juice cup. She has a hard time holding her own in a battle against a C-list villain like Dragonclaw. She still needs an assist from Spider-Man to keep herself from falling too hard on her face. She’s not a damsel, but she’s no She-Hulk either. She essentially a late-round draft pick in a class that has already produced some incredible talent. She’s not Tom Brady, but she has earned herself a starter role.

What makes Silk’s story so compelling is that it’s very different from Peter Parker’s. She didn’t fail to save or uncle or witness the murder of her parents. She was a victim of deception and fear. She was sequestered for a good chunk of her life because someone convinced her that she was a target and she did what might have sounded like a good idea to a scared teenager. Now, years later, she’s trying to rebuild her life without fear. She’s like one of those paranoid families in the 1950s that built bomb shelters because they thought nuclear war was imminent. Now they have to adjust to a life where the biggest threat comes from shoe bombers and kids who aren’t vaccinated against the measles.

The adjustment for Silk is what gives this story its unique flavor. Cindy Moon doesn’t just discover her powers and struggle over how to use them. That’s actually the easiest part of being sequestered for the better part of a decade. The real challenge is trying to adapting her life to a world where N’sync is no longer together and Carson Daily is no longer a relevant celebrity.

It’s a challenge that Cindy struggles with both in and out of costume. At times, she falters in a painfully human way. It doesn’t involve clones or mutant spiders. It involves a young woman trying to find her place in an unfamiliar world. She still struggles in ways that a young Peter Parker often struggled. She has a hard time with her new job. She has to learn to resist the urge to roll her eyes every time J. Jonah Jameson twists the facts to denigrate Spider-Man. It’s familiar, but there are some key differences.

There are still parts of Cindy Moon’s developing history that haven’t been resolved. The most pressing issue involves her family. They disappeared shortly after she went into the bunker and she’s made it her mission to find them. It’s a mission where she makes only limited progress, but it’s made compelling through recollections of Silk’s family life. This helps give some emotional weight to Silk’s motivations and it’s the kind of weight that further sets her apart from Peter Parker. So long as she doesn’t get cloned, this counts for a lot.

It also helps that her home life was different from Peter Parker’s. Her family wouldn’t exactly be guest stars on Jerry Springer, but they do establish that Cindy Moon had a home life that’s worth protecting. The problem is that fighting C-list villains like Dragonclaw and getting limited advice from Peter Parker don’t help her make much progress. In terms of the overall development of her story, she doesn’t get beyond the exposition. However, it does mean that there won’t be much excitement for those not entertained by Silk fighting Dragonclaw.

The scope of Silk’s story might not be at an epic scale, but Silk #1 does successfully establish why Cindy Moon is worth caring about. She’s dealing with issues that are decidedly different than the ones Peter Parker has been dealing with since the Nixon Administration. She’s adjusting to a world that’s overwhelming even for those who haven’t been locked in a bunker for a decade. She’s also trying to save her family in a way Peter Parker never got a chance to. And she has to do this while establishing herself as an inexperienced superhero.

Cindy Moon is definitely one of those characters who could have her own legion of cos-players at some point. She hasn’t achieved that status just yet, but she’s on her way to earning it. If she can tolerate working for J. Jonah Jameson, then she’s capable of standing with the rest of Marvel’s growing pantheon of powerful female heroes.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Strangers In Paradise Chapter 10: Strong Hearts and Cold Trails is LIVE!

Being snowed with a limited supply of weed and booze can be a terrible thing. But it can also be helpful in some ways. It gives guys like me less excuses to keep my ass busy. And since I hate excuses more than I hate parking tickets, I used that time to work on my first ever Superman/Wonder Woman story.

So far, Strangers In Paradise has been going over very well. After nine chapters, I think it's safe to say I've created something that doesn't suck. And in this day and age where Two and a Half Men can replace Charlie Sheen while Dumb and Dumber gets a sequel, I think that's the most reasonable criteria we can have.

In those nine chapters, I retold the story of how Superman and Wonder Woman came together. In this world, I changed one critical circumstance. Clark and Diana met when they were younger, before they became the heroes that everyone respects and dresses up as at every comic con. That created a connection that profoundly changed their lives. Then, after six years of being torn apart, they reunited and a new relationship is blossoming. They already went on their first date and things got pretty damn heated. Now that relationship is poised to grow, but not without some beautifully awkward moments. That's what I explore in this latest chapter, which I like to call the afterglow chapter. Superman/Wonder Woman fans of all kinds should be ready to squee.

So far, I've been enjoying this story. Writing it has been a challenge that I think will help make the rest of my work more awesome. It gives me a chance to tell a story for a group of fans that I know can be fickle. I don't claim I can make it perfect. I don't even claim I won't make mistakes along the way. But I'm committed to make it as awesome as every other piece I write. Nuff said!

Friday, February 20, 2015

X-men Supreme Issue #115: Weapon Plus Part 3 PREVIEW!

There comes a point in every story where the hard choices of the past clash with the hard choices of the present. Throughout the history of X-men Supreme, the X-men have faced plenty of these choices. The choices of Angel's father eventually led to difficult decisions during the Overlord arc. Professor Xavier's choices regarding his cancer nearly killed him in the Starcrossed arc. Many major X-men stories are built around the difficult choices these characters must make or have made. I've tried to capture those elements in this fanfiction series and it's now converging in the Weapon Plus arc.

So far, the choices of characters like Sage, Graydon Creed, and Colonel Wraith have helped create the conflict that is now fueled by Fantomex. In the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, Fantomex is a product of these choices. However, he ends up making some fateful choices of his own that have turned an already volatile situation into something much worse. The concept of Weapon Plus in X-men Supreme is built around fixing the flaws in the predecessors of Weapon X. However, those flaws simply cannot be avoided when the same choices are made. Wolverine and X-23 have had to suffer the consequences of those choices. Now Fantomex is suffering as well, but in a very different way.

The Weapon Plus arc isn't just a converging of many conflicting choices amongst characters like John Wraith and William Stryker. This arc is going to cause some major disruptions in the world of X-men Supreme. Fantomex as a functional living weapon was deadly enough. But as a weapon that has broken free from his creators' control and embraced a much bolder mission, he's become something much more. This fanfiction series has developed many familiar X-men characters in new ways. Fantomex is just the latest.

It's been a challenge because I don't find Fantomex to be a very likable character in the comics. He's one of those characters that X-men fans either hate or tolerate. He's not the kind of character who inspires sympathy or passion. He's not intended to be that kind of character. But in X-men Supreme, I make it a point to give every character a chance to be awesome. That includes characters that I'm not too fond of. And I will continue this effort with this arc and future arcs. Fantomex has a long ways to go before he finds a more respectable place in this fanfiction series, but he's going to make progress. Once again, I’ve prepared a preview that will show that more than a few characters will get a chance to be awesome.

“Hurry up! Let’s get a move on,” urged Reverend Stryker to his Purifiers, “The Exodus contingency is in full effect. We need to be out of here in under ten minutes.”

William Stryker and Graydon Creed worked quickly to purge this build of any evidence that they had been here. It became increasingly apparent that Colonel Wraith’s plan for Weapon Plus had gone horribly wrong. The news reports revealed that Fantomex was no longer under their control. The mere fact that Wraith hadn’t called them indicated that he had left them out to dry.

Without Wraith, they had to fend for themselves. Stryker and Creed still had plenty of resources to salvage for their cause. They had money and manpower to continue their crusade against the mutant race. They also had Arcade, who was still on a short leash with them. His hacking skills would be a valuable asset, although he didn’t seem nearly as concerned about escaping as he should have.

“This is getting uncomfortably creepy. Fantomex has disappeared, but we’re still linked to EVA,” said Arcade as he went over streams of data, “The mission data is reworking itself. We may still have access to a sub-channel in the AI.”

“Quit stalling, Arcade. The mission is over,” urged Reverend Styrker, “Has Wraith not made it abundantly clear that he’s screwed us over?”

“It’s not Wraith that worries me. I doubt he knew what he was dealing with when he stole this techno-organic material. There seems to be a string of encrypted code inside the system. Either this is something he wasn’t aware of or it’s something he kept from us.”

“I don’t care what that arrogant heathen knows or doesn’t know. As far as I’m concerned, his Weapon Plus program is a failure. Now if you don’t wish to fail with him, you’ll pack up your computers and follow us!”

Arcade still hesitated to leave this matter unresolved. The hacker in him never liked leaving a code uncracked. Looking around at the Purifiers as they frantically packed up their gear, it looked like he wouldn’t get a chance to decode it.

Arcade wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t be able to complete this mission. Graydon Creed had his share of unfinished business as well. While the Purifiers were doing most of the work, he remained fixated on the mutants that Fantomex had abducted. They were still bound and gagged, terrified by what was going on around them. Their terror only enraged him, knowing he wouldn’t be able to finish them off. The Exodus contingency that Stryker implemented left no room to take these mutants with them. It meant he would be leaving them alive and that was something that made him sick to his stomach.

“We should kill them before we leave,” said Creed strongly.

“Brother Creed, nothing would make me happier than to send these hapless souls back to Hell where they belong. Unfortunately, time is not on our side even if God is,” said Stryker as he passed by Creed.

“I don’t care if there’s a risk. I refuse to let these monsters just walk away.”

“They will all face divine judgment. That you can be sure of,” said the reverend, “Right now, we have to assume that the failure of Fantomex has put Wraith in a vulnerable position. He’s probably trying to weasel his way out of this as we speak and you can assume that involves making us accomplices in his game.”

“I’m not afraid to go back to prison if that’s what it takes,” said Graydon strongly.

“Be reasonable, Graydon. You won’t be able to serve our cause from behind bars. We need to get away and regroup. There will be other opportunities. Let’s not sacrifice the whole crusade for the sake of a small battle.”

Every part of the reverend’s argument made sense. Even so, Creed hesitated. The Purifiers had already gathered most of their materials and placed them into unmarked crates. They were about to wheel them up through a special passage that led to a parking garage where they could make their escape. He was expected to go with them so his money could keep funding their crusade. That still meant leaving these mutants alive and dealing with the revulsion that evoked within him.

While Creed and Stryker wrestled with the failure of this mission, Rogue and Isaac watched from the secondary entryway across the room. They arrived just in time to see the Purifiers preparing their escape. They also saw the mutants that had been abducted. They looked scared and desperate. They needed help and it was up to them to deliver.

“William Stryker…that unrepentant heathen. I should rip out his tongue so he can’t preach his false gospel!” said Isaac under his breath with simmering anger.

“Ah appreciate the sentiment, sugah. But we need to focus on saving those mutants. Ah don’t think Graydon Creed is gonna walk away without hurting them,” said Rogue, her voice just above a whisper.

“So what do you suggest? I don’t suspect another distraction will work here.”

“That fire you set earlier ain’t gonna do the trick. If the smoke ain’t reached this area yet, that means those fellas behind us were able to put it out. Now we’re basically boxed in, enemies behind us and enemies in front of us.”

“You don’t sound too worried,” commented Isaac.

“Why should I?” she said with a slight grin, “This is the point in the mission where the X-men are at their best.”

Isaac stayed close as Rogue carefully snuck through the poor lighting, staying along the walls and behind piles of building materials. The Purifiers were distracted so they didn’t pick up on her presence. She carefully worked her way along the west wall and towards the south where the mutants were being kept. Along the way Isaac clutched the cross he was wearing around his neck, gathering his strength for the next move.

About twenty feet from where the mutants were standing, a stack of plastic crates containing assorted weapons was ready to be rolled out with the others. Two Purifiers rushed over to haul them away.

“Help me with this,” said one of the Purifiers, “These are heavy and we don’t have time to make multiple trips.”

“I’ll take the back. You stabilize the front,” said the other.

The two Purifiers began coordinating, setting aside their weapons and preparing to move the crates. They were already on a gurney. Because of the weight, they wouldn’t move very efficiently. As a result, the one that got behind the stack had to push extra hard to start moving the load. The lone Purifier pushed so hard he didn’t notice Rogue walking up behind him and reach for him with her bare hands.

“Take a load off, sugah. Looks like you could use it,” she grinned.

The Purifier didn’t get a chance to express any shock. The moment Rogue touched his bare face he was drained of life energy and collapsed. This was quickly noticed by the other Purifier, who ran around to see what was going on.

“What’s happening? Don’t tell me you’re…”

“He is,” said Rogue, cutting him off as she reached for him as well.

“Huh? You-ungh!”

This time the drain wasn’t so silent. Rogue stepped out into the open as she grabbed this hapless Purifier, sending him into a deep unconsciousness. This drew the attention of the other Purifiers throughout the area. It also drew the attention of Reverend Stryker and Graydon Creed. The moment they saw Rogue, they recognized her as someone who didn’t belong here.

“Intruder!” yelled one of the Purifiers.

“Worse…an X-man!” yelled Graydon Creed.

I understand that every character has their share of fans. This is especially true of X-men, which has such a long list of iconic characters. Fantomex might not rank very highly on that list, but I still want to treat him with the same care I treat all my characters. For that reason, it's very important that I know I'm doing these characters justice. That's where feedback and reviews come in. It might not seem like a big deal, but they really do make a difference. So please take the time to provide reviews and feedback for X-men Supreme. Either post it in the issues or contact me directly. I'm always happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Legendary Starlord #9

We’re all taught time and again that power corrupts and we shouldn’t stick our dick in it unless we want to get horribly maimed. We tend to believe that because it makes for great stories about the underdog overcoming overwhelming power. That’s the appeal of every Rocky movie ever made. But on some levels, we all wish we had that kind of power, if only to maim the assholes who cut us off on the highway. Well that’s exactly the kind of thinking the Black Vortex crossover appeals to. And so far, that appeal has made for a pretty awesome story.

The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy have teamed up again. This unlikely crossover has already produced some unlikely awesome with The Trial of Jean Grey and so far, this story has shown that it wasn’t a fluke. But this time, they’re not the underdogs. They were able to take the Black Vortex from Mr. Knife and the Slaughter Lords before they could use it to make the universe their own personal roll of toilet paper. They debated on whether they should use it for a while and that made for some nice moments. Then Gamora decided to tempt them in a way that can’t be matched without strippers laying on a bed of cocaine. She showed them what they could all look like if they decided they want to pack cosmic heat. And seriously, who wouldn’t be tempted about getting the kind of power that would mean they never paid for another speeding ticket?

Now in the Legendary Starlord #9, we see who can best resist the lure of this power. There was already tension among lovers, teammates, and talking trees. Adding cosmic power to the mix is a great way to fuck things up and/or make it more entertaining. However it pans out, I’m sure Hank McCoy will still find a way to blame Cyclops for it.

For the moment, Beast is letting his cosmic nuts hang along with Gamora. They’re both enjoying the effects of the Black Vortex the same way enjoy a cold beer and a hot bath. They just showed the X-men, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nova what they can expect with this power. While I’m sure they’re tempted, they understand that it’s like an infomercial for a weight loss drug. It’s never as good as the paid supermodels make it out to be. And since Beast is no supermodel, nobody on either team is lining up to give him the credit card number to their souls.

But in the same way infomercials sucker some people in with their shitty effects and overly enthusiastic voice-overs, some are tempted. And O5 Angel is one of them. Given what he’s been through in the pages of All-New X-men, that’s actually understandable. He found out that he’s going to grow up to be a brain-dead hippie, minus the excessive LSD and body odor. That’s not a lot to look forward to. While Iceman might be content never evolving beyond being an immature little shit, O5 Angel isn’t.

So he decides to submit to the Black Vortex. Even though it has the feel of one of those videos that put paintball guns in the hands of teenagers, the initial result is pretty awesome. O5 Angel becomes a slightly upgraded version of Arcangel, minus the smurf-like appearance. I admit it’s pretty badass. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t take Arcangel as being that menacing when he had the same skin complexion as Papa Smurf. Even Nova admits it’s cool. I usually don’t agree with Nova on much so I think that says a lot about just how potent the Black Vortex is.

And like a joint of some really awesome weed, others want a puff. O5 Iceman, again showing the maturity that never leaves a Junior High homeroom, wants to get a taste. Drax saves us from his cosmic level immaturity by getting in his way. And Kitty Pryde tries to stop Beast from tempting any more impressionable young minds. At this point, German dungeon porn is healthier than Beast’s influence.

What’s really fucked up about it is that Beast in this new form sounds exactly like Cyclops did while he was doped up on the Phoenix Force. He talks about accomplishing so much more with this power than they ever could have otherwise. He talks about remaking the whole universe in their image whereas Cyclops only wanted to remake the Earth. Yet Beast still gives Cyclops shit? I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this level of hypocrisy. I really shouldn’t. Yet here I am.

Storm seems to sense the hypocrisy as well because she decides to grab the Black Vortex and run while Kitty Pryde is busy busting Beast’s balls. It’s a pretty effective distraction for someone just looking to cock-block a friend at a club in Miami. But when cosmic power is involved, it’s like pissing on the face of a hungry shark. It’s not going to end well.

It has already ended in a pretty shitty way for Mr. Knife, also known as Starlord’s asshole father. He’s not at all thrilled that he lost the Black Vortex. He’s probably pissing himself at the possibility that he may have to face his cosmic-powered son and his girlfriend, who he’s gone out of his way to berate. But he still has allies, specifically Thanos’ son. He also has a giant fucking ship so it’s not like he’s completely helpless. He’s still totally fucked, but at least he’ll put up a fight. Even though he’s still the underdog in this battle that involves cosmically powered X-men and Gamora, I have a hard time rooting for him. How can I root for anyone who berates his son’s even after he’s hooked up with Kitty Pryde? There’s being tough and then there’s just being a douche-bag.

Starlord’s father is still very low on the list of concerns for the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy at this point. Storm is probably the only one in the galaxy at this point who can be trusted with getting the Black Vortex as far away from Beast, O5 Angel, and Gamora at this point. But she might as well be hiding a cheesecake from John Goodman. They’ve got cosmic fucking power on their side. It’s like giving Ivan Drago a tank.

That doesn’t stop her from putting up a fight. She may not have cosmic power, but she’s Storm. She doesn’t need cosmic power to kick ass. She gets into a visceral battle with Gamora. It’s the kind of battle that gets my heart racing and my dick aching, but in a good way. It’s not rushed. It’s not glossed over. It’s just a beautifully detailed struggle. Anyone who can’t enjoy this is either comatose or overdosing on Xanax.

Gamora eventually does beat Storm. As satisfying a fight it might be, it’s more lopsided than Brian Williams’ memory. She’s not going to defeat a cosmically powered Gamora for the same reason I’ll never bang Megan Fox and Jessica Alba in a single night. But Storm still has allies. They might not be able to hook me up with movie stars, but they can make the battle feel a little less lopsided. O5 Jean Grey does this by doing a little mind-fuck with Gamora, tapping into her cosmic-powered daddy issues with Thanos. She doesn’t appreciate this in the same way Willie Nelson doesn’t appreciate the IRS. She tries to gut O5 Jean where she stands, but Kitty Pryde manages to spare them another Phoenix-level fuck-up.

Drax and some of the others catch up to help keep O5 Jean and Kitty Pryde from being Friday the 13th cos-players against Gamora. Again, it’s a nicely detailed and well-developed battle. It’s not rushed and on some levels, it drags a bit. Not much really happens as a result of the X-men and Guardians’ effort to keep the Black Vortex from their cosmic-powered friends. It’s not as emotional as it could be either. However, it’s still satisfying enough to make everyone’s pants at least somewhat tighter.

The battle’s outcome is hardly surprising. The X-men, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nova really don’t stand much of a chance against three cosmic-powered friends. Beast and O5 Angel manage to get their hands on the Black Vortex again. They don’t stick around to finish off their friends. While Gamora is tempted and my penis does want to see her keep fighting, Beast convinces her that their time would better be spent putting the Black Vortex to good use. I still really want to kick his ass for basically plagiarizing that shit from Cyclops during Avengers vs. X-men, but I’ve learned to control my outrage towards Hank McCoy. It may take a few extra bong hits. At some point, however, I’d love it if someone called him out on his shit.

Instead, Kitty Pryde takes her frustration out on her boyfriend. Apparently, she blames him for Gamora choosing to embrace its power and Beast deciding that he wants to be an even bigger hypocrite. It’s irrational and she comes off as a nagging bitch. Having been blamed for way more shit than I was ever guilty of by ex-girlfriends, I’m not all that surprised. I just think this is a disturbing pattern for Kitty Pryde. She’s so fucking petty with the Peters in her life. She’ll blame them for choices that other people make and use that as an excuse to bust their balls. She’s a great teacher and a great motivator, but it’s times like this I’m glad my parents didn’t name me Peter.

The others remain a bit more focused. They see their friends leaving with the Black Vortex and they know they’re capable of kicking up a cosmic shit storm. Hank McCoy alone already fucked up the timeline without cosmic power. How much more can he fuck up now that he has it? IT’s a disturbing thought and both the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy are pretty fucked. And Kitty Pryde just makes it worse by berating her boyfriend.

However, as bad as Kitty Pryde can be in dealing with boyfriends and crises, Starlord’s father is still the reigning champ. Just as the others escape with the Black Vortex, he shows up in his giant living ship to attack them. As far as he knows, they still have the Black Vortex. They may already be packing cosmic heat. So like Jack Baur at a terrorist convention, he doesn’t ask questions. He just starts shooting. There are a lot of ways a conflict involving cosmic forces can get progressively worse. Starlord’s father just put himself in the top ten.

If this story were an episode of Jerry Springer, this would be the point where the transsexuals and midget strippers start fighting. They wouldn’t yet reveal that one of the midgets slept with the transsexual’s mother, but it’s getting there. Not everyone is succumbing to the lure of the Black Vortex, but some really want to. It’s creating the kind of discord that reminds me why I miss Jerry Springer. But beyond the well-developed infighting, there’s a remarkably balanced conflict there. Both sides have merit in that conflict. There’s genuine good that could be done with the Black Vortex. Sure, that depends on completely forgetting the shit storm caused by other cosmic powers like the Phoenix Force, but that doesn’t make it any less justified. And it’s that balance that gives this story just the right kind of tension.

As balanced as the conflict was, the story didn’t move forward all that much. Most of it centered around the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy fighting over what to do with the Black Vortex and Kitty Pryde blaming Starlord for not destroying it. But what it lacked in progress it made up for in detail. The struggles here were beautifully visceral and had a few notable moments that should make everyone’s asshole a little tighter. There’s a lot to enjoy here. It hasn’t gotten too confusing or fucked up, even by Jerry Springer standards. It has a lot going for it and if it can avoid the same fuck-ups as Avengers vs. X-men, it has the potential to be truly special. The Legendary Starlord #9 gets an 8 out of 10. I think we should all be deeply tempted by the Black Vortex at this point. Sure, it may fuck us up. But like a fresh bottle of whiskey and a bag of weed, that’s exactly what makes it worth doing. Nuff said!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #31

After a night of heavy drinking, there comes a point where the line between buzz and sickness become so blurred that it might as well be the same feeling. It's what I like to call the "fuck everything" zone of drunkenness. When I'm in that state, I could get hit by a car and just shrug it off. I'm just beyond the point of giving half a shit. For the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier, that point has long since passed. This story had such bold potential. Charles Xavier married Mystique for crying out loud. How the fuck does that become a total afterthought? It's at a point where if I were drinking, Jack Daniels himself would cut me off.

Does anyone else remember that this arc started when Original Sin was still going on? Does anyone else remember that it started when Wolverine was still alive? No? Those people that don't remember need to email me. I want to know who sells them their weed and how I can get some by the end of today. This is a story that has gone on way too fucking long, so much so that it completely clashes with what the solicits say. The cover of Uncanny X-men #31 teases it as being the aftermath of AXIS. But this shit is still stuck in last summer's big event. And personally, I'd much rather read a story about an inverted Havok joining Cyclops' team than Matthew fucking Malloy.

But I digress. Uncanny X-men #31 is supposed to finally give the payoff that it hasn't been able to give since last summer. It's already completely forgotten the whole Xavier marrying Mystique shit. It's tried to throw in some, "Oh fuck!" moments by having Matthew Malloy kill Cyclops, Magik, and Emma Frost while bringing Charles Xavier back from the past. But seeing as how we already know they don't stay dead, nobody's assholes are going to be getting any tighter. But still, I'm going to give Uncanny X-men #31 a chance. It's just going to be hard when the point of me giving a fuck passed back when the Cleveland Browns still had playoff hopes.

If there's any chance that anyone can unfuck this cluster of WTFs, it's Charles Xavier. He's the one that fucked it up in the first place with Matthew Malloy. Now, thanks to Tempus, he's in the future where he hopes to fix this before SHIELD loses any more overpriced helicarriers. The reaction of the Stepford Cuckoos and the rest of the New Xavier School students is nice. They react to the same way most teenagers would react to meeting Taylor Swift. So long as they don't date him or become his prized student, they should get something out of it. They would be the only ones at this point.

The New Xavier School students swoon just long enough for an emergency recording from Cyclops to activate. Being the kind of guy who probably has a battle plan for brushes his teeth, he also has a plan on the exceedingly likely chance that he or Emma or Magik die unexpectedly. While I'm sure he thought he would die at the hands of another angry clone of Jean Grey or a Phoenix-powered Hank McCoy, he does take steps to make sure his students know what to do. He basically tells them to get the fuck in the X-jet and get to the Jean Grey Institute where they'll be safe.

For the young mutants at the New Xavier School who only recently learned how to fight killer robots, it's one too many "Oh fuck!" moments. To his credit, Cyclops doesn't ask that his students avenge him or throw themselves into the front line to destroy whatever robot or evil clone that killed him. He does try to protect his students. The Hank McCoys of the world would probably roll their eyes at that shit, but it does show that he still has a plan. Charles Xavier just has to figure out a way to make this plan feel like terrifying to a bunch of young mutants.

The problem with Cyclops' backup plan is that he assumed the army of Jean Grey clones or killer robots would be too busy dancing on his corpse to attack the Jean Grey Institute. Well, it seems Matthew Malloy just isn't content enough fucking up Xavier's last will and testament or distracting the X-men from the fact that Charles Xavier married Mystique. Does anyone else even remember when that was the most interesting part of this story? Or was I just really fucking high to the point where I imagined that? I don't know. Like I said, I'm beyond the point of giving a shit and so are the X-men.

As soon as the Jean Grey Institute staff sees Matthew Malloy, their first instinct isn't to wrap him up in warm blankets and give him a cup of hot cocoa. While I'm sure Hank McCoy and Iceman want to dry hump him for killing Cyclops, they're a bit more concerned with the possibility that he'll kill more of them. So even though Matthew Malloy is losing his fucking mind and whining like a kid at the dentist office, they decide the best way to deal with him is to fight him. And they don't even have a helicarrier to attack with. In terms of reactions, this is right up there with making Mel Gibson the next Pope in terms of stupidity.

The result is every bit as fucked as has come to be expected at this point. Matthew Malloy still can't control it. Everything Charles Xavier did to help him was as productive as Johnny Manziel's rookie season. Matthew ends up killing the entire Jean Grey Institute staff and whining like a bitch the whole time. It's one of those moments that, under different circumstances, would rank about a 9.0 in the "Holy shit!" scale. But given how long this story has dragged, it has no impact. Even with all this gruesome death and obscene destruction, it has the same impact as another shitty Transformer movie.

This is by far the biggest weakness of the story. It began as a tie-in with Original Sin. It promised so many deep, dark revelations. To some extend, it did that. But it dragged it out so fucking long that it has completely lost its ability to generate enough fucks to be given. It has the same effect on me that it would a coma patient. It just falls that fucking flat. So all the X-men are dead, Charles Xavier failed, and the world of mutants is fucked. It should be tragic, but it's really no more annoying than a paper cut at this point.

So how the fuck does something like this get fixed? Sadly, there are only bullshit options at this point. First, Professor Xavier wanted to travel to the Jean Grey Institute with Tempus to confront Matthew. But for some reason, that whole trip got skipped and Professor Xavier went straight for the "Fuck this!" solution. And the most fucked up part about that is it's probably the most viable solution at this point. If the entire X-men die trying to confront Matthew Malloy, then he has a better chance winning an arm-wrestling contest with the Hulk on a coke binge.

So in a painfully choppy shift, Professor Xavier travels back in time with Tempus to catch up with Matthew Malloy's future parents. That's right. He's now taking a page out of Back to the Future, minus the incest. Instead of trying to fix the shit storm that he kicked up, he's just going to make it so Matthew's parents never met and he was never born. It's the kind of cheating that even Bill Belichick would find excessive. But at this point, cheating is warranted if it means ending this shit.

But beyond the cheating, this reveals something even more distressing. It shows that if there is a mutant that can't control their powers, then this is how Charles Xavier is willing to deal with them. It shows that he is every bit the hypocrite Cyclops said he was earlier. The whole "Nobody is beyond help" philosophy might as well be as legitimate as a lung cancer study funded by tobacco companies. He basically just spat in the face of his own philosophy. Granted, he did it in the least painful way possible. He didn't torture Matthew's parents. He just tweaked their thoughts so they wouldn't meet. It's not the same as giving Matthew's father a few kicks in the balls, but it's still bullshit on principle.

What makes this premise even shittier is that it basically concedes that there are mutants too dangerous to help. Matthew Malloy, despite begging for help, couldn't be saved. This means that the William Strykers of the world are right on some levels. There are mutants out there too dangerous to deal with. So how the fuck can Charles Xavier justify peace and understanding with that possibility? He can't. So he's not just spitting in the face of his own philosophy. He's spitting in the face of the entire concept of X-men.

After confirming that Matthew Malloy was never born, Tempus takes Professor Xavier back to his own time. So I guess he really only showed up in the future just long enough to find out how fucked they were. Then he goes right back because...actually, I'm not even going to try and make sense of this shit. There's only so much weed I can smoke before my ability to make sense of this shit hits a wall. So I'll stop trying.

This poorly organized narrative uses a bit more cheating. Professor Xavier apparently has the power to telepathically make himself forget about this shit. Because why not? He's clearly stopped playing by his own rules at this point. He still manages to have a nice chat with Tempus, who says he didn't completely fuck everything up. Even if he is a hypocrite, the X-men achieved a lot because of him. They skip over the way shit went wrong with Cyclops. Tempus just says he alone is responsible. Never mind that Tony Stark put a fucking cosmic power in him. That shit's just a technicality. It's way too rushed and way too simplistic. Xavier then warns Tempus about the way she's using her powers. But at this point, he's pretty much pissed away what's left of his credibility when it comes to giving powerful mutants a morality lecture.

Still, he got to marry Mystique. I can't help but respect any man who manages to accomplish that. I know that plot was forgotten about quicker than the last Tyler Perry movie, but that still gives Charles Xavier some street cred in my opinion.

So how does this unfuck the future? Well, it goes back to the moment where the X-men gather around to read Professor Xavier's will with She-Hulk. Apparently, Xavier removed the part about him marrying Mystique. Instead, he just said the institute and all the money to fund it now belongs to Cyclops. That's right, the student who ended up killing him while drunk on cosmic power now owns the Jean Grey Institute. It has the impact of a sucker-punch from a butterfly. But after all this bullshit with Mathew Malloy, that's probably a good thing.

However, there is something meaningful that still comes out of this. Tempus, who is now the only one who knows how shitty everything got, pays Cyclops a visit to tell him just how badly he fucked up. He's probably confused because he's probably not used to one of his students giving him shit like this, especially in a sexy Australian accent. But she basically tells him to get his shit together because she'll be watching him. And if he fucks up the way he did with Matthew Malloy, she'll go back in time and make sure his parents never meet or castrate his father, whichever comes first.

Cyclops is understandably confused and pissed. He kicks her out of the New Xavier School on the spot, but this actually makes for one of the most meaningful moments in the story. Tempus says she's basically just doing what he taught her. She's now a graduate of the Cyclops method of getting shit done, which sometimes involves pissing people off. It's wonderfully ironic, her turning Cyclops' own tactics against him. It's probably the most fitting way for Tempus to make her mark on the X-men. It also gives Cyclops a whole new set of motivations to not fuck up. And to think, Tempus had a crush on Cyclops at one point in this series. Something about that just seems right.

After this little pep talk from Tempus, Cyclops makes a fateful decision that might end up being the most appropriate under the circumstances. He signs the Institute over to Storm. And in exchange, he also asks that she take in all the students from his school. It's right up there with trading a cheeseburger for a blowjob in terms of unequal exchanges. But it does finally give the story some level of impact. After what Tempus just told him, Cyclops decides that his students are better off at the Jean Grey Institute. He even tells all the X-men who now hate his guts that he still loves them. He never has to call Charles Xavier the hypocrite he is. Even though it's a solution that required some really egregious cheating, it's a solution that works. Bill Belichick would approve.

The end of this arc gave me the same feeling that I imagine Elton John gets whenever he visits the Playboy Mansion. I really felt nothing. I didn't feel like bashing my head against the wall like a Seahawks fans at the end of the last Super Bowl. I didn't feel like Homer Simpson swimming in a pool of beer either. I'm just glad this story is over. Even though it ended in a way akin to using cheat codes in Skyrim, it really didn't upset me. When my ability to give a shit ended several hangovers ago, my emotional range is exceedingly limited.

That's not to say that there wasn't something of merit that came of all this. The fitting bit of irony at the end with Tempus taking Cyclops' lessons a bit too much to heart had the right impact. So the story itself has merit in terms of what it does for the characters. It just took way too fucking long and fell way the fuck off the rails along the way. Between dropping the whole Xavier marrying Mystique and taking place before Wolverine's death, this whole story was like shooting craps with loaded dice. The impact was always going to be limited, but it still did just enough. It's just not going to get anyone too happy, upset, or horny.

I give Uncanny X-men #31 a 5 out of 10. It's basically the Switzerland of comics, minus the watches and chocolate. Something did eventually come out of it. But like a constipated whale that accidentally swallowed a pickup truck, it wasn't nearly enough. Nuff said!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Dark Side of Empires: Darth Vader #1

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

When the Star Wars prequels were originally announced, the main appeal was that it would provide a context for how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. That is a story that's worth telling and one that helps cast the events of the later movies in a new light. However, the story failed make that new context all that compelling. Darth Vader really didn't become more interesting as a result of the prequels. Those movies just made Anakin Skywalker out to be a whiny, overly gullible kid with poor impulse control.

There's much more appeal in seeing Darth Vader as the sinister, intimidating villain he was when introduced. Darth Vader is a freshly mixed batch of ice cream while Anakin Skywalker is just the ingredients. There's little appeal in the ingredients on their own, but the ice cream that is Darth Vader has plenty of appeal.

He's a powerful Sith Lord who, unlike the far less imposing Emperor, is willing to get his hands dirty. He's not like Dr. Doom, who prefers letting his Doombots do the fighting. He's not even like Lex Luthor, who wastes time belittling and berating his enemies with his brilliance. Darth Vader speaks only as much as he needs to and in the most intimidating way possible. And when that's not enough, he'll finish the job no matter how many Stormtoopers or Death Stars it costs.

This is the version of Darth Vader we're given in Darth Vader #1. There's no elaborate effort to make him a more sympathetic character. There's no shocking revelations about who might be who's father. This is just Darth Vader, fresh off a humiliating defeat on the Death Star, looking to get back at those responsible. The end result is much more engaging than the prequels ever were. The lack of Jar Jar Binks is only a bonus.

The structure of the story is heavy with exposition and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The loss of a resource as big as the Death Star should definitely have some major ramifications and since Darth Vader was tasked with defending it, he should face some level of scrutiny. He's not some renegade official who took one too many bribes or got drunk at one too many office parties. He lost the Empire's greatest weapon. It would be like someone misplacing an atomic bomb during World War II. There should be some fallout.

The fallout in this story revolves around Emperor Palpatine holding Darth Vader personally responsible for the destruction of the Death Star. It's the kind of fallout that has genuine impact because the Emperor is one of the few characters who can berate Vader and live to tell about it. He provides a context for what the loss of the Death Star means. It's a context that was never explored in the movies, but it's one worth exploring because it portrays the Empire as something more complex than a standard GI Joe villain.

The Emperor lays out the plan that Darth Vader failed to uphold. The Death Star was just the culmination of 20 years of solidifying the Empire's rule. Losing it means the Empire is vulnerable in a way that'll make any Emperor feel uncomfortable. The consequence of that discomfort means Darth Vader gets a brief demotion and a new task that involves dealing with criminals like Jabba the Hut. In terms of a demotion, it's not quite the same as being given janitorial work, but it still sends a message.

That message brings out the tough, ruthless, force choking side of Darth Vader that Hayden Christensen never properly portrayed. When he visits Jabba the Hut, there's no elaborate deception or struggle. Nobody ends up in a chain bikini either. Darth Vader just tells Jabba what he wants and what he'll do to him if he doesn't give it to him. It's the kind of negotiation tactics that would make the John McClanes of the world smile.

It gives Darth Vader a chance to show off why he's much more interesting as a dark lord than he ever was a pod racing kid. Jabba still attempts to use the same tactics that will eventually get him killed in Return of the Jedi. Darth Vader easily fights them off. He doesn't end up fighting a Rankor or a Sarlac, but he gets his point across. It's the best action in the story and that might be somewhat of a problem.

There's never a real sense of struggle. Even the cave-dwellers who never saw Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi would never get the impression that there was any real struggle between Darth Vader and Jabba's thugs. The battle was extremely one-sided. If it were a football game, it would not be a game the NFL scheduled for prime time. It attempts to inject a little intensity into a story that's so heavy on exposition. It just doesn't succeed nearly enough. A Rankor would've helped, but even that wouldn't be a fair fight against Darth Vader.

In many ways, that's the challenge of a story like this. Darth Vader is so powerful and ruthless that it's hard to give him a challenge. Unless it involves protecting moon-sized battle stations, he makes it look easy. The real appeal in Darth Vader #1 involves putting his character in a difficult position where he has to regain his credibility with the Emperor. The added context of his failure to protect the Death Star and the challenges he now faces in making up for it make this story compelling. It'll appeal to fans of the West Wing, but not fans of Die Hard movies.

This story is deeper than Darth Vader being ruthless and that's one of its greatest strengths. However, the overall narrative has a few holes in it and won't put anybody on the edge of their seat. It still puts Darth Vader front and center in a story that explores his character in a way the prequels failed to do. And if it can do this without Gungans and pod racers, then it's definitely a story worth telling.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Monday, February 16, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Cyclops #10

I know I joke a lot about teenage boys thinking with their dicks and not their brains. I stand by all those jokes. Having been a teenage boy myself, I understand how hard it is to spare enough blood for my brain cells at times. But I never mean to imply that teenage boys are incapable of having genuine heart. They certainly are capable of it. They just have a harder time than most people because, as I’ve said many times before, an dick that never sleeps forces them to multi-task in ways they’re not prepared to handle. But if anyone has demonstrated an ability to show more compassion and erections, it’s O5 Cyclops.

In his solo series following his adventures with the Starjammers, he’s shown on multiple occasions an uncanny ability to be the most likable teenage boy since Doogie Howser. He’s found a way to re-connect with his father while also finding new ways to survive and be a total badass. He’s still a long ways away from being the Cyclops that eventually hooks up with Jean Grey and Emma Frost, but he’s shown that he’s well on his way. Part of that process involved hooking up with a hot alien girl named Vileena. However, he now faces the possibility of ditching her in ways that will make all the Madelyne Pryor fans bitch again. Cyclops #10 puts him and his father in a very difficult position that has a lot of emotional weight. But if there’s any teenage boy who can handle it in ways that wouldn’t make it come off as a Saved by the Bell rerun, it’s O5 Cyclops.

Those emotions are front and center as O5 Cyclops attempts to escape with Corsair from this big crystal planet that might as well be an oversized snow globe. From a purely strategic perspective, they’re in pretty good shape. Corsair didn’t just escape. He sabotaged the Starcracker that O5 Cyclops helped Captain Malafect steal. There’s really nothing bad about disabling a weapon capable of destroying an entire star, especially when it’s in the hand of a bunch of pirates who would gladly sell it to the highest bidder, provided they didn’t destroy their bank or their favorite brothel. And as far as Malafect’s crew knows, they’re both lying dead in a cave with a crystal monster digesting their bones. If staying alive and freeing his father was part of the plan, then O5 Cyclops succeeded in ways that even the Hank McCoys of the world would have to respect.

However, it still doesn’t sit well with him. All the time he spent with Captain Malafect’s crew helped build some bonds that he can’t easily forget. He’s still an emotional teenager who can’t be as cold or as ruthless as the Donald Trumps of the world. There’s also the matter of the cute alien girl, Vileena. In this case, his heart and his penis won’t allow him to feel that good about this outcome and that’s what makes the story more interesting than a glorified Survivor knock-off.

The emotions are a lot less complicated for Captain Malafect. He just found out that Corsair escaped and since he didn’t end up shooting anyone in the head, he probably doesn’t know that he disabled the Starcracker either. On top of that, he also finds out that the Starjammers are alive and being held captive by another batch of pirates. I’m starting to think that space in the Marvel universe has a real problem policing its trade routes. It’s at this point where all the dirty secrets finally come out in a way only Brian Williams can empathize with.

It turns out that the SOS for the Starjammers came directly from his ship. And the only one who could’ve sent it was O5 Cyclops. Not only that, he helped Corsair escape. So now Captain Malafect has even more reasons to be pissed. Not long ago, he was praising O5 Cyclops for his space pirating skills. He even was willing to look the other way when his daughter started flirting with him. Now he has a better reason than most protective fathers to castrate O5 Cyclops on sight.

Captain Malafect is understandably pissed. Not only did he get played by a kid, but he also got played by someone who fooled around with his daughter. That’s a two-for-one deal in a ball-busting continuum. But the reaction is a lot more pronounced with Vileena. When she hears this, she isn’t just pissed. She’s heartbroken. And as with O5 Cyclops, this added emotional weight gives much more power to the story.

This has been one of the biggest strengths of this series to date. It keeps finding ways to give emotional impact to the events. It’s one thing to just have O5 Cyclops fly around space with his dad, shooting other pirates and flirting with cute alien girls. That sort of thing is a fun story and would make for a great special on the Travel Channel. But to give that story an impact, it needs some emotional weight and that’s exactly what this moment brings. Vileena was among the most likable characters on Malafect’s crew. Now she’s the one most hurt. That’s what makes it awesome and meaningful.

That’s not to say there’s no place for the kind of space pirate badassery that made Johnny Depp so damn rich. While O5 Cyclops is dealing with the emotional ramifications of what he’s done, he and Corsair run into a pack of alien wolves/tigers who decide their flesh looks tasty. They’re not exactly candidates for Hello Kitty merchandise, but, they do add a little action into the emotional undertone in just the right way. And once again, O5 Cyclops shows that he’s come into his own as a badass space pirate. I’m sure Corsair had to hold back tears of joy when he wasn’t avoiding a good mauling.

After warming up on a pack of blood-thirsty space predators, O5 Cyclops and Corsair are more than equipped to take out a squad of Shi’ar and hijack their ship. Corsair makes himself a bit more useful this time so it’s not at all a fair fight. It’s not like either of them feel bad about roughing up Shi’ar at this point. Given how their pirate antics has toughened them, it almost feels like cheating at this point.

Once in the ship, Corsair even reveals that they’re in the best possible position. They’re slipping away while the other half-dozen Shi’ar warships converge on Captain Malafect. The Shi’ar are still very interested in that Starcracker they stole and since they vastly outnumber Malafect’s crew, they’re going to skip the part where they pay for it. That’s just how competent Shi’ar businesses work. That means Captain Malafect and his crew are probably going to get slaughtered, captured, or some combination of the two. It works out perfectly for them. They don’t have to worry about Malafect anymore and they can focus on linking up with the rest of the Starjammers.

There’s just one big problem. O5 Cyclops knows that leaving that crew to die is a real dick move. Captain Malafect may be a total douche-bag, but his crew is all right. One of them took a bullet for him. Another was willing to let him into her panties. He may be an aspiring space pirate, but he’s not a total dick. Maybe his older self who left Madelyne Pryor would be willing to live with it, but he hasn’t become that person yet. And he’s not in a hurry to be that guy so he tells his father they’re turning back.

And remarkably, Corsair is proud of him. He doesn’t get angry or anxious. He actually supports his son in wanting to do the right thing. At a time when other fathers are sending bounty hunters after their rebellious sons (see Starlord’s recent family affairs), here’s a father who actually encourages his son to do the right thing. That really shouldn’t be such an amazing concept, but fuck if it doesn’t feel awesome. Not only that, it demonstrates that this is a Cyclops who will do the right thing even when it’s not the most strategic. Even the most ardent Cyclops-hater has to respect that. If they don’t, then they’re just being assholes.

Just as Corsair predicted, Captain Malafect’s crew is overmatched and overwhelmed by the Shi’ar. He seems to accept that their heads are about to become trophies in a Shi’ar living room. That’s when Corsair and O5 Cyclops return to help them out in the most badass way possible that doesn’t involve bikinis and flame throwers. The Shi’ar have an army of heavily armed soldiers. Corsair and O5 Cyclops have the element of surprise and a fully equipped Shi’ar ship. It’s as fair a fight as it’s going to get and it ends up being pretty lopsided.

The battle ends quickly and decidedly, which helps send a solid message to Captain Malafect. It leads to a tense moment with Corsair and the Captain. As pissed off as Malafect is for being deceived, he and his crew are alive because O5 Cyclops decided that ditching him would be a dick move. Corsair makes it a point to say that. Even though he treated him like a prisoner at first, O5 Cyclops still gave enough of a shit to save their miserable asses. It probably doesn’t make him feel any less disgusted that his daughter wanted to bone him, but it is still better than being slaughtered by the Shi’ar.

Corsair offers a simple proposal. In exchange for saving their asses, they just let him and O5 Cyclops go. Even though he and Captain Malafect have a really shitty history, they’re pretty much as even as they’re ever going to get. They can still slit each other’s throats on sight if they see each other again down the line. But for today, they just part ways and chaulk this up to a learning experience. It seems so reasonable and so logical. They both benefit in the end. How could anyone possibly disagree with that?

While Captain Malafect might be open to the idea of being reasonable, his teenage daughter is not. There’s a time to be reasonable and there’s a time to be overly pissed to a point where being reasonable just makes way too much sense. So Vileena decides to do what Taylor Swift only sings about and turns on Corsair and O5 Cyclops before her father can even make a decision. This includes going out of her way to be extra rough with O5 Cyclops, who at least tries to reason with her. Being so young, this is probably the best way for him to learn that there’s just no reasoning with a pissed off teenage girl. Be they human or alien, they’re just that vindictive.

It’s another moment where the emotional weight really gives the story strength. There are any number of 90s sitcoms where teenage girls act irrationally bitchy. This doesn’t feel so irrational. She really sincerely cared for O5 Cyclops and his deceit really hurt her. Her reaction might have been extreme, but it’s perfectly understandable. The emotional weight really sells it and she makes clear that she wants O5 Cyclops to suffer. She truly is her father’s daughter in this respect. But I still think O5 Cyclops’ penis will tell him it was worth it.

I think it’s safe to say that Madelyne Pryor now has a new BFF. This issue proved once again that in a universe of ruthless space pirates and cosmic forces, nothing can quite compare to the power of a vindictive teenage girl. It says something that Vileena ends up being the most pissed off in this issue. It feels fitting though. O5 Cyclops spent the past few issues growing closer to her, developing feelings for her and forging new connections with Captain Malafect’s crew. And unlike his older counterpart, he doesn’t opt to just ditch Vileena. He tries to go back and do the right thing. What’s his reward? She now wants to skin him alive and pleasure herself to his screams.

It’s fitting, if not poetic. O5 Cyclops finally does the exact opposite of his older counterpart and it still screws him over in the end. It’s one of those outcomes that just feels so right, like finding that perfect show on Netflix or putting on a pair of underwear right after it comes out of the dryer. This issue put O5 Cyclops in a position to either do the right thing or the smart thing. He chose the right thing this time and it was not an easy decision. This issue captured that struggle so perfectly and for once, the anti-Cyclops crowd has to find a different reason to hate him. Cyclops #10 gets a 9 out of 10. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring space pirates. Don’t be afraid to take on killer aliens and ruthless space pirates. But when it comes to the emotions of teenage girls, be afraid. Be very afraid. Nuff said!